For the first time in nearly two weeks, Thursday’s Hebrew press doesn’t feature the kidnapped Israeli teenagers on its front pages.
Instead a slew of domestic issues and a fire on the outskirts of Jerusalem replace the top story of the past fortnight.
Yedioth Ahronoth puts the fire front and center with a picture of flames dangerously close to a building in the Ein Kerem neighborhood. Inside, the paper describes how for five hours the fire raged out of control, forcing hundreds to be evacuated and destroying five houses. But this might not be just any wildfire, as the paper reports; police suspect arson.
While fire raged on the outskirts of the city, in the center another fire was getting started. Israel Hayom reports on a decision by the government to restrict private doctors from public hospitals. Health Minister Yael German announced that no longer will patients be able to choose their surgeon for surgeries, but will be allowed to choose from three hospitals to have the surgery. According to the paper, by banning private doctors it will allow Israel to improve the wait time for the rest of the public by essentially banning “health tourism.”
Writing about the announcement, Ran Reznick says he supports the move because it stops the recent trend of having a person’s wealth determine the quality of their healthcare rather than the severity of their illness.
Haaretz also has the healthcare decision on its front page, but just below the fold it reports on a decision by France that could affect the health of Israel’s economy. France is warning its citizens not to invest in Israeli businesses in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights. The paper points out that the UK and Germany issued similar warnings a few months ago, and a French diplomat told the paper that this is part of a coordinated effort by the big five of the EU (UK, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy). The paper expects that both Spain and Italy will issue similar warnings in the coming days.
While the kidnapped trio may not be on Thursday’s front pages, they aren’t far from them. Israel Hayom reports that Operation Brother’s Keeper is continuing and that new forces are entering the field. The paper reports that the elite dog unit, Oketz, has now begun operating around Hebron to search for the teenagers. There were 17 more arrests made overnight, but the thrust of the efforts was made around the West Bank city of Tulkarem. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Wednesday, “We will continue to turn over every stone to bring our boys home and get our hands on the kidnappers.”
Yedioth reports that Bat-Galim Shaar, mother of Gil-ad Shaar, is questioning the logic of a deal to end a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners. “Gil-ad, Naftali, and Eyal are being held hostage by these scoundrels and Israel requests to appease them? Please them? If the prime minister knows who the kidnappers are, then act against them in any way to bring them home: freeze assets, make conditions worse for prisoners, put pressure on the Palestinian Authority.” She went on to say that the agreement with the prisoners was “irresponsible.”
As his term of office winds down, Shimon Peres visited the White House for the final time as Israel’s president. Peres told Obama to strengthen the relationship with Mahmoud Abbas, whom Peres characterized as a “courageous partner in peace.” He also told Obama to stick with friends like Israel, despite their flaws, so that they’ll help America fight its real enemies. Peres also gave Obama a proposal to release jailed American/Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, but declined to disclose details of the proposal.
While Peres is on his farewell tour, President-elect Reuven Rivlin is making waves for saying he would meet with Abbas. He said on Wednesday, “I’ve meet with Abu Mazen [Abbas] a number of times in the past, and I would meet with him in the future.” He went on to say that both he and Abbas understand that dialogue is the only way to ensure that the Middle East is a “place of life, a place where there is not only a past, but also a future.”
Rivlin is busy planning his presidency, but former presidential candidate Binyamin Ben-Eliezer is continuing to be investigated for the shady deals that knocked him out of the presidential race in the first place. Israel Hayom reports that Ben-Eliezer was questioned again on Wednesday, and the investigation is focusing on possible bribes he received for promoting business in Egypt and helping secure visa channels there. No word from police if any charges are coming.