Election fatigue has claimed its first victim. The top headlines in all of the newspapers today announce the surprise retirement of top-tier Likudnik Moshe Kahlon.
The unexpected move, by one of the ruling party’s most popular ministers, announcing yesterday that he wouldn’t run for a spot in the upcoming elections because he felt burned out, caught Israel’s political pundits off guard. In an election cycle that the Likud is almost assured to win, any upset in its ranks is a call for banner headlines.
“The Likud’s social beacon is quitting,” reads the headline in Yedioth Ahronoth. Kahlon, who serves as minister of communications and also as minister of social affairs, managed to make a name for himself as a champion of the people, most notably for passing a series of high-profile reforms to Israel’s telecommunications market. His activist approach combined with his modest demeanor has made him one of the few likable faces in Israeli politics. His departure, according to Yedioth’s Sima Kadmon, is a real blow to the Likud.
It’s not just his achievements that made Kahlon an electoral asset, Yedioth notes. Kahlon’s departure leaves only two Mizrachi members in the party once known for its pluralism. “This puts the prime minister in a jam from both the ethnic and the social perspectives. Kahlon could have been a winning card in an economic campaign and Netanyahu lost him,” an unnamed Likud MK told the paper.
Israel Hayom notes that Netanyahu has not given up on his ace just yet and that he will try to convince him to remain, possibly by offering him the highly coveted Finance Ministry portfolio.
The second item that appears on all the front pages is Felix Baumgartner’s spectacular space jump. Photos showing the daredevil’s leap out of a pressurised capsule suspended beneath a giant helium balloon 24 miles above ground are featured in all the papers with headlines referring to the jump as being “out of this world.”
Maariv features a front page story on the man who last week found the remains of long-missing soldier Majdi Halabi. Ibrahim Kuzli sought to claim the $10 million reward promised to anyone who located the soldier who went missing in 2005, unfortunately for him, the organization Born to Freedom, which had extended the bounty, shut down in January due to cuts in the defense budget. Kuzli is now reportedly considering suing the group, stating he would share the reward with Halabi’s family and donate generously to charities that help families of missing soldiers.
A front page story in Haaretz reports that former president Moshe Katsav, who was convicted last year of rape and other sexual crimes and sentenced to seven years in prison, has appealed for a presidential pardon. After serving less than a year of his sentence, Katsav, who has never admitted to his deeds, let alone expressed remorse for them, has reportedly turned to President Shimon Peres to grant him clemency. Legal experts state that even if he wished to, Peres couldn’t grant the request as Katsav has made no efforts to rehabilitate, nor has he taken responsibility for his actions, both of which are prerequisites for early release.
Israel Hayom reports on page 13 that Army Radio had banned a song by popular singer Yizhar Ashdot for being over critical of soldiers. The song, titled “A Matter of Habit,” written by Ashdot’s wife Alona Kimchi after she held a series of meetings with anti-occupation IDF reservists, was reportedly prohibited from being played on the popular radio station because it libeled soldiers, claiming their work in the West Bank led them to dehumanize Palestinians.
No more idle hands
In Israel Hayom’s opinion pages Yael Lerner has a message for Israel’s unemployed. “Don’t be spoiled – go to work,” reads the headline of her column in which she upbraids Israelis who prefer not to work over accepting a job that they see as being beneath them.
“Had we been smart enough to do everything ‘in-house’ and not turn to outsourcing as a matter of course for jobs we consider as ‘lowly,’ we wouldn’t need foreign workers, but we all want to be managers. The painful truth is that jobs require work.”