An unsurprising victory and a foreseeable defeat
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Hebrew media review

An unsurprising victory and a foreseeable defeat

The Hebrew papers spotlight the Likud primaries and the Palestinians’ request to join the ICC

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu casts his vote in the Likud primaries on December 31, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu casts his vote in the Likud primaries on December 31, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sweeping victory over MK Danny Danon for the party leadership in the Likud primaries leads the news coverage in Thursday’s Hebrew dailies, alongside the Palestinian move to join the International Criminal Court.

With the information on Netanyahu’s win coming out overnight Wednesday and the full slate expected later Thursday, the papers focus more on the vote itself, rather than the results.

In an atypically critical Israel Hayom column, the paper’s Mati Tuchfeld writes that the primaries highlighted the Likud politicians’ heightened hawkishness, spurred by the elections.

“Contrary to popular belief, the fight over the Likud slate is not between the right-wing and left-wing camps in the party,” he writes. “All the Knesset members have long known that the bon ton of the Likud is the right-wing, and the more the better. Even the spokeswoman of the disengagement [from the Gaza Strip in 2005], Miri Regev, who strongly supported the removal of the Jewish [communities] from the Gaza Strip, disguised herself as a radical rightist for the primaries.”

Over in Yedioth Ahronoth, the paper stresses the low turnout (55 percent), which represents “a sharp decline from the 64% turnout rate in the previous primaries in November 2012, and this is despite the double vote for the party leadership and the structure of the [party] list.”

Yedioth features the Likud activists’ various tactics to persuade voters to elect their candidates: Yisrael Katz and Gilad Erdan’s volunteers gave out pizza together; Miri Regev said the “Shema Yisrael” prayer at her booth, which boasted the only smartphone charger at the scene, in an efforts to lure in voters. Over at Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s booth, the volunteers distributed postcards of Ya’alon next to IDF tanks and helicopters.

At his booth, Ya’alon launched a diatribe against “radical settlers” who he said tried to “bury me in the primaries because I didn’t agree to break the law.”

“There are those in the settler movement who expect the defense minister will not abide by the law. And if someone sets up a caravan somewhere, throws stones at IDF soldiers, or punctures the tires of a police car — they want the defense minister to ignore it.”

Haaretz downplays Netanyahu’s victory, highlighting instead the Palestinian signing the Rome Statute on Wednesday night and continuing to reflect on the failed UN Security Council bid.

In its editorial, “Nothing to Celebrate,” the daily writes that the thwarted statehood bid should serve as a “wake-up call of the Israeli public, which in two and a half months must decide whether to continue to live with the explosive status quo or to give the peace process a genuine chance.”

The failed UN bid and the subsequent signing of the Rome Statute are “bad and pose threats to Israel,” it writes.

“Israel views the internationalization of the conflict as the real threat. This could deprive Israel of the exclusive management, of nonmanagement, of the negotiations, of setting preconditions and formulating the outcome. These states cannot carry the burden in the place of Israel’s government.”

The paper’s diplomatic correspondent, Barak Ravid, strikes a similar tone, arguing that the triumphant Israeli response to the failed bid was “premature,” and “Israel’s troubles have only just begun.” Israeli officials are concerned about the ICC maneuver, which could have defense officials and politicians subject to prosecution, he writes.

“Horrifying scenarios aside, the reality is more complex, and there’s no need for panic. Like with every ‘nuclear option,’ it is complicated, and it takes time to prepare. The justice mill that is The Hague churns out its rulings very slowly, and issuing indictments is a long process. In addition, the ICC prosecutor understands full well the significance of the Palestinian effort, and will not be quick to become a tool in the political-diplomatic struggle between the two sides.”

Yedioth reports that the “theatrical” signing of the Rome Statute Wednesday “raises concerns in Jerusalem.” However, to prosecute a country through the ICC, the state must be a member of the court, or a crime must have been committed on the territory of an ICC member state, it points out. Moreover, the lawsuits cannot be submitted retroactively.

“Israel, it is worth noting, is not a member of the ICC,” the report states.

Ex-Israeli diplomat Alon Pinkas writes in Yedioth that the PLO attempts to bring the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks into the international arena strengthens the notion that “the Palestinians want a state without negotiations and Israel wants negotiations without a state,” in the eyes of the international community.

Israel was saved by Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, whose wife’s name, Pinkas notes, is Patience. “And it’s certainly possible that Israel’s diplomatic good luck won’t outlast the Palestinians’ patience.”

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