Things we lost
Hebrew media review

Things we lost

Chances at peace, hiking friends, factory jobs, tax monies and cheaper milk are all gone, an angry and sad press reports

Eitan Idan, an Israeli Himalayan snowstorm survivors,  talks to compatriots after his discharge from a hospital before heading to the airport in Kathmandu on October 18, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Prakash MATHEMA)
Eitan Idan, an Israeli Himalayan snowstorm survivors, talks to compatriots after his discharge from a hospital before heading to the airport in Kathmandu on October 18, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Prakash MATHEMA)

It’s rare, but from time to time the editors of Israel’s three major Hebrew-language dailies take a look at the rundown of the previous day’s news and come up with three very different front pages.

Tuesday is one of those days: While Yedioth Ahronoth leads off with factory firings in the dusty desert town of Arad, Israel Hayom recounts a harrowing tale of death and survival atop a Himalayan mountain, and Haaretz reports on Jews moving into an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem.

The Haaretz story is the most likely to make waves in capitals outside Israel, coming three weeks after a similar operation drew harsh international condemnation, the paper notes. The historically dovish daily calls the Israelis “settlers” and notes that the purchase was made through “straw men,” adding that the move was made without any extraordinary incidents “though the houses were attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails.” Just another day in Silwan.

Haaretz is characteristically critical of the move on its editorial page, saying the purchase of the homes by Jews will kill any chance at peace and sardonically dismissing the Jewish groups’ argument that the neighborhood housed Yemenite Jews a century ago.

“Efforts to torpedo any possible future agreement between Israel and the Palestinians continue. It’s the same method as always: general, noncommittal remarks about Israel’s desire for peace, along with actions in the field that empty those words of any meaning and threaten to make the situation irreversible,” the paper writes in its lead editorial.

While Israel chooses between peace and whatever you call the status quo, Israelis in the mountains of Nepal were faced with the much more immediate choice between life and death, Israel Hayom reports, dramatically recounting the tale of one survivor’s choice whether to stay and die with his hiking companion Tamar Ariel or leave her behind and seek to save himself last week.

“Leave her or we’re lost,” Idan Eitan says he told his friend Nadav Shoham, who also died on the mountain.

Eitan tells the paper after their guide ran off as the snows got heavy, they found two French hikers with a GPS and tried to get off the mountain. However, Ariel quickly lost strength trying to help others, slowing them down and leaving them far behind the French pair.

“At some point I understood that Nadav did not have the strength and we were finished – we could take her a step or two further but no more. … I said to Nadav, ‘I’m making a decision and we need to continue – we need to leave her. Even if we take her we’ll never be able to hook up with the group and we’ll be left alone and lost.’ He didn’t say a thing. I said again ‘I’m taking the decision upon myself, we are leaving.’ This is a person who would never leave someone behind, but once he got quiet, he seemed to understand, like me, there was no choice – we have to go because we don’t have strength ourselves.”

Next to Nepal, the disaster looming over Arad seems like a quibble, but for the 20,000-odd residents of the southern development town, the loss of some 200 jobs with the closing of a towel factory is more than a trifle distressing. Yedioth sends a former resident of the town, situated on the northeastern edge of the Negev, back home to survey the devastation for himself.

“The hundreds of workers were like one big family: town veterans, new immigrants, Bedouin from the periphery of the town and foreign workers,” Yuval Karni writes, with a hint of Upton Sinclairian élan. “One worker hung a sign on a wall after the birth of his daughter ‘Here is our future.’ In peak times, the factory employed more than 700 workers. In the last few years, once manufacturing moved to Jordan, the factory operated at a smaller scale with only 200 workers.”

Avraham Shochat, a former finance minister and the first mayor of Arad, writes that the city, which is expected to benefit years down the line when the army moves many of its operations nearby, can pull itself out of the morass sooner with a little help from friends in high places and forward thinking.

“It’s not possible that the crisis in the city is only the responsibility of the head of the local council with no support from the state,” he writes in Yedioth. “Thus, they need to give bigger tax benefits to the area to attract investment to the area. And no less important, the local leadership needs to constantly push forward to return the city to the positive path it had for years, when the city had 25,000 residents and enjoyed a large and thriving industrial zone.”

Milked by the fat cats

The state may have bigger problems on its hands than Arad, though, considering one of the largest companies in the countries is saying that it may have to lower its investments in Israel if the government imposes a recommendation to up taxes on resource extraction.

Israel Hayom, for one, seems incensed by the chutzpah of Israel Chemicals, writing in its headline that “despite a NIS 100 million gift from the government, it is still threatening to fire employees.”

The paper notes that upping the taxes would put NIS 400 million more in state coffers, but says politicians and activists think the Sheshinksi panel’s recommendations were “too soft” on ICL.

“Don’t be afraid of Israel Chemicals threats,” MK Nissan Slomianski is quoted counseling. “If they leave I have no doubt many other companies will want to take their place.”

Illustrative photo of goats (photo credit: Sarah Schuman/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of goats (photo credit: Sarah Schuman/Flash90)

It’s not tax benefits that have Haaretz financial commentator Nehemia Shtrasler’s goat, but rather, well, goats, or more specifically, their milk, which he says is too expensive for Israelis because of Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir’s policies.

Shamir, he charges, blocked a proposed reform in the sheep industry which would allow farmers to raise as many sheep as they like, opening up the market to competition.

“Sheep farmers were supposed to receive quite respectable compensation and the price of sheep’s milk, yogurts and cheeses that today are double (!) the prices for the same products in Europe and the United States, would have fallen by tens of percent. But Shamir blocked it all,” he writes. “Shamir torpedoed the reform because the party he belongs to, Yisrael Beytenu, has a large group of activists from kibbutzim and moshavim who are involved in the dairy industry. They oppose the reforms, and their support and votes for Yisrael Beytenu are more important to Shamir than the rest of Israelis put together.”

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