All eyes on Ukraine
Hebrew media review

All eyes on Ukraine

The papers focus on the revolution and start guessing how Russia will react

Men shout slogans during mourning for protesters killed in recent clashes, in central Kiev, Ukraine on Saturday. (photo credit: AP/Darko Bandic)
Men shout slogans during mourning for protesters killed in recent clashes, in central Kiev, Ukraine on Saturday. (photo credit: AP/Darko Bandic)

Despite the warnings of some that Ukraine is not a game, the Hebrew media goes to town on Sunday recapping the weekend’s events in there and collectively wondering just how Russia will react.

Israel Hayom gives seven pages of coverage to what it calls on its front page the “Uncertain revolution.” Alongside pictures of jubilant protesters, and a shot of the newly freed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, is a short article about how Moscow is restraining itself… for now. The paper lauds the protesters for choosing their time wisely: “Scheduling of these events was perfect because President Putin cannot take action, like introducing troops into Ukraine, as long as the Sochi Olympic Games are ongoing.”

Boaz Bismuth also takes up the question of Russia in his column, saying “the ball is now in Putin’s court.” He warns that despite the joy of the protesters, Ukraine is still in a very tenuous situation as its economy is weak and almost entirely dependent on Russia. Moscow’s gas exports flow through Ukraine, so it won’t be easy for Russia to disengage from Ukraine either, even if it wanted to. Bismuth cites the Olympic games as the only reason there hasn’t yet been any show of force. “The Winter Olympics conclude tonight,” he writes, “And then the real cold will begin.”

Yedioth Ahronoth goes with a straightforward “Revolution” headline on its front page. Inside, former Israeli ambassador to Ukraine Zvi Magen writes that the revolution is “Russia’s loss.” He says that while he doesn’t think Russia will start a war, he also doesn’t believe it will accept the current situation in Ukraine, and that could affect Israel. “The situation in Ukraine can develop in a number of ways and it will have implications for Israel, as all the friction between Russia and the West could influence what happens in the Middle East.”

Indeed a few pages after its Ukrainian coverage, Yedioth reports that after a year off, the Russian army is again helping the Assad regime with intelligence capabilities and is sending military officers and advisers. The reason that Russia gave for resuming its military assistance is to prevent Syria from falling to the jihadists.

Maariv tackles the Russia question with a piece by Matan Drori who asserts that “Russia won’t give up on its little sister.” He writes that Ukrainians tried once before, in 2004, to cast off Russian influence but that wasn’t as broad and successful as this attempt. He suspects that in the end, Russia will throw ousted president Yanukovych under the bus but has no intention of giving up on Ukraine.

Haaretz gets straight to the point with a question-and-answer article, “If Ukraine breaks apart, will Russia invade?” While the paper doesn’t give a clear answer to that question, it does run down other questions that readers might have, like “Who is giving the Ukrainian army orders today?” The answer, like a lot of other answers in this revolution, is “no one really knows.”

Possible recognition?

While there is a fog of revolution in Ukraine, some things regarding the peace process are becoming clearer. Maariv reports that there is a discussion in the Palestinian Authority on whether to agree to Israel’s demand to recognize it as a Jewish state. Part of the hesitancy comes from the legal ramifications for Israeli Arabs if the Palestinians agree to the demand. The paper quotes an Al-Quds interview with a Palestinian political commentator, Dr. Ali Jarbawi, who spoke about what needs to occur before the Palestinians make any declaration. “Israel must make clear what the implications of recognizing it as a Jewish state will be, and is there a legal definition for this term. Whether the Palestinians recognize a Jewish state means a determination that only Jews have a right to live in this country.”

Answers to Jarbawi’s questions may come from former Israeli cabinet member Zvi Hauser, who, Israel Hayom reports, is pushing to create a new Basic Law for Israel that would recognize Israel as a Jewish State. Hauser thinks that before Israel can demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Israel itself must accept that designation. But Hauser made sure that this declaration would not affect any citizens. “It’s clear that this law will not affect the civil or human rights of any resident, including the Arab sector,” he said.

X says too much

Haaretz reports that Ben Zygier, the alleged Mossad agent dubbed “Prisoner X,” may have actually passed secrets to Iran. The allegations come in a new book on Zygier that alleges that the Australian bragged about being in the Mossad and its operations against Iran, while he was studying for a graduate degree in Melbourne. This new account contradicts the theory that Zygier went rogue in an attempt to earn back the respect of the Mossad and ended up getting two Lebanese agents caught.

Finally, Yedioth gives two pages of coverage to the past weekend’s summer-like temperatures and the relative mildness of the winter. With pictures of packed beaches, the paper calls the past weekend “July in the middle of February,” as temperatures reached 28°C (82°F) in Tel Aviv and 23°C (74°F) in Jerusalem. The paper reports that in 80 years there has not been a stretch of arid months like Israel’s been experiencing. Meteorologists told the paper that the reasons for the mild winter can be found in changes in the jet stream and it is causing issues for a lot of countries. Still, it looks like the beach weekend is coming to an end as the heat wave is expected to break on Sunday.

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