Israel’s Hebrew newspapers usher in 2013 with photos of fireworks celebrations across the globe, but closer to home they report about fireworks of a different kind.
Reports that came out yesterday of a truly gruesome rape incident that took place last week, in which an illegal migrant from Eritrea brutalized an 83-year-old woman, drove hundreds of residents of southern Tel Aviv neighborhoods to the streets demanding that all African migrants be deported.
“The rape and the rage,” reads the headline in Maariv. “Elderly woman’s rape reignites migrant hate,” read’s Haaretz‘s headline.
The protest, organized by residents of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and bolstered by members of the ultra-nationalist Otzma Leyisrael party, quickly turned into a free-for-all, with demonstrators shouting chants against the migrants; against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, as representatives of a government that isn’t doing enough to rid the country of the “African infiltrators”; and against the “leftists” and “bleeding hearts” who believe the migrants should enjoy basic human rights. Similar protests have taken place before, and police took pains to make sure yesterday’s didn’t get out of hand, preventing the looting and physical attacks on migrants that occurred in the wake of prior demonstrations.
Israel Hayom presents the story in a different light. Its main front page headline reads “Egypt border fence completed,” somewhat ironically, since the headline for the rape story itself, on Page 2, reads “Cruelty that knows no borders.” As if in answer to the protesters’ demands for action, the main headline reports on the government’s successful completion of the barrier on the Egyptian border, erected to stop the inflow of migrants, and its achievement in lowering the number of those coming in to a record low in December.
Ben-Dror Yemini, in the opinion section of Maariv, comes to the defense of the residents of south Tel Aviv, who he claims have often been depicted as racists while being unfairly left to bear the burden of government inaction. Yemini argues that instead of providing solutions, the government has allowed the poorest neighborhoods to play host to large numbers of uninvited migrants. While he states that the migrants are statistically no more likely commit crimes than the general population, their concentration in a limited area makes it seem as if they are. As a creative solution, Yemini proposes that the migrants be permitted to work and that half their salaries be held in trust until they leave the country. This, he says, will give them the necessary incentive to leave, as opposed to the ineffectual and unrealistic government promises of forced repatriation.
Yedioth Ahronoth‘s top headline takes readers back a month to the government’s announcement that it would advance construction in the E1 territory between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim as a response to the Palestinians’ successful UN bid to achieve nonmember state status. Apparently, the controversial decision didn’t sit well among some of Israel’s diplomats, and at a Foreign Ministry conference yesterday several of them, led by Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor, asked for guidance on how to present the decision to their host countries. The question was ill-received by National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror, who told the diplomats that if they weren’t able to stand behind the government’s policies, they could quit their jobs and run for office themselves.
In general, it seems that criticizing the government is a bad policy for anyone who wants to keep their jobs at the moment. All the papers feature reports about the abrupt firing of Israel’s chief statistician, who told journalists at an end-of-year press conference yesterday that he was dismissed from his post via email. Shlomo Yitzhaki, who served as the Central Bureau of Statistics chief for 11 years, had gone on the record several times in recent months slamming the government, and particularly the Finance Ministry, for poor and politicized budget management. Netanyahu reportedly later called Yitzhaki to apologize for the manner of his dismissal.
Maariv’s top story reports on the increased costs to basic services that Israelis will be forced to foot, either immediately or right after the elections. According to the report, electricity prices will rise by 12 percent, water will increase by 3%, municipal taxes will go up by 2.3%, bread prices will climb by 3% and dairy products will see a 6% increase.
Israel Hayom reports on Page 19 of a halachic breakthrough that allows couples to determine the sex of their child. According to the story, the ruling enables making use of advanced reproductive treatments to choose an offspring’s sex, in special cases where it plays a critical role. The examples provided in the story include cases where the family is interested in a male child so as to maintain the family name after the Holocaust and of a family in risk of crumbling apart after giving birth to six or seven females and no males.