Israel’s traveling population can breathe a sigh of relief now that the three major airlines, El Al, Arkia, and Israir called off their strike protesting the government’s adoption of the Open Skies agreement with the European Union.
Haaretz gives the story the most prominent coverage with an article and three opinion pieces. Under the deal that the airlines reached with the government, the government will cover 97.5% of the security costs for the airlines to the tune of about NIS 500 million a year.
Nehemia Shtrassler, a little incensed about the decision to strike, calls El Al cumbersome and inefficient. If it can get its act together and streamline its operations, though, it’ll be able to fly to any European city — as a benefit of the Open Skies agreement
Yedioth Ahronoth provides a snapshot of the effects of the day-and-a-half strike. There were 101 flights canceled, over 15,000 passengers stranded in Israel or abroad, and estimated losses of NIS 30 million. The paper also reports that it could take up to five days for all the flight schedules to return to normal. The silver lining of the strike is that stranded passengers will receive an extra ticket from El Al for anywhere it flies in Europe.
Stranded passengers may get free tickets, but the rest of the country looks to get a lot less, as Finance Minister Yair Lapid outlined in his proposed budget. Israel Hayom puts the story front and center with the headline, “The cuts are coming.” Inside it reveals that not only are budget cuts imminent but higher taxes are on their way too, with VAT expected to rise by 1% in August to 18%. There will be about NIS 10 billion cut from the budget this year, with 3 billion of that coming from the defense sector and another 2.75 billion being cut from the transportation and rail infrastructure.
The paper reports that a proposal to raise the retirement age for women from 62 to 67 is being considered again. American women work until 67, and for women in Germany, Spain, Portugal and other European countries the retirement age is 65.
Maariv focuses on some verbal fireworks in Monday’s Knesset session between Lapid and some ultra-Orthodox Knesset members who filed no-confidence motions against the finance minister. Responding to criticism from United Torah Judaism’s Meir Porush to the proposed cuts in the child allowance (expected to fall by 153 shekels per child), Lapid promised to ensure that no child in Israel would go hungry. Lapid then added, “But I want to mention: The body responsible for supporting children is called parents. When you bring a child into this world, MK Porush, you are the first person responsible. To bring a child into this world is responsibility, and you need to not assume that others will support them, but the assumption is that it is your duty to support their children. ”
Maariv also reports that there will be a cut of 30% in funds for state-run yeshivas, from NIS 1.04 billion to NIS 700 million. The paper explains that the cuts won’t be quite as drastic as they sound: under the current system, yeshivas receive funds for every student up to age 28 (at which time ultra-Orthodox students receive their final exemption from the IDF). Under the proposed new system, yeshivas would only receive funds for students up to the age of 22.
Something to worry about
Israel Hayom reports on IDF Chief Benny Gantz’s speech on Monday in which he highlighted Russia’s “odd” support for embattled Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Gantz was speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies where he stated, “Oddly, there is significant Russian support for the Assad regime.” He said that for every day that passes Assad is losing his grip on Syria and instability is increasing. Gantz also said, “We cannot accept the situation that existed in the Gaza Strip before Operation Defensive Shield.”
While Gantz discussed larger threats facing Israel, a security guard at the Israeli embassy in Nepal foiled a possible attack there. Maariv reports that the guard saw a man loitering around the embassy and detained the man and called the local authorities. The police found a map of the embassy on him and he later admitted that he was an Iranian citizen. Police also found he had a fake Israeli passport on him. He’s being held in Nepal.
Celebrating all things round
Earth Hour, the one hour every year where people turn off their lights, was celebrated in Israel. Yedioth reports that Israelis saved up to 96 megawatts of electricity in one hour from 8 p.m. until 9 p.m. and 22 cities participated by turning off the lights in municipal areas. One of those cities was Haifa, whose famous Baha’i Gardens disappeared into the darkened hillside for an hour.
Finally, Israel has a new soccer champion: Maccabi Tel Aviv. As the Haaretz headline puts it, “What began in their legs, ends in their hands,” and the accompanying picture shows a player lifting the trophy above his head. The championship ends a 1-year drought for the team, which beat Ramat Hasharon Monday night 2-0 to take the championship. The victory means that the team will now compete in the upcoming qualifying rounds of the European Champions League.