The lowdown
Hebrew media review

The lowdown

Between peace talks and internecine fighting in the settlements, things seem to be sinking to new depths. Can a new spy satellite raise spirits?

Illustrative photo of a masked Jewish extremist swinging a slingshot outside the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar in 2013. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a masked Jewish extremist swinging a slingshot outside the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar in 2013. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)

Things are either flying high or sinking to new lows in today’s press, with the launch of a new spy satellite juxtaposed against quickly drowning peace efforts and a whole lot of soul-searching, and anger, after a riot by settlers two days earlier.

Yedioth Ahronoth leads off with the Yitzhar settlement melee story, compiling a Gatekeepers-esque group of six former Shin Bet heads to roundly condemn the settlers’ sacking of an army post as “terror” (never mind the fact that terror is usually a word reserved for attacks on civilians and militancy for attacks on security forces. Why let a silly thing like accuracy get in the way of drama?).

All six former security chiefs are unanimous in saying that the Shin Bet needs to take the reins and come down on them with a fury, much like they did against the Jewish underground and Kach in the 80s. Yuval Diskin, who left the post in 2011, offers the starkest assessment of what will happen if things are allowed to continue down this path: “People involved in actions against Palestinians, Arab Israelis or the IDF could in the future turn a live weapon on the army or on officials,” he says, apparently unconcerned about the more likely prospect of them turning a weapon on, say, oh I don’t know, Arabs.

The Shin Bet heads are not alone in their assessment, as pretty much everybody to the left of Baruch Marzel (read: everybody alive) has condemned what happened in Yitzhar. Israel Hayom corrals in for a commentary one of the reservists who was in the war room for the unit stationed outside Yitzhar and got the first reports as angry rioters tore through his camp. In Sgt. (res.) Yossi Sternhell’s telling, it sounded like a civil war was breaking out between Jews, and that’s just sad.

“Members of the unit, reservists, were there because they received a military order, from the military of the rightists, the settlers, the leftists, the religious, secular a-l-l of Israel! And this was their whole mission – to come and protect, and attack if needed, according to the orders and the needs of the settlement’s security. It really hurts to get this lowly reception during their service from some of the Yitzhar residents. And it really was just some of them, not all of them. But it bothers me more that the settlement doesn’t take out the garbage from within its midst.”

The pictures of knocked-over tents and a spilled water cooler in Yitzhar may look bad, until you glance over to the front page of Haaretz, which features a photo of people in Donetsk, Ukraine, in full-on revolution mode and realize just how piddly our little troubles are.

That’s not to say all our troubles aren’t world-class. Just look at the peace talks with the Palestinians, or what’s left of them. The paper leads with a story on Netanyahu’s unhappiness at Kerry for blaming Israel for the talk’s impasse, though it notes that Liberman, who met with Kerry, actually called him a real friend and didn’t try any of his Moldovan bouncer moves on the secretary of state.

Writing about the sanctions that Israel imposed Wednesday, namely cutting off some ministerial contacts with the PA, commentator Zvi Barel guesses they will come back to bite Jerusalem in the tush.

“Israel’s new sanctions against the PA, along with Kerry’s blaming Israel for the deterioration of the talks, actually play right into Abbas’s hands in the international arena. Abbas apparently wants to play things out until the end of the month, assuming that by then, the negotiations will be dead and buried,” he writes. “The Israeli sanctions, and those yet to come, meant to show that Israel’s words are not empty, are nothing more than shots fired from the hip, out of anger and arrogance. All they do is endanger Israel’s relations with the PA, the US and Europe.”

Yedioth reports that things can still get worse for peace efforts, with a proposal by minister Naftali Bennett to begin annexing pieces of the West Bank where the settlement blocs are located. Bennett wants to get the ball rolling on the plan, which is not new, for the figurative (or maybe literal) day after peace talks fail, currently set for April 30. Included in the plan would be the Ariel and Etzion blocs, the area around Maaleh Adumim, the part of the West Bank closest to Ben Gurion Airport, and the Ofra and Beit El areas, which according to the paper houses some 400,000 Israelis and only a few tens of thousands Palestinians, whom Bennett would grant Israeli citizenship to.

Needless to say, it’s likely that dog won’t hunt, at least in the international arena.

Higher love

The one piece of news on the up and up yesterday was the launch of the Ofek-10 satellite into space, which will carry new spy equipment. According to Israel Hayom, the satellite will be used to keep an even closer eye on Iran, part of a tens of millions of shekels a year space program run by the Defense Ministry.

In Haaretz, Aner Shalev flies in a completely different direction, writing on the op-ed page that the “tsnaumi of sex scandals” to hit the country recently could be scaled down to a mere wave if only people stopped something called the “friend brings a friend method” (I haven’t the foggiest) and realized that sex was something you only did when you are in love:

“Here is a forgotten recommendation, which the educational groups and assistance hotlines that deal with the subject should teach teenagers: You have sex when you’re in love. That’s why sex using the friend-brings-a-friend method is not recommended at any age, even when it is not a crime. That’s why exploiting a position of power in order to receive sexual favors is unacceptable. … But meanwhile the word ‘love’ is censored, ‘making love’ is an expression in English, and there are already 40,000 complaints of sexual assault a year.”

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