Unity and discord
Hebrew media review

Unity and discord

A fuming Israeli cabinet reacts to US recognition of the new Palestinian government, but it tempers its displeasure with moderation

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) poses for a picture with the members of the new Palestinian unity government in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Monday, June 2, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) poses for a picture with the members of the new Palestinian unity government in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Monday, June 2, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)

The day after the swearing-in of the Palestinian unity government, the makeup of the new technocratic entity is overshadowed in Tuesday’s papers by the US decision to recognize it and maintain its aid to the Palestinians, leaving the Israeli government seething.

While the news reports highlight Israel’s enraged reaction, the columnists insist the Israeli decisions reached in a high-level Monday security cabinet meeting — during which the prime minister said the government would hold the PA responsible for rocket attacks — are relatively “moderate.”

Yedioth Ahronoth writes that Israel is “furious,” while Israel Hayom characterizes it as “fuming” and Haaretz refers to a “serious confrontation.”

All cite an unnamed Israeli official who says that Israel is “deeply disappointed” by the American response. The three newspapers also quote Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, a member of the security cabinet, lambasting the US. “The American naivete is record-breaking,” he said.

“Cooperation with Hamas, which is a designated terror organization in the US that murders women and children, is unacceptable,” he said. “American capitulation time and again to Palestinian dictates greatly harms the possibility of returning to the negotiations with the Palestinians, and will lead Israel to take unilateral steps.”

Israel Hayom quotes another unnamed official who said the not-so-groundbreaking cabinet decision was agreed upon due to considerations of preserving US goodwill, but nonetheless “they [the US] did something bordering on back-stabbing.”

Haaretz provides more information on the behind-the-scenes dealings in the Israeli cabinet meeting. Citing anonymous Knesset members, the paper reports that the prime minister will prevent future Palestinian elections from taking place in east Jerusalem should Hamas be on the list. The paper notes that a similar attempt was made during the 2006 Palestinian elections, under then-prime minister Ariel Sharon’s watch, but ultimately Israel caved to US pressure amid claims the ban would compromise the Palestinians’ democratic right.

The paper reports that while Economy Minister Naftali Bennett took the harshest stance in the closed-door cabinet meeting and called for cutting all ties with the Palestinians, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni urged maintaining a relationship with certain Palestinian leaders – a resolution that was ultimately adopted. However, every such collaboration with the Palestinians would have to be approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

In an opinion piece for the paper, diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid downplays the high-level meeting and its decisions.

“The security cabinet meeting decision regarding the Palestinian unity government was a very far cry from the strong statements Benjamin Netanyahu and a number of his ministers sounded in past weeks on the subject,” he writes. While in his statements Netanyahu did not shy away from “populism and overreaction,” in his actions he displayed “caution and restraint.”

“Taking into account the makeup of the present Israeli government, the cabinet’s decision yesterday can even be defined as moderate. Israel did not announce that it does not recognize the new Palestinian government, did not decide to boycott its members, and did not fully freeze ties with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”

In Yedioth, the sentiment is echoed by Shimon Shiffer, who calls the cabinet meeting the “victory of the moderates.”

“Yesterday, in the cabinet, these moderate officials set the agenda. The Livni-Lapid camp, which holds a considerable share of the coalition, managed to stop any radical moves in response to the Palestinian unity – since any such measures would likely only sink Israel deeper in this advocacy pit, and present us again as the stubborn and peace-resistant side.”

Similarly, columnist Dan Margalit in Israel Hayom urges caution in dealing with the new technocratic government.

“With the new facts, Israel needs to act [gingerly] with gentle tongs to remove the thorn of Hamas from the flesh of the Palestinian leadership,” and strong statements from right-wing MKs only compromise this aim, he writes.

However, for Yedioth, nothing — not even the strained US relations and new Palestinian leadership — can undermine the anticipation of the upcoming Rolling Stones concert.

The Rolling Stones land at Ben Gurion Airport (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Rolling Stones land at Ben Gurion Airport (photo credit: Courtesy)

The paper dedicates its second page to information about the Wednesday night performance, including a full setlist, and a detailed description of the rock band’s landing Monday evening at Ben Gurion airport.

Rami Fortis, the Israeli rocker set to open for the Stones, writes an effusive and starstruck op-ed describing his sheer excitement at the upcoming gig.

When asked to play, “I said to myself ‘wow.’ It’s more or less, from my perspective, like opening for the Beatles. There is no difference. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, crazy, and totally exciting. I’m trembling. In a very good way, but trembling [nonetheless]… I think the Stones’ arrival is nothing less than a historic moment.”

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