Illegal cigars, legal weed
Hebrew Media Review

Illegal cigars, legal weed

As pundits dissect probes against the PM, potheads rejoice over the expected decriminalization of marijuana

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adresses the Knesset during a Q&A session, January 25, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adresses the Knesset during a Q&A session, January 25, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As police detectives and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conclude a third round of questioning regarding the ongoing investigations against the Israeli leader into alleged graft, the Hebrew-language media is becoming a little less wary of speculating and pondering over political possibilities and new realities that might emerge should the probes morph into an actual indictment.

Haaretz columnist Yossi Verter claims that right-wing politicians are beginning to seriously entertain the possibility that Netanyahu’s government may soon fall, and are therefore pressuring the prime minister to quickly take steps to implement certain hardline legislative ideas that have been floating around the Knesset in recent months. These include the annexation of the West Bank settlement city of Ma’aleh Adumim near Jerusalem, and/or the de facto recognition of illegal Jewish outposts across the Green Line as legitimate settlements.

The more the investigations against the prime minister advance and an alternative to his rule begins to materialize, Verter continues, the more Netanyahu will be pushed by the right-wing to advance these policies.

Nevertheless, the veteran pundit writes, the prime minister is not expected to undertake any major or dramatic policy changes in the West Bank. In the words of a Likud party member who asked Verter to be quoted anonymously: “There is no photo-op opportunity [for Netanyahu] in applying [Israeli] sovereignty [over the West Bank].”

Israel Hayom — as usual — rushes to the prime minister’s defense, dedicating a block of its front page to Netanyahu’s accusations that the probes against him are a left-wing ploy designed to topple his government.

The “pressure inflicted by the media and [some] politicians on the attorney general and law enforcement to file an indictment at any cost against the prime minister… This is an attempt to carry out a coup, in a non-democratic way,” the daily quotes Netanyahu as writing in a Facebook post.

As if to drive home the prime minister’s point, the paper enlists former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who tells it in an interview that “we have more serious things to worry about than cigars” — a reference to Netanyahu and his family’s alleged dealings with billionaire benefactors, including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. The movie mogul, according to reports, handed thousands of dollars worth of cigars to the Israeli leader over the years.

In Yedioth Ahronoth, almost the entire front page is dedicated to the “Green Revolution” that has been announced in Israel, namely, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s decision to dramatically change the way the penal code treats recreational use of marijuana. Speaking at a press conference to announce his decision, Erdan said Thursday he would be implementing proposals put forward by the Anti-Drug Authority to adopt the “Portugal Model,” in which possession and use of the drug would be decriminalized and treated largely as a health issue.

In light of this news, Yedioth goes full pothead and misses no opportunity for puns about “high aspirations” and “joint efforts” at every turn. The daily even publishes a “guide to the perplexed smoker” about the decriminalization policy, under which home use and possession of marijuana will carry no punishment, but those caught smoking in public could be subject to a series of punitive, but not criminal, measures.

Finally (and typically), as Israel braces for a heavy storm this weekend, the Hebrew-language media can’t resist discussing the possibility — however small it may be — of snow piling up in the capital of Jerusalem.

“Days of real winter,” Yedioth writes excitedly. The paper notes that teams of Israel Electric Company workers have been placed on call in order to prepare for blackouts that may occur due to the extreme weather conditions.

The paper also says that thousands of cranes are expected to pass through the Hula Valley in the north as part of the birds’ winter migration journey, and adds that no fewer than 41,163 cranes flew over the site yesterday.

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