North and south — surrounded by tragedy
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Hebrew media review

North and south — surrounded by tragedy

A military training accident in the Golan and murders in the Negev preoccupy the press

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Security and rescue forces at the site of the Beersheba bank shooting, May 20 (photo credit: Greenspan/Flash90)
Security and rescue forces at the site of the Beersheba bank shooting, May 20 (photo credit: Greenspan/Flash90)

Israel is surrounded by fatal incidents of late, and the press faces north and south to address the deaths of a soldier, bank employees and little girls in recent tragedies.

Haaretz faces south first: The horrific deaths of two young Bedouin girls in southern Israel, allegedly at the hands of their father, were preventable, it reports. According to the paper, the girls’ mother went to the Arad police station a day before they were killed and said she was concerned for their lives. The police, however, never followed up with the complaint.

“This case fell between the cracks and nobody did anything,” said Salame Kabu’a, chairman of the village al-Fura’a, where the bodies were found. He accused the police and local welfare authorities of negligence that resulted in the murders of the two girls, aged 3 and 5.

Insaf Abu Shareb, an attorney who runs a Bedouin women’s social justice organization, tells the paper that the lack of social services for Bedouin women, along with their reluctance to deal with Israeli authorities, was a recipe for disaster.

“When [the Israeli government] wants to destroy a house in one of the [unrecognized Bedouin] villages, it knows how to muster tremendous forces, but when asked, for example, for female investigators who speak Arabic and understand the mentality — which can help encourage women to file a complaint and know they’re being taken care of — that’s not done,” she is quoted saying.

For Israel Hayom, the most significant thing in the news is the release of security camera footage from the scene of Monday’s bank shooting in Beersheba. The paper gives a play-by-play account of how Itamar Alon entered the Bank Hapoalim branch and shot the place up, killing four and injuring several others before ending his own life.

Yedioth Ahronoth takes it a step further, or perhaps a step too far, and plasters its lead story with stills from the security footage showing the gunman entering and shooting up the bank. Fortunately, it leaves out the grisly details.

While Haaretz was harshly critical of the police, Yedioth sings the praises of Beersheba Chief Superintendent Tomer Badash, who led the charge against the gunman in storming the bank. “In recent days there were plenty of complaints against the police and its role in the incident,” it writes, but officers tell the paper that the video evidence proves they acted appropriately.

What the video footage shows to others is the chilling behavior exhibited by the shooter.

“How is it possible to perform such actions with such apathy and lack of care and unbelievable sangfroid as this?” Israel Hayom quotes bank employee Michal Ben-Shitreet asking after watching the film.

Miriam Cohen, the bank employee who Alon took hostage for 50 minutes, is quoted saying, “It’s hard for me to believe and see the difficult pictures and events inside the branch when I was held hostage.”

“I wasn’t witness to all that transpired in the bank itself, and it all happened when I was locked in the bathroom. There were more than a few moments that I couldn’t hear anything — neither the screams nor the shots — and I didn’t understand what was happening in the branch,” she says.

Maariv faces north with its top story, quoting Israeli Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel saying that Israel could face a sudden and spontaneous war with Syria as Israel’s neighbor quickly disintegrates in an ever-fiercer conflagration.

“A surprise war can be born in very many forms,” Eshel said. “Solitary events can quickly escalate and require us to be prepared to act within hours.”

“If during the [2006] Second Lebanon War we activated only a small portion of that capability, in the next war we will need to give 100% in order for our activity to be very expedient and powerful,” he said.

Despite (or perhaps because of) such statements, the paper writes, “residents of the Golan Heights are concerned and the promises of maintaining calm are not encouraging them.”

Yedioth Ahronoth also faces the tragic death of a soldier during a training accident in the Golan Heights, quoting his family members saying his death was preventable.

“Why, in the modern world we live in, does the IDF still need to deal with dismantling land mines?” one of Roi Alphi’s aunts asks the paper. “Our Roi died unnecessarily; it could have been prevented.”

Maariv also runs a story about a close aide to Palestinian negotiations chief and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni saying that a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians is totally unfeasible. Tal Becker, Livni’s “right hand and close adviser,” is said to have expressed considerable doubt that Israel and the Palestinians can come to a final agreement in the coming years.

“It’s unreasonable… to arrive at a permanent arrangement and a two-state solution, at least not in the near future,” the paper paraphrases Becker saying. The reason: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who, according to Becker, is not eager to return to talks with Israel, whereas Israel is interested in progress.  

“There is great opposition in Fatah to returning to talks, and thus it is also on the Palestinian street,” the paper writes. “Abbas is aware of all this and is concerned about paying the political price necessary to return to negotiations.”

Although Abbas will buckle to American pressure and will likely meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for talks, “the likelihood of arriving at a permanent agreement… is very low” according to Becker’s reported estimation.

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