For a change of pace, Israeli papers this morning are talking about… Iran. A yet-to be-released interview with US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey weighs heavily on this morning’s front pages. Dempsey told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that a strike on Iran would not be a good idea and that Tehran is a rational actor that has not necessarily decided to pursue a nuclear weapon. (The interview will be aired later today during the Sunday round of talking heads.)
Haaretz plays the story straight, writing that Dempsey said a strike on Iran would “hurt Israel.” At Yedioth Ahronoth, Dempsey’s words were just part of “Obama’s influence train,” which is on track to derail Israel’s plans for Iran. Included in the train as well is National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and military intel head James Clapper, both of whom are on their way to Jerusalem to try and convince the Israelis to slow down.
Israel Hayom also goes big with the Dempsey speech, and columnist Boaz Bismuth hits back hard at Dempsey for calling Iran “rational,” while saying a move against would not be “prudent”: “Iran… doesn’t take anything seriously, not the sanctions, not the collapse of its financial system and not the threat of an attack. Not exactly a rational regime, contrary to what Gen. Dempsey says. The order of priorities for the Iranian regime is a little different from what we are familiar with.”
Maariv is the only paper to not lead with Dempsey, instead choosing the volley of rocket attacks Israel suffered over the weekend (Dempsey features lower down on their front).
The other big story on front pages this morning is the snow, or lack thereof, that hit the country over the weekend. While the North got nearly a foot of the white stuff, in Jerusalem, where the city had been gearing up for sledding and snowball fights for nearly a week, barely a flake fell. The catchword of the day seems to be “disappointment,” as in “disappointment in Jerusalem” which was on no fewer than three front pages (Yedioth chose Moshav Ora, which borders the capital, as its epicenter of disappointment.)
All the papers surveyed ran nice photo spreads of the snow, rain, wind and heavy waves that lashed the country over the weekend.
With snow of course come snowball fights, and reportedly in the Golan Druze towns of Majdal Shams and Mas’ada, MK Anastasia Michaeli was treated to some volleys of snowballs. The same Michaeli who just over a month ago splashed water on a colleague during a heated discussion in the Knesset. “It’s scary,” Michaeli told Maariv. “It feels very not nice when standing opposite you is a big 15-year-old with a group of his friends and they are throwing snowballs at your window. It’s like a stone.”
Haaretz’s front page has a story on West Bank settlers reportedly encroaching on Area B, which is supposed to be under Palestinian Authority civilian control. According to anti-settlement activist Dror Etkes, the source of the report, the settlement of Amona has pushed hundreds of dunams into Area B. According to the story, the body responsible for monitoring Israeli activity in the settlements, the Civil Administration, doesn’t have the manpower to prosecute every encroachment.
Yedioth has a report that officials are worried that if Palestinian hunger striker and Islamic Jihad member Khader Adnan dies, the “territories will go up in flames.” On Saturday EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton joined the calls for him to be charged or released, which would end his hunger strike.
“Right now his situation is stable, but it’s hard to know how his body will respond in the future and what the damage done is,” said one doctor who is trying to keep him alive.
Israel Hayom has a story about a Chabad emissary who has conquered the last frontier for the Jewish outreach group: Antarctica. “We left in the ship from Ushaia, Argentina, the southernmost place in the world, six Jewish Israelis and another four from around the world… so we had a minyan,” said Meir Alfasi, the emissary. If you’re planning a trip there, though, don’t expect to find gefilte fish and chulent. Alfasi only stayed a couple of days before returning to Argentina.
‘Jungle in the villa’
Writing an op-ed in Maariv, Aviad Pohoryls opines that the comments left on the prime minister’s Facebook wall after the Thursday crash that left a number of Palestinian schoolkids dead, show that Israel has let the jungle into the villa (a reference to Ehud Barak’s famous comment that Israel is a villa in the jungle.) Pohoryls recounts some of the comments (I won’t) that express joy over the tragedy, and says they are the same as Palestinians celebrating and giving kids candies after a terror attack: “[after the accident], the demons came out of the closet and we discovered that among us are not a few, it seems even a lot, that take the idea of ‘integration’ to the worst places.”
In Haaretz, Rafi Walden writes that the legal victory of Dr. Yehuda David in a libel suit in France over his claims that the father of Mohammed al-Doura had not been injured by IDF fire in Gaza in 2000 is no victory at all, at least not for the state: “The verdict does not conclude that Dr. David’s statements were true; instead, the court found that his conclusions were written in good faith, on the basis of information he had in his possession, and that they are protected by principles of free speech.… I should think Israel’s good name deserves more substantive defense than an unfounded declaration. Unquestionably, a declaration of the sort made here does not warrant the praise of Israel’s prime minister.”
In Israel Hayom, Isi Liebler weighs in on what he sees as the over-reaching of the Rabbinate, using the case of the recently de-koshered Haagen Dazs ice cream as a case in point. Calling for the creation of a Zionist religious court to act as an alternative to the ultra-Orthodox one Israel currently has, he says: “It will be a court that deals with a wide variety of subjects, from conversion… to kashrut, in concert with Jewish law but in a way that contains the modern spirit that is needed for a country in the 21st century.”