Hebrew media review

Gaps of wrath

Hamas and Israel seem no closer to coming to an agreement in Egypt, with the Israeli press analyzing why and warning of harsh consequences for both sides

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

A demonstrator holds up placards reading, in Hebrew, 'When there is no peace war comes' (top) and 'Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies' (bottom), as thousands of Israelis protest during a left-wing peace rally in Tel Aviv calling for the Israeli government to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, on Saturday, August 16, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/GALI TIBBON)
A demonstrator holds up placards reading, in Hebrew, 'When there is no peace war comes' (top) and 'Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies' (bottom), as thousands of Israelis protest during a left-wing peace rally in Tel Aviv calling for the Israeli government to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, on Saturday, August 16, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/GALI TIBBON)

Israel enjoyed its first relatively quiet weekend in eons – or so it feels – but emerging on the other side, daily newspapers on Sunday stay focused on what seem like increasingly slim chances of coming to a deal with Hamas to officially end fighting — at least for now.

“The gap with Hamas is large,” reads Yedioth Ahronoth’s main headline, attributing the quote to that favorite amorphous blob called “diplomatic sources.” The paper explains that the cabinet is putting its foot down and refusing to okay any sort of port in Gaza (air or sea) or any other concessions for Hamas. Hamas, meanwhile, is putting its foot down and refusing to budge on its demand of a port, and you dear reader, you would be forgiven if you now put your foot down and drown your sorrows in a glass of port or sherry.

Meanwhile, the paper’s Alex Fishman calls the resumption of talks Sunday morning a “moment of truth,” though we’ve had plenty of those over the last few weeks. Moving beyond meaningless tropes, the analyst explains that Hamas’s refusal to sign onto the Egyptian ceasefire draft, which has enjoyed wider backing than a Sissi election bid, is putting the group in a tough spot, and cracks between Hamas foot soldiers in Gaza and its elites in the Gulf are beginning to show.

“Now there is a power struggle between the Gaza street, over their destroyed infrastructure and 230,000 homeless refugees, and the political bureau of Hamas, which takes a longer view toward its vision of a Hamas state. On Tuesday, we will know if the leaders of Hamas have chosen to lead the Gazan public to destruction on the altar of their extremist ideology.”

Israel Hayom quotes the same amorphous diplomatic source blob, who tells the paper that “We will not give up on our security,” and “Hamas has only what to lose,” both of which feature prominently on A1 of the tabloid.

The paper quotes a source backing up Fishman’s claim of a rift between Gazans and Hamas leadership, going even further and putting the blame on political chief Khaled Mashaal alone. “Most of the Hamas leadership was prepared to sign on a ceasefire with conditions laid out by Israel, but Mashaal instructed his representative to refuse.”

Prof. Eyal Zisser writes in the paper that Hamas would do well to take the advice of Kenny Roger’s Gambler, and know when to fold. “Hamas’ situation is reminiscent of a serious gambler, sunk in debt who is now losing the last shekel in his pocket, and so is all-in. And so he starts with his maximum demands – beginning with a port and air field, and they accompany their demands with threats to start a war of attrition, whose price will be paid by southerners, and of course also Gazans, those that are living on the ground without bomb shelters, like the heads of Hamas.”

While Hamas has a lot to lose, it’s certainly not the only one with something on the line, saith Haaretz, which reports that if the sides don’t come to terms in Egypt, the Security Council will come after Jerusalem, and Washington won’t be there to save its tush this time. “So far, the US administration has worked to block any procedures in the UN Security Council regarding the fighting in Gaza. Due to US pressure, a Jordanian initiative for a ceasefire in Gaza that called for setting up an international commission of inquiry to look into Israeli strikes on UN facilities did not advance. Sources in Israel believe that if the talks in Cairo fail, the US administration will change its policy and also start pushing for a ceasefire agreement via the UN Security Council,” the paper reports.

The paper’s Amos Harel gives some insight into why Hamas might not be eager to sign on the dotted line: “The detailed document, a fashionable attempt to reset relations between Israel and Gaza, does not give much of anything to Hamas. In practice, as a commentator noted in the al-Alam newspaper — allied with the PA — we are talking about understandings reached in Pillar of Defense from 2012, with some cosmetic fixes. In places where Cairo takes a step toward the Palestinians, like expected easings on border crossings and an erosion of the security buffer zone set by the IDF on the west side of the border (inside Palestinian territory), these steps are a complete concession from the Hamas perspective – [because they come with] the increased presence of PA forces.”

Israel’s international standing isn’t the only victim of the continuing fighting. Yedioth reports that as the summer winds down, kids in the south are worried – yes worried — that their school won’t start on time, or will be missing half the kids who fled north and have yet to return.

“I missed my home and my friends and it was fun for me to return. Now I’m not afraid. It’s fun for me to go to first grade, I want to meet lots of new friends and do lots of homework,” says one brave and adorably clueless 6-year-old.

Israel Hayom takes aim at the prevailing derecho of bad vibes between Washington and Jerusalem, reporting that relations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the American administration are just as peachy as ever.

“Despite the attempt to portray an atmosphere of crisis, ties between Israel and US are proceeding as normal,” a chorus of diplomatic sources, presumably in Jerusalem, tells the paper.

Haaretz, though, isn’t so sure, with the paper penning a lead editorial calling on Netanyahu to get his ducks in a row and back into the good graces of the White House: “Netanyahu’s arrogance peaked during Operation Protective Edge, as he asked for US help to reach a ceasefire and then depicted US officials as interfering in Israel’s conduct of the war. Netanyahu’s approach is dangerous. He must ease the tension with Washington and act to repair the rift with Obama, who will remain in office for the next two and a half years. US support is essential. If it is lost, Netanyahu will also lose the support of the public, which applauded his leadership during the war.”

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