Hebrew media review

Gaza is suffering, but is it good for the Jews?

Papers report on how a power cut will lead to a humanitarian crisis in the Strip, but seem to mostly care about how the move may affect Israel

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Palestinian children fill jerrycans with drinking water from public taps in the southern Gaza Strip, June 11, 2017. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)
Palestinian children fill jerrycans with drinking water from public taps in the southern Gaza Strip, June 11, 2017. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)

Between problems with water, overcrowding, unemployment, a blockade, living under an oppressive Islamist regime, wars and other ills, Gazans are suffering at least a thousand cuts, but it’s one cut in particular — to their power supply — that has risen above the rest and caught the attention of the Israeli media and the wider world, especially after the Strip’s Hamas rulers warned that the situation could lead to an “explosion.”

Between the threat of violence to come and the growing humanitarian situation, the goings-on in Gaza make top headlines in all three of Israel’s major dailies, with the tabloids having a bit too much fun with puns considering the potentially disastrous ramifications of Israel’s decision to allow Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to go ahead with slashing the amount of electricity shipped into the Strip.

These aren’t poignant puns like “powerless in Gaza,” either, but even more gauche ones like “High tension,” Yedioth Ahronoth’s ode to power lines, “A time of darkness” (also Yedioth) and “The darkness of Egypt in Gaza,” a biblical reference courtesy of Israel Hayom, which dovetails nicely with the tabloid’s (apparently false) report that Egypt may be cutting off power to the Strip.

While Israel Hayom mentions the humanitarian concerns, they are mostly seen through the lens of “but is it good for Israel?” and not the fact that people in the enclave are suffering. “Reducing power doesn’t just hurt the residents there, but also raises the possibility of an escalation [of violence],” local council head Alon Shuster is quoted saying by the paper.

Haaretz manages to avoid the ham-handed puns and focus some attention on how the humanitarian situation will affect actual Gazans, from making life uncomfortable to letting untreated sewage run into the sea and harming hospitals’ ability to operate. But the paper also seems to mostly care about how the move will affect Israel, leading off with the Hamas threat and quoting Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid warning that “diseases could break out in Gaza, and bugs don’t recognize borders.”

With the cold precision of a military analyst, Amos Harel writes that the decision to allow the power cut is a gamble by Israel, which is betting that Hamas is all talk.

“Israel is going along with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s aggressive new approach and hoping for the best. The need to please Abbas, who is Israel’s only realistic Palestinian partner, is clear,” he writes.

The paper’s lead editorial offers a more acerbic take, calling Abbas a “partner to harm Gaza” in its headline.

“This worsening crisis is liable to be the spark that ignites a new and unnecessary violent conflict between Israel and Hamas. But this danger doesn’t bother Abbas, who is motivated by his political rivalry with Hamas,” it reads. “Israelis, and especially those living near Gaza, don’t need another round of violence breaking out because of the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah. The Israeli government must order the supply of electricity to Gaza to continue, and make it clear to Abbas that internal Palestinian battles won’t be waged on the back of either Israel’s own citizens or the people living under its control.”

While noting that “the more power is cut the more the threats grow,” Yedioth also quotes a gaggle of Israeli sources saying in unison that it’s not so bad for Gazans.

The reduction “won’t bring down the sky on Gaza,” and was even necessary given that paying for the electricity that Abbas wants cut would have been “giving in” to Hamas, the paper quotes them saying.

Yedioth also reports — in an exclusive that actually makes the lead story on its front page — that Israel is looking to up pressure on Hamas’s Qatari sponsors by banning al-Jazeera from the country.

The paper reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the Foreign Ministry, Shin Bet security service, Government Press Office and Defense Ministry to explore shutting the bureau, but that the effort will face serious legal challenges. It also quotes Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman saying that “Israel together with other Arab states
sees the dangers of al-Jazeera and that it is media of the type from Nazi Germany.”

In Israel Hayom, former national security adviser and current columnist Yaakov Amidror declares Hamas under a troika of pressure — the power cuts, PA salary cuts and Qatar being forced to reduce its patronage thanks to the Gulf crisis — and while noting the challenge of putting too much to bear on the terror group, still thinks everything will end up hunky dory if they can just calibrate the debilitation of the Strip’s 2 million residents right.

“It’s clear that once the triangle of pressure starts to really impact, the Strip will turn into an area that is much calmer,” he writes.

Abbas asking to cut power to Gaza put Israel in a hard spot, much as US President Donald Trump leaking Israeli intel about the Islamic State to the Russians did. Fresh revelations from The New York Times, that the blown information had to do with an Israeli effort to hack into IS computers, gives papers and pundits a fresh reason to wring their hands — or celebrate — anew.

Yedioth’s Alex Fishman writes that if the report is true, the damage done will be “unprecedented,” calling the fiasco an “intelligence catastrophe.”

“Once the cyber tool is found, there is a large chance that its weak spot will also be exposed. And that point, which surely will show up on computer systems of other states and groups that oppose Israel — will be shut down. What that means: the intelligence collapse of the attack bug that took years of investment to develop and infiltrate into various places.”

But it’s not all bad. At least Israel is getting some recognition for its great cyber prowess. Like a hasbarist who can’t help but add a “#BDSfail” hashtag to everything he tweets, Israel Hayom reports the same story, but marks it as a proud moment for Israel and its ability to infiltrate the terror group’s computer system.

“Israeli cyber forces are on the map: The New York Times revealed yesterday an Israeli intelligence breakthrough — which allowed the US to learn about the activities of the Islamic State to develop materiel to bring down planes,” the paper cheers, burying the fact that Trump leaked the data to the Russians lower down in the story. “The paper detailed the US attempts, which mostly failed, to infiltrate IS’s cyberspace, and noted that the greatest success in this arena belonged to Israel.”

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