This Week in Israel: Obama and Netanyahu spar, a conglomerate is slapped for sales to Iran, the IDF changes uniforms, an Israeli wins at Cannes, and more
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—their respective speeches in Washington last week, the responses to those speeches, and their meeting at the White House—dominated the media coverage in Israel this week. (“Who Will Blink First?” Maariv asked on its cover.) Before Netanyahu gave his speech to a joint session of Congress, it was widely referred to as “ne’um hayav,” or “the speech of his life.” That prompted critics to come up with plays on the term, like Gideon Levy’s comment in Haaretz: “Netanyahu’s ‘speech of his life’ was the speech of the death of peace [mot hashalom].” Others praised the prime minister’s rhetorical skills (“He Deserves an Oscar,” was the headline for Nahum Barnea’s analysis in Yedioth Ahronoth) or focused on the warm welcome he received: A Yedioth article headlined “The Zionist Congress” (Hakongress Hatzioni) counted 45 instances of applause and 31 standing ovations. Ben Dror Yemini wrote in Maariv that no matter what Netanyahu offered, it would have made no difference because the Palestinians “would have said no,” and Isi Leibler wrote in the Jerusalem Post that Netanyahu’s response to Obama has “made most Israelis feel extremely proud.”
As for Obama, Yedioth ran a comparison between his State Department address on the Middle East and the clarifications he made to AIPAC on Sunday—such as what he meant by “mutually agreed swaps”—under the headline “Dispelled the Fog” (Pizer et Ha’arafel). And in a front-page headline on Obama’s comments in London after Netanyahu’s Congress speech, Israel Hayom went for rhyming Hebrew acronyms: “Obama to the Palestinians: Lo Ba’um, Rak Bamum,” which translates to “Not at the U.N., Only in Negotiations.” The same edition of the paper, which is owned by U.S. billionaire casino mogul and Netanyahu backer Sheldon Adelson, noted that its poll found 61 percent of Israelis to be in favor of the “Netanyahu principles” (ekronot Netanyahu). Earlier in the week, Maariv put its own poll results on the front page: 57 percent say Netanyahu should have said yes to Obama’s proposals for peace. In the same poll, though, the prime minister was judged the person most suited to lead the country; Kadima leader Tzipi Livni came in a distant second.
The Ofer Brothers Group, owned by Israel’s richest family, this week denied selling an oil tanker worth about $8.65 million to Iran’s national shipping company and objected to sanctions the White House said it would impose on both the Israeli conglomerate and its Singapore-based Tanker Pacific Management subsidiary. Ofer Brothers says the tanker was sold to a Dubai-registered company that is not on a U.S. blacklist, but the State Department said the group “did not heed publicly available and easily obtainable information” that could have indicated who would really be getting the tanker. Haaretz intelligence reporter (and Tablet Magazine contributor) Yossi Melman wrote that in 2008 Israel passed a law prohibiting Israeli firms from investing in international companies that operate in Israel and maintain extensive trade ties with Iran—he says there are at least 200 of them—but that the government has not enforced the law. Netanyahu “is not lifting a finger” to stop indirect trade with Iran, even though he “endlessly preaches the need for firm action,” Melman wrote.
Hundreds of Israeli soldiers will be issued a new uniform in July that boasts a cell phone pocket and improved armpit ventilation, the army announced this week. But around the same time, the army’s ombudsman sent the message that soldiers shouldn’t be using those cell phones quite so much. Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Brik told a Knesset committee this week that officers are increasingly issuing commands via text messaging or email, and warned that 40 percent of those commands are not being carried out. “There are some commands that you need to give while looking the soldier in the eyes, otherwise the soldiers won’t follow the commanders into battle,” Israel Hayom quoted him saying.
Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar won the best screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival this week for his fourth movie, Footnote, or He’arat Shulayim, which tells the story of the decades-long rivalry between two Talmudic scholars, a father and son. The relatively staid setting marks a major change from Cedar’s 2007 film, the Oscar-nominated Beaufort, about the Israel Defense Forces’ withdrawal from southern Lebanon, for which Cedar won the best director prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. The latest win was seen in Israel as a victory for the country’s film industry, not just for Cedar. The prize is a “huge and unprecedented achievement for Israeli cinema,” wrote Yedioth. Before the winners were announced, Maariv took a more flippant tone, involving a play on the homonyms Cannes and the Hebrew word “kahn,” meaning “here.” The paper asked in a headline: “Mi Cannes Hamenatze’ah?” (Who’s the Winner Cannes/Here?).
Because of Shavuot, Israel Week in Review will return June 17.
Shomrim—controversial Jewish neighborhood watch groups—patrol the Orthodox enclaves of Brooklyn, where safety’s battles are fought along exclusive ethnic and community lines