A day after right-wing Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett lashed out at a plan that would allow settlers the choice to stay in “Palestine” in the event of a permanent peace accord, the Hebrew newspapers dedicate much of their coverage to the ongoing friction between the prime minister and Bennett – and dwell on Netanyahu’s non-response in his address he delivered later that day.
A high-level meeting between Netanyahu and senior ministers convening Wednesday morning on European boycotts of Israeli businesses and violence in schools dominates headlines as well.
In an address at the Institute for National Security Studies conference yesterday, Bennett attacked a plan leaked to The Times of Israel from an unnamed official from the Prime Minister’s Office, and said that settlers who remained under Palestinian sovereignty “would be killed.”
In reporting the deepening rift between Netanyahu and Bennett, Maariv referred to the events yesterday as marking “record tensions” and a “crisis.” Maariv also tied Bennett’s speech to claims by a senior Israeli official that due to Bennett’s history of untrustworthiness, the prime minister has not convened the cabinet of nine top officials that deal with Israel’s most delicate security issues. “Because of his tendency to jump, because of his obsession with writing on Facebook. There is no intimacy in dealing with him, it’s impossible to forge this intimacy, and therefore the forum could not be established,” the official said.
Israel Hayom quoted the condemnation from the PMO’s office released later that stated that the government would be just fine without Bennett, but later downplayed the political ramifications by emphasizing the evasiveness and lack of personal attacks in both Bennett’s and Netanyahu’s speeches. “The prime minister, as we said, chose not to address directly the clash with Bennett or the problem that sparked this latest clash… The head of Jewish Home too, who spoke before Netanyahu at the conference, did not mention [Netanyahu's] name and did not address him directly, but indirectly,” they stressed.
Yedioth Ahronoth was the only paper that buried Bennett’s comments further inside – after a report on the wage gap between Israelis of Ashkenazi descent and those who hailed from the Middle East and Africa, and a feature on Orthodox female soldiers who join the IDF despite rabbinic criticism.
While Haaretz also mentioned Netanyahu’s immediate lack of a response, and did not catch the official statement, the newspaper interpreted comments made by the prime minister in his address –condemning a binational state and saying that Israelis have no interest in pushing for one — as a jab at the economy minister. “What Netanyahu essentially wanted to say is – I am at the center, my positions are the consensus, and the public is with me and not with Bennett, who wants to annex most of the West Bank area to Israel,” it wrote.
Haaretz led its coverage with news that Netanyahu was meeting with nine senior ministers to discuss the boycott efforts from Europe in light of an announcement earlier this month from the Dutch firm PGGM, one of the 20 largest pension asset managers globally, that it had divested from five Israeli banks because they are involved in financing the construction of Jewish settlements in occupied territories.
What makes this move particularly worrisome to Israeli officials, according to Haaretz, is that the companies were not cutting ties with companies located in the West Bank, but rather some of Israel’s top businesses situated within the Green Line and only loosely tied with transactions that benefit West Bank construction.
Haaretz also linked this meeting to the peace efforts and heightened concern that should they fail, Israel would be met with strong backlash from European governments and private businesses.
Maariv supplemented the coverage of the ministerial boycott meeting with a large spread on a newly released NGO Monitor report that claims that former Dutch prime minister Dries van Agt, head of The Rights Forum, is behind efforts to pressure Dutch companies to boycott Israel, and is pushing to change Dutch foreign policy on the matter.
The newspaper also addressed the rising tide of schoolyard violence, after a 14-year-old was stabbed yesterday in a school parking lot over a romantic entanglement – the fifth such attack in January alone. Yedioth Ahronoth quoted the Education Ministry resolving to cut violence. In an op-ed in Israel Hayom, Dr. Yael Vichik-Aviad attributed the attack to inculcation of competitive values in Israeli society, and called for educational reform to promote values over accomplishment.