ISRAEL MEDIA DIGEST
Sunday - May 8, 2005
In today's edition:
1. Yediot: Victory for Hamas in the municipal elections. A senior
Hamas person says: 'The victory proves that the Palestinians
support jihad (holy war)'.
Haaretz (headline): An achievement for Hamas in the local
elections: it wins in most of the big authorities.
2. Israel Radio: The Israeli-Palestinian joint committee on a
prisoner release convenes today.
Maariv: Abu Mazen calls on Sharon to meet with him.
Disappointment in the Palestinian Authority over the political
stalemate since the Sharm conference.
3. Yediot: Drama in the family of the Sephardi Chief Rabbi: the son
admitted brutalizing the beau of his sister; the mother has been
arrested and it is suspected that the Rabbi is involved.
Israel Radio: Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar says that he
wasn't involved in the abduction of the courter of his daughter.
4. Haaretz: The Supreme Council of the Greek Patriarchy calls to
oust Irineos; it expects that he will resign.
5. Hatzofe: Sharon will decide on the day of the pullout only
after Independence Day.
Haaretz: Sharon is inclined not to change the decision to
demolish the settler homes in Gaza.
6. Kol Hazman's Shalom Yerushalmi explains why all of the Labor
Party leadership candidates are suddenly concerned about the
kibbutzniks, and the real reason why Natan Sharansky quit the
1. THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY -
- Yediot's Roni Shaked: The Hamas movement scored big achievements
in the municipal elections held last Thursday in the West Bank and
Gaza Strip. About 60% of the 320,000 voters who participated in the
elections voted for Hamas. In Gaza, Hamas received 71% of the vote.
Out of the 84 local councils and municipalities in which elections
were held, the Fatah movement won control in 46, Hamas in 34, and
independent lists in the remaining four. Despite the fact that
Fatah won control over the largest number of councils, the large
electoral areas were won by Hamas.
The Israeli security establishment will soon conduct
deliberations on the policy in regard to cooperation with mayors
and local councils controlled by Hamas. Also US elements made it
clear on the eve of the elections that they will be forced to
consider the assistance policy in the wake of the results of the
'There is definitely a fear that Hamas will achieve a majority
in the elections to the Legislative Council (parliament) on July
17th', said Palestinian Minister Faris Kaddoura, one of the heads
of the young generation of Fatah. He accused Israel of not doing
anything in order to strengthen Abu Mazen opposite Hamas'.
'Victory is the best referendum', said Ismail Haniya, a member
of the Hamas political leadership. 'The majority of the
Palestinians support jihad (holy war)', he said.
- Haaretz's Danny Rubinstein: Fatah is worried and Hamas is
satisfied over the results of the local elections in the West Bank
and Gaza. Senior Fatah people are now considering, more than in
the past, to postpone the parliamentary elections scheduled to
take place on July 17th - for fear that Fatah will be badly
defeated in these elections.
This past Thursday's elections were the second stage in the
Palestinian local elections: also in the first stage Hamas scored a
success. The final results of the elections are slated to be
publicized this morning. Fatah activists claimed that Hamas forged
the results in Gaza, where there is great tension between the
2. ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS -
- Israel Radio (2am): The Israeli-Palestinian joint committee on
the matter of the prisoners convenes today to discuss the criteria
for a releasing of about 400 Palestinian prisoners who do not have
blood on their hands. Committee member Minister Danny Naveh says
there is no room to release more prisoners as long as Abu Mazen is
not acting to halt the firing of Qassam rockets at Sderot.
- Maariv's Amit Cohen: Abu Mazen yesterday said: 'There is a need
for a meeting between me and Sharon in order to push the peace
process forward. We have to discuss an implementing of the
agreements achieved between us'.
Palestinian sources are expressing disappointment over the
political stalemate since the Sharm conference. Abu Mazen said
that there is an in-principle decision to hold a meeting between
him and Sharon, but that no date has yet been set. The two leaders
met only once, at the Sharm conference on February 8th.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasir Al-Kidwa said that the
Palestinian Authority sent urgent messages to representatives of
the international quartet and to the UN Secretary-General, in which
he accuses Israel of ignoring the Sharm understandings. Palestinian
Authority sources said that Israel isn't releasing prisoners and
isn't withdrawing from the Palestinian cities.
