Politics, peace partners and power plays
Hebrew media review

Politics, peace partners and power plays

The Israeli press gears up for the American elections; debate rages about Mahmoud Abbas; and security chiefs attack each other over Iran strike

Friends forever?  Gabi Ashkenazi and Benjamin Netanyahu in 2011.  The two reportedly argued about attacking Iran in 2010 (photo credit: Abir Sultan / Flash90)
Friends forever? Gabi Ashkenazi and Benjamin Netanyahu in 2011. The two reportedly argued about attacking Iran in 2010 (photo credit: Abir Sultan / Flash90)

One day ahead of the US elections, the Israeli press ups its coverage by dedicating generous front-page real estate and multiple pages of content in preparation for the main event.

Yedioth Ahronoth leads with the headline “America divided,” and has Nahum Barnea reporting from the battleground state of Ohio about the candidates’ wives campaigning for their respective husbands. Yedioth also offers a page about the major groups in America and who could benefit from their vote. Out of the six categories listed (high-voting rate, women voters, African-American voters, Hispanic voters, Jewish voters, and Evangelical voters) the paper lists Romney leading only among Evangelical voters.

Maariv includes in its coverage a map from RealClearPolitics.com that shows Obama winning the election with 280 Electoral College votes. The paper seems to think an Obama victory is a foregone conclusion. Its main campaign article already notes whom Obama needs to thank — the Republicans. The article, by former Israeli consul general to New York Alon Pinkas, assumes that Obama will win reelection due to a shift to the right by the Republican Party. “The Republican party radicalized its position and allowed a weak and hurting president to be elected, it seems, to another term,” Pinkas writes.

Israel Hayom also includes a map that gives a slight edge to Obama but noting that nothing has been decided. Along with the general reporting about the last-minute push by both candidates, Israel Hayom includes a civics lesson about the Electoral College and how it works in the American democracy.

Haaretz puts its American election coverage below the fold, but inside the paper has two full pages of coverage, including a FAQ section about the Electoral College, and just what the donkey and elephant are doing in the election. Also included is an update on the recovery efforts following superstorm Sandy and how people are not standing in line to vote but rather to get gas.

Partner or not?

The debate over whether Mahmoud Abbas is a partner for peace is once again raging after months of the Palestinian issue being on the back burner. Haaretz’s front page reports that former Kadima head Tzipi Livni and former prime minister Ehud Olmert criticized Netanyahu for dismissing Abbas’s Friday evening statements. “Abu Mazen [Abbas] said brave things. Whoever wants a Jewish state needs to embrace that interview,” Livni said. Abbas for his part clarified his statements: “I have not given up on the right of return. What I said about Safed was a personal position.”

Haaretz’s op-ed piece unsurprisingly sides with Livni and Olmert and urges talking to the Palestinians. In an editorial titled “Yes to Abbas,” the paper writes that “After too many months spent exclusively dealing with the prospect of a nuclear Iran, Israelis have gotten a reminder about another threat: a threat to the very existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” The piece expresses dismay that the political parties campaigning for the next election do not sufficiently address the Palestinian issue. “It is the duty of the parties running in the upcoming Knesset elections to place this issue on their agenda,” the paper writes. If they don’t, the paper warns, they “will bear the responsibility for the disastrous consequences of losing Israel’s Palestinian partner.”

Dan Margalit of Israel Hayom weighs in on the issue in an opinion piece titled “Clumsy reply to vague statements.” Margalit doesn’t believe in the sincerity of Abbas’s statements, but thinks the government should have sent envoys immediately to Ramallah with cameras and tried to start negotiations. Margalit says he would like to believe Abbas, but “the nature of the conduct of Abbas and his colleagues proves beyond doubt that they strongly oppose this compromise [on the right of return].”

Warning: Prices rising

Maariv features on its front page the results of a survey it conducted about the government’s handling of the economy. “Two thirds of the public: The government’s economic policy is not good,” reads the headline. Inside, the article reports that according to the survey, 43.1% of respondents are afraid they may fall into poverty. Though when asked whether their economic situation had changed since the Netanyahu government took over, the most popular answer (with 36.2%) was that their situation had remained the same. Also included in its coverage is the announcement by the Shufersal supermarket chain that the price of cottage cheese, the staple of Israeli breakfasts everywhere, would rise to 6.05 shekels (from 5.9 shekels). High cottage cheese prices were one of the first sparks that kicked off the social justice protests of 2011.

Power plays?

The news revealed yesterday on Channel 2’s investigative show Uvda — that Netanyahu and Barak tried to order the army to prepare for an immediate strike on Iran in 2010 and the army refused (or wasn’t ready, depending on which paper you read) — has led to some interesting coverage between the papers.

Yedioth tries to provide both sides of the story but focuses on the opposition to the move. The paper reports on then IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi’s fear that by simply moving the army to level “P Plus” it would create “facts on the ground” that could lead to war. “This is not a thing you do unless you’re certain you want to launch an operation,” Ashkenazi reportedly told Netanyahu. Meir Dagan, who was the head of the Mossad at the time, reportedly told Netanyahu that he needed the cabinet to approve such a move and that “the prime minister and defense minister tried to steal a war.”

Israel Hayom highlights Barak’s response in its headline, “Barak: Ashkenazi stated that the IDF did not have the capability to attack Iran.” The article quotes Barak saying, “The hypothesis that if the IDF chief doesn’t recommend something that there is the capacity to do, then we decide not to do it – is baseless. It is possible to take action on this without the army’s recommendation.”

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