Election coverage dominated the Israeli press on Wednesday, but with no major unifying story, each paper went its own way.
Haaretz leads its election coverage with the results of a new poll it conducted that reveals that Likud-Beytenu lost five seats over the past month, mostly to the Jewish Home party. But Likud-Beytenu is not alone. The paper reports that Labor is also down a seat and that Shas is down two seats. Jewish Home, however, rose to 14 seats. “At this rate, it could end up as the second-biggest party, who would have believed it?” Yossi Vertner asks, adding a bit of his own disbelief into the reporting.
Yedioth Ahronoth can’t focus on the Jewish Home party because it is too shocked by what is occurring in Likud-Beytenu, and with one member in particular: Moshe Feiglin. “Feiglin is not alone,” reads the article headline about the hawkish politician’s statements made during a right-wing conference on Tuesday night where he detailed his new solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Instead of funding Iron Dome we can pay half a million dollars to Palestinian families and convince them to emigrate.” The paper points out that Feiglin (who was fresh off an arrest for praying at the Temple Mount) was joined at the conference by other Likud members and fears that Netanyahu may be overtaken by the far right of his own party. “These extremist statements are actually good electorally for Netanyahu. They help him in the fight for voters who can’t decide between Likud and Jewish Home,” a Likud-Beytenu source told the paper.
Netanyahu made his own statements about the peace process on Tuesday and they were the lead story in Israel Hayom. “Hamas is likely to control the West Bank,” is the Netanyahu quote that the paper uses for its front-page headline, and inside it expands on the statements made during his weekly Bible study session. The paper characterizes the statements as a response to Shimon Peres’s comments from earlier in the week. “Now it’s the prime minister’s turn to speak,” the article begins and later quotes Netanyahu warning about the ascension of Hamas. The paper also writes that while Netanyahu did not mention Peres by name, he addressed the president’s comments subtly. “I think that in the political process you need to lead responsibly and not panic,” Netanyahu stated.
Maariv eschews politics as its lead story, focusing instead on a new report about the growing number of Israeli students not studying two key subjects: math and English. The article examines the number of institutions exempt from the core curriculum set by the state and shows it has risen 40 percent over the past decade. What began as an agreement between the ultra-Orthodox sector and previous governments has now spread to secular cities across the country. Haifa had no institutions claiming exempt status in 2001 but 109 in 2012. More religious cities have also seen a jump: Beit Shemesh had 770 exempt institutions in 2001, which rose to 4,427 in 2012. What worries the experts is that despite funding the schools, the Education Ministry has no supervision over them. Yitzhak Kadmon, head of Israel’s National Council for the Child, told the paper that each new institution joining the ranks of exemption “should seriously worry the education system.”
Haaretz reports that settlers evacuated from the Gaza Strip during Israel’s disengagement in 2005 are vowing to refuse to pay rent on the government housing they were provided after their removal. The residents, formerly of Gush Katif, have been housed in temporary housing units since 2005 while waiting for permanent housing to be built. Construction of the permanent housing only began recently and the majority of homes are not ready for habitation. The paper reports that the residents received their first rent bills earlier this week. One of the evacuees, Shoshi Menashe, told the paper, “Instead of helping us, the state asks us for money.”
Yedioth reports on an IDF operation on Tuesday that led to clashes between the IDF and Palestinians in the village of Tamoun, close to Jenin. “After a long period of relative quiet and nighttime arrests, undercover units are returning to act in the daytime,” the paper notes in its lead about a raid on a home of an Islamic Jihad operative. Palestinian residents armed with clubs and stones streamed into the street and the IDF responded with rubber bullets and teargas. The confrontation lasted some hours and only at 5 p.m. did the IDF leave the village, after troops successfully arrested the Islamic Jihad operative.
The real issues
Marriv and Haaretz both tackle the arrest of an Eritrean migrant accused of raping an 83-year-old woman and its aftermath in their respective opinion pages. In Maariv, Guy Maroz writes that the rapist deserves the death penalty but the recent protests were not against rape but against the migrant community. “I don’t remember that after the conviction of [former president] Moshe Katsav the masses took to the street and called for the expulsion of all the immigrants that came from Iran.” He goes on to write that the real problem in the neighborhoods where the demonstrations took place is not migrants but lack of economic solutions.
Haaretz’s editorial takes a different tactic and bashes the politicians who joined in attacking the migrants. It cites Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s Facebook page, where he posted, “Shas is my home, Sudan is theirs,” and then criticized the danger that Israeli citizens face in places where, as he put it, “infiltrators reside.” The paper criticizes Yishai’s remarks as “an ugly example of racist slander against an entire group.” The paper comes to a similar conclusion as Maroz, that the problem is not the migrants but rather the economic situation. The paper concludes, “Collective hatred and violence against migrants will not solve the real problems of those who live in south Tel Aviv.”