3. THE AFFAIR OF THE RABBI AMAR FAMILY -
- Israel Radio (7am): Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar says that he
wasn't involved in the abduction of the 17 year old youth who had
romantic relations with his daughter Ayala. In an official
statement Rabbi Amar expressed regret over the incident and said
that he will cooperate with the police investigators. Police
sources say they have concrete evidence against the Rabbi's wife,
Mazal, against his two children Meir and Ayala, and against two
residents of Kalansaweh, and believe that in the coming days
indictments will be presented against them. The police believe that
more family members are involved, and that they apparently will be
interrogated in the coming days. At this stage the police do not
have evidence whereby the Rabbi was involved.
- Yediot's Buki Na'eh: When Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar
returns in a few days time from Thailand to his home in Jerusalem,
he will find an empty house. His wife Mazal is under house arrest
at the home of her daughter; Ayala, the youngest daughter of the
Rabbi, who not long ago turned 18, is under house arrest at her
sister's home; the son Meir (31), the secular and rebellious child
of the family, will this coming week be sitting in the Abu Kabir
Rabbi Amar, who is in Thailand participating in solidarity events
of the local Israeli community with victims of the tsunami
disaster, certainly didn't expect such a reception. And this is
only the beginning. It is reasonable to assume that immediately
upon his return to Israel the Rabbi will be summoned for police
interrogation and tell what he knows about this intriguing affair.
The plot is as follows: forbidden love between a 17 year old youth
from Bnai Brak, and the the Rabbi's 18 year old daughter; abduction
of the youth in the dark of night to an Arab village; a rebellious
son who tries to save the family honor, and alot violence.
The teenage couple met via an internet chat. The love between them
blossomed, and the family became infuriated. During the
intermediary days of the Passover Holiday, the son of Rabbi, Meir,
abducted beau of his sister to an Arab village, where he was
brutally beaten and had his side-curls cut.
- Haaretz's Roni Zinger: The police are investigating as to whether
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar knew that his son and friends
abducted an ultra-orthodox youth who was in contact with the
daughter of the Rabbi and brutalized him, among other places at the
family home in Jerusalem. The son, Meir Amar, his two friends, the
brothers Ahmed and Abdullah Suwalme from Kalansaweh, the
daughter Ayala and the Rabbi's wife, were brought before Tel Aviv
Magistrates' Court on Friday. The remand in custody of the son,
who admitted what is attributed to him, and of the two brothers
from Kalansaweh, was extended by 5 days; the mother, who is
suspected of knowing of the actions of her son and who even
requested from him to harm the youth, and the daughter, who is
suspected of accompanying the three on the night of the abduction,
were put under house arrest. The police assess that the Rabbi was
home during the attack on April 27th, and therefore he is expected
to be interrogated.
- Maariv: Meir Amar ran away from home and grew up as a Bedouin.
4. THE GREEK ORTHODOX PATRIARCH -
- Haaretz's Yonatan Lis: Two-thirds of the Supreme Council of the
Greek Orthodox Patriarchy signed a document the day before
yesterday, calling to oust Irineos from the post of Patriarch in
Jerusalem, in the backdrop of the sale of Church assets in
Jerusalem to Jews. The Council members know that they do not have
the power to dismiss Irineos, but in any event expect that he will
- Haaretz's Danny Rubinstein: Despite the shaky situation of the
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Irineos I, it doesn't appear
at present that there is a legal way to dismiss him from his post.
The demand to sack him is in the backdrop of the deal made on
behalf of the Patriarch, a deal most of whose details are still
unknown, for selling assets of the Church at Jaffa Gate in
Jerusalem, to Jews. Over the weekend the Patriarch agreed to give
power of attornies to lawyers to investigate the subject and to act
to cancel the deal.
The tumult around the Patriarch reached a new peak on Friday when
a group of priests from the supreme body of the Patriarchy,
presented a petition to Irineos saying that they no longer
recognize him and will boycott him. In the heat of the discussion a
fist fight broke out among the priests, and one broke his hand.
