Hebrew media review

Security, schools and sanity

International condemnation of Israeli land grab grabs headlines, and classrooms are more crowded than ever

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of an Israeli settlement (CC BY-Trocaire, Flickr)
Illustrative photo of an Israeli settlement (CC BY-Trocaire, Flickr)

Internal politics are the name of the game in Tuesday’s news, after Israel declares a land grab in the West Bank and schools open with record classroom density.

A fierce debate took place in the inner security cabinet last week over whether Israel should take diplomatic action following the operation in the Gaza Strip. Some of the eight senior ministers in the security cabinet tell Haaretz that the argument took place primarily between Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who urged Israel take the diplomatic initiative, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who said such measures were unnecessary. Livni argued that Israel must sally forth with a significant diplomatic proposal in order to contend with the legal and diplomatic assault anticipated after Operation Protective Edge, the paper says.

One of the cabinet ministers who spoke to the paper says that there’s a rift in the cabinet concerning negotiations with the Palestinians. Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid are pushing for renewed peace talks, but they are the minority opinion in the inner cabinet. Ya’alon, on the other hand, advocates a more hawkish stance and says Israel should not limit the IDF’s maneuvering room in the West Bank through negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

“They tell us that the peace process will solve the problems in Gaza, too,” the paper quotes the defense minister saying. “But we need to learn from what happened in Gaza. In a place where the IDF has no freedom of action, a threat develops of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and global jihad with rockets and mortars.”

Israel Hayom reports on international condemnation of the IDF Civil Administration’s announcement that Israel will declare close to 1,000 dunams of West Bank land state property. It notes, however, that amid American, British and UN lambasting, right-wing Israeli politicians lauded the move, with Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett saying that settlement construction “will always be the Zionist answer to Arab terror.”

“When they kill, we bring life. When they destroy, we build,” he said.

Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, not to be outdone, called for the annexation of all West Bank settlements.

In response to the West Bank expropriation, Haaretz’s editorial pans Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government as not being serious about peace with the Palestinians. The paper says that Netanyahu’s post-Operation Protective Edge slogans of “diplomatic vision” and “new opportunities in the Middle East,” are rendered moot by his return to the “old policy, which is subservient to the interests of the settlers and those who reject peace.”

“Netanyahu is being led by the cabinet members of the Jewish Home [party], who do as they wish with the state and its resources. His ingratiating attitude toward the extreme-right electorate, which abandoned him during Operation Protective edge, is automatic,” the paper says.

“The ‘appropriate Zionist response’ to the kidnapping and murder in whose name the Israeli government is eliminating any possibility of peace, is in no manner Zionist,” it writes, addressing Bennett’s remark. Instead, it says, the move threatens to end the Zionist dream.

Surprisingly, Yedioth Ahronoth makes no mention of the brouhaha surrounding the West Bank issue.

For Israel Hayom, the main story is the ongoing battle between Islamist rebels and the Syrian Army along the border with the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. It reports that mortars fired from the opposite side of the border landed in Israeli territory, causing no injuries. Israel Hayom reports that efforts are ongoing to ensure the release of the 44 Fijian peacekeepers taken hostage by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front last week, but there is no substantive progress to that end.

More shocking for Israel Hayom, however, is a New York Times report that the US and (*gasp*) Iran are cooperating in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq. The paper quotes the report saying that as the US Air Force struck targets from the air, militias backed by Iran pushed IS back in the town of Amirli.

Yedioth Ahronoth is still in the grips of back to school fever, and reports that classrooms in Israel are too crowded, with an average of 40 pupils per class — an all-time high in Israel. An Education Ministry official who speaks to the paper says that part of the reason for the rising classroom density is the shortage of funding, which has slowed the acquisition of classrooms and hiring of teachers for the growing number of students. The paper offers a chart with OECD statistics of classroom sizes, showing Israel in third place (out of 34) behind South Korea and Japan, though their students do rather better on exams than do Israel’s.

The average Israeli classroom size, according to OECD statistics from 2013, was 32 children per class. The OECD average is 23.

It’s been a month since Maj. Benaya Sarel died in combat in the Gaza Strip, but his name appears once again in a Yedioth Ahronoth headline. The paper reports that the Defense Ministry agreed to have his headstone identify the location of his death as “the outskirts of Morag,” one of the Jewish settlements evacuated from the Gaza Strip in 2005, instead of the Palestinian city of Khan Younis. The ministry reportedly didn’t allow the family to write alongside the name of settlement “may it be [re]built and reestablished” because of the political connotation.

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