Goodbye Mandela, hello Kerry
Hebrew media review

Goodbye Mandela, hello Kerry

Those in the press awake late enough report about the South African leader’s death; the rest write about current peace talks

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.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela in 2009. (photo credit: AP/Theana Calitz-Bilt, Pool)
Former South African president Nelson Mandela in 2009. (photo credit: AP/Theana Calitz-Bilt, Pool)

Nelson Mandela is gone, and those in the Israeli press who were up late enough to hear the news run eulogies to the legendary figure. The rest of the ink spilled in today’s papers is, expectedly, devoted to the peace talks with the Palestinians.

Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and civil rights hero, died Thursday after prolonged health issues at the age of 95.

Elie Wiesel’s eulogy for Mandela is run on Page 3 of Yedioth Ahronoth, in which he writes about the first time he met the man, shortly after his release from South African prison. They met in Oslo for a Nobel conference and Wiesel asked Mandela to deliver some statements about Israel.

“What was this Zionism?” Mandela asked Wiesel, and Wiesel said he delivered a brief, concentrated lecture on the history of the Zionist movement.

“Mandela indeed related to the issue of Israel, as I asked of him, when he stated, ‘If indeed Zionism is like this, as Elie Wiesel described it to me, I support it. But….’ ” Wiesel recounts. “That ‘but’ hurt me a lot.”  

Wiesel closes by saying Mandela was a “giant,” a man impossible to forget. “Without him, the world wouldn’t be what it is.”

Haaretz features a front-page blurb to Mandela, part of a lengthy obituary that continues on Page 22. Israel Hayom buries its coverage of Mandela’s death on Page 17, featuring the prime minister’s and president’s quotes of condolence on his passing, but no more. But that’s better than Maariv, which didn’t get its copy out in time to include anything on Mandela.

Instead, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories takes center stage, as he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conducted “marathon security talks,” Haaretz reports. It says that the two held a meeting late into the night to discuss West Bank security matters after Kerry spent the day shuttling back and forth between Jerusalem and Ramallah, presenting both sides with a compromise position drafted by former US general John Allen.

The paper quotes a Reuters report according to which a Palestinian official said the PA rejected Kerry’s compromise initiative out of hand. While Kerry acknowledged that progress had been made, he said there remained “questions of sovereignty; questions of respect and dignity, which are obviously significant to the Palestinians and Israelis; very serious questions [of] security and also of longer-term issues of how we end this conflict once and for all.”

Maariv’s headline reads “The US agrees to long-term IDF presence in the [Jordan] Valley,” and it reports that the Americans have moved closer to the Israeli position on the issue and understand the necessity of an Israeli military presence along the border with Jordan.

Lo and behold, Israel Hayom’s pollsters found that 87 percent of Hebrew-speaking Israelis polled by the paper are pessimistic that the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians will yield a final agreement. As for any progress, the paper reports that Netanyahu and Kerry continued to keep mum about the negotiations, in keeping with the preconditions of the talks.

Of the details leaked to the press, the paper reports that the two sides discussed the issue of an IDF presence in the Jordan Valley — Israel insists on one; the Palestinians refuse — and that the US presented a compromise position, that the Israel Defense Forces would remain temporarily. On the issue of Jerusalem, Israel insisted on a united capital, whereas the Palestinians demanded it as their own; the US presented a compromise position, in which Jerusalem would be rebranded as “Greater Jerusalem” and the Palestinians would have sovereignty over its eastern, Arab neighborhoods.

Haaretz’s editorial criticizes Netanyahu’s leadership abilities and calls for greater US pressure to bring about a two-state solution. “Even if Netanyahu understands the need to divide the land, he is not capable of translating this understanding into decisions and actions,” it writes. “He decides only under pressure, as if he is only capable of showing how the decision was forced on him by the president of the United States, or by public outrage.

“To make the critical decisions in the negotiations with the Palestinians, Netanyahu will need help in the form of an American peace plan,” the Haaretz editorial continues. “He will not present a map of his own initiative, as did his predecessors Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak. ”

The paper calls Kerry’s security proposals an important step to bringing about a comprehensive agreement. It calls on the US to present a map of the future border — “Without this, Netanyahu won’t move forward.”

Turning off the beaten path of negotiations and its rumors, Yedioth Ahronoth reports that 12 Mossad agents received awards Thursday. And four of them are not your prototypical James Bond-type — they’re mothers.

“In the ceremony, which was held for its fourth year, the 12 agents received the awards of excellence for ‘standing ready on the front of eliminating the threat of unconventional weapons, the struggle against terrorism and prevention of other threats against the State of Israel,’ ” the paper reports.

The paper acknowledges that it couldn’t report much about the identities or characters of the recipients, but writes that “two of the mothers are daring fighters who risk their lives.” One, her handlers told the paper, gave up a secure career to work for the Mossad.

read more: