The letters are all in Hebrew, but it’s the universal language of math that’s in play across the print media landscape Thursday morning, as papers try to figure out if two dead soldiers plus two sworn enemies will equal Israel’s fourth war in under a decade. The answer is as clear as the smoke rising from the two burning Israeli military vehicles pictured on the front pages of all three major dailies.
Most analysts, and there are plenty to choose from in every paper, seem to be of the opinion that Wednesday’s deadly cross-border clash was little more than a blip, albeit a bitter and fatal one, with the return of calm the most likely scenario on the horizon, or at least the wisest.
In Haaretz, Amos Harel sees both sides taking pains to make sure their strikes are limited enough to keep the situation from deteriorating out of control. And, in a theme oft repeated throughout the press, he ascribes at least some of Israel’s unwillingness to intensify fighting to upcoming elections.
“Even if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to show how firm he is on security ahead of the election, all-out war with Hezbollah is another thing entirely. It is hard to see why Netanyahu would think a broad military conflict would necessarily end in a persuasive victory that would bolster his position,” he said. “Thus it seems that the prime minister has a clear interest in ending this round of violence soon.”
Israel Hayom’s Dan Margalit rejects the claim that electoral considerations are tying Israel’s hands, and argues that challenges from Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Liberman from the right should actually be pushing Netanyahu toward avenging the death of the two soldiers, though he counsels calm.
“A grown-up Israeli government doesn’t just act based on inclinations of the heart,” he writes. “It takes into account that unlike the strategic strike on Hezbollah and Iranian men – Israeli fire now would just be meant to settle accounts and return deterrence. These are sound goals, but inferior to strategic ones.”
Going against the accepted wisdom that Israel will soon be able to return to focusing on electioneering soccer stars and uncouth police officials, Yedioth Ahronoth’s Nahum Barnea posits that anyone who thinks Iran is satisfied with just Wednesday’s attack is “living in a fantasy.”
The paper as a whole is mostly focused on the various tough questions that have arisen in the wake of the attack. Barnea for instance, wonders why it is so bad if Iran and Hezbollah are sitting on Israel’s border, as if having al-Qaeda or the Islamic State take up the vacuum is any better.
Under the headline “Exposed,” Yossi Yehoshua notes that many are pondering why the soldiers were on the road in an unarmored vehicle in the first place, given the fact that the army had been expecting some sort of response on the northern border since the strike on the Hezbollah and Iranian operatives last week. However, he writes that the Kornet missiles that hit the jeeps can easily slice through a tank, meaning even an armored vehicle wouldn’t have helped, so the real question is how Hezbollah knew that the civilian-looking vehicles were being used by the army.
“The incidents show the very high level of operational and intelligence capabilities of Hezbollah, which tracked the convoy of IDF commanders, knew well who to shoot at, didn’t ‘buy’ the camouflage of the civilian-looking vehicles and accomplished an acute military achievement: responding to the assassination, but not with a major escalation.”
Easily lost in the icy assessments is the human side of the story, which the papers fix by devoting no small amount of ink to the two soldiers killed and how the escalation has affected the north.
Israel Hayom eulogizes Dor Nini and Yohai Kalangel as being “salt of the earth.” Kalangel, known as Jucha to his friends, is described as a role model family man, a devoted father who would do everything for his soldiers. “He was a great man, salt of the earth, a fighter with every bone of his body,” his brothers are quoted as saying.
Nini is described by friends and family as someone who had a ”huge heart” and always wore a smile. “There wasn’t anybody who didn’t love that kid,” a friend is quoted saying. “Always helping, with the happiness of life. If you asked something small of him, he would give you double with all his heart.”
In a dispatch from the far north, Yedioth reports that life is not exactly returning to normal after the flare-up, with security guards assigned to schoolkids, tourists disappearing and hotel rooms empty. But one possibly good thing did come out of the incident, after years of complaints about strange noises, the army will finally investigate if cross-border tunnels are being dug by Hezbollah into the community of Zarit.
“There are those who claim they hear noises at night and they need to be calmed and the possibility that what they are hearing is correct ruled out,” former Zarit head David Ozna tells the paper. “There was a fight over this for several months and this morning they told us that engineering machinery would come and start to work.”
In a sign that a return to some semblance of normalcy may be in the offing (normalcy defined as going after Netanyahu and his family in the press), Haaretz reports on its front page that Sara Netanyahu returned to the state a tidy sum that she collected by returning bottles from the Prime Minister’s Residence for recycling. The paper writes that in 2013 Netanyahu gave back NIS 4,000, after being told that while returning bottles is good for the environment, it’s bad for not abusing positions of power.
Not that Netanyahu actually shlepped all 16,000 bottles to her local Stop and Shop on her own. Meni Naftali, the former house manager who is suing the Netanyahus over abusive working conditions, testified that “workers were forced to return the bottles and hand over the returned deposits to Sara Netanyahu,” Haaretz reports.
Yedioth writes that the race to be the one who gets to drink 16,000 bottles at the Prime Minister’s Residence took a turn for the silly as parties, including some wackier ones, raced to submit their candidacies before today’s deadline.
Among the quirkier parties submitting Wednesday were the potheads of the Green Leaf Party, the peg-legs of the Pirate Party and the bunk-mates of the Zionist Camp, all with high expectations. “We expect 120 seats,” a member of the Hasidic Breslov Everyone Is Friends party is quoted telling the paper. “We are running to get fit, not to get over the electoral threshold.”