In Sunday’s UK media the Observer and Independent on Sunday briefly covered comments by former GSS head Yuval Diskin, in which he talked about the Iranian issue and criticised the ‘messianic’ leadership of the Israeli Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. The Observer also reported on the Co-operative Group decision to extend its existing policy to “no longer engaging with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements”. The Sunday Times culture section briefly reviewed the range of views on the upcoming visit of the Israeli national Habima theatre company, which will perform in Hebrew at the Globe Theatre in London this summer. In Saturday’s media several newspapers printed the Reuters coverage of Defence Minister Barak’s speech on Independence Day, concentrating on his concern over a nuclear armed Iran. The Independent followed the story in Delhi of the arrested Muslim journalist suspected of involvement of the bomb attack on Israeli targets in the city two months ago.
This morning, the Daily Telegraph reports that Israel is now preparing for elections. The Guardian runs commentary which claims that whilst Netanyahu and Barak might see no alternative to an attack on Iran, there is little popular support for the move. The newspaper also reports on Diskin’s comments over the weekend. The BBC quotes the head of the UN observer force in Syria, Major General Robert Mood, that ‘even a thousand unarmed observers cannot solve all the problems’.
Sunday’s Israeli media was dominated by coverage of Yuval Diskin’s comments. Yediot Ahronot, Ma’ariv and Haaretz all led on Diskin’s comments that he has “no faith in the Messianism from Akirov and Caesarea,” a reference to Defense Minister Barak and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s respective private residences. Israel Hayom took a different approach, quoting an unnamed source in the Prime Minister’s Office: “Diskin is taking revenge, he wanted to be head of the Mossad.” Yediot Ahronot’s Nahum Barnea said, “Yuval Diskin is a thug. He is brusque, lashes out and is lacking in any political correctness. If I were either a Palestinian terrorist or a mosque-burning Jew, he is the last person I would want to meet in front of me in the interrogation room. His natural place is in the GSS, far from the cameras, far from the microphones. His style is inappropriate, his words are unacceptable. Only one thing can be said to his credit: he is telling the truth. A troubling truth, an annoying truth, but the truth nevertheless”. Ma’ariv commentator Ben Dror Yemini noted the unintended victor of these outbursts will be Abu Mazen, since Diskin placed the blame for lack of progress on the peace process squarely on Netanyahu. In other news Yediot Ahronot speculated that early elections are looming. They reported the threat by Foreign Minister and Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman to abandon the coalition on 9 May should it not pass a law compelling ultra-Orthodox men to enter military of community service. Lieberman’s move would necessitate new elections.
The Israeli media is leading with the death early this morning of Professor Ben-Zion Netanyahu, the father of the prime minister. Professor Netanyahu, a leading scholar in the field of Jewish history who was secretary to Revisionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky in the 1940s, was 102 years old. Otherwise, the impending elections get wall-to-wall coverage. Yediot Ahronot has a poll which shows that the Likud, predicted to take 30 seats, currently has a commanding lead. The paper also reports on early conversations about the timing of the election; whilst Netanyahu wants elections as early as mid-August, Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz would prefer to hold elections after the Jewish holidays, in early October. One of the issues likely to dominate the election is extending the draft to ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, who have largely been exempted from military service. Haaretz notes comments by foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman that he was now putting the interests of his voters ahead of coalition considerations. The Jerusalem Post reports that the High Court has given the State 60 days to formulate new policy on unauthorized West Bank settlement construction. In a separate development, the cabinet yesterday approved the construction of temporary housing for the residents of Migron, whose homes are to be evacuated by 1 August. Haaretz reports that Israel has been placed on a UN list of countries that limit activities of human rights organisations.