Hebrew Media Review

Stone-throwing terror and coalition grumbles

Attack in the West Bank seriously injures a toddler; while in Jerusalem Likud members stew over the nascent government

A traffic accident in the West Bank caused by Palestinian stone throwers in which a toddler was critically injured dominates the front pages of the weekend papers.

Yedioth Ahronoth’s front page shows the carnage of a car wreck that left Adele Bitton, age two, in critical condition. The paper describes how Palestinians first threw rocks at a bus, injuring three people, and then at a truck. The truck driver got out to inspect the damage when the car carrying the Bitton family slammed into the trailer of the truck, lodging the passengers underneath. Everyone in the car suffered injuries, but Adele was in critical condition, and needed on-the-scene resuscitation.

Israel Hayom gives the most space to the story; the front-page headline screams “Stones of terror” and it’s the only paper to feature a photo of young Adele on its front page instead of the wreckage from the accident.

In an opinion piece about the attack, Emily Amrousi lashes out at the media silence and at Yair Lapid for questioning the settlements. “There’s been a lot of talk in the recent months about the ‘cost of the settlements?’ Is there a price on hundreds of thousands of Israelis who live in fear?” To Lapid she says, “The cost of the settlements, Yair, is the price we have been paying for decades with our bodies, our blood, and our mental health.”

Aside from the West Bank attack, Haaretz and Maariv also use their respective front pages to focus on the upcoming Obama visit. Both papers take their Obama stories from a Channel 2 interview that aired on Thursday night; but not surprisingly, the dailies focus their coverage differently.

Haaretz’s Obama article concentrates on Obama’s statements regarding Iran and America’s dedication to preventing Tehran from attaining nuclear weapons. “This is a red line for us,” Obama said, “This is not something that is dangerous only for Israel but for the entire world, and for the national security of the United States.” Obama also stated that American intelligence believes there is about a year before Iran can acquire nuclear weapons.

Maariv’s front-page Obama story is not on nuclear weapons, but on Obama’s statement that he would not release American spy Jonathan Pollard. The paper then includes a survey it conducted which shows that 38% of Israelis would describe Obama’s relationship with Israel as hostile, and another 33% think that the relationship is positive. When asked their personal feelings towards the American president, 32% answered “don’t love him, but respect him.” Maariv returns to the Pollard issue in the survey by asking, “Who would you like to see alight from the plane? Just Obama (10%), just Pollard (11%), or both (79%).”

There’s a coalition?

The last pieces of the coalition puzzle were finally assembled, but then Netanyahu decided to not bestow the title of deputy prime minister on either Yair Lapid or Naftali Bennett, causing a mini-crisis. Yedioth reports that the move caused the cancellation of the signing of a coalition agreement, which was set to take place on Thursday. No one seemed very happy about the prospects of an agreement on Friday, according to the daily: “Apparently, the agreement will be signed by fax, not with smiles and handshakes.”

The coalition agreement has caused some grumbling in the Likud party, particularly among those who feel slighted because they didn’t get the ministries they wanted. According to Maariv, sources in the Likud are not angry with Yesh Atid or Jewish Home, but rather, with Avigdor Liberman. “Liberman has taken all of the portfolios,” complained an anonymous source to the paper.

While certain Likud members are smarting over how the coalition was assembled, Israel Hayom reports that one party is planning to take its revenge for being left out of the coalition. “Shas appoints a special advisor to plague the coalition,” reads the headline, and the story goes on to explain that Shas is already getting comfortable in its oppositional role. “Every shekel that is sent to the territories will be checked,” a party spokesman told the paper.

Haaretz includes a short article about the recent victory of Yesh Atid over Likud regarding control the Education Ministry, and how the new Education Minister, Shai Piron, wants to shake things up, starting with the high school matriculation exam. Piron is introducing a bill that aims to close the gaps that exist in Israeli education and stresses state responsibility in providing quality education to all of Israel’s citizens. Part of Piron’s plan includes lowering the number of tests to matriculate and focusing on quality education.

In the opinion pages, Israel Hayom columnist Haim Shine wants Israel’s politicians to get to work. Frustrated over what he views as egocentric bickering over titles and portfolios, Shine wants respect to be given to Netanyahu. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went a very long way to establish a government in Israel, while granting significant concessions and engaging in political struggles within his home [Likud]. It is important new allies will stop insisting on honors and come together for the State of Israel.”

Haaretz’s op-ed piece worries that while the new government may make strides domestically, Israel’s foreign policy is still a big question mark. The paper notes that the right wing has control over key positions, including leadership roles that cover planning and building in the West Bank. “Such policies [of building settlements] will thwart the two-state solution, worsen Israel’s international isolation and perpetuate the conflict.” The piece concludes by stating that the few moderate members of the coalition “will bear a heavy burden for stopping anti-democratic legislation in the face of pressure from their right wing colleagues.”

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