As Day 18 of Operation Protective Edge begins, the Hebrew papers are abuzz with the reported draft of a US temporary ceasefire, and take stock of the campaign’s military gains thus far.
President Reuven Rivlin’s swearing-in, and the funerals of fallen soldiers Thursday, are spotlighted as well.
Haaretz leads with the ceasefire terms, stressing that the international efforts “have reached a critical point.” Having presented the draft to both sides, Secretary of State John Kerry is waiting for a response from Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal conveyed through the Qatari and Turkish foreign ministers, it reports.
According to the paper, the conditions for the temporary truce are as follows: A seven-day ceasefire, during which the IDF will not pull out entirely from the Gaza Strip but will continue to combat the tunnel threat. During that period, negotiations between Israel and Hamas will begin, mediated by Egypt, and with Palestinian Authority participation, on a long-term agreement. In addition, the US, UN, and EU will ensure that the critical issues for both sides — the disarmament of Hamas, for Israel; the easing of the blockade, for Hamas — will be addressed, it reports, and does not elaborate.
A senior Israeli official tells the paper the Friday-afternoon cabinet meeting will determine whether the ground offensive is expanded, or the ceasefire proposal accepted — and the decision hinges on Mashaal’s response. If Mashaal agrees, “then the ministers will vote for a ceasefire in the Strip. On the other hand, if Kerry’s diplomatic efforts fail, and Mashaal rejects the initiative, it’s certainly possible the cabinet will decide to expand the ground operation.”
In Israel Hayom, the ceasefire initiative is downplayed: “Although last night, close to midnight, there were reports that the Americans had reached a ceasefire proposal and submitted it for Israeli and Hamas evaluation, Operation Protective Edge continues according to plan,” it reports, proceeding to describe the developments on the ground in the Gaza Strip.
But the paper’s Dan Margalit, in anticipation that Israel will accept the proposal, emphasizes that those who want the operation to continue know that if they are let down, “Israel has already dealt the Palestinian terror a crushing blow. Perhaps more could be achieved, but much has been attained already.”
Over in Yedioth Ahronoth, the paper does not mention the US proposal, but rather speculates that the cabinet will vote to continue the fighting. “As of last night, a majority of its members supported the continuation of the fighting, and assess that Hamas is on the verge of collapse,” it writes.
Despite its small, simple ceremony and the ongoing battle, the inauguration ceremony of President Reuven Rivlin receives ample coverage as well.
Yedioth reports that, despite the war, “there was genuine excitement” at the ceremony, though Israel’s new president “seemed at times as if he could barely stop the tears, and his voice cracked during his speech.”
The ever-patriotic Israel Hayom leads with the ceremony. “The man who dreamed for many years of being citizen No. 1, managed last night, at the age of 74, to make his dream come true,” it reports.
“The most moving moment at the modest ceremony was when Rivlin pledged allegiance to the State of Israel and its laws, and declared in a voice choked with emotion at the end of his speech, ‘Long live Israel,’” it writes.
In an op-ed for the paper, Boaz Bismuth praises outgoing president Shimon Peres for his eternal optimism. “Peres will never give up on his vision [for peace], even if he is the last one in the Middle East [to believe it]…. Although we didn’t always agree with you as prime minister, we loved you very much as president.”
Letters from beyond the grave
Yedioth highlights the funeral of IDF soldier Daniel Pomerantz on Thursday in his hometown of Kfar Azar. Pomerantz’s mother, Varda, served for years in the IDF’s Casualty and Wounded Soldiers unit and “knew the day would come when the delegates bearing bad news would knock on her door,” it reports.
During the funeral, Varda confessed that she had pulled some strings to get her son into the Golani infantry brigade, “and it was a pleasure to see you so happy and joyful” when you got in, she says. She says that in speaking to her son the last time, on Friday, she recorded the conversation without his knowledge, because she felt “that you too knew that your hours were numbered and days limited.” Varda Pomerantz plays back the recording during her eulogy for her son, and in it he tells her that he left a letter typed into his phone in case the worst should happen — but that they shouldn’t look at it, unless he is killed.
After hearing the terrible news, Varda found the letter, and facing the tearful crowd, read it at the cemetery.
“It’s important you know that I am happy I was born into this family, that you encouraged me, and I am happy I was drafted into Golani and did my best,” he wrote.
“You are the ones who gave me strength. If you’re reading this, it’s a sign I’ve finished my career. But at least I fought with honor, and I am happy — know that I am happy.”