When is a terrorist a terrorist? Is it after he blows up a bus or shoots a rocket? Is it when he straps on a bomb but before he makes it to his target? Or is it when he just expresses a desire to harm, but doesn’t actually act on it, only pretending to by waving a fake gun around?

According to the Hebrew press Thursday morning, the answer is all of the above, with papers chock full of stories of the heroics of the Border Police officer who “saved” her comrade from a fake-gun-packing 17-year-old Palestinian outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron Wednesday night. Even Haaretz, which normally doesn’t miss a chance to highlight abuses of power by Israel’s armed forces, has a headline that says the Palestinian “attacked” the Border Police officer, presumably by pointing the fake gun. Sure that’s how it seemed. But we know better now, right?

Yedioth Ahronoth goes all-out patriotic populist with the story, calling the woman who shot the Palestinian teen (the brother of a terrorist freed in the Shalit deal, according to Israel Hayom) the “hero of the day” and only mentioning as an aside that the gun was fake near the bottom of the story.

The officer says she shot according to protocol and even when checking the boy’s body after shooting him didn’t realize that the gun was not real.

“This is the first time I’ve been in a combat situation,” she is quoted as saying in Maariv. “I acted exactly how I was taught. There was no time for me to detain the suspect, I understood that the life of my subordinate was in danger.”

The story is part of a larger trend of an uptick of violence in the West Bank, as noted in most of the papers. Yedioth and Maariv both report that the IDF is worried that the events of the last week may be a harbinger of the things to come. But while Yedioth blasts “The fear: A third initifada” as the headline across its Page 2, Maariv quotes an army official saying that while yes, there has been an increase in violent incidents since Operation Pillar of Defense last month, it is under control and there is no talk of a third intifada. The paper notes, though, that the Palestinian street is getting restless and “a single event, like the shooting last night in Hebron, could kindle the whole West Bank.”

In Israel Hayom, Dror Adir says that the Palestinians are actually weary of entering another cycle of violence, with 2003’s Operation Defensive Shield, in the wake of the second intifada, still fresh in their minds. Yet it is an Israeli fifth column, a “small tribe” (presumably leftists), that is spurring them on.

“They hear our voices. The restlessness of the small tribe, angered that we ‘stole’ their state,” he writes. “If it gets bad, maybe the Israelis will return to suicidal diplomatic policies. After we scared them with a diplomatic tsunami and asked for international pressure, we await a third intifada.”

Bad news bear

The impending closing of the main case against Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman also makes big news. In Haaretz, Ari Shavit says the move to only indict Liberman on a lesser charge marks the failure of the justice system.

“[Attorney general Yehuda] Weinstein will not admit it explicitly, but it is absolutely clear the rule of law has failed in the Liberman case. Even if the decision is justified, it was made not due to the attorney general’s deep conviction that the powerful suspect is innocent, but due to the police and prosecution’s inability to gather cutting evidence in Cyprus, Moldova and Belarus,” he writes. “Liberman will be indicted for a relatively marginal affair, for which the evidence gathered [in Israel] is solid. This shows that even in Jerusalem’s Salah al-Din Street they are aware that closing the Liberman case is onerous. A heavy cloud of heavy suspicions will be transferred Thursday from Israel’s legal sphere to the public one.”

Meanwhile, Yedioth has a story that Liberman’s party offered to pay voters NIS 10 for putting the right name in the ballot box. A secret video recorded shows former Yisrael Beytenu MK Leon Litinetsky offering to pay people to bring Liberman voters to the ballot box. “You can send us, in your name, by email, the names of 20-30 people you are going to refer to us, with all their info, and for every person you’ll get NIS 10 — for every one. Send us 60 people, get NIS 600. Send us 100, get NIS 1,000,” Litinzky is quoted in the video as telling vote-bundlers. Both the party and the election oversight committee told the paper the matter is being looked into.

Honor in retreat

In Maariv, Nurit Conti strikes out at the striking nurses, telling them that in the end their demands hurt the patients more than the people they are trying to influence and they should stop trying to push so hard for more money and better conditions, especially since they are not perfect themselves.

“There are complaints and stories about everyone, starting with the nurses and including doctors and administrators,” she writes. “There are outrageous local stories of disappearing or incomplete diagnoses, and even of abandoning the patient to make fateful decisions based on partial data.… You could say this is because of the very heavy workload falling on the staff, the result of a salary that doesn’t pay, but stories like these can also be told about those who leave in the afternoon for their private practice and who make big bucks off their patients’ crises.”

Haaretz’s editorial praises the soldiers seen on video retreating under a hail of rocks instead of firing, saying it shouldn’t be their job to police a civilian population in the first place and they did the right and honorable thing.

“Wise commanders who must choose between shooting at civilians or retreating know there is no point in pursuing the mission. Opening fire can escalate into a massacre. It is better to accept the embarrassment and criticism than to cause fatalities, to risk a military or international trial and to inflict diplomatic damage. Restraint is power; restraint in the presence of cameras is also common sense.”