Reservist training is not the first casualty of the war between the Finance Ministry and the military, but it is the most prominent. The IDF is having a heck of a time on the front pages of Wednesday’s papers as it gets battered for canceling training, holding live-fire training in the territories, and changing the definition of who is a disabled veteran.
The canceling of all reservist training for the rest of the year still reverberates on Israel Hayom’s front page. “It’s no trick and it’s no shtick,” IDF chief Benny Gantz declares, and the paper warns that more cuts may be coming. Gantz spoke at a closed-door meeting on Tuesday and while he was upset about the budget, he promised that the IDF would abide by all government decisions. “The IDF is under the authority of the state, not vice versa. What Knesset and the government agree on the for the budget is what we do.”
The paper briefly mentions that the budget crisis could also hurt the funding of Israel’s mid-range missile defense shield “David’s Sling.”
Over in Haaretz, Amos Harel says the IDF is the boy who cried wolf, only this is the time when there really is a wolf. But what is more frustrating for the IDF is that the government hasn’t approved a multi-year plan for the military. The lack of a planning “forces the army to improvise ad hoc solutions, like the canceling of training.” Harel points out that despite the political blustering, no real steps have been taken to solve the crisis. “A week after returning from Japan, Netanyahu hasn’t even convened a cabinet meeting to discuss the issue.”
Haaretz’s main concern, though, and the subject of its top story, is live-fire training the IDF holds in the West Bank. “IDF: Live-fire training in the territories used to remove Palestinian population,” reads the front page headline. The story goes on to report that the IDF has increased its live-fire training zones in Area C (which is under Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords) as a way to reduce the number of illegal buildings built by Palestinians living in the area.
Despite the inflammatory headline, it takes a close reading of the article to realize that the IDF isn’t actually firing on Palestinians to remove them from the land. Instead it is designating land where illegal structures have been built as a closed military zone, then clearing out the illegal buildings and using the land for training. The article points out however, that illegal Jewish settlements that have expanded into firing zones are not removed.
Changing the rules
The IDF makes the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth as well, but for an entirely different reason. In light of the budget crisis, the IDF is changing who can be classified as a disabled veteran in Israel. Until now, if a person was in the army and was injured, that person would receive benefits from the Defense Ministry (instead of civilian healthcare). Now the IDF is changing the rules. Career soldiers will now have to show that their disability or illness is due to their army service; soldiers on leave who require medical care unrelated to their service will still be taken care of by the army, with one new exception: if their injury resulted from illegal activity like driving under the influence or without a valid license.
Also in Yedioth is an article about a video purporting to show the shooting deaths of two Palestinian youths on May 15. The security camera video apparently shows that the two teenagers were unarmed and didn’t seem to pose an immediate danger to the lives of the soldiers (who are not visible in the video). The IDF says the video was selectively edited to achieve a goal. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said, “This was a violent incident where Palestinian protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Border Police, a situation that endangered their lives, and the policemen acted accordingly. I’ve seen a lot of edited videos that Palestinians have spread. This particular video I haven’t seen, but I am familiar with the pattern.”
In the crime world, it seems that one of the most powerful crime families used a public construction company to launder its money. Israel Hayom reports two controlling shareholders of the construction company were arrested yesterday, and police said this was the first time they could prove a direct link between the wealthy and organized crime.
Did you hear the one about…
Freshly retired “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno landed in Israel Tuesday for his first visit. Yedioth snags a quick interview with Leno, who is in the country to host the Genesis Awards, and Leno tried to avoid any controversy. Leno said he didn’t want to get into politics and that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict didn’t keep him away. “There are disagreements in every place and I’m not getting into that. No one pressured me not to come and everything is fine.” As for his plans in Israel, aside from hosting the Genesis Awards, he intends “to visit all sorts of places.”