Israeli papers are awash in yellow today as the press celebrates the Euroleague title clinched last night by Maccabi Tel Aviv’s basketball team, in a hard-fought win over Real Madrid.
All three papers run nearly identical lead photos of the team posing with the trophy after the game, with the tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth going wall to wall with the pic, using a broadsheet-style sideways front page.
Israel Hayom’s lead headline announces that the team has brought “honor to the country,” crowning coach David Blatt as “King David.”
The paper gives a photo retrospective of all six championships the team won, starting with the 1977 cup that put them “on the map” (in the words of Tal Brody), all the way up to Sunday night’s win in Italy, and also includes photos of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres sitting awkwardly and watching the game, each by their lonesome.
The paper’s Dan Margalit writes that the win was something the country, desperate for good press internationally, needed:
“Israel needed the good vibes. It needed to show the world that it has what to offer that put it in the family of nations. We’ve needed these things in the last few years. Our friends around the world needed them too. A Nobel Prize in Chemistry for an Israeli from the Weizmann Institute and to her colleague in Haifa is a celebration, as is a European basketball championship.”
In Yedioth, Raz Shechnik, ostensibly a journalist but writing as a fan, writes about the “yellow fever” pandemonium among the team’s faithful in Milan.
“Real Madrid was a rich, beautiful team, with a flashy squad that has been together already several years running,” he writes in hackneyed, breathless style. “The experts didn’t give the Yellows a shadow of a chance in the final. But once again they proved on the parquet that big names aren’t everything. The giant yellow heart and soul, along with tens of thousands of crazies who paid thousands of shekels to go to Milan, were simply bigger than the Spaniards. Everyone knows that Europe is yellow.”
The paper, which has a picture of Peres looking like he actually cares about the game, also reports on a conversation between the president and Blatt after the win. “I watched the whole game and almost had a heart attack,” the 90-year-old president is quoted as telling the coach.
Haaretz’s coverage is much more modest, its stories relegated to the sports pages. Instead the party-pooping paper leads with the news that Netanyahu is expected to support Silvan Shalom for the presidency, though not in public.
Shalom, a Likud MK who was recently accused of, but not charged with, sexual misconduct, is considered a dark horse, though he has yet to declare his candidacy officially. The paper notes that public support by Netanyahu could actually end up hurting both of them, since Netanyahu won’t want his name sullied by the allegations surrounding Shalom, though it does not explain why Shalom could be hurt by Netanyahu. Until Shalom declares, though, a Mexican standoff situation has ensued because of what the paper quotes a source calling a “chicken and egg problem.”
“Silvan doesn’t want to announce his candidacy without being convinced of a tailwind from Netanyahu,” the source is quoted as saying in the paper. “The prime minister, by contrast, doesn’t want to declare his support for Silvan and work for him and then discover that Silvan got cold feet because of the public criticism.”
Israel Hayom reports that Shalom is also gunning for support from Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and will likely get it. “Over the weekend Liberman said he was committed to support whoever Netanyahu supports for the post, and he intends to stand by his word,” the paper writes.
In Yedioth, Efraim Halevy addresses Israel’s reluctance to back the US in its war of words with Russia, instead preferring to stay on the sidelines, a move which has angered Washington. The US, Halevy writes, deserves more respect considering all it does for Israel.
“What is the US for Israel in 2014? It gives us more than $2 billion a year in military aid, it signs numberless deals to send us weapons, keeping our qualitative edge over other weapons in the region, including those Moscow gives to our enemies. It participates, among other things, in financing the development of Iron Dome, which protects our towns; it has created an extremely close intelligence relationship; countless times it has provided cover as a trusted and stable country.”
Akiva Eldar in Haaretz skewers Netanyahu, Obama and other administrations for expecting the Palestinians to abide by the Quartet for Middle East Peace’s conditions while Jerusalem ignores the selfsame standards.
“The ‘rampant’ construction in the settlements and the outposts embodies a violation of the Quartet’s three conditions: it leads to violent acts, sabotages the chance of establishing a viable state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and is a blatant violation of commitments and agreements. Nevertheless, Abbas recognizes the Netanyahu-Liberman-Bennett government and is even willing to hold virtual talks with it,” he writes.