1. Despite election fatigue fully setting in after two elections, months of campaigning and coalition wrangling, Israeli media outlets keep their coverage focused on the longest political impasse in the country’s history.
- Blue and White leader Benny Gantz on Wednesday was granted 28 days to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of forming a coalition after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to do so earlier this week.
- Hebrew-language media has been largely skeptical the former IDF chief of staff and political newcomer will succeed in cobbling together a Knesset majority, but as the first person to come close to challenging Netanyahu for the premiership in over a decade, his efforts are seen by many in Israel as a breath of fresh air.
2. Haaretz analyst Yossi Verter writes that watching Gantz receive the mandate from President Rivlin last night was “refreshing,” but isn’t optimistic the “dignified and conciliatory” Gantz has the political savvy to emerge from the negotiations prime minister.
- “Even people who can’t imagine a reasonable life without Netanyahu must admit that Gantz looked prime ministerial [last] night… After years of incitement, division and a systematic fanning of hatred by the man who, just two days ago, racked up his second failure to form a government, the difference in both language and vision was refreshing.”
3. The Times of Israel’s David Horovitz also strikes a positive tone, writing that while Gantz has less of a shot than Netanyahu, his appeal for national unity offers “a faint hope” to break the political deadlock.
- During his speech Wednesday night, Horovitz writes, Gantz “preach[ed] reconciliation to a watching nation, in the hope that this appeal would have its impact, in turn, on Israel’s elected representatives.”
4. But in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, senior columnist Ben Dror Yemini points out Gantz’s seemingly impossible situation, arguing that he must break one of his party’s campaign pledges if he wants to secure the premiership and avoid a third round of elections in a single year.
- Meanwhile, Yedioth’s Sever Plocker calls out Gantz for vowing to establish a “liberal unity government” in his speech last night as an alternative to Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition
- He says using the term “liberal” to describe a government that would likely include the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beytenu is misleading and cynical.
5. While some Hebrew-language outlets were displaying cautious optimism about Gantz’s chances on Thursday, the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom homes in on what it claims are fractures among Blue and White’s leadership.
- The daily’s front page story says that Gantz’s speech was actually a veiled threat to Blue and White no. 2 Yair Lapid. The report quotes unnamed Blue and White officials who claimed that if Lapid “refuses to realize [the opportunity to replace the government] and doesn’t put his ego aside, he will be thrown out.”
- Blue and White firmly denied the Israel Hayom report based on “mysterious sources,” calling it “another lie without substance.”
- Israel Hayom’s chief columnist, Amnon Lord, also takes aim at Gantz’s speech, calling it “patronizing and preachy.” While Gantz tried to display leadership and appear victorious and nonpartisan during his remarks, Lord concludes that Gantz is ultimately a leftist.
6. Besides the political impasse, the other major story in Hebrew-language press on Wednesday is the ongoing violence between Israeli security forces and West Bank settlers.
- In recent weeks, residents of Yitzhar and the surrounding illegal outposts have launched violent attacks on Palestinians and clashed with IDF soldiers attempting to crack down on illegal Israeli building in the area.
- The violence has drawn criticism from Israeli officials, especially after IDF troops were attacked by 30 settlers from Yitzhar over the weekend. Netanyahu condemned the incident, while other Israeli officials branded the attacks as “terrorism.”
7. According to Channel 13, the government has been aware of the problems of violence by Yitzhar settlers since at least 2013, when defense officials called an emergency cabinet meeting in a bid to have the hilltop youth labeled a terrorist group. Channel 13’s Barak Ravid says the measure was thwarted by Netanyahu “out of political considerations,” who opted instead to define them as an “unlawful association.”
- According to the report, renewed efforts by security officials to have the hilltop youth labeled a terror group in 2014, 2016 (after the Dawabsha family murder) and in 2018 were all thwarted by the Netanyahu government.
- In its Thursday editorial, Haaretz criticizes the government for failing to address the violence among West Bank settlers, calling the weeks of clashes around Yitzhar “the tip of the iceberg of a much larger problem that everyone knows about, but nobody talks about openly.” The paper says dealing with the violence “must top the agenda of anyone who aspires to halt the collapse of Israel’s democracy… The golem of the settlements has turned on its creator, and the state is powerless against it.”