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Israel media review

Breaking up is easy to do: What the press is saying on August 9

Israel’s governing coalition appears to be in its death throes, though a miracle or some defections could keep elections away and Netanyahu in power. Until then, let the mud fly

Election campaign billboards for Likud and  its leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (foreground), and the Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz (background), in Bnei Brak, February 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Election campaign billboards for Likud and its leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (foreground), and the Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz (background), in Bnei Brak, February 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

1. The coalition is dead: There won’t be a cabinet meeting Sunday, a development (or lack thereof) widely viewed as a sign of how frayed Israel’s governing coalition has become.

  • The official reason for the lack of meeting is the fact that the sides could not agree on an agenda, with Blue and White demanding that a vote be held on a voting parity agreement between the factions and Likud demanding that a vote be held on a government rescue package, according to reports and official statements. But behind that one squabble lie a whole host of other issues tearing the sides apart.
  • “The crisis between Likud and Blue and White has escalated into an event unusual in the extreme,” Walla news reports.
  • Army Radio calls the coalition a “perfect model of division and divergence.”
  • “These are days of dying. … The days of Netanyahu and Gantz cooperating are over,” an unnamed Likud politician tells the station.
  • “Likud and Blue and White are digging in their heels on the budget — and a fourth round of elections within 1.5 years, at the height of the coronavirus crisis, is turning into a realistic scenario,” reports Ynet.
  • Despite what seems to be both sides playing a game of chicken, the Kan broadcaster seems keen to portray only Blue and White as the ones sabotaging the government, running a headline made up solely of Likud’s claim that there won’t be a meeting because Blue and White won’t allow a financial aid package on the agenda. (The actual story makes the dimensions of the squabble more clear, but really, who reads that far?)
  • The budget battle is seen as the biggest and most pressing issue.
  • Haaretz reports that “coalition sources said no further progress had been made on the budget, which may lead to the Knesset’s dissolution on August 25 and another general election.”
  • The paper notes that Blue and White plans to put forward a proposal to delay the budget deadline, which it sees as a test of whether Likud wants to keep going with the partnership, or throw it away.
  • “If Netanyahu opposes this bill, it’s obvious that he wants an election held as soon as possible,” a party source is quoted saying.

2. Long live the coalition: According to Israel Hayom, Likud has been engaged in talks to see if it can jettison Blue and White and bring in another partner.

  • “Netanyahu okayed his people to start ‘quietly checking’ with potential partners from outside. Likud sources have already talked with Yamina people and approached Yisrael Beytenu, but have only gotten refusals so far,” the paper reports, citing sources in both parties saying there is no chance that they would join Netanyahu.
  • Channel 12 news reports that Blue and White sees a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano Shatta (Blue and White) as “an attempt to set up a narrow government.” Other reports also include meetings between Netanyahu and Blue and White minister Omer Yankelovitch. But both deny the meeting was about having them jump ship.
  • “Benny Gantz knew about the meeting; any other speculation is out of place. I won’t have a hand in a narrow government,” Kan quotes Tamano Shatta saying.
  • In Israel Hayom, Moti Tuchfeld adds Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser to his list of what he says are “hot names to defect,” in a column seemingly designed to convince them to leave Gantz in the dust (though he might want to work on his wooing skills).
  • “It’s not everyday that such minor players have a chance to save so many from a critical and continuing crisis. From a historical perspective and perhaps even sooner, their courageous actions will be remembered for good. [Hendel and Hauser’s] Derech Eretz party won’t cross the threshold and Blue and White is finished. Only those who abandon ship in time from parties like Kadima and made it on the train in time are still among us in the leadership. The rest have been lost to the abyss.”
  • Kan reports that Blue and White is not just sitting idly by, but also possible trying a few tricks to put pressure on Netanyahu, including “mulling threatening a law against Netanyahu — like the law that was threatened after the election, which would forbid a prime minister from serving while indicted — if the political crisis is not solved soon.”

3. I know you are, but what am I: Alongside the procedural donnybrooks are a whole lot of mud-slinging between the sides.

  • Army Radio publishes excerpts from comments made by Gantz behind closed doors in which he said, “I think it is not okay that we have a prime minister with three indictments; I haven’t changed my mind.” (That could be belied by the fact that he is using the threat of a law making it illegal as a cudgel, rather than just pushing it.)
  • He is also heard saying that “I don’t divide in order to rule and I don’t hate on anyone to bolster my base. Tell yourselves who acts different — who hates in order to bolster his base and divides in order to rule.”
  • Yedioth quotes an unnamed senior Blue and White Source saying that “in the end, it was a mistake joining a government with Bibi if, after three months, everything is falling apart. We weren’t sure Netanyahu would honor the coalition rotation, but now its clear he is not even waiting until 2021, and wants to dismantle everything now out of fear that Gantz will switch him out.”
  • (Under the coalition deal, the only way Netanyahu does not have to hand the reins to Gantz is if the government falls because of the budget.)
  • Minister of Stuff Ze’ev Elkin tells Kan that if they go to elections, “Blue and White is finished,” though he opines that the crisis can easily be solved: “There’s no reason to hold citizens hostage just because someone doesn’t know how to climb down from the limb they’ve gone out on.”
  • Meanwhile, Finance Minister Israel Katz, fuming over the fact that his financial aid plan won’t come up, tells Army Radio, “They’ve crossed a red line. Blue and White has slipped from a political disagreement to seriously harming the wider public.”
  • Channel 13 rounds up some more insults being flung by both sides, including Transportation Minister Miri Regev tell Blue and White: “Not only do you not want to get up and go to school — now you also want to shut it down.”
  • Channel 12 quotes Blue and White MK Eitan Ginzburg saying that “the public are not idiots. On one side, they are trying to torpedo the budget for next year, which Blue and White insists on, and on the other, they are trying to accuse us of not passing a billion-shekel plan which has not been presented and put together as needed.”

