Strike up the band! Operation Protective Edge has turned 50 days old and the papers once again make it the top story of the day. For the Israeli press it’s the gift that keeps on giving headlines, whether they’re about rocket barrages on the south, deliberations about ceasefire deliberations or the final photos of the child killed by a rocket days ago.
The massive bombardment of the southern Israeli regions adjacent to the Gaza Strip makes top billing in Haaretz on Tuesday, with the paper reporting that at least 120 rockets were fired at Israel Monday, of which 100 were aimed at communities along the border. Five of them landed inside towns, and a total of 16 were intercepted by Iron Dome over the course of the day. The paper also reports that another 300 families from the Gaza-adjacent towns and kibbutzim asked the Defense Ministry for help resettling elsewhere in Israel because of the continuing rocket fire at their homes.
The report in Israel Hayom on the truce negotiations in Cairo opens so uncharacteristically optimistically that it must have been too good to be true. Indeed, the paper says that over the course of the day, reports from the Egyptian capital grew more and more promising for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, with Islamic Jihad saying there was agreement on a deal, then an Egyptian official saying there’d be a truce within 48 hours, then a Hamas spokesperson saying there had been great progress. In Israel, however, there were incoming rockets, not a truce, on the horizon, it says, noting the barrage that took place on Day 49.
“Political officials continued [on Monday] to be silent about everything concerning the contacts [relating to a truce],” Israel Hayom writes. But there is a glimmer of hope that all this might end sooner rather than later: “A diplomatic official in Washington said [Monday night] that the US is preparing a draft resolution for the UN Security Council concerning a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.”
Yedioth Ahronoth gives a grand recap, cataloging the IDF’s achievements in 50 days and remarking that Hamas has yet to concede. “But after more than a month and a half, its end is still not on the horizon,” it writes. “If there’s a single officer in the army who thought that the fighting would continue for such a long time, stand up.”
One noticeably absent statistic in its recap of the first (and hopefully last) 50 days of the conflict is the death toll in the Gaza Strip and the degree of destruction inflicted upon the territory, though it does note that Hamas has lost 800 to 1,000 of its fighters.
The paper writes that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon deserve plaudits for their “great restraint over the past 50 days.” Its criticisms, which require mental acrobatics to discern, are largely micro rather than macro, and relate to the IDF’s equipping of reservists and one commander’s penchant for religious radicalism.
Haaretz also reports on the Palestinian internal security agency’s investigation of former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in what officials suspect is a witch hunt orchestrated by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Two members of Fayyad’s group, Future for Palestine, were investigated by the internal security agency for suspected financial irregularities.
The paper publishes speculation that the cause of the investigation is Fayyad’s organization’s drive to collect humanitarian goods for UNRWA to be sent to Gaza, which caused “discomfort” among PA elites and prompted them to fire a warning shot across Fayyad’s bow.
Taking to the defense of his fearless leader, Dan Margalit writes in Israel Hayom that there is no substance or reason behind the public opinion poll published on Channel 2 the night before which indicated that Netanyahu’s approval rating has plummeted over the course of the war. He says there’s no sense in trusting public opinion polls in the middle of the conflict.
“Every world that left [Netanyahu's] lips echoed in the hearts of every Israeli, and that was clear,” Margalit writes. He proceeds to blame the Israeli public for failing to properly understand Netanyahu. “It’s only that the broader public didn’t hear what Netanyahu and Ya’alon and [IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Col. Benny] Gantz promised; they didn’t discern that they tried to avoid the war and strove in advance for minimal objectives, and therefore the disappointment was inevitable.”
Yedioth Ahronoth’s Hanoch Daum also waxes sycophantic and jingoistic in a column in which he says that no matter what happens, Israel will be victorious. He regurgitates Netanyahu’s much-reiterated talking point that “Hamas is ISIL” and that “the fact is that we sanctify life and not death,” unlike Hamas.
“We have a strong nation, a strong economy, a strong army, and even if the rocket fire continues for a bit longer, we’ll hold the line,” he writes. “Gaza, however, suffered and will yet suffer heavy and painful blows.”