Israel media review

The Big Skim: 10 things to know for your March 1

Purim is in full swing in Jerusalem, changes in Meretz leadership rattle left wing party, and defense minister trolls ultra-Orthodox colleagues in holiday video

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israelis dressed up in costumes for the Jewish festival of Purim in downtown Jerusalem on February 27, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israelis dressed up in costumes for the Jewish festival of Purim in downtown Jerusalem on February 27, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. Purim is in full swing in Jerusalem on Thursday, and judging by the endless photos of kids channeling their inner superheroes, video game characters, Egged buses and even a few dancing Na Nachs, its seems clear the dress-up holiday isn’t just for Queen Esthers and King Ahasueruses anymore.

2. Changes in Meretz’s leadership has rattled Israel’s most prominent left-wing party. On Wednesday, Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon abandoned her bid for reelection for party leadership in the March 22 primaries. Shortly afterward, her colleague, MK Ilan Gilon, dropped out of the race due to health issues.

  • Haaretz, Israel’s foremost left-wing daily, calls Galon and Gilon’s announcements “a jolt to the party,” and in a lengthy editorial, the paper heaps praise on the outgoing chairwoman for stepping aside to make way for new blood. The paper hails her “uncompromising” dedication to the peace process and to fixing Israel’s “dysfunctional democracy,” and says that her successor must continue to “cultivate Meretz as a magnet for liberals.”
Young Israeli children dressed up in costumes for the Jewish festival of Purim, at a school in the northern Israeli city of Tzfat, February 27, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

3. Even on a festive day like Purim, Israelis don’t get a break from the reports detailing the steadily mounting corruption allegations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Friday, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are set to be interrogated Friday in the Bezeq corruption probe, a quickly ballooning case involving an alleged quid pro quo agreement between the prime minister and Shaul Elovitch, the majority stake shareholder of the telecom giant. Netanyahu is also likely to be questioned in another corruption scandal, known as Case 3000, surrounding the multi-billion-shekel purchase of submarines and other naval vessels from a German shipbuilder.

  • On its front page, Yedioth Ahronoth features an exclusive report that before deciding whether to question Netanyahu in the so-called submarine affair, law enforcement agencies considered whether it would scuttle a deal to purchase vessels from Germany and thereby harm national security. With the help of international legal experts, state investigators, determined that questioning Netanyahu would not cause Germany to walk away from the Memorandum of Understanding that was approved last October.
  • Haaretz leads its Thursday paper with its own exclusive concerning the various corruption cases plaguing the prime minister and his family. The daily says that then-finance minister Yair Lapid didn’t outright reject legislation that would have benefitted one of Netanyahu’s cronies like he has been claiming all along. Sources tell Haaretz that Lapid asked for a professional opinion from the treasury before scuttling the legislation that would have given generous tax benefits for wealthy Israelis who have lived out of the country for over 10 years.

4. The increasing tensions along Israel’s northern borders are never a distant topic in the Israeli media.

    • Haaretz says that Israel may be gearing up to bomb a new Iranian military base in Syria that was revealed in a Fox News report earlier this week. Amos Harel says that it’s fair to assume that a countdown has begun for another dramatic aerial clash in Syria’s skies.
    • Judah Ari Gross reports that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman seemed to dispute the accuracy of the Fox News report. According to Gross, there are discrepancies in the satellite imagery, and what was identified by Fox as a weapons warehouse was previously identified by ImageSat as a mosque for dining hall.
    • Liberman on Wednesday told Israel Radio not to take the report as an “absolute thing,” assuring listeners that Israel had the “full picture of what’s going on.”

    5. Haviv Rettig Gur weighs in on the differences in US and Israeli gun control for the Times of Israel. He debunks a popular opinion among some American conservatives that Israel doesn’t have mass shootings like in the US because civilians are well-armed. Gur says Israeli law actually does not recognize the right to bear arms, and any civilian who wants a firearm must submit to a rigorous screening process.

    “When it comes to guns, Israelis want a well-armed society, and expect the state to manage things in such a way that only the right people are armed,” he says. “In other words, Israelis are armed not against the state, but by the state against external threats like terror attacks.”

    6. Without a doubt, the tweet of the day goes to Liberman, who trolled his ultra-Orthodox colleagues in a Purim video.

    Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday in a Purim holiday video poked fun at his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners for demanding the continued exemption of Haredi seminary students from the military draft.

    Dressed in IDF uniform, with a black kippa and fake sidelocks to portray an ultra-Orthodox soldier, the defense minister said now was the time to join the IDF.

    “When Adar begins, we happily enlist,” he quipped, parodying the traditional phrase that prescribes increased happiness when the Hebrew month of Adar begins and the Purim festival — traditionally a day of costumes and frivolity — is on the horizon.

    With pop-up images, the defense minister proposed that Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and MK Moshe Gafni — both of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism — should respectively become the IDF chief of staff and the head of Shayetet 13 naval commando unit.

    The defense minister was making light of a looming coalition crisis between the ultra-Orthodox parties and his secularist Yisrael Beytenu.

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