Ever since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to build on a strip between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim, known as E1, the area has received a lot of international attention. While Israel has yet to begin building on the land, Palestinian activists set up a tent city in the area, drawing the ire of the government and precipitating a legal battle.
Maariv dedicates its front page to the incident, seemingly writing the piece right up till press time, as its headline announces, “After midnight: Preparations to evacuate the outpost in E1.” The Palestinians tried to prevent the evacuation by telling the High Court that the project was a political outpost and tourist project. The High Court issued a decision late Saturday authorizing the evacuation of the activists but not the tents after Palestinian families said the tents were built on private land. Robbie Sabal of Hebrew University, who advised the government on the case, stated, “In the eyes of the law, there is no difference between Israelis who build illegal outposts and Palestinians in E1.”
Maariv includes an opinion piece by Amnon Lord about the outpost and the “legal circus” surrounding it. Lord begins by congratulating the strategy as a perfect political act. “It challenges the government plan to develop the area, and utilized Palestinian sovereignty, while simultaneously utilizing the circus that is the Israeli legal system.” He worries about the High Court being used to advance the Palestinian side. He points out that because of a “fancy legal quirk,” the High Court was used against Israel, and concludes, “Sooner or later the judges of the High Court need to ask themselves how long are they willing to blindly lead in the anti-Israel war.”
In its article, Haaretz focuses on the land itself and how an investigation by the paper revealed that there is approximately 1,500 dunams of private Palestinian land in the area. Four Palestinian families came forward and stated that the tents were built on their land and that declaration spurred the special appeal to the High Court, as the government cannot remove people from or cause damage to private Palestinian lands. The paper also writes about the possible diplomatic fallout from the evacuation. “Diplomats in New York are worried that a non-peaceful evacuation could lead to condemnation in the UN,” writes the paper.
Israel Hayom focuses its reporting on the government’s side of the case: the security reasons for evacuating the outpost. In its petition to the High Court, the government stated, “The establishment of tents and residence in the compound, given its location, is basically an act of protest and defiance intended to cause riots that will have domestic and international implications.” The paper goes on to quote further from the government’s petition, which rejects the claim that the tents are all built on private property: “The vast majority of tents were built on state land, the area known as E1, and a few were built on land that is not state land.”
Yedioth Ahronoth is the only paper that avoids the E1 outpost story and instead revises a poll the paper published on Friday, only this time including undecided voters. By factoring in undecided voters it states that there are 21 seats up for grabs. The revised results show Likud-Beytenu receiving 27 seats, Labor receiving 15, Jewish Home with 12, Yair Lapid with 9 and Shas earning only 8. The paper does an autopsy of sorts on Kadima predicting the majority of its seats will be divided up among the center-left bloc, with 60 percent of the seats being split among Labor, Yesh Atid, and Hatnua.
While Kadima’s seats are being eyed by the other political parties, former Kadima chief and prime minister, Ehud Olmert, made waves over the weekend by attacking Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barakon Channel 2 news for wasting 11 billion shekels on “harebrained schemes” and plans that “weren’t executed and won’t be executed.” Sources closed to Netanyahu responded by attacking Olmert’s handling of the Second Lebanon War.
While prime ministers past and present were attacking each other over the weekend, Shas faced a more serious challenge as its spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef suffered a minor stroke. As Israel Hayom reports, the rabbi began feeling symptoms Friday night but refused to be transferred to a hospital because he did want to violate the Sabbath. Saturday morning, after the symptoms persisted, the rabbi acquiesced and was taken to the hospital. The 92 year-old Yosef was reported as being conscious and aware of his surroundings and is expected to stay in the hospital for a few days for observation.
The snow that fell in parts of Israel has mostly melted, but Israelis crammed the still frozen north over the weekend to catch a glimpse of the rare white flakes. Haaretz reports that huge traffic jams plagued the north on Saturday as Israelis flocked to the Golan Heights to have some fun in the snow. Also packed were the slopes of Mount Hermon, with skiers enjoying the snowfall. The north was not the only location overrun with visitors, as national parks in the north also experienced a tourist boom with hikers visiting the rain-bloated streams of the Galilee. The most popular location over the weekend was the Banias River, a tributary to the Jordan River. Haaretz reports that no more rain (or snow) is in sight for the foreseeable future.