Emotions are mixed as the United Nations is expected on Thursday to pass a resolution granting nonmember state status to the Palestinians. An image of jubilant children holding a picture of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was in all the Hebrew dailies, but the coverage inside was not so jubilant.
“The UN: ‘Yes’ to the Palestinians,” reads Yedioth Ahronoth‘s headline above a picture of a grumpy-looking Abbas. Inside, the paper reminds readers that Thursday’s vote is occurring exactly 65 years after the vote that established Israel. Yedioth includes a color display of flags and how each country is expected to vote, with only the US, Canada, Guatemala and Micronesia firmly in the nay category.
Yedioth also includes a page of questions and answers about what the change of status means in practical terms for negotiations and next steps. Regarding immediate effects on the ground, the paper says, “Not immediately…The significance of the UN decision is that it recognizes their claim to the land.”
Maariv leads with the revelation that Abbas refused an Israeli offer to restart negotiations if he agrees to shelve the UN status upgrade. According to the article, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a message to Abbas that offered to renew peace talks after the Israeli elections in January. Abbas refused the offer because he thought it wasn’t a concrete and genuine offer and “he doesn’t believe in Netanyahu’s promises.”
In an opinion piece, Maariv columnist Ben-Dror Yemini opposes the UN vote because “the declaration overrides peace.” He references the peace talks between Abbas and the then-prime minister and foreign minister, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni, respectively, as breakthroughs — but when the moment of truth arrived, he continues, “[Abbas] was frightened.” Yemini concludes, “The declaration of a Palestinian state is a milestone. This is a great achievement for Abu Mazen [Abbas]. This is not a great achievement for peace.”
Israel Hayom‘s front page characterizes the vote as an “embarrassment for Israel” and describes the Palestinian state in its headline as a “virtual state.” Aside from similar coverage to other papers’ (complete with a list of countries and how they will vote), the paper also includes a short piece on MK Ahmed Tibi, who is in New York to celebrate the decision. “This is a historic event that is a milestone for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”
Boaz Bismuth writes in an opinion piece that while the Palestinians may feel at home in the UN, “what should be clear to Abbas are the implications of the move.” Bismuth worries about the new access that the Palestinians will have to international organizations like the International Criminal Court at the Hague. “But Abu Mazen must remember the price of the move. Instead of whining he will have to be responsible for Gaza.” And in the end, Bismuth believes, the move will “only cause greater frustration for his people.”
Haaretz gives the least front-page real estate to the vote but the traditionally left-leaning paper expresses support in its editorial. The piece states that Israel has nothing to fear from the recognition of a Palestinian state, which “will give Israel a responsible partner with international backing — one that will represent the entire Palestinian people and be able to make decisions in its name.” The paper concludes by urging Netanyahu to congratulate Abbas and begin working toward a renewal of negotiations because “it isn’t just the Palestinians who deserve a diplomatic horizon. The Israelis deserve one too.”
The UN vote is not the only vote today; the Labor Party is holding a primary to determine its Knesset list. Israel Hayom reports that Labor head Shelly Yachimovich again expressed her desire that Tzipi Livni join up as her second-in-command: “I wanted to generate a combined force that would be able to excite the public and produce a change.” The paper also includes a listing of new faces in the party, of which the most recognizable are Noam Shalit, father of Gilad Shalit; and Merav Michali, the former journalist.
Maariv provides an update on Livni’s newly formed party and her effort to create her own Knesset list. Among those being courted by The Movement are Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, former Labor Party chairman Amram Mitzna, and Rabbi Michael Melchior. No word from any of the high-profile names on their intentions.
Law and new order?
“Nine women,” reads the Maariv headline about the coming indictment of former Jerusalem district police chief Niso Shaham. The article reports that Shaham will be charged with sexual harassment, fraud, breach of trust and indecent acts. The charges stem from allegations that he sexually harassed four female police officers under his command. The report also found that Shaham had illicit consensual relations with five other female officers. Shaham maintains, “I have not committed a criminal offense.”
Haaretz reports on its front page about an effort by the president of the military court, Colonel Aharon Mishnayot, to apply Israeli law in the West Bank. Currently the area is ruled by a combination of military law and civil law, with more severe punishments meted out in the territories in order to combat terrorism. The paper reports that the push to apply Israel penal law to the West Bank would help improve transparency and prevent the perception of a bias in the law.