Continued celebrations over Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Euroleague win and the official setting of a date for presidential elections dominate front pages in the Hebrew press Monday morning.
Both the Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom tabloids feature front-page pictures of coach David Blatt being hoisted into the air like a basketball at a celebration for the team in Tel Aviv the night before.
Miki Berkovich, a legendary guard who helped the team win its first European cup in 1977, writes in Yedioth that the scenes of the mass celebration at Rabin Square transport him back to his own win 35 years ago, and he has some advice for the players:
“I know what’s happening with the players and want to tell them: Save these moments in your heart – they will be with you until the end of your life. Savor the moment and enjoy it because you are on an Olympic high. Pay attention to each fan, smile for every camera that’s whipped out, sign an autograph for every kid on the street, because this is a joyous moment for the whole nation.”
Israel Hayom’s Avi Segal flew back from Italy to Israel with the team and reports on the wild atmosphere at the airport upon arrival:
“With the landing the pandemonium started during their descent onto the tarmac. Afterward, going through customs and baggage, anyone else at the airport, workers, tourists, people returning on other flight, mobbed the Maccabi players. Today, everyone was a potential photographer,” he writes excitedly. “After five days with Maccabi in Milan, the feeling one gets is almost of déjà vu. This isn’t like the first win in Belgrade, but it’s the most special since. We are not talking here about quality basketball but about believing.”
Pretty soon the hubbub will die down, but the presidential race, which kicked off officially Sunday, will remain. The excitement ramps up in Monday’s paper following the announcement that the Knesset will vote on Israel’s next symbolic head of state on June 10. Haaretz runs a lead photo of seven of the main contenders (though there are more) and we will assume it is just a trick of our eyes that they all look like they are behind bars.
The paper reports that the date is earlier than expected, giving candidates less than a month to rally support. It zeroes in on the three main contenders, Reuven Rivlin, Silvan Shalom (who has yet to declare) and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, all MKs. However, the candidacy of a fourth politician, former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, relies heavily on Shalom’s will he or won’t he.
“If Shalom runs, the candidacy of Dalia Itzik will be off the table. However, people in the political system signal that if he does not run, Itzik will be the leading candidate,” Haaretz reports.
In Israel Hayom, Dan Margalit backs the decision by Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein to call the elections earlier than expected, saying it will allow lawmakers more time later to tackle a proposal to do away with the presidency altogether.
“There is no reason after June 10 that Netanyahu will not be able to propose to clarify if there is a place for the institution of the presidency or to do away with it. This discussion will be freed from the immediate pressures of whether or not to pick a successor [to Peres],” he writes.
In Yedioth, Ronen Bergman reports from Vienna that Iran and the group of world powers are as far as ever from reaching a deal to curb nuclear activities, instead of signing an agreement like many thought they were ready to do. Bergman quotes an American official close to the talks as saying heavy sanctions brought Iran to the table, but since the signing of an interim accord in November, things have gone south.
“Unfortunately, after the interim deal was signed, the sanctions were heavily weakened from what was planned from the start,” the source is quoted as saying. “That damaged the pressure on Iran and its willingness to compromise. They became much more stubborn.”
Haaretz reports that the US will seemingly make its peace with Palestinian reconciliation, quoting a Washington official as saying that Foggy Bottom would continue to work with Ramallah, even if it was publicly critical of the recent reconciliation between the moderate Fatah movement and Hamas hardliners.
“In terms of how they build this government, we are not able to orchestrate that for the Palestinians. We are not going to be able to engineer every member of this government,” the official is quoted as saying, leaving the reader to picture him throwing his hands in the air in frustration.
In sync with Modi
In Israel Hayom’s op-ed section, Zalman Shoval comes out in favor of the recent electoral victory by Hindu nationalist Narenda Modi in India, saying he will be a good friend to Israel.
“For Israel this is good news,” he writes. “While ties with India were already improving and growing – for proof look at the number of deals in the defense sector and the amount Israelis are investing in India – but I wouldn’t be surprised now if they go up even another level. Modi has even visited Israel and was impressed by what he saw. More than that, the two countries have a unified front against terror, and just like Israel deals with the potential Iranian nuclear threat, India has stood against the current nuclear threat of Pakistan. For all these reasons it’s reasonable to assume that Modi and Netanyahu will not find it hard to find a common language.”