As Justin Bieber fans worldwide were dismayed this week by false reports that the teen pop star had cancer, the Israeli press on Sunday was biting its nails at the possible breakup of Biberman shortly after its inception.
For those unfamiliar with the Biberman saga, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman announced on Thursday that their parties, Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, would run in the coming elections under a single list. Meretz leader Zahava Gal-on aptly titled the new political chimera “Biberman” — a being of power and popularity almost on par with Justin Bieber.
A weekend goes by and the proposed union is already on the rocks. Haaretz reports “fierce opposition in Likud to the unification of lists” ahead of the party’s Central Committee vote on Monday. Netanyahu and Liberman conversed over the phone (perhaps via Whatsapp, the report doesn’t specify) with key party members, and, despite their worries, the combined list plan is expected to go through.
Most of the opposition, writes Haaretz, comes from regional Likud party members who fall below the 31st spot on the list and are not likely to get a seat in the Knesset in the event of a unified slate.
Yedioth Ahronoth, to the contrary, reports that Biberman’s announcement has “awakened a storm in every level of Likud” in opposition to what they see as a bad deal for the party. The paper writes that the Likud camp is divided between those who want tomorrow’s Central Committee vote to be secret and those who want it public. Netanyahu, Yedioth writes, wants it an open popularity contest because he would, like, so win.
“Netanyahu knows that whoever opposes the deal wouldn’t dare expose himself publicly,” a senior Likud minister told the paper.
Thus far only Likudnik Michael Eitan has openly voiced opposition to the deal, and he has begun collecting signatures from party members to strike the motion down. Likud veteran Dan Meridor has reportedly reevaluated his future in the party should the single list go through.
Maariv says Meridor may quit the Biberman party if Liberman is No. 2, for he sees the Yisrael Beytenu leader as “damaging to Likud’s liberal values.”
Maariv quotes bitter Likud ministers saying Netanyahu foisted this plan upon the party in order to further his own political aims, namely, a third term as prime minister, at the expense of the party’s seats in the Knesset.
“Netanyahu put us in an impossible situation…. He didn’t consult us and didn’t tell us. He acted above our heads as if Likud was only his. He gambled with our future, all in order to guarantee his third term,” they told the paper.
Israel Hayom flips the story on its head because it is a huge Biberman fan. Its headline quotes American political consultant Arthur Finkelstein, who orchestrated the creation of Biberman and predicted the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list would receive “45 mandates.” The lead of the story downplays the dissent in Likud that the other papers report. It says that despite some opposition, “there will be a large majority for [the motion’s] approval” at the Central Committee meeting. It then spends the next eight paragraphs paraphrasing Finkelstein’s interview on Channel 2 the night before, lauding his own work.
Memory, diplomacy, and mystery
Saturday night’s ceremony in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square commemorated the 17th anniversary of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Haaretz reports that 20,000 people attended the event and, in order to show it was not a political rally, the youth groups organizing the memorial did not invite any politicians currently in office to take the stage. Also, “in order to make clear that it was not an event for the leftist camp alone, they invited the Bnei Akiva [religious-Zionist youth organization] chairman and rabbi of the settlement of Ofra to speak,” Haaretz wrote.
Israel Hayom notes that although Bnei Akiva participated in the event for the first time in 17 years, the “Peace Now and Meretz flags waved above the square, and one of the main speakers, former education minister Yuli Tamir, announced that ‘the pact between Netanyahu and Liberman marks the end of Israeli democracy.” It adds that Lau was “more moderate, and said: ‘I salute the organizers of this year’s event, who decided ,with strength and leadership, to bring all of the factions of Zionist society to the square.”
Maariv quotes “two Western diplomats very close to the American government” who claim that a few months after his inauguration, US President Barack Obama secretly attempted to reinitiate diplomatic relations with Iran as part of his new American foreign policy strategy. Two covert meetings were held between officials from Washington and Tehran — including US Undersecretary of State William Barnes and Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili — after the summer of 2009.
Despite the efforts, Iran rejected Obama’s initiative because it feared that “the regime of the ayatollahs would be hurt by American intervention in Iranian society,” according to Maariv.
Because neither the reporter nor the police can possibly imagine how a man who boarded a casino ship in the Mediterranean and washed up on shore leaking like a sieve could have possibly got there, the paper calls it “the Mystery at Sea.”