It’s the economy, Israel
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Hebrew media review

It’s the economy, Israel

Stories about poverty, the minimum wage and high electricity prices dominate the Hebrew dailies

Illustrative photo of a natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Illustrative photo of a natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

For the Israeli electorate there are a lot of unknowns involving the upcoming elections. Will Netanyahu win? Will Lapid and Kahlon unite? Will housing prices moderate? One of the things that isn’t unknown is which way each Hebrew daily leans. Even on days when most of the news is economic, the papers use it to show their respective biases.

Yedioth Ahronoth, which is in the “no more Bibi” camp, focuses its front page on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein’s announcement that he’ll be looking into two government spending decisions, an NIS 12 million allotment for a visitors’ center near the West Bank city of Ariel, and the raising of the minimum wage. The paper sarcastically asks why there is money for a visitors’ center while one in four Israeli children goes to bed hungry.

The paper gives a full page to a report by the aid organization “Latet” that says there are 2.5 million Israelis in poverty. Among other things, Latet found that 25% of Israeli kids go to sleep hungry at least a few times a month. Also shocking, half of the people who use Latet for food relief have full-time jobs, yet they still can’t afford all the food they need.

After running an article on the shocking state of poverty in Israel, Yedioth runs an article on politicians slamming Netanyahu for it. The Labor Party released a statement that said, “While Netanyahu was busy scaring the public about threats to Zionism, he created an internal strategic threat in the form of 2.5 million people in poverty.”

Over in the pro-Netanyahu paper Israel Hayom, the minimum wage hike is on the front page, but it’s called an election trap. Netanyahu ordered that the minimum wage be raised from NIS 4,300 per month (about $1,090) to NIS 5,000 a month (about $1,270). While the public might like the move, other politicians aren’t so keen on it. Yair Lapid attacked Netanyahu, saying, “He only remembers the citizens when there are elections.”

Columnist Haim Shine comes to Netanyahu’s defense, writing that governments are elected to serve the people and when the prime minister makes a decision, the rest of the ministers should support it instead of trying to push their own political goals. “When each minister sees only the promotion of his personal goals and party, it creates a lack of confidence in the government that paralyzes its ability to act.” He concludes his piece by hoping Israelis will take a look at the situation and ask themselves whom are they willing to trust with Israel’s future.

Left-leaning Haaretz’s front page doesn’t focus on the economic problems in Israel, but rather the economic issues in Gaza that are causing a rise in the number of Gazans trying to enter Israel. Since Operation Protective Edge, the number of Palestinians trying to enter jumped from an average of 13 per month before the war to 66 per month since. Most of those crossing are young and unarmed men who are returned to Gaza once they are apprehended.

Analyzing the phenomenon, Amira Hass points to an extremely high unemployment rate, which is hovering between 45%-50% in the Gaza Strip. From an economic standpoint, Operation Protective Edge has wreaked havoc on the Gazan economy, destroying 30,000 jobs, with the recovery inching along. Palestinians aren’t just trying to flee to Israel either, she points out. Since the end of the war, large numbers of people have left Gaza with the help of smugglers in the hopes of reaching Europe. “The situation [in Gaza] involves not just a lack of jobs, but also a lack of hope,” she writes.

Another sex scandal

In non-election news, all the papers report on the arrest of a high-ranking military intelligence officer and two others for paying for sex with male minors. Haaretz reports that among the three arrested was a Hapoel Petah Tikva soccer team manager was accused of running over a police officer after being caught with a teenager in his car two weeks ago (he was subsequently fired by the club). The other two suspects are being held for three more days based on the evidence against them, which include text messages and graphic images. Police suspect the three men may have had sexual encounters with more than 10 minors each.

Yedioth also reports on the situation, focusing on the unnamed intelligence officer. According to the article, his defense is that he thought all the minors were actually 17 and therefore at the age of consent. However, police say, the minors actually told the intelligence officer that they were 15 years old but he still wanted to meet them and traded intimate pictures with them.

Out of gas

The Haaretz editorial chastises the Netanyahu government for what it sees as neglect in regulating the Tamar field, Israel’s natural gas field. The paper cites a report submitted to the government that alleges the lack of oversight of the project caused a 5% increase in electricity prices. The core of the problem is in the contract signed between the field owners and Israel Electric Corporation, which included a clause for an increase in gas prices every year, regardless of the market value. Haaretz recommends that instead of the government focusing on tax-free fruits and vegetables, it should tackle the core issues of the cost of living, like this gas monopoly. “Israeli citizens who have been fed promises about energy independence don’t need to pay another monopoly tax because the state was negligent.”

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