Muddling Merkel’s point
Hebrew media review

Muddling Merkel’s point

What was the crux of the German chancellor's address? Depends which paper you read; also, darkness doesn't stop Israel from seeing Hezbollah

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

The infamous image (screen capture: Yoav Lemmer/AFP)
The infamous image (screen capture: Yoav Lemmer/AFP)

Merkel’s visit, murky details about the supposed Israeli airstrike in Lebanon, and muck about a daylight grenade attack in Petah Tikva top the news on Wednesday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gets plenty of ink, but surprisingly the photo seen round the world doesn’t make the front page.

The four major papers come away with very different bottom lines from the meeting between Merkel and Netanyahu. Israel Hayom plays up the German leader’s statement that “Iran changed its tone, not actions” in its headline. The paper reports that Merkel and Netanyahu agree on two points, that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state and that there shouldn’t be an economic boycott of Israel in Europe. Maariv runs with a headline paraphrasing Merkel saying “the results of negotiations with Iran are better than previous policies.” The paper quotes her saying that for European states, “boycott [of Israel] is not the way.”

Haaretz, however, reports that although she voiced opposition to an economic boycott of Israel, she said Germany would have to comply with EU policy on labeling settlement products as such. The paper downplays the remarks from both leaders on Iran and instead focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Haaretz reports Merkel saying that both sides need to make concessions, but that Germany recognizes Israel’s right to security.

For Yedioth Ahronoth, the Merkel-Netanyahu meeting takes a back burner to anonymous Israeli official’s admission to Time magazine that Israel struck Hezbollah. The paper deals with the heads of state but briefly, quoting Netanyahu’s statement that “the State of Israel does everything necessary to protect the security of its citizens.” In a single paragraph it covers the remainder of the meeting, quoting Merkel saying that “we need to ensure that Iran doesn’t acquire nuclear weapons” and that for Germany, economic boycott of Israel is “not an option.”

Turning to the Hezbollah issue, Haaretz runs a slightly confusing lead on its main coverage of the Lebanese Shiite militia’s anticipated retaliation for Monday’s reported Israeli strike on the Bekaa Valley. The paper reports that Hezbollah “is likely to try to harm Israeli officials” in response to the alleged strike on an arms convoy that may have killed as many as three Hezbollah fighters. The paper then writes, however, that “at this time it appears that Hezbollah doesn’t intend to respond to the attack on an arms convoy in the Bekaa Valley [on Monday].” Either way, Hezbollah’s statement on Wednesday that it would retaliate against Israel when and where it sees fit makes that part of the article irrelevant.

Israel Hayom and Maariv paraphrase the Time magazine report, but the former paper makes its headline “On the Syrian side of the border,” for no apparent reason. Maariv copies the Time report’s quote from an anonymous Israeli official, and takes a jab at Hezbollah, saying “They still think if they’re driving in convoy at night they can’t be seen.”

On the local beat, a grenade thrown at a shop in an open market in Petah Tikva in a suspected organized attack, injuring five, gets sharp focus in light of the wave of such attacks plaguing Israel. A writer in Maariv opines that “in the past four days Petah Tikva is Chicago.”

“You understand that crime allows itself to conquer the streets because the police are not noticeable, because the chief is in the prosecutor’s office and with [his] lawyers, because its respect was given anorexic proportions,” Mordechai Haimovich writes. “And once you’re left with fear, with lack of security, you desperately wait for an Israeli Rudy Giuliani,” he says, confusing the two US metropolises.

Yedioth Ahronoth reports that police suspect that a criminal gang was trying to instill fear into the owner of the exchange place at which the grenade was thrown. The paper reports that the money changer is under investigation by the police and tax authorities for money laundering.

A shopkeeper in the Petah Tikva market told Israel Hayom that “criminals have controlled this place a long time and not the police.”

“It’s only deteriorating. It’s all a matter of time, where and when the next explosion, bomb or murder will be,” he said.

Haaretz hits back at a bill put before the Knesset which would differentiate between Arab Christians and Arab Muslims who are citizens of Israel.

“Ostensibly the purpose is to ensure better representation for communities whose members have a hard time finding their place in the labor market,” the editorial says, but notes that Likud MK Yariv Levin truly aims “to grant separate representation and separate treatment to the Christian community, which will be distinguished from the Muslim Arabs.”

“The unfortunate distinction between ‘good Arabs’ – Christians – and ‘bad Arabs’ – Muslims – not only reflects ignorance and racism, it does a great injustice to members of both religions who as minorities are not treated properly by the state,” Haaretz says. The paper calls on the Knesset to strike down the bill, saying “such legislation does not reflect love of one’s country. It’s ugly racism by nationalist zealots.”

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