Israeli papers feature a mishmash of domestic news on their front pages Tuesday morning, with Knesset laws, a coming winter storm, and a shortage of doctors and paramedics trumping reports of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s ninth visit to the region in as many months, and low-level talks over the Iranian nuclear deal in Geneva.
The decisions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres not to attend a memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg also gets some play on A1, with Netanyahu coming in for a not-small amount of criticism, though Peres, with a doctor’s note, gets a pass.
While former Israeli ambassador Alon Liel said Monday that Netanyahu’s decision to skip was the right one, seeing as how his policies are seen as anathema to Mandela’s and his presence might sully the service, Sima Kadmon writes in Yedioth Ahronoth that she could die from embarrassment over Netanyahu’s reason for skipping, namely the high cost of such a trip.
“Netanyahu’s reason for not going is an affront to intelligence,” she writes. “And now that every news channel around the globe is citing his reason for not going, it’s an affront to the whole country.”
In Maariv, Michal Aharoni says Netanyahu seemed fine making the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, so why not Mandela’s (though her scathing prose is somewhat undermined by insisting Netanyahu is skipping a funeral, and not a memorial service — plus she misspells Newseum).
“Oh, you’re not flying to save money? It costs a lot to fly to the memorial? There are security procedures and short notice? Strange. Margaret Thatcher, a former prime minister of Britain, died less than a year ago, and the prime minister and his wife managed fine flying there. And not only did they fly together, the plane was outfitted with a special half-million shekel bed and security arrangements were good and there was enough warning,” she writes. “What values, as a country, do we place higher, values of justice and ethics, or the economic values of Margaret Thatcher, who after her death Brits went out drinking and waved signs condemning her?”
Haim Schein in Israel Hayom, however, writes that the press is being too harsh on the prime minister, who he says would be attacked whether he went or not, seeing as he recently came under fire for spending too much state money on trips abroad, scented candles and other non-essentials.
“Friends in the press, you’ve gone way too far. Decide what you want — savings or waste. Public trust in the media is a key component in the proper functioning of democracy. There is no democracy without open discussion, exchange of ideas and transparency. In Israel, the public is rapidly losing confidence in those media outlets who act on the basis of hypocrisy, encouraging emigration from Israel and creating ill feelings.”
Not a plain dealer
Maariv is the only newspaper to lead off with a diplomatic report, saying that the Palestinians have lost faith in the United States as a fair broker in peace negotiations with Israel. The daily follows up its Monday report that Washington wants Ramallah to accept a delay in the release of Palestinian prisoners , leading off with Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh saying the PA will never accept such a move. The paper also quotes PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo, who told Voice of Palestine radio Monday that Kerry is trying to appease Israel after the Iranian deal, at the expense of the Palestinians.
Haaretz reports on pessimism on the Israel side as well, with Netanyahu telling his Likud-Yisrael Beytenu Knesset faction that Israel is far from a deal, especially without security arrangements in place. “Only if these are presented will we be able to move forward,” he says.
Taking a page from the weekend’s Saban Forum, Israel Hayom links the Palestinian issue to a deal on Iran, quoting Netanyahu telling Guatemalan President Otto Fernando Perez Molina that “we share a desire to see a peaceful and stable Middle East, and the greatest threat to that and to the peace of the world is Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
Get me to the prison on time
The battle over how to deal with African migrants who snuck into Israel has once again reared its head, after a stormy Knesset debate that went long into the night over a law that allows African migrants to be detained for a year. A similar law was already struck down by the court several months ago, but lawmakers vowed to put a new one in place. While the Knesset decides how long they should be detained for, Haaretz reports that a new holding facility in the south of the country, set to open Thursday, is woefully unprepared to take anyone in, with, for example, no hot water.
“The facility will be open during the day and locked at night. Though residents are free to come and go during the daylight hours, they must check in for a round of attendance-taking three times a day,” the paper reports. “The big concern is that the migrants who leave the facility will simply not return. ‘How will it be possible to monitor these people and make sure they return to the facility at the end of the day?’ asked one of those involved in setting up the facility.”
A coming winter storm, expected to dump snow on Jerusalem, its environs, and the north of the country, also makes headlines. The storm is unusually early, though forecasters have seen it coming for over a week. Israel Hayom warns Israelis to prepare for flooding, downed trees and power outages as the tempest sweeps through.
Speaking of being left in the cold, Amnon Abramovitch in Yedioth Ahronoth argues that the deal being offered Negev Bedouin to relocate to cities is fair neither to the state nor to the Bedouin.
“If I were a Bedouin I would not sign it for my life. Why? Because they are being asked to sign away their rights, the end to all claims, and only afterward they will find out what they get,” he writes. “The chances of the bill making it out of the Knesset Interior Committee are slim; it faces opposition from the right to the left.… The Negev has one Bedouin city, six municipalities, and 11 recognized villages. Instead of messing around with a proposal that can’t pass, they can expand the existing towns. Develop and improve them, so they can absorb Bedouin with welfare and prosperity, even in 30 years. It’s impossible to accept the suggestion that a transition from green Ramat Aviv to Ramat Aviv Gimel (a posh Tel Aviv neighborhood) will be called dispossession. That moving three kilometers will be thought of as ethnic cleansing.”
In Yedioth, Yoaz Hendel says that Americans have it all wrong when they say that security is the name of the game for a peace deal with the Palestinians.
“A senior American official who spoke to me during the conference promised me that the State Department provided creative solutions. ‘This is a matter of will,’ he said. I did not agree with him. In the Mideast agreements are foremost a matter of ability. The Israelis he met in Washington represent a certain group whose voices fit his view. In Israel there are others who vote on and decide on peace agreements. The agreements put on the table do not meet the opinions of the others here. The separation between Jerusalem and Washington in 2013 is not just the flight, but also a way of thinking. The real Israel is made up of ultra-Orthodox, traditionalists and national religious, among others. In order to sign on a deal with the Palestinians, you need to convince them as well. Without them no prime minister would ever be chosen. Without them a decision will not pass.”