Israel being told not to strike Iran, Benjamin Netanyahu back together with his old buddy Naftali Bennett, Haredi conscription dominating domestic politics, Beitar Jerusalem in the news for something other than actual soccer and former president turned convict Moshe Katsav getting a bad break: Readers of Monday’s Hebrew press could be forgiven for thinking they’ve woken up sometime in the not-too-distant past.
Yedioth Ahronoth leads things off with news surrounding US President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit, which according to the paper will be used to hold Israel back from hitting Iran while also pushing for peace talks with the Palestinians (with some Syria coordination thrown in for good measure). The paper writes that Iran will be at the top of the agenda, with Obama telling Netanyahu to keep his yapper shut and give diplomacy a chance. The story also cites a New York Times report that the European Union will begin sanctioning Israel if it doesn’t make progress on the Palestinian front, including even bigger labels on settlement goods, requiring traveling Israelis to get visas and canceling any financial agreements it has with Israel.
It sounds like Obama has a full plate, but he’ll likely have an empty stomach: Yedioth reports on the facing page that the hotel Obama will stay in, the King David, will already be leavening-free for Passover by the time of the visit, meaning the president and his staff of 16 trillion will have to do without bread, cakes that don’t taste like sawdust and legumes (he is Ashkenazi, right?). But there will be matza, macaroons and those disgusting fruit jellies in abundance. Chow down.
All the other papers lead off with coalition whatnots. Over at Israel Hayom, the meeting Monday between Netanyahu and his former protégé-turned-rival Bennett gets top billing, though the paper doesn’t have much to report beyond Bennett’s apology for taking a semi-swipe at Netanyahu’s wife Sara. But oh do the paper’s “analysts” have what to say: Motti Tochfeld writes that the meeting shows that it’s not love, but politics, which triumphs over all.
“The meeting between Netanyahu and Bennett proves that there is nothing stronger than political interests.… Bennett got 12 seats in the election, and even though there are alternatives to building a coalition with him, the prime minister cannot ignore a party because of personal considerations, important as they may be.”
Maariv has the blockbuster scoop that Bennett will join with Yair Lapid in opposing the Ya’alon plan for Haredi conscription, which is seen as having the best chance of garnering ultra-Orthodox backing but puts the least amount of burden on the potential Haredi conscripts. The Likud plan, which will likely be based on the Ya’alon plan, will only be presented Monday in a meeting with Yesh Atid, but Lapid and Bennett have already made up their minds to oppose it, which will put Netanyahu in the position of having to choose between coalitioning up with Haredi parties, or with Yesh Atid and Jewish Home. “If their solution is the Ya’alon plan, then Yesh Atid will be in the opposition,” a source close to the coalition talks told the paper.
Haaretz reports on coalition talks too, but perhaps the most interesting thing in their paper is an expose by Uri Misgav that claims Lapid liked to puff on the wacky tobbaccy. Misgav, who makes sure to tell readers his personal feelings on the subject (he likes to have an occasional herbal refreshment himself), reports that despite the fact that Lapid swore up and down he was clean as a can of Comet, several people have said they smoked joints with the journalist-cum-politician. It’s not the bong hits that bother Misgav, though, it’s the lying from a politician(!!!).
“I received testimonies of people who smoked marijuana with Yair Lapid — much more than just once. According to certain eyewitness accounts, these incidents happened a long time ago — about 20 years back — but not so long ago for Lapid to forget the events.… Smoking marijuana by a responsible adult is not the point. Rather, the only point is speaking the truth and avoiding self-righteousness and hypocrisy.”
Politicians may be getting high, but they aren’t sitting around eating Cheetos and watching old Simpsons episodes. Maariv reports that in the first week alone, the eager beavers of the 19th Knesset submitted a whopping 800 proposed bills. Five hundred of those came from one man, Hadash MK Dov Khenin, with most of them being bills that failed to make it to a second reading in the last Knesset (maybe he doesn’t take a hint), and another 250 bills came from the Meretz faction, first and foremost among them, a bill to dissolve the Knesset and go to the polls again. My, we do love democracy, or robocalls from Shelly Yachimovich, don’t we?
Yedioth reports that former president and current inmate Moshe Katsav has been denied a pardon from the Justice Ministry, for the simple reason that he has refused to show remorse for the actions that landed him in clink: rape and sexual harassment. The paper reports that the Justice Ministry also believes not enough time has been served of Katsav’s seven-year sentence. However, the paper also says, citing no one, that the justice system believes (whatever that means) Katsav will not fill out his full sentence.
Yossi Beilin writes in Israel Hayom’s op-ed page that Obama’s decision not to visit Israel during his first term has added importance to this upcoming visit, possibly giving it a better chance of having an effect on peace prospects. Beilin writes that Obama made a mistake in his first term by backing a temporary settlement building freeze as a precondition for talks with the Palestinians, but can fix the mistake this time around: “Now he is able, on the one hand, to explain his position in detail, which opposes Israeli building in the territories, the danger it poses to Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, and the harm it causes to the Palestinians to create their own sustainable state in the territories. On the other hand, he can explain that a lack of talks between the sides does not prevent building, but the opposite, it allows it to continue. Obama cannot allow himself to visit Israel and the PA and to leave behind the situation that caused a decided break in talks in 2009.”
In Haaretz, Aluf Benn advises Yair Lapid to not even enter into a coalition with Netanyahu, even for a short period, but to align himself firmly with the opposition. “One replaces the government from the opposition, not from within the government. It’s impossible to sit four years alongside Netanyahu, to be his full partner in his policies and then tell the public that the prime minister is terrible and he has to go. It’s also impossible to join a coalition for a limited amount of time and then leave it and start denouncing it. It simply doesn’t work. The Labor Party tried for years to be both Likud’s partner and rival, until it fell apart and was pushed to the margins. Yesh Atid doesn’t even have the rich historical record of Mapai to cling to. It will just dissipate, like all the previous centrist parties.”