With less than three weeks to go before Election Day in America, the frenzy seems to have reached Israel, and Hebrew-language commentators can’t help themselves. Each of the country’s top three newspapers leads on Friday with bold predictions of a Trump loss, and detailed projections of the fallout from Wednesday night’s third and final debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
In an op-ed plastered above a photo of a defeated-looking Trump, Yedioth Ahronoth‘s Nahum Barnea posits — based on loose anecdotal evidence and a 5-minute talk with a parking attendant in Pennsylvania — that the debates did little to sway the opinions of average US voters, and that it seems many Americans are voting against the opposing candidate rather than for their own.
“One has to travel in the rural roads of America in order to understand how much these elections, which are so captivating to the rest of the world, are repulsive to voters at home,” Barnea writes. The Yedioth contributor says that several Pennsylvania locals, apparently a large enough sample size on which to base a front-page op-ed, told him they did not watch the debate since they had already decided who to vote for, and because they can’t stand either Trump or Clinton.
Trump’s refusal to say if he will accept the results of next month’s election, Barnea writes, heightened the feeling of distrust between both camps. “We have become Shiites and Sunnis,” Barnea quotes an unnamed friend, one obviously at home with Middle Eastern metaphors, as saying. Barnea is careful not to explicitly state which of the two candidates will win the elections, but the anti-Trump jabs sprinkled throughout the piece leave little room for doubt as to his preference.
In Haaretz, alongside a familiar picture of Trump in a slumped position following the debate, Chemi Shalev, until recently the paper’s US correspondent, writes that the Republican presidential nominee sealed his fate by failing to affirm that he would concede defeat to Clinton if he lost the vote. Haaretz, anti-Trump from the start, does not hide its criticism of the billionaire businessman’s performance at Wednesday’s debate. “Trump once again proved he has no God,” Shalev writes. “Maybe he excited some of his more die hard supporters, but he scared off the last of the undecided voters, without whom he has no chance of erasing the wide lead of his rival Hillary Clinton.”
Besides Trump’s tactical errors, the Haaretz writer quotes several unnamed but worried US officials who warn that the Republican candidate’s refusal to say whether he would accept the election results may even lead to violence in the days that follow. “It is hard to think of a more serious threat to democracy,” Shalev concludes.
Predictably, things look different in Israel Hayom, the right-wing paper owned by major Trump donor and US casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Contributor Boaz Bismuth, while acknowledging that Trump showed a less than presidential temperament during the debate, argues there is still enough time for the Republican candidate to make a comeback. Bismuth supplies his own anecdotal evidence, quoting a young Jewish voter from Georgia who “does not feel represented by the US media,” and who says she will vote for Trump because he is a successful businessman who “can bring success to America.” Does this anonymous voter portray a general sentiment among the US population? For Bismuth, at least, any indication that Hillary has not yet sealed the deal is a welcome one.
Bismuth, who was shown on TV here on Wednesday interviewing Trump just before the debate, also offers a more sympathetic view of Trump’s concession footsie. “Maybe it is precisely because of the support he enjoys in the street that Trump expects a crazy election night,” he suggests.
The biggest domestic story leading Hebrew-language papers concerns a group of four Palestinians arrested for allegedly planning to carry out a terror attack at a wedding hall and kidnap an IDF soldier to be used for leverage in prisoner exchange negotiations with Israel. The plans were thwarted by a joint Shin Bet and Israel Police effort.
According to Yedioth, the group of four, among them a Gazan who was granted temporary Israeli residency on humanitarian grounds, scouted out the event hall and were carefully planning an attack that would maximize the number of casualties. According to the Shin Bet, the group also planned to murder the soldier and bury his body, using his remains as a bargaining chip.
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