It must have been a dreadfully slow news cycle over the weekend, because the Israeli papers have resorted to sports for their top stories on Sunday morning. Even with two whole days’ worth of happenings to cover, the tabloids make Maccabi Tel Aviv’s victory over the Russians on Friday their main event.
Israel Hayom’s main story on Sunday morning is Maccabi Tel Aviv’s come-from-behind victory over CSKA Moscow in basketball’s Euroleague semi-finals. The team’s yellow-and-blue covers the front page, and the coverage runs through to Page 5. Reporters and fans alike are gearing up for the finals match Sunday against Real Madrid, and the chance of “writing history anew” with a championship trophy.
Yedioth Ahronoth also jumps on the sports bandwagon, splattering images of yellow and blue Israeli flags and topless middle-aged Israeli men cheering in the stands in Milan all over its pages. “CSKA ate it (again) Friday night,” Yedioth Ahronoth writes with no sign of reining in its adulation. “This time, too, the opponent is taller, stronger and wealthier.” Haaretz, by comparison, devotes a small photo and snippet about the tournament on its front page and sticks its comprehensive reportage on Page 13.
Back in the real world, big headlines are made by US President Barack Obama, who is quoted by the Israeli press saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas can “stew in their juices” a bit before the US will continue to moderate more negotiations. An anonymous American official told Haaretz that the US is taking a step back for a few months to let the new post-negotiations reality set in, after which Washington will try to bring the sides back to the table for more serious talks.
“For the meantime we intend to let them deal with the new reality,” the anonymous American official told the paper. “We hope they understand that in the long term the failure [of talks] will have more serious consequences than success.”
Top Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni’s visit to London and meeting with Abbas over the weekend yielded no significant outcome, aside from an official statement by the Prime Minister’s Office saying that her tête-à-tête with Abbas was not done in an official capacity. Israel Hayom runs the PMO’s clarification that Livni visited Abbas of her own accord, and opens with the rhetorical question: “Did Justice Minister Tzipi Livni violate the decision not to meet with [Abbas] until he clarifies whether he’s a member of the unity government with Hamas?”
Netanyahu’s office responded to reports of Livni’s meeting saying that she was representing only herself, not the government of the State of Israel. The paper quotes a source in the PMO saying that “the prime minister clarified to Livni that Israel’s stance, as decided by the cabinet, was that Israel won’t engage in negotiations with a Palestinian government which includes Hamas.”
While the back channel diplomacy continues, Yedioth Ahronoth quotes a New York Times report quoting Obama laying blame for the failed peace talks on Israeli settlement construction. “But the president believes that more than any other factor, Israel’s drumbeat of settlement announcements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem poisoned the atmosphere and doomed any chance of a breakthrough with the Palestinians,” the New York Times wrote Thursday. Yedioth Ahronoth reprints the American official’s statement to the Times that Obama believes that there’s still time for an American peace proposal before he leaves office in 2016, and that Obama is determined to wait until the two sides come to the US with their ideas for sorting out the issue.
Haaretz also reports that female MKs and women’s rights group have spoken out against Likud MK and National Infrastructure Minister Silvan Shalom’s candidacy for the presidency, amid reports and rumors of sexual abuse claims. An MK told the paper that even though the police investigation against Shalom has been closed, he will not back the long-time minister.
In other news, Haaretz runs a map showing the fragmented, protean state of affairs on the ground in Syria — a map which will largely be inaccurate in anywhere between a day and a month’s time. Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Netanyahu might back fellow Likudnik Shalom as his preferred candidate for the presidency (but like the Syria map, that may largely be inaccurate in anywhere between a day and a month’s time). And Israel Hayom, almost predictably, runs a brief piece quoting US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel saying that the US is determined to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.