Release the hounds
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Hebrew media review

Release the hounds

The freeing of Palestinian prisoners later Tuesday is dogging both Israeli society and Knesset politics, and the papers smell blood

A woman holds a sign against the release Tuesday October 29, 2013 of Palestinian prisoners outside of the High Court in Jerusalem. (Photo credit: Flash90)
A woman holds a sign against the release Tuesday October 29, 2013 of Palestinian prisoners outside of the High Court in Jerusalem. (Photo credit: Flash90)

The Hatfields and McCoys have nothing on Israeli newspapers Tuesday morning, where two separate blood feuds rage over the impending release of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners: one between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, who has come out against the release, and the other between the families of the victims of those being released and the families of the soon-to-be-free inmates.

Yedioth Ahronoth leads off with a ginormous front page photo of two parents holding pictures of their terror-slain children, juxtaposed with the pontification of Nahum Barnea on the political side of the deal. (Because really, why give human interest more than a few snapshots when you can have yet another analysis instead?)

The pictures of terror victims’ relatives, which abound across the paper’s first four pages, were taken at a protest late Monday outside Ofer Prison, where the inmates are being housed until Tuesday night. “I’m embarrassed that I have to stand here and shout these shouts for my father who begs from the grave that his killer not be released,” one woman is quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Barnea’s take is that this is above all an insider baseball political battle, families of victims be damned. Netanyahu was assured that Bennett would support the measure or abstain. He said as much to the other ministers. He avoided airing the affair in public in order to not embarrass Bennett. So in the last few days, as Bennett and his colleagues attacked the deal with all their might, Netanyahu “got angry,” he writes.

Israel Hayom, sometimes seen as Netanyahu’s mouthpiece, quotes on its front page the prime minister’s warning to Bennett that “ministers need to act responsibly and make careful decisions.”

Inside, Dan Margalit takes on the role of pit bull, going after Bennett with teeth bared. “It’s clear that releasing jailed murderers who acted out of nationalism is crazy. Yet the right flank of the government preferred to release prisoners over a temporary break in settlement building. That was the mistake. Even Naftali Bennett knows it. Now the prisoner release has become a fact and Israel is not a pirate country and needs to stand by its obligations. Even in Yisrael Beytenu they know that Mahmoud Abbas has not broken his promise and has not gone down the path of terror again… When Jewish Home ministers and their buddies and deputies from Likud seek to reopen the issue again, they simply seeking a fig leaf for their party, and maybe for their conscience, since they did not get up and leave the room during the first discussion.”

Maariv tries to egg on the feuding sides, not in Bennett vs. Netanyahu, but in the families of the victims (and other protesters) vs. the families of the killers being released, placing the two side by side in a page 2 package. While Yochai Ofer reports on the horror being experienced on the Israeli side (“The yeshiva and seminary students protest and shout ‘A holiday for terror – shame on the state’”), Asaf Gabor reports on the hootenanny being planned by the Palestinians to welcome their murderous sons home. “’We are already preparing the food and the house for the celebration of my brother’s release,’ says one brother of Shakir Mussabach, who killed Sgt. Akiva Shaltiel in 1985 near Elkana. ‘ They are going to come from all around to celebrate with us.’”

Haaretz is the only paper not to lead off with the prisoner release, and also walks to the beat of a different drum by leading off with Bennett’s attack on those who dare attack his party. “I don’t recall such stigmatizing by Netanyahu since the period of the Oslo Accords,” the paper quotes him saying. “The goal is to domesticate us, to force us into the herd mentality. What can we do, we have a different view? Those who support a Palestinian state get support; if you’re against, you are called the extreme right, you’re called a fascist. But we will not remain silent.”

Amos Harel, writing rare praise for the prime minister, defends the prisoner release as Netanyahu’s way of staving off a Palestinian uprising and keeping peace talks rolling along: “The release of the second group of Palestinian security prisoners – or, the entire arrangement to release 104 such prisoners in four stages – is the pin that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is holding to ensure the grenade, or a new confrontation with the Palestinian Authority, does not explode. Israel is concerned about two possibilities: a significant escalation of violence in the West Bank and, even more so, the collapse of peace talks with the Palestinians.”

On the domestic front, Maariv reports that some are apparently displeased that Israel finally has a Bank of Israel governor, with the central bank’s workers union asking why some complaints about Karnit Flug were papered over in the rush to get her confirmed by the Turkel vetting committee. According to the paper, if answers are not given as to why the panel did not consider two cases against her – one involving a bank deal given to her husband under possibly favorable conditions, and another dealing with possibly illegal home renovations – they will go to the High Court of Justice. The committee says it did its homework, but the paper thinks otherwise.

“A check made by Maariv reveals that the Turkel Committee did not ask Flug to present the legal documents and did not ask the court to rule on them. This fact raises the question of how successful the committee can be in ruling out candidates.”

If Maariv’s jaundiced eye toward the new BoI chief isn’t for you, how about alligator tears? No, really, reports Yedioth, writing that a genius visitor to the Ramat Gan Safari decided to get an alligator to skedaddle for his entertainment by throwing a rock at it. The result? A one-eyed alligator. The paper reports that Sam, 30, the oldest member of the zoo’s alligator clan, is not the first animal to be harmed by visitors, noting that earlier this year a giraffe was found dead after eating snacks provided illegally by zoo-goers.

In Haaretz, former Likud defense minister Moshe Arens writes an op-ed calling for the rehabilitation of the country’s two main large political parties, Likud and Labor, which he says have been hurt by disloyal politicians who care more about themselves than the larger picture.

“Quite a few of our political leaders have made it clear that they consider themselves bigger than their parties, and even ‘too big’ for the parties they head,” he writes. “Like shifting sands, some of them have moved from one party to the next, refusing to abide by the decisions arrived at in their parties through proper democratic procedures. The contempt that this kind of behavior demonstrates for the party and its membership cannot but lead to the party’s decline.”

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