No matter what the papers labeled the African migrants, or how they viewed the failed Price Tag attack, the one constant in the papers over the past week has been updates on Ariel Sharon. In Friday’s papers that story is again on the front pages, after news broke that the former prime minister’s condition has become even more dire.
The front-page headline in Yedioth Ahronoth is “Saying goodbye to Arik,” using Sharon’s nickname. On the inside pages, the paper writes that Sharon’s condition has gone from critical to terminal, and everyone — “his sons, drivers, advisers — everyone has come to say goodbye.”
Israel Hayom has a similar headline, “Saying goodbye,” and, in an article that covers half of the four pages of coverage, columnist Matti Tochfeld recaps Sharon’s story. The article reads like crib notes on Sharon’s life, covering decades of soldiering and politics in just a few hundred words. To Tochfeld’s credit, he hits all of Sharon’s high points (his military maneuvers in the Yom Kippur War; becoming prime minister) and his low points (being held responsible for the massacres at Sabra and Shatila; his son Omri and the corruption charge).
Sharon’s health gets some space on the front page of Maariv, but more prominence is given to the peace process. The front-page art, featuring a caricature of John Kerry sleepwalking off a cliff, pretty much telegraphs the story’s thesis. As part of its coverage, Maariv released the results of a survey that says 80% of Israelis don’t believe that the current round of negotiations will lead to a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians (only 9% think it will). In addition, 73% don’t want Israel to give up a presence of the Israel Defense Forces in the Jordan Valley as part of an agreement.
In a related article, the paper writes that the gaps between Jerusalem and Washington are deep. US Secretary of State John Kerry has been putting pressure on both sides, but he seems stuck in the middle. “Gaps between Israel and the Palestinians regarding the core issues are visible, but in recent weeks deep divisions have been exposed between Israel and the Americans on the one hand, and gaps between the Palestinians and the Americans on the other.”
The article quotes PLO official Tayseer Khaled, who voiced displeasure at Kerry’s reported threat to cut off funding if an agreement isn’t reached. The paper writes, “Even if the words of Khaled did not present the official position of authority, they expose the internal resistance within the PLO to an agreement with Israel and the American initiative.”
Peace also makes the front page over at Haaretz, as the paper reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is refusing to include Jerusalem in a framework agreement. Netanyahu told Likud ministers that he doesn’t want Jerusalem mentioned in any framework agreement, even in a general way, and is willing to risk the negotiations failing on this point. However, a senior source, familiar with the negotiations, told the paper that all the discussions about Jerusalem were face-to-face between Netanyahu and Kerry, and Netanyahu was less rigid with Kerry than with the Likud ministers.
The week of protests and strikes by African migrants has polarized many in Israel, but — as Maariv reports — the strike is causing problems for local businesses. The paper focuses on Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market, where shop owners say that, instead of African migrants, illegal Palestinians have been offering to do the work. One shop owner said, “I told them [Palestinians looking for work], ‘No, thanks.’ But because of the government’s policy towards Africans, it seems that this will happen more and more. It exposes us to new dangers.”
Israel Hayom reports that there is a split amongst the “infiltrators” on whether or not to keep striking. The paper quotes one striker who went back to work in a bakery in south Tel Aviv, because “I must strike and must struggle, but also need money. I work all day to get money to buy food, drink and clothes and pay rent. But it’s impossible to stop working completely, otherwise we will remain without food.” However, one of the protest leaders, who hails from Eritrea, said Thursday that “we will continue the strike until further notice, because we do not have anything to lose. What can we lose? Money? We already lost our life dreams. We don’t have anything, and now the only thing we have is to fight for the rights of refugees.”
Over at Haaretz, they put on their front-page an op-ed by Mutasim, one of the leaders of the African migrants’ strike. Mutasim came to Israel in 2009 from Darfur, a place that experiences genocide and where “the Sudanese government attacks us because of our race.” He goes on to explain why he chose to come to Israel. “One of the reasons I came here is that I truly believe that the Jews are the only ones in the world who were in such strife, and would know something about people escaping from genocide.”
Comments by President Shimon Peres encourage him, in addition to the discussions the asylum-seekers had with Knesset members, although Mutasim admits to being discouraged that they weren’t allowed into the Knesset as scheduled on Wednesday. “We wanted to speak to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar. We want them to ask us questions… take into consideration Israel’s needs, and our needs as well.”
While the budget seems to have been decided upon a while ago, there are still some grumblings about the cuts to the defense budget. Yedioth reports that there is now a “hole in the sky”: The budget cuts have led to a delay for the Israeli Air Force in receiving an additional two Iron Dome batteries, as well as delays affecting David’s Sling (a mid-range, missile-defense shield). The paper reports that, although the two batteries are ready for delivery, the IAF isn’t ready to receive them yet, due to the budget cutbacks.
There are currently six Iron Dome batteries deployed, but David’s Sling is not yet operational. And there is no word in the article regarding when the batteries or David’s Sling will be received by the IAF.