As the sides negotiating in Cairo signal that a long-term ceasefire deal may be fast approaching, regional actors from Gaza to Geneva to Gerusalem are already drawing the lines for the inevitable post-operation battles, which are beginning to play out on the front pages of Israel’s newspapers Tuesday morning.
“Goldstone 2: A known game” reads the main headline of Israel Hayom, and kindly note that the quotation marks are mine and not the newspaper’s, since it seems to have no problem stating its assessment as a fact. For the uninitiated, Goldstone 2 refers to the new UN Human Rights Council war crimes panel that will investigate the Gaza conflict, and the naming of Prof. William Schabas, not exactly known for his love of Israel, has the panties of both the Foreign Ministry and, apparently, Israel Hayom, in a twist. (“Goldstone” was the nickname for the heavily anti-Israel report commissioned by the UNHRC and shepherded by former judge Richard Goldstone in the wake of Israel’s 2008-2009 confrontation with Hamas.)
“The appointment of the chairman of the committee, whose opinions and positions against Israel are well known, proves beyond any doubt that Israel cannot expect justice from such a body,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor is quoted saying.
Yedioth Ahronoth notes that Israel still has not decided whether it will cooperate with the commission, though it may be inclined to after what happened last time around.
“The political and judicial brass of Israel will meet soon to decide whether to cooperate with the panel. The decision will be made by the politicians, once it knows the mandate of actions of the panel and if it intends to also probe human rights and international law violations of Hamas against Israel,” the paper writes. “Nonetheless, there is a desire to learn lessons from the lack of cooperation with the Goldstone Commission. That lack of cooperation caused Israel serious damage. The assessment is that even if the state decides not to cooperate with the panel out of a fear that its members are biased against Israel, the panel will still be provided evidence and findings from the IDF, so they can be heard before a ruling is made.”
Haaretz leads with an Egyptian report claiming that the sides are 95 percent of the way to a deal, with agreements made on Israel easing its blockade on Gaza. But, the paper reports, there is still no deal on exchanging Palestinian prisoners or intelligence information for the bodies of two soldiers killed in combat.
The paper says a senior Israel official said Jerusalem would be willing to trade back several dozen imprisoned Hamas members for the bodies. However, Jerusalem nixed a demand that they instead release the fabled fourth tranche of prisoners, including Israeli citizens, reportedly agreed to as part of peace talks with the Palestinians.
Show me the money
Haaretz also reports that the IDF is stepping up efforts to find a technological solution to stymie Hamas’s cross-border tunnels, including two systems which failed operation tests years ago but have since been revamped. The report adds that an underground wall will be erected in some parts of the border seen as sensitive, but the army objects to placing a wall along the whole border, citing the NIS 20 billion cost.
The question of money plays directly into the IDF budget battle shaping up around the fighting, with the army likely getting ready to claim that it needs more moolah to fight an array of threats. Amos Harel, though, commentates that the IDF’s failings in the current round cannot simply be explained away by a thinned wallet.
“During the current budget battles, the IDF has highlighted the incident in which seven soldiers were killed when a rocket-propelled grenade hit their ancient M-113 armored personnel carrier. The army claims it didn’t have enough modern Namer APCs due to budget cuts. But as Haaretz has previously reported, there was an operational failure here: The IDF had banned the use of M-113s in Gaza way back in 2004, and didn’t deploy any during the last ground war in Gaza, in 2009, yet nevertheless did so this time. Only after this incident were [modern APCs] moved down south from the Lebanese border,” he writes.
What do with those old M-113s may already be answered, Israel Hayom reports, writing that the army is outfitting them to become equipment delivering drones that will be able to maneuver in the battlefield with nobody inside. “This is history,” the head of the IDF’s drone division tells the paper. “I feel like we’re really on the cusp of a breakthrough. This is the first time in the history of the world a thing like this has been done.”
Tales of Israeli unity and support for the troops have run rampant since the military campaign began over a month ago, but Yedioth has perhaps the strangest of all, the story of a scooter thief who would return the stolen vehicles for a ransom, but was willing to give discounts to soldiers called up to serve.
“A soldier doing reserve duty complained that his scooter was stolen while he was away. A few hours later he got a call from a man named ‘Shlomi’ who said he would have to pay NIS 4,000 to get his bike back. ‘But I’m in reserve duty, I have no way to get you the money,’ the soldier said, so the man agreed to give him a NIS 2,000 discount.”