The major headlines in all the papers this morning could have been written in disappearing ink for all their lasting news value. [Spoiler alert] Short hours after publication, the blaring headlines announcing “Judgment Day” for former prime minister Ehud Olmert in anticipation of the reading of his verdict on numerous corruption charges were made moot as the judges in the Jerusalem District Court declared him innocent of all but one minor offense.
The question marks of the morning papers, asking whether Israel will see history made with the criminal conviction of a prime minister (Maariv page 1) became exclamation marks at 9 a.m. as the judges read out their ruling, providing a resounding no-ish.
Unfortunately for Olmert, this is likely not the last time he sees his face splashed on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers in the context of a corruption trial. The ex-PM, as nearly all the papers point out prominently, still has the Holyland case to battle and as the highest profile suspect, can be sure to carry on making headlines as the trial unfolds.
Other front-page stories may end up have more staying power. Israel Hayom’s top headline suggests that terrorists in the Gaza Strip have picked up a new M.O.
“For the first time: heavy machine gun fire on Yad Mordechai junction,” reads the headline. Though nobody was injured and the army was quick to fire back, the threat of similar attacks in the future lingers. The army is reportedly now searching for ways to cope with what it believes may be a change in tactics by Gaza terrorists.
Interestingly, only two papers give front-page prominence to the story that was all the talk yesterday, namely the release of a legal report announcing that Israel is not the occupying force everybody believes it to be. One might expect that a paper penned by a former Supreme Court justice and commissioned by the prime minister, which recommends legalizing most West Bank outposts and strikes at the heart of Israel’s national character, would make more noise. But as it happens only Haaretz and Israel Hayom thought it was Page 1-worthy.
Haaretz, as might be expected of a stalwart left-wing publication, comes out against the report’s findings with a front-page editorial calling for its shredding. Israel Hayom meanwhile highlights the report’s warm embrace by the right and its calls for the government to adopt the findings and shift policies accordingly.
Yedioth Ahronoth provides its readers with some optimism with a front-page photo of Israel’s Olympic team members posing with Shimon Peres as they attend a departure ceremony at the President’s Residence before packing up for London. “Want Gold!” reads the caption beneath the group picture showing the athletes sporting their new white-and-blue uniforms.
Suckers vacuumed off the front page
For the first time in weeks, the issue of the universal draft and the political attempts to draw up legislation mandating it have fallen off the front page. Yedioth reports on Page 5 on incremental progress taking place in talks between Kadima and the Likud over the drafting of a new mandatory conscription law, but asserts that it will be fully ready by the end of the week. More interesting is a sidebar article on how the haredi press is covering the story. According to Yedioth, haredi paper Merkaz Ha’inyanim has taken to personal attacks against Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner, one of the two-man drafting team, casting doubt on his Jewish ancestry. Yated Neeman reportedly called the recommendations of the Plesner report “anti-Semitic.”
Maariv draws attention on page 10 to the nagging concern of Israel’s earthquake preparedness. Though yesterday’s tremor only registered a 5.6 on the Richter scale, experts continue to warn that “the big one” is on its way — though when exactly, no one can say. The fact that yesterday’s earthquake was the fifth to be felt in Israel in the past two months doesn’t mean much as its epicenter was in the Mediterranean Sea, not the Jordan Valley, where the real danger lies, geologist Uri Friedlander explains, but nevertheless, it provides an impetus to refresh earthquake readiness.
Britain’s Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould tries in the opinion section of Maariv to alleviate Israelis’ fear of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments at UK university campuses. “It is true that in a small number of British universities there is a real problem and open debate has been replaced by intimidation, which is unacceptable. But Prime Minister David Cameron has made it clear that he expects university authorities to tackle the problem, and we can already point to improvements,” writes Gould. “Britain is not an anti-Semitic country: young Israelis need not avoid studying in British universities. We must not be complacent about anti-Semitism, history is full of too many bloody tales, but neither can we allow ourselves to be blinded to the truth by a smokescreen of hate,” he concludes.
In Haaretz, Nehemia Shtrasler rails against the fig leaf of national service, suggested by the politicians as an alternative for the haredim enlisting in the military. “The most important difference between military and civilian service is the risk of being wounded or killed,” writes Shtrasler. “Only those who serve in the military go to war and only those who serve in the military do 25 days a year of reserve duty. Therefore as long as soldiers’ funerals depart from everywhere in the country apart from Bnei Brak, there will be no equal sharing of the burden and no shortening of military service, despite the latter’s crucial importance toward improving nonreligious people’s quality of life and the growth of the economy.”
An additional advantage of enlisting haredim to the military, Shtrasler argues, is that seeing their constituents go off to war will significantly reduce warmongering by haredi leaders.