Despite Palestinian assertions that they’d never agree to another extension of the truce, and with the truce clock ticking down to zero hour, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators avoided a return to violence and extended the five-day truce by 24 hours more. There’s a near audible sigh of relief in the Israeli press.
“Extension on the way to an agreement,” a hopeful Yedioth Ahronoth writes on its front page, alongside a picture of a soldier lounging in a hammock strung between two army vehicles. Haaretz also strings up a headline which mentions “Progress between the contacts for a permanent agreement.” “Solidifying understandings,” says Israel Hayom, which opts to lead off with an article on an alleged attempted Hamas takeover of the West Bank instead.
But just how clear this progress toward a deal is remains foggy, regardless of which paper you pick up Tuesday morning. Jerusalem has remained mum throughout the proceedings, and the reported progress is expressed in the vaguest of possible terms.
Based on reports from Cairo, “it appears that [a long-term ceasefire] agreement, even if limited, indeed is in the advanced stages of coalescence,” Yedioth Ahronoth reports, without citing which Egyptian reports. Haaretz takes equally due caution in its reporting: “The assessment is that there is process in the negotiations and therefore an agreement was reached to prolong the truce [by 24 hours more].” Israel Hayom passes it off as a fait accompli, an absolute truth without any explanation: “The contacts between the sides are advancing [toward an agreement],” it writes.
The emerging deal takes a variety of permutations on general themes in the press. According to Haaretz’s unnamed sources, the sides agreed to opening all crossings to the Gaza Strip, transferring building materials to Gaza under international supervision, and pushing talks on a seaport and airport to later with an immediate return to 2012 post-Operation Pillar of Defense ceasefire understanding. Rebuilding the Gaza Strip would take place under the auspices of the Palestinian national reconciliation government, it reports.
In Israel Hayom, the deal being sketched out is based on the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, but discussion about the major Palestinian demands — namely the seaport and airport, release of Palestinian prisoners and Israeli bodies — will take place in the weeks to come.
Yedioth Ahronoth goes into the most detail, saying the deal would include a mutual ceasefire and a series of humanitarian measures to ease the blockade on Gaza for the next month. During those weeks, the two sides would deliberate on the major issues, such as Israel’s demands that Gaza be demilitarized and that the PA assume control of the border crossings, and the Palestinian demands of a seaport and airport and a prisoners-for-bodies exchange. Such an agreement would require the security cabinet’s approval, the paper notes.
Outside the rumor mill churning out ceasefire deals that don’t yet exist, the Israeli media reports on a Hamas revolution plot, a minister blasting Arab MKs for abandoning Israeli Bedouin for the Palestinian cause, and the cancelation of train service to the rocket-battered city of Sderot.
Israel Hayom’s top story is the IDF and Shin Bet announcement that Israeli security forces thwarted a Hamas plot to overthrow the Palestinian Authority, take control of the West Bank and carry out terrorist attacks on Israeli soil. The Shin Bet arrested 93 people who were in possession of 24 rifles, six pistols and seven rocket launchers, what it called “the most dangerous military hardware we’ve known.” The elaborate scheme was managed from Jordan, and the arms were brought to the West Bank via a smuggling ring running from Turkey to Jordan and into the Palestinian territories.
Haaretz quotes Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen lambasting Arab MKs for neglecting the plight of Bedouin in Israel and instead throwing their chips in with the Palestinian cause. Arab MKs, he is quoted saying, “need to advance the interests of the authorities and non-Jewish citizens [in Israel], and deal less with the problems of the Palestinians.” The Yesh Atid MK spoke to Bedouin leaders about the lack of defense from rockets in the south’s various Bedouin villages. He says that “the state cannot erect shelters scattered across [the area], but it needs to provide adequate protection for Bedouin communities.”
Yedioth Ahronoth writes that the cancelation of train service between Ashkelon and Sderot left passengers delayed despite the provision of free shuttles between the two cities. The decision to halt train service was made, the paper says, after Hamas released footage from the Gaza Strip of the train traveling along the tracks just kilometers from the border.
“It makes no sense that the state invested NIS 50 million in constructing a reinforced train station, while when the residents and students need to use the train the state closes the line without providing a security response and without prior warning,” Sapir College student union president Moran Barnes tells the paper. “Once again the security situation discriminates between the center and the country’s periphery, and moreover on a day when the residents are instructed to behave normally — during a ceasefire.”