There has been a lull in the press about peace talks with the Palestinians, but Friday’s papers had two very prominent stories about the future of the Middle East peace process.
Haaretz and Maariv both led with stories about Oslo, albeit from very different perspectives. Haaretz focuses on a position paper from the Prime Minister’s Office that calls for future negotiations regarding Palestinian refugees to also include Jewish refugees from Arab countries who fled to Israel. The article places the total number of Jewish refugees at 818,000 and reports that Israeli diplomats around the world have been told to start raising awareness for the issue.
According to Maariv, the Foreign Ministry might be trying a new negotiation tactic with the Palestinians: remaking the original agreement. The paper reports that Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has ordered his staff to evaluate what he called, “The most failed political process since the establishment of the state.” The paper also quotes Liberman attacking Mahmoud Abbas again: “He’s living on borrowed time.” Sneakily, Maariv slights Liberman by reporting in the very next paragraph that Abbas called Shimon Peres on Thursday and wished all of Israel a happy new year.
Yedioth Ahronoth is very excited about a possible final draft of the report on the Harpaz Affair. “There was no putsch,” reads the front-page headline, referring to the possibility that former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi was trying to act against Defense Minister Ehud Barak in the unrelenting scandal concerning alleged foul-play over the process of appointing the last chief of the general Staff. The paper quotes heavily from the upcoming report, which softens the accusations surrounding Ashkenazi’s role in the affair. According to the article, “the former IDF Chief did not interfere with appointment of his successor, was not involved in writing the fake document, and did not ask to extend his tenure.” The report also places blame on both Ashkenazi and Barak for interfering into the investigation of the forged document. The final report was completed by outgoing state comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss but will be transferred to the current state comptroller, Yosef Shapira, and will be released under his name.
Israel Hayom snagged an interview with Netanyahu for its Sunday edition and used a quote from the interview as its main headline, “Netanyahu: And what if the US doesn’t act?” While the full interview will be printed on Sunday, the preview article gives Netanyahu’s response to some of the more pressing issues, like is he interfering in the US elections? “This is nonsense because the interest that guides me is not the US elections, but the centrifuges in Iran, and what if the centrifuges in Iran don’t take into account the US political timetable.” Most of the discussion focuses around the Iran issue, with Netanyahu telling the paper that the only thing that cannot be defended against is a nuclear attack. The article also touches on criticism that Netanyahu has received in the American press, and the paper quotes a Netanyahu aide who said, “He can take it.”
Yedioth and Maariv both publish some of that criticism of Netanyahu with Yedioth quoting a high-ranking official in its headline, “Netanyahu thinks that he controls America.” In the article the same source is quoted as saying, “Obama is fed up with Netanyahu and he’s going to show him who’s the boss.” In a small article at the bottom of the page, Yedioth goes over developments on the Iranian “red lines debate,” quoting US President Barack Obama as saying, “The red line is an atomic Iran.”
Maariv reports on the international criticism of Netanyahu. Quoting David Remnick of The New Yorker and Bill Keller of The New York Times, the piece assembles a not-so-rosy looking picture of the man Time Magazine called “King Bibi.” The article first quotes Remnick, “As Prime Minister, he’s done more than any other political figure to embolden and elevate the reactionary forces in Israel.” Maariv also gets a reaction from the Prime Minister’s Office, which conveys that Netanyahu can withstand the criticism.
Haaretz cites an American report which concluded that a war with Iran would be more costly than both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The report indicates that while America could destroy much of Iran’s nuclear program, it couldn’t stop the Islamic Republic’s drive for a weapon and wouldn’t bring about regime change, either. Haaretz also shows how major media outlets in America, like The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, are also worried about the constant talk of war from Israel.
The protests around the Middle East were also covered extensively in Friday’s papers with Yedioth providing a short overview piece, including little descriptions of five locations where demonstrations were held — Yemen, Iraq, Israel, Egypt, and Libya.
Maariv covered the events also, but the paper included a short article about Obama’s reaction to the protests in Egypt. “Obama changes direction: ‘Egypt is not an ally’” reads the headline, and the article focuses on the Obama administration’s disappointment in Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s response to the protests.
Israel Hayom writes on its front page, “The Arab winter has arrived.” Included in its coverage is an opinion piece from Professor Eyal Zisser, who titles his piece, “Maybe Obama has sobered up from his fantasy of the Arab spring.” Zisser begins his piece with a poetic touch: “In one moment a fire has spread across the Middle East, a fire of religious fanaticism and hatred for the West and the United States — Benghazi, Libya to Cairo and from Sana’a, Yemen.” He goes on to state that while Libya and Yemen condemned the attacks, “these condemnations have no meaning, since after all the control of these regimes in their countries is loose and shaky.” Zisser feels, however, that Egypt’s delayed response is much more troubling and symbolizes that the Arab Spring has turned into an Arab winter. “How fragile the atmosphere of freedom and democracy that were apparently achieved with the fall of the dictatorial regimes that ruled the area before with a fist.”
Finally, with the holiday season about to begin in Israel, the yearly debate about daylight savings pops up again, this time in Yedioth. Next week, Israelis will fall back an hour despite opposition from the public and some Knesset members. One Knesset member, Ronit Tirosh, said of the change, “When the temperature reaches 30 degrees, the clock looks like a hallucination.” Tirosh and other Knesset members want to move Israel’s daylight savings time to sync up with the US and Europe, instead of tailoring the time change to the Jewish holidays. But with the clock change already set for this year, there doesn’t appear to be any relief in sight.