Promises, promises
Hebrew media review

Promises, promises

Obama says peace prospects are bleak, protests against layoffs seize the south, and the papers wonder if Erdan will join the cabinet

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Gilad Erdan of the Likud party, Tel Aviv, February 16, 2015 (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
Gilad Erdan of the Likud party, Tel Aviv, February 16, 2015 (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Swearing in the government late last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to lower the cost of living, strive for peace, and ensure security. On Sunday, however, the Hebrew press takes aim at the current state of affairs of Israel’s peace efforts, poverty, and security, painting a less-than-rosy picture.

Haaretz focuses on the dearth of peace talks, Yedioth Ahronoth on the climbing rates of unemployment in southern Israel ahead of a strike, and Israel Hayom spotlights the US assassination of an Islamic State leader on Syrian soil, with its pundits noting that unlike those of the US, Israel’s targeted killings were harshly criticized.

Meanwhile, as the freshly inaugurated ministers take office on Sunday, the dailies also focus on the spurned Likud MK Gilad Erdan and the question of whether he will join Netanyahu’s cabinet.

On its front page, Haaretz spotlights PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s meeting with Pope Francis, and US President Barack Obama’s prediction that Israel and the Palestinians won’t reach a peace accord in the coming year.

In a column for the paper, Chemi Shalev argues that the prime minister “needs a bridging solution, at the very least, and there is only one person who can give him one: his name, shockingly, is Mahmoud Abbas.”

“Interestingly, in his Nakba Day speech on Friday, Abbas held out prospects for resuming peace talks. Even more strikingly, the three conditions he reportedly set down did not seem pie-in-the-sky at all. Netanyahu could easily agree to commit to a year’s worth of uninterrupted talks; he could probably coerce his new cabinet to grudgingly agree to release Palestinian prisoners imprisoned before the 1993 Oslo Accords; and while he will find it difficult to accept a full settlement freeze, it’s not completely delusional to assume that he could reach an understanding with Abbas in some back-channel give-and-take that will allow both sides to claim victory. Netanyahu, let’s not forget, is definitely in a position to make Abbas some offers that he cannot refuse.

“Any resumption of the peace process, even one deemed by experts to be doomed to failure, would have an immediate and dramatic influence on Netanyahu’s fortunes. Europe will have no choice but to cease and desist, the Security Council will move on to other matters, and even Obama might be pleasantly surprised, especially if the Iran deal is already behind him.

“The diplomatic storm already gathering on Israel’s shores will abate, and more importantly, perhaps, Israeli public opinion will rally behind Netanyahu,” he writes.

US President Barack Obama at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, May 12, 2015. (AFP/NICHOLAS KAMM)
US President Barack Obama at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, May 12, 2015. (AFP/NICHOLAS KAMM)

Over in Yedioth, seeking to tug at heartstrings, the paper leads with two articles on daughters of unemployed men in southern Israel as a strike in Dimona, Arad, and Yeruham is set to commence against mass layoffs at Israel Chemicals subsidiaries.

“When I ask my mother if everything is okay, she says yes, but I know that it’s all not okay, or more precisely that everything is not okay. I see that the refrigerator is not as full as it used to be. I see that for three months or more we only buy what we urgently need, and not just what’s missing. I also saw during the holidays that the table wasn’t as full as we’re used to and that we didn’t go on any trips,” a 14-year-old girl identified as L. tells the paper.

The daily says thousands are expected at the mass rally on Sunday morning, including MKs and municipal leaders. Businesses are on strike, as are high schools in the area.

“We feel like this is a protest for our home,” one high school student is quoted as saying. “It doesn’t matter if our parents work at Israel Chemicals or not. There are a lot of residents here who are hurt by the situation, and it’s all of our struggle.”

Workers protesting layoffs at Israel Chemicals outisde the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on March 1, 2015. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Workers protesting layoffs at Israel Chemicals outisde the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on March 1, 2015. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The paper notes that 46,457 people in southern Israel are seeking work, and 19,000 have been unemployed for over nine months.

Israel Hayom highlights the US raid in Syria, calling it a “raid out of a movie.”

The paper’s Boaz Bismuth praises the raid, but wonders “if there was intelligence cooperation with the Assad regime despite the denials.”

“Israel has long understood the benefits of this method,” he writes. “Israel has also been criticized for this effective mode of action, but here’s proof that others are doing it. We ought to remember this during the next hit, if and when.”

Meanwhile, the papers on Sunday also speculate about whether Likud’s Gilad Erdan will join the cabinet, and Haaretz writes that the 61-MK strong coalition may survive longer than anticipated.

“Netanyahu himself said in a closed meeting that he will make another effort to get Erdan into the cabinet, but it seems he will refuse to give him the Foreign Ministry — which will remain under his control — and also won’t grant him the Public Security Ministry with the Interior Ministry, which was given to Silvan Shalom,” Yedioth reports. Sources close to Netanyahu say the prime minister will meet with Erdan soon, Yedioth reports.

Over in Haaretz, the paper reports that “there is a growing sense that the narrow coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t break up in the coming months and will manage to survive for a relatively long period.”

Likud’s Tzachi Hanegbi assesses that the coalition will last 2-3 years, “unless we expand the coalition in the coming months.” The Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett says that the pressure on the razor-thin coalition will force its MKs to cooperate.

An opposition official tells Haaretz that the fractured opposition will strengthen Netanyahu’s coalition.

“There is no common ground between Liberman and the Arab party and the ties between Meretz and Yesh Atid aren’t strong enough,” the source says. The unnamed source says that the coalition will manage to entice some MKs in the opposition to not attend certain Knesset votes, in exchange for various political favors.

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