Pouring cold water on the Knesset

Pouring cold water on the Knesset

Papers slam MK Anastassia Michaeli's disgraceful behavior, and weigh Yair Lapid's electoral chances

Tuesday’s papers all featured Israel Beytenu MK Anastassia Michaeli’s Monday antics in the Knesset on their front pages, with Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel Hayom and Ma’ariv describing her action of pouring water over Arab Labor MK Raleb Majadla as a disgrace.

Three of the four used a huge picture of the moment of truth, splashed (forgive the pun) across the front page columns. Ma’ariv’s columnist Natan Zehavi wrote that the Knesset, “which over the last few years knew rapists, thieves, drug dealers, cheats, embezzlers, counterfeiters and other shameful sorts, could also cope with a blond, racist, belligerent unabashed patriot (who sings the Soviet anthem every morning),” but that her actions caught by television cameras, “placed the Israeli parliament in the pantheon of the world’s most primitive parliaments, where legislators conduct fistfights, hurl objects at each other and swear at each other.”

Sharing the front pages were reactions to celebrity news anchor and columnist Yair Lapid’s announcement earlier this week that he would enter politics. Both Ma’ariv and Yedioth Ahronot commissioned polls measuring the Lapid effect on national voting patterns. With slight differences of single percentage points, both surveys anticipated that Lapid would gain around 11 seats in the Knesset, splitting the center-left block and severely weakening Kadima, from 28 to less than 15 Knesset seats. Yedioth Ahronot’s senior columnist Sever Plotzker congratulated Lapid on the move, arguing that his “original thinking, deeper than that of most MKS (no special compliment) and complex worldview surpassed the simplistic and binary worldview of the politicians who divide the world as either with us or against us.”

Much mention was also made of Gilad Schalit’s father Noam’s Schalit’s controversial decision to run for the Knesset on the Labor’s ticket.

Israel Hayom, slightly underscoring the Michaeli incident, featured an expose on corruption in the ranks of Kadima. Haaretz profiled the new anti-infiltrator law passed by the Knesset enabling the state to keep illegal migrants for up to three years in custody without a trial.

Outlawing Holocaust symbols

Much attention was also given to the government’s support of a new bill making it illegal to use Holocaust symbols as tools of protest. The bill, which was initiated after Haredi demonstrators in Beit Shemesh pinned yellow stars on their clothing and dressed children in concentration camp uniforms, while calling state authorities Nazis in a demonstration earlier in the month, proposes a penalty of six months in prison and a NIS 100,000 fine on transgressors.

Orthodox Jew Jack Lew’s appointment as US president Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff garnered headlines, placing emphasis on his religious observance and his ties to Israel.

Another story that made all the papers referred to vandalism attacks on buildings in Kiryat Malachi. The attacks, which included the spray painting of slogans and the sabotage of vehicles, are thought to be a response by local residents of Ethiopian descent to the buildings’ owners announcement that they refuse to rent apartments to Ethiopians. Reports speak of rising tensions in the town that will likely reach a climax in a widespread protest planned for Tuesday evening. Ma’ariv’s Ben Dror Yemini wrote a thoughtful piece on the phenomenon of segregated communities, contrasting between Haredi desire for isolation and the Ethiopians desperate desire for integration.

Holyland twist

The Holyland corruption case apparently took a twist on Monday, with Tuesday’s papers reporting of bullet damage to the vehicle of Avi Drexler, a key state witness and the former head of the Israel Land Administration. Drexler himself is quoted in Israel Hayom as saying he doesn’t think the attack is related to the Holyland case.

Suspect IDs

One story that has the media and civil rights organizations, which already feel under attack, up in arms was the passing of a new bill prohibiting the publication of a suspect’s name until 48 hours after the commencement of the investigation. While the law’s supporters claim it will protect the dignity of suspects who are being investigated based on flimsy evidence, its detractors claim it is a further breach on the freedom of the press and the public’s right to know. Yedioth Ahronot quoted Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich calling the law “an attempt to protect high ranking criminals and an addition to the insufferable string of laws curbing journalistic freedom.”

Arab spring means cheaper cars

Ma’ariv featured a fascinating story on how the Arab Spring assisted in increasing the import of vehicles into Gaza. According to the report by Amit Cohen, cars stolen from Libya made there way through Egypt, taking advantage of the breakdown of law enforcement there to smuggle cars across the border into the Gaza Strip. According to the report the increase in supply led to a 20 percent reduction in car prices.
Tuesday’s newspapers reported on the Health Ministry instructions in the wake of the PIP breast implant scare. According to Ma’ariv, the health ministry has published recommendations for women to replace the implants only upon discovering a leak, but approving public payment of replacement surgery for any woman who chooses to do so even if not leaking.

Israel Hayom congratulated Israel on receiving 3.4 million tourists in 2011, falling short of 2010 numbers, but a respectable showing considering the state of the world economy and its negative effect on leisure expenditures.

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