Hamas rejected the ceasefire, the first Israeli died in Operation Protective Edge, and Israeli commentators all have something so say in today’s papers. And almost across the board, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is earning high marks. Not only for his trademark caution in dealing with Hamas, but also for dumping a critic inside his own government.
Calls for a ground incursion abound in Israel Hayom, but with an eye toward a better political future with moderate Palestinians. “Defense cannot win, and certainly can’t defeat the enemy,” write General (res.) Tzvika Fogel. “We are trying, with some success, to scare ourselves out of a ground operation, which will cost a heavy price in blood…The air operation has reached its culmination point. Thousands of houses, warehouses, tunnels, and other infrastructure were destroyed in the Gaza Strip, but these can all be replaced. Hamas commanders and experts have no replacements, and they must be struck. The IDF, with the help of the able intelligence bodies, can and must use its ground abilities to hunt them. Operation Protective Edge 2 must be a decisive operation that will create deterrence for years to come.”
Dan Margalit has some harsh words for those on the right and on the left who have been attacking Bibi, Bogie, and Benny for their handling of the campaign, calling their criticism “demagoguery.”
“From the left, the incitement against the IDF from Gideon Levy, and just behind him the Meretz MKs, and from the right the unprecedented prattle of Avigdor Liberman, who, instead of explaining properly to the world how justified and wise Israel’s policies are, hints to the public that the government is acting with incompetence…The real voices are found beyond the noise. Up till now, they have acted wisely. Strike and strive toward a political solution, that’s the proper formula, not verbal lawlessness from both ends of the Liberman-Levy axis.”
Even Haaretz’s editors have high praise for Netanyahu, even if they don’t have much stomach for any more fighting. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is worthy of praise for his leadership during Operation Protective Edge. Netanyahu bears responsibility for the deterioration that led Israel into a wide conflict with Hamas. But from the moment the military operation began, he acted with judgment, took care of international support for Israel, and rebuffed the irresponsible calls from his political partners on the right for an escalation, conquering the Strip and going ‘all the way.’”
Haaretz then calls on Netanyahu to cave to some Hamas demands in order to avoid a ground incursion, including freeing Hamas operatives arrested recently in the West Bank. Anything, they urge, in order to restore the quiet.
In Yedioth Ahronoth, Netanyahu is praised for dumping the outspoken deputy defense minister, Danny Danon, who acted like his main goal was to criticize his government. “When it was political matters, it was annoying, tiresome, but bearable,” writes Sima Kadmon. “Not when it comes to security matters, at the height of a war, as the deputy minister of ministry he is criticizing.”
Yedioth Ahronoth, whose front page features eight opinion pieces on the conflict, has Dror Hanin, Israel’s first civilian casualty in Protective Edge, and Danon, the first political casualty, front and center.
Nahum Barnea isn’t crazy about the government’s performance to this point. “The cliff is steadfast, the government less so,” his headline reads, playing on the Hebrew name for the operation, Steadfast Cliff. Tuesday’s developments, with Israel accepting the ceasefire and Hamas rejecting, gave Hamas the initiative and control over what happens next in the conflict, Barnea says. Israel seems like it has no clear strategy now, no ultimate goal. “Israel has a wonderful spokesman, named Benjamin Netanyahu. It doesn’t have a prime minister.”
“The goal of the operation was never defined – Netanyahu kept from committing to anything, lest the commitment come back like a boomerang – but it leaked out: a weakened Hamas, that’s the goal. What does weakened mean, how weak, no one knows, but it’s clear that the Israeli government’s intention is that Hamas continues to rule in Gaza.”
But Ben Caspit in Maariv understands Netanyahu’s caution. “Today, after Israel stopped firing and went along with the Egyptian ceasefire, while Hamas continued to fire rockets like crazy, we have justification and we have a ‘line of credit’ (even if it’s limited). The prime minister can look at himself in the mirror and tell himself he had no choice.”
Netanyahu looks tentative and tired in his prime time speeches, writes Caspit, not like he did when he was opposition leader. Were he still in the opposition, he would be giving fiery speeches, showing leadership and determination.
“But he’s the prime minister, not the head of the opposition, he understands the limits of power, he is afraid, he is sweating, and this time, he is justified. It’s not easy, this business. He knows that an incursion into Gaza now would be bloody, and it is not clear what it would achieve. No one will come out well from Gaza. And the other fronts are hot, as they are firing on us from Lebanon, from Syria, from Sinai. Netanyahu wants to go home. He wants quiet. All this business doesn’t do him well. He understands how complicated life is when you are no longer the head of the opposition.”
In a highly critical piece, Haaretz covers Israel’s protection of its Bedouin citizens in the Negev. Iron Dome prioritizes strategic installations, then major population centers, the article explains, in its decision of which rockets to intercept. At the bottom of the totem pole sit lightly populated areas. But tens of thousands of Bedouin in the Negev live in unrecognized villages in desert areas that the system recognizes as “open areas.” Iron Dome is much less likely to intercept rockets heading toward many Bedouin settlements, including the one where the two sisters were injured this week by a rocket that wasn’t shot down. In addition, in most Bedouin towns, there are no warning systems, shelters, or safe rooms in homes.
The army, in response, says that it recognizes the existing problem in protecting the Bedouin villages, but it has stationed Home Front Command reservists in towns in order to make up for some of the problems. Still, unrecognized villages are not likely to receive funds from the government, nor do they have the roads or electricity to support proper emergency infrastructure.
‘I don’t care what they say in Gaza, I saw the reality here’
With all the explosions and bloodshed around, Israel Hayom has a heartwarming story to raise our spirits a little. It covers the Save a Child’s Heart organization in Holon’s Wolfson Hospital, where Gazan mothers and children run to shelters alongside Israelis. But the children are still coming from Gaza and the West Bank. “In our experience,” says cardiologist Dr. Alona Reucher, “ we have not had a case where children did not arrive. We know how to separate between what is happening outside and life-saving medicine.”
A baby from Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip who underwent life-saving heart surgery at Wolfson is on his way back to Gaza. His grandmother appreciates what Israeli doctors did for her grandson Abdul-Rahman. “I have appreciation and respect for the care we received here. We did not experience a single case of discrimination. I don’t care what they say in Gaza, I saw the reality here.”