Palestinians made the front pages of the Hebrew dailies on Sunday, with three of the four papers focusing their front-page attention on Khaled Mashaal’s first-ever visit to Gaza and the rally held on Saturday to celebrate 25 years since the founding of Hamas.
“Hate rally” is the front-page headline that both Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom use to describe the Hamas gathering. Yedioth quotes large chunks of Mashaal’s rally speech including “We will never recognize Israel, no matter how long it takes” and “The occupiers are not just Palestinian enemies but enemies to the entire Arab nation.”
Yedioth includes a table comparing Hamas to the more moderate Fatah, which makes up the Palestinian Authority. The highlights include a difference on “how to free [Palestinian] prisoners.” Fatah wants to make the issue part of negotiations with Israel, while Hamas believes that kidnapping Israeli soldiers and effecting an exchange is the only way to win freedom for Palestinian prisoners.
Mashaal’s fiery speech on Saturday made Israel Hayom columnist Boaz Bismuth ask, “What exactly are we supposed to talk about with Hamas?” Bismuth sarcastically applauds the “surprising maturity” Mashaal demonstrated by his statement that Hamas “does not kill Jews because they are Jews, but only the Zionist occupiers.” Bismuth recalls that when Hamas was created 25 years ago, it was viewed as a counterweight to Israel’s main enemy at the time: the PLO. Bismuth laments, “In those days there was a kind of logic in this idea. But logic is not a strong suit in this wild neighborhood in which we live.”
Maariv is the sole paper that doesn’t put the Hamas rally on its front page, instead reporting that “After the UN declaration: Fear of a terror wave in the West Bank.” The paper reports the security services are viewing a number of incidents in the past days as very serious and are worried about a possible third intifada. A riot in Hebron in Thursday and an Israeli driver lightly injured in a stone-throwing incident over the weekend were given as examples as the signs pointing to another outbreak of violence.
The article also notes a possible warming of relations between Hamas and Fatah. An IDF source told the paper, “A year ago, a green Hamas flag at a rally in the West Bank would be a symbol of defiance and lead to arrests. Now a flag like that isn’t a big deal.”
But can they budget?
Aside from its coverage of the Hamas rally, Haaretz lays out on its front page one of the first challenges for the government after the election, “to cut 15 billion shekels within 45 days.” Adding to the budget troubles that the next government faces is the price tag for Operation Pillar of Defense. The article does give a few options to solve the crisis, one of them being the ever popular raise taxes again option. If the government cannot approve the budget within 45 days then the Knesset will be dissolved and there will be new elections.
Maybe Haaretz is putting the cart before the horse as this election season has just gotten started. Yedioth provides a snapshot of the six most popular parties and what to expect from their respective campaigns. The parties have also perfected their ad slogans with Likud going with, “The power to lead,” Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party saying, “We came to change,” and Labor’s, “And now vote.”
Labor’s ad campaign may be set but the party itself is still in shock over last week’s surprising departure of its number three, Amir Peretz, to Tzipi Livni’s party. Israel Hayom reports on an interview that Labor party leader Shelly Yachimovich gave on Saturday in which she spoke about last week’s antics. “The central feeling in the public is that it needs to take a fire hose… and wash away the events of last week.” Still, Yachimovich says her goal hasn’t changed – defeating Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Our men in Syria
Maariv carries a translated Sunday Times article that says Israeli forces are already operating in Syria, trying to track the regime’s chemical weapons. The article quotes Israeli sources who report on some disturbing news. “For years we have known the exact locations of Syria’s chemical and biological weapons but in the last week we have received signs that they have been moved to new locations.” The article goes on to report that the Americans have started to send military supplies to the Syrian rebels in reaction to the movement of the chemical weapons.
Haaretz reports that Ethiopians were coerced into taking long-term birth control before being allowed to immigrate to Israel. The article, based on an investigative report from the Israel Education show “Vacuum,” which aired Saturday night, quoted women who were told that they would not receive help in Israel if they did not take the shot. “We said we won’t take the shot. They told us if you don’t you won’t go to Israel!” one of the woman said. The American Joint Distribution Committee responded, “The claims by the women that if you refuse the shot you will be refused medical help in Israel is nonsense.”
Celebrating the light
Saturday night saw the beginning of the week-long celebration of Hanukkah and Yedioth includes the story of Yehuda Parsi, an IDF soldier who lost his eyesight last month in an attack along the Gaza Strip. Parsi was just released on Friday from the hospital and Saturday he lit the first candle of Hanukkah. He told the paper, “My wish is that a miracle will occur for me and I will be able to see again like everyone.”