Labor, and loves lost
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Hebrew media review

Labor, and loves lost

The party primary continues to fascinate some, while others are less concerned with democracy; papers also look at secret trysts and open love affairs

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi visit the water desalination plant at Olga beach on July 6, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi visit the water desalination plant at Olga beach on July 6, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

When it comes to Labor Party politics, 30 is apparently a magic number. That’s what Yedioth Ahronoth found out after interviewing both of the two leading horses in the runoff race for the party’s leadership, with both Amir Peretz and Avi Gabbay promising to bring in 30 seats during the next election.

The paper’s coverage of the Labor race is the latest iteration of what continues to be fascination in the media with the internal struggles of the opposition party that has been lolling aimlessly in the political desert for years.

Aside from interviewing the two, and finding the same canned, predictable answers, pundits in Yedioth and Haaretz also weigh in on the race and how much it really matters.

“The problem with the party isn’t the candidates, but the gap between its self-image and reality. This is a party, someone said this week, that’s like someone who used to weigh 200 kilograms, got down to 70 kilograms, but still goes around in his old clothes. He’s drowning in them, but in his self-image that are his size,” Sima Kadmon writes in Yedioth.

“The leadershape race exposes the pretensions of the party that acts like it’s still big, but only has a few seats. If the elections were held today, Labor would come in third or fourth,” she adds putting down Peretz as someone with stale ideas as Gabbay as someone with no experience.

In lieu of dueling interviews, Haaretz sticks to one side of the tracks, running a large profile of Gabbay and only Gabbay, tracing his rise as a nameless, expressionless academic who became a Bezeq CEO and finally ended up in politics, coming up with a “series of conflicts,” including his decision to leave the government over the entrance of Yisrael Beytenu, despite the fact that his Kulanu party had a pre-election agreement with that same party.

Columnist Yossi Verter calls his somewhat surprising ascendance to the Labor runoff “the story of the week.” But Verter actually predicts that its Peretz who is the preferred choice of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, coming up with an elaborate scheme, by which Tzipi Livni — who hates Peretz — would leave the Zionist Union and join the coalition to replace Jewish Home in the case of peace talks breaking out.

“[Netanyahu] always prefers his partners divided, sliced up, weakened. That way they’re more dependent on him,” he writes. “Livni served as justice minister in Netanyahu’s previous government and was in charge of peace negotiations. If her good friend Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East, shows up soon with a tempting package, why shouldn’t Livni return to the government, this time as foreign minister, who would naturally be in charge of the negotiations, should they erupt? That idea has been discussed in Netanyahu’s close circle – and also in talks between the premier and American diplomats who are wondering what the fate of the coalition will be if the peace process is renewed.”

As has been the case all week, Gabbay and Peretz are nearly nowhere to be found in Israel Hayom, a right-wing paper that could frankly care less about the dovish party’s primaries, running a hum-drum news story about the candidates trying to drum up support and calling it a day.

It’s a different kind of democracy the paper has in mind anyway, leading off with a story about the resurgence of the controversial nation state bill, which is says will enshrine Israel as a “Jewish state with a democratic regime” — instead of calling it a “Jewish democratic state.”

“Instead of the original saying ‘The purpose of this Basic Law is to protect the standing of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, in order to protect in a Basic Law the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish democratic state in the spirit that the state of Israel was founded,’ the words ‘Jewish and democratic’ will be switched out for just ‘Jewish’ or alternatively, ‘Jewish state with a democratic regime,’” the paper reports, noting that the change came at the request of the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Basic Law or not, Israel is already making moves to assure that non-Jews don’t try to build non-Jewish lives here, according to Haaretz’s lead story, which reports that foreign workers are being deported for the crime of falling in love with other foreign workers.

“The work is hard and taxing, rest hours are few and far between and there are almost no vacation days. Anyone who managed to find time in those tough conditions for a relationship has to keep it secret. If the Population Authority finds out, they could lose their living,” the paper reports.

At least one relationship with a foreigner isn’t verboten and is celebrated openly, that of lovers Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had to fly off Thursday, after three magical days in Israel, but not before a romantic stroll along the beach with Bibi.

There’s not much more to the fling than meets the eye, but Yedioth still goes all out, putting together an album of keepsake photos of the two frolicking in the surf and enjoying a last hug, a rare display by the paper that normally never misses a chance to put Netanyahu down. “Netanyahu is used to hosting heads of countries from around the world,” the paper writes. “But’s it’s been a while since we’ve seen him so in shanti [Sanskrit for peace].”

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