The end of the world — until tomorrow
Hebrew media review

The end of the world — until tomorrow

Knesset predictions remain a hot topic, despite Mayan doomsday prophecies

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enjoying falafel in Acre, December 2012. (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enjoying falafel in Acre, December 2012. (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)

So what if the Maya predicted that the end of the world would take place on Friday? The Israeli press still rolled out their weekend editions, sizable portions of which were devoted to debating what was to come in the upcoming Knesset elections.

Maariv publishes its latest elections poll, which predicts that the Likud-Beytenu list will receive 37 seats, the Labor Party 20 seats, the Jewish Home party 12 seats, the Shas party 11 seats, the Arab parties 10 seats, Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party nine seats, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party seven seats, United Torah Judaism six, Meretz four, and Kadima not breaking the threshold. The bottom line, writes the paper, is that the Jewish Home party is making gains at the expense of Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu.

Its poll of right wing voters, however, is far more interesting than the Knesset projections. Of the 2,500 respondents who said they would vote for a right-wing party, 54 percent regard themselves as secular and 27% as traditional. The majority of voters (55%) for the right are between the ages of 31 and 64, but a significant 29% are between the ages of 18 and 30; nearly 60% of the total are women. The poll also finds that education levels of right wing supporters tend to be overwhelmingly secondary, with only 24% having studied in post-high school institutions.

Uri Elizur writes in Maariv that 19.4% of the total population is between the ages of 18 and 30, and that the poll indicates that “an overwhelming majority among Israeli youth vote for the right.”

But, he writes, the more fascinating statistic is the religiosity of right wing voters.

“It is generally acceptable to think that secular [Israelis] vote for the left and the religious and traditional vote for the right. This poll refutes that perspective,” he says. Not only are secular Israelis voting for the right, he argues, but it would follow that religious Israelis are also voting for the left.

Haaretz columnist Nehemia Shtrasler also deals with the election issue, despite the fact that, true to the Maya calendar, the world will end on December 21 (if you are reading this, his skepticism has paid off). He goes on the stump for what he says is the only party that emphasizes “philanthropy and action according to the principles of natural justice in every issue.”

According to Shtrasler, the sole party that is left wing in foreign policy and right wing in socio-economic policy (and therefore the only one worth voting for, he argues) is the little-known “Or,” or Light party. He catalogues its virtues: it believes in humanism, equality, education, and human dignity; it advocates individual choice and limited government; it calls for a single public school system for secular, religious, and ultra-Orthodox; it wants a separation of church and state and universal conscription to the IDF; it supports a two-state solution with the Palestinians and a free-market economy with limited government intervention.

In short, he says, its policies show “how flawed the Labor Party’s socio-economic policies are,” and he lambastes party leader Shelly Yachimovich’s stance as a Chavez-esque “base and dangerous populism” in which “it is possible to distribute [money] to anyone who asks, without limits or accountability.”

Israel Hayom reports on the European Union’s increasing condemnation of Israeli construction over the 1967 Green Line. It quotes European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton calling the approval of an additional 2,610 housing units in Jerusalem’s Givat Hamatos neighborhood “extremely troubling, coming in addition to announcements made at the end of November and Monday’s approval of 1,500 units in Ramat Shlomo.”

“This plan for Givat Hamatos would disrupt the geographic contiguity between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I strongly oppose this unprecedented expansion of settlements around Jerusalem.”

Israel Hayom also quotes the Associated Press reporting that senior Palestinian officials threaten to isolate Israel internationally should Netanyahu be reelected in the January elections. The news organization quotes Mohammed Ishtayeh, a Palestinian cabinet minister, as saying that “There will be no security cooperation as long as there is no political horizon.”

According to Haaretz, however, Likud party members embrace the international condemnation of settlements, saying that the “mounting criticism… is good for the party.” The paper adds that “What troubles Netanyahu most is the increasingly tense rivalry with [Jewish Home party leader Naftali] Bennett, who served as his chief of staff in 2006-2008.”

The paper reports that Netanyahu is interested in leaving Bennett’s party out of the government entirely. “I am not ruling any person or any party out, so long as there is agreement about the government’s policy guidelines. That’s the only condition for joining the government. Agreement with the policy guidelines,” it quotes the prime minister as saying.

Yedioth Ahronoth focuses its coverage on former IDF chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak’s funeral on Thursday. Tearful photos of family and dignitaries (from both sides of the aisle), including the prime minister, outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Labor Party leader Yachimovich, Tzipi Livni, and former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, grace its pages.

The paper publishes eulogies from Lipkin-Shahak’s children and widow, Tali Lipkin-Shahak, who says she “has already won the greatest prize,” having spent her life with her departed husband.

“I benefited by loving you and from being loved in the same way by you,” she says. “We loved one another unconditionally, without doubts, without games, unremittingly, and without fear.”

Yedioth Ahronoth also reports on the upcoming budget cuts that the next government will be forced to make in order to keep the books balanced. “The Finance Ministry already recently formulated a broad plan of cuts and tax hikes that will be proposed to the new government, which include painful cutbacks for the public,” it writes.

Among the anticipated financial measures are a possible increase in VAT from 17% to 18%, an increase in income tax, and a NIS 3 billion slash in the Defense Ministry budget

Haaretz writer Anshel Pfeffer reports on the slow pace of the Arab Spring in neighboring Jordan where, unlike Syria, clashes with the government are infrequent and not nearly as bloody.

The Jordanian government, having witnessed the fall of several regimes in the Middle East in the last few years, “has learned to live with a weekly antigovernment demonstration” despite the fact that some of them call for the end of the Hashemite monarchy. Although protests are relatively small and contained, “the Hashemite kingdom waits and wonders: Is the revolution around the corner, or have Abdullah’s subjects missed the opportunity to depose him?”

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