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Between the lines (3 October): beyond the settlement freeze

Front page of Yisrael Hayom, 3 October.

Headlines:

>The top story in most outlets is the Israeli response to pressures to renew the settlement freeze, which lapsed last week. Ha’aretz and Yisrael Hayom [Heb] present Netanyahu’s position as uncompromising: he will only agree to limit construction. The two other dailies, on the other hand, claim that Netanyahu is still considering Obama’s offer of American security guarantees in exchange for sixty more days of freeze, and might discuss it with some ministers during the week. According to Ma’ariv, the sweetener will be continuation of construction that begun during the interim period (and settlers are indeed gearing up [Heb]). Yedioth presents another version: Netanyahu wants the Americans to improve their offer. They must also promise to never ever ask for another extension.

>Netanyahu seems hemmed in from left and right. Yedioth and Yisrael Hayom [Heb] count the votes and doubt he has enough support in the government to pass another freeze decision. From the left, Ma’ariv and Yedioth report threats from the Labour party to leave the coalition if talks with the Palestinians end. Opposition party Kadima is also vowing [Heb] to fight against any decision that would kill negotiations. But will there be no talks without a freeze? The Palestinians publicly insist that this is indeed a precondition (provoking the usual vehement condemnation from Yisrael Hayom), but may climb down from the ladder if they have no choice.

>Ha’aretz scoops all other outlets with actual reporting about the chances for successful negotiations, if they are indeed renewed. The indications are depressing, if unsurprising: during his three meetings with Palestinian President Abbas, Netanyahu refused to present substantive positions on any issue, except for security arrangements. Ma’ariv provides another (inadvertent) indication: a sentimental front page story about the IDF’s intention to confiscate private Palestinian land in order to “launder” the illegally constructed home of a fallen Israeli war hero. The story does not mention negotiations with Palestinians : Israel has committed, in the past, to stop confiscations of private Palestinian land. Nor does it mention that this would be a blatant violation of international law, for that matter.

>Another scoop for Ha’aretz: Israel is working through diplomatic channels to warn Syria about the potentially destabilizing effect of Iranian President Ahmedinijad’s planned visit to Lebanon. The visit will include a tour of the tense Lebanese-Israeli border.

>The deportation of 400 children of illegal immigrants could begin today. There will be no focused enforcement effort on this specific issue, but the children are far from safe.

The Sidelines:

>Ma’ariv reports the Israeli Police is ramping up efforts to recruit settlers to its ranks. Gershom Gorenberng broke the story some time ago, with an excellent analysis.

>Ha’aretz reports about claims by the Washington Times that the “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace” Lobby, “J Street”, tried to arrange meeting on Capitol Hill for Richard Goldstone.

>The South African Jewish judge headed a UN commission of inquiry into the Gaza War which published a controversial report, claiming that Israel may have committed war crimes.

>Ma’ariv publishes four centerfold pictures, with accompanying texts, commemorating the Second Intifada. Israeli sacrifice, pain and patriotism are highlighted. The Palestinians are hardly even mentioned.

>Kindergarten teachers strike for two hours, demanding an improvement to their awful pay; municipalities will strike on Tuesday in protest of budget cuts.

>Tel Aviv rents out its philharmonic hall [HEB] to a company promoting a lucrative real estate project, sparking protest about the lack of affordable housing in the city.

>Israel has one of the world’s highest rates of breast cancer.

>All outlets report on the dismissal of CNN Anchor Rick Sanchez over anti-Semitic comments, and Rahm Emmanuel’s “emotional” departure from the White House.

>Iran arrested “spies”, accusing them of damaging its nuclear program by distributing a computer worm.

>Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mayrid McGuire will appear today before the Supreme Court, appealing a lower court’s decision to deport her from Israel.

>The former head of the chamber of commerce wants a more progressive tax code. [Heb]

The Bottom Lines:

>Yisrael Hayom is the only daily that has a news piece [Heb] covering events memorializing 13 Israeli Arabs killed by Israeli Police ten years ago. Yedioth posts a picture with a short accompanying text. Ha’aretz publishes an interview with the Police officer who commanded that “operation”.

>Ma’ariv skips the story altogether, but that’s understandable: they needed the space to write about Bill Clinton’s diet. This is one of Israel’s gaping wounds, and just as in the weekend, only the websites give it decent coverage.

Here’s the most under-reported story in Israeli media today: natural gas.

>Huge deposits, worth close to (US) $400 billion, have been discovered near Israel’s shores. Royalties could transform Israel’s economy and society, and bring in five times what Israel gets in US aid, every year. Unfortunately, the Gas tycoons, after vigorous years of lobbying, have managed to preserve an antiquated law that grants the state paltry royalties of 12.5%. The state is trying to renegotiate a fairer deal, but the tycoons have found a strange ally: the loony right. Their newest star, MK Ofir Akounis (Likud), chair of the Economics Committee, bizarrely implies [Heb] that the New Israel Fund (a non-profit that channels funds from abroad to a variety of Israeli social and human rights organizations) wants to increase the royalties, so that foreign investors would be driven away to Lebanon, thus strengthening Hizbullah. You’ve got to give him points for creative thinking.

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