Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and political upstart Yair Lapid have countless advisers, but if Friday’s papers are any indication, the Hebrew press in Israel thinks they could use a few more. All four papers are filled with speculation, opinions dressed up as analyses, and more, as the dust settles over the elections for the 19th Knesset and the negotiations for entry into the government begins.
Yedioth Ahronoth leads off with the blockbuster revelation that Netanyahu not only offered Lapid the finance minister position, as could be expected, but also the Foreign Ministry, which he had been rumored to be saving for Avigdor Liberman, should the ex-foreign minister beat his fraud and breach-of-trust raps.
The story, based on two unnamed sources close to Netanyahu and Lapid, says that the prime minister offered Yesh Atid’s leader the choice of one of the two top positions, and that he would have thrown the Defense Ministry into the mix as well had Lapid been interested in it. (Israel Hayom, which some consider to be a Netanyahu mouthpiece, makes no mention of the Foreign Ministry suggestion.)
Yedioth goes on to report that Lapid’s people think he should steer clear of the Finance Ministry, which could bury him, especially considering Israel’s less-than-stellar current financial situation.
Columnist Sever Plotzker agrees, instead urging Netanyahu to place Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, of the post-tent protest panel that led to a number of reforms, in charge of the treasury.
“Why Trajtenberg? Because of his professionalism. Because of the depth of his opinions. Because of his ethics. Because of the great faith the public places in him. Because of the report of the committee he headed, the most important socioeconomic document in the last decade,” he writes.
With all the political appointments Netanyahu will have to hand out to make all his likely coalition partners happy, giving such a high post to a non-politician seems unlikely. In fact, Israel Hayom’s Dan Margalit says the prime minister’s biggest challenge will be handing out enough senior positions to make everybody happy. So he comes up with a pretty silly idea to solve the problem: kick those who can’t be ministers out of the country.
“If you assume a 3:1 ratio of Knesset members to ministers, Likud will have seven ministers plus the prime minister. This possibility could create an unprecedented fight within the ruling party. To prevent this, and in order to advance new faces into the governing arena, Netanyahu needs to quickly open the Foreign Ministry panel for promotions, which will absorb (into embassies and consulates) the ministers and MKs of the coalition parties who have become refugees of the 2013 elections.”
Maariv reports, based on a survey, that 38% of the public would like to see a coalition of just Likud-Beytenu, Yesh Atid and Jewish Home, though surprisingly 44% of the public would be happy for Shas to play a part in the government, as well.
Surprising, because on Maariv’s front page is a vow by Shas not to give in on drafting the ultra-Orthodox into the army, an issue that has united most of the non-ultra-Orthodox public, and it’s served as a firestarter for an anti-Shas backlash. According to the report, Netanyahu is trying to create a large-enough coalition so that he won’t need to rely on the ultra-Orthodox party for support.
Arye Deri, one of Shas’s many heads, is quoted saying that, if push comes to shove, he’ll take his black hats and pray with them elsewhere. “In a situation where there isn’t an alternative, we’ll sit in the opposition,” he says.
Don’t dress your family in blazers
The paper devotes a large chunk of its front page to one column, by Nadav Eyal, in which he heralds the coming of a new politics (Where have we heard this before?) and tells Netanyahu that he is a political dinosaur and needs to stop being so square, going so far as to critique his fashion choices.
“Netanyahu is not the only senior politician from the old guard, and certainly not the worst of them. He’s just an example, but what an example,” he writes. “His public image at first faded, and then totally disappeared. When he and his wife had a few free minutes in Washington, his bureau said they took a stroll and he quoted to her from important American historical texts (from memory!). A normal person asks himself: This is what Bibi does? Strolls and quotes to his wife from the Constitution? And at the ballot station this week he marched his whole family, including his two sons, dressed in blazers, tensed, starched and buttoned up. And this was a day when people went to the beach. This gives off a sense of total disconnect. Not disconnected from good intentions, those the prime minister has, even if you don’t agree with him. But disconnected from the public.”
Haaretz writes that “everything is in Lapid’s hands,” though it places those words below a graphic showing that, in fact, Netanyahu could form a slim coalition without the former journalist and his 18 buddies. Still, everyone needs to get in on the free-advice game, and much of the front page is just a list of writers and what they’ve decided to pontificate on.
The paper’s Ari Shavit, repeating a sentiment already repeated ad nauseum, says the election results proved that, while the electorate wants Netanyahu to be prime minister, they want a different Netanyahu in charge.
“The combination of failure and success caused the electoral system to turn into five different referendums on the prime minister. Do you like or not like Netanyahu? Don’t like him. Do you value Netanyahu: No. Do you rely on him? No. Do you want him to be prime minister? Yes. If, so who in the hell do you vote for? You vote for a political power that will hook up with Netanyahu and will push Netanyahu in the direction we want him to go.”
One direction people likely want to see him turn is toward the Americans and the peace process. Lucky for Netanyahu, he will have a quick start on trying to patch up ties with the Great Satan and the Palestinians, as secretary of state-to-be, John Kerry, is expected to visit in February, Haaretz reports.
The point of the visit won’t be to lollygag in the rumpus room of the Prime Minister’s Residence, though; there’s serious business to be restarted.
“President Obama does not intend to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian issue personally, and will give Kerry full authority, independence and support on the matter,” an unnamed Israeli official told the paper. “If Kerry thinks there is a chance for progress in the peace process, he will invest personal effort in it and will come to the region frequently. But if he sees after a few visits that there is no will from the parties to progress, he will go and deal with other issues such as Africa or relations with China and Russia.”