Israel media review

Prime ministers are doin’ it to themselves: 9 things for March 8

Women are the focus of the day, but it’s Netanyahu manning up to early elections and attacking the police that leads the news agenda

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Economic Club of Washington in Washington, DC, on March 7, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Economic Club of Washington in Washington, DC, on March 7, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM)

1. It’s international Women’s Day but men are seemingly still running the world, or at least the political parties that hold the fate of the survival of Israel’s government in its hands.

  • Israel may or may not be headed to early elections but a new demand from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — that coalition parties not only solve a dispute over the army draft law but also commit to sticking with him until the end of his term in 2019 — seems to make an early ballot that much more likely.
  • “Coalition party heads assess that Netanyahu is interested in calling new elections for reasons of his own,” the Haaretz daily reports.
  • Netanyahu-backing Israel Hayom’s front page might offer a clue as to why. A poll commissioned by the tabloid shows his Likud faction well ahead of rival Yesh Atid, 34 seats to 24. Zionist Union gets a measly 10 seats, according to the survey. Jewish Home also sees a significant jump to 14 seats, while the Joint List of Arab-majority factions shrinks to 10.
  • “This will be an election campaign of Bibi versus everyone,” columnist Moti Tochfeld writes in the paper. “The agenda is already set: the media, prosecution, police and opposition will fight the battle of their lives to bring down Netanyahu, whose side will return fire and take no prisoners in a war to renew his public mandate and go back to leading.”

2. A report in Yedioth Ahronoth claims that former Netanyahu aide Nir Hefetz will testify not only against his ex-boss, but two other Likud ministers and two senior Likud officials as well.

  • The report does not name who is on the hit list, but details that the testimony involves deals related to regulation in the healthcare system, real estate, and “an explosive issue related to the environment that is still at the heart of the public agenda.”

3. Netanyahu’s attack on the “industry” of turning former aides into state’s witnesses is also continuing to be pilloried, after he accused police in a Wednesday evening Facebook post of pushing witnesses to lie in order to take him down.

  • “Netanyahu and his cabinet colleagues continue to bend legal and moral standards to serve the prime minister in his struggles with the law,” Haaretz’s lead editorial reads, also targeting Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan for questioning the immunity deal given to Hefetz.
  • Yedioth notes that social media attacks against police chief Roni Alsheich have ramped up, recently, including one threatening message in which he is described as an “evil Jew” who will soon “cry bitter tears.”

4. Netanyahu may not be the only one emulating Trump.

  • Czech newspaper Lidove Noviny reports that Miloš Zeman, being sworn in Thursday for his second term as president, is looking to be more like the US president, including on moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
  • “US 1, Czech Republic 2?” Israeli ambassador to Prague Daniel Meron writes on Twitter, apparently forgetting about Guatemala.
  • Meanwhile, Malaysia’s foreign ministry is rebuffing calls for it to set up an embassy in Jerusalem to show its commitment to Palestine, saying that it can’t do so until the final status of the city is set, and such an action would look like the Muslim country is backing Trump’s own move. “But it is the hope of all Malaysians to see the establishment of our embassy in Jerusalem and that has been one of our final aims,” deputy foreign minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican is quoted saying in the Jakarta Post.

5. With the US embassy issue seemingly settled, Israel Hayom reports that Netanyahu asked Trump during their Monday meeting for another item on his wish list, letting former spy Jonathan Pollard leave the US and move to Israel.

  • The paper notes that Trump did not respond to the request, which has been made before.
  • However, on Wednesday, Netanyahu told an audience that he had never had a disagreement with Trump; does that mean the Pollard issue has been settled?

6. For International Women’s Day, a number of groups are publishing reports on women’s achievements and issues women continue to face.

  • Yedioth reports that the Israel Prize will now require that at least one woman be on every prize committee for the various awards the state-funded initiative gives out, noting that only 50 women have ever won the prizes, compared to 216 men.
  • In Tel Aviv, the National Council of Jewish Women and Dafna Fund plan on releasing a report later looking at how women have managed to advance across the strata of Israeli society. “Israeli women have gained respect in the rabbinate, power in the Knesset and admiration in the boardroom. However, the battle for women’s empowerment does not end there. Our report seeks to capture what actions have been most successful in advancing women’s status and to create a pathway for protecting these gains and progressing forward. This symposium was the first crucial step in forging that path forward,” NCJW head Nancy Kaufman says in a press release.
  • Jerusalem announces it is marking the day by launching an online map telling the stories of the city’s “wonder women.”
  • At Yad Vashem, two new online exhibits launched to coincide with the day seek to portray the experiences of women during the Holocaust. While women and men both suffered in similar ways, in many cases women faced different difficulties, such as in the selection process, Dr. Naama Shik tells The Times of Israel: “Women ages 20-45 were considered to be the mothers of the next generation. The thinking [of the Nazis] was if [women] will survive, they will be able to birth the next generation of Jewish children.”

7. While women were honored at Yad Vashem, in Washington’s Holocaust Museum, one woman, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has been taken to task for overseeing the massacre of Rohingya Muslims, with the body rescinding its Elie Weisel human rights prize.

  • The American Jewish World Service, which calls itself the leading Jewish group working to help minorities in Myanmar, praises the move: “We share the museum’s deep disappointment in Suu Kyi’s unwillingness to take a clear and unequivocal stand against the Burmese military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people, who have suffered for decades at the hands of Burmese authorities and are now facing a concerted campaign of rape, pillage, murder and displacement,” AJWS head Robert Bank says in a statement.

8. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem points a finger at Israel in its report on the plight of women who entered Gaza and are now unable to leave, though it says the problem is the difficulty of getting to Egypt via the Rafah crossing.

  • “I’m totally depressed, sad and exhausted. It’s very hard raising our daughters alone,” says a woman who entered Gaza in March 2017 and has been stuck since, unable to get back to her husband.

9. Women’s March leader Tamika Mallory is defending herself after coming under fire for her association with anti-Semitic figure Louis Farrakhan, affirming the “validity” of people uncomfortable with her attending a speech by him, but pointedly not quite disavowing his words.

  • “I am the same woman who helped to build an intersectional movement that fights for the rights of all people and stands against hatred and discrimination of all forms,” she writes in the news site Newsone. “I am the same person today that I was before Saviour’s Day, which begs the question – why are my beliefs being questioned now?”

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