With peace talks set to resume next Tuesday in Washington, the weekend papers put peace on the front page. But depending on the paper you read, every front page emphasizes what it feels is the core issue.
Maariv leads with land, and how much of the West Bank Netanyahu is willing to sign away. The front-page headline quotes Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin. “Elkin: Netanyahu will be willing to sign for an evacuation of 86% of the West Bank.” Despite its front-page placement, the article is actually an interview with the deputy FM and leads Maariv’s weekend supplement, and doesn’t offer much more than Elkin’s opinion.
While Elkin is issuing his own predictions on the peace talks, on page 3 Maariv offers up a story about the growing friction between the EU and Israel. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has started operation “cold shoulder” to deal with the European Union. in response to the recent EU guidelines that bar EU interaction with Israeli firms in the West Bank. According to the article, Israel will stop issuing new permits and won’t extend existing ones to EU diplomats working in the West Bank and Gaza. That’s not all: The paper reports that Israel has cancelled meetings and is rarely answering phone calls from EU diplomats in the West Bank.
Contacts between the EU and Israel may be chilly, but they’re not the only thing being left out in the cold. Haaretz reports that settlement activity will mostly be frozen during the next six months, with “1,000 units to be built.” While that might sound like a lot, the paper explains that all the building will take place in existing large settlement blocs — such as Gush Etzion and Ariel — and not in new ones.
Since something major could be happening on the horizon, Haaretz and Israel Hayom go back to the glory days of the campaign and conduct another survey. The Haaretz poll shows a lack of faith in the upcoming talks, with 69% thinking they will fail to bring about a final-status agreement; 58% also want any agreement to be brought to a national referendum.
Haaretz may be in a hurry to move past Netanyahu and find a new prime minister, but unfortunately for the paper, the respondents don’t agree. When asked who should be the next prime minister, Netanyahu comes in with 56% and Labor chief Shelly Yachimovich bests Yair Lapid at 15% vs 7%, but both lose to that perennial candidate, “I don’t know,” who comes in with 22%.
Israel Hayom showcases its most recent poll on its front page with the headline, “61.6%: any agreement should have a national referendum.” Unlike Haaretz, Israel Hayom doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to find a new PM, and its questions all relate to the upcoming talks. While the majority thinks there should be a referendum, 55% are of the opinion that it would fail. Israelis may feel there won’t be a peace agreement, but 52.7% believe in the two-state solution and 62.7% believe that peace talks should be restarted.
The front page of Yedioth Ahoronoth deals with the other issue of restarting peace talks: the release of Palestinian prisoners. The papers quotes Abby Moses, whose wife and son were killed by one of the prisoners to be released. “Release the murderer of my family only for peace, not as a gesture.” Inside, Moses writes about the pain that he and his other son have endured since his wife and child were killed, but reiterates that prisoners only be released as part of a final peace deal — or the cycle of violence will continue.
Underneath the plea by Moses, Yedioth includes an update on the Cabinet meeting due to take place on Sunday. The main items on the agenda are the release of 82 prisoners and whether to approve a referendum for any peace deal. According to the paper, both items are expected to be approved.
Tragedy in the north
The papers also give a lot space to a tragedy that occurred in the Upper Galilee, where three workers in their 20s were electrocuted at a fishery. Yedioth tells how Nir Galsman (23) was killed as he waded into the water to put down a net. The other two, Gideon Raz (20) and Uriel Bocris (21), ran into the water to help Nir and were also killed by an electric shock. Police are investigating the incident and are looking at the manager of the fishery for possible negligence.
Israel Hayom includes, in its coverage, a general safety guide on how to avoid electrocution and how to help those who have been hurt. Written by the commander of the head of the Fire and Rescue Squad in the Galilee and Golan, some of the tips are common sense, but there are others — such as how to help someone who has been electrocuted — that are really helpful. For example, if someone is electrocuted in water and you can’t disconnect the electricity, use a wooden stick or a plank to move them out of the water — but don’t go in yourself.
Retired US general James Mattis, who recently was the commander for US forces in the Middle East, gave a speech about the Middle East, and the different papers heard what they wanted to hear.
Haaretz picked up that “the US pays a security price for the conflict in the Middle East.” The general said that the current state of settlement building means there needs to be an agreement soon — or Israel will turn into an apartheid state. “And that didn’t work out so well the last time a country tried that,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
Whereas Haaretz focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Maariv chose to highlight Mattis’s statements about Iran. He believes that Israel will attack Iran on its own, but cautioned that he doesn’t believe the program can be stopped — only delayed. “The army can buy diplomats time, but it cannot solve the problem once and for all.”