A tale of two contested cities
Hebrew media review

A tale of two contested cities

The press highlights election day in Nazareth and Beit Shemesh; sparring in the Knesset ahead of the draft bill vote

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Bet Shemesh mayoral candidate Moshe Abutbul casts his vote at a polling station, during the second round of the local elections in the city, March 11, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Bet Shemesh mayoral candidate Moshe Abutbul casts his vote at a polling station, during the second round of the local elections in the city, March 11, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

By the time readers picked up the Hebrew papers on Wednesday morning, much of their coverage on the Nazareth and Beit Shemesh elections and the impending vote for the enlistment law in the Knesset was no longer relevant.

Since none of the papers caught the election results in time for the morning run, the Israeli press speculates about the revolutionary legislation that will be voted on in the Knesset on Wednesday, and describes at length the mostly uneventful election day in the two cities whose municipal elections in October 2013 were overturned due to voter fraud.

Yedioth Ahronoth leads with the vision of secular mayoral candidate for Beit Shemesh, Eli Cohen, for the future of the city. (Cohen ultimately lost the election to the ultra-Orthodox incumbent Moshe Abutbul.)

“I know this is a fateful election,” Cohen said. “It’s obvious to me that if I lose, the city is lost; there are no third chances. The city is bound to lose its democratic character. I understand the concern regarding what will happen the day after elections.”

The Nazareth elections are mentioned briefly in the spread with the incumbent and longtime mayor of the city confidently asserting he will win the election. “The feeling is great,” Ramez Jaraisy said. “We are expecting a significant disparity in the final vote in my favor. Let Ali Salam rest on his laurels and continue to think he will win.” (Jaraisy was defeated by Salam in the final tally.)

Israel Hayom writes that after midnight, with a high turnout of 83.6%, or 54,000 people, the Nazareth elections were tipping in Salam’s favor.

Similarly, Haaretz provides a round-up of the humdrum election day, but tucks it deeper in the paper and does not shy away from incorporating scathing commentary on the pervasive religious tensions wracking Beit Shemesh.

“’Haredi,’ ‘secular’ – these two words were uttered numerous times in disdain, and it’s unclear how the election results will affect the level of hostility… The total Haredi enlistment [to the elections] meant Ramat Beit Shemesh B, kingdom of the extreme separatists, saw an unprecedented sight: Extremists from birth took advantage for the first time of their democratic right and voted in the elections under the Zionist government,” the paper writes.

But the discord in what is arguably Israel’s most socially divided city has nothing on the Israeli government. With two major bills up for vote – the draft bill for the ultra-Orthodox, and the referendum bill – the continued opposition boycott of the sessions, as well as bickering within the coalition, dominate headlines.

Jewish Home MK Yoni Chetboun (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Jewish Home MK Yoni Chetboun (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Yedioth Ahronoth emphasizes the internal politicking in Israel’s parliament ahead of the long-awaited second and third readings of the conscription bill. The paper writes that MK Yoni Chetboun of the right-wing Jewish Home party publicly called the bill “anti-Jewish,” drawing a furious outcry from his fellow party members who say Chetboun voted for the bill in a closed party session in the Knesset a few days earlier.

“Chetboun just wants to win in the headlines,” an official told the paper.

The paper also writes that Knesset members running for president are caught in a bind. Labor MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer must vote in favor of the bill or risk losing the support of Yesh Atid, while Likud MK Reuven Rivlin is expected to support the bill and in so doing, will lose the Haredi vote.

Israel Hayom also leads with Chetboun, the opposition boycott, and its possible implications.

In a column for the paper, Dan Margalit writes that Chetboun’s outburst is indicative of a “troubling” trend – that the Haredi MKs are slowly gaining a hold on the Jewish Home party.

“The Haredi rabbis are gaining power in the Jewish Home, at the expense of the Zionist, knitted kippah wearers,” he writes.

While Chetboun falls squarely into the camp of those influenced by the Haredim, “he is not alone.”

“There are signs of the strong hold of the Haredim on the Jewish Home. Minister Uri Ariel already said that the law, which will pass in the Knesset, will not be implemented, although he voted for it in the Knesset. Even the head of the committee, Ayelet Shaked, cooperated with the pro-Haredi agenda, though she did it clandestinely. What is happening in the Jewish Home?”

Haaretz quotes an unnamed Jewish Home MK, who said that Chetboun would be disbarred from the various committees in the Knesset on which he serves should he oppose the draft vote. The paper also cites unnamed MKs who said they are “definitely concerned about the fragmentation in the Jewish Home ahead of the vote, and that Chetboun is only the first of those who will oppose the bill.”

The papers also mourn the death of former Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 72. In Yedioth Ahronoth, Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel writes a tribute entitled “The man of principles.”

Edmond Levy (left) giving his committee's report to Benjamin Netanyahu last month. (photo credit: Flash90)
Edmond Levy (left) giving his committee’s report to Benjamin Netanyahu last month. (photo credit: Flash90)

“Edmond Levy’s most prominent trait was without a doubt his humility. In my eyes, this is the most important trait for a judge, and it characterized both his legal methods and his personality… When he resigned, he refused to have the special ceremony made for all justices upon retirement from the High Court. He retired with the quiet and modesty that distinguished him,” Turkel writes.

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