Calm on the border, no fire in the sky
Hebrew media review

Calm on the border, no fire in the sky

Rockets have stopped hitting southern Israel -- but how long will the ceasefire last, the papers ask

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.

GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Tal Russo (left) and Defense Minister Ehud Barak (right) talk on a base near the border of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. (photo credit: Ben Avraham/Defense Ministry/Flash90)
GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Tal Russo (left) and Defense Minister Ehud Barak (right) talk on a base near the border of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. (photo credit: Ben Avraham/Defense Ministry/Flash90)

Four days of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip came to an end Tuesday, and Israeli government threats to retaliate against the barrage with increased force never came to fruition. The Israeli press deals with the looming issue of how long the ceasefire will last and what happens next.

Maariv leads with the quiet prevailing (for now) along Israel’s southern border with the Gaza Strip. After days of rocket fire and concerns of a military escalation against the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave, the confrontation with Palestinian terrorists seemed to have ended.

“For the moment it seems as if we lost the momentum for an attack because it seems as though the silence has returned to the area, and quiet will be answered with quiet,” the paper quoted a senior defense source saying.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz is quoted saying that a broad operation like 2002’s Operation Defensive Shield incursion into Nablus, Ramallah, and Jenin was still a future possibility.

“We are now warning, but sooner or later, even if there will be calm in Gaza, we will need to get a final decision on Gaza, and that is only possible with an operation in the style of Defensive Shield, in which, with all of the difficulties and international pressure, we controlled Nablus, Jenin, and Ramallah, uprooted the terror bases and left.”

The paper adds that various other factors “convinced” (their quotes) Israel to back down from an escalation, including the threat of severed relations with Egypt. Sources in Cairo told Maariv that their country’s interest lies in calm between Israel and Gaza so that Egypt can focus on domestic issues.

Israel Hayom takes a far more bellicose tone, posing the question “What do we do about the aggression of Hamas and the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip?” While the prime minister’s inner council of nine cabinet members reached a decision on how to react to the latest round of rockets, its conclusion went unpublished.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted saying, however, that “Whosoever thinks that they can harm the way of life of residents of the south and won’t pay a heavy price is wrong. I am responsible for the fact that we’ll choose the right date to pay back the heaviest price, and that’s how it’ll be.”

The jingoistically-toned report also quotes Defense Minister Ehud Barak saying that “the matter is definitely not over, and we’ll decide how and when to act when there is need to do so.”

Dr. Chelo Rosenberg writes in Maariv that “the country’s leaders know what needs to be done, but are reluctant to tell the public openly: Israel needs to disconnect completely from Gaza and let the Palestinians live their lives without Israeli intervention.”

He calls the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip in 2005 “half pregnant” (inasmuch as there is no such thing as being half pregnant) and said the deterrence created by 2008’s Operation Cast Lead has worn thin. “The threats of Israeli leaders are empty,” he says. “Who is to blame for the deterrence eroding so much but the leaders of Israel?”

He says their threatening tone will not change the situation whatsoever, rather he advocates lifting the blockade and arriving at a negotiated agreement with Hamas. “Gaza does not constitute an existential threat to Israel. The IDF is capable of turning Gaza into piles of rubble in days, if only Israeli leaders weren’t afraid of their own shadows.”  But such action would not destroy Hamas or alleviate the situation.

Dan Margalit proposes offering foreign military attaches a spot in jeeps patrolling the border so that they — not journalists or activists — can attest to who breaks the ceasefire. “Steps like these will lay the foundation for a partial international understanding of Israeli use of force in the future,” he says. He, too, advocates “the continuation of war through political means” to gain international support during what he calls “the few days of calm” before the next round of violence.

Haaretz reports on the Foreign Ministry’s consideration of partly or wholly canceling the Oslo Accords should the Palestinian Authority press forward with its bid to acquire nonmember state status at the United Nations General Assembly.

The paper writes that should the Palestinians bring their proposal to the General Assembly, they will likely receive a majority of 150 votes in favor out of the 193 voting members. The only person who could forestall such a motion, Haaretz writes, is PA President Mahmoud Abbas himself.

According to a senior official in the Foreign Ministry, the ministry’s strategy is to convince foreign leaders into pressuring Abbas into giving the gig up. Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office officials reportedly believe the chances of the success of this tactic are low, especially considering US President Barack Obama’s failure to dissuade Abbas over the phone this week.

Yedioth Ahronoth writes of an initiative to reinforce the spirits of southern residents by means of vacations in the Gaza-adjacent area. A “large convoy of cars” is expected to head south from the greater Tel Aviv area to spend the weekend in Sderot and the surrounding towns and kibbutzim. Their objective: reinforcing the local economy, which is suffering under the latest rocket barrage.

One of the organizers of the project said that “there is no political issue here, nor any hidden interest. All in all it’s a plan born out of empathy with the residents of the south, from solidarity with them.”

Alongside the article about the proposal, the paper features a colorful spread with information about various activities in the rocket-battered south for visitors this weekend: vegetable picking at Kibbutz Netiv Ha’asara (which this author can attest is very close indeed to the Gaza Strip), bike riding, a film festival, museums, and memorials.

The paper also reports on the condition of one of the soldiers injured in Saturday’s missile attack on an IDF jeep patrolling the Gaza border. Yehuda Parsi, a 22-year-old Givati soldier, woke up in the hospital and is no longer hooked up to a respirator. Nonetheless, the young man may lose his vision due to shrapnel from the blast that penetrated his eyes.


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