Elections for the presidency are only a few days old, and a look at Thursday’s front pages reveals the campaigns are already a mess. Good thing the position is only a symbolic one.

Yedioth Ahronoth’s front page clearly lays out the fiasco that has become the Likud party’s attempt to front a candidate, placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose own attempt to “torpedo” the candidacy of Reuven Rivlin backfired.

In one subheadline the paper sums up the candidates’ roller coaster Wednesday: “In the morning: Silvan Shalom finds he won’t get the support of Netanyahu and decides not to run. In the afternoon: David Levy tells Ynet he is considering running. In the evening: Levy realizes he also won’t get the backing of the prime minister. The big winner: ‘The enemy of the Netanyahu family’ Ruby Rivlin.”

Yedioth’s Sima Kadmon paints Netanyahu’s wife Sara as Lady Macbeth, writing that last week, the presidency seemed to be in the bag for Shalom, but by Wednesday, somebody, or something had changed the prime minister’s mind.

“Between the desires of Mrs. Netanyahu and those of her husband, she once again wins. And if last Thursday Shalom left a meeting with the prime minister with a commitment from Netanyahu to support him, lo — something, someone or some woman succeeded in changing his mind over Shabbat.”

Haaretz reports that Netanyahu decided not to support Shalom or Levy because of a far more innocuous reason, fear over how it will look if he publicly goes after Rivlin.

“Netanyahu understands it would be inappropriate for him to support any [other] candidate when a member of his party, Ruby Rivlin, is running,” the paper quotes a source close to Netanyahu saying. “Their mutual hatred is strong, but Netanyahu understands that any public move he makes against Rivlin would hurt his own public image.”

In Israel Hayom, Dan Margalit writes that all the bad blood swirling around the presidential election puts the whole institution at risk.

“So much bad money and mudslinging has been invested into the battle over a position that is supposed to unite Israeli society, that the zealous battle over it hinders and endangers the very just reason to have an institute of the presidency,” he writes.

Cottage industry

The sale of Israeli dairy Tnuva to a Chinese firm for NIS 8.6 billion also garners top placement in Israel Hayom, which notes that Israel won’t see a dime of tax money off the sale, since the iconic company was already owned by a British firm.

Analyst Hezi Sternlicht notes that the sale will affect little on the ground, despite fears of Chinese milk winding up in your local Supersol.

“I assess that Tnuva will continue to operate in Israel. Not because it’s cheaper to make it here, but because it’s much more complicated to build dairies in China and fly the products halfway around the world. I have a hard time believing that the Chinese bought Tnuva to take production out of Israel. They are buying much knowledge and progress, and thus for them this is a good deal. Food quality control in Israel is very high, so I see no reason to worry about that.”

Despite his optimism, the sale still came as a shock to many Israelis, who see Tnuva, with its trademarked red roof cottage logo, as essentially Israeli as flying blue-and-white flags and arguing about stuff.

Yedioth, which riffs on that logo by replacing the cottage with a Chinese pagoda to illustrate its story, shows just how deep the connection runs with a sidebar on a song, known to almost all Israeli schoolchildren, with lyrics about Tnuva: “Our car is big and green, our car can travel far, in the morning it goes, in the evening it returns, bringing to Tnuva eggs and milk.”

The paper explains that the song was written in 1940 by a member of Kibbutz Gevet who would watch the trucks each day going from kibbutz to kibbutz picking up products to take to the Tnuva factory.

Alas the past is the past, and Haaretz opiner Ari Shavit hopes that the future brings some changes, after watching the Israeli economy explode over the last decade, but little moving on the diplomatic front.

“With regard to the overall state of the country, the actual lost decade is the one that just passed. The diagnosis was already there: The Jewish and democratic state had contracted a serious disease that was liable to become incurable. And the capability of curing it was also there,” he writes. “But neither the political leader nor the political will that would make this possible ever arose. While our start-ups took off, our wallets swelled and our restaurants filled, a national leadership that would deal with our number-one national problem — the one that threatens Israel’s national existence — in a wise, grown-up manner could not be found.”