You talkin’ to Bibi?
Hebrew media review

You talkin’ to Bibi?

The press is talking about Netanyahu and his tough guy soliloquies aimed at both Hamas's leadership and Israel's ministers

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement on August 20, 2014 in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: AFP/JACK GUEZ)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement on August 20, 2014 in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: AFP/JACK GUEZ)

Even if you haven’t seen “Taxi Driver,” you probably know the scene where Robert DeNiro stands in front of a mirror practicing his bad-ass lines before confronting a gang of pimps.

That’s what Israel’s two largest tabloids are doing Thursday morning, inspired by some tough words from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a possibly successful hit attempt on Hamas armed wing chief Mohammed Deif.

Instead of “You talkin to me,” though, Yedioth Ahronoth suffices with a picture of Deif in the crosshairs and the massive headline “Dead man” stamped in red, leaving little doubt as to what it thinks happened to the commander.

(Of course, given the tone of Netanyahu’s speech, he could also be talking about ministers Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Liberman, who were given a subtle verbal spanking at the press conference).

Israel Hayom, perhaps predicting Thursday morning’s hit on three top Hamas dogs, goes with Netanyahu’s line of “no immunity,” for Hamas leaders, which was given in response to a reporter’s question about Deif’s fate. The paper’s Yoav Limor, though, notes that with or without Deif, Hamas won’t shift in any discernible way.

“If Deif is still alive, nothing dramatic will change in the organization; he hated us before and he will hate us (a bit more) after. His exit from the scene would certainly create a battle between the six commanders operating under him – and may also hurt for a certain time Hamas’s military operations – but it won’t push the group from its path. With Deif or without him, Hamas will remain an ideologically extreme movement, which will be committed to and work toward the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Yedioth, in a fit of nostalgia, looks back at all its past headlines reporting attempts on Deif’s life from 2002 to 2006, calling him a terrorist with five lives. “Over two decades … Deif has been a security target, leading to at least four previous attempts on his life, but they were failed attempts, though they managed to severely injure him. Thus Deif was able to live underground and lead Hamas’s armed wing from a hidden location, and during Protective Edge even release a recording crowing about the Palestinians’ victory over the IDF. In the security apparatus, Deif has been seen for all these years and especially since the beginning of the fighting in Gaza as someone whose assassination could deal Hamas a death blow, though the intelligence nut remains to be cracked,” the paper reports.

The paper’s Nahum Barnea, though, thinks he’s cracked the case of Netanyahu’s harsh words aimed at other cabinet ministers, who he has constantly fought with, publicly, over their public disagreements with him over the way the war is being fought. Egypt, which Israel needs on its side if it is ever going to come to a deal, is unable to countenance the attacks on its efforts from ministers on Israel’s right flank, and has thus put Netanyahu in charge of getting his ministers in line posthaste, Barnea writes.

“Egyptian intelligence officials, who managed talks with the Israeli team sent to Cairo, explain that general Sissi, Egypt’s new president, does not view favorably statements from ministers against the Egyptian ceasefire proposal and against a deal with Hamas courtesy of the Egyptian government. If the warring persists, large protests may break out in Egypt, and the Muslim brotherhood will rise up once again,” he writes, noting that the ministers indicated they have no intention of changing their ways after Netanyahu’s tongue lashing.

In Haaretz, Yossi Verter wonders whether the current coalition will make it through the winter, with all this bad blood between the ministers coming to the fore. “The only question is how it will happen. Will [Netanyahu] initiate, or will they bring the ax down on him, or will it fall apart on its own,” he asks.

Zvi Bar’el, writing in the same pages, asks a different question: Do Israel and Hamas really need to sign some ceasefire document to stop fighting?

“Every agreement needs a punitive option that will discourage any attempt to violate it. An agreement between Israel and Hamas assumes that there is symmetry between them, both in the ability to violate the agreement and in the ability to deter one another from doing so,” he posits. “But Operation Protective Edge has proved, for the third time, that agreements or treaties in and of themselves are no guarantee that they will not be violated. The deterrent element, according to which Israel is seen as possessing advantages of quantity and quality, was of no help when the other side’s motivation did not depend on a decisive victory or the destruction of the country. Rather, the very provocation, the disruption of everyday life and mainly the ability to respond are considered an accomplishment. This shows that an agreement between Israel and Hamas involves many components; effective deterrence depends on a complex web of factors that create a balance of profit and loss.”

If the ability to disrupt life is a Hamas win, then it is doing swimmingly. Israel Hayom details the many ways in which life in Israel is refusing to go back to normal, from southerners springing to shelters, to threats on the airport, to closed beaches and schools possibly not being able to open while the fighting persists.

The paper reports that the Education Ministry is awaiting instructions from the Home Front command on whether and where they can open schools, though a number of cities are planning on using their own judgment in making the call.

“Many schools, especially in the center of the country, are not protected, and this situation could impact the decisions of city leaders,” the paper writes. “Thus, for example, Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni told Israel Hayom that ‘if the fire doesn’t stop, we won’t open unprotected schools.’ Haim Bibas, the head of a local leaders umbrella group and the mayor of Modiin-Maccabim-Reut says ‘every local leader needs to decide if they will start the school year. For example, during Pillar of Defense, [Beersheba Mayor] Rubik Danilovich decided to prevent schools from opening and the next day a rocket hit a school in Beersheba.’”

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