Most journalists know that if somebody releases information on a Friday afternoon, it means they want it to be buried. In the US, this ploy is used to make sure whatever news there is ends up in the Saturday paper, one of the most poorly read, and misses the Sunday bulldog edition, which usually prints Thursday night.
In Israel, it means the news won’t hit the newsstands until Sunday, by which time it might be too stale for people to care anyway, and if whoever is releasing the bad news is super lucky, something even newsier or bloodier will have occurred in the intervening period.
That’s the case on Sunday morning, two days after Israel announced curbs on settlement building — a major story that gets buried in two of the country’s three largest papers by news of a terror attack in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday.
Haaretz is the only paper to lead with the West Bank construction announcement, reporting that the move comes despite the lack of formalized understanding with the Trump administration, which has pushed for the slowdown.
Doing double duty as reporter and analyzer, Barak Ravid writes that the timing of the announcement wasn’t only meant to stifle public backlash, but the convening of the meeting where ministers okayed it, at the tail end of the workweek, was also no coincidence, meant to make sure it wasn’t okayed in time for the Friday papers and as ministers were worn out from the week’s toils.
It worked, he writes, with the settlement movement and others mostly mum on the announcement, which he calls astonishing. But while playing it up as a major loss for the settlers, he also notes that this is not exactly an Obama-style freeze.
“The main weakness of the new settlement policy is that it is not at all clear whether it advances the restarting of the peace process by so much as an inch. For the Palestinians and for Arab nations, the restrictions imposed by the Israeli government on settlement construction do not even reach the bare minimum that would allow negotiations to resume,” he writes.
Ravid also notes the attempts by the right to spin the curb in their favor, despite it coming from the most right-wing government ever and with a Republican administration in the White House, and some of that attempt is seen in Israel Hayom, considered a mouthpiece for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The paper’s headline is straight from the mouth of the bull, reading, “Through consideration of the stance of Trump — Israel will curtail building.” The paper also reports, based on Reuters, that the US got a heads up about the announcement of Amona 2.0, which preceded the building curb, “and did not show any opposition.”
The paper, along with Yedioth Ahronoth, though, is more concerned with the goings-on of Saturday than the building curbs, namely a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City in which three people were injured — its front page the fruits of another truism: if it bleeds, it leads.
The tabloid sees the attack it through the lens of fears of an uptick in violence ahead of Passover, a yearly ritual as treasured by pundits, officials and fear-mongers in Israel almost as much finding the afikoman.
“We are in a period where this is ramping up naturally ahead of the holiday,” Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevi is quoted saying in the paper. “The incremental increase is clearly something we will need to deal with and be much more alert, though we’ve managed to thwart most of the incidents here in the last year and will continue to do so.”
The paper is also taken by the location of the attack, on Hagay Street in the Muslim Quarter, dubbing it the “alley of blood” and recounting the many attacks there over the past year and a half.
Yedioth Ahronoth also takes notice of the location, running a column by Adele Benita, whose husband was killed in at attack on the road, which is a route taken by many ultra-Orthodox Jews to reach the Western Wall, in October 2015. Benita notes that hearing an attack happened there fills her with bitter emotion, and bitter resolve.
“My body fills with chills, shaking, it’s impossible to explain these difficult thoughts. To this day I’m being being treated over that attack. Time doesn’t heal, the pain grows and grows,” she writes. “Since the attack I receive telephone calls from people asking me whether they should take that route to the Western Wall. Especially now before Passover. I tell them it’s important to go, and not be deterred. Because that’s what the terrorists want: they cut off lives and now they are trying to keep us from getting to our Western Wall. I still have trouble taking that street, but to everyone else I say: go.”
Yedioth also spills much ink on a story of a much more domestic nature, the continuing battle over the future of the new broadcasting corporation. Following a deal that many analysts see spelling the end for the new corporation, or at least attempts to free it from government control, Nahum Barnea pens a scathing column that blasts not only Netanyahu for killing the broadcaster but others in government for not putting up a fight.
“There are 30 MKs from Likud, and many of them are worried about Netanyahu’s behavior. Few level any serious criticism against the prime minister in private. They won’t dare say anything in public. They have nothing to say. Netanyahu, with a fair amount of talent, has neutered them,” he writes. “Only a few in the public care about this. The problem is that by the time it does interest them, it will be too late. Now is not the time for silence.”
On Haaretz’s op-ed page, Amir Oren tackles another subject the public apparently has no interest in: seeing that damages for a caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence who was abused by Sara Netanyahu come out of her pocket and not the public coffers. Calling the claim by the state prosecutor that the public doesn’t want to pursue a suit to make sure Netanyahu pays out of her own pocket “baseless and infuriating,” he claims that the office is egotistically covering up its own shoddy work.
“The prosecution is arrogant and entrenched in its position, unable to admit it made a mistake in previous rounds over the same affair,” he writes. “In recent years, the prosecution has become morally corrupt and ingratiated itself horribly with the Netanyahu family. The public has a huge interest not only that justice be done with regard to the ruling family, but also in airing out the law enforcement system and removing the bad odor that has spread in it.”