The elections clock is ticking away and with every movement of the second hand the political intrigue grows more and more intricate. Today’s actors in Israeli political theater are Avigdor Liberman and Danny Ayalon playing Julius Caesar and Brutus, and Benjamin Netanyahu as King Richard III.
Maariv’s lead headline relates to new twists and turns in the ongoing legal saga of former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman. It reports that “in recent days the police collected testimony from six members of the [Foreign Ministry] appointment committee. At least three of the testimonies were gathered by police representatives in Thailand and France.”
The star witness in the case has now emerged as Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, the man who Liberman cast by the wayside when he announced the Yisrael Beytenu party list last month. According to Maariv, Ayalon is the key witness in part because he was the chairman of the committee that appointed Ze’ev Ben Aryeh as ambassador to Latvia — the issue in question in the case against Liberman. Ayalon denied reports on Monday that his testimony incriminated Liberman.
Israel Hayom features another legal battle — the never-ending story of the Harpaz affair — as its main story. But just beneath it on Page 2, spread across the fold like a triumphant banner, is the article announcing the official upgrade of the Ariel University Center to a university. Liberman only makes Page 7.
“The Ariel University Center in Samaria will become the first university over the Green Line,” the paper writes. It adds that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said in his legal decision that there is nothing preventing the move, and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar gave him a big pat on the back for it.
“After decades, Israel has another university,” the paper quotes Netanyahu saying. “It is a reinforcement of higher education in Israel.”
As a footnote, the report quotes the committee of university heads deploring the decision as a political maneuver to win Netanyahu votes in the upcoming elections.
Haaretz publishes its latest elections poll, which its headline says indicates that “Likud-Beytenu is weakened; Bennett is strengthened.” It gives Likud-Beytenu 35 seats, the Labor Party 17, Jewish Home 13, the Shas party 13, Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party 10, the Arab parties 10, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party nine, United Torah Judaism six, Meretz four, and Kadima two.
Respondents were also asked if they agreed with Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett’s controversial statement indicating support for insubordination among soldiers. A clear majority, 59 percent, disagreed with his statements, 29% agreed, and 12% were unsure.
Three other questions asked received interesting responses. When asked “From which politician would you buy a used car?” 33% said none of them, and the leaders of the pack were Netanyahu and Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich with a mere 9% apiece. Which politician is the most trustworthy? Netanyahu received the most with 18%, but 22% of respondents answered “no one.” Thirty-three percent of respondents said none of the politicians running for Knesset address their needs and problems, and Yachimovich leads the pack with 17%.
Maariv also publishes a report entitled “If Shas doesn’t receive the Housing [Ministry], Netanyahu will not be prime minister.” It reports that Bennett wants the Shas party out of the Housing Ministry in the future government coalition, a move Netanyahu reportedly consented to.
Housing Minister Ariel Atias, part of the Shas leadership triumvirate, responded to the news saying, “The Housing Ministry is with me and will stay with me. Netanyahu wants to give Bennett the impression that Shas won’t receive the portfolio. Nonsense. He doesn’t have a choice. We are ascendant. We’ll receive 14 or 15 Knesset seats and then we’ll see him. What? He’ll throw us out of the coalition? If Shas is on the outside, Netanyahu won’t be prime minister.”
The other thing on everyone’s mind is the possibility of chemical weapons being used in Syria. Yoav Limor writes in Israel Hayom that “You don’t need a musical ear to hear the worry in Jerusalem” about Syrian WMDs. The possibility of the country spinning out of control and its advanced weaponry falling into the hands of rogue elements is causing “the political and defense leadership to lose sleep at night.”
He optimistically writes that “the good news in this story is that we’re not alone” and says that “not only Israel is bothered by what’s happening in Syria today.” But in the event of a sudden collapse of the Assad regime, he writes that “another player will insist on immediate action to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons before the Americans arrive. That is likely to be Israel, or Turkey, or NATO, and it could happen on short notice.”
Yedioth Ahronoth’s top story, curiously enough, is a departure from political theater, and reports on the bestowal of a Head of Regional Command Citation for valor on a female soldier who, in September, killed terrorists who broke through the Israel-Egypt border and attacked her patrol.
According to the paper her commander ordered her home, where she went, all the while unaware of the fact that she was to receive notification of her medal. Yedioth Ahronoth quotes her mother saying, “Neither she nor we thought that the citation would come so quickly. But the honor is due to her, and this is very exciting. My girl carried out her responsibility as a fighter and prevented a disaster. I just hope that she will succeed and that the citation will open many avenues for her in the army and in life.”
The paper also quotes a high-ranking diplomatic official saying “Netanyahu doesn’t give a damn about the rest of the world,” and that he just wants to go down in history for one thing: Iran.
“He doesn’t care about the Palestinians, but it will soon blow up in all our faces. The Netanyahu government is leading Israel to disaster,” the paper quotes him saying. He adds that Netanyahu will not return to negotiations with the Palestinians after elections and that’s likely to infuriate Europe even further, possibly to the point where “the whole world will go against us” and trigger an economic crisis.
He added that Netanyahu’s foreign policy was an utter failure. “Operation Pillar of Defense was a military success but a colossal diplomatic failure,” he says. “The diplomatic objective was to strike Hamas, but the outcome was: Israel negotiating with Hamas and not with [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas. Netanyahu raised Hamas and weakened Abbas. If there were elections now, Hamas would rule the West Bank.”