Launching war and talking peace
Hebrew media review

Launching war and talking peace

Israel's latest campaign against Gaza garners major headlines and more analysis, though one paper trumps the news with a call to peace by Obama

A picture taken from the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows Israeli flares illuminating the Palestinian coastal enclave, on July 7, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/JACK GUEZ)
A picture taken from the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows Israeli flares illuminating the Palestinian coastal enclave, on July 7, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/JACK GUEZ)

After days of tensions merely threatening to spiral out of control in Gaza, on Monday they finally did just that, with a massive barrage of rockets striking deep into Israel and a massive Israeli response on the strip overnight.

While most papers went to bed, along with the rest of the country, before the real fireworks show began in the Strip, the Hebrew print media is still chock full of information that remains relevant the morning after Israeli forces launched Operation Protective Edge.

Both Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom seemed to have held back going to press to catch at least the start of the operation and its name (Tzuk Eitan, or firm cliff, for those keeping score at home) at about 1:30 a.m.

While Yedioth counts over 100 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza on Monday, Israel Hayom and Haaretz go with over 80 (closer to the official army tally).

Israel Hayom notes the spread of Hamas fire northward, out of the area immediately surrounding Gaza which it normally uses as its firing range, writing that as the day wore on “the list of cities taking on rocket volleys just expanded and grew.”

The paper also reports, in what likely its last tidbit of information before editors finally called it a night, the unconfirmed reports that Israeli planes hit the home of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in the Strip at about 2 a.m.

Despite the very late press time, Yoav Limor writes in the paper that as of early Tuesday it was still a low-level conflict and not a war, an assessment proved obsolete by late Tuesday morning as the cabinet ordered a wider reserves call-up and preparations for a ground war.

Still, he writes presciently, “It’s safe to assume that in the next few days the IDF will present pictures of tanks amassing near the Strip, some of the armored and infantry brigades that have gathered there, but the point will mostly be to threaten and deter.”

As is usual in situations like this (for better or worse), the press finds itself more apt to rally around the flag, an effect that’s cranked up to 11 by Nahum Barnea in Yedioth, writing that with the operation, Hamas is getting what it asked for.

“Hamas has done very much – 100 rockets is very much – to push Israel into Gaza. It has done this, almost certainly, out of despair, since according to its viewpoint, this is the only option left to it. Opposite it stands Netanyahu, one of the more restrained prime ministers the country has known when it comes to military matters.”

Haaretz, meanwhile, has its peace party pooped on by all the hubbub. The broadsheet stubbornly (or optimistically) sticks a column by US President Barack Obama (a major coup, as it would be for any newspaper), across the whole top of the fold on A1 to herald the start of its peace conference, relegating the Gaza conflict to second fiddle.

While some noted the irony of Obama’s op-ed in light of the renewed hostilities (Haaretz maintains it was written before June 30, though some changes were clearly made to reflect newer developments), the president clearly still has something to say about the current situation (which is just like the past situation, as is wont to happen in the Middle East), writing that while “walls and missile defense systems can help protect against some threats, true safety will only come with a comprehensive negotiated settlement.”

“As I said last year in Jerusalem, peace is necessary, just, and possible. I believed it then. I believe it now. Peace is necessary because it’s the only way to ensure a secure and democratic future for the Jewish state of Israel,” he (or more likely somebody in his employ) writes.

Obama’s op-ed does not mean the paper, which misses the launch of the operation, ignores the conflict with Gaza, though it downplays it significantly, if word count and page placement can serve as a barometer.

Amos Harel, writing in an analytical capacity, notes that both sides are playing chicken, with Hamas unlikely to blink first.

“Based on its public statements, Hamas is doubling down. Put another way, the sides are playing the most popular game in the region for years: “hold me back.” One side tries to convey that it will go all the way if its demands aren’t met, even if it’s doubtful that the side wants a clash. If a formula isn’t found soon, chances are we’ll see a further escalation.”

Yvette’s big nyet

The breakup of the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu partnership earlier Monday (ostensibly over the lack of a wide Gaza operation) also garners large headlines in the press.

Israel Hayom reports that Likud apparatchiks are not exactly happy with Liberman’s move, seeing through his claims that it has something to do with Gaza and viewing it instead as a political maneuver.

The paper notes that party members are worried the move could make it harder for Netanyahu to form a coalition next time, taking for granted that he will be elected prime minister when elections roll back around.

MKs, though, saw the announcement coming a mile away. “It was clear that from the moment Liberman understood he could not become part of Likud, he needed to find a way to break off,” MK Ze’ev Elkin is quoted in the paper saying. “Liberman needs the time to differentiate himself ahead of a campaign for the next elections. The question isn’t why it happened now, but why it didn’t happen before now.”

Yedioth’s Shimon Shafir assesses that although Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman said his faction will stay in the coalition, the announcement could be the latest death knell for Netanyahu’s five-year rule.

“Political sources assess that the confusing behavior of the prime minister during the presidential election process and his aborted and failed attempt to change the structure of the country’s leadership signaled the beginning of the end. Liberman also apparently came to a similar conclusion and decided now was the right time to position himself as an alternative to Netanyahu,” he writes.

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