Hebrew media review

In search of settlement building, Lorde and a coalition hero

Israel Hayom (kind of) takes aim at Netanyahu for a lack of settlement starts; Haaretz bashes Kahlon; and Yedioth says more money will make sure an artist never cancels a gig again

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon during a plenum session at the Knesset to approve changes in tax laws, May 10, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon during a plenum session at the Knesset to approve changes in tax laws, May 10, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Since printing a blank page is not really an option, newspapers in Israel and elsewhere have to come up with other ways of filling space when there is no news. One method, employed by broadsheet Haaretz Friday morning, is to lead the paper with an insider baseball political analysis — with cryptic “Days of Kahlon” headline and all.

Another is to fill your front page with a pointless contest, which, in the case of  Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday morning, means finding out who is the “most Israeli” Israeli — which is as childish as it sounds. (Spoiler alert: readers pick David Ben-Gurion.)

Israel Hayom has the closest thing to a newsy lead story, reporting that, despite thousands of new housing units being approved for settlements in the West Bank, most of the homes are not actually being built.

Despite a UN official last week saying that the 3,000 planned homes are wallowing in limbo because nobody wants to build or market homes over the Green Line, the paper reports that in actuality, contractors are chomping at the bit to start pouring concrete. Although not specifying that the prime minister is to blame, the story certainly allows readers to draw that conclusion, representing a rare case where the paper breaks with Benjamin Netanyahu and runs criticism of him when he is perceived to be not sufficiently right wing.

“In the last few months we’ve been approached by several entrepreneurs interested in bidding on the tenders and starting to build in Beit El, but unfortunately with the end of the year, the tenders still have not happened,” the paper quotes Beit El council head Shai Alon saying. “It saddens us that the prime minister does not put his weight on the issue, and we expect him to order whoever needs to be ordered to release the tenders so the builders can bid and get to build here in Beit El.”

In the same paper, columnist Nadav Shragai guesses that the de facto moratorium has something to do with US pressure, but isn’t sure it’s worth whatever Israel is getting.

“Is this prepayment or a de facto price for Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem? If that’s the reason, considering that building in Jerusalem is also partially frozen, it seems we came out losing. The bother isn’t worth the damage,” he writes.

While Israel Hayom is hitting Netanyahu for not being settler-friendly enough, lefty broadsheet Haaretz — in both its lead story and lead editorial — takes aim at the closest thing Netanyahu’s coalition has to a leftist, or at least a centrist, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, criticizing him and his Kulanu party as collaborators in corruption who refuse to bring down the government.

“Without Kulanu, the prime minister wouldn’t have been able to continue in office after telling Israel’s most powerful media tycoon that he would tailor legislation to his benefit if the tycoon slanted his media coverage in Netanyahu’s favor,” the lead editorial reads. “Without Kulanu, the man serving as defense minister could not remain in that position after it was found that millions of unexplained shekels had been deposited into his daughter’s and driver’s bank accounts. Without Kulanu, a man suspected of threatening and using inside information for private profit wouldn’t be serving as social affairs minister. Without Kulanu, a convicted felon who receives funds from a businessman wouldn’t be serving as interior minister. But Kulanu, led by the champion of justice and statesmanship, Moshe Kahlon, is giving corrupt politicians the green light.”

Meanwhile columnist Yossi Verter sounds like he almost feels bad for the guy, stuck in a dead-end coalition with no way out.

“No socioeconomic step, no rebate plan of one kind or another, will save him from his situation between a rock and a hard place, with him being both the rock and the hard place: A hero of the rule of law on one hand, and a politician who needs a coalition to operate on the other,” he writes.

Netanyahu and Kahlon wouldn’t have to worry about coalition squabbling if they were the actual princes of Israel, but they’ll never be royals, as popster Lorde would have sung in Tel Aviv had she not canceled her show. Yedioth reports on a new plan to make sure the next Lorde cancellation doesn’t happen, with Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan setting up an NGO and pouring at least NIS 128 million into fighting the Boycott Sanctions Divestment movement.

The paper notes that the body will be structured like Birthright — with rich foreign Jews matching the government amount and then some — to buy services from better PR companies and create a “civilian infrastructure that will help and be used by the State of Israel and the pro-Israel community to fight the delegitimization of Israel.”

Sometimes all the effort in the world can’t net you a win. That’s what the Knesset opposition learned after a 43+ hour filibuster failed to block the police recommendations bill. Yet apparently, the opposition is not giving up, going to the High Court to try and block the law, earning the derision of Israel Hayom. The tabloid claims that there has been “harsh criticism” of the move, making Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s attack on Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, that he is “degrading the Knesset,” into a headline.

Columnist Haim Shine takes it a step further, calling the opposition sore losers for daring to turn to the court, which he all but intimates is illegitimate.

“The Knesset is the only arena in which the wishes, beliefs and interests of everybody are realized. Knesset discussion allow for an exchange of ideas and attempts to convince. The laws are an expression of national compromise, presented by the majority via Knesset members,” he writes. “Once there’s a final vote, the results are binding. There is no way to maintain democracy without a majority opinion. This is a basic rule in understanding the essence of democracy.”

Haaretz’s Amos Harel, concerns himself with the wider world, predicting that the raft of threats facing Israel and the US will continue to grow in 2018. So when Israel is having to battle Hezbollah or Iran in the north, the US will be too tied up with a certain little rocket man to come to the rescue.

“In the event of another war erupting here, we can probably count on US President Donald Trump to fire off a strongly worded tweet in support,” he writes. “But a continuing crisis with North Korea on the verge of boiling over will necessarily monopolize Washington’s focus, and overshadow any escalation on one of Israel’s borders.”

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