Israel’s main newspapers are jam-packed with glossy features and intriguing articles this Friday, including an exclusive interview with a top US official who claims to have been in touch with Israeli scientists throughout the negotiations over the Iranian nuclear deal; in-depth analyses of Israel’s political and military position ten years after the disengagement from the Gaza Strip; and even coverage of a former government minister’s trip to India, where he plans to do some silent meditation in the hope that it might offer him some enlightenment.
Both Haaretz and Israel Hayom dedicate their front pages to IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot’s rare disclosure of a 30-page document discussing the army’s aims and strategic goals under his leadership. In the document, Eisenkot lays out several of the IDF’s top imperatives, such as safeguarding Israel’s international standing, correcting what he called the inadequate response to terror groups in the past, and fending off cyber attacks.
Israel Hayom, characteristically favorable to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, chooses to highlight the Israeli leader’s optimistic economic projections after news broke that Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and representatives of companies developing Israel’s offshore natural gas fields finally reached an agreement on gas prices and government regulations on operations in the fields.
“[The gas fields] will generate billions of shekels’ worth of revenue for Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu is quoted by the paper as saying. “The money will be used for healthcare, education, and social welfare, and for the lowering of the cost of living.” Under the agreed terms, which are up for a cabinet vote on Sunday, Israel’s Delek Group, owned by homegrown magnate Yitzhak Tshuva, will sell its holdings in the Tamar, Karish and Tanin gas fields within six years, while Noble Energy will gradually reduce its holdings in Tamar to no more than 25% within that same time frame. During these six years, prices for natural gas will be heavily regulated. The companies also agreed to develop Leviathan, Israel’s largest gas field, by 2019.
Yedioth Ahronoth‘s lead story is an interview with US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who supplied the paper with a purported bombshell revelation: the Obama administration consulted with Israeli scientists before agreeing the nuclear accord with Iran. “As a result of the continued contact that we had with the Israelis, the deal is stronger,” says Moniz, according to the paper.
The US official adds that while the concern over the possibility that Tehran will still attempt to secretly develop nuclear weapons despite the agreement is undoubtedly present, he is fully confident of Israel’s and his own country’s capability to detect any infringement on the terms of the deal. “I don’t have any nightmares [concerning the nuclear accord],” Moniz is quoted as saying. “I have immense trust in American and Israeli intelligence. They will know if Iran is violating the agreement.”
On Thursday, during an afternoon webcast with American Jews in defense of the controversial nuclear agreement with Iran, Moniz told over 2,000 viewers that the current agreement is, in fact, “the famous better deal” which will enable the US to focus on “other aspects of Iranian behavior that give us serious problems,” such as its state sponsorship of terror and regional destabilization, as well as its continued detention of four American citizens.
Marking the tenth anniversary of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Haaretz’s writers follow up on several aspects of the country’s most expansive evacuation of citizens ever, and offer their opinions on the implications the controversial move had and still has on the state’s policies.
An article by reporter Shirli Seidler notes that 406 settlers removed from their homes during the disengagement have yet to relocate to permanent apartments, and are still situated in provisional living spaces set up after the evacuation. Seidler adds that 12% of the former Gaza settlers are unemployed, and only 20% of those who were previously been employed in the agricultural field – a major occupation among Jewish residents of the Strip – had returned to their previous line of work.
Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel posits that despite the army’s success in swiftly emptying the Strip of its Jewish inhabitants, at least on an operational level, the IDF is today incapable of carrying out such a move in the West Bank, which contains far more settlements and Israeli citizens. “Ten years after [the disengagement], it seems that the enhancement of religious elements in the army, the radicalization of settlers, and the [increasing] recognition of the West Bank as an [integral] part of the state will not allow for a similar process, even if there are those who would seek it,” Harel writes.
Finally, Yedioth follows the internal struggles of former education minister and current Yesh Atid party MK Shai Piron, who, like many Israeli backpackers seeking inner peace and enlightenment, recently traveled to India, where he practiced a form of silent meditation known as Vipassana, in order to help him come to a decision over his future path.
Piron, according to Yedioth writer Sima Kadmon, has since the elections earlier this year been deliberating whether to stick with his party and continue serving as a parliamentarian, or to step aside and retire from politics, and allow former MK Elazar Stern to take his place. Piron, an Orthodox rabbi, is set to settle his internal debates upon returning to the country, Kadmon reports. One could only imagine the feeling of pure bliss that would be showered upon Israelis if several other lawmakers chose to join Piron and engage in long-lasting periods of complete silence.