Israel media review

Getting back to basics: What the press says about non-governments and non-laws

As Yair Lapid tries to get the coalition express back on track, he may be derailed by Naftali Bennett playing the switchman; and frivolous lawmaking gets the thumbs-down

Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, on April 26, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, on April 26, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. Bend it like Bennett: With the Gaza war practically a distant memory — after nearly four days — the news agenda has swiftly shifted back to what had been one of the main stories dominating headlines before the tensions hit the fan: coalition politics, or lack thereof.

  • Polls by Channels 12 and 13 on Sunday showed Yesh Atid gaining ground against Likud, but only barely, and the sides remaining as deadlocked as ever if/when the country is forced back into the ballot box, which nearly all pundits predict will be the result of the negotiations and their expected failure to create a government of 61.
  • Haaretz reports that Yesh Atid will restart talks Monday, with party leader Yair Lapid, currently tasked with forming a government, planning on quickly banging out the gimmes by the weekend: that is, coalition agreements with Labor, Blue and White, Meretz and Yisrael Beytenu.
  • The paper notes that New Hope will play hard to get, and that’s before Naftali Bennett’s Yamina, and his ambitions, even enter the picture, not to mention the Islamist Ra’am party. Bennett appeared to discount the possibility of joining a Lapid/Ra’am coalition earlier this month as fighting broke out, or did he?
  • “Yesh Atid [sources] assess that foundering talks between Yamina and Likud, and growing chances of a fifth round of elections, may cause the Yamina head to agree to a rotation agreement anyway,” the paper reports.
  • As noted by my colleague Raoul Wootliff, Bennett spent Sunday lambasting the Likud-led government and its leader Benjamin Netanyahu over its handling of the war, which to some indicates he may be open again to the possibility of joining the so-called change government.
  • In Yedioth Ahronoth, Nadav Eyal notes that Bennett spent much time over the 11-day war with Hamas explaining Israel’s position to the world “but has yet to explain to Israel why he has pulled out of the change bloc, if he actually did pull out, or if he’s just ‘open to options,’ as one senior party source put it.”
  • He adds that Yamina’s Twitter account has been just as confused, labeling reports on coalition maneuvering “fake news” despite them espousing the party’s spoken positions, including on who he wants to rotate with.
  • “What does Bennett want? It’s not clear,” a Kan editorial reads. “Does Bennett know what he wants? It’s also not clear.”
  • The vacillating by Bennett isn’t doing much for his negotiating position. According to Walla, Likud has offered Bennett the defense minister post and a few other stocking stuffers, much less than what it was throwing his way before the war, when a rotation giving him the helm of the government for a whole year was on the table.
  • Israel Hayom, widely viewed as closely linked to Netanyahu, quotes Likud sources saying that the war has changed the calculus and that rotation agreements aren’t on the table for anyone — Bennett, New Hope head Gideon Sa’ar or Blue and White chief Benny Gantz.

2. Above the law: It’s somewhat cute — if that’s the correct word — that news organizations are once again taking the idea of a rotation offered by Netanyahu seriously, given the fact that some (ok, almost everybody) thinks that the whole reason Israel went to elections for a fourth time was so he could renege on his previous rotation agreement.

  • The use of Basic Laws to forge and then break agreements — most famously by Likud recently — is once again in the spotlight after the High Court essentially ruled that it can strike down laws that were passed with all the permanence of a plastic spoon in order to wiggle out of legal jams or create new systems of government ad hoc in order to fit coalition demands.
  • The decision leads both the Haaretz and Israel Hayom dailies, albeit with widely different takes.
  • Israel Hayom’s top headline leaves no doubt for how the right-wing paper and its constituency feel about the judges trying to meddle with lawmaking: “The High Court is the supreme legislator.”
  • “The judges decided that from now on they can drastically limit the ability of the Knesset to pass laws as it sees fit,” the paper snaps.
  • In Haaretz, though, columnist Mordechai Kremnitzer declares that the court “saved the Knesset from itself.”
  • “The ruling points to the reckless behavior of recent Knessets, which unlike the first Knessets have no respect for Basic Laws and the stability of the process,” he writes.
  • Speaking to Army Radio, former state prosecutor Shai Nitzan is no less forgiving. “MKs come and say that a Basic Law is a holy thing, but in actuality, they treat it with an abnormal worthlessness. In the last year there were 13 amendments to Basic Laws. They have turned it into not a Basic Law and nothing like a Basic Law,” he says.

3. The things we lost: The Gaza war may be fading from memory, but there is still some fallout from it seeping through the press, with reporters given a few days to catch their breath and look back.

  • ToI’s Judah Ari Gross writes that Israel lost double the amount of civilians in 11 days than it did in 51 days of the 2014 conflict. Oh and the IDF didn’t really deliver the tuchus-whooping it promised.
  • “Due mostly to a lack of precise intelligence, the IDF was unable to destroy the lion’s share of the terror groups’ existing arsenals of rockets, Israeli military officials acknowledge. While the IDF developed techniques to somewhat address this rocket fire during the conflict, according to a senior IDF Southern Command officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were overwhelmingly free to launch massive barrages at major Israeli population centers and key infrastructure,” he writes.
  • Haaretz’s Amira Hass bemoans not only the terror of Israel’s airstrikes on the Gaza populace, but also the terror of Israel’s attempts to warn Gazans over the phone, and the terror of miscommunications. Hass tells the story of 2,500 Gazans who fled a UN school where they had sought shelter after hearing it would be bombed, only to find out later that Israel had no plans to bomb the school.
  • “In the last days of the fighting the schools still stood unharmed and empty, despite the rise in the number of people requiring refuge and shelter, having to leave their homes amid airstrikes and fears of becoming ‘collateral damage.’ Not knowing when and which ‘target’ would be bombed, the residents of this neighborhood stayed away from their homes between Monday and dawn Friday (hours after the cease-fire was announced),” she writes.
  • In Yedioth, Ari Shavit looks back at the violence that ran rampant in many Arab-Jewish cities, and what its legacy may be. “On the one hand, we need to understand that what happened in mixed cities during the operation can happen again, and at a wider scale. … We need to ensure that we have total sovereignty to enforce the law over all parts of the State of Israel, no more extra-territorial areas. No more autonomy. No more enclaves of violence and rebellion,” he writes. “But on the other hand, we need to remember that 99 percent of Arab Israelis did not take part in the deadly demonstrations of hate, and we need to remember that the vast majority of Arabs stayed away from them. We can’t let a criminal minority tar a whole community.”

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