At a certain stage, early in the evening, Irineos announced that
he must leave the Patriarchy compound, which is adjacent to the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to attend a meeting outside the Old
City. His adversaries claim that in essence he was forced to flee
and hide with a group of his loyalists and bodyguards, in the
Monestary of the Cross near the Knesset. The main headlines of the
East Jerusalem newspapers yesterday spoke about an 'historic day',
and about the precedent in the 1,500 year history of the
Patriarchy, whereby the patriarch is forced to flee and hide.
The demands to oust the Patriarch are coming mainly from the Arab
members of the Greek Orthodox Church, who claim that Irineos is
selling assets to Jews. There are differences of opinion in the
Jordanian government and in the Palestinian Authority on the
subject. The Greek government is the most active political element
seeking to oust Irineos, and to appoint another Greek priest in
The only legal way to oust the Patriarch is to prove that he is
not sane, or that he is acting against the main points of the
belief of the Greek Orthodox faith. His opponents say that by
making the land deal, he is doing precisely that. The ousting has
to be done by means of a court - Israeli or Jordanian - but
jurists specializing in this assess that courts won't accept the
argument. The significance: there is no legal way to oust Irineos.
5. THE DISENGAGEMENT -
- Haaretz's Aluf Benn and Nir Hasson: Premier Sharon is inclined
not to change the cabinet decision whereby the settler homes in the
Gaza Strip will be demolished. Political sources in Jerusalem said
over the weekend that there is no persuasive reason for changing
the decision and for leaving the homes intact, and that what's
more, the Palestinian Authority expressed support for demolishing.
Sharon won't raise the subject of the fate of the homes at
today's cabinet meeting. In a special deliberation last week the
Labor Party ministers supported keeping the homes intact, and this
stance was expressed also by Defence Minister Mofaz and Internal
Security Minister Ezra. Ministers Benyamin Netanyahu and Tsipi
Livni supported keeping the decision as is. Sharon refrained from
expressing an opinion, but promised to bring the matter for
further cabinet debate.
Sharon, meanwhile, is holding up the final decision on the date
for the vacating of the settlers. A political source said over
the weekend that the decision on this won't be taken before
6. SITUATION REVIEW -
- Kol Hazman's Shalom Yerushalmi (May 6th): How everything in this
country is intertwined, the disengagement with considerations of
the Labor Party leadership primaries, the removing of the settlers
is intertwined with the interests of the moshavs and kibbutzes, and
historic accounts are intertwined with current day ones. The result
is of course a continuous delay on matters of the pullout and
thousands of settlers who don't know where they will be going
This past Wednesday convened the ministerial committee on the
disengagement matters, and there was an immediate conflagration
of political struggles around the issue of the resettling of the
settlers. Plans which come at the expense of the kibbutzes and
moshavs in the south were immediately nixed by the Labor Party
ministers. In another month and a half, I remind you, the Labor
Party leadership primaries will be taking place and the
kibbutzniks constitute a large part of the party membership. They
are also disciplined, they pay their party membership dues in one
bundle of checks and come to vote in one group. They are not to be
And thus, at the ministerial meeting, Minister Shalom Simhon,
the head of Ehud Barak's campaign team in the Labor Party, jumped
up to defend the kibbutzes against the settlers who are coming to
take their lands. At the Labor Party central committee meeting this
past Tuesday, also Infrastructures Minister, Benyamin Ben-Eliezer,
a candidate for the party leadership, was pleading for his life.
'The one who is protecting the fishpond pens of the kibbutzes is
I', shouted Ben-Eliezer into the microphone and was roundly
applauded. In short, vote for me and I will protect your interests.
At the Labor Party central committee meeting, the leadership
candidates put out their wares to be seen by all the members. One
announced that he is a leader in the security-foreign policy realm,
and another announced that he is a leader of workers. One is
bulldozers and the other has proven achievements. The candidate
Matan Vilna'i, who was prepared better than the others, let out the
slogan 'listening to the people, voting for Matan'.
Vilna'i also determined the agenda for the central committee
debate. He announced that he will bring the most Knesset seats to
the Labor Party, and presented the opinion polls he ordered. Ehud
Barak requested from Vilna'i not to talk nonsense, because in the
end the voters vote for someone who was premier or foreign minister
or a former IDF chief of staff, and not for any passing candidate,
and thus only he and Peres are serious candidates.
