When the White House announced it would be sending three top officials to the region to push for the start of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, it was fairly big news. But the actual arrival of Jared Kushner and friends for meetings garners fairly muted coverage in the main Hebrew newspapers Friday morning, reflecting how far the peace process is from the mind of most Israelis, with pessimism at a deal actually coming together seemingly at a high point.
The lack of coverage probably also reflects the fact that the Israelis, Palestinians and Americans were mostly mum, letting loose with anodyne comments and little else. In the coming days, more about what was said will likely leak out, but in the meantime, the dailies are more focused on keeping to their ideological wheelhouses, with main stories about inciting school teachers (Israel Hayom), Bedouin losing citizenship (Haaretz) and the approaching blessed start of the new school year (Yedioth Ahronoth).
In what coverage it has, Israel Hayom writes that the Palestinians are unhappy with the American lack of commitment to a two-state solution, noting that the words were not mentioned by the Israelis or Americans in any of their statements Thursday.
The paper reports that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Kushner that the Palestinians would not come to the negotiating table under any circumstance without a public American declaration of support for two states, citing a senior source in Ramallah.
“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his people are interested in removing the two-state vision from the agenda and we are sure there is American-Israeli coordination on this, and we have also been informed that Arab states who support a regional effort at the expense of the Palestinian issue,” the source is quoted saying.
Haaretz notes that “both leaders [Netanyahu and Abbas] made an effort, at least on the outside, to show a willingness to work with the Americans to renew talks,” reporting that Abbas sounded less skeptical with Kushner after holding a round of talks with Arab leaders.
But the paper also notes that Israel is “apathetic toward Kushner’s efforts,” noting that Netanyahu refused to answer questions about the talks at a press briefing in Russia a day earlier.
Yedioth Ahronoth gives no more than a small blurb to Kushner’s meetings in Israel and columnist Yoaz Hendel, writing in a back of the book weekend magazine, also expresses little optimism for Trump to have any positive effect on our neck of the woods, including ignoring Israeli concern in the deal allowing Iran to set up shop on the Syrian Golan.
“Trump talks in favor of Israel, promises to move the embassy to Jerusalem and appoints Orthodox Zionist Jews to key posts regarding the Middle East. In practice, he doesn’t do a thing. Anyone who saw him as a messiah will find a false messiah. And that’s without knowing what his plans are for his ‘ultimate deal’ in the Middle East,” he writes.
Haaretz columnist Chemi Shalev doesn’t mention the peace efforts in a weekend wrap looking at US President Donald Trump, and it’s no surprise as Trump seems less concerned with Mideast peace and more with playing to his base that has stuck with him and is clamoring for his Mexican border wall.
“Trump is fighting their fight. He is their knight in shining armor. After most of those who voted for Trump as the lesser evil have already owned up to their mistake, Trump is left with the hard-core nucleus of his base,” he writes (though anecdotal evidence and polling suggests very few Trump voters have expressed regret). “They will follow him through thick and thin, no matter how outrageous his statements are or how egregious his mistakes. For them, he is a tribal chief before he is a president, and they are his soldiers and kinfolk. His critics, including liberals, intellectuals, the media, the establishment, minorities, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and all other heretics, are their enemies as well. For his friends, on the other hand, from Fox News through neo-Nazis to Vladimir Putin, all is forgiven,” he adds, claiming that America is as polarized today as it was during the Civil War.
Yedioth’s lead story is no less scathing to Trump’s buddy Netanyahu, reporting on the departure of Lior Lotan after three fruitless years of trying to return three missing Israelis and the bodies of two soldiers from Gaza.
“Giving up” reads the paper’s headline, reflecting the despairing feeling that is coming with the surprise announcement.
“After Lotan’s announcement yesterday, reports indicated that he asked to leave the post because of a feeling of disappointment, unhappiness and frustration from the political echelon that confined his efforts. Sources who spoke with him clarified that the disappointment that was felt was from Hamas’s behavior alongside a general sense of exhaustion.”
The paper’s coverage seems most concerned with the fates of the two dead soldiers and the one Jewish hostage, mostly ignoring the two Bedouin stuck in the Strip as well, much like most of the coverage over the issue has been over the years and reflecting the second-class citizen status many Arabs in Israel complain about.
At least second class is still a citizen. According to Haaretz’s lead story, some Bedouin are being stripped of even that, with the state saying that they were offered citizenship erroneously, up to thousands of people, including some who have been in Israel for decades and served in the army.
The story, describing a meeting of people in the same situation, recounts different versions of the same Kafka-esque story again and again.
“I went to the Interior Ministry to renew my identity card,” one person is quoted saying. “There, without any warning, they told me they were rescinding my citizenship since there was some mistake. They didn’t tell me what it was or what this meant. Since then I’ve applied 10 times, getting 10 rejections, each time on a different pretext. I have two children who are over 18 and they too have no citizenship. That’s unacceptable. I’ve been living in this area for dozens of years and my father was here before me. If there was a mistake, they should fix it.”
The right-wing Israel Hayom is much less sympathetic to the plight of Israeli Arabs in its lead story, which reports that the Education Ministry has taken action against 12 teachers and accused them of “incitement against the State of Israel and Israeli soldiers” in schools.
The paper reports that many of the schools are in East Jerusalem, implying that foreign funders are the ones pushing an anti-Israel narrative.
“Some of these schools are run by Palestinian NGOs, which receive money from Arab states, like Qatar. Information from the Education Ministry shows that teachers and principals worked with a group like this and during an event to salute martyrs from Jerusalem, students held a mock funeral for a martyr,” the paper reports.
Most Israeli parents would rather their kids take part in a mock martyr funeral than be at home with them, or at least that’s the sense one gets from most Israelis, who are upfront about their absolute dislike of the long summer vacation and relief for when they can finally send their kids to be babysat by teachers once again.
With a week to go, Yedioth continues to pump up the excitement, with a full two-page spread on the approaching new school year.
Included is a column by Ilana Koreal, who writes about her terrible summer having fun with her children.
“It should end already,” reads the headline of her column, calling August her “month of evil,” and recounting all the trips she took with them.
“I imagined a photogenic vacation, but the reality is so tiring, peeving, never-ending,” she writes. “The children are on the floor now. Crying.”