Israel’s papers couldn’t decide what to fret over more in Sunday’s editions: the slighted feelings of the government in light of American statements or the weekend’s rise in taxes — so they went with both.
Maariv and Haaretz both gave top billing to perceived strained relations with the United States. “US reduces part of the military exercise with Israel,” reads Haaretz’s headline. It describes how America is planning to significantly reduce the scope and number of participants in what was to have been a large joint military exercise with Israel next month. Citing a Time magazine article from Friday, it reports that the US is expected to drop the number of participants from 5,000 to 1,500. The article also reports that Iran announced that it would be holding a large-scale military exercise next month, too.
Maariv’s headline focuses on the entire American relationship with Israel at the moment, “Severe confidence crisis between Israel and the White House.” Maariv covers the military exercise but also the Israeli reaction to the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey’s comment that he “doesn’t want to be complicit in an Israeli strike.” According to the article, Israeli officials are smarting over the comment and feel that Dempsey has hurt Israel’s deterrence capability. Another Israeli source told the paper that “what Dempsey said in public, other Americans have been saying to us privately.”
Maariv also includes in its coverage a short story about Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s mention of Israel in his acceptance speech at Republican National Convention. “Obama is throwing Israel under the bus,” reads the headline summarizing the short article.
Israel Hayom asks on its front page, “Why has Obama not repudiated Dempsey’s statement?” Inside, the paper quotes an op-ed from The Wall Street Journal that discusses Dempsey’s comments. Aside from quoting heavily from the op-ed, the article includes a paragraph on how The New York Times also believes Israel was right to be suspicious of Iran in light of the IAEA’s latest report, but that doesn’t make Israel’s choices any easier to make.
Yedioth Ahronoth is the only paper that didn’t give the Iran issue any front-page real estate. Instead it focuses on the tax increase that went into effect over the weekend. Gas prices have risen to 8.25 shekels per liter and the VAT has increased a percentage point to 17%, and even mortgage payments are rising. Yedioth’s headline was spot on: “We’re paying.” The paper profiles two families whose mortgage rates increased and are paying hundreds of shekels more per year. Yedioth provides a graphic that shows what else has become more expensive now, including produce, cigarettes, beer, and bread.
Maariv focuses on the tax hike as well and has a picture on its front page of motorists lining up to fuel up before the tax increase went into effect. Maariv quotes a driver for its headline, “This is destroying us. Starting tomorrow I’m disabling the car.” The paper quotes a recently discharged soldier who told the paper, “If this continues and the price of gas keeps rising like what has happened this year, only the rich will be able to have cars.” Maariv also includes a graph that shows that Israel now has the third-highest gas prices in the world, behind Portugal and Greece.
Israel Hayom puts the financial troubles of Israel’s IDB Group front-and-center. The firm published its financial statements on Friday showing a loss of 1.8 billion shekels in the last quarter. The company has controlling interests in some of Israel’s largest companies, including the cellular network Cellcom and the supermarket giant Shufersal. Once the financial statements were released, IDB’s rating was dropped to a CCC, which, as the paper points out, “is a drop of eight levels all at once.” Israel Hayom titled its article, “What about the pensions?” and at the end of the article, it doesn’t answer that question.
Haaretz reports on a hit-and-run which injured members of Israel’s long-distance running team on Friday. The group was running in the fields by Kibbutz Givat Brenner when an ATV driver drove wildly through the fields. The teens tried to warn the driver that there were runners ahead but to no avail. The driver ran over 15-year-old Tigist Bito, a rising star on the team, who was in serious condition. Other runners were lightly injured and police are searching for the driver.
Writing in Maariv’s opinion pages, Yehuda Sharoni thinks it is time for Netanyahu to call for elections. Rallying against Netanyahu’s handling of the economy, Sharoni cites rising prices and falling profits as signs that Netanyahu’s economic policies aren’t working. While there are things that Netanyahu wants to enact, he is afraid of public backlash. For Netanyahu to have a free hand to fix the economy, Sharoni argues that he must hold new elections. “The ballot will examine the real impact of protest movements and social parties on the political agenda. If he wins, Netanyahu could run economic policy without fear or favoritism.”
In Israel Hayom, Dan Margalit writes about the relationship between the United States and Israel over the question of Iran. Margalit writes that the situation boils down to asking the question of what happens when Iran does go nuclear. “Netanyahu asks and Obama does not answer,” writes Margalit. He goes on to say, “If the United States does not want to fulfill its obligations — Israel will have to sadly find its own way separately.” Margalit concludes his piece with a quote from Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who said that Jews came to the land of Israel to “take their fate in their own hands.”