Summertime and the living is easy, unless you are a newspaper editor, and you need to find something, anything, to lead your pages with. With Barcelona terror, Charlottesville violence and North Korean tensions already ancient history, Wednesday morning front pages are a poor dog’s breakfast of tidbits of news, from poor young drivers to poor hospital patients being restrained for no reason to settlers being piss-poor at building homes on land not belonging to Palestinians.
That last story comes courtesy of Haaretz, which reports data compiled by the state shows 3,455 homes in the West Bank built on land belonging to Palestinian individuals. Breaking down the numbers, which were included in an appendix to a state response to a High Court petition against the land regulation law, the paper notes that 1,285 are clearly on state land, though it’s not clear who the owner is, while the rest arose from good faith mistakes and all may be open to being legalized under the new measure.
“The Civil Administration data is similar to the numbers that appeared in a recent Peace Now report, which estimated that the regulation law could legalize up to 4,000 housing units in the settlements and outposts. Outposts that could be legalized included Avigail, Ahuzat Shalhevet, Beit El East, Bat Ayin West, Jebal Artis, Hill 725, Givat Assaf and more. The report noted that numerous homes could also be legalized in Oranit, Asfar, Beit El, Givat Ze’ev, Gitit, Har Gilo and others,” the paper reports.
The broadsheet also uses the numbers as a jumping off point to slag off the controversial law in its lead editorial, noting the state’s poor attempt at bemoaning those poor settlers.
“The government broke a record for cynicism when it made its arguments against the petitions. In a perfect reversal of occupier and occupied, it explained that the expropriation law constitutes ‘a humane, proportionate and reasonable response to the real distress’ of all those “Israeli residents” who live under “a cloud of uncertainty” that is ‘disrupting their lives.’ It’s hard to believe, but this is not a description of the situation of millions of Palestinians living under occupation whose lands are being seized, but of the distress of the settlers, who chose to live outside the state’s official borders and whose very presence there is illegitimate,” the editorial reads.
Yedioth Ahronoth’s lead story deals with a poll showing what the paper indicates are worrying numbers about young drivers. Under the headline “Youth don’t stop at red” and adorned with pictures of terrible car crashes, the tabloid reports that 45 percent of teens surveyed think texting while driving isn’t always dangerous, 32% are not convinced they need to wear seat belts, 53% won’t discount driving after having a third of a liter of beer and 50% have driven without a license.
“From a young age, you teach your kids to only cross at crosswalks, to look both ways before crossing. But since, as they’ve grown, you’ll be shocked to learn that they have forgotten everything, and it suddenly seems to them no big deal to drive without a license, seat belt or even to drink and drive,” the paper’s lede reads, taking a glass half empty approach.
The paper also includes a short column by one Amiram Abu, who stole his neighbor’s motorcycle at age 17, without a license, and wrecked it in the rain, killing his friend and badly injuring himself.
“My idiocy nearly cost me my life,” he writes.
While Abu is thankful to the hospital for saving him, Israel Hayom’s top story reports on somebody who likely has different feelings toward hospitals after being restrained in her bed for 24 days, in what the paper calls a record. While the paper says there was “no reason and no justification” for the Sheba Tel Hashomer hospital to put on the restraints, it notes that they were put on a mentally ill woman after she “attacked a nurse and caused her significant bruising.”
Restraint is also the theme of the one major story in all the papers, which preview Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Sochi, Russia, to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to put some cuffs on Iran in Syria.
The papers report that Netanyahu will bring up Israeli concerns that a ceasefire in southern Syria will end up bolstering Iran’s presence in the area.
Haaretz’s Barak Ravid quotes a senior official saying that with the deal quickly being finalized, Israel has to work fast before it’s too late to have a say.
“All the rest of the details are still coming together. Therefore this is the time to exert an influence and we want to make a quick and urgent effort to ensure that our security interests are protected. The meeting with Putin is precisely for this purpose,” the official is quoted saying.
In Israel Hayom, columnist Eyal Zisser praises Putin for managing to bring some stability to Syria and Netanyahu for managing to work well with Moscow, but says Putin doesn’t seem to get Israel’s stance now.
“Israel cannot tolerate an Iranian presence on its border, or even deeper inside Syria. The Russians don’t seem to understand this position. They are willing to push the Iranians further from the Israeli border but they need the Iranians there to ensure continued stability in Syria,” he writes. “Therefore, the task awaiting Netanyahu in his upcoming meeting with Putin is to make him understand Israel’s position. This task is especially important in light of Washington’s unwillingness to play any kind of role in shaping Syria’s future.”
Yedioth’s Shimon Shiffer agrees that the US is continuing to be a non-player and notes that Netanyahu has a near-Sisyphean uphill battle to get Russia to turn its back on Iran, with him likely having to give up on his “red lines.”
“The military coordination between Israel and Russia proved itself, but what will Israel do when the Iranians start showing muscle on the ground? Will Netanyahu draw new red lines? Sandy Berger, who was national security adviser under Bill Clinton, used to say that the problem with Israel is that every red line quickly turns turns into a pink line,” he writes. “Netanyahu may also find that his red lines lose their power when going up against the power relationship with his good friend Putin, together with Iran.”