Historians like to say that the Roman empire suffered a death of a thousand cuts. Israel’s no Rome, but a look at Wednesday’s papers shows it has the thousand cuts thing down pat, with enough bad news to go around that each paper can lead off with a totally separate threat facing the Jewish state.
In Israel Hayom, that threat is carnivorous beasts – lions and tigers and extremist Muslims oh, my – which will now be thwarted with a fence that will surround the country and totally refute all the armchair psychologists who for years have accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of having a ghetto mentality.
The paper paints the move as an update on Ehud Barak’s famous comment that Israel is a “villa in a jungle,” a comment which was also seen by some as taking a neo-colonialist view of Israel and its surroundings, though the paper doesn’t mention that.
“They’ll tell me, ‘That’s what you want to do? To protect the villa?’ and the answer is yes,” the paper quotes Barak saying.
Fences are wonderful for making good neighbors, or so the cliché goes, but they do little when your neighbor is a naked mole rat or a Hamas tunneler who thinks he’s a naked mole rat.
Yedioth Ahronoth leads things off with the apparent tunnel building going on under the Gaza frontier, reporting that some 1,000 Hamas mole rats are digging 50 meters of underground passageways per week, though reporter Yossi Yehoshua doesn’t detail where he got the numbers. (A Defense Ministry source who told him the information on condition that he present it as his own without any sourcing whatsoever, as is often unfortunately done, would be the likeliest culprit.) What Yehoshua does say, though, is that despite the army’s best efforts, it hasn’t thwarted diddly.
“The IDF and Shin Bet are investing much effort into intelligence and engineering, but despite the improvement in their abilities, the results from the field are still not good enough. The IDF sent to Gaza 100 special engineering vehicles, with 30 drills digging down based on info gathered in the field. Yet in the meantime there have been no results,” he writes. “In any case – Hamas is still not at the point where is was on the eve of Operation Protective Edge, before which it spent some four years on the tunnel project and built 33 tunnels which were discovered after a ground operation. We aren’t there, but we also aren’t in an ideal situation.”
It’s not just Hamas moles that concern the paper but also moles inside the cabinet who revealed to the media the extremely unsurprising news that Education Minister Naftali Bennett disagrees with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on how to tackle the tunnels.
Columnist Yoaz Hendel, who once had an insider view of the cabinet meeting as an aide to Netanyahu, writes that it’s not the leak that is shocking, but the fact that anything leaked at all, given the incredibly tight lid the prime minister keeps on his ministers.
“The leak itself was of interest – not because of its subject matter, but given the political disagreement and flashback to Protective Edge. I spoke yesterday with Bennett. He told me he didn’t leak it. I was convinced without a drop of cynicism. I believe him. You are presumed innocent even when you are a minister in Israel,” he writes. “I have no idea who would have had an interest in leaking it, who would want them to know the obvious. [Justice Minister] Ayelet Shaken suggested giving a polygraph to prove she didn’t leak. It won’t happen, since too many have what to lose.”
Blabbermouth ministers are high on Netanyahu’s blacklist, but these days it seems the top spot is reserved for Arab MKs who met with families of terrorists and have now sparked a drive for a new law that could see them expelled from the Knesset if they do it again.
In Haaretz, legal analyst Aeyal Gross calls the bill another nail in the coffin of Israel’s democracy.
“According to the Balad MKs’ political beliefs, it is proper for them to meet with the parents of those whose bodies are being held by the security authorities, even if these are the bodies of murderers, for the humanitarian goal of returning the bodies for burial. But most of Israeli public opinion finds it difficult today to accept such a meeting, in which a memorial was also held for those Palestinians whose bodies Israel is holding,” he writes. “But the matter does not end with the idea that anyone who doesn’t agree with Balad’s representatives criticizes the party’s actions. Rather, the criticism has been turned into exploitation of the Knesset Ethics Committee for political ends and a bill that will allow the suspension of MKs whose goal is clearly to keep Balad MKs out of the Knesset. All of this shows how unstable the concept of democracy is in Israel.”
Life ain’t so sunny inside the fence
While the cabinet is busy dealing with external threats and trying to clean house, it seems internal issues are piling up twice as fast, as evidenced by top placement given to stories in the papers on various ways in which Israelis are doing themselves in.
Haaretz’s lead story reports that despite a rise in the number of workplace deaths recently, not a single contractor has been punished over law safety.
“From 2010 to 2015, 184 construction workers were killed on the job, but police opened only 100 investigations and indicted only 11 contractors for negligent homicide. In addition, they opened 87 investigations and filed seven indictments for causing injury through negligence,” the paper reports. “In other words, only slightly more than half of these deaths even resulted in a police investigation; only 11 percent of those investigations ended in an indictment; and not one of those indictments produced a conviction. Since there were no convictions, there are also no contractors who have lost their licenses over such fatal accidents.”
Work is deadly and so is apparently getting to work, or getting anywhere, reports Yedioth, which focuses on road deaths, after a day which saw five people killed on the road, and only hours after a special Knesset meeting was held on the subject.
Making a comment that someone who devotes money to fencing in the country might disagree with, MK Eitan Cabel is quoted in the paper saying “the danger right now for Israelis on the road is greater than any other security threat.”
If bad drivers and falling hammers weren’t bad enough, Israelis also need to worry about drunk teens and widespread violence, after a study showed that some half of high schoolers partake in alcohol, and many feel unsafe in schools.
Israel Hayom calls the numbers “worrying” and “headache-inducing,” but also notes that the figure for the alcohol consumption is actually a 3 percent drop from a similar study done two years ago.
No matter, family welfare activist Dr. Yitzhak Kadmon writes in the paper that the figures are still too damn high.
“Alcohol use dropped, and that’s definitely good news, but the bad news is that there is still too much being drunk and they are getting drunk too easily,” he writes. “A tip for the future: Whoever think the problems or alcohol and violence are only school problems is badly mistaken.”
The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.
We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.
Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.