Amir Peretz, another candidate, invented a thesis whereby the
next elections after the disengagement will be on social subjects,
and therefore only he can be elected. Peretz doesn't understand
that until there will be here total peace, a leader with a social
agenda only will be considered disabled on the public level, and
at the most can compete for the post of Histadrut chairman.
The Labor Party is a secondarty wheel on Sharon's car. My
colleague, Hanan Crystal, says that the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball
club will win the national championship (Maccabi Tel Aviv wins
every year-RB) before the Labor Party returns to power, meaning to
say, in the days of the messiah.
The intifada eliminated the left and gave 40 Knesset seats to
Sharon and to the Likud. Now the Premier is adopting the policy of
the left and can grab votes also from the center. I don't know one
candidate in the Labor Party who can win over Likud voters. This
is the real tragedy of the Labor Party. It is conducting a war in a
The leadership primaries on June 28th will in essence be over
the personal standing of each candidate and not over the chance to
win power. This modest objective isn't of course preventing power
struggles and behind the scenes intrigues, which are accompanyied
by complaints to the police. At the central committee meeting the
legal advisor of the party, Eldad Yaniv, tried to explain that the
procedures for unification between the Labor Party and the Am Ehad
party of Amir Peretz were not completed according to law, and that
Peretz will not be able to compete for the Labor Party leadership.
'You are one big nothing', Peretz's activists shouted at Yaniv.
'You are working for Barak. Go to him in his penthouse'.
Natan Sharansky, a minister at the beginning of the week, is
today an ordinary citizen. On Tuesday he was sitting in his bureau
which was in the process of being vacated, in the Prime Minister's
Office, between the tens of cardboard boxes, books, letters, and
documents. Sharansky was smiling. The compliments he received from
the Premier, from ministers, from Knesset members and from right
wing activists, had made his day. At a certain stage he thought to
show consideration for the compliments and withdraw the letter of
resignation he presented to Sharon.
On the eve of the holiday Sharansky met with the Premier and
informed him that he is going home. The conversation wasn't an easy
one. Sharansky criticized Sharon's policy since the disengagement
plan came into being. In the beginning Sharon tried to persuade him
that the plan will achieve political quiet for the next ten years,
after it will push aside other dangerous initiatives. Sharansky
said that the plan won't achieve quiet for even ten minutes. Also
today he says the same thing.
'I hear Hamas and I hear the reports of the General Security
Services', said Sharansky to Sharon in their last meetimg. 'The
Palestinians have a price list. They say that after one
thousand killed Israel gave them Gush Katif. We will kill another
5,000 of them and they will give us Jerusalem'.
Sharansky spent last weekend at the settlement of Atzmona in
Gush Katif. He lodged there for two days, conversed with the
residents, and came out even more frustrated. He says he
doesn't understand how a prosperous settlement is being given to
the Palestinians in return for terror. Sharansky report that in
Atzmona there is taking place a tough debate among the residents
around the question where to hole up on the day of the pullout.
Half of the settlers claim that they should remain in their homes.
The second half believes that all of the residents should gather in
the synagogue and receive those doing the vacating together.
The basic concept of Sharansky is based on reciprocity. He
demands democratization in the tyrannic states, and on this he
receives praise from President Bush, who even read the book and did
public relations for it, but he is also willing to make do with
immedate return, which no one is giving. Even the famous letter of
commitments by Bush on the matter of the settlement blocs doesn't
persuade him. 'Sharon phoned me enthusiastically and told me about
the letter', says Sharansky. 'I said to him nonsense. Bush isn't
willing that you will annex even half a meter of Maale Adumim'.
An interesting detail. Sharansky, like Shimon Peres and Haim
Ramon, opposes demolishing the settlements after the pullout. 'I am
talking about improving conditions and a normal economy with the
Palestinians. This doesn't go together with demolishing homes', he
Nonetheless, Sharansky's resignation isn't so innocent. It is an
ideological step, but also a political one. In the recent years
Sharansky's stature has diminished. The man who was a mythological
Prisoner of Zion, the leader of the immigrants who made a fantastic
electoral achievement in 1996 by winning seven Knesset seats,
received only two seats in the last election and joined the Likud.
