Out of touch
Hebrew media review

Out of touch

Yesterday's cellphone network crash poses no problems for the talkative Yair Lapid

The collapse of Pelephone's cellular network for five hours Saturday put many Israelis on edge (illustrative photo: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
The collapse of Pelephone's cellular network for five hours Saturday put many Israelis on edge (illustrative photo: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The network-wide system crash suffered by the Pelephone cellular phone company yesterday makes front page headlines in this morning’s papers. A technical glitch, initially thought to have been caused by a cyber-attack, left more than 3 million subscribers without the ability to call or send text messages for roughly five hours, a semi-tragedy in a nation of cellphone addicts.

“Pelephone: The collapse,” reads the top headline in Yedioth Ahronoth. “Pelephone’s network crashed for five hours, cutting off millions,” reads Haaretz‘s front page story. “Yesterday: A severe nationwide malfunction in Pelephone’s network; hours without phone calls and text messages,” reads the top story in Israel Hayom.

On Page 2 Yedioth highlights the dangers of being out of touch in an interview with the telephone operator of the Nahariya Hospital for the Western Galilee. Wahal Faraj says he spent the evening praying that no major accident or terror attack take place because if it had, he’d have no way of getting in touch with the medical staff, all of whom are subscribed to Pelephone’s network. Standby staff was reportedly asked to remain at home, next to a landline, so as to be ready to be called in if needed.

Maariv chooses to focus on the cyber-terror angle, linking the cellphone network’s collapse to a series of hacking attacks on Israeli websites by Syrian activists in response to Israel’s reported attack on their country’s soil. Roughly 1,000 websites, including the Transportation Ministry site, were hacked on Friday and Saturday. Pelephone, for its part, issued a statement that as far as it can tell the source of the problem was not a cyber-attack, but Maariv reports that the military, the Shin Bet and the counter-cyber terrorism unit are all investigating the malfunction.

Israel’s political arena seems to be undisturbed by the communications difficulties. According to Maariv, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett, were able to communicate very effectively indeed in recent days and have reached an agreement to either enter the coalition together or else head to the opposition and wait for Netanyahu’s downfall.

Maariv’s report, confirmed by senior Likud officials, says the decision was a tactical one by the two first-time MKs aimed at preventing Netanyahu from playing the divide-and-conquer game, using each party as leverage to pressure the other to compromise. The decision to form a type of a bloc between the right-wing Jewish Home and the centrist Yesh Atid, supposedly based on both parties’ desire to establish some form of universal conscription law, limits the prime minister’s wiggle room by ruling out a narrow right wing-religious coalition. In response, the sources say, Netanyahu has been stressing the next government’s efforts to renew peace talks with the Palestinians in hopes that it will alienate Bennett, who enjoys settler backing.

According to reports in all the papers, Lapid is sending out messages that he doesn’t mind sitting out of the next government, telling his confidants that he expects a coalition without him and his 19 Knesset seats to be fragile and collapse within 18 months, at which point he will be poised to take over leadership of the government.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s thinly veiled admission that Israel was behind the attack on Syria, at a defense conference in Munich Sunday, also makes headlines in all of the papers.

“Barak broke the Israeli silence,” reads Yedioth. “The defense minister alluded that Israel attacked Syria,” reads Haaretz. “We mean what we say,” reads Israel Hayom.

Barak, who also predicted the imminent fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said that the weapons convoy that was struck is proof that Israel meant it when it said that it would not allow Syrian arms to reach Hezbollah.

You know those Israeli young people who approach you at the mall and try and convince you to buy “Dead Sea cosmetic products,” “original oil paintings,” or toys and gadgets? Well the Foreign Ministry does and according to a story in Yedioth, is now asking them to stop applying for visas. In order to be added to the list of countries whose citizens don’t require visas to enter the US, Israel needs to reduce the number of negative visa requests. One way of doing so is to ask those whose visa applications have the smallest chances of being granted to stop applying.

According to the article, a majority of the 5.5 percent of Israelis whose visa requests are denied is made up of young people, fresh out of the army, who seek entrance to the US and tend to overstay their permit and work there illegally. A Foreign Ministry source says the request is both to prevent heartache for applicants with little chance of success and to reduce the overall number of applications denials, which would make life easier for all other Israelis.

To strike or not to strike?

In Maariv’s opinion section, former senior intelligence officer Amos Gilboa writes that though he thinks that the reports that Israel attacked a research facility near Damascus are bogus, he believes the reports on an attack on a convoy carrying advanced weapons to Hezbollah are true and that Israel was right in doing so in order to set red lines on the type of weapons it will allow to fall into the Lebanon-based terror group’s hands.

“Israel has no interest in attacking a facility near Damascus that has no strategic importance and involving itself in the Syrian civil war. But it has a security interest of the first order in preventing Hezbollah from gaining military tools that will enable it to limit Israeli freedom of operation in Lebanon and increase the group’s long-range capabilities,” writes Gliboa.

Taking an opposite approach, former IDF Military Intelligence chief Shlomo Gazit writes that in comparison to the militias soon to take over Syria, Hezbollah is a responsible organization and that better to let Assad have his way and transfer the weapons to Lebanon than to let them fall in the hands of jihadist rebels as the spoils of war.

“Israel’s and Assad’s interests are identical. We must give the weapons convoys safe passage to Lebanon,” writes Gazit.

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