Hebrew media review

All eyes on the presidents

Rivlin’s consultations ahead of coalition-building, and Obama’s critique of the PM, make headlines in the Israeli press

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

President Reuven Rivlin on March 18, 2015. (photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin on March 18, 2015. (photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO)

Though an ugly election season is officially over, the ceaseless disputes between political parties and the diplomatic crisis with the United States are relentlessly dominating headlines in Sunday’s Hebrew newspapers. In the spotlight are the US and Israeli presidents, with President Reuven Rivlin poised to consult with the Israeli factions on coalition-building, and President Barack Obama’s rebuke for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu highlighted.

Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Rivlin will begin his rounds on Sunday to collect party heads’ the recommendations for the premiership, but notes that Netanyahu is likely to be nominated. Rivlin will formally announce the results on Wednesday, it reports. Still, an unnamed Likud official tells the paper the negotiations are expected to be “longer and more difficult than expected.”

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman are expected to spar over the defense and foreign ministries, the report said. Meanwhile, Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon is demanding that his party receive the finance, internal security, and welfare ministries, as well as the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee. But sources in the Likud party said that having Kahlon govern both the treasury and the Finance Committee would not be fair, since his representative in the committee would approve Kahlon’s budget without full consideration.

Over in Haaretz, the paper more explicitly notes that “in light of the results [of the election], it’s clear that 61 MKs will recommend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the president.” Like Yedioth, the paper writes that Netanyahu is likely to encounter difficulties in assembling a coalition.

“The political parties are examining the opportunities to create political alliances, like that after the last election between Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, which forced Netanyahu to bring the Jewish Home into the coalition,” it reports. The paper notes that Kulanu’s Yoav Galant and the Jewish Home’s Ayelet Shaked are expected to fight over the internal security portfolio, while Shas and Jewish Home are thought to go head-to-head over the religious affairs portfolio. Liberman wants defense, welfare, and immigration absorption, and United Torah Judaism wants the Health Ministry and the Finance Committee.

Haaretz also leads with Obama’s interview with the Huffington Post on Saturday, in which the president maintained that the US believes Netanyahu is opposed to a Palestinian state, and said the prime minister’s anti-Arab remarks on election day put Israel’s democracy in jeopardy.

“From Obama’s remarks, it’s clear he was not convinced by the clarifications Netanyahu tried to issue in the past few days, whether in interviews with the US media or in the telephone conversation between the two on Thursday,” Haaretz notes.

US President Barack Obama, March 19, 2015 (photo credit: AFP/Chris Jackson/Getty Images North America)
US President Barack Obama, March 19, 2015 (photo credit: AFP/Chris Jackson/Getty Images North America)

Israel Hayom leads with the Likud response to Obama’s interview, namely that the US president was harping on Netanyahu’s remarks to deflect attention away from the Iranian nuclear deal.

“In Jerusalem, they are ‘very concerned’ about the US’s race to a deal with Iran. The assessment in Israel is that Obama is really ‘rushing to a deal.’ Right now, in Israel there is an understanding that sources in the international community will try to pressure Israel on the negotiations with the Palestinians to divert the conversation away from the bad deal with Iran,” the report said.

Columnist Boaz Bismuth writes that Obama, not Netanyahu, is responsible for the diplomatic crisis between the two allies.

“Could it be that President Obama, who is still trapped in the old and incorrect assumption that the Palestinian problem is the key to the solution of the entire Middle East (as if the Iranian nuclear program, the Islamic State, the collapse of Iraq, Yemen and Syria, the wars of the Shiites and Sunnis are advancing because the Palestinian dream has not come to fruition) is the one responsible for harming the ties? Did someone dare to think that it might be Obama?” he writes.

“Barack Obama has very strange foreign policies: he likes to embrace his rivals and hurt his friends. That’s how he is. Ask our Arab neighbors in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. As an aside, this hasn’t brought him any great success. Truthfully, after six years in the White House, Obama is still seeking his first foreign policy success.”

Over in Haaretz, pundits continue to lament the result of the election, but columnist Gideon Levy congratulates Netanyahu for being “the first Israeli prime minister to tell the truth.”

“Now comes the man who is considered a bluffer, and only he tells the fateful, historic truth: there will be no Palestinian state. Not during his term, which now seems eternal. And not after it, because by then it will be too late. The end of negotiations, the end of games. No more shuttle diplomacy, Quartets, emissaries, processes, outlines, mediators and plans. That’s it; it will not happen. It had no chance from the very beginning. In Israel, there was not one single prime minister – including the two Nobel Peace Prize laureates – who intended for one second to let a Palestinian state be established. But the bluff of the century was convenient for everyone. Now Netanyahu has put an end to it.”

He continues: “If an honest leader like Netanyahu had arisen years ago, we Israelis would have known, the Palestinians would have known, and so would the whole world: it will not be. Then it would have been possible to deal with other solutions, instead of wasting time cheating, time in which hatred only grew and blood spilled for nothing. We could have begun long ago to think of alternatives to the two-state solution – and there’s only one: one state.

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