After another day of rockets falling on Israel’s south, the papers all search for solutions to to the growing conflict in Gaza.
Yedioth Ahronoth dedicates its entire front page to the rocket fire, warning in its main headline of “The price of action in Gaza: Rockets in Gush Dan [the heavily populated central region of Israel].” The paper reports that Israeli sources, averse to an escalation, are considering renewing its policy of targeted killings instead of a large-scale operation. The paper quotes an Islamic Jihad spokesperson who pledged, “If Israel keeps quiet, so will we.”
Statements from Islamic Jihad may not be enough to ease public frustration. In a small sidebar, Yedioth reports on Paz Azran, a high school student from Ashkelon, who told a visiting foreign delegation, “When the siren sounds, normal children know that it is a school bell, but when I hear it, I know that I have 30 seconds to take shelter.”
Maariv’s front page highlights another concern for Israel were there to be a major operation in Gaza: Egypt. “Egypt warns: If Israel responds in Gaza we’ll recall our ambassador,” reads the headline. The article notes that the IDF is readying its plans, while Netanyahu for his part is trying to gauge international reaction to a potential operation. Meanwhile, the Egyptians are working towards a ceasefire in Gaza but Israel passed along a message warning them if talks are not successful, Israel will have to take action.
While Yedioth and Maariv separated the southern barrage from the northern one, both Haaretz and Israel Hayom report on Gaza and Syria together. Haaretz leads with the descriptive headline, “In the Strip, ready for calm; another day of firing in the Golan.” The paper reports that on Monday night representatives from Palestinian groups met and accepted the principles of an Egyptian-mediated cease-fire. However, the group that Israel blames for most of the actual rocket fire, the Salafist group Shura Majlis Al-Mog’hidin, did not participate in the talks.
The article also reports on the second straight day of skirmishes along the Syrian border with Israel targeting a Syrian Army artillery unit after a mortar landed near an IDF outpost in the Golan. Haaretz reports that Syria has officially ignored the Israeli sally, as the incidents were not reported on Syrian television.
“Between two fronts,” reads Israel Hayom’s front page headline, which provides updates on both the Syrian and Gazan fronts. The inside article on Gaza reflects a determined stance: “The IDF is ready, awaiting the decision.” The paper also focuses on Egypt’s role in arranging a ceasefire and reports that Egyptian sources warned Palestinian groups against entering another cycle of violence.
Israel Hayom also reports on unseen damage caused by the constant rocket fire: psychological distress. According to the group Eran, which provides emotional first aid, there has been a 22 percent increase in patients in the south since the latest round of firing began. Tamar Aurbach, Eran’s director of social services in the Eshkol region, said, ”We come immediately after a [rocket] hit and begin treatment.”
Don’t look up
While Gaza grabbed the headlines, the second day of firing on Syria was also top news. “Shooting to hurt,” reads Yedioth’s article headline, contrasting the incident with Sunday’s firing, which was considered a warning shot. The mortar that landed in the Golan Heights was the sixth time in two weeks that battles in Syria have spilled over to Israel. Much like the residents of the South, residents of the Golan were getting frustrated as well. “There have been too many bombs and flares recently, and I’m happy that the IDF responded to the Syrians that this cannot continue,” Chai Hadar, a resident of Alonei Habashan, told the paper.
Maariv includes in its Syria coverage an opinion piece by brigadier general (res) Rafi Noy whose title says it all, “Israel already prefers Assad.” In the piece he states that part of this preference revolves around, “the lack of clarity and fog that surrounds the rebels.” Noy’s central thesis is that Israel doesn’t know what will happen the day after the rebels take power, while Assad is a known entity. “Syria under the leadership of Bashar Assad was under control, with nationalistic motives, not religious fundamentalism. And no less important: we know who they are, we have lived with this regime for tens of years in relative quiet.”
The situation in the south has attracted a lot of attention, including from politicians eager to support the residents. “Running south,” reads the headline in Yedioth’s page of election coverage. Those who have visited include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Yesh Atid’s Ofer Shelah.
The question since Ehud Olmert’s acquittal on the most serious corruption charges has been: Will he return to politics? Israel Hayom has a partial answer to that question, and it’s maybe. The paper reports that Olmert is expected to return from the United States and make a decision by this weekend as to whether he will run in the upcoming elections. It’s also unclear if he’d start his own party with Tzipi Livni or return to Kadima. Livni, for her part, is waiting to see if Olmert will run before announcing her decision. If they wait much longer the election may pass them by.
Haaretz reports that Interior Minister Eli Yishai is asking the state to reimburse him for his legal fees relating to the Carmel fire disaster. The catch: Yishai is asking for NIS 326,000, 16 times the amount allowed for such reimbursement. Yishai is not alone, as Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz is also asking to be reimbursed for NIS 60,000. The Justice Ministry has not made a decision on this yet.