Four days into Operation Protective Edge, the Hebrew press wonders how the campaign will proceed, offering conflicting approaches based on lessons gleaned from the country’s past wars — Israel Hayom predicts an impending ground offensive; Haaretz urges restraint; and Yedioth Ahronoth highlights an ex-general’s call for a cease-fire.
The historical parallels casually raised in the papers — the Six Day War, in Israel Hayom; the Second Lebanon War, in Yedioth; and Operation Cast Lead, in Haaretz — play a central role in forming the papers’ conclusions on the present military offensive.
“Even after more than 930 terror sites in the Gaza Strip are hit from the air, it is not clear when Operation Protective Edge will end,” Israel Hayom reports. “But it seems that a ground operation is drawing ever closer.”
The paper quotes a senior official emphasizing the successes of the Israel Defense Forces during the past four days, and decrying the public’s demand for immediate results.
“There’s impatience and a desire to see patterns of action like those during the Six Day War, a speedy and sweeping victory, but it doesn’t work that way,” the official said. While the IDF is aware that the public is eager for results, the army recognizes “the limitations of power.”
“We’ve matured,” he claimed.
The unnamed official stresses that the ultimate goal is not to topple Hamas, but rather to restore calm in Israel’s south. He predicts that Egypt will ultimately broker a cease-fire.
“There’s a paradox in our aims. On the one hand, we want a weakened Hamas, lacking military abilities… On the other hand, we want it to be strong enough to continue governing the Strip, and restrain the other organizations,” he says.
Over in Haaretz, the paper’s editorial warns: “Caution, another Cast Lead lies ahead,” lamenting the loss of Palestinian civilian lives in the coastal enclave.
“After Operation Cast Lead in early 2009, during which hundreds of innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip were killed, Israel paid a heavy price in the form of international censure, which reached its peak with the Goldstone Report. Israel should have learned its lesson and been as careful as possible to avoid harming civilians. But the first few days of Operation Protective Edge make us fear that Israel hasn’t learned anything. The growing body count not only damages its international standing; it is, first and foremost, a corruption of its own moral character,” it writes.
Yedioth Ahronoth spotlights op-eds from former generals Amos Yadlin and Yoav Galant, who weigh in on the operation.
Yadlin calls on Israel to present a cease-fire proposal to Hamas, arguing that the longer the operation drags on, and casualties mount, the less likely it will ultimately be seen as an Israeli victory.
He says that, if the Israeli deterrence has been achieved, “it would be right to end the operation in the coming days. If Hamas agrees to the Israeli cease-fire suggestion, on its [Israel’s] terms, it would be a sign deterrence was achieved. If the Israeli recommendation is rejected, Israel would have the legitimacy to significantly expand the aims of the campaign and its scope.”
Yadlin compares the present situation to the 2006 Lebanon War, arguing that if Israel had halted its offensive after the first week — when it still enjoyed international support for the mission, and most of Hezbollah’s arsenal had been destroyed — the war would be viewed as a success.
“The longer campaigns last, difficult and unexpected events happen, and therefore it is sufficient to be satisfied with deterrence, if indeed it has been achieved,” writes Yadlin.
Galant touts the Israeli accomplishments in the past few days, as well as the Iron Dome system, and urges Israel not to attempt to recapture the Gaza Strip.
Over in Haaretz, the paper’s Amira Hass cites a Hamas official claiming that, despite the uptick in violence, the Palestinian unity government will not be dissolved.
“The unity government will not break up, and Hamas has no intention of returning to the days of division and separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, between the two central political movements,” he says.
Beyond the broad political ramifications and the ongoing operation, Yedioth provides eyewitness testimony to the direct hit on a building and a number of cars in Ashdod Thursday night.
“When we heard the siren, we ran to the shelter. Then we heard four explosions, and understood that they were Iron Dome [interceptions]. Then we heard a fifth explosion — and the whole house shook. I went outside to the balcony to see what had happened, and I saw a fireball reaching up to my apartment, on the fourth floor. A wave of heat hit my face… It looked like a plane had flown over our house and dropped a bomb,” a 23-year-old male resident tells the paper.
Another neighbor, whose car exploded, says he was in the elevator with his wife, on their way down to his vehicle, when the sirens sounded. The couple scurried back to their apartment for shelter, a move that effectively saved their lives.
“It was a new car. We only got it three days ago,” his wife adds.