Netanyahu’s no-decision on striking Iran was also a no-decision for newspaper editors last night. Since the papers went to bed at around midnight — before Bibi’s much-anticipated AIPAC address — the summit between the Israeli leader and US president Barack Obama, the apex of the whole Washington trip, is the top news. All the papers claim Netanyahu used the meeting to reiterate Israel’s right to strike Iran, while Obama pushed for a few more months for sanctions, essentially an analog of the two’s pre-speech comments.
Haaretz also contains the juicy tidbit that IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz will be heading to Washington in a few weeks. We can assume he won’t be spending the time sight-seeing, unless the sights are high-level American officials. Oh, what a fun spring it will be.
Writing in Maariv, Ben Caspit notes that to the Americans, Netanyahu is speaking large but carrying a small stick. Even his big words mean little: “The Americans know Benjamin Netanyahu well, and they know that even if he has decided, he hasn’t decided. Nothing is ever final.”
In Israel Hayom, Boaz Bismuth notes that though the sides may seem far apart on the Iranian threat, the gap is not over how to deal with Tehran, but the timing of such a move. “Obama truly believes that his ‘window of time’ allows him to sharpen sanctions and force the Iranian regime to fold without firing a single shot. Netanyahu sees things a little differently and guesses what Tehran will do with the time given it: advance its nuclear program,” he writes. “Until now we knew American didn’t want to attack. Now it turns out Netanyahu also has not decided whether to attack. Will it turn out that the big winner from the meeting will be [Ayatollah] Khameini? Washington is gaining time. We can only hope Iran won’t gain the bomb.”
One cooked Weiner
Iran has dominated the conversation the last few days, but were the problem to dissolve, the papers would have pictures of former IDF head Gabi Ashkenazi and Lt. Col. Boaz Harpaz splashed across their front pages following the release of a draft report of an inquiry into wrongdoing in Ashkenazi’s office. Details about the report, big news in military-centric Israel but small potatoes for your average Peoria reader, are continuing to leak out. In a nutshell (for the Peorians), Harpaz is accused of drawing up a document that would have cast IDF chief of staff contender Brig. Gen. Yoav Galant, the pick of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in a bad light, and it’s thought the paper was drawn up at the behest of Ashkenazi, who backed a different candidate, or someone close to him.
Haaretz’s front page has a story that the report claims Ashkenazi knew his underlings, including his aide de camp Col. Erez Weiner and his wife Ronit Ashkenazi, were collecting information on Barak and working against him.
Ashkenazi used the occasion of a street being named after him in Or Yehuda to speak about the affair, and all the papers carry his comments that he “never ran away from anything, not on the battlefield and not from criticism.”
Weiner, the former aide to Ashkenazi who emerged the most battered from the draft report, was quoted in Maariv telling those close to him that he does not plan to take the criticism lying down. “On the draft report, I have a lot to say and I plan to convince the comptroller that he is speaking of gossip, and nothing more, that was recorded in the IDF chief’s bureau.”
The Persian threat isn’t only on the minds of leaders, but of kids too, as schools across the country celebrate the holiday of Purim early by having children dress up in costumes. The papers run photo spreads of kids in get-ups of everything from carhops to ballerinas. Maariv has a handy map and schedule of all the Purim parades across the country, and Yedioth Ahronoth has a short story about the oldest surviving Scroll of Esther, which the National Library in Jerusalem will be putting online in honor of the holiday.
No, you’re not seeing double. Yedioth and Israel Hayom read each other’s minds last night and both have the same exact headline and (illustrative!) picture for a story on Israel recognizing a lesbian couple’s joint maternity after a five-year legal battle. Yedioth has two MKs weigh in on the matter, Zahava Gal-on on the left and Nissim Ze’ev on the right. Not surprisingly, Gal-on welcomes the decision, saying it is “a source of pride and joy,” while Zev blasts it, saying it stands in contravention of Jewish law and will lead to the destruction of the Jewish family structure.
Lyin’ down before Assad
In Haaretz, Salman Masalha joins the chorus against the Syrian regime, but places the guilt on the Arab world, writing that Bashar Assad’s deeds show the Middle East’s true colors: “The Arab world has been looking at this spectacle and hasn’t lifted a finger to stop the killing of Arabs. It is waiting for salvation to arrive from the West, which is nothing new. The Arab world has always been like that, inasmuch as the entire Arab world is a stinking corpse.”
In Yedioth, novelist A.B. Yehoshua writes that sanctions or a strike on Tehran aren’t needed to stop our enemy of the month. Instead, a two-state solution with the Palestinians will mollify the mullahs and take away the Iranian threat: “If we seriously renew the peace process with the Palestinians… the Iranians, too, will be forced to come down from their fiery rhetoric and evil threats.”
In Maariv, Rabbi Yehezkel Fogel, an administrator at Ono Academic College, writes that the ultra-Orthodox also serve to protect the state, by learning Torah: “Why is it so hard to understand that the ultra-Orthodox public has a different obligation that in their eyes is no less holy than army service? This community believes fully that they give to the state’s security no less [and maybe more] than IDF service.”
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