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Articles in the Israeli press…Kerry gets tough with Abbas

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Red-Dead redemption

Plan to link two seas gets shot in the arm, and the press picks apart Netanyahu’s interview-turned-address

BY ILAN BEN ZION, timesofisrael.com, Dec. 9,  2013


While Yedioth Ahronoth breaks the news that Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians are set to sign a landmark deal, other papers are predictably interested in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest tirade against Iran. For one daily, however, the transfer of Israel’s largest corporation from one fat cat to another is worth seven pages of coverage.

US Secretary of State John Kerry played tough with Israel, but now it’s the Palestinians’ turn, Maariv reports. According to the paper, Kerry ordered the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails pushed back a month to put pressure on the PA in the negotiations with Israel. As a precondition to talks, Israel had agreed to release 104 prisoners incarcerated before the 1993 Oslo Accords in four waves over the nine month negotiation period.

Last month a Palestinian official said the only reason talks were still on was so the next batch of 26 prisoners would be set free.

“Sources in the PA” tell the paper that Kerry’s office said the upcoming release of prisoners, set for the end of the month, would be delayed until the end of January due to “pressure from Washington, which came after PA President Mahmoud Abbas refused to receive the outline of security arrangements in the Jordan Valley that the US secretary of state presented last week.”

The paper calls the move “one of the harshest methods” by Washington to get the ball rolling.

While Maariv focuses on division between Israel and the Palestinians, Yedioth Ahronoth reports that the two are on the cusp of signing a deal with Jordan to lay a pipeline connecting the Red Sea and the Dead Sea in order to replenish the latter’s waters and forestall its imminent destruction. The water channel will move approximately 100 million cubic meters of water north to the lowest point on Earth and provide the fast-evaporating salt lake with desperately needed water. At the same time, a desalinization plant built at the Dead Sea’s shores will provide the three parties with millions of cubic meters of fresh water.

The paper reports that the negotiation process was fraught with sinkholes, but that the end result represents a “positive exception in the relations between the three governments.”

“It’s a historic move that realizes a dream of many long years,” Regional Cooperation Minister Silvan Shalom, the architect of the agreement, is quoted by the paper saying. According to the report, the plan has been in the works in one form or another for over 20 years.

“We have here strategic cooperation of political significance between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority,” Shalom said.

Israel Hayom is all snoozers with its lead story, opting to put the Nochi Dankner-IDB Holdings saga on Page 2. Long story short, the paper writes: “Ten years after he bought IDB, businessman Nochi Dankner loses the largest corporation in the country.” The creditors and board voted 3:1 against Dankner and in favor of handing control of the company to businessmen Eduardo Elsztain and Motti Ben Moshe.

With warnings like “when the number one tycoon loses power, the whole market wobbles,” and Israel Hayom dedicating the first seven pages of the paper to the issue, it’s hard not to think you should care about Dankner and the IDB handover, but at the same time…

Haaretz also attempts to shed light on the esoteric business babble with a front page story, and it explains that Dankner “bought control of the holding company in 2003, putting him in charge of many of Israel’s biggest and best-known companies, among them mobile operator Cellcom and food retailer Super-Sol. But the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008 turned many of his investments sour, leaving him struggling to pay billions of shekels in debt he had run up.”

Turning back to the more pressing Palestinian issue (it’s on everybody’s minds these days), Haaretz reports on Netanyahu’s interview-turned-address to the Saban Forum on Sunday night. For an “unclear reason,” the paper reports, Netanyahu canceled his interview with seasoned reporter Charlie Rose at the last minute and opted to give a quarter-hour speech via video link to the conference.

What the paper takes away from his speech is his statement that a peace agreement with the Palestinians won’t be possible if the Iranians acquire nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran, Netanyahu said, “would undermine the chances of arriving at a negotiated peace, I would say it would undermine those peace agreements that we’ve already reached with two of our neighbors” — Jordan and Egypt.

Yedioth Ahronoth came away from the speech with a headline quoting Netanyahu saying the alliance with the US was “the anchor of stability” for the region. Columnist Nahum Barnea writes that “Unlike [US President Barack] Obama, Netanyahu refused to answer questions. All of the questions remained with him — and for the time being there are no answers.”

Barnea notes the interconnectivity of the Iranian and Palestinian issue for Kerry’s working life and Netanyahu’s speech. “In his address [Sunday] Netanyahu combined them in one lump. In essence he said, you screwed us in [the Iranian city of] Bushehr, but don’t expect us to give you [the West Bank settlement of] Yitzhar.”

Curiously, Haaretz is the only paper that put the Netanyahu speech on its front page — Israel Hayom buried it on Page 9 after the dull details of the Dankner deal. 

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