Every magician needs a volunteer for the really grand and complicated tricks. Prime Minister Netanyahu is now hoping for two to step forward to help him pull off what may be the most complex act of political wizardry of his term.
Never mind the Statue of Liberty or a jumbo jet, Netanyahu plans to make an entire neighborhood disappear and then reappear 200 meters away, all under the watchful gaze of his audience — the international community and his Likud constituents.
Netanyahu presented his three-point plan for this move to the cabinet yesterday and is now seeking the assistants who can help him perform it to the wonderment of all.
The first assistant needed for the amazing Ulpana act is Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. Weinstein was supposed to find the legal solutions authorizing the transfer of five West Bank buildings — built on what turned out to be private Palestinian land — to a nearby abandoned military base. Weinstein was also instructed to find a spell that would prevent the move from setting a precedent and opening the door to hundreds of new claims by Palestinians affecting thousands of existing settler homes. But according to today’s newspapers, the assistant isn’t providing much help.
Maariv‘s top headline reports that “Weinstein has reservations about Netanyahu’s plan.” According to the report, Weinstein isn’t sure that transferring the houses to land that was expropriated for security reasons can stand up in court, since the move does not serve a distinct military purpose as previous High Court rulings require. As for the precedent-warding spell, the assistant says he needs a while longer to see if it’s possible.
The second assistant is named Avigdor Liberman. Netanyahu is hoping that his far-right foreign minister will give him political coverage for the move by voting, along with his 14 party loyalists, against a bill put forward by the Likud’s own right-wing flank that aims to circumvent the court ruling ordering the removal of the five Ulpana houses.
“The key: Liberman,” reads the headline of Yedioth Ahronoth this morning. Yedioth states that Liberman and his Yisrael Beytenu MKs will likely be the deciding votes on whether the bill will pass in the Knesset when it comes to its first reading on Wednesday. Liberman has yet to choose his stance, first waiting to hear back from the attorney general on the plan’s legal footing.
The devil is in the details
Sometimes you can tell which paper was burning the midnight oil by the small details of a story. Today the differences are rather more glaring. All four Hebrew dailies report on their front page this morning on the arrest of a family member for suspicion of involvement in the death of 10-year-old Anas Sarsur in Kfar Kassem on Saturday, but it’s Haaretz and Yedioth that reveal the nontrivial fact that the person arrested was the boy’s father.
Both Yedioth, which got the full story, and Maariv, which left out the key fact, run a similar photo of Anas’s weeping father being supported by family members at his son’s funeral.
Haaretz’s lead headline reads: “Netanyahu: It is possible to deport 25,000 migrants immediately.” According to the story, Netanyahu held an emergency meeting and instructed that the 25,000 — migrants who come from South Sudan, Ethiopia, Ghana and other places where it is considered safe for them to return to — should be deported right away and the rest, an estimated 35,000 people, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, should be held in yet to be constructed detention facilities. The article also reveals ongoing efforts by the Foreign Ministry to reach agreements with the countries it has ties with to transfer the migrants to their territory, so far to no avail.
Israel Hayom‘s main story reports on the proposed national budget for 2013, which Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz presented to the prime minister yesterday. According to the article, the proposal includes tax hikes and ministerial budget cuts, and will be a single-year budget as opposed to a bi-annual one. The 2013 budget is expected to be NIS 13 billion larger than this year’s budget, reaching a total of NIS 334 billion.
Both Haaretz and Maariv run front page stories on a possible new rounds of sanctions against Iran that the US is working on with Israel. Haaretz focuses on the US-Israeli cooperation, highlighting the visit to Israel this week of US Treasury undersecretary David Cohen, while Maariv focuses on the failure of the recent rounds of talks between Iran and the six world powers.
Amos Gilboa writes in Maariv’s opinion pages on Bashar Assad’s speech yesterday and argues that with his actions over recent months he frittered away the two most valuable assets left to him by his father — internal stability and regional standing.
“Bashar started squandering his inheritance when he tied his fate to Iran and Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy. Syria will now go back to being in a situation where anyone capable will attempt to intervene in its inner workings, whether Assad stays in power or not,” writes Gilboa.
In Haaretz Reuven Pedatzur writes about the attorney general’s decision to prosecute Haaretz reporter Uri Blau for possession of secret military documents. Pedatzur writes that he himself, like many military correspondents, has at some time held on to classified material and wonders at Weinstein’s motives.
“The attorney general can juggle his words as much as he likes, but the bottom line is that he decided to put Haaretz reporter Uri Blau on trial on charges of spying. And since Yehuda Weinstein knows very well that Blau is not a spy, we must ask what is behind his decision,” he writes.