Overnight negotiations between the Finance Ministry and the labor union over the nationwide general strike, the results of which were unknown at printing time, meant that the Israeli dailies had to be cautious in selecting today’s morning headlines. While all four feature the strike on their front pages, the headlines reflect the ambiguity surrounding its resolution.
“Overnight negotiations to end the general strike,” reads Haaretz’s main headline. “The great strike: waiting to be resolved,” reads Israel Hayom. Maariv is even more cautious, sidestepping predictions and instead highlighting yesterday’s Labor Court proceedings. Yedioth Ahronoth came up with a creative solution — dedicating only a small headline on the front page to the strike — and referring readers to its website for updated coverage.
Another story that appears on the front page of all four publications today is a report on a police manhunt for a serial bank robber who is suspected of killing a guard at one of the 10 banks he allegedly held up. “Wanted: A serial robber and murderer,” read the headlines in Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom.
The main photo in three of the four papers is a picture of Gilad Shalit meeting with French President Nicholas Sarkozy yesterday in Paris. Shalit, who left the country for the first time after being released from more than five years of Hamas captivity in Gaza, met with Sarkozy in the Elysee Palace. The former captive holds French citizenship and reportedly thanked Sarkozy for his role in aiding his release.
Haaretz features on its front page an exclusive story on peculiar selection criteria for acceptance of sperm donations. According to the report, by Dan Even, the sperm bank at Rishon Letzion’s Assuta Hospital only accepts donations from men who served in the IDF.
Yedioth Ahronoth prominently features a report on how the expected cuts to the country’s defense budget will negatively affect the army’s training capabilities at a time of regional tensions. “The IDF will cancel training exercises because of the cuts,” reads the headline.
The inside pages provide readers with extended coverage on three major developing stories: the ongoing negotiations to end the general strike; the police’s efforts to capture the suspected thief and killer; and the criminal investigation of the parents of twin infants who are suspected of causing the death of their son and seriously injuring their daughter by violently shaking them.
All the papers also wrote about the ongoing investigation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau chief Natan Eshel. Eshel, who is suspected of sexually harassing his subordinate, had to quit his testimony to the Civil Service’s investigators halfway through the proceedings yesterday because he was feeling ill.
Despite the prominence given to crime-related matters in the papers, Yedioth Ahronoth has an encouraging report on lower overall crime rates in 2011. According to the Page 10 story, crime rates last year dropped by five percent compared to 2010.
Israel Hayom is helping staff at Independence Hall in Tel Aviv solve a 64-year-old mystery. Staff members at the hall, where the original Declaration of Independence was first signed, are trying to decipher the identity of one of the declaration’s signatories. Thirty-seven of the 38 signatures on the historic document are known to belong to members of the People’s Council, the committee that was the precursor to the modern parliament; however, nobody seems to know the identity of the person who contributed the 38th signature. Israel Hayom asks that anyone who can shed light on the matter contact the institution’s staff.
Maariv puts a positive spin on the Carmel forest fire disaster. According to water experts from Haifa University, the fire that decimated thousands of acres of forestland in December 2010 resulted in increased water flow into the Oren River. The experts explain that the absence of foliage has allowed rainwater to flow freely into the river, resulting in 40-year highs in water levels.
Yedioth Ahronoth reveals, on Page 14, a Zionist connection to NASCAR racing. According to the report, a car sporting an Israeli flag will take part in the Daytona 500 later this month. The car belongs to a racing team owned by two non-Jewish Israel supporters and is meant to highlight the importance of US support of Israel.
On the opinion page of Yedioth Ahronoth, Gideon Eshet examines the time-worn mantra “They only understand brute strength,” a statement usually addressed to Israel’s Arab neighbors, and aims it at the government over its handling of the strike. “As long as the workers don’t employ the weapon of a general strike, their chances of achieving fair working conditions is minuscule,” he writes.
Right-leaning Israel Hayom gives column space to coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, who reminds readers that this week marked three years of the current government’s rule. Elkin remarks that reaching the three-year benchmark is in itself noteworthy in a country infamous for its political instability, and lists the various accomplishments of the coalition. “We can sum up and say that the Netanyahu government provided Israeli citizens with three years of sanity and normalcy that was missing for so long. But why should we settle only for three years? We deserve to carry on with that normalcy in the future too,” Elkin writes in advance of what many believe will be an election year.
In Haaretz, meanwhile, resident rightie Israel Harel writes in praise of Israel’s abnormality. “Normalcy is a desirable goal, but not an existential one. Even if normal life were not possible, we would still cling to the land; we would still create, absorb immigrants, and develop a flourishing and just economy, even under difficult conditions; and if necessary, we would still fight to defend ourselves and our existence,” writes Harel.