Coalition talks are all the rage on Friday’s front pages of the Hebrew press, with Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett the belles of the ball (and Benjamin Netanyahu either a charming prince or wicked stepmother).

Yedioth Ahronoth, perhaps acknowledging that there is little actual news on the subject besides rumors, innuendo and catchy headlines, fills its front page with three op-eds on the subject that offer nothing but rumors, innuendo and catchy headlines. Sima “Under the radar” Kadmon writes that it’s clear that Netanyahu and Hatnua head Tzipi Livni are quietly talking about working together in the next government: “Netanyahu needs her for two reasons: to show Lapid that he is not the only fig leaf he has, and because he sees in her a real opposition. Would it be so bad to receive Obama with Bennett and Yishai to his right and Livni to his left?”

Meanwhile Yoaz “Between Lapid and rabbis” Hendel notes that Bennett’s choice of joining up with Yesh Atid instead of the Haredi factions shows the party’s willingness for realpolitik (and parve Israeli pop music), despite its hardline voter base: “Rabbis are a nice traditional thing for religious people like Bennett, but if you offer them a sermon or a concert from Yehudit Ravitz, it seems they would prefer the latter.”

Nahum “Days of Moshiach” Barnea rounds out the trifecta by predicting that Netanyahu’s upcoming term will be marked by big words and big actions, namely either a peace deal or a strike on Iran. But apparently never the twain shall meet.

A not-so subtle Haaretz accompanies its main coalition story with a
drawing of a blender and the headline “Netanyahu’s kitchen,” with
Yossi Verter trying to break down all the folding, stirring, mixing,
beating, creaming, fluffing and frappéing going on. “Naftali and Yair
may be brothers and cool together, but they represent two different
groups of voters, two different tribes and two different factions.
…And what will Netanyahu do without his natural allies, Shas and
United Torah Judaism, whom he views as faithful partners who will
never betray him? Parting from them will be difficult and painful. In
the circles closest to Netanyahu, some are warning him against giving
up on his natural partners and relying on a problematic, traitorous
and ambitious customer like Lapid. ‘Look back four years,’ said one
source. ‘You finished four years without a single coalition crisis
because of what? Because none of your partners in the coalition had a
replacement, none had anywhere else to go. They had no ambition to
replace you. The minute you let Lapid into your government, you will
lose that security.’”

Israel Hayom takes the one itty-bitty piece of confirmable news in the whole shebang — that Netanyahu will end his lockout of Bennett and meet with the rival/potential partner — and turns it into its front-page story. The paper’s analysts, though, are more concerned with Netanyahu’s meeting with Lapid on Thursday, the second between the two, in which Lapid reportedly considered showing flexibility on his demand for the ultra-Orthodox to be drafted into the army. Motti Tochfeld writes that the Yesh Atid leader is squandering away his powerful position with a number of rookie mistakes: “After an exemplary year-long campaign Lapid acted in the last week, to tell the truth, in not the most sophisticated way. Had he acted differently, it’s probable that Netanyahu would be convinced that Lapid would be a partner for the next four years. Maybe he would even give up a Haredi party or two for the partnership. Lapid though, by repeating the mantra of one dispute [Haredi conscription], has by his own hand strengthened the ultra-Orthodox and nailed them into the next government.”

It’s an analysis that Maariv agrees with, reporting that Netanyahu and the Haredim have joined up to break the Lapid-Bennett confederation. United Torah Judaism, for its part, has begun a campaign to seduce Bennett away from the suave Lapid and into the arms of the religious community: “Maariv has learned that part of the conversations between UTJ and Jewish Home have raised the possibility of the Haredim supporting the settlement enterprise and subjects important to the National religious community, and in exchange Jewish Home will support a Haredi conscription plan that UTJ can live with.”

Don’t call a cab

 

The battles in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv over the next government’s makeup may be fierce, but there may be an even fiercer one on the way. Yedioth reports that the Finance Ministry is preparing a number of harsh cost-cutting measures, including cuts to payouts for having kids, instating a tax on fruits and vegetables and even slashing NIS 5 billion from the Defense Ministry’s coffers. The paper notes that the government is trying to reduce its deficit even as government services expand to NIS 300 billion next year, its highest level ever.

The amount to be cut from the Defense Ministry is the highest ever requested, but after reading Maariv, you may not be against it. The paper reports that the army threw away hundreds of thousands of shekels by ordering taxis to pick up soldiers for reserve duty during Operation Pillar of Defense in November without realizing that soldiers had already reported for duty. The story notes that while 70 percent of soldiers received recorded orders by telephone to report to predetermined meeting spots, many of the rest skipped the step and reported straight to their units on base or in the south, creating the confusion and the waste of money. At least the cabbies made out like bandits.

In Haaretz, editorialist Oudeh Basharat uses his pen like a sword to slash at the notion of Israel as a Jewish non-racist state. Impossible for both to be true, he scoffs: “If the Jewish and democratic state treats some of its citizens as invaders who need to be put in pens and whose ancient customs need to be disregarded, then this is just a colonialist state and Judaism has nothing to do with this indecent deed. And as for ‘democratic’ — this is a democracy of a majority against the minority. Indeed, all the anti-Arab laws in the Knesset have been passed in accordance with a strictly democratic method. The majority mustered to tyrannize the minority — from the racist private ranch law to the absurd absentee property law.”