Monday’s papers were split as to what deserved to be the top story: Col. Erez Weiner being dismissed in the wake of the Harpaz affair or the surprisingly huge government deficit.
Israel Hayom and Maariv went with the forcing out of Weiner, a close aide to former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi. As Israel Hayom reports, the decision came from the current IDF chief, Benny Gantz, who dismissed Weiner in light of the state comptroller’s report on the Harpaz affair. Weiner, understandably unhappy with the decision, calls it in a letter to Gantz “wrong and unjust,” going on to say: “You have denied me the opportunity to be interviewed and to bring before the public, especially my colleagues and subordinates in the IDF, my version of the affair.”
Maariv columnist Amir Rappaport sees the move as “an appropriate punishment,” opining that Weiner’s dismissal helps remove disgrace from the military. He adds: “The dismissal is certainly more correct than Ashkenazi’s intention to appoint Weiner to be the head of the IDF’s education division, a move that Gantz canceled a while ago.”
Both Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz balked at the announcement that the government deficit this year will be double what was projected. “Budget failure,” reads Yedioth’s front page headline, relating inside that while the goal had been to hold the deficit at twenty billion shekels, now it is almost double that at 39 billion shekels. The paper quotes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu downplaying the matter: “This was more or less expected. We expected a deficit of 3.9% (of the GDP) and in the end it was 4.2% — a difference of .3%. I don’t think this will have a significant impact on the citizens of Israel.”
Yedioth asked all the political parties how they would deal with the deficit. Yesh Atid urged helping small businesses, shrinking the government and cutting funds from settlers and yeshivas. The Jewish Home party would “cut the defense budget, cut and freeze wages in the public sector, along with fostering competition and economic growth.” Likud Beytenu refused to answer the question and directed the paper to the Finance Ministry, which stated, “The new government will decide [how to deal with the deficit] according to the priorities it sets.”
Haaretz’s headline points to a failure in the tax outlook, which allowed that doubling of the deficit. Opinion writer Nehemia Shtrasler considers how the economy will play into the elections. pointing out that the deficit will require some tough choices and the whatever government is formed will have to make some painful cuts. What led to the huge deficit? “The 2012 deficit of 39 billion shekels testifies to the policy of waste and reckless spending that has characterized the past two years – and all to pacify the voters.”
Changing the sub-ject
In Israel Hayom former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Netanyahu continue to trade barbs. Olmert has accused Netanyahu of wasting money on unnecessary security toys, like a new submarine, when the head of the Israeli Navy did not recommend it. “These elections were established in order to pass the budget. Yet no one has stated to the public on what was all the money wasted.” Netanyahu responds, “Unlike governments that invested in disengagement, we invested billions in strengthening the security of Israel”
While Netanyahu may be having words with Olmert, he should otherwise be in good spirits because, as Maariv reports, he has his choice of coalition partners. A source tells the paper that Netanyahu is looking toward the center to help form a coalition because it will pass deficit cuts whereas other parties, like Shas, may not support the cuts. Maariv suggests a number of combinations of possible parties that Netanyahu may ask to join his government, including Yesh Atid and Jewish Home. Maariv also includes its latest poll, which still shows Likud leading the way with a projected 38 seats in next week’s election. Possible coalition partner Jewish Home has 13 and Shas has 12. Shelly Yachimovich, who stated that Labor would not join a Netanyahu government, is project to get 16 seats.
Shas may be feeling the pressure about being left out of the coalition, as Yedioth reports in its article, “Shas breaks right.” The article describes how Aryeh Deri has already spoken about his willingness to join a Netanyahu government and on Sunday he made statements about the peace process. “Oslo is dead,” Deri stated, “only Netanyahu doesn’t understand it. No sane government would conduct negotiations in the coming decades.”
While Shas may be breaking to the right, Haaretz writes that Jewish Home is breaking toward the center in order to make itself a more attractive coalition partner. Speaking at a press conference, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett said that his party would be a responsible coalition partner and was not just a one-issue party. Bennett highlighted Jewish Home’s one red line: giving back territory. “For anything other than the transfer of territory, we will have no reason to leave the government.”