1. Attorney general TO THE EXTREME!!!! The cabinet is set to vote Sunday on a controversial bill that would allow observers from political parties to bring cameras into polling stations, in a process being closely watched by the media.
- The issue (and Likud’s allegations of election fraud to justify the use of cameras) is the lead story in all of Israel’s major dailies Sunday morning, and dominates much of the media conversation.
- Much of the focus is on what Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will tell the ministers at the meeting, and there is little mystery there after he already issued an opinion last week that allowing politicized poll watchers to film voting would wreak havoc over the voting process.
- “In an extraordinary move, Mandelblit will enter the room where his appointment had been unanimously approved and deal with one of the hardest challenges he has had as attorney general: explaining to cabinet members that there is a legal impediment to okaying the placing of cameras in ballot stations,” Yedioth Ahronoth writes.
- Walla notes that Mandelblit isn’t actually so against the law, but more the timing. “He believes that passing an amendment a few days before Israelis go to the polls is an extraordinary measure, extreme and harmful in a way that there is no legal justification for it, and therefore it is forbidden.”
- Haaretz’s lead editorial says the camera bid is a “new level” by Netanyahu, who is “undermining the necessary conditions for democratic elections.”
- “Now he’s threatening to harm the secret and free nature of the elections,” the paper writes.
2. Smile, you’re on Likud camera: Likud-backing Israel Hayom also calls Mandelblit’s expected warning to the ministers extraordinary, but in a way that reflects negatively on the AG.
- “The meeting is expected to be loaded with more tension than normal because of the identity of one of the participants, Avichai Mandelblit, who is opposed to legislating the law,” the paper’s lede on its top story reads.
- Speaking to Army Radio, Simcha Rothman of the right-wing Governance and Democracy Movement says “the claim that the cameras, which will provide transparency, will hurt the vote and that the decision of elected officials will hurt democracy, is the opposite of logical.”
- Gilad Zwick, in a column for Israel Hayom, calls passing the law “the order of the hour,” given all the fraud that’s taking place that the “left” wants to cover up.
- “After they exposed the necks of Jewish Zionists to those allied with those supporting Bashar Assad, Yasser Arafat and Samir Kuntar in the Joint List, now the left is ready to spring over the hurdle of democracy and cheer on those who want to hurt the purity of elections.”
- For any keeping score at home, in case it was not clear, he is talking about Arabs.
3. Where are the receipts: That sounds like a lot of fraud from a lot of pan-Arabists. In fact, Haaretz reports, of 100 claims of fraud filed by Likud after April’s elections, police only found evidence to warrant an investigation in one.
- “A source involved in investigation of such fraud told Haaretz that there has been no evidence in any polling station of fraudulent activity favoring Arab parties,” the paper reports.
- On the other hand, evidence was found pointing to possible fraud in other stations in favor of Likud, and its Shas partner.
- The Globes financial daily notes that Likud claimed it had uncovered 400 cases of fraud with its hidden cameras in April. So where are those cases now?
- Globes reports that Likud dragged its feet on passing the actual evidence to authorities, and once they handed it over the Central Elections Committee months later, “it turned out to be all sorts of different instances, some of them involving removing Likud activists, or registering arguments and debates within the ballot station, and other cases that don’t reach the level of fraud.”
- Not to worry, though. Everyone is unanimous in reporting that the law will pass the cabinet, but then have a hard time getting through the Knesset, where Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party will oppose it.
4. Border heat: Outlets are less certain about what will be on the Gaza border, where the weekend saw an upsurge in violence.
- In Yedioth, Yossi Yehoshua calls an armed drone that infiltrated from Gaza a “disturbing step up,” and urges the government to take immediate action.
- “It needs to be dealt with now, so we don’t get a monster in the south like we have in the north with Hezbollah,” he writes.
- The drone is widely seen as the work of Islamic Jihad, and in Israel Hayom, Oded Granot writes that the border flareup is still a “small fire,” with Israel and Hamas needing to work on keeping it from getting out of hand until elections and then the Jewish holidays.
- But Hamas may also have an interest in making sure it’s still top dog in Gaza when it comes to terror.
- Channel 13’s Hezi Simantov notes that an attack in the West Bank in which a father and son were stabbed as they left a dentist’s office in a Palestinian town was linked by Hamas to the violence on the Gaza border, in which two Palestinians were killed during riots.
- “The army is worried that the other side [Hamas] is trying to plant its beacon on those killed in border riots … and will respond with rockets and border incidents,” he writes.
5. Reading Trump in Tehran: In Haaretz, Amos Harel reports that Israel is making like Dr. Strangelove and learning to live with the fact that US President Donald Trump and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani will meet, considering it a done deal and shifting to damage control.
- “That is the growing conclusion in Israel’s security establishment after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with US Defense Secretary Mark Asper in London Thursday. As always, one caveat must be added: This summit will happen unless the less predictable member of the pair, Donald Trump, changes his mind at the last minute,” he writes.
- Netanyahu will perhaps take solace in Trump doing just that and canceling talks with the Taliban at the last minute over a bombing.
- It’s not just Israel that is not pleased about a Trump-Iran meeting. In Gulf-based Arab News, John Jenkins writes that Tehran seems to be quite adept at making sure talks never actually go ahead.
- “It’s not at all clear that Tehran actually wants a deal with Washington, certainly while it sees a chance instead to divide the US from Europe, Russia and China. It wants instead to sow division and define the terms of victory,” he writes.
6. Son of a gun: If Rouhani and Trump can get together, perhaps that means Israel’s enemies can too? Fat chance, at least when it comes to Labor leader Amir Peretz and prime ministerial dauphin Yair Netanyahu.
- Netanyahu on Friday accused Yitzhak Rabin of murdering Holocaust survivors and leading to the deaths of 2,000 Israelis with the Oslo Accords, drawing the ire of Peretz, who threatened to sue him for libel in defense of the slain party leader.
- Even Papa Netanyahu thought junior took it too far, putting out a statement saying he disagrees with his son.
- And Rabin’s granddaughter Noa Rothman, running on the Democratic Camp ticket, also responded in an unexpected manner, chiding Peretz for what she said was an empty gesture since you can’t libel a dead person, Maariv reports.
- Peretz appeared to step up his attacks Saturday night, lighting candles at a Rabin memorial and saying that Yair Netanyahu is more dangerous than assassin Yigal Amir.
- Or did he? While the party put out a statement claiming he said it, Channel 13 reporter Akiva Novick points out that he never uttered the words during the speech: “It would be interesting to know if Peretz wrote the line and had second thoughts at the last minute, or someone wrote it for him and he didn’t go over the text before.”