Hebrew media review

Nipped in the bud

The government decries calls to bar Arab workers, while a report reveals a foiled attempt on Liberman’s life and effects of the Har Nof attack linger

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni (photo credit: Flash90)
Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni (photo credit: Flash90)

The near-unanimous government condemnation of the decision by Ashkelon’s mayor to bar Arab workers from construction sites at kindergartens in the southern city dominates headlines in Friday’s Hebrew papers, both for the rare political consensus and the growing discriminatory practices.

Meanwhile, a thwarted assassination attempt against Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman over the summer receives ample coverage, and the Har Nof killings continue to reverberate in the Israeli press.

Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom lead with fierce criticism of Ashkelon mayor Itamar Shimoni by the prime minister, president, and senior ministers from left and right.

Apart from the Ashkelon incident, Yedioth details a series of other controversial measures that Israeli cities have adopted in light of the security situation. The Kiryat Ono municipality announced that Palestinians from the West Bank would not be allowed into the city, and increased security at building sites and schools. The city later clarified that it referred only to those Palestinians in Israel illegally, Yedioth reports. Ashdod, another southern city, similarly ramped up security at construction sites near kindergartens, but the city stressed that it would not bar any Arab workers from entering the sites, and denounced the Ashkelon mayor’s decision. And in Holon, security was tightened around kindergartens on Thursday.

The paper reports that in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, some students have asked that Arab janitors only work after hours and that the Jewish and Arab students be segregated. The university rejected both requests unequivocally. Meanwhile, in Rishon Lezion, a WhatsApp campaign called for the boycott of a bakery that employs Palestinians (legally).

Israel Hayom lauds the (nearly) wall-to-wall denunciation of Shimoni’s plan as “exceptional unity,” but also spotlights the two MKs backing the Ashkelon mayor — Housing Minister Uri Ariel and Likud MK Moshe Feiglin. Ariel denied the measure was racist, while Feiglin accused the public of “hypocrisy” and wrote on Facebook: “Arab workers don’t enter army bases or the sensitive areas of the Defense Ministry. Why is the security of the kindergartens in Ashkelon less sensitive?”

The paper reports that the Ashkelon police have not accepted Shimoni’s directive. “We abide by the law,” a senior officer said.

Haaretz emphasizes the police, IDF, and Shin Bet opposition to imposing further restrictions on West Bank Palestinians due to the security threat, such as a closure or barring workers from entering Israeli territory, which would be a form of “collective punishment.”

Instead, security forces are focused on pinpoint operations, targeted arrests, and gathering more intelligence in East Jerusalem. They are also opposed to bringing in the IDF to East Jerusalem, arguing that the police are better equipped to deal with the protesters.

In its editorial, Haaretz links the controversial Jewish state bill, which will be put to a vote on Sunday, with the situation in Ashkelon.

“Netanyahu and Bennett’s condemnations set new records for hypocrisy. Shimoni merely translated into action the spirit of the rightist leaders in Jerusalem,” the paper says. “The nation-state bill ignores the existence of an Arab community in Israel, with its own language, culture and rights, placing the state’s Arab citizens in a position of inferior status to that of its Jews, who are also given collective rights. Instead of moving to end discrimination, Netanyahu means to give it the strength of a Basic Law.

“Netanyahu’s conduct is not surprising. He has ignored the Arab community throughout his term as prime minister, and his coalition acts tirelessly to ‘Judaize’ the state.”

The Shin Bet’s revelation of an attempted assassination of Liberman during the summer conflict is also spotlighted in the Friday newspapers, which all provide an identical account of the foiled plot. Yedioth recalls a foiled April 2001 attempt on the foreign minister’s life: After the IDF received a tip that Liberman’s house was being watched, his wife and children were evacuated in the middle of the night, and later an army chopper retrieved the then-national infrastructure minister from his home in the West bank settlement of Nokdim.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meanwhile, the brutal Har Nof killings continue to haunt the Hebrew press. Yedioth highlights a letter from the four widows of the victims, who call for national unity in the wake of the attack.

“Faithful to the Haredi traditions, the women did not eulogize their husbands, and therefore this is their first statement since the slaughter. ‘The broken widows and bereaved families call to unify, and to increase love between people, and between communities,’ the letter says.”

Israel Hayom notes the slated demolitions of the terrorists’ East Jerusalem homes.

And in Haaretz, the paper’s Yair Ettinger writes that, much as in the Har Nof attack, Anglo Israelis have been at the front lines of the current round of violence, with five of the 11 victims holding dual citizenship (including three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun who was killed in a car-ramming attack at a Jerusalem light rail station).

He reports that in addition to honoring slain Druze policeman Zidan Saif by attending his funeral, the Har Nof community will dedicate to him an ambulance recently donated to the local emergency services.

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