Defensive positions
Hebrew media review

Defensive positions

Soldiers attack their commanders’ orders to stand down, and one MK may have to fight in order to run for the Knesset

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.

Arab MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad) attends a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem to plead for the return of her diplomatic passport, which was taken away due to her participation in the 2012 flotilla to Gaza (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Arab MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad) attends a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem to plead for the return of her diplomatic passport, which was taken away due to her participation in the 2012 flotilla to Gaza (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The four front pages of Monday’s papers feature radically different main stories, from IDF soldiers and projectiles to elections projections.

Israel Hayom reports on “the battle over MK [Hanin] Zoabi,” referring to the motion put forward by Likud MK Ofir Akunis to have the Balad parliamentarian barred from the upcoming elections. The paper notes that 13 of the 36 members of the Central Elections Commission signed the proposal, and that it is expected to be approved. Should the committee vote in favor of barring Zoabi from the January 22 elections, she will be able to appeal its decision to the Supreme Court.

Akunis charged that Zoabi “did not hesitate from blatantly undermining the State of Israel and inciting against its government, its institutions, and IDF soldiers and officers.” He also charged that “she also took part in the [Mavi] Marmara flotilla” that attempted to run the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010.

Zoabi, in turn, said that Likud-Beytenu is a dangerous fascist entity that “attempts to eradicate everything that tries to undermine its power.”

Zoabi’s party, which is in league with the Ra’am Ta’al party, will win five seats in the upcoming election, according to a new poll Haaretz publishes on its front page. The bottom line of the survey conducted by Dialog: the right is stronger and more unified than ever, and the center-left is fragmented and crumbling.

According to the poll, Likud-Beytenu is projected to win 39 seats, Jewish Home party 11, the Labor Party 17, Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party nine, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party six, and the Meretz party only three. Kadima, the largest party in the current Knesset, will just barely scrape by with the two-seat minimum. Arab parties will win 12 seats, and religious parties (excluding the Jewish Home party) will win 21 seats.

Most telling, however, is the outcome of the question “Who do you think will be the next prime minister?” Out of the options of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich, and Tzipi Livni, the paper reports that “81% of the respondents answered: Netanyahu.” The report adds that the result “is a statistic whose sole meaning is that the elections have ended before they’ve started — or just after they’ve started.”

Uri Misgav writes in Haaretz that the Labor Party with Yachimovich at the conn “is for the first time going to elections without any pretension of real leadership. There has never been anything like this: It is impossible to ask for the seat of power in Israel without addressing security and foreign affairs.”

“By her determined refusal to challenge the Netanyahu government over security and foreign affairs, Yachimovich is thwarting the chance to build a vital ideological alternative to it,” he writes.

“She chose to ignore the diplomatic freeze, supported the attack in the Gaza Strip, kept quiet in the face of the foolish struggle against the Palestinian initiative at the United Nations, and is continuing to keep mum even about the crazy acts of reprisal through which Israel is punishing itself and worsening its international isolation.” Given this foreign policy stance and insistence on focusing on social issues, Misgav writes, “Yachimovich comes across as irrelevant and presents Labor to the public as a niche party for trade union grievances and contract workers’ demands.”

Yedioth Ahronoth writes about the potentially impending appointment of GOC Northern Command Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot as IDF deputy chief of General Staff. According to the paper, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men (namely, retiring Defense Minister Ehud Barak, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein) couldn’t find any damning evidence against Eizenkot in the byzantine legal saga known as the Harpaz Affair, so Eizenkot’s appointment is expected in the coming days.

The paper notes that Eizenkot served as Barak’s military aide during the latter’s term as prime minister and defense minister in 1999.

Maariv‘s main story is about “embarrassing pictures and videos” showing IDF “combat soldiers with their hands tied” fleeing from Palestinian youths hurling rocks. In a scene reminiscent of one from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, soldiers from the IDF’s combat engineering unit retreat under a hail of stones thrown by residents of the village of Qadum in the northern West Bank.

The soldiers told Maariv that “in recent months, large riots take place in Qadum every Friday” involving Palestinians, left wing Israelis, and foreigners who oppose the closure of the road connecting Qadum to the nearby city of Nablus. According to the soldiers, the protests “are accompanied by stones being thrown at IDF soldiers and Border Police officers, Molotov cocktails, burning tires, and sometimes slingshots.”

The soldiers have reportedly been instructed of late not to fire their weapons under any circumstances, regardless of incoming firebombs or stones, unless there is an “actual threat to life.” During the incident in Qadum caught on video, the soldiers’ officers forbade them from using nonlethal crowd-dispersal weapons like shock or tear gas grenades.

The soldiers in the company told the paper that they feel rage and distrust towards their commanders, because “in order to avoid [damning] pictures” of soldiers firing on unarmed civilians, “they decided to endanger us.”

Yaakov Livneh writes in Maariv that now more than ever, Israel needs a diplomatic Iron Dome to shoot down political threats before they harm the country’s interests, more than one that shoots down rockets.

He argues that Israel suffered two major diplomatic defeats in the past month, Operation Pillar of Defense and Palestine’s recognition as a UN nonmember state. He says this is a consequence of the country’s shift in strategic emphasis over the decades from diplomacy to military strength.

“The diplomatic facet that enabled international legitimacy for the existence and founding of a state in its early years have been pushed aside,” he says, pointing at funding cuts for the Foreign Ministry and foreign delegations in favor of the Defense Ministry.

“Israel’s struggle is governed more and more by diplomatic tools, but now in particular the international area has turned into our Achilles heel.” He calls for the addition of more diplomats, holding on to experienced, veteran envoys, and reaching out to unfamiliar communities for international support.

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