Security versus the shekel
Hebrew media review

Security versus the shekel

A decision to allow Palestinians to keep working for settlers, and a settler possibly killed by his Palestinian workers, illustrate the tug of war

An illustrative photo of workers building a home in East Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, June 2011. (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90)
An illustrative photo of workers building a home in East Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, June 2011. (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90)

With Friday being a quasi-normal weekday sandwiched between a religious holiday and the weekend, the day represents some challenges for newspapers in the timehole needing to fill their newsholes.

Hence the morning’s papers are a smattering of different topics. Some, like Yedioth, continue to linger over the Las Vegas massacre, publishing pictures of all 58 victims on its page 2. Some like Israel Hayom try to peer into the future at what US President Donald Trump will do to the Iran deal when it comes up for recertification next week. And some, like Haaretz, use the opportunity to take a deeper look at a topic — in this case, Israel’s reluctance to ban Palestinian workers as punishment for terrorist attacks.

Not so much a result of humanitarian concerns as a realpolitik recognition that jobless Palestinians are angry Palestinians (which is also a factor), the paper reports that it’s chiefly love of the mighty shekel that keeps Palestinians in business, and it’s actually right-wingers who are pushing for it to stay that way.

The analysis comes after a decision to restrict Palestinian movement in the West Bank for 11 days over the Sukkot holiday in the wake of the Har Adar terror attack, called extraordinary by the paper and seen as a salve for right-wing security demands.

However, the paper notes the decision did not include settlements since they have the most to gain from Palestinian workers being allowed to continue building their houses and cleaning their floors. Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, of the hard-line pro-settlement Tekuma faction of Jewish Home, later also pushed for Palestinians to be allowed to enter Israel during the holiday to work in certain fields.

“It’s impossible not to marvel at the ability of the settlers and their representatives in the government to grasp the string at both ends,” Amos Harel writes. “On the one hand, to score easy political points by showing a strict stance against Palestinians, right after the deadly attack. On the other hand, to quickly ensure that the punishment doesn’t also do collateral damage to the important electorate. In this sophisticated maneuver, the Palestinian laborers are just pawns and the technocrats and defense brass are dragged along by political diktats,”

There’s no obvious connection, but the recent killing of a settler who employs Palestinians — albeit on the Israeli side of the Green Line — is the one consensus major story in all three of Israel’s most popular dailies, with suspicions surrounding the death of Reuven Schmerling outside his coal warehouse in Kafr Qassem on all three front pages.

Reuven Schmerling, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Elkana, who was murdered and his body discovered in a storage facility in the Israeli Arab town of Kafr Qassem, October 4, 2017. (Courtesy)

Yedioth leads off with the story and notes that it’s still unclear what happened to Schmerling, but considering the major play the story gets and police putting a gag order over details, papers give the sense that this not a normal crime.
Yedioth notes that one theory is that “Palestinians who worked for Schmerling beat him to death over a monetary dispute.” However, his family is convinced he was murdered because he was an Israeli Jew.

“The extended family is in shock and mourning over the murder of their beloved husband, father, and grandfather,” the paper quotes relatives. “To the hurting family, there is no doubt that this is a despicable terror attack motivated by nationalism.”

One of the T-shirts that Reuven Schmerling’s family had designed for his 70th birthday party that was supposed to be held on Thursday, October 5, 2017. The shirt reads “Sign that you’re young — Celebrating 70 for Grandpa ‘Moti'”

Both Yedioth and Israel Hayom spill most of their ink on stories about Schmerling and his role in the community of Elkana as a cantor and singer in a choir, as well as the fact that he was killed a day before his 70th birthday, including pictures of shirts his family had made to celebrate the occasion.

“We are in shock and mourning together with the family over this terrible murder of Reuven, may God avenge his blood,” the head of the local municipal council is quoted saying. “It’s impossible to understand a situation in which a Jew, 70, goes to Kafr Qassem and is found slaughtered. It’s something that is unthinkable.”

Haaretz, though, quotes Kafr Qassem’s own mayor advising people against jumping to conclusions about this being terror, saying Jews and Arabs have worked alongside each other in harmony in the town for years.

“You can’t get caught in the right’s traps, which are trying to place a stain on a whole town with no evidence basis,” he’s quoted saying.

There are few concerns about a lack of evidence of Iranian wrongdoing in Israel Hayom’s lead story, which crows about Trump’s plans to bite a sizeable chunk out of the nuclear deal.

Quoting the Washington Post, the paper reports that “signals are growing that Trump will tell Congress Iran is not holding up its side of the deal,” putting the ball in the lawmakers’ court to do what they may.

Yet columnist Eyal Zisser notes that with Trump’s own cabinet secretaries backing the deal, to say nothing of Europe, it’s unlikely there will be any change on the ground, describing the president’s power as near flaccid in the Middle East when compared to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shows the way to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 5, 2017. (AFP/Yuri KADOBNOV)

“It’s no surprise that the Saudi king hurried to make a first visit of its kind to Moscow this week. Most of the visit was devoted to Saudi fears over Iran. Like many others in the region, like Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Saudi king recognizes that Putin is a key figure in determining the region’s fate, and if the US handed Moscow the keys to Syria and Iraq, perhaps it’s smart for Saudi Arabia to get security guarantees from the new landlord, Putin. That will seemingly have more weight than the aggressive but meaningless statements from Washington,” he writes.

The decision by the Hamas terror group to appoint Saleh al-Arouri, seen as the mastermind behind the 2014 kidnapping of three Israeli teens in the West Bank, as its deputy leader, also makes headlines, with the move seen as Hamas trying to assert a claim over the West Bank.

The move will also likely have repercussions for Palestinian efforts to reach a reconciliation agreement, that would likely force Hamas to moderate some of its positions and give up its guns. In Yedioth Ahronoth, Ben-Dror Yemini says such a result would be great if it happened, but he holds out zero hope, seeing instead yet another eventual war on the horizon.

“It’s clear that Israel needs to offer Gazans the whole world — an end to the blockade, a seaport, and more and more — on the condition that Hamas disarms. Israel will be acting intelligently if it is the one to offer, exactly now, something like that. A ‘yes’ (by Hamas) would be a victory for straight thinking,” he writes. “But there’s no chance that would happen. A negative answer would make clear that Hamas prefers a blockade, suffering and an industry of death in contrast to potential growth and prosperity. The responsibility for the next conflict, which will come eventually, would be on Hamas. Israel would come out of the battle refueled with the righteousness of its ways. It’s not too late to make an offer like this. The ball is in Jerusalem’s court.”

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