The Israeli press took a couple days off to celebrate the Jewish New Year, and while columnists were dipping apples in honey their minds were clearly on Syria. All the papers read the tea leaves of Obama’s appearance at the G-20 conference and agree: the president is in trouble.
Left-leaning Haaretz is the kindest to Obama, but still tells its readers how the US Congress seems to be split on a potential strike on Syria and that Obama failed to gain European support at the G20 summit, which concluded on Friday. Haaretz writes that there are rumors that Obama may decide to go it alone if Congress fails to approve a strike, but, obviously, there was no comment from the White House on this.
Yedioth Ahronoth’s front page has a forlorn-looking Obama with the headline, “Alone on the battlefield.” Underneath the headline, the paper paints a pretty desperate picture for Obama: “Europe turns its back, Putin flexes his muscles, and Congress is in no hurry to stand behind him.”
While Congress may not be ready to intervene in Syria, Yedioth reports that there has been a group of Israelis in Syria distributing supplies to refugees since a month after the fighting began over two and a half years ago. Yedioth’s reporting is based on an Economist report, and includes a picture of a young Syrian child holding a cake made by Elite, an Israeli company.
Maariv gives credit to Putin as the big winner, crediting him as the reason why Europe and Congress aren’t willingly standing behind Obama. The paper points out just how bad the G-20 summit was for the US president, as France, which until now was with America, announced that it would join Europe in waiting for the UN report on the chemical attack, which is not expected to be released for another couple of weeks.
Aside from documenting Obama’s predicament, leading off Maariv’s coverage are two op-ed pieces, one of which laments the inaction of the world. “Crimes against humanity were committed in Syria. There is no dispute that it is no longer a civil war, but a massacre of civilians in all respects,” writes Ben-Dror Yemini. He goes on to lambaste the world, and specifically the EU, for sitting by silently and meekly. He also sets his sights on the right-wing American pundits, like Anne Coulter and Sarah Palin, who argue against intervention. “History will remember these days in disgrace. Especially in the free world. With all its intelligence methods, with all its power, it stands helpless against the greatest humanitarian crisis of the past decade,” he concludes.
Israel Hayom gives the most space to the Syrian conflict and Obama’s long road to Damascus. In its 11 pages of coverage, the paper has articles on the current Cold War-like relations between the US and Russia, how the attack plan for Syria has changed at least 50 times, and the extremely long lines for food in Syria. It falls to Israel Hayom columnist Dan Margalit to make sense of it all.
The headline of Margalit’s piece asks, “Can we count on America?” and the surprising answer is that Israel has no choice. He makes the point more than once that Israel is the only ally standing by Obama and that Israel may pay the heaviest price for any American strike. However, he openly wonders if America missed its moment to attack, and instead Obama played a game with the Congress to avoid responsibility. He quotes Israeli politician Zalman Aran, the minister of education in 1967, who responded when asked why he voted against the 1967 Israeli preemptive strike that started the Six Day War, “I do not vote for war when I feel that the military is urging me.” Margalit writes (seemingly ignoring US intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq), “That’s how it works in the democratic world.”
The preparation for a bombing campaign in Syria may have its minor benefits for the Israeli economy — specifically, the pubs in Haifa. Yedioth reports that the American warship USS San Antonio docked in Haifa over the holiday weekend and American sailors flooded the city’s drinking scene. The article mainly consists of interviewing sailors at the “After Dark” pub in Haifa, where one American, Dan from Connecticut, said that he hoped their next stop would be Syria. The ship departed on Friday and there’s no word yet if Dan will get his wish.
The other Mideast hotspot
Aside from Syria, Egypt also garners some space in the dailies, with Israel Hayom declaring that “Egypt is on fire” as the military regime assassinated dozens of militants in the Sinai Peninsula. The paper reports that the military operation is also having an effect on smuggling of goods into Gaza, with Hamas reporting that 95% of the tunnels into the Rafah border crossing have been sealed.
Maariv reports that the recent push by Egypt to destroy the terrorist infrastructure in the Sinai has had an interesting side effect: Egypt’s military presence in the Sinai is now the largest it has been since the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The paper also reports that Egypt wants to establish a security border along Gaza to prevent the infiltration of terrorists from Gaza into the Sinai and vice versa.
Finally, Haaretz’s op-ed doesn’t focus on Syria or Egypt, but rather on Israel and its collective memory. Ten years ago, the Israeli Air Force went to great length to fly a squadron of fighter jets over Auschwitz, which is a source of pride among the Israeli military. The paper writes that the Holocaust must be remembered both historically and culturally, but that the Holocaust should not be a strategic or security consideration. For Israel to continue to thrive, the government “must outline Israel’s strategy and its diplomatic and military way, while focusing on its future and on the needs of its people, who want to live not as captives of past traumas.”