As a new week kicks off in Israel, a speech from US Secretary of State John Kerry about boycotts to come dominates the front pages.
Maariv sums up the gist of Kerry’s comments. “Kerry: Israel’s illusion of prosperity will change if negotiations fail.” The paper reports on Kerry’s speech on Saturday at the Munich Security Conference, saying that while Israel currently lives in peace and security, “all that will change if the talks fail. Failure is not an option and the alternatives to reaching an agreement are not acceptable.”
Over in Yedioth Ahronoth, the paper doesn’t even sum up Kerry’s remarks, instead declaring simply, “Kerry threatens.” Inside, the paper quotes Kerry’s predictions of boycotts against Israel. “The chances are high, an international boycott could occur and the current situation isn’t sustainable.”
The paper’s Shimon Shiffer writes, “It’s better to be wise than right.” He goes on to write that the real threat to Israel is that the world will treat Israel as it treated the South African apartheid regime. Citing anonymous sources in the European Union, Shiffer writes the EU is planning to use the carrot-and-stick method of negotiations. If talks succeed, Israel gets continued access to the EU market, but if they don’t, the EU will boycott Israel using the same type of sanctions that were used against apartheid Pretoria.
Israel Hayom uses its front page as a window into the right-wing view on Kerry’s speech: “Fury at Kerry from the right: Put pressure on Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas].” Included in its coverage is an article that the boycotts might already be starting. A Danish bank is not investing in Israel’s Bank Hapoalim because of its ties to West Bank settlement construction.
Aside from recapping Kerry’s speech and possible boycotts, Israel Hayom includes two op-eds about Kerry, the peace process, and the current situation.
Dan Margalit writes, “the Middle East is on fire – but not because of us.” Margalit blames the current negotiations impasse on the Palestinians, saying that diplomats watch and read too much news to realize “that the main initial difficulty is actually in Ramallah.” He goes on to blame Abbas personally, saying, “it turns out that when it comes to evaluating the core intent of the Arab side in the conflict over the Land of Israel, Mahmoud Abbas is the first peace objector.”
Next to Margalit is Haim Shain, who writes that Kerry’s tactics are hurting peace, not Israel. Starting off with what can only be a veiled charge of anti-Semitism, Shein recalls the plight of his father (a Dachau survivor) and then lambastes Kerry for threatening Israel from Germany. Saying that Obama and Kerry don’t understand the Arab mentality regarding Israel, he also charges that they don’t understand the Jews either. Using some very strong language, he urges readers not to cave to Kerry’s threats, “We will stand firm as one nation with one heart. Never again will we be a ramp on which they’ll build and drive hallucinations and illusions that endanger our existence.”
Haaretz focuses on another aspect of Kerry’s speech: he wants an agreement in place before the next round of prisoner releases. According to the paper, the end of the March is now the unofficial deadline for Kerry and his team to get a framework agreement in place. Accomplishing that could prevent the Palestinians breaking off negotiations if new settlements are announced after the prisoner release (as they usually are).
Columnist Gideon Levy comments on the peace process and its failings in a column called “One state.” He says that there already is a one-state solution, and it’s Israel: where Jewish citizens can vote but the Palestinians can’t. He writes that the peace process isn’t actually about a demographic shift, but rather a democratic one. He writes if Israel wants to keep its settlements, then there won’t be two states – just one. “If there is only one state, then the discourse needs to change: equal rights for everyone.”
Stopped in their tracks
Vacationers in Eilat had a scare on Friday evening as the Iron Dome intercepted another rocket over the city. Yedioth reports that a rocket was fired at the resort town just as people were sitting down for dinner. Iron Dome was able to intercept the missile, which was launched from the Sinai Peninsula by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group.
On Saturday evening, Finance Minister Yair Lapid froze funds destined for the settlements for fear some of them were being funneled to a lobbying group. Maariv reports that according to a news report on Channel 2, government funds that were meant as compensation for communities during the settlement freeze of 2009-2010 were funneled illegally to the Settlers’ Council, a lobbying group that urges expanded settlement activity. The group relies on donations, but Israel’s Supreme Court has already ruled that transferring government funds to the group is illegal.