Today’s editions of the Hebrew press seem like an exercise given to wannabe editors back in journalism school: there are two major world stories and one big local story, what do you put on your front-page?
If you’re Israel Hayom, you go with one of the major world stories — the recent referendum in the Crimea. On its front-page, the paper pits the referendum as an old school, east vs west conflict, “Putin wins, the West threatens.” Passing with an Egypt-like approval level of 95%, it seems that the residents of Crimea are of one voice. But not so, Israel Hayom writes in an accompanying piece that details a certain level of voter fraud.
Apparently, the voting was so open in the referendum it would make a Chicago politician blush. The paper gives a number of different stories about non-residents being able to vote with ease. Perhaps the most egregious example was that of Russian journalist (and non-Crimean resident), Anastasia Barza, who reported the ballot box was carried out to her passing taxi so she could vote.
Yedioth Ahronoth tries to have it both ways, giving the majority of its front-page real estate to the Crimea vote and then burying the story on page 10. Instead, the first four pages are dedicated solely to flight MH370. The paper is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and by the sheer amount of coverage you think they might do it.
Included in their coverage is a new theory that whoever was in control of the plane, took the plane up to 40,000 feet in order to knock out all the passengers and then continue on their way (wherever that may be). The paper reports that in light of the disappearance of MH370, Israel is increasing its airline security by adding extra guards to flights and increasing security checks on incoming flights.
Haaretz chooses internal over world news and goes with the “local” story that focuses on the peace process – or the possible impasse that has developed. Its front-page headline telegraphs the tale, “Obama to pressure Abbas today; fear of a deadlock in peace talks.” Abbas is scheduled to meet with Obama on Monday and the president is expected to really apply the pressure on Abbas to accept a framework agreement with Israel. The Palestinians are opposed to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and want the framework document to clearly state that East Jerusalem will be the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Commenting on the peace process, Haaretz’s Barak Ravid writes that there are only “two awful options.” Up until now, the Americans have been trying to get both sides to agree to a framework agreement but that looks increasingly unlikely to happen. Now the Americans are stuck between those awful options. The first includes: getting Abbas to promise not to go to the UN and pressuring Israel to curb settlement activity and release more prisoners, so that both sides will keep negotiating without a framework. The second is to simply publish the framework agreement and hope that both sides will use it as a basis for negotiations, but if both sides reject it outright the peace process will be DOA.
Israel Hayom columnist, Dan Margalit, writes about the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the changing opinions (from John Kerry) on whether it is essential to the peace process. Margalit writes that Israel must play smart right now, and cannot criticize Kerry’s credibility and then hope that he comes around to Israel’s position. “Israel has no interest in a fight with Kerry, Obama and the White House, even when it is in a state of disarray,” he writes. He goes on to say that Kerry understands the importance of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, which is why he was initially in favor of it. In the end, he hopes that Obama will ignore the fighting over the issue and not exempt Abbas from the “heavy price charged by the [Palestinian] stubborn refusal to continue negotiations.”
Funeral and parades
On Sunday Israel laid to rest Meir Har-Zion (80), who Moshe Dayan once called “the greatest Jewish warrior since Bar Kochba.” Israel Hayom writes that the funeral drew a large crowd, which included Netanyahu and Peres. The paper writes that Har-Zion’s coffin was draped in an Israeli flag while a piece from his favorite composer, Mozart, played in the background. Peres said of Har-Zion, “It never occurred to me that Meir could ever get hurt, he seemed made of a special type of courage. He was fireproof, he knew no fear.”
Other parts of the country were busy yesterday celebrating the Purim holiday. Yedioth includes two pages of pictures of various celebrations from people surfing in costume at Ashdod beach to a 4,000-strong parade in Holon. For children on vacation, the paper includes places around the country with free Purim celebrations; the Tel Aviv Port, Beersheba’s Old City, and Jerusalem’s Safra Square.
Jerusalem is a touchy subject for Haaretz, which dedicates Monday’s op-ed to movie theaters being open on Shabbat in the capital. The paper tackles the newly-opened Cinema City movieplex, which is not allowed to be open on Shabbat. It says only the municipality is standing in the way of its opening, the government having dropped its demand that the cinema be closed on Shabbat. The paper writes that over the past few years, “Jerusalemites have been increasingly able to lead a secular life without disturbing the ultra-Orthodox.” Jerusalem Nir Barkat was elected by a majority of the city and the paper urges him to uphold the principle that “entertainment is allowed as long as it does not interfere in the lives of the religious.”