Israel entered Friday morning certain that fighting would finally, mercifully stop, at least for a few days and maybe for longer. It entered Sunday morning certain that a soldier thought kidnapped when that ceasefire was breached was dead. What came in between those bookends, though, was a weekend of confusion, uncertainty and anger, played out to various degrees in the pages of Israel’s three major dailies.
Both Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz lead off with the army’s conclusion that Hadar Goldin was killed in battle in Rafah on Friday morning, with only Haaretz lagging on the news and noting that things did not look good when army officials arrived at the family home as the paper went to press.
Though the information was only made public shortly before 2 a.m., the newspapers that did run the info were likely tipped off and given the go-ahead to put it in the paper just as the family was being informed, around midnight.
“Hadar was killed,” reads the main headline of Yedioth, which, like the others, fills its pages with various analyses and opinions on the state of the war, and specifically the apparent troop drawdown set to take place as Israel finishes destroying what it hopes are the last Hamas tunnels.
The paper’s Yossi Yehoshua writes that his heart skipped a beat when he heard the names of two killed soldiers, Benaya Sarel and Liel Gidoni, and Goldin, who was then listed as MIA, after the Friday morning attack broke the ceasefire, since he had just interviewed them a few days earlier, in an army commissioned jaunt into the Gaza Strip. Another officer on the front had suggested he speak to Sarel, who was supposed to be married in two weeks.
“I pulled Benaya aside. ‘What’s up with the wedding?’ I asked him. ‘Who told on me?’ he smiled. ‘Yes, it’s true, I’m supposed to get married. My fiancée Gali is doing all the preparations for the wedding and I’m relying on her. She was a bureau chief for the Givati commander, so she understands the the importance of the mission and is supporting me.’ Where are you from, I ask him? ‘Tel Aviv,’ he answers. With a name like that? No chance, I say. ‘Benaya laughs. ‘You’re right. I’m originally from Kiryat Arba. I broke down,’” Yehoshua recounts.
Yehoshua goes on to note that while snapping some pictures of Sarel, he caught Goldin and Gidoni in the background, likely the last pictures they appeared in alive.
In Israel Hayom, Emily Amrousi pens an ode to Goldin and his family, who pleaded for his safe return Saturday night before being delivered the bitter news.
“On Saturday night, when the Goldin family came out to address their larger family, the Jewish people, and moved everybody with the quality of their humanity, with the worry for Hadar, I watched them,” she writes. “This is our true face. This is Israel. A string of losses these days has exposed us to complicated parts of the Israeli puzzle, of the ingredients victory is made of. They are iron and love of their heritage, gentle and steely.”
Chemi Shalev in Haaretz breaks down Netanyahu’s Saturday night address, reading Netanyahu’s decision to praise US president Barack Obama as lip service intended to give Israel some breathing room to go it alone and not bother with ceasefire deals. But, he says, the tongue-lashing Netanyahu reportedly gave US ambassador Dan Shapiro, saying the US should never second-guess his moves again, is unlikely to have a lasting effect on how Washington treats him.
“The US is unlikely to accede to his request. Not only do some American officials harbor serious doubts about the wisdom of many of the decisions that Netanyahu has made in the recent past – including his staunch opposition to Abbas’s unity government with Hamas – but they may have some new queries about his latest moves as well. Is Netanyahu’s decision to go it alone, for example, also meant as an escape hatch from a renewed Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process that the US was envisaging as an outgrowth of ceasefire talks? And how will Netanyahu react when he realizes that by abandoning the proposed American framework, he may be exposing Israel to the full brunt of the international outcry that is sure to erupt once its newfound sympathy dissipates again and the dimensions of the carnage in Gaza is exposed for all to see?” he writes.
In Yedioth, Sima Kadmon mounts a vigorous defense of the cabinet’s decision to draw down its incursion into the Strip, calling it no less courageous than putting troops in.
“Netanyahu actually said last night what everybody knows, even those who recently claimed the opposite, and that is that they won’t topple Hamas and Israel has no interest in reconquering Gaza. At the press conference the prime minister actually admitted the limits of power. Not a decision, a deterrent. And for all those who say the army is pulling out before it has reached its goals, Netanyahu reminded them what the goals are: weakening Hamas and returning quiet to the south – these were the modest goals put forth even the night before the operation,” she writes.
Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor notes that the decision to pull back is not popular in all quarters, but the army will attempt to calm fears in the south by leaving large forces posted along the border.
“Even though they didn’t carry out all their official obligations, the security establishment believes all the attack tunnels that were dug into Israel have been neutralized and it will take Hamas years to repair their infrastructure. The IDF brass say that if a new tunnel is discovered or they start digging again, it will mean an immediate operation by Israel to neutralize the threat, even at the risk of restarting the fighting.”