It’s a new day in the Palestinian territories as Fatah and Hamas are BFFs again after signing a reconciliation deal on Wednesday. But in the Hebrew press, there is less enthusiasm for the deal.
Yedioth Ahronoth’s front-page headline (which is pushed to the bottom of the page by basketball!?!?; more on that later) casts Israel as a spurned lover: “Israel fumes: It’s us or Hamas.” Inside the paper quotes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying “Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] chose peace with Hamas and not peace with us.” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that the deal is “the end of negotiations.”
Abbas, though, doesn’t seem to think that deal hurts the peace process, saying, “There is no contradiction between this reconciliation and negotiations.”
Columnist Alex Fishman writes that the Israeli anger at the deal isn’t only at Abbas and the Palestinians but also at the Americans for their tepid response to these “one-sided moves.” “The ball is now in the American court,” writes Fishman. “If there is not a blunt response, it will cause the collapse of the political process and lead to Western recognition of Hamas.”
In Israel Hayom, Professor Eyal Zisser thinks the agreement is one of political expediency for both parties rather than a true reconciliation. Hamas was alone in Gaza, with its support in Egypt now mostly locked up, and Abbas feared a new intifada over the failure of the current peace talks. So the two have come together for now, but “it is unlikely that Abbas and Hamas leaders really can overcome past tensions and contradictions that deal with their basic worldview and long-term political interests.”
Dan Margalit takes a tougher stance on the agreement, titling his piece “Show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are.” Margalit lays out why the agreement is so troubling to the Israeli government, “Does Hamas accepts the Oslo Accords? Is it prepared to accept the solution of two states for two peoples with land swaps? Also do they favor two capitals in an united Jerusalem? Do they recognize the special security needs of Israel?”
Margalit also offers a rare criticism of Netanyahu, saying, “Truth be told, it wasn’t at all clear that Netanyahu intended to implement the ‘two states for two peoples.’” But the agreement creates something that Israel wants – a non-unified Palestinian government. He writes, “Netanyahu expressed willingness to accept Abbas’s conditions [to extend peace talks] — for example, a three-month construction freeze — and naturally he demands that this measure will be met by freezing the agreement to establish a unified government with Hamas for the same amount of time.”
A story like this is in Haaretz’s wheelhouse and it doesn’t hesitate to bring out the big guns, teasing four opinion pieces on its front-page. Amos Harel writes the agreement itself doesn’t quite merit the reaction it’s getting in Jerusalem. “[The reconciliation agreement] doesn’t necessary qualify as a disaster on the scale of the destruction of the Temple. Nothing is final yet, and both the rival Palestinian factions have proven in recent years that they have a knack for reneging on signed agreements with one another.”
Amira Hass is thinking along the same lines, saying the Palestinians have signed two previous reconciliation agreements but neither was implemented. Hass writes that instead, “the reconciliation is a way to strengthen the Palestinians internally before the next conflict with Israel (popular, political, and diplomatic and possibly military, if and when Israel chooses the option to escalate militarily).”
It’s not too often that sports make the front pages of the Israeli papers but all the papers give some real estate to the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team making it to the Euroleague’s Final Four. Most of Yedioth’s front page is taken up with a picture of the team celebrating and the headline “The empire returns,” a reference to Maccabi’s past dominance in the sport. Maccabi handily beat Emporio Armani Milan 86-66 and will make its 12th appearance in the Final Four, trying for its 6th championship.
Help is on the way
As Israel prepares for Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 27-8), Israel Hayom reports that government has approved an extra one billion shekels (about $287 million) to help Holocaust survivors. The paper reports that of the 193,000 survivors currently living in Israel, about 50,000 of them live below the poverty line. A third of the survivors live alone and two-thirds of them live on 3,000 shekels or less a month (about $860). Knesset Member Yifat Avraham said, “Israel is obligated to provide for Holocaust survivors and their spouses and allow them to live in dignity and prosperity.”
Over in Haaretz, Netanyahu and Peres might be a step closer to traveling in style as a committee recommends buying a private plane for heads of government. The panel recommend that a private jet be purchased at a cost of around $70 million for official visits of the PM and president. As if a plane weren’t enough, the panel also recommended building new living quarters next to the PM’s office. No word if and when the panel’s recommendations would be acted upon.