The pope, Pinto and presidential possibilities
Hebrew media review

The pope, Pinto and presidential possibilities

Francis leaves, a charismatic but shifty rabbi comes back, and the EU takes a big step to the right

Pope Francis waves goodbye as he leaves Israel after a regional visit in May 2014. (photo credit:  Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)
Pope Francis waves goodbye as he leaves Israel after a regional visit in May 2014. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

Israelis woke up Tuesday to a post-pope Israel. The media circus that surrounded the visit is barely visible in Tuesday’s front pages, and instead the papers focus on all things local.

Haaretz is the only paper that puts the Pope on its front page, with a picture of His Holiness kissing the hands of Holocaust survivors alongside an article recapping the visit.

Despite the prominent picture of the pope, it is clear that Haaretz’s top story is the government’s plan to expand settlements in the West Bank. The paper writes that despite its denials, the government is in fact carrying out recommendations from the 2012 Levy Report. The report, which concluded that the West Bank was not occupied territory, listed ways to make it easier for Israelis to settle in the West Bank.

One aspect of the report that has been implemented is the decline in the issuance of “interference orders.” These orders allow the Civil Administration to remove settlers squatting on private land, even if there is no Palestinian complaint. The Levy Report called the orders “draconian” but as the paper writes, “The Supreme Court called them crucial to maintaining order in the region.”

Yedioth Ahronoth doesn’t seem to care that one religious leader left since another one is on his way here. Disgraced rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto is expected to arrive in Israel Tuesday morning. Pinto is caught up in two bribery cases and will turn state’s evidence in one in order to get less jail time in the other. Pinto will testify for the state against Menashe Arviv, the former head of the “Israeli FBI” who allegedly received bribes from Pinto. The fallen rabbi will be serving jail time for bribing another high-ranking police officer, Efraim Barca.

Israel Hayom uses its front page to tease the upcoming presidential elections, as Tuesday is the final day that candidates can submit their candidacy. The story is buried on page 11 and the real question of the piece is if David Levy will run or not (Israel Hayom doesn’t know, but mentions that the question is buzzing around the Knesset cafeteria). As of Tuesday morning, there are six candidates running for the largely ceremonial office, which is only voted on by Knesset members and not the general public.

A step to the right

The one story that unifies all the papers is the recent EU parliamentary elections. Yedioth provides updates on every country that will send extreme right politicians to the EU Parliament. It groups Germany, Greece, and Hungary together under the heading “The victory of the neo-Nazis.” While the parties from Hungary and Greece are not wholly unexpected, the paper focuses on the announcement that a German neo-Nazi party will be in the parliament. “69 years after the end of World War II, Germany for the first time will be represented in the European Parliament by a German neo-Nazi party.”

Haaretz dedicates a page to the elections and notes that while the extreme right might have made gains, the Jews of Europe don’t need to worry. “Closer examination shows that the election results are not indicative of an anti-Semitic wave sweeping the continent,” the paper writes. Instead, the paper says the main issue propelling these parties is the European economic crisis and immigration, not anti-Semitism.

In its coverage, Israel Hayom’s Boaz Bismuth calls the election a “political earthquake.” Bismuth grants that there may be many reasons for victory for the far right, but the writing was on the wall for a while. He cites the failure of Francois Hollande as French president to fix France’s economic woes as a direct sign that the right would win these elections. With the election of the extreme right wing, Bismuth writes, “Strasbourg, the symbol of the Franco-German conflict, has ceased to be a stronghold for the European Union and is now a stronghold for hate and division.”

Onwards, Israel Hayom!

Israel Hayom is not letting up on its full court press to table a proposed Knesset bill designed to shut it down. Again in Tuesday’s paper, Israel Hayom goes after Yedioth (which it accuses of being behind the bill) with two articles. Today’s plan of attack is to show that Israel Hayom is going after corrupt leaders. The paper reports that police are recommending two Teachers Union officials be charged with bribery. The paper unapologetically toots its own horn saying it tipped off police and started the investigation with a July 2013 article.

In an accompanying piece, Mordechai Gilat, who wrote the original article about the corruption, writes that this is an important moment for the country’s papers. “Israel has a large paper that deals with exposing the corruption and contamination of teachers unions; on the other hand there are newspapers that collaborate with corrupt organization like the Teachers Union and its secretary general.” One can only guess who that other paper is (it’s Yedioth).

While Israel Hayom is strutting its stuff for its reporting on corruption, Yedioth reports that Housing Minister Uri Ariel may have crossed a line with some financing of housing projects. Ariel came to agreements with the Jewish National Fund to transfer 2.5 billion shekels (about $718 million) to government offices though him for national projects of his choice. The Treasury stated that Ariel exceeded his authority and possibly violated several laws. Until this can all get sorted out, the government’s legal adviser has instructed the Treasury to freeze the deals between Ariel and the JNF.

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