A confusing world of corruption, power plays and mayhem is brought slightly more into focus across the front pages of the Hebrew print media, Thursday, though questions remain.
The two affairs getting top coverage in the press are a shooting incident at a Palestinian protest two weeks ago — though probably not the shots that killed two teens — and the presidential race, which is now looking more like Egypt’s than America’s. And as always, there’s a healthy dose of graft to go along with it.
The presidential race wins front page coverage in Israel Hayom, after Benjamin Netanyahu, in a somewhat surprising move, endorsed Reuven Rivlin for president. The paper calls it a “support of no-alternative,” reporting that the prime minister had sought a substitute nominee up until the last minute on Tuesday, including Elie Wiesel. Netanyahu’s backing gives Rivlin, already thought to be the frontrunner, some extra tailwind and will now likely make the Knesset vote in two weeks a formality, the five other candidates notwithstanding.
Despite the fact that the field already includes one Nobel Prize winner, Dan Schechtman, Moti Tuchfeld writes in Israel Hayom that it’s a shame Netanyahu could not make the Wiesel candidacy work.
“Wiesel … has become an outstanding symbol and spokesperson for the link between the Jewish experience in the Holocaust and newer anti-Semitism. In the eyes of many, the fact that Wiesel will not be president is a loss for all of us. And by way, the claim that he is not a citizen does not hold water. Albert Einstein, whom Ben-Gurion suggested as the country’s first president, also wasn’t a citizen of Israel.”
Yedioth Ahronoth also leads off with Netanyahu’s support for Rivlin, reporting that Netanyahu’s endorsement could actually end up souring Rivlin’s candidacy. The paper quotes sources in ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism saying they were considering supporting Rivlin because Netanyahu was not. “But if Netanyahu is going to support him that won’t happen,” a party member charmingly tells the paper. “We decided to support whichever candidate will translate into giving Netanyahu the most heartache.”
Writing with acid sarcasm, the paper’s Amnon Abramovich writes that if Netanyahu didn’t want Rivlin so badly, he should have run himself, since he’s perfect for the job. “He would be chosen by a large majority. Anyone who looks like a president, walks like a president and does nothing like a president needs to be president. He could have been a wondrous president, and his wife could have been first lady in name and not just action. What a loss, for us and for them.”
Looking for a rush
Haaretz leads off with the Israeli soldier shooting story, reporting that a soldier from the army’s communications division, who was attached to a Border Police unit assigned to control a Nakba Day riot at the Ramallah suburb of Beitunia, squeezed off two rubber bullets during the incident, against army regulations.
Footage showing the soldier shooting, aired by CNN, analyzed by Haaretz and screengrabbed on the paper’s front page, shows an officer yanking the gun away from the soldier immediately afterwards.
The incident, which would normally get lost in the file of Israeli soldiers behaving badly, warrants front page coverage because it came at the same time as the shooting deaths of two unarmed Palestinian teens. However, the paper takes pains to note that the two incidents are almost certainly unrelated, using a map to show that the unauthorized firing was far away from the scene of the killing.
The paper’s Amos Harel writes, though, that the rare coverage shines a light on a common issue in the army: noncombat soldiers bending the rules in the search for a rush.
“A fact nobody talks about is that many soldiers involved in these protests see it as a chance for some ‘action’ – a chance to practice shooting (usually with nonlethal munitions) in the midst of the chaos and adrenaline rush of a clash,” he writes. “It’s safe to assume that the soldier was looking for an experience, or an escape from boredom, and the Border Police soldiers answered his request by allowing him to shoot some rubber bullets at the protest.”
A job in every pot
Following two days of heavy coverage of corruption at the Ashdod port, Yedioth follows it up with a special report on payola, nepotism and other less-than-ethical goings on in the august halls of Israel’s local authorities. The full report will be released Friday, but in a preview, the paper crows that it has uncovered political favoritism in cities from Beit She’an to Givatayim.
Zooming in on Afula, the lower Galilee’s answer to Detroit, the paper finds that all the mayor’s political friends, and their friends, have been given cushy jobs in the municipality, such as management roles in the city beautification or amateur sports departments, among others.
The city’s spokesperson responds to the paper that the jobs were not given as political favors, but after a fair recruitment process to fill roles that were needed.
Haaretz’s editorial tackles another corruption case, calling on the state not to let the influential Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto get off easy in exchange for testimony against former anti-corruption police czar Menashe Arviv:
“Even if the information Pinto is offering the police investigators is very valuable, it is of utmost importance to deal with Pinto with the full rigor of the law. Rabbi Pinto … has gathered around him followers, businesspeople, government officials, members of the media and crime figures. There is a sense that Pinto may represent a wider culture of corruption that permeates public life and which requires a thorough investigation. … The stench of the relations between police top brass and the rabbi’s court ought to be fully exposed in a public trial. So the attorney general must not abandon his original intention — he must serve a full indictment against Pinto, including all the charges against him.”