Protesting the protesters
Hebrew media review

Protesting the protesters

The people who rallied against Benjamin Netanyahu in Petah Tikva Saturday night are labeled in the press as lawbreakers or just lazy at activism

Menny Naftali, center, and Eldad Yaniv, far right, the main organizers of a weekly protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in front of the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Petah Tikva, August 26, 2017.  (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
Menny Naftali, center, and Eldad Yaniv, far right, the main organizers of a weekly protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in front of the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Petah Tikva, August 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

It was nothing like Charlottesville violence, but readers of Israeli newspapers Sunday morning are met with a “both sides” scenario in the wake of a protest Saturday night in Petah Tikvah.

A court ruling gave the go-ahead for the protest outside Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s home but limited it to 500 people. At least 1,500 showed up. Was the result a display of democracy overcoming the shackles that government has tried to place on it, as lefty broadsheet Haaretz makes it out to be, or was it a show of hooliganism by lawbreakers who don’t know how to hold a lawful protest, as it appears in Israel Hayom?

Haaretz leads off its paper with a large picture of the protest, which has been going on weekly for nearly a year calling for Mandelblit to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on graft charges, and an above-the-fold story, putting the 1,500 number in its headline along with the fact that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said arresting protest leaders a week earlier was a mistake.

Giving the protesters the benefit of the doubt, the paper writes that “organizers in Petah Tikva called for the court orders to be followed, and protesters who were not allowed into the area convened at adjacent squares, but police accused them of breaking the High Court ruling.”

The paper isn’t totally in the protesters’ camp, though. For instance, op-ed writer Gideon Levy accuses the left of abandoning more important issues to rally around this fairly easy battle.

“Is it logical that at the end of a week in which the government declared to the High Court of Justice, by means of an attorney suspected of criminal acts, that in Israel stealing is allowed, for people to gather in Petah Tikva to expedite the investigation of gifts that went to the prime minister’s residence? Some 3,500 homes and public buildings were built on stolen Palestinian-owned land, and Netanyahu is Israel’s big corruption case,” he writes.

The total other side of the story is in Israel Hayom, which buries its coverage on page 7, and puts the number of protesters at 2,000 with a headline quoting the police saying they broke the rules. The paper reports that police showed “patience” with the protesters and puts the cops’ complaints about what went down high up in the story.

“Many times they broke the rule not to enter the road; they broke the rule to use only two megaphones; they broke the rule that the protest would only start at 8 p.m. — the protest began earlier; the protest organizers were ordered by the court to have people keeping the order, but they only appointed 5 (!) in a way that did not meet the scope of the protest and its makeup,” the paper quotes the police saying.

Yedioth Ahronoth also quotes the 2,000 number and mostly seems to thread the line between the sides in its fairly muted coverage. What the paper plays up instead is three stories that it labels exposes. One of them is on Hezbollah missile factories being built in Lebanon, with the paper reporting that Israel is considering taking preemptive military action, and that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman essentially threatened as much in a statement Thursday which “was heard well in Lebanon.”

With the cat out of the bag somewhat, the paper still tries to crow about the fact that it knew first (though it kept the info to itself)

“The dilemma of whether to attack the missile factory being built by Iran for Hezbollah in Lebanon was revealed to Yedioth Ahronoth two months ago, when it was presented to the cabinet as a dramatic development,” the paper’s Yossi Yehoshua reports, adding that the missiles are thought to fill a hole in Hezbollah’s capabilities, allowing it to target sensitive Israeli sites with pinpoint precision.

Tensions between Israel and Lebanon are also played up in Israel Hayom, though with the paper essentially accusing the UNIFIL peacekeeping force of “being blind” in the face of Hezbollah breaking the ceasefire agreement, quoting US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley.

The item is tied to a visit by UN head Antonio Guterres to the region and the paper runs a column by Housing Minister Yoav Galant, a former high-ranking general, saying he will call on Guterres to return the UN to the days of yore when it paved the way for the Jewish state.

“We will tell him: show leadership and integrity, choose the path of truth and righteousness and not falsehood and evil, return the UN to its first days, the days of November 29,” he writes in extra purple language.

Papers also look back at the last high-level visit to Israel, by White House adviser Jared Kushner and co. last week, with Haaretz reporting on a report that Kushner told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that a settlement freeze was a nonstarter since it would fell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with the US denial of the report.

Israel Hayom leads off its paper by reporting the opposite, that the US promised the Palestinians they would present a plan within four months, so long as the Palestinians freeze diplomatic steps in the meantime, quoting an unnamed senior Palestinian source.

“Abbas agreed in principle to Kushner’s request but demanded that Trump personally guarantee the plan. Kushner and he agreed that there will be a summit between Abbas and Trump at the UN General Assembly in New York next month and that the president will commit to the Palestinian leader on the formulation and presentation of a diplomat plan the American are working on,” the paper reports.

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