Also his ministerial standing gradually deteriorated. Sharansky,
once a member of the kitchen cabinet, and who was at the Wye
Plantation in the autumn of 1998 with then premier Netanyahu and
ministers Sharon and Yitzhak Mordechai, served in the current
government as minister for nothing affairs.
Sharansky claims that his biggest achievement is actually the
disappearance of the Yisrael Baaliya immigrants party and its
assimiliation into the Likud, something which indicates that the
immigrants are being integrated into public life. He says that even
if Sharon were to offer him a senior ministerial post, he would
refuse and continue to engage in the diaspora matters he likes so
Then why did he resign? The truth is as follows. Sharansky, who
is not a Knesset member, wants to compete for a place on the Likud
list for the next Knesset. He needed a dramatic act, which would
increase his chances among the Likud central committee members,
most of whom hate the disengagement plan. The resignation from the
government did in fact add to him sympathy in the central
committee, but it is difficult to assume that the members will
translate this into votes. Sharansky thinks perhaps that he is
part of the Likud. It isn't certain that this is what the Likudniks
think about Sharansky.
Benyamin Netanyahu hasn't looked so haughty in a long time. The
ceremony for the appointing of the new Governor of the Bank of
Israel, this past Sunday at the President's Residence, squeezed
out of him a smile of happiness. Premier Sharon spoke about the
impressive achievements of the economic policy. The President,
Moshe Katzav, said something vague about the weak strata in the
country and about the necessary social sensitivity. It is
difficult for me to assume that the President even touched anyone
among the knights of the economic aristocracy, senior economic
people and heads of banks who filled the rows at the ceremony.
There is nothing farther from a millionaire director-general of a
bank than a poor person with nothing to eat, who goes around
between the trash cans.
Stanley Fischer is truly a nice man and world renowned
economist, but it seems to me that many of those present at the
ceremony were anticipating to hear his Hebrew more than to hear the
economic tidings he was bearing. There were those who sought to
peak at his speech paper, in order to see if he is reading the text
from Hebrew writing or from English language letters.
- Yediot's Sima Kadmon (May 6th): The resignation from the
government by Natan Sharansky surprised a not few people. True,
his opposition to the disengagement plan is known, and nonetheless,
in all of the cabinet and Knesset votes he did not hint that he
intends on resigning.
The ones who were surprised were several thousand Likud central
committee members, who on the eve of the Passover Holiday received
holiday greetings letters from the minister. Sharansky made use of
the opportunity to make them privy to his activity in the past
year, 'a year which was devoted to a determined and uncompromising
struggle against the rising anti-semitism, and a strengthening of
relations with world Jewry'.
Sharansky details to the central committee members his long
list of impressive achievements, including the influence his book
'the Case for Democracy' has on President Bush and US policy.
But what is surprising in the letter, which was sent less than
two weeks before his resignation, is its conclusion. Sharansky
writes: 'We are approaching Passover, the holiday of freedom, a
holiday which symbolizes the struggle of the Jewish people for
freedom and independence. Unfortunately, this war has not ended.
Throughout my entire term of office I consistently expressed
strong opposition to the disengagement plan, and my support for a
referendum. Unfortunately, the days we are about to face are
difficult days, and uncertainty and fear accompany all of us.
Let's extend hands and unite the ranks, in order to contend with
the difficulties, and together we will overcome?'
Extend hands? Unite the ranks? Is this what someone writes who a
week and a half later intends on resigning from the government? No
hint, no soul searching, no emotional preparation for his admirers
on the Likud central committee?
And if this isn't enough, Sharansky adds a request to the central
committee members: 'I will be happy to hear your suggestions for a
continuation of the activity in the field of the struggle against
anti-semitism and for a strengthening of relations with diaspora
People wonder to where Sharansky is going. Some say he will go
into private business. Sharansky is not only held in esteem in the
world, he has connections there. Others talked about the post of
chairman of the Jewish Agency, which seems very suited for him.
But the current chairman, Salai Meridor, hasn't been contacted on
this matter. His four year term ends in June 2006. And this is a
job which one must compete for.
ISRAEL MEDIA DIGEST