The Headlines: Celebrity Politics
> All the newspapers open with the rescue of miners in Chile.
> The Israeli media has a love-hate relationship with Iranian President Ahmedinijad. They hate the person, but love to cover him. The reporting on his visit to Lebanon, starting today, is reminiscent of the excitement produced by the visit of a celebrity. The fact that a person we are fascinated with on the television screen is suddenly so physically close (just across the border) is titillating. To the point of hysteria: Yisrael Hayom speculates [Heb] the visit might lead to Hizbulla taking over the country.
> Netanyahu will hold a meeting tonight regarding the centralization of Israel’s private sector: the enormous economic (and political) power wielded by just 20 families and individuals who control enormous wealth and resources. The Finance Ministry is trying to underplay the issue (Ma’ariv, Asakim).
> Statements made by the US State Department spokesman about Netanyahu’s demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, are presented by most major newspapers as an endorsement of the Israeli government’s position. In fact, as Ha’aretz appropriately reports, his comments were very carefully hedged. Former Prime Minister Olmert (Kadima), embroiled in a corruption trial, is attacking Netanyahu for not prioritizing relations with the US over continued construction in the settlements. The Americans are considering [Heb] cutting debt collaterals for Israel.
> And in Ha’aretz, a columnist offers a fascinating analysis of the Netanyahu government: it is not about the Palestinians or Iran, it is about the Israeli Arabs. By marginalizing them, the right hopes to deny any possible majority for the left, and thus rule for years to come. Read it.
The Sidelines: Poverty on the Rise
> Despite economic growth, poverty in Israel is increasing (Yedioth).
> Enforcement of debt collection could be privatized (Ma’ariv, Hamagazin).
> A trade union leader blames the Finance Ministry for rising housing prices (M’ariv, Asakim).
> Israel has signed [Heb] a free trade agreement with India.
> Yedioth profiles the IDF’s only Muslim officer, in a fascinatingly ambiguous story (Yedioth, 24 Hours).
> Ma’ariv reports on a study, purportedly written by a young European diplomat in Cairo, on the character of the Egyptian college student. The hostile and prejudiced portrait’s methodology and author are unknown (Ma’ariv, Hamagazin). If the shoe was on the other foot, and an Egyptian daily would publish a similar article on Israeli students, anti-Semitism would be the watchword.
> The Knesset commemorates [Heb] an assassinated right-wing leader, who supported the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
> Foreign Minister Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) argues that the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state indicates that they might try to create Arab autonomies within Israel and undermine its legitimacy. Meanwhile, sources in the Ministry admit [Heb] that Lieberman’s attack on the Europeans was calculated and intended to deter them from pressuring Israel.
> Knesset members were stoned by Palestinians when visiting East Jerusalem. The purpose of the visit was to observe illegal Palestinian construction. This observation was conducted from an illegally built Jewish building, and only the settlers’ representatives were invited to meet with the members.
> Palestinian villagers ask [Heb] Israel’s Supreme Court to allow them to harvest their olives, after repeated refusals from the IDF.
> President Peres held a confidential meeting with Netanyahu, to discuss efforts to broaden the coalition, and add the centrist Kadima party, in order to lay a stronger political basis for continued negotiations with Palestinians (Yedioth).
> American Jewish leaders will convene [Heb] in Israel next week to discuss strategic issues.
> Dire warning notwithstanding, only a few thousand asylum seekers enter [Heb] Israel each year.
> Israelis living abroad will soon be able to study in Israeli universities without being drafted to the military (Yedioth).
> Elementary school pupils will learn about prominent women in Israel’s history (Yedioth).
> Israel is slipping [Heb] in an international ranking of women’s equality.
> Policemen sexually exploited [Heb] a cleaning worker in their station.
> Despite a virtual military occupation of the Israeli city of Lod, the crime wave continues. Security forces’ efforts are focused on confiscating illegal weapons rather than crime prevention.
> Only 4% of complaints regarding child molestation [Heb] end up in convictions.
> Israel is unlikely to meet recycling goals [Heb] due to lack of adequate infrastructure.
The Bottom Lines: Jewish Ethnicity and Religion
> Senior Ashkenazi ultra-orthodox rabbis attack [Heb] Israel’s chief Sephardic rabbi (a state official) for taking a conciliatory stand regarding conversions to Orthodox Judaism conducted in the IDF. The ultra-orthodox doubt the validity of these conversions, and want each veteran’s case to be individually reviewed before they are allowed to marry.
> Shas has agreed to resume state standardized testing in its independent network of schools, after changes were made to accommodate their sensitivities regarding pictorial representations and similar testing materials (Ha’aretz).
> A judge was reprimanded for disparaging comments on Sephardic culture.