The extensive Hamas tunnel leading from Gaza into Israel dominated the front pages of Israel newspapers Monday. With the IDF eager to have the media cover the story and make Hamas’s intentions clear to the world, reporters enjoyed access to the tunnel and to senior officers along the Gaza border.
Security forces last week discovered the terminus of the tunnel some 300 meters inside Israel proper, near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha in the western Negev, and took several days to render the passage unusable. The IDF said Sunday it had been aware of the tunnel effort for some time, but had not previously found its exit point. It announced the find on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Ma’ariv gives play to Avigdor Liberman, who alleged during a visit to Katzrin, in the Golan Heights, that Israel was close to offering the Golan to Bashar Assad in exchange for peace, only weeks before the civil war broke out in Syria.
Yedioth Ahronoth’s “Terror at the end of the tunnel” reveals that “in recent months, the Gaza Division and Southern Command have created new procedures for finding the tunnels that cross the border into Israel, including techniques and systems that proved themselves here for the first time.”
On Page 4, Meir Turjeman of Yedioth Ahronoth makes the astute observation that when Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said, in a Bar-Ilan lecture last week on the next Israeli war, that the country could face “an explosive tunnel under a populated area that detonates under a kindergarten,” he was already aware of the Gaza tunnel. Though Israeli media was only allowed to report on it Sunday, the tunnel was discovered a week ago.
“Today we understand that the chief of staff knew exactly what he was talking about, and it was not a coincidence that he said at the end of his talk, “Does the scenario sound imaginary? I’m not so sure.”
The process by which Israel found the tunnel is still unclear. Yedioth Ahronoth reports that “the tunnel was located thanks to searches in the suspected area and not because of specific intelligence from military intelligence or the Shin Bet.” However, Haaretz writes, quoting an officer in the region, that “this is the first time that intelligence led to the uncovering of a tunnel in Israel… This time we are not talking about a soldier who happened to find a tunnel, or a rain storm that led to its uncovering.’”
After the announcement that Israel was suspending the delivery of building materials to the Strip, Haaretz’s Amira Hass looks into the recent promises made by Israel to increase the flow of these materials. “The decision to increase the supply was taken on the eve of the conference for the PA donor nations, as a response to the request of the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the head of the Quartet, Tony Blair, who are trying to accelerate a program encouraging the Palestinian private sector in the West Bank and Gaza by attracting foreign investment.”
Hass also speaks with a veteran contractor in the Strip, who expresses his anger at Israel for what he feels is collective punishment. “But the anger, he said, was also directed at Hamas…The construction company owner told Haaretz that even after private contractors received permission to import building materials from Israel, they preferred building materials from Egypt because they were cheaper. ‘What the Israelis allowed to enter in the last three weeks does not even reach 10% of the Strip’s needs,’ he said. According to him, after the tunnels were closed, the prices went up to NIS 1,000 or even NIS 1,200 for a ton. After the 22nd of September [when Israel allowed in building supplies] they fell to around NIS 520 a ton — and Hamas authorities even set the price for Israeli cement and forbade selling it for more.”
Maariv looks at the reaction on Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, the community closest to the tunnel. The kibbutz “does not meet the criteria the security establishment set for receiving military security, because of its relative distance from the border. In addition, a month ago the Defense Ministry and the IDF canceled security allotments given to southern communities near the front lines because of budget cuts. Despite the tranquility on the surface, in the wake of the discovery of the terror tunnel, the kibbutz members are starting to demand security.”
Still, the kibbutzniks are going about their lives. “Living next to the border is always scary, but what can we do?” asks the cashier in the kibbutz store.
Haim Yalin, head of the Eshkol regional council on the border with Gaza, asks in Israel Hayom, “We’ve proven we can face terror and rockets and deal with the tunnels. The question is: Can we deal with the Defense Ministry?” Yalin lambastes the ministry for deciding to remove soldiers from guard posts in communities near the border and to end the provision of armored cars for civilian guards while the IDF still issues orders for its soldiers to use them.
“Sometimes, it seems that we have to remind the decision makers that the defense of communities is not meant just to give a ‘feeling of security,’ but to provide actual security. The threat is here — clear and present. Enough burying our heads in the sands of the tunnels.”
Assad Day for Israel
Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman claims Israel was ready to give the Golan to Bashar Assad only weeks before the bloody Syrian civil war erupted, Maariv reports.
At an event in Katzrin supporting a local Yisrael Beytenu candidate, Liberman said that senior officials “were captive to a flawed concept that stated that we need to detach Assad from the axis of evil at the price of giving up the Golan until the Sea of Galilee. This concept crashed all around our heads shortly thereafter.”
“We have an absolute responsibility to the Golan Heights, without any connection to the question of how and when the internal conflict in Syria will end,” he added.
Liberman is slated to return to the position of foreign minister if he is cleared of wrongdoing next month in his ongoing trial.
Iran’s happy face
A day before talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Geneva, the Hebrew media also gave significant coverage to Iran’s declaration that it would not agree to transfer enriched uranium outside of the country.
Israel Hayom commentator Boaz Bismuth derisively calls the years of talks “nuclear trips” to capitals around the world. “The important thing is that there is progress. In the Iranian nuclear program, of course.”
Bismuth doesn’t think Tuesday’s talks will be much different than the previous rounds, despite the new Iranian president. “Iran, in the Rouhani era, will come to Switzerland with a lot of smiles, even with a clear plan and schedule. This is the new line of the Islamic Republic. In the course of the talks we’ll witness Hassan Rouhani’s new strategy: the path to a bomb, full of good intentions.”
But Iran is, somehow, acting like it is dealing from a position of strength. “The deputy Iranian foreign minister said yesterday that Iran will not agree to transferring enriched uranium from its territory, since this is an ‘Iranian red line.’ Iran has red lines? It seems like it’s still not on its knees.”