Kerry on (and don’t keep calm)
Hebrew media review

Kerry on (and don’t keep calm)

The US gears up to hit Syria, which is just as big news as the end of summer vacation, according to Israeli papers

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the State Department in Washington, Monday, August 26, 2013, about the situation in Syria (photo credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the State Department in Washington, Monday, August 26, 2013, about the situation in Syria (photo credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Lovers of things starting with “K” will be delighted with today’s Hebrew language newspapers, which have kopious koverage of kids, Kerry and klashes in the Kalandia refugee kamp. Sadly, Sunday’s Kulturkampf at the Kotel is already old news.

The first day of school across the country, something that happens every year without fail and is as newsworthy as a clock change, manages to get equal play with US Secretary of State John Kerry’s near declaration of war on Syria. Go figure.

Yedioth Ahronoth calls Kerry’s speech Monday night, in which he said there was undeniable proof that Bashar Assad had gassed his own people, a “battle speech.” The paper’s Alex Fishman sums up the battle plan in three simple words: “Sha-bang and finished.”

“The lot has been cast. The US Army is completing its plans for an attack on Syria. The goal: to punish and warn the Syrians against another use of chemical weapons to wipe out the masses, and to return to the US the confidence of its partners,” he writes.

Nadav Eyal in Maariv agrees that an American strike will be limited in scope, meant less to take out targets than to send a message: “Syrian attacks are a strategic threat to US and European interests, and Assad needs to understand that if he does it again, his blood is on his head. And in order that he should understand, a punishing sharp strike is required.”

Israel Hayom plays aggregator, bringing together all the various Syria chatter from newspapers around the world, including a roundup of reactions in three American dailies, the report in the UK’s Guardian that warplanes were spotted over Cyprus, and a straight-faced translation of a deliberately confusing letter published in Financial Times that attempts to explain why the region is a mess and which has recently become a social media meme.

The paper buries what may be the most important story on Page 9, that Syria is threatening to hit Israel should America strike. “We have advanced weapons that are aimed at strategic Israeli installations,” the paper quotes Halaf al Muftah, a senior Baath official and former deputy Syrian information minister, telling an Arabic radio station. “Israel is behind the cheerleading for a US strike on Syria, and whoever encourages a strike shouldn’t be surprised to find himself under fire.”

While Syria is looking like a tinderbox, Haaretz reports that the West Bank may be becoming one again as well. Monday’s clash between IDF troops and Palestinians in Qalandiya was the result of a pattern of nightly IDF arrests and raids, Amira Hass writes. Though the numbers quoted by the story, provided by the Palestinian Authority, show a drop in arrests and raids, Hass writes that the frequency of IDF incursions has the potential to set the West Bank aflame, using Monday’s fighting and funerals as a backdrop for burning anger among the Palestinians: “The three were buried alongside each other,” she writes. “After the thousands at the funeral, including a number of senior Fatah officials, left, a number of youths stayed behind and quietly looked at the flower bouquets. Toward the northeast, the edge of the Kochav Yaakov settlement could be seen. To the south, in the direction of the Qalandiya checkpoint and the wall that is the end of the world for the camp residents, black clouds rose up from the burning of tires.”

Amos Harel, however, writes in the same paper that while the fighting in Qalandiya is worrying, Israelis shouldn’t hunker down for a third intifada yet. “The coming days in the West Bank, and especially in the Jerusalem and Ramallah region, will be tense and inflammable — but it is still too early to prophesy a larger outbreak of violence,” he writes. “The incident in Qalandiya is worrying because of its results, and because of the large number of youths called to participate in the confrontation with the soldiers. At this stage, though, it is still impossible to speak of a clear trend. Moreover, the PA is clearly interested in continuing negotiations with Israel, with the backing of the United States.”

Bye bye baby

And of course, the static back-to-school coverage deserves a mention.

Yedioth has a handy list of apps for parents and pupils, including one that counts down the days until the next vacation (in this case, about a week), and one that keeps track of class schedules. Just like pen and paper used to do!

The paper also decides to do mini-profiles of three sets of triplets returning to the classroom. “It’s exciting to take all three to school, we wish each one luck in their path,” says the father of one set, in an eye-opening quote.

In Israel Hayom, Yehuda Safra writes an ode to his chicklet, Shilo, who is flying the coop for first grade. “Shilo, I hope the collection of Power Rangers we bought you will turn you into a superhero, and if need be will help you deal with a bully that bothers you during recess or with the first girl that enters your heart (even though you think girls are yucky), and also with your teacher, who will maybe scream and won’t understand, when once again your gaze turns toward the window, to the sky, or perhaps when you know the answer but are too shy to call out.”

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