The eye of the Islamic Jihad storm
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Hebrew media review

The eye of the Islamic Jihad storm

The ceasefire seems iffy at best, and as Israel’s newspapers recap the action down south, they speculate about what happens next between Israel and Gaza

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Islamic Jihad members firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: CC BY-SA Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, Flickr)
Islamic Jihad members firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: CC BY-SA Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, Flickr)

A tenuous ceasefire hangs between Israel and Gaza, ruptured by sporadic rocket fire.

Yedioth Ahronoth‘s headline reads “Despite the understandings” alongside a photo of a Grad rocket that hit Netivot, injuring one and sending 11 others into shock. Haaretz, whose headline deceptively reads “Silence returns to southern Israel,” reports that “despite the understandings, 13 rockets were launched yesterday.” The general impression in the press is that — to paraphrase Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz — it isn’t over till it’s over, and, right now, it’s far from over.

Israel Hayom runs the headline “Conditional silence,” and Maariv calls the situation a “Questionable truce.” Pictures of President Shimon Peres talking with children, releasing balloons and doves, and smiling are in Haaretz, Maariv, and Israel Hayom, possibly assuaging Israelis who weren’t comforted by him in person.

Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor remarks that the calm in the south is temporary at best, momentary at worst. Both sides are taking advantage of the break to learn for the next round: Palestinians are amassing more rockets, and Israel is bolstering its rocket-countering strategy. Both are aware, Limor says, that the silence in the South “is short-lived and bound to end soon, either with a targeted assassination by Israel or renewed rocket fire from Gaza.”

Maariv’s Ben Caspit sums up this weekend’s escalation as “a clear Israeli victory, almost a knock-out.” While Caspit praises Israel’s successes, he soberly cautions against hubris: “Iron Dome doesn’t change the fact that a million people live in the shadow of sirens…. That will change when Grads can reach the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. Incidentally, that day approaches with great strides.”

Of jihadists and über-jihadists

Although Ben Caspit calls Islamic Jihad’s victory celebrations on Tuesday in Gaza “the comic relief of the [Gaza] episode,” the militant group scored a real victory — against Hamas. The impending clash of the two is center stage in Gaza and the Israeli press.

According to the Palestinian Authority, Hamas forswore violence in February; their political dealings of late attest to a growing politicization of the movement, a shift to statecraft over armed resistance. They now contend with the virulent and violent Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees.

Hamas was “the biggest loser” this weekend, writes Yedioth Ahronoth, because it refrained from attacking Israel while Islamic Jihad carried the banner of jihad against the Zionists.

Maariv predicts that the next battle will be between Hamas and Islamic Jihad for control of the hearts, minds, and allegiance of Gaza’s Palestinians.

Rony Shaked writes in Yedioth Ahronoth that while Hamas strives for an Islamic Palestinian Authority and Arab and international legitimacy, Islamic Jihad and the PRC have the simplistic ethos of “war, war, war against Israel in order to destroy it.” Yedioth’s remarks sound eerily familiar to Israeli government rhetoric vis à vis Hamas for the past 20 years.

Israel collectively brands them all as “terrorism infrastructure,” Zvi Barel writes. To the contrary, he says, “it is not a philharmonic orchestra that plays by the instruction of one conductor. Personal and ideological rivalries sizzle between them.” The political fracturing of Gaza does not interest the Israeli government, he writes. Rather than take advantage of these splits in Gaza’s polity, the government “prefers to describe a large and unified enemy… that can be defeated without political consequences.”

Of this conflict between Islamic Jihad, the PRC, and Hamas, Israel Hayom only reports that the former two groups criticized Hamas, calling it a collaborator with the Zionist enemy.

War by numbers

Like post-game analysis on sports television, Israel’s newspapers are giving the statistics for the four-day match between Israel and Gaza. Unlike at a sporting event, the statistics are not uniform.

Israel Hayom, Maariv, and Yedioth Ahronoth report eight Israeli citizens injured, two seriously. Haaretz cites the figure of those injured in Israel — including foreign laborers who were injured — as 15. Maariv adds that 62 people were treated for shock.

All four sources cite 22 Palestinian terrorists killed, but Israel Hayom doesn’t mention the four Palestinian civilians killed in Israeli airstrikes. Maariv also mentions the 85 Palestinians injured by Israeli fire.

A total of 304 rockets were launched, 166 (Israel Hayom), 167 (Maariv) or 169 (Haaretz) of which landed in Israel. Iron Dome shot down 56 incoming missiles, a 75% accuracy rate according to Israel Hayom, 77% according to Yedioth Ahronoth, and 79% according to Maariv.

Haaretz tabulates the total cost of the Iron Dome interceptions as ~17.6 million NIS. Perhaps in response to an editorial that raised the unmentioned cost of air force strikes, Haaretz also publishes their estimated costs: NIS 98,000/hour for a fighter jet and NIS 46,000 /hour for a helicopter (ammunition not included), and NIS 25,000 per GPS guided bomb.

Though Haaretz provides the cost of Operation Cast Lead per day (NIS 144 million) and sum total (NIS 2.5 billion), it does not calculate the cost of this brief altercation over Gaza. Yedioth Ahronoth says the Israeli Air Force struck 27 targets in Gaza, Israel Hayom says 33, and Maariv 37. The bottom line is that the past four days of IDF activity weren’t cheap.

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