Had Leo Tolstoy visited Israel, he might have called his opus “Peace and War” and not vice versa, for looking at today’s Hebrew press it seems that the infighting in the country’s largest ultra-orthodox party has only intensified after the signing of a power-sharing agreement.
Yes, just when Israeli voters thought the catfight between incumbent Eli Yishai and comeback kid (and by kid I mean middle-aged former felon) Aryeh Deri had come to an end, three of the four major papers have prominent stories on sallies that are continuing between the sides.
Yedioth Ahronoth traces the dispute between the two, who will jointly lead the party (together with the oft-forgotten Ariel Atias, who puts the “oy” in troika) over a dispute on what kind of campaign to run. According to the papers, Deri wants a social style campaign that focuses on the downtrodden, while Yishai wants to use popular anger toward African migrants as a stepping stone toward office.
Writing about Shas on the street level, the paper’s Oded Shalom and Akiva Novik note that within the party’s base, Deri appears to be the favored candidate, with the more palatable election strategy. “The street is going for Deri. They yearn for his return. When Yishai leaves the synagogue after prayers and stops next to the reporters falling over him, he seems like somebody trying hard to instill self-confidence. Not far from the mob of reporters stand a number of youths chanting ‘Deri, Deri, Deri.’ At the Yichveh Daat house of study, on the side of the winding road, there was sweeping agreement. Not only that Deri needs to return, but that he is obligated to.”
Maariv seems to have presupposed that the social justice campaign will win out, writing that Deri did not waste a moment to start stumping for the poor vote after being welcomed back into the party. Citing a party source, the paper reveals that the social justice angle is intended to rehab the image of Deri, who served time in the clink for taking bribes a decade ago, and to prove that he brings votes to the party. “The goal is no less than 15 seats,” the source tells the paper.
Israel Hayom quotes a number of members of the “Deri army” unhappy with all the bullets the old-new politicians had to bite (or frogs he had to swallow in the Hebrew parlance) in order to make it back into the party’s top ranks, with one going so far as to accuse Yishai of being behind the campaign to see Deri off to the big house. “Anybody able to sit at the same table with these people that betrayed him, that can forget all those years just because of a new reality … I can’t be in the same room with them. I’m depressed and don’t envy what he is going through.”
Haaretz, following the old journalistic adage of following the money, runs an exposé on how much each budding Knesset member spends to gain a high spot on their party slate, which not only determines whether they will enter the halls of power, but just how powerful they will be within those halls. Not surprisingly, the biggest spenders have the best shot of making it to the big time. Among those with the fattest coffers are the top members of the Likud party, like ministers Gilad Erdan and Gideon Sa’ar, who spent NIS 395,000 each during the 2009 primaries. Over at Labor the top spender was Avishay Braverman, who funneled NIS 279,000 into the economy for his seat. Surprisingly, party head Shelly Yachimovich only had to spend NIS 80,000 for her spot, initially near the top of the list.
PA to Iran: Don’t shoot until you get more accurate
If one man will be happy about the shifting Israeli political landscape, it’s Mahmoud Abbas, who tells Yedioth that the current impasse in peace talks is the fault of the leadership in Jerusalem, who either don’t consider him worth talking to (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) or want him dead (Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman). He also professes to not know who Yachimovich is, despite the fact she will likely head the opposition if polls stay where they are.
Yet in the wide-ranging interview, the Palestinian president tries to come off as pragmatic, pleading that an Arab Spring protest in the West Bank will harm Israel most of all and expressing fears over an Iranian nuclear bomb (accidentally hitting the West Bank). “We know the Iranians aren’t always accurate and if a bomb falls or something else, it can land by accident on us. When you talk about unconventional weapons, there is no difference between Tel Aviv and Ramallah.”
A juicy tidbit is also buried in the column of the paper’s Nahum Barnea, who writes about a small Kuwaiti news outlet that seems to have such a line into Netanyahu’s office that they often outscoop Israeli journalists, as they did recently when they reported that Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz had leaked information from a secret meeting on Iran. Barnea surmises that the source for the stories sends information to Kuwait to help mask its origins and identity, laundering information as if it’s money. He points to close Netanyahu advisor Natan Eshel, who has since been forced to retire but remains active, as the likely source of the information.
Pests and power
Maariv runs a special report on the state of IDF mess halls, which would probably not earn a Michelin star, or even a D rating from the New York department of health. The story, complete with pictures, notes that cockroaches are found crawling in food, meat is not cooked, spoiled eggs are used and dishes are washed, for some odd reason, with window cleaner. “There are more cockroaches and bugs in a dining hall than there are soldiers in the whole base,” one soldier complains. Yum yum.
Perhaps the army could afford a bug zapper if power weren’t so damn expensive. Haaretz’s editorial board laments the state of the country’s electricity industry, calling for the Israel’s power supply to be deregulated and opened up to outside competition as a way of bringing down prices, especially as the electric company’s workers are the most handsomely rewarded in the country. “At a time when the IEC was fighting for its financial life, it took care to set aside billions of extra shekels for its employees’ salaries, and consequently, for their pensions as well,” the paper writes. “The IEC is poor, but its pensioners are rich. And all this, of course, was financed with the public’s money: It’s the public that pays the company’s employees and retirees, via the electricity rates.”