Calling it a day
Hebrew media review

Calling it a day

With the Gaza operation ostensibly over, the Hebrew papers offer fierce criticism of the PM and a portrait of a disillusioned public

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

In this Monday, July 21, 2014 file photo, Israeli soldiers patrol the town of Sderot after a group of Hamas terrorists was detected infiltrating into Israel (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)
In this Monday, July 21, 2014 file photo, Israeli soldiers patrol the town of Sderot after a group of Hamas terrorists was detected infiltrating into Israel (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

After a grueling 50-day conflict, the ceasefire goes into effect and the Hebrew newspapers on Wednesday – deflated and disgruntled – sum up a campaign that exacted a heavy blow on the national morale, and left a battered and listless public in its wake.

As various pundits weigh in with their displeasure in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the campaign’s results, the deaths of two men in southern Israel from mortar fire Tuesday receive minimal coverage, and are tucked deeper into the papers.

Yedioth Ahronoth features no fewer than seven columns on its front page, ranging from the slightly miffed to downright infuriated. The paper’s diplomatic correspondent, Shimon Shiffer, offers the most withering criticism of the prime minister and calls on him to resign.

After the “50 days of fighting during which a terror organization killed dozens of soldiers and civilians, destroyed the calm, threw the state into an economic crisis, and most of all harmed its dignity and prestige, we could have expected more than an announcement of a ceasefire. It could be expected that the prime minister would arrive at the president’s residence, and announce his decision to resign from his position,” he writes. “It should have been the inevitable, natural thing to do, that would attest to his readiness to take responsibility for what happened here for the past 50 days.” But despite the public outrage, both among the southern residents, and within the government, Netanyahu is unlikely to do so, he concludes.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, left, speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting on August 10, 2014. (photo credit: Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, left, speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting on August 10, 2014. (photo credit: Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90)

By contrast, Ben-Dror Yemini argues that considering the circumstances, and compared to other asymmetrical conflicts, the death toll was remarkably low, “less, a lot less, than any other conflict of this kind.”

“Israel managed to assassinate some 1,000 terrorists, who caused the deaths of another 1,000 innocents. This is probably the lowest proportion in the history of asymmetric conflicts. It won’t spare Israel the criticism, but it’s important to know the facts at least. Such that those who spread the lies about loss and defeat are not much different from those spreading the libel on slaughter and genocide,” he writes.

In a front page op-ed in Yedioth, entitled “Too Little, Too Late,” veteran reporter Nahum Barnea captures the public sense of malaise.

“It’s not always ‘all’s well that ends well,’” he writes. “The fear is that instead of paving the way for the Gaza threat to be lifted, we are paving the way for the next round, from Lebanon or Gaza. But this is what our government produced for us, and we must live with it… What we achieved in Cairo is Operation Pillar of Defense No. 2. It could have been considered a triumph two weeks after the operation began, when the price we paid was not so high. It would have been tolerable after a month. After 50 days, we can only be upset at what was, and hope for a better future.”

At the end of the day, however, he writes, “Abu Mazen [Abbas] is the real winner of the war. Hamas is praised on the Palestinian street, but he [Abbas] and the PA were given control over the rehabilitation of Gaza – a process that will see billions of dollars [in aid], and no small amount of corruption. Abu Mazen gained today the status of a positive leader and a legitimate partner, not only in the Arab world and international arena, but also in the eyes of the Israeli public. It’s possible that Operation Protective Edge will be the silver platter on which the state of Palestine will rise.”

Over in Haaretz, the paper’s Amos Harel describes the ceasefire as “a rather doleful tie.”

“Hamas’s acceptance of a ceasefire under conditions which are far from their original demands is not an indication of an Israeli victory, but of erosion in the organization’s willingness to continue fighting at present. The real test will come over the long run. The Second Lebanon War was poorly conducted on both the military and civilian level, yet the northern border is almost completely quiet after eight years, with Hezbollah refraining from challenging Israel for a variety of reasons. This time, even with better management of the confrontation on both levels, it is still difficult to estimate how long a quiet period might last,” he writes.

On the political front, “Netanyahu will now have to fight for his political life, in the face of disappointment with his performance, as recent polls show,” he writes.

Meanwhile, Israel Hayom’s Dan Margalit calls the operation a victory, despite it all.

“Certainly there were mistakes,” he concedes, citing the government’s agreement to a ceasefire early in the conflict before the tunnel threat was removed, and the various public statements that were perceived by Hamas as weakness. However: “At the end of the day there’s a ceasefire, that was reached as Israel only gave what it offered before the clashes, and Hamas emerged short 1,000 fighters, 32 tunnels, and some 7,000 rockets which caused little damage.”

Kibbutz Nirim security chief Zeev Etzion (screen capture: Channel 2)
Kibbutz Nirim security chief Ze’ev Etzion (screen capture: Channel 2)

As the names of the slain kibbutz members were released overnight, the papers offer very little information on Ze’ev Etzion, 55, and Shahar Melamed, 43 of Kibbutz Nirim. Etzion was a Magen David Adom volunteer for over 30 years and the kibbutz’s security chief, and left behind five children, the papers report. Melamed, who operated the kibbutz’s irrigation system, left behind a wife and three kids. According to Yedioth, the Melamed family was one of the only ones to stay in the kibbutz throughout most of the operation.

Schahr Melamed. (Screen capture: Channel 2)
Shahar Melamed. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

The papers also highlight the furious comments by the municipality heads of the southern communities in response to the ceasefire.

“We didn’t lose 64 fighters and four (now six) civilians for this ‘achievement.’ We didn’t sit in the shelters and fortified rooms for nearly two months for this ‘achievement,’” Itamar Shimoni, the mayor of Ashkelon, says.

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