Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-elections appointment yesterday of popular Likud minister Moshe Kahlon to the post of Israel Land Administration chairman made front page headlines in all the newspapers this morning. Kahlon, who enjoyed immense public support for his successful tackling of cellphone costs as communications minister, is apparently Netanyahu’s silver bullet for soaring housing costs.
It is unclear if the move is entirely kosher, though. Rival parties claim it is a violation of the Basic Law governing the ILA while the Central Elections Committee banned the media from covering the press conference announcing the appointment, designating it as campaign propaganda. The fact that it tops the media agenda just hours before the voters go to the ballots is proof enough of its effectiveness in stirring things up in the crucial final hours of the campaign.
“Last minute stunt,” reads the top headline of Yedioth Ahronoth. Columnist Sima Kadmon writes that the Hail Mary appointment of the resigning minister reflects panic on the part of the prime minister, who fears an embarrassment at the polls, and argues that Netanyahu must think the public is stupid if he believes it will see Kahlon as a remedy for all the problems lying around the corner.
Maariv‘s top headline reads “Netanyahu: Housing reform like in the cellular market, Yachimovich: An empty appointment that indicates panic.” The article’s underline also mentions that to seal the appointment requires new legislation that could take months.
Columnist Shalom Yerushalmi also accuses Netanyahu of acting out of paranoia and in the process, of transforming Kahlon from a superstar into a cheap elections gimmick.
Haaretz‘s top headline “24 hours to elections: an aberrant clash between Netanyahu and Justice Rubinstein over forbidden campaigning,” doesn’t mention Kahlon by name, but brings to the fore the controversial nature of the appointment. Political correspondent Yossi Verter writes that the decision by Rubinstein, the Supreme Court Justice who chairs the Central Elections Committee, to ban the press conference was necessary, but may end up helping Netanyahu by stirring up Likud supporters who may see the ban as a humiliating conspiracy against Netanyahu.
Israel Hayom leads the paper with the assertion that “Kahlon will revolutionize housing as he did the cellular market.” The underline in the strongly pro-Netanyahu daily highlights the Likud’s distress over the banning of the press conference.
Columnist Hezi Sternlicht calls the appointment “Netanyahu’s smart bomb,” arguing that Kahlon will be able to tackle the housing market in the same exact way he tackled the cellular market, by increasing competition. Fellow columnist Dan Margalit, writing a critical piece that calls the Kahlon appointment flawed and says it reflects a perceived Likud panic, is relegated to the very back of the newspaper — page 37. His columns usually start on page 1, so he pronounced himself somewhat dismayed by his demotion in radio interviews this morning.
Unsurprisingly, 24 hours before elections, roughly 75 percent of today’s papers are dedicated to covering the final hours of the campaign. The coverage in all the newspapers is fairly similar and includes profiles of outgoing members of Knesset, the parties’ election day strategies, last-minute campaign efforts by party heads, reports on undecided voters, practical information for prospective voters, features on parties that polls show are on the cusp of passing the electoral threshold, and weather reports ahead of election day.
The little space that remains in the papers for other news is dedicated to US President Barack Obama’s swearing in for a second term, the resignation of OC Southern Command Tal Russo from the military after being passed up for the post of deputy chief of staff, the funeral of Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman, and the findings of additional bodies at the Algerian natural gas facility following the botched military raid to free hostages taken by Islamist terrorists.
Israel Hayom on Page 31 reports on an Israeli effort to help Yemen’s remaining Jewish families immigrate. According to the report, the small Jewish community, which fears persecution due to its historic backing of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, is slowly being extracted from the country and flown to Israel via Qatar.
On its back page, Yedioth Ahronoth hails the upcoming arrival to Israel of ’60s pop star Cliff Richard. The 72-year-old Richard is scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv in July.
Maariv is trying to help the National Parks Authority locate a group of men who 30 years ago, as boys, planted a small forest in the Yarkon National Park outside Rosh Ha’ayin. The paper features on its back page a photo of four children taken at the time of the planting and is asking anyone who identifies himself in the photo to contact the authority, which wants to recreate the moment after vandals cut down the trees they planted.
To vote or not to vote?
In Maariv’s opinion pages, Sofia Ron Moria bucks the trend of getting out the vote and argues that doing so is futile as all the major decisions have already been made. Moria claims that the identity of the prime minister, the relative might of the blocs and the coalition makeup have already been determined and that voting tomorrow will have only marginal impact on individual party members who may or may not make it into the Knesset, borderline parties for whom every vote is critical, and the prime minister’s dominance in the next government.
In Yedioth on the other hand, Nahum Barnea reminds prospective voters of the importance of casting their ballots and urges parents to take their children with them to vote. Doing so, Barnea says, will provide a shared experience that will last a lifetime and also make sure that the parent votes responsibly. “The presence of a child behind the curtain prevents the voter from fooling around with his vote. The voters may forget which ballot note they picked up the day after casting it, but the child remembers and will always remember,” writes Barnea.