The challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces in presenting one view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a domestic audience and another on the world stage is in full view in Tuesday morning’s papers.
Israel Hayom, which ostensibly represents Netanyahu views, is up in arms over reports that some dovish Israeli opposition parties will boycott a celebration of the 50 years since the “liberation” of the West Bank.” However at the same time, Haaretz has Netanyahu backing US President Donald Trump’s push for a peace plan — which one might think would likely include not celebrating 50 years of Palestinians under Israeli rule.
This could be a case of Israel Hayom splitting with the prime minister, which it has done before on right-wing issues, notably this summer on the issue of Temple Mount security. More likely, though Netanyahu, a consummate expert at walking a political tightrope, is sending one message to his domestic audience via the tabloid and another to keep his good buddy Trump happy.
“Boycotting the ceremony for 50 years of settlements — an embarrassment” reads the top headline in Israel Hayom, with the hyperbole cranked up to 11 thanks to Culture Minister Miri Regev declaring that David Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres — apparently big supporters of the settlements in her mind — are “rolling over in their graves” over the fact that the Zionist Union and Yesh Atid factions won’t attend the Wednesday celebration in the West Bank.
Yesh Atid is quoted denying the report and saying it will send a representative and Zionist Union is quoted saying it opposes the politicization of the event. Thus Israel Hayom’s actual beef seems to be with Peace Now for calling on the parties to boycott.
Nonetheless, columnist Haim Shine uses the occasion to take a crack at the factions.
“The Israeli statesmanship that was a cornerstone during Ben-Gurion’s day no longer exists among the left. In its place considerations tied to small-ball politics have taken center stage,” he writes. “When the main spokesperson of the opposition, MK Eitan Cabel, lashes the prime minister and terms him the prime minister of the far right leading Israel to the abyss and makes political hay again and again of the terrible murder of Yitzhak Rabin, one must wonder to what horrid depths the Zionist Union has tumbled into. Petty politicians will never be able to return to ruling Israel.”
It’s true that Ben-Gurion and Peres did show some support for settlements decades ago, but Israel was a different place back then, with the two-state solution being a dirty phrase domestically. That dynamic is still somewhat at play, not only with some left-wing politicians still showing support for mainline settlements as well as East Jerusalem and Golan Heights, but also with Netanyahu backing Trump’s efforts to build peace plan, which is Haaretz’s lead story.
The paper does not report, as other have, that in a cabinet meeting Sunday Netanyahu pushed off a decision on okaying settlements in light of Trump’s peace efforts, but quotes Netanyahu saying that he does not think the US president is messing around.
“There’s no doubt that the Palestinian topic is a heavy and important matter for Trump,” Netanyahu is quoted saying, according to ministers present at the meeting. “Trump conveyed his seriousness about this. The Americans are preparing a plan, and I presented our positions to the president. Trump is very determined and wants to reach the ultimate deal.”
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is all but missing from the pages of Yedioth Ahronoth, which is more concerned with Israeli-Israeli conflicts, particularly the continuing highway protest by the disabled, who after months of tying up traffic are finally getting top-rate media attention.
That attention comes with a price, though and the paper focuses on police stepping up attempts to crack down on the protests by handing out tickets.
“It’s ironic that they want NIS 500 out of a starvation budget of NIS 2,342 a month, since we are fighting for the right to live,” one protest organizer says. “These fines are certification of state torture and a death sentence for starving disabled people. I call on the prime minister to stop the abuse. It’s not becoming.”
If Israel Hayom can be read as a gauge of Netanyahu’s attention, it’s safe to say he is not listening, with the paper burying the story with a small item deep inside. What is played up somewhat more is a story on Germany’s far-right AfD party saying it has no beef with Jews and supports Israel, continuing the paper’s seemingly tacit support for the faction’s rise and reflecting what seems to be the government’s willingness to get in bed with anyone who supports Israel.
Despite the paper’s story noting the AfD is for banning kosher slaughter, circumcision and wants to do away with Germany’s special relationship with Israel, the headline focuses on party head Alexander Gauland saying that “Jews have no reason to fear” and “we stand by Israel.”
To Haaretz’s lead editorial, it’s no big mystery the government has no big issue with AfD, since it sees kindred racist spirits in the party.
“To our great shame, Netanyahu’s Israel is part of the global trend of the ascendancy of the far right. And not merely part of it, but rather an advance guard of the trend: as in Hungary and in Poland, and to an extent in the United States, in Israel too this right is already in power,” the editorial reads. “Can one be shocked by the AfD when your prime minister visits a leader who praised those who collaborated with the Nazis; when a picture of the prime minister’s son decorates the home page of a neo-Nazi website, thanks to an anti-Semitic collage he posted to the exultant cheers of a former Ku Klux Klan leader; when Israel, out of economic or Islamophobic interests, grants legitimacy to dubious world leaders? Thanks to Netanyahu and his government, Israel has lost its special historic moral status, and with it its ability to warn the world against fascist processes.”