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Hebrew media review

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MKs vote on the next president, with candidates offering their best and most predictable 'pick me' arguments to a disenfranchised (and somewhat disgusted) public

Presidential candidate Reuven Rivlin walks past the ballot box with former candidate Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, during Israel's presidential vote in the Knesset, June 10, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Presidential candidate Reuven Rivlin walks past the ballot box with former candidate Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, during Israel's presidential vote in the Knesset, June 10, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After nearly seven years of Shimon “be my friend for peace” Peres’s reign of competence, Tuesday marks voting day for Israel’s 10th president, with Hebrew papers heralding the display of democracy front and center (though only 120 out of Israel’s 8-odd million citizens are enfranchised in this case).

While Haaretz and Israel Hayom both fill their front pages with pictures of the candidates, as well as (gasp!) other news, Yedioth Ahronoth uses its tabloid-style A1 to take a sweeping historical view of the vote, with a front page featuring stately pictures (complete with gilded frames) of all nine previous presidents, only one of whom is currently in the clink for being a perv.

Though who Yossi Q. Reader thinks should be president is about as relevant as his opinions on Shimon Pere’s tie choices (read: not at all), Israel Hayom still brings readers short essays from each of the five remaining candidates on why they should be the next resident of the President’s Residence.

The answers range from the predictable “I will be a bridge for our society” (Reuven Rivlin) to the predictable “I have 40 years of public service” (Meir Sheetrit) to the predictable “I will help the poor and Israel’s international standing” (Dalia Dorner) to the predictable “It’s time for a change” (Dan Schechtman) to the predictable “I grew up in a damp storage unit not far from the President’s Residence” (Dalia Itzik).

Okay, maybe that last one was not so predictable, but given the recent obsession over candidates’ various financial and real estate holdings, in the wake of an investigation into Binyamin Ben-Eliezer that felled his bid, how rich or poor a candidate is has taken on extra relevance.

In Haaretz, Yossi Verter takes a look back at the more sordid aspects of what has been called an ugly presidential race, from the affairs over the palatial residences of Ben-Eliezer (whom he calls clearly the best candidate) to the feud between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Rivlin. Rivlin, who’s the favorite, isn’t battling Netanyahu, he notes, but rather Itzik, who preceded him as Knesset speaker.

“The head-to-head battle between Itzik and Rivlin will be most curious and animated: there are no two politicians that hate and despise each other more than the two former Knesset speakers. The insults they sling at each other aren’t fit to be printed. One could say that more than being happy over being picked president, they will rejoice in the fall of their rival,” he writes.

Yedioth, which calls the election one of the stormiest in the country’s history, also offers personal statements from each of the candidates, but we won’t bore you with the boilerplate promises so fitting for candidates vying for a largely ceremonial position.

The paper’s Eitan Haber says he’s glad to see the “sad” campaign come to a “happy ending,” but notes that at the end of the day, those doing the choosing may have ulterior motives other than picking someone who’s best for Israel.

“What do the Knesset members know about Dan Schechtman other than his work which earned him a Nobel Prize? What do they know of Dalia Dorner, other than she was a Supreme Court judge? Behind the curtain, each Knesset member will use his own and his party’s calculations. Who is against whom, how to use the tools to determine the prime minister, what’s good for me, for my career. Good for the country? Don’t make me laugh.”

Rockets in their pockets

The presidential election may be on everybody’s minds, but there is other news afoot, even here in the doldrums of cucumber season.

Haaretz reports that an IDF officer recently saw his career advanced despite having ordered the shooting of an innocent Palestinian 13 years ago, an act for which he was never punished. Roni Numa, recently appointed head of the army’s military colleges, commanded a force stationed outside Tulkarem in the Second Intifada and gave the go-ahead to neutralize a Palestinian suspected of being involved in attacks on IDF troops, though he was actually just parking near the troops to visit his sister. The paper notes that Numa gave a number of versions of the story, some of which contradicted the account of an underling who reported it, but in 2008 the Military Advocate closed the case, a decision that was confirmed by the deputy state prosecutor last year after an appeal.

“Since [the shooting] Numa has advanced in the IDF,” the paper reports. “He was appointed commander of the Nahal infantry brigade and later an aide to Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. He became the commander of Division 98 and the Tze’elim training base. Last Thursday IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz announced Numa’s latest promotion.”

The IDF responded that there is nothing in the case to keep Numa was moving up the ranks.

Gantz made news for other reasons as well, after giving a speech in which he said what everybody already knows: The Middle East is not a fun place to be. However, that doesn’t mean Israel isn’t strong, and Israel Hayom plays up his assessment that the country can hit Iran’s nuclear program if need be.

“We must prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear capability — preferably through negotiations, but if necessary, through force,” the paper quotes him saying.

Brig. Gen. Itay Brun, head of the IDF Military Intelligence research section, at a Foreign Affairs and Defense committee hearing at the Knesset on Tuesday (photo credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, head of the IDF Military Intelligence research and analysis division, at a Foreign Affairs and Defense committee hearing at the Knesset in 2012 (photo credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

Yedioth, meanwhile, reports on an IDF assessment that Gaza has rearmed significantly since Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, with 20 times more rockets pointed squarely at Tel Aviv. The paper, citing IDF sources, says there are 400 rockets in Gaza which can reach some 80 kilometers. As if that weren’t scary enough, the paper quotes IDF Brig. Gen. Itai Brun (who is always happy to make a headline) saying that Hezbollah has over 100,000 rockets trained on Israel, though only a few thousand of those can reach into the country’s heartland. Phew.

The fog of peace

On op-ed pages, Yair Lapid’s unilateral withdrawal peace plan is a hot topic.

But Yedioth’s Yoaz Hendel notes that the plan, which he calls “foggy,” is missing a few key details.

“Lapid urged Netanyahu to present a map with borders, but didn’t note what the borders are. He said he wants to freeze building outside the blocs, but didn’t explain what the blocs are. When he talks about 4 million Palestinians as a threat, he forgets by accident or on purpose that 1.5 million of them are in Gaza and have already been disengaged from.”

In Haaretz, Nehemia Shtrasler gives Lapid some helpful advice if he ever wants to be prime minister, namely forget the peace plan stuff and “make difficult decisions and insist on the principles of economic theory – without falling into the trap of populism.” Sounds easy peasy.

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