1. Fishing for calm: After about a month of relative quiet, Gaza tensions boiled over into violence Wednesday and early Thursday.
- A day that saw several fire balloons and at least one balloon-borne explosive flown into Israel from Gaza ended with Israel placing a total maritime closure on the Strip as a punitive measure.
- As the clock struck midnight, a sole rocket was shot at Israel and intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, and Israel hit back by striking “underground infrastructure in Gaza.”
- “The army shrunk the fishing zone at the beginning of the week hoping it would [stop the balloons]. It seems it has not worked,” writes Yedioth Ahronoth.
2. Gearing up for round 7,458: The real test of whether this is a one-off or more will likely come Friday, during weekly protests on the border, predicts Channel 12 news.
- Haaretz notes that Gazans have been complaining of Israeli “foot-dragging” in implementing its half of the ceasefire deal that ended the last bout of fighting.
- “A senior official told Haaretz that Palestinian factions, including Hamas, are demanding the transfer of additional funds from Qatar, a further easing on the import of dual-purpose goods from Israel, and progress on humanitarian projects,” the paper reports.
- ToI’s Avi Issacharoff reports that Gazans have also threatened to redeploy their “night confusion units,” which previously sowed chaos on the border with nightly protests.
- But even if the Qatari money gets in, he predicts, it likely will not be the end of the story, with the humanitarian situation in the Strip still at crisis levels, pressure from Iran to open a new front and the PA trying to lean on Hamas, and of course, Israeli elections on the horizon.
- “Hamas feels that Netanyahu is again under pressure and may think this is the time to gain additional achievements, including via a planned rise in fighting,” he writes.
3. Fishmongers and war mongers: Fishing people, meanwhile, are annoyed at their livelihoods being impacted by the actions of balloon brigades elsewhere.
- Nizar Ayyash, head of Gaza’s Fishermen Union, tells Hebrew media outlets that Israel’s policy of constantly changing the fishing restrictions is “a joke.”
- “What’s the connection between someone who launches incendiary devices to fishermen at sea? If someone gives you trouble, you punish those who have nothing to do with him,” he’s quoted saying in Ynet.
- Contractors in Gaza also say they are feeling the squeeze, with no money flowing in for reconstruction projects and the cost of materials skyrocketing, al-Monitor reports.
- “There are no encouraging factors to live and work in Gaza. The situation is frustrating and companies are suffering losses. Nobody is there to save us,” says one builder, who left Gaza for the West Bank when his building business collapsed.
4. At least the seats will be filled: While the upcoming economic workshop in Bahrain is meant to help with some of those financial woes, not many are placing much stock in the meet.
- “The expected attendance at the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ workshop… should be examined in the context of the relationships among these countries and between Washington and Israel, rather than as a test of enthusiasm for the opportunity to take part in solving the Palestinian problem,” writes Haaretz’s Zvi Bar-el.
- Looking at the same equation as an optimist, ToI’s Raphael Ahren writes that the list of attendees means the confab is already seeing returns, in some regards, even if it won’t bring peace.
- “Six Arab states, four of which do not have formal diplomatic ties with Israel, have indicated that they, too, are ready to sit in one room with representatives of the Zionist regime and the Trump administration,” he writes, calling the achievement a “smashing success.”
5. Haley to the (editor in) chief: Even more bullish on the US peace bid is Israel Hayom, though it’s the most bullish on itself.
- Pushing its US-Israel lovefest/forum planned for later this month, the paper allows former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley to share a massive front page picture with editor-in-chief Boaz Bismuth. (Perhaps the only thing tackier is a large banner above it reading only “Israel Hayom in English.”)
- Haley doesn’t say anything Jared Kushner or other officials from US President Donald Trump’s administration have not already said many times about the peace plan.
- “Both sides won’t love it. And both sides won’t hate it,” she says, admitting that it is “not going to be easy.”
- And despite the fact that several states have signed up for the US’s Bahrain Mideast conference, Haley still chides them for not forcing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to go too.
- “It shows the Arab community’s true colors, that they [the Arab states] don’t really care about the Palestinians, because if the Palestinians were that much of a priority, everybody would be holding Abbas’ hand and leading him to the table,” she says.
6. Buh-bye, Gabbay: Internally, the political arena is continuing to heat up. On the left, Avi Gabbay announced Wednesday his exit from political life after a term in which he basically made the captain of the Titanic look good.
- “For many in the party, his term wasn’t a comedy of errors but a tragedy, and when he finally decided to go home, the response was mostly a sigh of relief,” Tal Shalev writes in Walla news.
- Throwing his hat in the ring in a widening race to take Gabbay’s place Tuesday was MK Itzik Shmuli.
- Shmuli tells Yedioth Ahronoth that he can inject new life into the party, “bringing back voters who left, bringing in new communities and making links that other candidates might not be able to.”
7. Getting the band back together: The last comment may be a reference to the Meretz Party, which is once again apparently mulling a joint run with Labor, or perhaps a party to the right, like Blue and White.
- Meretz is gearing up for its own leadership battle, and on Wednesday MK Issawi Frej and former lawmaker Mossi Raz made waves with their announcement of a joint run.
- Frej tells the Kan public broadcaster that the Jewish-Arab joint slate is “like the Germans have with the Green party.” As for getting together with Labor: “If it’s with [Amir] Peretz, it will be easy, but not with Shmuli. He wants Blue and White.”
- Haaretz reports on an Arab-Arab joint run taking shape, citing a Hadash source who says that the four Arab parties that once made up the Joint List are getting together again.
- The paper reports that the bid is meant to head off a challenge from As’ad Ghanem, a professor of political science at Haifa University who is starting a new Arab party.
8. A new New Right? On the right, meanwhile, sides are continuing to scramble to determine who will run with whom, and especially the political futures of New Rightists Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked.
- ToI’s Hebrew sister site Zman Yisrael reports that Shaked was offered the No. 2 slot to jump ship and join the United Right-Wing Party, though she is likely to turn it down.
- According to the report, an attack on Bennett from former ally Moti Yogev was part of that plan, meant to push the one-time leader’s stock even lower.
- In Yedioth, Hen Artzi-Srour writes that Bennett’s response, in which he blasted elements of the national-religious community, was not statesmanlike, like his past comments, which is a good thing.
- “He was angry. But in his anger he finally sounded like a leader,” she writes, adding that if Bennett wants another chance at politics, he will need to sharpen his message rather than just being a Likud version B.
- “If he wants to be relevant, he needs to lead the conversation, not be dragged along by it. He needs to not work for Netanyahu or the rabbis. Even if it’s tough for him to change his old ways.”