Building an argument
Hebrew media review

Building an argument

Construction tenders in West Bank settlements sparks controversy; autopsies of two girls’ found in Savyon pool prove inconclusive

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Illustrative: A housing construction site in Jerusalem, October 27, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: A housing construction site in Jerusalem, October 27, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s housing and construction minister’s announcement of 1,500 building tenders in a half a dozen settlements sets off a media firestorm in Friday’s papers, and the death of two girls in a pool earlier this week still grabs headlines.

In response to Israel’s announcement, the EU, US and Palestinians roundly condemned the construction plans for over the Green Line. According to Haaretz, Brussels issued a coded threat of sanctions should Israel not backtrack on its announcement of construction tenders. The paper reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers will convene Sunday to discuss additional retaliatory steps against the Palestinians for their establishment of a unity government earlier this week which includes Hamas.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth, however, the announcement of building tenders in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has become “a set tradition” by the Israeli government whenever relations with the Palestinians hit a rough patch, but they rarely materialize with real construction. It writes that the tenders announced by Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel in the past year remained on paper and were never taken up by construction companies.

The paper writes that “each time the state recycles the tenders anew and again suffers criticism worldwide, in essence over the exact same tenders.”

Israel Hayom ignores the international blowback from the construction announcements, and instead focuses on the additional sanctions against the Palestinians, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, that the Israeli government is planning. It reports that the government is also expected to decide Sunday to advance a law which would prevent the president from exonerating terrorists who have committed murder.

According to the paper, the Prime Minister’s Office claims the American government violated agreements with Israel not to recognize a Palestinian unity government which includes Hamas. It says US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit Jordan in the coming week and meet with members of the new Palestinian technocratic government.

In its editorial, Haaretz calls on Netanyahu to recognize the Palestinian unity government and take the opportunity to negotiate with representatives of the entire Palestinian people. Instead of taking the opportunity to reach peace, however, “Netanyahu prefers to continue to accuse the world of anti-Semitism and inflame matters further. It is hard to understand the logic behind this disastrous foreign policy, apart from fanatically protecting the settlers’ interest at the expense of the national interest.”

Dror Adir rails in Israel Hayom against Israeli left-wing organizations’ “Pavlovian opposition” to construction in “the land of our life” — referring to West Bank settlements, saying it “is sad testimony to the change in DNA of those whose fathers formed the borders of the land through settlement, and today work to break it up under the worrying mask of the Moloch of peace.”

“These activities by [Israelis], with the blindness of the American State Department, feed the Palestinian fervor against every Jewish root which is embedded in the earth of the land of Israel,” he says.

In a similar vein, the Israeli press trumpets the Australian government’s decision to drop the term “occupied” from references to East Jerusalem. Australian Attorney General George Brandis told a senate meeting that “The description of East Jerusalem as ‘occupied’ East Jerusalem is a term freighted with pejorative implications which is neither appropriate nor useful.”

“It should not and will not be the practice of the Australian government to describe areas of negotiation in such judgmental language,” he said.

Haaretz calls the announcement a “dramatic change” in the Australian government’s stance concerning the status of Jerusalem since 1967. Israel Hayom reports that the Israeli government praised the announcement, saying it was a “voice of wisdom from Australia,” an unnamed senior government source is quoted saying.

Elsewhere in the news, the tabloids continue to report on the death of two teen girls found in a pool in the Tel Aviv surburb of Savyon. Israel Hayom reports that singer Rami Kleinstein appeared at the funeral of one of the 11-year-old girls to sing the song “Matanot Katanot” — “Little Gifts” — which she loved so much. The father of the dead girl appealed to the singer on Facebook and asked him to come sing the song by her grave, and he accepted.

Yedioth Ahronoth reports that the two girls’ deaths remain a mystery after autopsies of their bodies didn’t yield clear-cut results of what caused their demise. The sole evidence currently on hand is security camera footage which shows one of the girls swimming in the pool, then suddenly kick and stop moving. The second girl then enters the water to check her friend, flutters and stops moving.

Neither report gave any indication that police currently suspect foul play. Police are waiting for lab results of the pool water to determine whether the girls were poisoned, and investigation of the house’s electrical system to determine whether they may have been electrocuted.

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