The horrifying slow burn of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is evident in Israel’s print press Wednesday morning, which feature a grieving wife of a terror victim, dead and injured Palestinians amid army operations, a crisis brewing nearly unseen in Gaza, international condemnation, war clouds in the north, and a frankly terrifying lack of even a hint of the P word — peace — that the country and region seems to have just gotten used to.
Both tabloids Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom lead their front pages with the headlines “Manhunt in Nablus” alongside pictures of a mourning Miriam Ben-Gal at the funeral of her husband Itamar, killed in a stabbing terror attack in Ariel the day before. Both papers play up the sad eulogies and teary meeting between Ben-Gal and Yael Shevach, whose husband was killed in a terror attack a month earlier.
“Itamar, I want to promise you we will stand up and be strong,” Yedioth quotes Ben-Gal saying at the funeral. “We will continue as you wanted, to settle the land of Israel, to raise our kids. To do only good and to live in happiness just as you wanted from us.”
Broadsheet Haaretz also leads its front page with a picture from the funeral, but its main story leads with the bloody toll of that manhunt in Nablus, with a Palestinian dead and 50 injured, a news placement decision that may seem insensitive to Israeli eyes, but actually follows a classic news judgment hierarchy (often boiled down to “If it bleeds, it leads”).
“According to eyewitnesses in Nablus, when IDF forces began to leave the city, they were fired on from the Balata refugee camp. One of the IDF vehicles got stuck and soldier began to exchange fire,” the paper reports.
The Palestinian death gets scant mention in Yedioth and does not even make it into Israel Hayom’s two-paragraph account of the activities in Nablus, though it does devote a full page to the killing of Ahmed Jarrar, wanted for the shooting of Raziel Shevach a month ago, under the jingoistic headline “The account is settled.”
Unlike the Rambo-esque headline and praise from politicians for the terrorist’s end, the paper quotes Yael Shevach’s more measured response to the death.
“I can’t be happy on a day like this, after I got the terrible news about the death of Itamar,” she’s quoted saying.
Elsewhere the paper quotes Shevach speaking about the similarities between her husband Raziel and Itamar Ben-Gal.
“They were both educators, men of Torah,” she’s quoted saying. “Raziel and Itamar both loved life, dressing nicely and eating well. Raziel was on his way from a circumcision and Itamar was on his way to a circumcision. Raziel’s sister is supposed to get married in less than a month and also Miriam’s sister is supposed to wed in less than a month.”
Perhaps the most actually newsy thing out of the funeral was minister Uri Ariel’s call: “This is the time for the Temple Mount, for the people of Israel to recognize the holiness of the land, the holiness of the mountain and the building of the Temple Mount,” which Haaretz reports came amid cries of “revenge” among the mourners.
Ariel’s statements, which also included urging deporting families of terrorists and other harsh measures, somehow evade the attention of reports in Israel Hayom and Yedioth, but in the latter paper, op-ed columnist Aviad Kleinberg cottons on to the explosive potential of his words and writes that being angry doesn’t mean you don’t have to speak responsibly.
“The local bonfire needs more fuel and the minister is happy to pour it on,” he writes. “How much in blood will this cost us? These are questions that don’t interest the minister, just like questions of political logic don’t interest him.”
The ability of ministers to adopt policies with bloody consequences also plays into an op-ed by Zvi Bar’el in Haaretz, albeit on another front. Bar’el warns that should the army continue to carry out the government’s will in clamping down on Gaza, war may be the result.
“The strategy of closure, which is designed to bring about the collapse of Hamas, has become bankrupt because Israel has no effective civilian tools left to pressure Gaza with. The IDF and the Shin Bet security service were the first to understand that Hamas can serve as a vital tool to help stop the firing of rockets into Israel, on condition that it can survive,” he writes. “Between the threat presented by a strong Hamas and the benefit to be gained from its strength, the IDF has concluded that in the current diplomatic situation, Hamas’ ability to govern should be preferred. This isn’t a strategic betrayal of the deterrence formula but actually supports it. The more the Gaza economy improves, the more Hamas will have to lose.”
In Israel Hayom, though, columnist Amnon Lord praises the cabinet for its clear messaging regarding tensions in the north, especially a tour on the border by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other ministers Tuesday, writing that it was giving Iran ample room to get its missile factories out of Lebanon before things get bad.
“Precisely the statements by Israeli ministers over the last week, threatening as they were, as with the tour, go to teach how to manage the ‘missile crisis’ in a way that won’t lead to a military confrontation. What Israel has done slowly over the last months, and more intensively over the last week, is to make its position clear,” he writes. “The tour sharpened the messaging. If Iran does not take a step back on the missiles, it will leave Israel to decide the timing of the next war… So long as the main actors are connecting through Russia, the chances of a military operation are slim.”