For three years, the Syrian war has stayed almost totally on the Syrian side of the border, with occasional cross-frontier volleys causing Israel little to no harm. That all changed on Tuesday afternoon, though, as an Israel Defense Forces jeep was hit by a bomb near the Syrian border, injuring four soldiers, one of them seriously.
This seeming shift in how the war is playing out garners top headlines, both in reporting the news of the bombing and for the wider implications. This was the third or fourth attack along the northern border in a number of days (depending on whom you ask), but Yedioth Ahronoth notes that it’s the first along the Syrian border, which despite the war raging on the other side, has been among the country’s quietest frontiers.
Commentators for both Haaretz and Israel Hayom agree that though Hezbollah was behind the attack, the real mastermind was Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In Haaretz, Amos Harel writes that the string of attacks, the most serious since 2006, can be seen as some sort of victory retaliation for the reported Israeli attack on a weapons convoy in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley last month.
“When the attacks attributed to Israel occurred in Syria, Assad generally chose to respond with restraint. But Hezbollah is a different story. Only a short time after the organization threatened to respond, the series of attacks began,” he writes. “It could be that Hezbollah general secretary Hassan Nasrallah sees himself as obligated not to leave any Israeli attack unanswered. But there could be another explanation: The relative success of the Assad-Hezbollah camp in blocking the rebel groups’ progress and the removal of an immediate threat to the regime in Damascus may have boosted both parties’ self-confidence.”
Yaov Limor in Israel Hayom writes that Israel is in a tough spot, wanting to keep the man behind the bombings in power while making sure he doesn’t carry out any more.
“We’ve directed military and verbal responses at Assad, in the hopes that he will secure the border and prevent attacks. Admittedly, this has slim chances, both because of Assad’s weakness and the assessment that he was involved himself in the string of attacks, and also because Israel really doesn’t want to see him overthrown out of fear that whoever comes next will be worse. Thus against the assessment that Israel will have to destroy weapons transfers – and in light of the fact that Hezbollah has left the arena of non-responding – we can expect the scenario to come true in which the northern border sooner or later becomes a terror front.”
In Yedioth, Alex Fishman puts on his warmongering hat, writing that Israel cannot stand by while this is happening and must do something more than passive-aggressively firing the occasional Tamuz missile to keep the border area safe from attack.
“Hezbollah and the Syrians are dragging Israel into a war of attrition on the northern border, with the timing and pace that they are determining, and the Israeli defense complex is being dragged into this with its eyes closed. If the prime minister, defense minister and C\cabinet don’t do something and take matters into their hands, the day is not far off when we will find ourselves, unwillingly, in a searing mess on two fronts – Gaza and the north.”
Talking ’bout a revolution
Israel Hayom follows up the news that Finance Minister Yair Lapid will push a plan to give young families tax-free apartments with a wide range of coverage, including columns for and against the plan. In the “for” corner, tax adviser Yaron Gindi says the plan will create a ripple effect throughout the housing market, helping solve a serious crisis. “We’re talking about a real revolution in the housing market, which comes as part of a complete package needed in order to stop home prices from sinking, increase its robustness and stability, and allow for the whole of the Israeli public to purchase an apartment,” he writes
On the other side, Hezi Strenlicht (who is also the reporter on this story, just in case you feared you might be getting an unbiased report) says the plan will increase demand and send prices soaring, placing them all the more out of reach of people, especially those who don’t have kids or army service under their belts. “If the plan is enacted as it currently stands, those out of luck according to the criteria will be forced to buy more expensive apartments, and the developers will be the ones laughing all the way to the bank. Minorities, like the ultra-Orthodox, Arabs, single people or couples who didn’t vote for Lapid, will choke on inflated prices.”
Russia’s Crimean landgrab is on everybody’s minds, and in Yedioth, Yossi Schein seems convinced that Vladimir Putin won’t stop at just some Tatar tots, increasing pressure on US President Barack Obama to act: “Fact: Just yesterday did he mention the desire to protect Russians and others in Ukraine from ‘neo-Nazis.’ In the White House, they need to prepare for another phase in the confrontation which will demand for forceful action. Pressure on Obama from Congress is growing, and Sen. John McCain even said the time has come to grant Ukraine military aid … If Putin doesn’t stop at Crimea, will it be on the US to consider sending troops to the Baltics, send soldiers to Kiev, or put missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic?”
Haaretz devotes its lead editorial to raking Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon over the coals for yet another round of very un-PC comments, the most recent on American weakness vis-à-vis Iran:
“These hollow words of bravado and disdain for the American government and its aid to Israel were actually uttered by the defense minister, the one who is meant to know just how important the strategic relations with the US are to the system for which he is responsible. … Ya’alon, however, prefers to act like the last of the right wing’s resistance fighters. If some Knesset backbencher would express himself that way, one could perhaps let it go by, but when the defense minister says such things he is endangering Israel’s security and its most important diplomatic asset.”