The Abbasephant in the room
Hebrew media review

The Abbasephant in the room

Are peace talks a white elephant, or is the Palestinian leader only asking for peanuts? Depends on who in the Israeli press you ask

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Majdi Mohammed)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Majdi Mohammed)

One would be forgiven for comparing the Israeli print press Wednesday to a group of blind men hopelessly groping an elephant: the Ganesh-like form of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose press conference to Israeli journalists a day earlier produced a plethora of different takes.

Israel Hayom, for instance, feels along Abbasephant’s monstrous and obstinate leg, pouting the Israeli position that the Palestinian leader has proven that he does not want peace.

It’s not just Jerusalem’s position, though. Commentator Shlomo Cesana writes in the paper that Abbas’s plan is to take the talks on a treadmill, leading to nowhere at all: “It seems that the entrepreneur of the conflict is Abbas,” he writes. “He’s the one who is hurrying to nowhere, he is the one who blew up the prisoner deal a month ago and he is the one refusing to extend talks.”

Haaretz, meanwhile, goes for the flexible tail, cooing that Abbasephant is prepared to continue both peace talks and security cooperation.

“This is a commitment, not a choice,” the paper quotes the Palestinian leader saying in regards to continued security cooperation. Haaretz also reports (in the last paragraph) that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met Tuesday with American interlocutor Martin Indyk for five hours, with no progress.

Zvi Bar’el writes in the broadsheet that reconciliation talks between the PLO and Hamas show that both still want the PA to exist, despite threats from Ramallah that it will collapse along with peace talks. “Abbas’s very willingness to continue negotiating indicates that he intends to continue heading the PA and not bring about its dissolution, which is also the principle on which the reconciliation depends. Hamas is not demanding that the PA be dismantled as a condition for reconciliation, since the PA is the body that can continue to negotiate with Israel, even if there are changes in the PLO’s structure and Hamas and the Islamic Jihad become members. Hamas is also interested in seeing the PA continue because that’s the pipeline for receiving aid from the West, particularly from the US, which has made it clear it strongly opposes breaking up the PA.”

Lastly, Yedioth Ahronoth probes the Abbasephant’s long and wet tongue, dutifully recording everything that comes out of his mouth. The tabloid highlights his threat that if the talks fail the PA will collapse, confirming its reporting of three days earlier, but offering little else of added value.

Instead the paper goes full bore with coverage of the stabbing of soldier Iftach Grady outside a Ra’anana nightclub days earlier, devoting much of the front page and four more pages to getting to the bottom of the incident and its fallout.

The paper publishes a number of pictures of the main suspect partying it up (with his face blurred out) and pictures of other people involved in the brawl, all of them young men, including a career IDF soldier from an elite unit who is called a computer genius and whose name and face cannot be published.

The paper reports that the fight “started over the attention of a young woman and ended in murder.” However the main suspect, identified only as “B,” maintains his innocence. “We share in the grief of the soldier’s family with a deep heart,” the suspect’s uncle, who brought him to the police station to turn himself him Tuesday, tells Yedioth. “But it’s important to say that my nephew is a good kid. We are sure he didn’t do anything. He says he didn’t stab anyone and has no idea why he is a suspect.”

All aboard the Ukraine support train

Haaretz reports that Petro Poroshenko, the leading candidate to be Ukraine’s next president, secretly visited Israel over the weekend and held meetings with President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. The paper characterizes the meeting as a plea for Israeli support in light of ongoing tensions in Ukraine, but notes that Israel has shied away from getting on Moscow’s bad side.

“Liberman’s office confirmed that he had met with Poroshenko but declined to give details, saying the meeting was private. Liberman said on Tuesday morning, in an interview with Voice of Russia Radio, that both Russia and Ukraine are friends of Israel and that Jerusalem is willing to help the two states to ‘normalize’ their relations,” Haaretz reports.

Chicken on Turkey?

In Israel Hayom’s op-ed page, Eli Hazan writes about another touchy issue Israel has kept away from, recognizing the Armenian genocide at the hands of Turkey nearly 100 years ago. The author takes the oft-repeated stance that Israel should recognize and memorialize the deaths of over a million people in the mass killing, even if it means suffering a backlash from Ankara.

“The Turkish wall of silence is growing,” he writes. “Twenty-two countries, including Germany, France, Austria, Italy and Lebanon, were not afraid of the Turkish threats and recognized the injustice. In the name of historic justice, in the name of ethics and in order not to forget our basic values, Israel must recognize the Armenian genocide, or at least mark a day for official commemoration, without regard for our ties with Turkey.”

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