Sunday’s Hebrew dailies report on weekend events regarding Syria and the less-than-imminent American strike, as US President Barack Obama’s speech takes center stage in the Israeli press.
The entire front page of Israel Hayom is dedicated to Obama’s speech. With the main headline declaring that the president “Hit the brakes,” the tabloid describes Obama’s move as “a backward somersault.”
“Whoever thought an attack against Syria was a matter of days — was proven wrong yesterday,” the article begins. Obama, the paper writes, performed “a surprising zigzag” in deciding to ask Congress to give the green light for military intervention in Syria.
Quoting parts of the president’s speech, in which he said, “The United States presented a powerful case that the Syrian government was responsible for this attack on its own people,” and the “attack is an assault on human dignity,” the paper notes that the decision to seek Congress’s okay means a delay of at least a week in the planned operation.
Alongside the report on Obama’s address, the paper highlights reports from Syria in which regime sources say their threats forced the US “to think twice” about attacking.
Writing in the paper, Professor Avraham Ben-Zvi of Haifa University says Obama took “an embarrassing U-turn” one day after his top diplomat — Secretary of State John Kerry — did what was expected of him and delivered his message in the best way possible.
Ben-Zvi writes that despite having the law and authority on his side, “at the moment of truth the real Obama stepped out of the closet — and blinked.” The president’s decision, says the international relations expert, made the “issues of American reliability and commitment disappear, as well as questions like sticking to values, a vision and American ideals.”
Unlike two years ago, when the president sent his warships to help in the fight against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya without waiting for Congress, “this time Obama was deterred from an even more limited intervention.” Whatever happens next, Ben-Zvi writes that “the message from last night… will echo in Damascus, Tehran, Moscow and Beijing and hasten the end of the American era.”
Yedioth Ahronoth dedicates most of its front page to Obama’s decision, but also highlights the upcoming 40th anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
In two weeks, while “the residents of Israel stop their cars and gather in synagogue for introspection,” the state will mark 40 years since the outbreak of the war, the paper writes.
As the anniversary approaches, the paper shares with its readers a preview of some of the newly released testimonies from the Agranat Commission, which was formed at the end of the war to investigate how the state was caught so off guard.
In his testimony, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Benny Peled, then the commander of the Israeli Air Force, told the commission how he called the pilots back to base on that day. “I used a method which had been in use by the air force for a long time: using a plane circling over the living quarters. The fact that a plane was airborne on Yom Kippur was a sign I was calling everyone back.”
The daily also announces the start of a special project in which the paper will publish photos released from the Defense Ministry’s archives in an attempt to find the people — and the stories — behind the black-and-white pictures.
An ultimatum by the army to the Knesset calling for longer military service for women is highlighted on Maariv‘s front page.
The paper reports that the debate over lengthening mandatory service for women in the IDF is getting heated. (As of now, men are required to serve 36 months, while women serve 24 months.) A recent session on the issue “quickly turned into a boxing match between the MKs and senior officers,” the paper writes.
A number of high-ranking IDF officers “simply threatened us in the clearest way,” unnamed legislators are quoted as saying. “They told us clearly that if we don’t approve the lengthening of the service for female soldiers we can forget about shortening the service for male soldiers.”
Maj. Gen. Orna Barbivai, head of the IDF’s human resources, told the legislators they were demanding she release soldiers early so that they’d join the workforce at an earlier age, but weren’t providing her with the manpower to replace them.
Haaretz reports that the understandings between Israel and Uganda regarding the transfer of thousands of African migrants from Israel were reached only in principle and were never written into a formal agreement. As a result, the paper says, it’s “doubtful the deportations will start soon.”
According to the report, the announcement last week by Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar that Eritrean and Sudanese migrants would be transferred to Uganda “caught many people involved in the issue off guard.” Moreover, it says Sa’ar’s statements are what caused the entire operation, which was being conducted below the radar, to be blown wide open.
A spokesperson for Uganda’s Foreign Ministry denied over the weekend reports about an agreement between the countries. “We’re not aware of any such agreement with Israel,” the daily quotes him as saying, adding that there is no agreement — only talk.