Choose your battles
Hebrew media review

Choose your battles

Fighting from Syria, to the Temple Mount, to Jerusalem meeting rooms is all the rage in Friday's papers

Israeli tanks and soldiers take part in a large combined army drill, June 4, 2013. (photo credit: Tal Manor/IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)
Israeli tanks and soldiers take part in a large combined army drill, June 4, 2013. (photo credit: Tal Manor/IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

Israeli papers are full of fighting Friday morning, though the field of battle changes depending on which Hebrew-language daily one picks up.

In Israel Hayom, the main battlefields are actual ones, at the border with Gaza, where a clash between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters Thursday night left several Hamas gunmen dead and a number of IDF soldiers injured; and in Syria, where US officials say Israeli planes hit a missile shipment near Latakia two days ago.

The paper reports, based on US officials, that the strike targeted SA-8 missiles, which Israel feared that Syria was transferring to Hezbollah; sources in Jerusalem are actually pointing at Turkey as behind the attack.

Yoav Limor writes in the paper that while details on the action are fuzzy, the strike does reveal the nature of Bashar Assad’s relationship with Hezbollah (though, truth be told, this passage could have been written a year ago). “From this action it’s possible to learn about how deep the ties run between Syria and Lebanon, and on the nature of the commitment of the Assad regime to the Lebanese group. Under international pressure, Syria has lost the ability to use chemical weapons and its preparedness against the rebels has been hurt. Because of that, there has been a rise in its dependence on direct financial assistance from Iran and military help from Hezbollah. In exchange, Syria transfers advanced methods to Lebanon: Assad is willing, again and again, to take the dangerous step in order to keep in good standing and ensure the continuation of the support.”

Yedioth Ahronoth, meanwhile, writes that Israelis are not so pleased with Americans blabbing to the world about their activities time and time again. The paper reports that the leak of the fact that Israel carried out the strike, the third so far, has created a “deep rift” between Jerusalem and Washington, especially after the US promised it would not happen again. Unnamed Israeli sources quoted say they think the Americans can’t keep their mouths shut because they want to hold the Israelis back from inflaming the region.

The Israeli sources may want to keep their names under wraps, but Yedioth commentator Alex Fishman isn’t afraid to rip Washington a new one for the leak.

“What the hell are the Americans thinking when they point at Israel as responsible for the Syria attack? Past experience teaches [us] that they share our military actions in order to not sully or surprise, but Washington is selling our secrets for a pittance.”

Both Haaretz and Maariv focus on a tussle taking place inside boardrooms, where the Defense Ministry is battling it out against the Treasury over planned budget cuts. Maariv illustrates the match by dressing army chief Benny Gantz and Finance Minister Yair Lapid in boxing gloves and running the most unwieldy headline possible (in the form of a quote from Lapid). To wit: “This is irresponsible, you don’t live here? In the end, all of your soldiers will be in Berlin.”

The paper goes on to explain the depth of the dispute, which played out in a cabinet meeting, noting that both sides are being super mature in the budget battle: “There were parts of the discussion that were like a boxing match, but there were also several comedic moments, of the type that you only get in long and tiring cabinet meetings. It started with a huge presentation with 360 slides that army representatives brought with them. When the ministers saw the uniformed men begin to set up the technical devices, they were reminded of the last time the army gave a presentation, when there was a state budget discussion. ‘No thanks,’ the ministers told the officers. ‘We’re not interested in another five-hour presentation.’ At the ministers’ request, the officers were kicked out, and that’s when the real fighting began.”

Haaretz leads off with the budget battle, leaving no doubt about the fact that it sides with the Treasury in that money should be going to things other than defense. The paper adds a graphic that shows the rising defense budget, handily illustrated with jets soaring higher and higher. While in 2010 the defense budget stood at NIS 54 billion, in 2014 it will rise to NIS 60 billion.

The paper covers a number of other combat zones as well, from the relatively quiet Kurdish area of Qamishli in Syria, to the Temple Mount; more and more right-wing Israeli Jews are making it a habit to visit the holy site. Noting that former PM Ariel Sharon’s visit was blamed for sparking the Second Intifada, the paper warns that history could repeat itself.

“When it comes to the Temple Mount, the obsessions of the Jewish activists are matched only by those of the Islamic Movement and Hamas. In contrast to the Israeli media, which shows little interest in the subject, the Palestinian press relates to every communique released by the Jewish activists with the utmost seriousness,” Amos Harel and Nir Hasson write, following up their observation with perhaps the most offensive thing possible: a quote comparing the holy site to a place where the sun don’t shine.

“’The Temple Mount is like an irritable bowel,'” one Israeli security figure is quoted. “‘It can always flare up, and there will always be someone to irritate it. The combination of religious fantasies and historical background is a dangerous one. We have already paid a steep price for it in the past.’”

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