Is the prime minister right to order polygraphs of 19 ministers after a leak to the press of information from a meeting about Iran threat assessments? Or is the serial leaker simply playing his role as the hypocrite-in-chief? That’s the question of the day and battle lines over the issue are drawn across the four major Hebrew dailies.
Three of the four papers have the story on their front page, though surprisingly Yedioth Ahronoth, the paper that started this mess by publishing the leaked details on Wednesday, buries the story, instead reserving its front page real estate for the news that groceries are expensive, our army talks tough and a titillating preview of “50 Shades of Grey” in Hebrew. The nation is surely panting with anticipation.
Israel Hayom focuses on the idea, forwarded by tight-lipped Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of shrinking the size of the cabinet down to eight members and hoping the leaker is not one of those eight. Netanyahu is also considering the polygraph option, which Minister Uzi Landau is quoted in full support of. “We need to obligate everybody in the discussion, ministers and people from military and intelligence bodies, to take a polygraph test, and until they find the leaker, they won’t be allowed in the cabinet. The prime minister is correct in his decision. This leak… harms the security of the state of Israel.”
In Maariv, Ofer Shelach also comes to Netanyahu’s defense, saying the leak from the meeting cheapened the standing of the discussion taking place, which in any case was not the first time ministers were hearing about the Iranian threat. “Whoever moved the discussion on Iran from the ministerial body to the pages of the press has no moral mandate to complain that the ministers, some of whom heard these assessments earlier this year, were so excited that they had to tell the press their fears.”
Yedioth and Haaretz, on the other hand, go on the offensive against Netanyahu, pointing out that in the past he has been leakier than a potty-training puppy. The papers point out a number of cases over the past years in which Netanyahu let slip some classified details, like his revelation that Israel bombed a reactor in Syria or just last week when he accidentally spoke openly about the still-under wraps exploits of a soldier who had died.
“They [Netanyahu and his ilk] are the last that should be complaining about leaks. The prime minister and others were the best teachers of public prattle and the students, it seems, are one-upping their teachers,” writes Eitan Haber in Yedioth.
Haaretz’s Amir Oren agrees and gives a peek into how leaks work in the Netanyahu administration: “No security secret was ever ‘leaked.’ In reports it says only that security officials presented their assessments, that don’t necessarily identify who is who, or the assessments Netanyahu is trying to sell the foreigners, whether behind closed doors or loudly. The true secrets are not intelligence, they are operational — not the Iranian threat.”
Stuck in the middle
Elsewhere on its august front page Haaretz will not give up the ghost of the 20 asylum-seekers stuck on the border between Israel and Egypt, running an interview with UNHCR envoy William Tall in which he calls on Jerusalem to open its gates to the huddled masses.
“The most worrying thing to me is the discussion of pushing them back into Egypt, which is highly irresponsible, because if they go back to Egypt there is a high risk these people will fall in the hands of human smugglers, and it is well known, it is all documented, that many of these people have been abused, there are cases of torture or rape, and if you send them back you are sending them to a situation with a very high degree of insecurity,” Tall told the paper.
Speaking of people jammed where they don’t want to be, Yedioth reports that help is on the way for commuters stuck in traffic between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv every day. Included in the NIS 60 million plan are more lanes (which most traffic engineers say does not solve traffic issues) the easing of bottlenecks at the security checkpoints along Route 443, which runs through the West Bank, a park and ride shuttle (for pay) near Latrun to take drivers off of Route 1, and an express train that has already been in the works for about a gazillion years.
Saturday the rabbi watched soccer
In Israel Hayom’s op-ed section Eli Sahar brings the holly into the mundane, wanting to know why Israel’s national team will be starting its campaign for the World Cup before three stars have signified the end of Shabbat: “There are those who will say, ‘what are we whining about here? Even Israeli soccer from its beginning was played on Shabbat?’ And I say: If you steal from the bodega is it okay to steal from the supermarket? There is still a difference between private teams and the national team; the national team is funded by public money from the national religious and traditional communities.… And now you say to these communities: This is also not yours, it’s just for the nonreligious?”
Haaretz uses its op-ed page to call for Israel to let the refugees stuck on the border in, even just temporarily, as a humanitarian gesture, while it weighs how to deal with them: “The legal dilemmas and the administrative arguments are indeed weighty. But while this discussion is taking place in a cool, scholarly manner, these refugees are facing another day of terrible suffering in the burning heat of Sinai. The discussion can still be held even if the refugees are lodged in a refugee camp, or one of the Population, Immigration and Border Authority’s prisons, where they would get medical treatment and decent food. If the final decision is that there’s no reason to let them stay in Israel, they can join the other migrants whom Israel is forcibly deporting.”