4. Killer comeback: Those comments seems also like a nice lullaby compared to right-wing terrorist Yona Avrushmi deciding it is time to make his voice heard, calling those protesting outside Netanyahu’s official residence “germs,” and saying the right-wing thugs going there “know what to do,” in an interview to Channel 12.

  • Avrushmi is known for tossing a grenade into a 1983 peace rally, killing Peace Now activist Emil Grunzweig. Also at the rally, and injured by the blast, was current Likud minister Yuval Steinitz, who tells Army Radio that “I watched the words of incitement from the killer Yona Avrushmi in astonishment. I call on the police and law enforcement authorities to arrest and interrogate him about his call for violence and on his voiding the blood of the left-wing protesters.”
  • “The writing is on the wall. Even Emil Grunzweig’s killer sees it,” reads a headline in Haaretz.
  • “The next killing is already on the way. At an intersection or bridge, in Tel Aviv or Balfour, it’s not even hiding in the dark anymore. It won’t even take a stolen IDF grenade. A broken bottle or screwdriver is enough, as we’ve seen in past violent episodes, which only didn’t end in murder by chance,” writes Ariana Melamed.
  • Channel 12’s Amit Segal saw it a little differently, saying on the air that “Yona Avrushmi is a terrible person, but I wish that for every 10 articles about him, there would be one about Ehud Adiv [a left-wing activist who was convicted of terror activity]. I think we have a selective memory.”
  • Walla reports that two people at home who did not appreciate Segal’s whataboutism bad-mouthed him online, leading him to threaten a slander lawsuit. Though the two erased the post, he said they did not apologize so he would go sue them anyway, leading one to apologize. Journalism!

5. The right to protest: Happily, Avrushmi’s thuggish wannabes did not show up at Saturday night’s protest outside Balfour and elsewhere, though plenty of other people did, including a good number of people protesting Netanyahu from the right, report ToI’s Aaron Boxerman and Anat Peled.

  • “The right has much better alternatives, and, in my opinion, the ideological right needs to come out [to protest], and the moment that it does, Netanyahu will be truly pressured,” said one protester, who is a Yamina voter. “I know that there are many people who think like me.”
  • They also report that right-wingers who are turned off by some of the more bawdy elements of the protest may hold their own at adjacent Independence Park.
  • Along with the right-wingers in Paris Square on Saturday night were plenty of others. Thirty-two thousand others, organizers told ToI, though media reports put the number between 15,000 and 20,000 (or, in the case of Israel Hayom, 12,000). No matter which number, it would be the largest yet, but after seven weeks, media interest appears to be fading somewhat, with wall to wall coverage less prevalent.
  • Ynet, which broadcast the protest live, makes do a few paragraphs interspersed among some 50-odd pictures (and odd is the correct word, given the attire of many participants.) Its lede is not the growing size of the crowd, but the three people who were detained.
  • Among those held was a photographer for Haaretz, who is captured on video being led away as people yell out that he is a member of the press.
  • “A disgrace,” tweets fellow Haaretz journalist Josh Breiner before reporting that the photographer was let go as soon as the Police Spokesperson’s Unit stepped in.

6. Suspend Nasrallah: The press pays as much, if not more attention, to protests in Lebanon, specifically the fact that one protest featured an effigy of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a noose.

  • According to AFP, activists had plenty of nooses for leaders to go around, but the Israeli press focuses mostly on its favorite arch enemy, with pictures of the suspended Nasrallah ever-present.
  • “Some of the protesters called out cries against Hezbollah and termed it a terror group,” reports Kan.
  • Other Israeli outlets have their ears peeled for other snippets of Lebanese people talking bad about Hezbollah.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth, which runs a picture of the hanging Nasrallah on its front page, also runs a column by a Lebanese protester identified only as Hasneen.
  • “The way we see it, Hezbollah is worse than Israel,” Hasneen writes (the piece is translated into Hebrew). “For years, they have ruled over our lives. From when you come into the airport and Hezbollah people stop anyone they deem suspicious, up to the halls of power. And of course the Beirut port. I don’t believe Nasrallah when he said on Friday that Hezbollah had no access at the port. He has no problem lying.”
  • Channel 12 translates what it says is a video from a Lebanese journalist/blogger smack-talking Nasrallah that has gone viral: “Nasrallah, answer this one question and I will bow to you,” says the woman, whom the channel does not identify (despite her showing her face). “What did Israel do against us more than Hezbollah?”
  • While some online welcome her words (or express fears for her life), others are offended that she would dare compare Israel to Hezbollah.
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