After a weekend that saw the death of a Palestinian prisoner and clashes throughout the West Bank, the question on the Hebrew press’s collective mind Sunday morning is: Are we watching the beginning of a third intifada?
Maariv’s front page provides a snapshot of the situation with the headline, “3,000 Palestinian prisoners will begin a hunger strike today; fear of escalation of riots.” Inside, the paper paraphrases sources within the Palestinian Authority who say they’re ready for another intifada. Referencing a confrontation Saturday outside of the village of Qursa, in which Palestinians accused Israeli settlers of shooting a Palestinian man, Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti warns, “Israel and Netanyahu stand to suffer the consequences of a third intifada that will start on the basis of the incident at Qursa.”
Haaretz also addresses the rising tension in the West Bank, focusing its report on the death of Arafat Jaradat, the Palestinian prisoner who died in Israeli custody. Jaradat’s death, which Israeli authorities attributed to a heart attack, came only five days after Jaradat was taken into custody for throwing rocks at Israelis, and Palestinian prisoners launched a hunger strike in response. Prison authorities knew that Jaradat had health issues, including back pain, but he had been examined by doctors who deemed his interrogation could continue.
“The IDF is preparing for a third intifada,” reads Yedioth Ahronoth’s front-page headline, which comes on the heels of IDF chief Benny Gantz preparing for an expansion of the riots. The paper succinctly notes Israel’s fears, “The death of the prisoner could ignite the territories.”
The riots make the front page of Israel Hayom, but that paper places its story behind a two-page Purim spread (“A great holiday for entertainment,” reads the article headline). When the paper does get around to reporting on the restless weekend, half of its coverage is an opinion piece by Nadav Shragai who urges Israel to “put out this fire while it’s still small.” Putting out the fire seems to mean using a military force now, rather than later. “Even Sharon learned the hard way that restraint is not power,” writes Shragai.
While the focus of the press may be on the West Bank, there are changes occurring in the political landscape with Likud changing its tune on coalition negotiations. Maariv reports that sources in the party are ready to hold joint negotiations with the Yesh Atid and Jewish Home parties, recognizing that the pact between the two is strong. The paper also includes four scenarios for possible coalitions with one of them being new elections, which it calls “the scenario that Netanyahu fears” because polls show that new elections could significantly weaken Likud.
Netanyahu looks like he won’t get any help building a coalition from the Labor Party either. Israel Hayom reports that Shelly Yachimovich has refused to join a Netanyahu-led government. In an email to supporters, Yachimovich wrote, “We will lead the opposition and not join a Netanyahu government.” Israel Hayom reminds readers that to lead the opposition, Yachimovich would need the support of Meretz, the Israeli-Arab parties, and Yesh Atid, which received four more seats than Labor.
Hide and find
The Iranian nuclear threat is back in the news as Yedioth prints a translated AP article regarding news out of Tehran that Iran has discovered large amounts of uranium. Aside from the discovery of uranium, the article also states that Iran has announced plans for building 16 additional power plants throughout the country. The news comes just as Iran is about to restart negotiations with the West about its controversial nuclear program and is in the midst of holding a large-scale military drill.
While Iran may be planning 16 more nuclear sites, according to Maariv, Syria’s one nuclear site has fallen into the hands of the Free Syrian Army. The paper cites an Al-Jazeera report that the FSA has seized the site, which was believed to house a nuclear reactor that Israel reportedly bombed in 2007. Since then, it has not been rebuilt and no weapons of mass destruction have been housed there.
Haaretz reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry wants to achieve a deal between Israel and the Palestinians for lasting peace by the end of Obama’s term in 2016. The paper reports that Kerry left Jerusalem off his upcoming Middle East tour so as not to steal the limelight from Obama who is scheduled to visit Israel in March. Kerry also understands that any forward movement on peace talks will come after a coalition is established and a government in place.
The perks of being a tourist
Maariv reports on a new phenomenon that tourists can donate thousands of dollars and meet “meet our brave soldiers face to face.” Tourists who donate enough can attend barbeques and visit soldiers on army bases and sign and dance with them. The article worries that the practice is turning soldiers into tourist attractions. Maariv prints the price list: $2,500 will feed 70 soldiers, $4,000 will provide a meal for 150 soldiers, and $7,500 will feed 500 soldiers. The organization in charge of the project, Or Lehayal, responded to the article, stating, “If the Jewish people from around the world love and cherish IDF soldiers, then we are happy to grant them the opportunity to present that gift.”