Purim violence, Netanyahu on Iran, and Kadima’s infighting
Hebrew media review

Purim violence, Netanyahu on Iran, and Kadima’s infighting

Headlines cover Netanyahu's statement on Israel TV about Iran, Purim tragedies in Tel Aviv and Hebron, and the battle between Mofaz and Livni

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)

Two violent incidents ruptured the joyous celebration of Purim Thursday, making headlines across the country in Friday’s papers. A Palestinian stabbed a soldier conducting an arrest near Hebron, and a lighting tower crashed in Ramat Aviv, severely injuring a teenager.

In the first incident, the IDF Kfir Brigade entered the city of Yata, south of Hebron, and arrested Khaled Makhamra, a Palestinian who was released in the Gilad Shalit deal. During the arrest, two Palestinians attacked a soldier and one stabbed him in the neck with a box-cutter knife. Despite his wound, the soldier shot his attackers, injuring the knife-wielder and killing his accomplice.

Yedioth Ahronoth’s headline reads “Stabbed, regains composure, and destroys,” and the paper calls the soldier’s survival a miracle.

The Israeli media doesn’t fail to mention the reason for the arrest. Makhamra is suspected of smuggling and funneling money to a terrorist organization. To the press, the soldier’s injury is as outrageous as Makhamra’s return to terrorism after his release. Haaretz reports that Makhamra is the seventh Palestinian rearrested after being released in the Shalit swap five months ago.

The second incident occurred at an Israel scouting celebration at a public park in northern Tel Aviv, when a 15-meter lighting fixture collapsed, severely injuring one teen and lightly injuring another.

Israel Hayom juxtaposes colorful coverage of Purim parades and the “Tel Aviv scouts’ Purim tragedy.” Yedioth Ahronoth reports that the “Purim disaster” occurred when the rusty pole fell on a 17-year-old scout leader, inflicting severe head and stomach injuries. The paper quotes some scouts as saying “we knew that the lamp post was old and was bound to fall.”

Maariv reports that the police are investigating possible negligence by the scouting organization that caused the pole’s collapse. The organization denies that there were prior indicators of the pole’s fragility.

Attack Iran? Not today.

Netanyahu’s statement on Thursday evening in a televised interview that an attack on Iran “is not days or weeks away, but neither is it years away” makes big headlines too.

His nebulous statement was interpreted variously by the Israeli press. Haaretz understands him to mean that an Iranian strike is months away, lending credence to speculations that there will be war this summer. Israel Hayom’s headline simply reads “the attack pushed off,” giving little heed to Netanyahu’s hope that diplomatic pressure will succeed.

Yedioth Ahronoth, however, bypasses Netanyahu altogether and features former Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s statement contradicting Netanyahu and agreeing with US President Barack Obama. Its front page is scrawled with “Intelligence community against Iran strike, politicians in favor,” and the paper quotes Dagan as saying that there is still plenty of time until a strike is necessary.

Haaretz’s Yoel Marcus criticizes Netanyahu, telling him to sit quietly. Netanyahu’s invocation of Holocaust rhetoric in discussing Iran’s nuclear program, and his statement that he “prefers missiles falling on Tel Aviv to an Iranian nuke,” angers Marcus. Who is he threatening, Marcus asks, Iran or Tel Avivis?

Marcus contends that unlike the strikes that destroyed the Iraqi and Syrian nuclear sites, a strike on Iran “will delay their production of a bomb at the cost of an outbreak of regional war. Not to mention the heavy toll that the home front will suffer.”

Maariv does not deign Netanyahu’s statements worthy of further coverage and instead devotes its front page to the ongoing Harpaz affair. According to a poll it conducted, 48% of respondents believe Ashkenazi’s version of the story and only 17% trust Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s. But justice is not a popularity contest. Haaretz cites the draft Harpaz report saying that Ashkenazi exhibited immoral behavior and places most of the blame on the former chief of staff.

Livni’s popularity plummeting

MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima) faces stiff competition from Shaul Mofaz in the Kadima primaries at the end of March. Haaretz polls suggest that if Mofaz were elected leader of the party, Kadima would garner 12 Knesset seats, whereas if Livni were leader, the party would gain 10 seats.

Livni’s staff respond to Haaretz, saying that its poll results are unreasonable. They further cry foul because the polling company, Dialog, works with her competitor, Avi Dichter. Israel Hayom quotes them as saying that the poll is biased and the results are slanted.

Maariv conducted its own poll, according to which a Livni-led Kadima would get 16 seats and a Mofaz-headed Kadima only 14. Although the results from the two polls differ slightly, the bottom line is evident in Maariv’s headline: “Livni and Mofaz neck and neck, Netanyahu without competitors.” Nobody disagrees that Kadima’s power is waning. Whereas the party currently holds 28 seats, polls are unanimous that Kadima will struggle to get half that sum in the elections.

Dan Margalit writes in Israel Hayom that “Kadima is the capricious fruit of Ariel Sharon” and was born in sin. Good riddance, he says. “Never before in Israel was there a party as corrupt [as Kadima].” It doesn’t matter who leads Kadima after the primary elections because the party isn’t offering anything new.

Yedioth Ahronoth finds none of this political intrigue interesting. It instead devotes pages in its lead section to “Porno on a school bus,” a mother’s admission that had she known of her child’s genetic disorder, she “would have had an abortion,” and an army sex scandal.

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