Wednesday, February 1, 2012

MIDDLE EAST WRAP: NETANYAHU'S LIKUD VOTES

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu


A round-up of the Hebrew newspapers in Israel; covering the major events happening in Israel and the Middle East. Haaretz-Maariv-Yedioth Ahronoth-Israel Hayom-The Jerusalem Post-Ynet-Arutz 7 News-Army Radio-and Israel Radio 


Yedioth Ahronoth, Haaretz and Maariv lead their editions with today’s election of the leadership of the ruling Likud party in Israel, which pits Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu against his political oponent, Moshe Feiglin. While Netanyahu is expected to thrash Feiglin, who heads the rightist Jewish Leadership bloc within the Likud, all the papers report that the prime minister is concerned over the growing popularity of his rival.


Haaretz’s Yossi Verter says that ‘the key problem Netanyahu will face in the months until the next general election [is the] strengthening of the extremist-religious right in the Likud and an increase in the already substantial influence this right wing wields over Likud Knesset members and candidates for the party's next Knesset slate.’

Maariv’s Mazal Mualem says that Netanyahu’s goal is to prevent Feiglin from garnering more than 25 percent of the votes. Given that many of the Likud’s newest members are settlers, who are more likely to vote for Feiglin, this could be a tall order. Mualem adds that Netanyahu is mobilizing his considerable party apparatus to ensure that moderate Likud voters do not assume that victory is assured and that they cast their votes.

Speaking on Army Radio on Tuesday morning, Feiglin said that his decision to challenge Netanyahu was ‘to give hope to many in the nationalist camp who had lost hope.’ According to Feiglin, ‘Netanyahu has said in all honesty that he is willing to give up the Jordan Valley and create a terror state adjacent to Kfar Saba. Even Newt Gingrich said the Palestinians are invented, while our governing party is afraid to say it. So, even foreign nations are more right wing than us.’

Israel Hayom, for its part, leads with Syria and quotes a White House spokesman saying that ‘Assad is losing control; his fall is inevitable.’

The Jerusalem Post leads with comments from visiting Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, who told the opening of the 12th-annual Herzliya Conference on Monday night that Israel has no greater friend in the world than Canada. Slamming the ‘constant barrage of rhetorical demonization, double standards and delegitimization’ of Israel, Baird characterized this as the new anti-Semitism. The Herzliya Conference itself gets underway in earnest today, with speakers from Israel and abroad speaking on national, regional and global pressing issues. 

In other news, Iran is the headlines. Israel Radio, quoting a report from the Associated Press, says that Israeli officials believe that this summer marks the deadline for thwarting Iran's nuclear drive. According to the report, Israeli officials are quietly conceding that new international sanctions targeting Iran's suspect nuclear program, while welcome, are further constraining Israel's ability to take military action – just as a window of opportunity is closing because Tehran is moving more of its installations underground. The officials say that Israel must act by the summer if it wants to effectively attack Iran's program.

Finally, Haaretz reports that several high-ranking government and military sources have accused the government and the IDF of unofficially outsourcing some of their intelligence work to private organizations that monitor anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian media and are associated with right-wing politics.

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