Hebrew media review

Keep qualms and Kerry on

It’s the US secretary of state’s turn for a spanking as papers report on purported proof the US worked with the Palestinians in the UN, though Netanyahu gets bent over a knee as well

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the Oxford Union in Oxford, central England, on May 11, 2016. (Peter Nicholls/Pool/AFP)
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the Oxford Union in Oxford, central England, on May 11, 2016. (Peter Nicholls/Pool/AFP)

As US President Barack Obama and his cohorts have been roasted, flambéed and battered by Israeli officials over the last several days for Washington’s refusal to veto a UN Security Council resolution critical of West Bank settlement construction, Secretary of State John Kerry has largely avoided the frying pan.

That changed Tuesday night with the Egyptian publication of a transcript purporting to show the top US diplomat and the Palestinians coordinating their position on the Security Council and the peace process, and Kerry comes in for a spanking in Israel’s two most read newspapers as a result.

Yedioth Ahronoth calls the unsourced transcript, Hebrew translations of which are splattered across its front page, a “smoking gun,” and intimates it forms at least part of the info Israel has been saying it has in its possession proving American obsequiousness to the Palestinian position. The paper doesn’t expound on that point or include the US denial, instead just giving a basic rundown of the Egyptian report.

“According to the protocol, revealed by the Egyptian site al-Youm al-Sabah, seen as a mouthpiece for president [Abdel Fattah] el-Sissi, Kerry and [US National Security Adviser Susan] Rice told the Palestinians they are prepared to work with them on an action in the Security Council in getting a ‘resolution that will be balanced.’ Toward that end, the two noted, they ordered US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power to keep in touch with Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour,” the paper reports.

Israel Hayom links the report to the announcement that Kerry will lay out his vision for a way forward on Middle East peace today, running the headline “’Kerry’s vision,’ with Palestinian approval” with all the snottiness that phrase can telegraph. To the paper’s credit, it includes the American denial, though it misidentifies State Department spokesman Mark Toner as simply “Turner,” without bothering to give a first name or title.

The paper also includes Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan calling Kerry’s speech “pathetic,” but in a sign that special rage is still reserved for Obama, there are also stories reporting on Culture Minister Miri Regev’s attack on the president as well as a roundup of the bludgeoning Obama is receiving from some US commentators.

But all that is nothing but a flummadiddle compared to Israel Hayom’s attack on the biggest enemy of all – rival paper Haaretz, and its nerve in criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s volley of diplomatic payback over the Security Council vote.

“Jerusalem’s choice to respond with legitimate diplomatic tools is seen in Haaretz as ‘breaking everything,’ even though in any normal country it’s accepted to complain to envoys about unsupportive actions,” the paper’s Boaz Bismuth writes. “And that’s the rub. We’re not even speaking the same language – the nation and the editorial. Something engraved in the heart of the people for generations isn’t even recognizable to [Haaretz’s] apocalyptic visionaries.”

It’s not just Haaretz’s editorials that are offering an unsavory view of Netanyahu’s response, but also good old-fashioned gumshoe reporting, as evidenced by one of the paper’s top stories Wednesday morning, which reports on a threatening phone call made by Netanyahu to New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully before the vote; apparent collusion between the Palestinians and Britain, not the US, on the draft of the resolution; and unsuccessful Russian attempts to push the vote off.

“Netanyahu’s phone call to McCully was almost his last attempt to prevent the vote, or at least to postpone it and buy a little time. Western diplomats say the conversation was harsh and very tense and Netanyahu let loose with sharp threats, perhaps unprecedented in relations between Israel and another Western country,” Barak Ravid reports in his story, just one part of an expose chock full of scoops.

As for that hated “apocalyptic” editorial, it’s true the team of writers at Haaretz are not big fans of Netanyahu. And on Wednesday they take the prime minister to task for a report – in Yedioth – that he ordered Israel’s UN mission to abstain on a vote in the General Assembly to set up a mechanism to take Syrians to court for war crimes, at the apparent behest of new bestie Moscow.

“How can it be that Netanyahu, that warrior for justice, who is second to none in his concern over the international community’s hypocrisy, dodged a debate on the criminal responsibility of the mass murderers over the border? Does the man who constantly warns of a second Holocaust simply not care about the Syrians’ horrific suffering? Or were there other reasons for his embarrassing flight from the UN vote,” the editorial asks. “At the moment of truth, Netanyahu decided to stand with Assad, the mass murderer, and his Iranian, Lebanese and Russian backers rather than with their victims. The prime minister’s morality is roused only when the international community objects to Israeli settlements in the territories.”

Haaretz isn’t the only one to rip into Netanyahu for the abstention on Syria. Yedioth quotes a senior Western diplomat at the UN castigating the prime minister for the same hypocrisy (even though the vote on the Syrian war crimes was a week before the Security Council vote.)

“This is truly a disgrace. He preaches to everyone on morality but when it comes Israel’s turn to take a stand he orders his men to run away from the discussion. Shame on him,” the source is quoted saying.

Not surprisingly, the affair doesn’t make it into Israel Hayom, seen as a Netanyahu mouthpiece. Instead, the paper previews the slated release of papers expected to detail an even more shameful chapter of Israel’s history, the Yemenite children affair, during which the state is accused of kidnapping newborn babies of immigrants and telling the parents they had died.

The paper reports that the state will release some 210,000 documents on the affair, scanned, cataloged and put online for all to see, but some of those most affected see it as little more than a panacea that doesn’t address the real issues of what the state did.

“This is a tense day for many aggrieved families and a way to get to more kidnapped children, but this is coming too late and we can’t say ‘wow, that’s it,’” the paper quotes one man who says he was taken from his parents at 17 days. “This is not a holiday. It will be a holiday when they find another 100 kidnapped children and return them to their families despite the delay and the great pain caused, but this is still a big, important step.”

Even if the families aren’t together, they are at least united in that emotional tornado of joy, sadness and tension, as evidenced by a commentary by singer Boaz Sharabi in Yedioth, giving a view of the other side of the equation.

“Now they are finally opening the info. What can I say? Am I excited? On the one hand I’m kind of closed off. The fact that I could have a twin sister has followed me my whole life. I don’t know what to think. Soon I’ll be 70, and I might say that I want nothing more than to know what happened,” he writes. “I wait tensely to see what will be revealed when they open everything. Maybe something will blow me away.”

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