Israel media review

Campaigning already? 6 things to know for July 29

The Knesset is not in session, but its politicians are still busy making sure the public sees what they are doing

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Zionist Union MK Zouheir Bahloul (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Zionist Union MK Zouheir Bahloul (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

1. One might think elections were around the corner with the way front pages look Sunday morning, though officially Israel will have to wait some 15 months, until fall 2019, for ballot boxes to open.

  • A front page ad wrap on Israel Hayom, which could not have been cheap, is a laundry list of all the achievements Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is claiming, from raising salaries for troops to lowering the cost of medicine.
  • The ad is a blatant campaign push, and comes days after Kahlon got rival Yedioth Ahronoth to run a front-page “exclusive” about a 10-year, NIS 30 billion missile defense plan that he had arranged funding for. Only a day later did the same paper come out with a followup from defense officials calling it nothing more that a campaign gimmick — in much smaller type.

2. The rest of the media, meanwhile, is looking at the weekend resignation of Zouheir Bahloul from the Knesset over the passage of the nation-state bill. Even though he hails from the opposition Zionist Union party, the quitting of a public figure who was the face of Jewish-Arab coexistence to many is seen as the most strident opposition yet to the divisive legislation.

  • Yedioth calls his surprise announcement live on air on Hadashot News’s Meet the Press Saturday night “dramatic,” but Haaretz reports that the news came as no surprise to his party: “He’s considered to have no political power and has threatened to resign several times before,” the paper notes.
  • The resignation won’t take effect for several months, meaning he’ll continue to pull an MK’s salary. Asked why he didn’t just quit right away, his spokesperson tells ToI it’s because he still has important work to do.
  • Speaking to Israel Radio Sunday morning, Joint List MK Issawi Frej says he was also not surprised. “He’s not the last who will resign. I have no doubt of that.”
  • Israel Hayom’s coverage of Bahloul’s resignation is buried deep inside the tabloid and leads with Education Minister Naftali Bennett saying the Knesset “won’t cry” over him quitting.

3. Opposition also seems to be growing to the drive to fix parts of the law that put down certain Arab communities that enlist in the army, like Druze and Bedouin, since it seems to condition equality on loyalty.

  • “Is only someone who is willing to die for us deserving of equality,” asks former education minister Shai Piron in Yedioth.
  • Haaretz’s Gideon Levy, never one to mince words, compares the idea of giving the Druze a special status more equal than the other Arabs to apartheid South Africa’s “honorary whites.”
  • “Make the Druze ‘honorary Jews,’ because of their contribution to the army, and that’s the end of the problem of their identity in the Jewish state,” he writes.
  • They all need not worry, though. On Sunday morning, Prime Minister Netanyahu vociferously dismissed criticism of the law, calling the claims the Hebrew equivalent of “poppycock.”

4. Much of the tabloid print press is taken up with the Friday funeral of Yotam Ovadia, slain in a terror attack in the settlement of Adam Thursday night.

  • Israel Hayom devotes four full pages to the attack and its aftermath.
  • “In the battle between Yotam and the monster that killed him, the monster won. But it won’t win the war,” writes columnist Emily Amrousi in the paper.
  • Yedioth reports that police say Ovadia attempted to fight off his attacker and “delayed him, preventing him from getting into homes and the playground nearby.”
  • The issue has once again exposed security holes surrounding settlements, writes Israel Hayom’s Amnon Lord.
  • “It seems there’s no way to totally protect a Jewish settlement located among enemies. The distribution of settlements creates a national defense array, but also exposes the settlers to risks. At the end of the day … there’s no alternative to being aware and making sure there are people with guns everywhere,” he writes.

5. Just a couple kilometers from Kobar, where the army has placed a security cordon and is expected to demolish his home, the town of Nabi Saleh is celebrating the return of activist/provocateur Ahed Tamimi after eight months in prison.

  • Tamimi had originally been slated to give a press conference at the town of Khan al-Amar, slated to be demolished by Israel and another cause celebre, but will instead stay at home and speak to the press and well-wishers from there.
  • Hadashot news writes about her “joyous reception” in the town, where she called for as many people as possible to come hear her speak.
  • She also traveled to Ramallah, where PA President Mahmoud Abbas praised her as a “symbol of the Palestinian struggle.”
  • On Twitter, Israeli MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) celebrates her release and says her jailing was meant to break her: “Her reception in Nabi Saleh shows that the attempts to silence her and scare her did not work,” he tweets.
  • Not everyone is enthused. The right-wing website Srugim calls her a “terrorist,” apparently by dint of her being a Palestinian, (though a member of her family was convicted in the deadly Sbarro bombing, and others have other terror convictions.)
  • On Twitter others are equally unhappy about her being feted, including the parents of Malka Roth, who was killed in that bombing at age 15.

6. In Northern Ireland, a new scandal is emerging over four politicians being probed for failing to report on taking money to pay for a trip to Israel.

  • The four, all from the DUP party, apparently didn’t bother reporting the 2,700 pounds they got for the trip to the Electoral Commission, according to the BBC.
  • The party calls the flub an “administrative oversight,” but it seems they may still be in some amount of trouble.

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