As usual on Sundays, the Hebrew papers this morning are playing catch-up with the weekend’s news events.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Friday evening television interviews, in which he blasted Jewish Home leader and right-wing vote magnet Naftali Bennett for his ostensible justification of conscientious objection by soldiers, make top headlines in nearly all the papers.
“There is no room in my cabinet for anyone who supports insubordination,” reads the top headline of Israel Hayom. The same quote, along with Bennett’s response — “The Likud will bring about another disengagement” — leads Maariv. Yedioth Ahronoth simply goes with the headline “Butting heads.”
The stories all pan out the same way. On Thursday, Bennett gave an interview to Channel 2 in which he said that, on a personal level, he would have great difficulty in obeying an order to evict a Jewish family from its West Bank home, and would refuse to do it even if it meant going to prison for insubordination.
His statements launched a firestorm of outrage and condemnation from across the political spectrum. Netanyahu saw a chance to body-check the young and charismatic upstart, who is fighting a winning battle for young, ideological right-wing voters, and quickly set up flash interviews with the three primary television news outlets in which he made clear that insubordination is unacceptable and anyone who promotes it will not receive a ministerial position. In response, Bennett went on the record again Saturday, clarifying his position against insubordination and claiming that his original statements were skewed by rival politicians. Now, as Mazal Mualem writes in her daily political column in Maariv, “We wait for the polls to see how many seats, if any, calls for insubordination cost.”
Political storms weren’t the only ones to rock Israel over the weekend. December 21 was the official first day of winter, and the heavy rainfall across the country on Friday produced dramatic photos of gushing rivers that feature on the front pages of Yedioth, Maariv and Israel Hayom.
In response to the gun control debate waging in the US in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, Haaretz offers on its front page an exposé of the illegal weapons trade in Israel. The story reports that there exists a widespread underworld weapons-dealing network and that purchasing an illegal weapon, be it a handgun, a semi-automatic rifle or a hand grenade, is a relatively simple task. As one police officers says, “Anyone who wants to buy an illegal weapon in Israel today can do so with ease.”
The article reports on weapons deals taking place in gas stations and coffee shops, most often conducted through middlemen. The weapons themselves reportedly come from a wide variety of sources, including break-ins from private homes, theft of military supplies, import from abroad and home-grown manufacturing.
Haaretz even provides readers with a price list for the illicit weapons: from NIS 1,000 for a military-grade hand grenade, NIS 10,000-15,000 for a pistol, NIS 20,000-30,000 for an AK-47 and NIS 50,000-60,000 for an M-16 semi-automatic.
The big international news stories of the day are US President Barack Obama’s nomination of John Kerry to the post of secretary of state, Bashar Assad’s loosening grip on Syria, the Islamist victory in Egypt’s constitutional referendum, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti’s resignation.
Maariv on Page 12 offers up an infographic providing data on Thursday’s graduating class of air force pilots and navigators. Always a noted event, this year’s class is receiving extra coverage because one of its members is the first Orthodox religious woman to successfully complete the prestigious course.
According to the data, a majority of the graduating class hails from the center of the country, with 37 percent growing up in cities, 26% in moshavim, 24% in small towns and 13% in kibbutzim. Nearly half of the class-members are firstborn. A third of them have mothers who are teachers and 42% of them completed a degree in data management.
Maariv on Page 10 features a story on the mystery of the disappearing Christmas tree. According to the story, the Jerusalem Municipality on Tuesday had approved the placement of a Christmas tree at the entrance to the Old City. The move, requested by a local Christian entrepreneur, drew criticism from religious Jews, including several ultra-Orthodox city council-members who planned to hold a protest there on Sunday, claiming the tree was an affront to the sensitivities of religious Jews. Lo and behold on Saturday evening, two days before Christmas Eve, the tree was no longer there. The city said in response that the tree was only meant to be at the location for three days and was dismantled and taken away.