The opening of a third front of security challenges for Israel, on the Syrian border, makes top news nearly across the board, though papers are split on linking the killing of a teen on the Golan Heights with fights already raging in the West Bank and near Gaza.
Both tabloids, Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom, see the Golan Heights attack as part and parcel with Israel’s wider war on terror, though only Israel Hayom, with its later bedtime, is able to report on the country’s middle-of-the-night blasting of targets inside Syria.
“Uncertainty, which began in the West Bank with the kidnapping of three youths, moved to Gaza with the nonstop firing of rockets and arrived yesterday on the border with Syria in an incident in which the son of a Defense Ministry contractor was killed,” Yoav Limor writes in the paper, summing up the assessment of a senior military officer.
In Yedioth, though, the Gaza front isn’t the shooting of rockets, which at this point is nothing to write home about, but rather an attempt by a terrorist to break into an Israeli community armed with a grenade, which could have gone very badly indeed.
“I think we thwarted a massive attack,” the paper quotes the community’s security coordinator, who stopped the terrorist, as saying. “He could have easily thrown the grenade at a kids’ bus stop or a house and caused a disaster.”
Makor Rishon doesn’t draw a line from the Syria attack to the West Bank or Gaza, but rather to Iraq, where extremists belonging to ISIL are creating a Salafi caliphate stretching from Baghdad to Damascus.
“There are many different reasons offered by experts for the attack on the Syrian border, and all of them could be relevant. But when the jihadi fire is spreading from Syria and Iraq, and in the Middle East there are more terror groups than settlement building tenders, one doesn’t need to investigate the mystery too deeply,” editor Amnon Lord writes.
Overstretched and undermined
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the operation to recover the three Israeli teens is continuing in earnest – most papers report the discovery of a network of tunnels under Hebron as the day’s big catch – but Haaretz (the only paper to bother giving any real estate to the deaths of two Palestinians from IDF fire early Sunday) reports that the active campaign is quickly reaching exhaustion in its current form, with no sign of the teens yet.
“Senior politicians who spoke with top officials in the Israel Defense Forces and Defense Ministry in recent days got the impression that the IDF sees it will soon have to change the nature of the operation that began in response to the kidnapping of three teenage boys 11 days ago in Gush Etzion. The impending change will find IDF having to focus on finding the kidnapped youths mainly on the basis of intelligence gathering,” the paper reports.
In its lead editorial, the paper wonders what the point of the operation is anyway – to find the teens or take down Hamas – and if one goal might not be undermining the other: “It seems that as time passes and frustration grows over the absence of any clue that would lead to the kidnappers, the prime minister is loading more and more goals onto the search in order to justify the display of force. The risk is that these ancillary goals could undermine other Israeli interests or create a deep rift between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which is still assisting the Israeli search to the best of its ability and with which it’s important to maintain the existing security cooperation.”
Despite the high tensions, Yedioth writes about the backing President Shimon Peres granted PA President Mahmoud Abbas Sunday (in conversation with TOI’s David Horovitz), calling him the best partner Israel ever had. “What he did before a totally Arab audience in Saudi Arabia — being clear on peace, being clear on terror, put his life at risk,” the paper quotes him saying. “I don’t know of anybody else who would do it. We shouldn’t miss an opportunity to make peace with him.”
As if to drive home the point and show what other kind of leaders are hanging out in Ramallah, Makor Rishon writes about Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki who went on the record wondering whether the kidnapping happened at all.
The paper writes that Maliki offered three possibilities about the kidnapping, positing that Israel made it up as an excuse to invade the West Bank as his top possibility, and that Palestinian terror groups actually kidnapped three Israeli teens at the bottom.