The price of Turkey
Hebrew Media Review

The price of Turkey

While exorbitant sums are bandied about for the cost of reconciliation with Turkey, Lapid mulls drastic action to balance the budget

No more tax-free fruit? Finance Minister Yair Lapid may cancel the tax exemption on fruits and vegetables in order to fix Israel's budget. Illustrative photo of a Tel Aviv fruit seller in 2011 (photo credit: Serge Attal/Flash90)
No more tax-free fruit? Finance Minister Yair Lapid may cancel the tax exemption on fruits and vegetables in order to fix Israel's budget. Illustrative photo of a Tel Aviv fruit seller in 2011 (photo credit: Serge Attal/Flash90)

After taking a day off for the Passover holiday, the Hebrew papers pick up on Wednesday right where they left off, with two stories dominating: Turkey and taxes.

Turkey is the lead story in Haaretz, with the headline focusing on the extent of the compensation to families of the Turkish casualties on the Mavi Marmara: “Turkey is demanding tens of millions of dollars.” Aside from the compensation issue, a Turkish government source casts doubt on one of the main reasons cited for the reconciliation — Syria. The source tells the paper that the two countries see different solutions to the Syria problem. “The Israeli mindset is for intelligence cooperation and not joint management of campaign in Syria,” he says.

Compensation talks with Turkey also make the front page of Israel Hayom, with the paper highlighting how far apart the two sides are on the figure. Israel’s opening number is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with compensation going into a fund for the families of those killed. But despite those disagreements, there is already a thawing in relations, Israel Hayom reports, citing the Turkish newspaper Sabah to the effect that military cooperation will be renewed, even if in a limited scope for the time being.

Yedioth Ahronoth reports that military ties are not the only aspect of the bilateral ties that would see an improvement. Israeli tourists, the paper says, are already returning to Turkey, just days after Netanyahu’s apology. One flight to Anatolia was hastily booked on Saturday night, just a day after Netanyahu called Erdogan to apologize, and was scheduled to leave on Wednesday. But that plane isn’t the only one leaving for Turkey: Two more flights are scheduled to depart on Thursday, perhaps marking Turkey’s reemergence as a prime vacation destination for Israelis.

Cuts and threats

Maariv focuses its front page on the upcoming budget battle and quotes the new minister of welfare, Meir Cohen of Yesh Atid, stating that he will oppose cuts to welfare, even if that means risking a “civil war.” But the dramatic language turns out to be slightly less so, when the article reports that the war wouldn’t be between segments of the Israeli population, but rather in his own party — it is Yesh Atid’s boss, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who is proposing the cuts.

Yedioth highlights that Lapid might raise the retirement age in order to patch up some of the holes in the budget. The paper reports that Lapid is looking at a proposal to raise the age of retirement, to 70 for men, and 65 for women. Under the plan, the age would increase by one year by the year 2020, and then after that the additional years would be added on. The current age of retirement for men is 67, and for women is 64.

That’s not the only possibly drastic change, though. Lapid is also looking to shorten the required army service for men to 28 months, down from the current 36. The 24 months of required service for women would remain unchanged.

Haaretz focuses on Lapid’s choice between ending tax breaks or raising taxes. Ending the tax breaks for fruits and vegetables and cancelling the tax-free-zone status in Eilat could raise over NIS 3 billion, while raising two of the key tax rates could garner the state over NIS 6 billion. The paper reports that Lapid will have to make a decision in the coming days as to which route he will take when crafting the budget.

Out of Egypt

Maariv reports on the safe return of Amir Omar Hassan, the Israeli who was kidnapped in the Sinai Peninsula on Friday. MK Ahmad Tibi praised the Egyptian authorities for pursuing dual tracks in their effort to free Hassan: direct contact with the kidnappers, and the application of indirect pressure via other Bedouin tribal chiefs. Hassan’s brother, Yunis, said that the family was very excited and relieved to see Amir again. The Foreign Ministry also issued a statement: “We all are happy for Hassan’s family, and congratulate Amir. Welcome home.”

Hassan and his family aren’t the only ones relieved to be out of Egypt, as most of Israel celebrated the holiday of Passover on Tuesday. Israel Hayom reports how many people spent Tuesday’s holiday by visiting nature reserves, enjoying outdoor barbecues and sitting in traffic. That car-time won’t help burn off the rich foods served at the seder. The paper includes a chart of traditional foods served during the Passover meal, how many calories they contain, and how much exercise it takes to burn them off: matza-ball soup with two matzo balls is a mere 200 calories, which can be erased with 15 minutes of speed-walking; chocolate-covered matza — that’s 250 calories — can be burned off with 50 minutes of dancing.

In the opinion pages, Nadav Haetzni writes in Maariv that if Netanyahu is apologizing to Turkey, he needs to apologize to a lot of others in Israel too. At the top of Haetzni’s list is the Jewish Home party and especially Naftali Bennett, whom Haetzni feels Netanyahu unfairly bashed during the elections. Haetzni then moves on to President Shimon Peres, who supported the apology to Turkey. Haetzni writes, “If Peres is so keen on apologies, we have a list of real casualties that he himself caused. The first are more than 1,000 — Oslo victims who lost their lives because of his delusion known as the Oslo Accords, a rotten old vision of a new Middle East, a figment of his imagination.” After attacking Peres some more, he returns to his original idea: “I don’t know who decided to make Passover into Yom Kippur, but they should make sure that they are apologizing to the right people.”

Eitan Haber, writing in Yedioth, also tackles the apology to Turkey, summing up his opinion in the title of the piece: “Not love, interests.” He explains that it is in Israel’s best interest to restore ties with Turkey. “States don’t look for love. For states and their leaders there are just interests, and the prime minister of Turkey has gotten a lot of mileage out of riding Israel’s back.” He concedes that the apology may sting, but ends his piece by paraphrasing a Hebrew proverb: “Sometimes it doesn’t pay off to be right, but it’s always important to be wise.”

read more: