The prime minister’s last-minute decision to reduce taxes on gasoline, preventing the price from crossing the record-breaking eight shekel mark, leads most of the papers this morning.
“Netanyahu lowered the tax on gasoline by 10 agorot,” reads Israel Hayom. “Under pressure: Netanyahu lowered the tax on gasoline,” reads Maariv. “A humiliation for Steinitz,” declares Yedioth Ahronoth in reference to the prime minister’s decision to lower the tax despite his finance minister’s refusal to do so. Haaretz’s headline reads “Due to public pressure Netanyahu lowers gasoline tax by 10 agorot.”
The subtle differences in headline wording offer a glimpse into the papers’ attitudes to the issue and the man.
The weather also features high in today’s papers, with front-page stories reporting on the damage caused by yesterday’s storm and anticipating rare snowfall in Jerusalem.
Maariv breaks a story on Israelis rushing to collect gas masks in anticipation of the impending closure today of the IDF’s gas mask distribution centers. According to the Home Front Command, half of the population will be unprotected in case of a future war.
Also on Maariv’s front page is a story on the early release of 600 prisoners, among them former cabinet minister Shlomo Benizri, in an effort to reduce crowding in the prison system.
Yedioth, Israel Hayom and Haaretz all feature front-page headlines on North Korea’s decision to halt its nuclear program in exchange for a substantial humanitarian support package from the West.
In addition, Haaretz features an expose on national religious soldiers serving in special military enlistment programs that were meant to be reserved for ultra-Orthodox draftees. The thrust of the article is that people who should be completing full army service are taking advantage of a loophole to shorten their time in uniform.
The scandal that refuses to die
Yedioth Reports on page 10 on a new investigation taking place in the Prime Minister’s Office. After Netanyahu’s bureau chief, Natan Eshel, was fired last month for improper conduct that included taking secret photos of one of his female subordinates, another member of the staff, Ezra Siedoff, is being probed for invading Eshel’s privacy. According to the report, Seidoff looked through Eshel’s cellphone photo gallery and upon finding the offensive photos that Eshel took, proceeded to show them to other staff members.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth’s Page 10 story, Israel’s immigration authorities will face a major challenge when trying to enforce deportation orders on 3,000 South Sudanese asylum seekers living in the country. A 1,000-euro relocation incentive offered by the government to those who leave of their own volition did not have the desired effect and immigration authorities expect to encounter violence when attempting to forcefully deport the migrants.
A costly dilemma faces caretakers at the Ramat Gan Safari. Yedioth’s Page 16 story reports that management is undecided about what to do with four rhinoceros horns taken from two animals that died in the zoo over the last few weeks. The horns, worth an estimated $6,000,000, have been placed in a safe for the time being, but employees are looking for a way to display them without them being stolen and sold on the black market.
Israel Hayom previews a weekend magazine feature about archaeologist Yoram Haimi, who has been heading a dig to uncover the Nazi atrocities at the Sobibor extermination camp. For the past four years, Haimi, who lost family members at the camp, has been excavating the site where hundreds of thousands of Jews were systematically killed and which the Nazis took care to hide under a freshly planted forest. The magazine article promises to reveal some of the unique artifacts he discovered.
On Page 22, Israel Hayom features a story on rising trade figures between Israel and the UK. The article quotes UK Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould stating that the 34 percent increase in bilateral trade over the last year proves that fear of anti-Israel boycotts in the UK is unwarranted.
Preparing for the Obama-Netanyahu showdown
Prof. Eitan Gilboa writes in Yedioth Ahronoth’s opinion pages on the urgent need to rebuild trust between Obama and Netanyahu. “Recently the US and Israel have exchanged messages through the media. The messages revealed contradictions, disagreements and grievances. The direct meeting between Obama and Netanyahu may clear things up at the most senior level. The whole world, and Iran and the Middle East states in particular, will carefully scrutinize every word, gesture and analysis following the meeting. Obama and Netanyahu are burdened with a heavy responsibility.”
Israel Hayom’s Dan Margalit warns against US complacency following North Korea’s decsion to halt its nuclear program. “In light of the US presidential campaign, which is getting ever more intense, Israel feels that the upcoming week can be a turning point in the creation of a joint policy towards Iran. There is no doubt the AIPAC conference will aid the process. But Obama has yet to commit himself, and the Israeli hope is that he will not be overly influenced by the North Korean regime’s promises to halt its nuclear program in exchange for food, and not suppose that he can reach a similar achievement with Iran.”
In Maariv, Rubik Rozental looks on the bright side of losing the Oscar to Iran. “Wars are part of human nature, but they can be split into two types. There are wars ruled by death, violence and stupidity, which are brought to life by politicians, cynical economic forces and all sorts of fanatic religions clerics. And there are wars that are ruled by life, that express themselves in arts, sports, academia and reality shows. As long as we are busy battling the latter, the cannon and missiles are silent. May we have many such wars.”
Gideon Levy writes in Haaretz about the various reactions to Justice Salim Joubran’s refusal to sing the anthem during the swearing-in ceremony of new Supreme Court President Asher Grunis. “Joubran on Tuesday put us to the test, and the vaunted Israeli democracy failed miserably. Among all the speeches (yada, yada, yada) at the new Supreme Court president’s inauguration ceremony, it was Joubran’s silence that taught us an important lesson: That Israeli democracy is paper-thin and fragile. All it needs to ruin it is one judge who refuses to join the choir.”