Cold air, hot air
Hebrew media review

Cold air, hot air

Storms wrack Israel as the prospective center-left alliance tears itself apart

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.

Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid (right) and Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich (photo by Yossi Zeliger/Roni Schutzer/Flash90)
Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid (right) and Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich (photo by Yossi Zeliger/Roni Schutzer/Flash90)

Wet weather makes the main headlines in the Hebrew press Tuesday, but Israeli politicians show that they can out-bluster the most blustery day of the year thus far.

Yedioth Ahronoth features a collage of wintry weather pictures, including a downed tree on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, an overflowing Jordan River, soldiers playing in the snow on Mount Hermon, and coffee drinkers sitting in a flooded cafe at a mall in Modi’in. It wasn’t all bad news, though. The paper reports that the level of the Sea of Galilee rose a whopping 28 centimeters (11 inches) thus far since the storm began this weekend, leaving it a mere three meters or so below the red line. (Haaretz and Maariv, alternatively, report a rise of 17 centimeters.)

Haaretz shows diagram representing the amount of rainfall in various Israeli cities in the past three days compared to the seasonal average. While most top 100 percent, the northern city of Safed tops the chart with 215% of the seasonal average in one storm. Israel Hayom‘s meteorological team reports that the northern kibbutz of Kfar Giladi received a deluge of 195 millimeters (7 inches) of rain thus far, topping the chart.

Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth take the tone of children expecting a snow day in their reporting on the wintry weather. Israel Hayom’s weather story headline reads “We’re all waiting for snow” and Yedioth Ahronoth’s reads “The climax is still before us,” with the first word coated in blanket of white.

Maariv, however, comes across as a grumpy old man whose sidewalk is about to be covered in slush. Its headline is decidedly more sober, notes, “The rain and its punishment.”

“Flooded streets, potholes in roads, trees, signs and stoplights downed, high tension cables disconnected, rivers overflowing their banks, and rescue teams working around the clock,” it catalogs, grumpily. “This is how yesterday, the stormiest day of winter, looked.”

Haaretz also emphasizes the “Damages of the storm: trees felled, roads blocked, and the Modi’in mall flooded.” It reports that Arkia flights from Tel Aviv to Eilat had to be redirected to Ben Gurion International Airport instead of the usual — the nearby Sde Dov Airport in north Tel Aviv. The northern town of Rosh Pina’s airstrip was also closed due to the inclement weather. It reports that “damage was caused by fallen trees without  injuring people in Givatayim, Nesher, Bira, Hadera, and Pardes Hana.” For whatever reason, Jerusalem gets no mention in Haaretz’s report.

Nahlaot, Jerusalem, Monday (photo credit: Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel)
Nahlaot, Jerusalem, Monday (photo credit: Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel)

Wind not only damaged Israeli property and infrastructure, it may have permanently damaged the possibility of a center-left union ahead of the January 22 elections. Following a powwow between the three party chiefs (Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid and Shelly Yachimovich) on Sunday night, Livni’s Hatnua party released statements suggesting that the three parties were heading toward offering the public an alternative to voting for the right.

“I would of course be happy if you vote for Hatnua under my leadership,” Haaretz quotes her saying in a video released on Monday, “but more importantly, come vote for one of the centrist parties.” She added that there were only two possible votes, for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or for the centrist parties.

According to a statement she released on Facebook, the three leaders arrived at an agreement to unite until the elections, then recommend one of them to the president for the premiership. Should Netanyahu win, they would either join his coalition or remain in the opposition.

Yachimovich’s Labor Party and Lapid’s Yesh Atid party roundly denied her statements in a joint announcement, and then accused Livni of lying about the outcome of the meeting.

“In contrast to the agreements before and after the meeting last night, Tzipi Livni chose to present a deceitful version of what happened at the meeting,” their statement said. “We were amazed to discover that it was nothing more than spin, with not an ounce of truth or content.”

Haaretz reports that Livni spoke to the paper before the Yachimovich-Lapid response and she said, “she would not be a fig leaf for a right-wing and ultra-Orthodox government, and if Netanyahu is elected again as prime minister, Hatnua under her leadership would not join it without at least one of the other centrist parties.”

Matti Tuchfeld in Israel Hayom calls Livni’s union proposal a “strange adventure” that may have been successful had the three set aside their egos before the deadline for forming party lists and unions. He says that their attempts to form a center-left union have played into Netanyahu’s hands twice.

“On the one hand, they have created the feeling of a possible change in government, something Netanyahu has used to bring potential votes back [to Likud]. On the other hand, the [center]-left party leaders showed embarrassing, not to mention childish, management, which certainly doesn’t hurt Netanyahu’s image compared to them,” he writes.

Yedioth Ahronoth reports that the Likud-Beytenu alliance didn’t hesitate to take advantage of its competitors’ infighting, stating that “the citizens of Israel were again exposed to the puerility, irresponsibility, and ego games guiding the left-wing parties.” Netanyahu chimed in that there is nothing that unites the three parties except the will to depose him.

read more: