Avigdor Liberman, the embattled former foreign minister and key ally to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, takes center stage in the Israeli press on Sunday morning. The Yisrael Beytenu leader spoke in a Channel 2 interview Saturday night, a few hours after his former deputy, Danny Ayalon, lambasted Liberman’s performance as foreign minister at an event outside Tel Aviv.
Haaretz quotes Liberman dismissing claims by Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid on the Foreign Ministry position, should the latter join the coalition. “Whoever is asking where the money is should go after the money. The money is in the Finance Ministry, not in the Foreign Ministry,” Liberman said. He told the station that the prime minister intends to keep the Foreign Ministry in Yisrael Beytenu’s hands, and will administer it until his trial ends.
Maariv focuses on the conflict between the two former top diplomats and the starkly contrasting remarks by Ayalon and Liberman regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ayalon told an audience in Holon that Israel ought to recognize a Palestinian state provided it recognizes Israel as the Jewish national homeland, and initiate negotiations from there. Liberman, by contrast, told Channel 2 that a peace agreement with the Palestinians was impossible.
“Whoever thinks that it’s possible to arrive at the magical solution of a comprehensive peace [agreement] with the Palestinians doesn’t understand,” he said. “It is impossible. It is impossible to reach a solution to the conflict. You must manage the conflict, and it’s important to manage it. We must negotiate for a long-term interim agreement.”
The paper notes that, contrary to Ayalon’s bold statement calling for “Palestinian independence and sovereignty,” nearly everyone in the Israeli and American diplomatic arena believes “that there is no chance of arriving at a lasting agreement in the near future.”
“Therefore, Liberman didn’t say anything that contradicts with American policy, which would have been amplified because of the impending visit by [US President Barack] Obama,” it writes.
Israel Hayom reports that Netanyahu announced that he would not appoint Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid as foreign minister but rather that position would remain in Liberman’s hands. He offered the journalist-turned-politician the Finance Ministry position or even, should he desire, defense minister, it reported.
It predicts that should it join the coalition, Yesh Atid would demand the Education Ministry and possibly the Communications Ministry.
Top billing in the pro-Netanyahu tabloid goes to the suspected arson at the Beitar Jerusalem soccer clubhouse late Thursday night. It reports that investigators still aren’t certain who torched the clubhouse, but they suspect it was “a new low in the fierce protest the heads of Beitar Jerusalem are contending with from team fans (principally, members of the most radical organization known as ‘La Familia’).” The soccer team has come under fire recently by its supporters for hiring two Muslim Chechen players.
Yedioth Ahronoth writes that after La Familia promised to torch the Beitar offices for hiring Gabriel Kadiev and Zaur Sadayev, the group made true on their promise. Most of the damage was inflicted to the trophy room and the groundskeeper’s office, it reports.
“They burned the history of Beitar,” groundskeeper Meir Harosh told Yedioth Ahronoth.
Haaretz’s editorial calls for greater official action against what it describes as racism endemic to the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club. “There is no real value to general statements. They must be backed up by action,” it writes.
“Law enforcement and the courts must convey the clear message that sports stadia and pitches are not outside the law. Such a message will be conveyed only if significant indictments are filed and harsher penalties imposed as a rule. At the same time, Beitar Jerusalem must act to bring Arab players into the team.”
Yedioth also features an interview from Turkish daily Sabah with Suha Arafat, the widow of the late Palestinian leader, in which she is quoted saying “I erred when I married Arafat.”
“My life with him was hard. However, my life without him was even harder,” she told Sabah. “It was as if I was walking in a field covered with mines and I had no idea when one will go off. We were married for 22 years; but it felt like it was 50.”
“We are proud to bear the Arafat name, but we are also pained by it daily. Even if I regret my marriage I have no other choice than to accept reality,” Arafat said.
Maariv and Haaretz put pictures of snow-white America on their front pages, but leave the coverage of the storm that blanketed and buffeted the East Coast to the back pages. The former paper, however, runs a Sunday Times article about Obama’s upcoming visit on Page 3. The report claims that Obama will offer Netanyahu increased pressure on Iran in exchange for compromises with the Palestinians. The Sunday Times headline says it all: “Obama takes carrot and stick to Israel.”
According to the report, which relies heavily on the opinion of Aaron Miller, a former advisor to six secretaries of state, “in return for US promises to step up pressure on Iran… Obama was likely to ask Netanyahu to open talks with Abbas on borders and security issues, even if the more contentious subjects of Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees are put aside for now.”