In Jordan Valley murder, question marks abound
Hebrew media review

In Jordan Valley murder, question marks abound

Press, and investigators, unsure whether Seraiah Ofer was killed by terrorists or common criminals

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

The home of Seraiah Ofer, where he was killed on October 11. (photo credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)
The home of Seraiah Ofer, where he was killed on October 11. (photo credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

The press Sunday takes stock of the murder of an Israeli in the West Bank on Friday, noting that three days later, the killing of Seraiah Ofer, a retired IDF colonel in his 60s, doesn’t seem much clearer. It also reflects on prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, 18 years later.

Maariv emphasizes the manner in which Ofer was cut down, reporting that “attackers surprised a resident of the [Jordan] Valley in his home — and they killed him with axes.” Unlike the rest of the papers, Maariv flatly reports that the motive for the murder was “nationalistic,” which is to say, terrorism, and gives the same assessment for last weekend’s attack in Psagot in which a nine-year-old girl was injured.

Yedioth Ahronoth writes that the late colonel “commanded no few battles in his life, including the daily fight for survival in the Jordan Valley.” It reports that the circumstances of the murder are still under investigation, but that authorities are probing the possibility of it being a criminally motivated act, rather than terrorism. Despite that, in recounting the events, the paper is careful to brand the murderers “terrorists.”

Haaretz notes that Ofer’s murder was the third of an Israeli in as many weeks, but that in the previous eight months, there had only been one murder of an Israeli in the West Bank. In 2012, not one Israel was murdered in a terrorist attack in the West Bank, it adds.

“Unlike previous periods of tension, it would appear that this time it is more difficult to describe the impetus uniting these past incidents and relate them to broader developments in the territories,” Haaretz writes. The paper adds, however, that the one thing likely linking recent attacks on Jewish soldiers and settlers is criminal intent rather than terrorism.

“Criminal suspicion is still being investigated in the [Jordan] Valley, among other things, surrounding Ofer’s large monetary debts,” the paper reports.

Israel Hayom focuses more on the human element of the story, highlighting the pain and confusion Ofer’s widow, Monique, is suffering in the wake of her husband’s death.

“Is there someone who didn’t know ‘Yaya’ Ofer? A military man for many years, commander of the Gaza Strip, Givati [Brigade], Shaldag [an elite unit]. A wonderful man, a wonderful father, a wonderful grandfather, a wonderful husband, I have no words… there was no one who didn’t love him and didn’t connect with him. How did they succeed in doing this to Yaya? They surprised him,” the paper quotes Monique, convalescing in an Afula hospital, saying.

According to Monique, she doesn’t intend to return to the family home in Brosh, a settlement in the northern West Bank just south of the Green Line. The paper also quotes her saying that she doesn’t care that the authorities arrested five suspects in the case.

“I’m not thinking about this at the moment, not how many were arrested or whom. I am thinking about totally different things, about the pain within me,” the paper quotes her saying.

The Israeli media also marks the 18th anniversary of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination with coverage of Saturday night’s rally in Tel Aviv in his memory. Yedioth Ahronoth notes that this year’s memorial in Rabin Square, footsteps from where he was shot, was absent of politicians and “almost without people born before 18 [years ago].”

“Unlike previous rallies, the square was not completely full last night,” the paper reports. “The spaces in the crowd were large, and Malchei Yisrael Street which borders the square, where in previous years you couldn’t even find a place to stand, was left completely empty.”

Despite that, the crowd numbered approximately 35,000, the overwhelming majority of whom came from Zionist youth movements. The paper shows a graph of the size of memorials for Rabin over the years: in 1995, 300,000 people turned out, in 1998 150,000, a year later only 65,000, and in 2011 a mere 10,000.

Maariv finds the official police figure of 35,000 suspect, saying that based on a rough headcount the number of people who turned out was significantly smaller. Rabin’s grandson Yonatan Ben Artzi, one of the speakers, “implored those present not to give up on the chance for people, not to let the ‘price tag’ attackers continue to run rampant in the street,” the paper reported.

In an appeal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ben Artzi said, “My grandfather was murdered for peace, and you owe all of us peace. It won’t be easy and it won’t be popular.”

Although Haaretz buries the story on Page 10, next to the Lotto results, it quotes Ben Artzi more extensively, including more of his statement to Netanyahu: “Sir, you have a unique opportunity to bring us peace. For the first time in years you stand before a unique opportunity to take advantage of a special situation in the world, to make peace and simultaneously bring about a solution to the problem of Iran and the Palestinians, all in one, and with the support of the entire world.”

“I call on you here to take advantage of this opportunity, to close the circle, to bring us peace,” Ben Artzi said.

Israel Hayom shunts the Rabin rally story to Page 13 and devotes a few brief graphs, as its headline reads, to “The generation that didn’t know Rabin.”

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