The Battle of Jenin
Hebrew media review

The Battle of Jenin

With gushing praise — and some criticism — Israel’s papers dwell on the dramatic raid into the Palestinian city in search of Raziel Shevach’s killers

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli security forces carry out raids in the West Bank city of Jenin in pursuit of the Palestinian killers of Israeli rabbi Raziel Shevach on January 18, 2018 (Israel Police)
Israeli security forces carry out raids in the West Bank city of Jenin in pursuit of the Palestinian killers of Israeli rabbi Raziel Shevach on January 18, 2018 (Israel Police)

The Hebrew-language papers shower praise on the Israeli forces who took part in an operation overnight Wednesday-Thursday aimed at finding the terror cell behind the murder of Israeli father-of-six Rabbi Raziel Shevach in the northern West Bank.

The front pages of this weekend’s Hebrew-language newspapers are dominated by coverage of the raid aimed at hunting down the Palestinian cell suspected of involvement in the deadly shooting last week, with both Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom, the country’s two most-read dailies, praising the operation, which was carried out in the West Bank city of Jenin by an elite Border Police unit along with forces from the IDF and Shin Bet security service.

Yedioth’s main headline states simply, “Thank you, hero,” alongside a blurred-out photo of one of the two Border Policemen who were injured in a shootout during the raid. The elite serviceman is seen in the image as he is caressed by Shevach’s mother, Ilana, who came to the HaEmek Medical Center in the northern Israeli city of Afula to visit the two wounded individuals. Israel Hayom elaborates on the visit, highlighting Ilana Shevach’s words of thanks, quoting her in a headline stating that she was “proud of our fighters.”

Israel Hayom contributor and veteran military correspondent Yoav Limor analyzes the raid from an operational point of view, noting that the fact Israel even had to hunt down Shevach’s killers was due to a failure in the Shin Bet’s intelligence gathering. “The terror cell [responsible for murdering Shevach] managed to grow under the [Shin Bet’s] nose,” Limor writes. “We are not talking about a lone-wolf terrorist who does not share his plans with anyone, but an organization of several people — who spoke, coordinated, planned, acquired weapons and apparently attempted to carry out another terror attack in the past. All of this should have been caught by the Shin Bet’s nets.”

Nevertheless, Limor commends the fighters who took part in the raid, adding that Israel’s rounding up of the cell’s members would likely provide valuable information about the forces attempting to carry out attacks throughout the West Bank. Limor’s piece, it should be noted, was published before reports were confirmed that the body of Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, initially thought to have been killed by Israeli security forces during the raid, was not found amid the rubble of a building destroyed in the operation.

As part of Yedioth’s ongoing condemnation of Shmuel Eliyahu, a prominent right-wing rabbi who had called for ousting IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot over the army’s support for integrating women soldiers in combat units, the daily offers a fiery op-ed written by a mother of a woman serving as a pilot in the air force. “Not everyone needs to be a pilot, a navigator, a sailor, a combatant,” reads the piece. “But everyone has the right for all the options to be open to them.”

The op-ed comes only days after the IDF, for the first time in its history, announced that a woman, whose name cannot be published for security reasons, is to be promoted to lieutenant colonel and will head an air squadron at an air force base. “As a typical Israeli family which contributed in the past, is contributing now, and plans on contributing in the future to the security establishment, we say: Anyone who does not want to serve with women in combat units, should not serve at all…. We are proud of IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and of all the previous chiefs of staff who allowed women to build and be part of the combat formations of the IDF.”

Meanwhile, in Haaretz, Yossi Verter takes a deep, hard, critical look at the Labor party’s status since Avi Gabbay assumed its leadership, and assesses that if the left-wing party continues on its current course, a major collapse awaits it on election day. “Last July 4, when the party held an election for its leadership, Labor had 58,800 registered members,” Verter writes. “In the first month or so after Avi Gabbay won his position, after a runoff election on July 10, about 4,600 people joined the party. This week, the number of registered members stood at 57,200… In other words, 6,200 left, gone with the wind.”

Verter explains that many of those who abandoned the party established their new home in Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party, while others joined the “resurgent” left-wing Meretz, which only just recently agreed to do away with the delegate system and reached a compromise that would allow any Israeli to sign up as a party member.

“Gabbay’s controversial policy declarations have done their damage,” Verter continues, referring to statements according to which the Labor leader would prefer preserving a “united” Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty to clinching a peace deal with the Palestinians, as well as Gabbay’s alleged insinuation that the left “forgot what it means to be a Jew,” comments he later walked back and said were mischaracterized.

“Gabbay has begun to internalize the fact that a change is needed. He’s stopped shooting from the hip. His public statements are more measured. He’s working more methodically.” Are these changes enough to prevent a loss for Labor at the ballot box? Verter doesn’t presume to answer, but concludes with Gabbay’s stated belief that, at the end of the day, “people will vote for personality.” Whatever that means.

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