With another day of pressure ratcheting up on Syria by the Americans but no action, Thursday’s Hebrew papers go the whole nine yards in presenting every angle on the situation.
Leading the way is Yedioth Ahronoth, with 19 pages all about Syria. Its front page tells Israelis that this is the last day they can expect quiet, as starting tonight the American attack can happen at any second. Inside the paper explains that US officials have stated that we’ve passed the point of no return, implying that we’re just playing a waiting game.
But what does that mean for Israel? Haaretz’s front page addresses that question with some reassuring words from the IDF, “IDF source: Very low chance that Israel will be attacked.” Despite that low probability the paper reports that the IDF is preparing for all possibilities and moving air defenses towards the northern border and called up a few hundred essential reserve units to the Home Front Command and air force.
Israel’s preparation leads Israel Hayom’s 13 pages of coverage but Aharon Lapidot writes an op-ed urging calm. To him, all the posturing reminds him of two kids on a playground yelling, “Hold me back!” but not really wanting to fight. “Neither of the parties involved, especially the two main combatants, the United States and Syria, want the attack to happen,” he writes. Yet Obama has painted himself into a corner with the red lines that he set, and last week’s chemical attack obviously tipped the scales for American intervention.
So while war might break out north of Israel, Israel probably won’t get hit. But what about Assad’s allies? Will they get involved? Maariv’s front page carries word from anonymous Russian officials who say that if there is an attack Russia won’t get involved. And just in case you wanted to know what exactly that attack would look like, Maariv’s Page 2 has a map of expected targets in Syria and another with drawings of airplanes and ships to illustrate where the American forces are (hint: they’re all over). First up to be hit is the Syrian Air Force as the Americans feel that attacking Assad’s military is a proper response and will hit him where it hurts.
While the map is nice, it probably would have been more practical to include a map of where Israelis can get gas masks. Every paper has stories of Israelis who waited in line for hours to get gas masks accompanied by pictures of frustrated and tired people without masks. Israel Hayom reported that the demand was greatest in the north (obviously) and that residents of Haifa and the Galilee had to wait for hours in line to get their masks from distribution centers.
The paper quotes Acre resident Yariv Cohen about his attempt to get gas masks, “We decided to come to the central branch in Haifa and we were in shock. In the morning were gathered outside the post office [the distribution point for the masks] thousands who sought kits. Individuals pushed, slapped, cursed and even went to fight.” After five hours, Cohen gave up and returned home without masks.
All this can be pretty confusing: Will there a war or not? Will Syria or one of its allies attack Israel? Luckily, Yedioth provides three pages of questions and answers for its readers. Questions like, “Where is Assad now?” (somewhere in Syria, but who knows), “What’s the range of Syrian missiles?” (they can reach any point in Israel), and relating to the gas masks, “What should I do if I have a beard?” (shave it, there are gas masks for people with beards but they are reserved for those with a medical condition).
So people in Israel are a little worried about Syria, but are the Syrians worried? Haaretz includes an AP article that describes how in the center of Damascus feels nothing like a war zone. People still pack the pool at a luxury hotel on the weekend and go to coffee shops. Residents feel that only the center of Damascus is safe, while the rest of the war-ravaged city is still dangerous. “This part of Damascus, the center, is like Paris. But beyond that, you don’t go,” said a 26-year-old banker.
Aside from Syria, the Jewish New Year is only a week away and part of the celebration is enjoying meals with family over what this year is a three-day celebration. Maariv tries to help out consumers (and maybe the Rami Levi supermarket) by comparing prices of holiday foods at different supermarkets. The paper purchased the same 35 items at every store and found that Rami Levi’s supermarket is the cheapest out of the four major chains in Israel. The report found 35% difference between the cheapest (Rami Levi) and the most expensive chain (Mega).
Haaretz reports that the holidays are being used as a marker for another event: the deportation of African refugees. According to Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Israel is planning to deport African migrants to an unnamed African country (not Sudan or Eritrea). The deportation will begin after the holidays (the end of September) but no exact date has been announced. Sa’ar said that the plan would lead to the deportation of about 2,000 – 3,000 migrants this year.