Yes, the battle over a new universal draft bill is still making headlines, and quite whopping ones at that. All four papers yet again lead off with the latest news on the efforts to write a new law compelling the ultra-Orthodox, Arabs, everybody! to join up and serve in some capacity or another.
Maariv takes arguably the more compelling tack with the headline “Netanyahu trying to calm the ultra-Orthodox parties.” Amid all the hullaballoo of the last several days, between zigs and zags, Netanyahu’s need to balance the recommendations of Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner with keeping his black-hatted public happy somewhat fell by the wayside of the conversation. Shas, the largest ultra-Orthodox party, has pointed a finger at Kadima, saying the latter wants the former out of government so it can take its ministerial positions, according to Maariv.
The Maariv package also says that Netanyahu is calling on the ultra-Orthodox to be flexible, which he sees as pretty much the only way out of this mess.
Yedioth Ahronoth has pretty much the same idea, using the play-on-words headline “the draft trap.” (The word for “trap” “milkud,” is similar to the name of Netanyahu’s party, “Likud.” Get it?) Both papers have a pie chart explaining that no matter what those Haredim think, Netanyahu has enough votes to pass the law with just Likud, Kadima and a smattering of other parties. It’s not a massive mandate, but it will do.
Yedioth also takes a look behind the massive Saturday night universal draft rally in Tel Aviv to see who provided all the moolah to put on the extravagant show. And the winners of the rich-foreigners-using-their-pockets-to-influence-internal-Israeli-politics sweepstakes are… Drumroll please… British VC guru Ronald Cohen and Canadian billionaire Charles Bronfman. Apparently Bronfman’s billions are not enough, though, and the protest organizers plan on asking you to dig deep to support their next rally, on July 21. Asking others to give up their freedom for three years as well isn’t free either apparently.
T-minus two days
Haaretz leads off with the news that the two-man drafting crew of Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Plesner hopes to have all the kinks ironed out within two days. The timeline is important, since the currently reigning Tal Law expires on August 1. However, the paper notes that certain members of the coalition are skeptical that they’ll have the necessary majority to pass the law.
Israel Hayom, which some see as a Netanyahu mouthpiece, is much more upbeat. The front page shows the two universal draft legislationeers shaking hands and running a nice big banner with the Netanyahu quote “We are facing a historic move … The new law will apply to everyone.”
Dan Margalit writes in the paper that legislators should take a gradual approach to the issue of drafting Haredim, coming up with the plan that they should be drafted at 18 for six months of national service and after that given the choice of returning to yeshiva until 22, when they will once again be called up, this time for real.
Cases closed and open
Haaretz, shunning the idea that variety is the spice of front pages, covers the half below the fold with two stories of the state deciding to close cases, both against people accused of wronging Arabs. The first story relates that the state will shelve the case against former Military Intelligence chief Eli Zeira for outing an Egyptian Mossad agent almost 40 years ago, and the second says that prosecutors could not find enough evidence to go after Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Safed, for inciting racism against, you guessed it, Arabs.
Israel Hayom continues to be the only paper fascinated with the various Olmert trials, writing on the front page that tomorrow will see record high tensions in the courtroom as the former prime minister will hear the judges’ ruling on the Rishon Tours, Talansky and Investment Center scandals. Should he make it out of the courtroom in one piece, of course, he still has the Holyland affair to contend with. See kids, corruption, or even just going into politics, doesn’t pay.
Israel Hayom is also the only paper not to run the same picture of Roger Federer kissing the Wimbledon Cup, instead choosing a dejected Andy Murray for its front page. Nothing like a down-trodden Australian to start your day off right.
Attack of the pricey tomatoes
Tomato buyers take note: Yedioth checked and it pays to purchase your maters in Kiryat Shmona, or even Tel Aviv, where they run NIS 2-3 for a kilo. Whatever you do, stay out of Kiryat Bialik and Kfar Sava, where they will cost you NIS 6, an arm and your firstborn child. Noting the severity of the problem, the paper says, the Knesset will vote on a law forcing stores to give tomatoes a uniform price across their branches. Of course it’s no coincidence that tomatoes bear the red mark of the Communists.
Maariv has a story that Jerusalem city bureaucrats are hot and heavy to name something after the recently deceased Benzion Netanyahu (father of the prime minister). Only problem is, you can’t name a road after someone who hasn’t been in the ground three years. The Talmudic solution struck upon by the sages of Jerusalem: Name an interchange after the historian. The city is set to vote on the measure on Thursday (the interchange would be the first of a number of future exits being built along the Begin highway) but not everybody is happy with the loophole. “There’s no difference between a way, an interchange and a road,” said one member of the board. “I’m not sure this would pass the Buzaglo test. We’re talking about the father of the prime minister and it is certainly fitting, but we need to treat him like everyone.”
Of chickens and leadership
In Yedioth’s op-ed pages, Orna Banai laments the poor state farm animals are kept in Israel, noting that chickens are starved because, well, they can be. “Jewish law obligates you to feed your animals before you feed yourself, so how is it possible to allow starving a million animals? Were the poor farming families of thousands of years ago able to be more compassionate toward the animals than we are?”
In Haaretz, the paper opines that Netanyahu’s switching back and forth on the universal draft issue, and not sticking to his guns, shows he does not have the ability to lead. “After Netanyahu learned that thousands of people were going to take part in Saturday night’s demonstration calling for a universal draft, he realized that the pent-up frustration among many in the middle class could be vented against him at the ballot box. That was the moment he decided to change his approach — the moment that provided yet more proof that Netanyahu’s position is no more than the net sum of the pressures on him at any given moment.”
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