A tragedy and a mystery
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Hebrew media review

A tragedy and a mystery

Two young girls drown in a private pool; mounting international support for the new Palestinian government leaves Israel without a paddle

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Police and rescue forces seen outside a house where  two 11-year-old girls drowned  in a private swimming pool at a home in Savyon on June 3, 2014 (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)
Police and rescue forces seen outside a house where two 11-year-old girls drowned in a private swimming pool at a home in Savyon on June 3, 2014 (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

It’s a dark day for Israel, according to Thursday’s Hebrew papers, with the tragic drowning of two 11-year-old girls, and continued international recognition of the Palestinian unity government drowning out Israel’s objections. But not all is lost – the press holds out hope for Congress to reverse the US decision to continue supplying the Palestinians with aid, and a historic Rolling Stones concert leaves the papers cheering for more.

Yedioth Ahronoth leads with the mysterious deaths of two 11-year-olds on Tuesday afternoon while they were visiting the grandmother of one of the girls in Savyon in central Israel. The two friends, who were both good swimmers, spent the day preceding the Shavuot holiday splashing in the private pool.

“What began as an enjoyable and everyday pastime a short while later became a shocking tragedy and a frightening mystery: one after the other, while swimming, they suddenly twitched and drowned, leaving behind shattered families.”

The paper reports the girls were left without adult supervision. The home security camera footage indicates that one of the girls began flailing in the water, and shortly after grew still. A minute or so later, her friend noticed that something was wrong, swam toward her classmate, and immediately began struggling in the same spot. It was a while before the girl’s grandmother came outside to check on the girls and found them floating in the pool, lifeless, the paper reports.

Police and paramedics arrived on the scene and unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate the girls, whose cause of death was not immediately clear. Police took samples of the pool water to test for poisonous substances, and the pool cleaning machine was confiscated and is thought to have possibly electrocuted the girls. The victims are set to undergo an autopsy.

The names and pictures of the girls were withheld from publication upon the parents’ request, the paper writes.

Israel Hayom reports that the elementary school the girls attended in Yehud opened its doors on Wednesday night, with psychologists and social workers in attendance to help the students grapple with their grief, and provide guidance to parents on helping their children confront the loss.

Yaela Machlis, the mayor of Yehud, said the parents of the girls were “in a very bad state. They’re broken, they can’t believe it, and are trying to imagine how their lives will go on after this.” Machlis added that “they are preoccupied with their pain and less with the cause of death – and it’s better that way.”

Haaretz leads with the ongoing statements of international recognition of the new Palestinian unity government against Israeli protestations – including from the EU, China, Russia, the UK, France, India, Turkey, and Switzerland.

The paper also draws attention to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public advocacy efforts to demonize the new entity on his social network accounts – including a meme of a blown-up bus blown under the caption “Meet President Abbas’s new partners: Hamas suicide bombers murdered hundreds of Israelis.” The paper also reports that Israel will not grant the new Palestinian ministers a pass to travel between the West Bank and Gaza freely.

Yedioth’s report on the international support for the new Palestinian technocratic government and the continued Israeli frustration is tinged with cynicism — depicting the various countries as mindlessly parroting the US.

“From the moment the US announced it recognizes the new government, the sign was given to the international community to support this government, against Israel’s position. One after the other the international community [stood] in line behind the US and recognized the Palestinian unity government – the European Union (including the main countries in it), and then Russia, China, India and the UN – and Israel remained, as always, alone,” it writes.

Israel Hayom is the only paper to report on the approved 1,500 units of West Bank and East Jerusalem settlement construction in response to the unity government. The paper quotes an anonymous official defiantly defending the decision.

“The moment the [peace] negotiations collapsed, and a Palestinian unity government was established, from Israel’s perspective the agreements they made with the Americans in the context of the talks became irrelevant,” he said.

Despite the influx of international recognition, Israel Hayom clings fervently to the hope that Congress will block the US from maintaining its funding to the Palestinians. From the various Congress members who have come out against US support, “it turns out there is strong vocal [condemnation] appealing to the government not to work with the [Palestinian] government and is acting to stop the transfer of money,” it reports.

Encore, encore!

Glowing reviews of the Rolling Stones’ debut Tel Aviv performance receive ample coverage as well.

“Even the weather aligned with history. We certainly won’t forget the Rolling Stones, but they also won’t get Israel off their mind, at least for a while… Meanwhile, the closing song of the night was ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.’ That was their only mistake. There was satisfaction. It was perfect,” Yedioth reports, in a review entitled “Sweat like Jagger” – a reference to the unseasonably hot weather Wednesday.

The Rolling Stones perform in Tel Aviv, June 4, 2014. (Photo credit: Orit Pnini)
The Rolling Stones perform in Tel Aviv, June 4, 2014. (Photo credit: Orit Pnini)

“It was hot last night at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv, and not only due to the temperature,” Israel Hayom reports. “The Rolling Stones gave it all they had and proved that it was worth the wait all these years – even now, when it seemed for a moment that our parents had gotten on the stage. These were 19 songs and two hours that will no doubt be remembered by those who set foot on the moist grass last night.”

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