When life gives you non-binding lemons, make lemonade, they say. And on Friday morning Israeli tabloids squeeze a big ol’ pitcher of it, or maybe some more sinister drink, out of the 35 slightly less rancid lemons thrown Israel’s way at the United Nations Thursday.
Never mind the fact that 128 countries voted against the resolution condemning the US for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, never mind the fact that the measure wasn’t even directly aimed at Israel, never mind the fact that the resolution and whole exercise was ultimately meaningless, and never mind the fact that these 35 countries did not vote against the measure, but merely abstained. (Nine countries, including the US and Israel voted no, and there were 21 no-shows.) The result is so wonderful that Israel Hayom dumps a whole bucket of sugar into its lemonade, splashing the words “Achievement for Israel” across its front page and reporting that the “Israeli lobbying and Trump’s threats worked.”
Even mainstream Yedioth Ahronoth, which is not normally a government toady, drinks some of the lemon Kool-ade, its front page featuring a column that claims that “we won,” albeit alongside another one that notes that “we lost.”
Haaretz, meanwhile, forgoes the beverage and bites straight into the sour lemons, noting that not only did 128 countries vote for the measure, but that the number includes some allies that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thought were on his side.
But in Israel Hayom, everything is awesome. “The voting board at the UN yesterday showed 35 squares lit up in yellow, flickering like a sign that history is changing. These were the 35 countries that abstained on the vote condemning Trump recognizing Jerusalem, plus nine others who were against,” the paper’s lede reads, only mentioning as an aside that 128 countries voted for it.
To former Israeli envoy to the UN Ron Prosor, the 128 number matters the least, since the idea of Israel winning a vote in the world body isn’t on the table anyway.
“There are those who might see the vote tally yesterday and conclude it was a loss for Israel and the US, but that would be a mistake,” he writes in a column for the paper. “The automatic majority against Israel passes 22 resolutions a year by a wide margin and will continue to do so. The fight in the General Assembly isn’t over whether a resolution will pass or not. That’s a lost battle. The fight is over how much it will be by and on the quality of the side standing with truth, morality and justice, and yesterday, that side was significant.”
Yedioth’s headline on its main news story is “(Almost) the whole world against us,” and while it notes that the resolution is ultimately meaningless, the piece still notes that “it wasn’t nice to hear, not in Washington and not in Jerusalem.”
Yet columnist Noah Kliger argues that by shrinking the automatic majority against it, Israel won, or rather didn’t lose, and the Palestinian victory is pyrrhic at best.
“Victory pronouncements won’t help the non-state of Palestine or its leader — even Mahmoud Abbas understands that he absorbed a harsh blow yesterday, and if he ever wants a sovereign Palestinian state, he will have no choice but to accept Israel’s conditions,” he writes.
Thirty-five is a nice number and all, but it’s not that big, argues Shimon Schiffer in the same paper, noting that Israel still has to contend with the fact that 128 countries think calling Jerusalem Israel’s capital is a bad idea.
“Netanyahu likes to brag that there’s a revolution taking place around the world regarding Israel, but according to the results of the vote, the revolution is quite limited,” he writes.
Indeed even India, a country that Israel has courted and become quite close with recently — with Netanyahu slated to travel there next month — voted against the measure, Haaretz points out.
That paper’s Noa Landau pens a column with both a similar headline to Schiffer’s (“Joy of the abstentions,” for Landau and “Meager joy,” for Schiffer) and a similar take about Netanyahu’s supposed diplomatic headway.
An Israeli diplomat said the main takeaway from this episode might be a “lesson in humility. Netanyahu’s many statements over the past two years about a purported dramatic change in the world’s attitude to Israel now look different, to say the least, in light of the voting board in New York, where 128 glowing green squares appeared to the sound of thunderous applause that echoed in the chamber when the results became known,” she writes.
While Yedioth admits the vote is meaningless but still plays it tops, Haaretz doesn’t even put it above the fold, instead leading off with an exposé revealing allegations of fresh corruption against Interior Minister and convicted felon Aryeh Deri, who the paper says took NIS 200,000 from businessman Ilan Sharabi, didn’t report it, and then did work that should have been considered a conflict of interest.
Deri is just one cog, though, and he features in a lineup of six mugshots of top government officials on the broadsheet’s front page, from Netanyahu to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and more, all of whom have been suspected of dirty dealings. The paper’s real target isn’t the gang of six, though, but rather Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who allows the corrupt to stay in power by going along with the government.
The corruption is apparently enough to make even a non-leftist mad, leading to a right-wing anti-corruption rally planned for Saturday night and derided by Israel Hayom as a ploy by Yedioth publisher Arnon Mozes to lay the groundwork for a right-wing party led by former Likud defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and former Netanyahu aide and current Yedioth columnist Yoaz Hendel.
“Is this anti-corruption protest nothing more than a founding event for a new movement that will run against Likud at the next election,” Israel Hayom columnist Moti Tuchfeld asks. “Time will tell.”
If it is a plot by Mozes, he’s exceptionally good at keeping it secret, with Yedioth not even mentioning the protest in its news section (Even Haaretz devotes its lead editorial to telling people to go).
Hendel himself does address the rally in his weekly column, though, a meandering affair in which he tries to show that he’s not necessarily against Netanyahu’s ideology, but wants to get the national religious youth more involved in politics, and not the corrupt kind.
“I plan on standing in Zion Square in Jerusalem and saying that I am for the rule of law and for authorities, for the checks and balances and limits on power and statesmanship. Part of the nationalist camp that believes in morals for myself and for society,” he writes. “This voice cannot just be the voice of one political camp, we can’t turn morals into a referendum on Netanyahu.”