After eight days of intense fighting and at least four days of nearly equally intensive talks, Israel and Hamas declared a truce last night.
Israelis’ ambivalence about the ceasefire, and about the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu made his “mission accomplished” address yesterday while Palestinians in Gaza were celebrating in the streets, is readily apparent in this morning’s headlines.
“Ceasefire under probation,” reads the top headline in Israel Hayom. “Disputed ceasefire,” blares the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth.
Maariv‘s top headline takes it a step further, announcing: “The IDF held its fire, attacks on the south continued.” Haaretz makes a similar point in its main subheadline.
All the papers report on the brief, bare-bones agreement in great detail, analyzing its unambitious goals and the likelihood of them being met for long.
The news that Mossad chief Tamir Pardo was the official dispatched to Cairo to represent Israel appears in all the papers.
Under normal circumstances, the explosion of a bomb aboard a Tel Aviv bus would make top headlines in all the newspapers, but this morning the terror attack in the heart of Israel plays second fiddle to the ceasefire, with actual news coverage of the explosion relegated to the back pages of the papers.
Inside, the newspapers are more or less given over to commentary and analysis, with seemingly every staff member capable of using a keyboard given space to pontificate on the conflict and its resolution (or lack thereof), each judging the merits of the operation, its goals, its key players, its initial achievements and its eventual implications.
Israel Hayom writes about the disappointment of Israeli reservists who felt they were called up for no reason. “They brought us for nothing,” reads the headline, a quote from one of the men who was called up for reserve duty and felt frustrated that the troops weren’t ordered to march into the Gaza Strip. The same soldier adds, however, that the call-up helped boost company unity by giving them a chance to train. One female soldier reports on the fear she felt as rockets fell around the forces. “It was scary. I saw one rocket fall to the right of me and then shortly afterward another fell to my left. The sirens blare endlessly and there is nowhere to hide. We’re in an open area and there’s no way to provide shelter for all these people,” she says.
Israel’s journalists also waste no time in shifting from military combat mode to elections combat mode, portraying a country that yesterday was seemingly united under threat as a hodgepodge of narrow political interests.
“Netanyahu and [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Liberman spoke yesterday about the success of the operation, but made no mention of their failure to make good on their own campaign promise to topple Hamas,” writes Sima Kadmon in Yedioth Ahronoth. “If four years on the throne made it clear to them that it is an impossible and impractical goal, they should have stated it clearly…. It is hard not to fall under the impression that yesterday’s press conference was the launch of the elections campaign.”
Yedioth features, on Page 13, a summary of the operation’s political winners and losers. The losers column includes Labor, whose leader’s weak security credentials will likely cost the party votes in a campaign overtaken by defense considerations; Shas and Yesh Atid, which like Labor would rather focus on economic conditions; and Likud, which is now ostensibly fearful that Netanyahu’s agreement to a ceasefire will drive hawkish voters further to the right. The much shorter winners column includes only the Jewish Home party, which the paper says will seek to pick up votes from members of the electorate who wanted to see the government take harsher steps against Hamas.
Another political story that’s being played up is the likely announcement today of former Kadima head Tzipi Livni’s return to politics.
In non-Gaza-related news — though still very much connected to the January elections — is Yedioth’s exclusive report quoting unnamed legal experts to the effect that the state would drop its corruption charges against Liberman due to lack of evidence. Several of the witnesses, it emerges, are unwilling to come from abroad to testify, a fact that severely impedes the state’s chances for a conviction.
Back to the fallout from the Gaza operation, Arel Segal writes in Maariv’s opinion pages that “whether or not the ceasefire restored Israeli deterrence, its meaning is that Israel has come to terms with Hamas’s rule over Gaza.”
“The brain can, just barely, accept the rational explanation [for the ceasefire], the global game, the map of interests. But the stomach still turns,” writes Segal.
In Haaretz, Uri Misgav writes that Israelis supported Operation Pillar of Defense wholeheartedly because they long for the feeling of unity that comes with a shared experience of conflict, but shirked from approving a ground operation, because of the dangers it entails. In that “comfort zone” it is impossible to reach any decisive resolution, writes Misgav. “Nevertheless that’s where Israel’s governments will remain, even though it leads to defeat,” he concludes.