Friday, April 20, 2012

MIDDLE EAST WRAP: THE LAST TIME THE WORLD WAS SILENT


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-Israel Radio-and Makor Rishon 

As they do every year, Israel’s leading papers devote their front pages to Holocaust Remembrance Day, when the country takes time to pay tribute to the six million Jews who lost their lives in Europe. The always-somber events were tinged with even more sadness following the death of an IDF soldier who was hit by a collapsing piece of metal that was used to hold up the lighting of Holocaust Day ceremonies at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered the keynote address at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. His remarks drew parallels between the fate of European Jewry and the danger that potentially awaits Israelis in the event that Iran comes into possession of a nuclear weapon. “To fear telling the truth, which is that there are those today who also seek to destroy millions of Jews, is to disrespect the Holocaust and insult its victims,” Netanyahu said, alluding to Iran. “The Prime Minister of Israel is not only allowed to conjure the memory of a third of our people when speaking of existential threats, it is his duty.”

The other news item that dominated the headlines in recent days was the case of Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, the IDF officer who was seen on video striking a left-wing Danish peace activist in the face with the butt of his rifle. After images of the incident went viral on the Internet, the IDF launched an investigation, at the end of which it was decided that Eisner would be dismissed from his post as deputy commander of troops in the Jordan Valley. In addition, IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz decided to bar Eisner from serving in a command capacity for at least the next two years.

Eisner’s case has become a cause celebre for right-wing commentators and the national religious constituency that has rallied to his cause. They accuse the media and the IDF high command of kowtowing to political correctness in punishing an officer who risked his well-being for the security of the state.

“Eisner’s behavior was wrong, but those who bother to check will see that the defense establishment behaves differently when it comes to police officers and soldiers, both of senior and junior rank, who similarly erred in their duty and in their judgment when faced with right-wing demonstrators,” Nadav Shragai wrote in Israel Hayom. “We have lost all sense of proportion,” Shragai continues. “On the day when the country was riveted by images of an officer wielding his gun at a Danish protester, the news that should have been greeted with far more shock was the death sentence handed down by the Palestinian Authority against the real estate agent who arranged for the sale of the Machpela House in Hebron to Jews.”

Haaretz leads its Thursday editions with a report that Israeli settlers in the West Bank have built over a dozen homes in an outpost on privately owned Palestinian land. According to the story, defense sources acknowledge that the outpost will, in all likelihood have to be dismantled, a scenario that could spark a crisis in Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition. The homes were built in the outpost of Mitzpeh Cramim, which lies just northeast of Ramallah. According to Haaretz, the outpost was built on land that the state recognizes as private Palestinian property. Defense sources told the newspaper that it would be difficult for the state to find a legal loophole that would permit the settlers to remain in the outpost.

The presidential elections in Egypt continue to generate interest in the Israeli news media. According to a report on the Maariv NRG website, Amr Moussa, the former Egyptian foreign minister and head of the Arab League, announced his campaign platform which includes a tough stance toward Israel. Moussa’s 80-page campaign manifesto includes a pledge to re-evaluate the controversial sale of natural gas and energy resources to Israel. The deal, which was signed during the Mubarak presidency, remains a sensitive subject for many Egyptians who accuse the old regime of profiting financially at their expense.

Moussa also pledged to push for a nuclear-free Middle East and to improve Cairo’s relations with all countries of the region. According to Maariv NRG, Moussa is intent on making the Israeli-Palestinian issue a key subject for his government, a move that could spell trouble for Israel’s relations with Egypt.



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