Everybody leads with Ehud Barak’s landslide victory in the Israeli elections. The result, based on an 80-plus percent turnout, is widely taken to augur movement in peace talks with Israel’s Arab neighbors and improved relations with the United States.
Barak, a former Israeli army chief of staff and a protégé of the assassinated Yitzhak Rabin, defeated the incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu so decisively–about 58 percent to 42 percent–that the P.M. conceded defeat and announced he was stepping down from his party’s leadership about a half-hour after the polls closed. The Washington Post quotes the man Netanyahu defeated three years ago to gain office, Shimon Peres, saying, “This is a political earthquake. … As of tomorrow, this is a different Israel.”
The papers note that James Carville was Barak’s political strategist, although none really explains what he advised. The WP identifies recently arrived Russian-speaking immigrants as the key bloc that switched its allegiance in the voting. They were driven away from Netanyahu, the paper says, by his embrace of the ultra-Orthodox political parties. The New York Times sees the result as the ultra-Orthodox’s loss of influence and the withering of the country’s right wing. The paper also says that Palestinians gloated over Netanyahu’s defeat. (Not so surprising, given the WP’s report that at his concession speech, some of Netanyahu’s supporters were heard to shout, “Death to the Arabs.”) The Los Angeles Times cites another explanation: Netanyahu failed to focus on his government’s accomplishments such as the concrete reduction in terrorism, with the result that the election ended up being mostly about his own controversial character.
The biggest domestic story of the day, fronted all around, is the Supreme Court’s ruling that states cannot institute lower welfare payouts for newly arrived recipients than for long-time residents. The ruling struck down the benefit differential California had crafted to discourage the arrival of new welfare cases. Fourteen other states had designed similar programs. (The LAT notes however that no state had actually implemented such a program.) USA Today says the decision reaffirms “the freedom to travel and expands the rights of state citizenship.” But the paper also points out how limited the decision is: Apparently, it does not affect other state benefit differentials, such as residential versus nonresidential college tuition rates. The NYT gives the court majority’s explanation of this difference when it quotes Justice John Paul Stevens saying “discrimination between residents and nonresidents was permissible under some circumstances while discrimination among categories of residents was not.”
The Wall Street Journal and the business sections of the other majors report that deep price-cutting is expanding among online booksellers, with Barnesandnoble.com and Borders On Line announcing they will match Amazon.com’s 50 percent discount on best sellers. The Journal points out that the move raises an issue for B & N and Borders: How will off-line customers react to knowing they can’t get those deeper discounts in the stores?
A NYT front-pager reports that fresh statistics show that the new kinder, gentler IRS has drastically scaled back its efforts to collect unpaid taxes. For instance, seizures of property are down 98 percent from two years ago, and levies and garnishments of bank accounts and paychecks are down 75 percent.
The USAT front reports that the U.S. Postal Service admitted Monday it had printed millions of stamps featuring the Grand Canyon and a legend locating it in Colorado. (It’s actually in Arizona.) The mistake, according to a spokesman, “just slipped by” an “intense” “review” “process.” Where does the USPS get its mapmakers from–the CIA?