Four days and 10,000 kilometers away from the Connecticut school massacre, Israeli papers are still pushing the story big across their front pages, with only Haaretz having the gumption to put Syria over Sandy Hook, bringing to mind the old journalistic convention of dozens of deaths in the West trumping thousands elsewhere.

Yedioth Ahronoth leads off with a story about the shooting’s youngest victim, 6-year-old Noah Pozner, who is Jewish. The story relays that the school had decided to separate Noah from his twin Ariel, a decision that likely saved her life. “He was the smartest kid you ever met. A special kid, gifted, mature for his age,” his uncle, Arthur Pozner told Yedioth. He added that the family had just had a get-together the weekend before for Hanukkah, with the kids all having a good time. “Who would have thought that something so crazy and horrible would happen suddenly?” He also described his brother, Noah Pozner’s father, as inconsolable.

Israel Hayom’s correspondent Yoni Hirsch, on the ground in Newtown, sets the scene in the town that has been forced to cope with so large a tragedy.

“Sandy Hook Elementary School has turned into a pilgrimage site, and many came to commune with the memory of the victims and to light a candle,” he writes. “Many of them came with children, some of whom even attended the school, and they made sure to hold them close and to thank God that this time luck was on their side. John, whose daughter attends the school, said, ‘I feel I need to protect them more than ever,’ yet he is here, with the kids. ‘I didn’t think about it too much. It just seemed the natural thing to do. I hope that maybe this way the kids will be able to begin to grapple with something that also we parents don’t really understand.’”

Maariv leads off its Sandy Hook coverage by jumping into America’s gun control fray (Yedioth also has a story on guns in the land of the free), noting the ease with which Americans can purchase firearms, at least compared to Israel, which has tighter regulations in line with most of the Western world. Correspondent Tzach Yoked visits a gun show in Philadelphia with 1,200 booths and “more kinds of guns than the IDF’s armory,” and finds that there, the consensus is that more guns, not fewer, will help save lives when tragedy looms.

“Maybe if one of the teachers in Newtown had a pistol there wouldn’t have been so many killed,” Joe, a self-professed gun fan, tells the paper. “The time has come that people understand that guns in the right hands can save lives, and not the opposite.”
Yoked also does some looking into the background check Americans must undergo before purchasing guns, and notes that though it takes but a minute to make sure an applicant doesn’t suffer from mental illness, the system rarely finds a reason to reject anyone. “In the United States, at least according to the number, everyone is healthy thank God,” Yoked notes. “In 2010, for example, 16.5 million background checks were performed, with a 99.5 percent pass rate.… Official numbers show 130,000 licensed gun dealers and 51,000 gun stores in the country, many more than the 37,000 corner stores and 14,000 McDonalds scattered around the country.”

To plea or not to plea

Americans may be battling for the right to bear arms, but in Israel one bear of a foreign minister is battling for his right to avoid a moral turpitude ruling should he be convicted of breach of trust and fraud. The papers note that the state prosecutor, who was unable to pin a more serious case on Avigdor Liberman, will be seeking to have the book thrown at him as hard as possible, including moral turpitude.

However, Haaretz reports that the Attorney General’s Office will meet Monday with Liberman’s top aide to discuss ways to push the process forward as quickly as possible (before the January 22 election) and bring the sides closer together. The paper notes that this could mean a plea bargain is in the works, despite Liberman saying he doesn’t want one (but then saying he won’t rule it out).

In Israel Hayom, Matti Tuchfeld notes that the soon-to-be- former foreign minister faces a stark choice. He can battle it out in court, and maybe clear his name and for the first time in his political career be free from any investigation. Or he can take a plea bargain and get back to elections chik-chak, though with a cloud hanging over him.

“After 16 years as a suspect, investigated and indicted, Liberman has lost faith in the judicial system. Luckily for him, it’s not just him, but his supporters as well. Liberman voters, who gave him 15 seats in the Knesset, are interested in returning him to a senior government position. What’s some little indictment when you can have a senior position in the next government? On the contrary, his portrayal as someone being pursued can help him. Because what works directly for other people works the opposite for Liberman: For others, the resignation leads to the comeback. For Liberman, the comeback leads to the resignation.”

Watch out for frogs

As anyone who’s ever played Frogger knows, it’s not easy crossing the street when you’re green. Lucky for the Kermits, spellbound princes and hypnotoads of Yarkon park in Tel Aviv, the Nature Authority has got their backs. Maariv reports that the authority has begun installing frog crossing signs in the park at major migration points along the roads. According to Tom Amit, the head of the Nature Authority in the park, the water quality and other factor have led to an increase in the quality of life for area amphibians and their populations have increased. Yet drivers are keeping that growth in check. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of drivers who like to spray the water along the road shoulders, but this endangers the lives of the animals fighting for survival. We hope the new signs will strengthen the view of the drivers to help us save these animals.”

In Yedioth’s op-ed section, Menachem Gantz takes the Italians to task for having the stugots to vote for Palestinian statehood after saying they wouldn’t and then host President Mahmoud Abbas in Rome like he’s their new goomah.

“Abu Mazen came to Rome after he identified what many in the Italian Jewish community feared: the stabilizing of Italian [relations] with the Palestinians being seen as a turning point. Italy might now quickly turn back 30 years, to when the PLO acted their like it was their home.”

Haaretz’s op-ed page essentially reruns its editorial from when it looked like Maariv would tank, but this time calls for the saving of Channel 10: “A society without an independent, lively and varied press is what dark regimes are made of. A weakening of the free press in Israel will result in many subjects not being dealt with at all, while others will get tendentious coverage. Criticism of the authorities will be neutralized or perhaps disappear entirely, and Israel will hear only one voice — the voice of the government.”