A year and a half after a massive forest fire burned down thousands of acres of woodlands, the Carmel fire is still killing trees. Between the hundreds of copies of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’s 500-page special report and the millions of pages of newsprint dedicated to covering it, a small forest was probably depleted.
The Carmel fire report and its fallout takes up not only the front page of all the Israeli dailies this morning, but also an incredible chunk of the insides. Everything else seems to have dropped off the radar, and even stories that would normally make massive front-page headlines, like 100 missiles being fired into Israel from Gaza and the air force targeting a senior global Jihad terrorist, are relegated to the far back pages of the papers.
Israel Hayom leads the trend, dedicating its first 23 pages to the report, but Maariv and Yedioth Ahronoth are no slouches either, offering 18 pages and 13 pages to special coverage respectively.
Haaretz is the only publication to show restraint and though it does dedicate the top headline and ample inner space to covering the report, its coverage is nowhere near as engulfing.
Given free rein and plenty of space, headline writers seem to have done their best to use every expression, metaphor or wordplay on “fire,” “burning,” “flames,” “blaze,” etc., they could think of. From Yedioth’s “Burning failure,” to Israel Hayom’s “The fire rages on,” the theme was all but exhausted. The burning motif was also noticeable in the graphics selection, with Maariv displaying side bar stories as if they were written on burnt parchment, and Yedioth using up yellow ink by the gallon for its headlines.
The coverage itself is rather similar in all of the papers. All the publications provide readers with highlights of the report, a testament to Lindenstrauss’s public relations smarts, releasing copies of the report to journalists days in advance under publication embargo until the formal publication of it yesterday afternoon, so that the outlets would have time to write it up in advance. All the papers feature interviews and responses from family members who lost their loved ones in the fire. They also dedicate room to the ministerial blame game that ensued in the fallout of the report’s publication and feature column after column of analysis of the report, its findings, its recommendations and its likely implications.
Unfortunately the consensus seems to be that little has been learned, even less has been done, nobody will take responsibility, and the next preventable tragedy is just around the corner. When it comes to the ministers in charge and their “Special Responsibility” for the disaster, as Lindenstrauss terms it, it appears they’re taking a page out of Billy Joel’s songbook:
We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning since the world’s been turning.
We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
It will still burn on, and on, and on, and on…
From forest fire to ceasefire
Of course there was other news taking place in Israel yesterday. Somewhat ironically, the first non-forest fire related headlines in the papers report on a “ceasefire“ being in the works between Israel and Hamas, bringing to an end an escalation that saw roughly a hundred missiles rain on Israel’s southern towns.
Settlers from the Givat Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El were quite literally sent packing yesterday, with Maariv reporting on Page 24 that the government is providing them with all the cardboard boxes, nylon wrapping and tape they can use prior to their July 1 evacuation. According to a Israel Hayom report, however, it may be too early to start wrapping things up, since the state is planning to ask the Supreme Court for a three-month postponement of the evacuation date.
Yisrael Beytenu MK Anastassia Michaeli is sparking controversy once more with a new round of cringe-worthy homophobic statements. Her latest quotes, in which she says women who have abortions become lesbians and calls gay pride parades “perversion with no limits” have produced widespread condemnations, as reported in Maariv — and even a complaint to the police, as Haaretz reports. In light of her feelings, Michaeli will likely be bummed by the widespread reports of 80s pop group Wham’s anticipated reunion concert.
A new partner for peace?
In Yedioth, Guy Bechor writes about the “Afghani effect” taking place throughout the Arab world. Bechor argues that with stable regimes crumbling all around it, the pressure on Israel to reach peace with the Palestinians is diminishing. “It is no longer possible to sign a peace deal with regimes. What’s the point of signing a deal with the ‘Palestinian Authority’ or the ‘Assad regime’ who tomorrow will no longer exist, replaced by some Islamic militia or another?”
In Maariv, meanwhile, Yael Paz-Melamed urges Israel to pursue relations with the very same militias. Paz-Melamed writes that instead of getting stuck in a paradigm in which only brute strength can solve the problem with Hamas, the government should think outside the box and reach out to its leaders. “If we give the Hamas leadership things it desperately desires, like removing the blockade and opening the passages, which would give an economic boost to the Gaza Strip, perhaps such moves could create a new dynamic. They may even lead to diplomatic negotiations, resulting in a long-term ceasefire,” she suggests.