There’s some significant news happening in Israel, but it is mostly buried in the inner pages of Sunday’s dailies. Instead, the front pages feel more like a horse race with politicians jockeying for position on this week’s possible big issues.
Maariv’s top story is an interview that former prime minister Ehud Olmert gave to Channel 2 News on Friday night, in which he said it would be no problem to evacuate 80,000 settlers from the West Bank. What grabs the headlines, though, was the answer he gave when asked if evacuation was possible after the trauma of the Gaza disengagement. “I respect the personal pain of every person who had to leave his home, but I think they inflated, fostered, and exaggerated the description of this trauma to make it harder for any possible process in the future.”
Jewish Home MK Zvulun Kaila, a Gaza evacuee, rejected Olmert’s assertion. “Gush Katif evacuees have no interest in empowering the trauma that still remains to this day,” he said. Instead, Kalfa says the fact that Gaza evacuees are still struggling to rebuild their lives is a failure of the government that Olmert led and his comments are an effort to “rewrite history to clear his conscience.”
Haaretz features a threat from Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who is vowing to leave the government if it does not enact criminal penalties for ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers. The paper reports the Shaked Committee, which is drafting the bill, is expected to begin voting on its various provisions on Monday, but Lapid is steadfast in his insistence that there must be criminal, and not only financial, penalties. The paper quotes a source who says the issue of criminal penalties has already been decided, but the real discussion is when to apply them: before or after the economic sanctions.
Over in Yedioth Ahronoth, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is seemingly changing his tune on the peace process. Calling him “the New Liberman,” Yedioth highlights some quotes that Liberman gave during a speech on Friday, like: “Unity of the people is more important than unity of the land,” and praising John Kerry as “a friend of Israel, a true friend.” In a swipe at Jewish Home chief Naftali Bennett, he said, “I see him run to the microphone, but not to the opposition.”
Liberman even speaks out about the peace process, saying, “I’m for an agreement but I am against being taken advantage of. We’ve been suckers for too long. I don’t want an agreement full of holes like Swiss cheese.” Still, Yedioth wonders if this is really a new, changed Liberman or just a new political tactic from the foreign minister.
Israel Hayom is the only paper that leaves politics off its front page, instead focusing on the embattled and indebted hospital Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem. Hospital management filed a motion to prevent foreclosure after reaching an agreement with the Finance Ministry. The agreement gives the hospital much needed cash (NIS 100 million over three months), but will result in reduced pay for hospital staff. The paper reports that doctors around the country are joining them in a solidarity strike 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Sunday morning.
Writing alongside the article is Dan Margalit, who says that the discussion about Hadassah must be divorced from emotion. Despite its history of being one of the best hospitals in the country (it boasted the only neurosurgeon in the country during the Independence War), its current situation stems from complete mismanagement. Margalit writes that the fear now is that the problems may not be confined to Hadassah; all of Israel’s hospitals could also be affected by mismanagement and face closure.
The breaking point?
Saturday night saw another explosion in another Israeli city, and again police suspect a mafia hit. Haaretz reports that one person was killed when his car exploded in Tel Aviv. A paramedic on the scene said they tried to pull the man out but the flames were too intense and they were forced to back away. To show the uptick in attacks in recent months, the paper lists the seven explosions since November that occurred in major cities, including the attempted car bombing of a State’s Attorney.
Merav Batito, writing in Yedioth about the continued bombings, worries that people aren’t taking the crime wave as seriously as they would a terror attack. “If we continue to act like these blatant crimes just happen on a whim, then we lose the streets to organized crime.” She goes on to say that even if a criminologist discovers some arbitrary reason for crime wave, like the arid winter, “it still doesn’t change the fact that something very wrong is happening here.”
From the streets to the water, Maariv reports that the Iranian Navy is en route to America’s territorial waters. The ships, a destroyer and a supply ship, entered the Atlantic Ocean and are off the coast of South Africa. But as the paper points out quite clearly, “Nobody sees two ships as a strategic threat to the United States.” However, the Americans aren’t too happy with the combative tone coming from Tehran lately. On Saturday, Ayatollah Khamenei called the US a “liar’ for saying it didn’t want to overthrow the Iranian regime.
Forget the American dream. Yedioth revels in the fact that descendants of Jews expelled over 500 years ago can now claim Spanish citizenship. The paper gives a two-page spread to the news and writes that tens of thousands of Jews will be eligible to claim a Spanish passport. Alongside the article, the paper prints a box with the Spanish last names that point to the possibility that you may be Sephardic, like Saban, Biton, Block, and more.
Yedioth also includes reactions from Israelis off the street, like Nadav Aviksas, who responds with a bit of humor, “Finally, equality has come to Israel. Now those of us who came from North Africa will have somewhere we can escape to during the next war.”