I’d do anything for Sderot, but I won’t do that: 8 things to know for November 3
Israel media review

I’d do anything for Sderot, but I won’t do that: 8 things to know for November 3

Another round of violence near Gaza brings fresh calls to do something to stop the violence, but authorities seem loath to turn up the heat on Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Iran just now

Palestinians walk around a crater caused by an Israeli airstrike launched in response to rocket fire, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, November 2, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Palestinians walk around a crater caused by an Israeli airstrike launched in response to rocket fire, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, November 2, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

1. Ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids: Israel is grappling with the aftereffects of the latest round of boom-bust fighting to emerge from the Gaza Strip after Palestinians shot a volley of rockets at Israel over the weekend, damaging a Sderot home and drawing a wide military response.

  • There were no Israeli injuries from the volley except for one person hurt while running for shelter and other treated for anxiety — most of the rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome — but there is still a widespread feeling of scarring that the press is more than willing to transmit, with a special focus on children.
  • A photo showing 5-year-old Tahel cowering with her family during a barrage goes viral and graces the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth under the headline “Look at Tahel in the eyes.”
  • “Her whole body shook, she locked up on the floor and didn’t move, with her hands on her head. My girl, I’m so sorry you need to go through this,” her mom Sara Dahan wrote on Facebook along with the picture, which was accidentally taken by a niece during a rush for cover.
  • Dahan tells Yedioth that “since the first time a siren caught us while we were out in the street, this happens to her; she just lies on the floor, her hands on her head, shaking and mumbling words which I can’t understand.”
  • “I feel helpless,” Army Radio quotes an 11-year-old girl from Sderot saying.
  • Labor-Gesher head Amir Peretz, a Sderot resident, tells Kan that he’s by now taught his grandkids to treat the run to the shelter like a footrace to see who can get there first.
  • “It’s really unpleasant to live in a place that s the main target for rocket fire,“ Sderot resident Michal Leibowitz tells Israel Hayom. “It’s really scary, especially for anyone raising kids. Sderot is a warm and loving place, but it’s not place to raise a kid during war.”

2. We could be extras: Haaretz notes that the street where the rocket hit is no stranger to being attacked.

  • “The police cars and ambulances, the concrete and drywall strewn about and holes in the walls don’t come as a surprise to anyone,” writes Almog Ben Zikri.
  • As onlookers gather around one person is quoted saying that they “feel like this is a movie and we are the extras.”
  • Rinat Cohen, who was inside with her family, tells Yedioth that nobody was hurt but the situation still was not pleasant.
  • “There was smoke all around and we could barely breathe,” she says. “It’s really lucky that nobody was hurt but we were all afraid. We were shaking. We didn’t manage to sleep the whole night. I feel like we went through a miracle.”
  • “This situation cannot continue,” neighbor Albert Ahuzeira, who does the media rounds, tells Army Radio.

3. War picks: Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi tells Channel 12 news that “we’ve been living in this reality of ‘routine emergency’ for almost two years and it’s been high time for a while to put an end to it, via a wide-scale military operation in Gaza, including assassinating Hamas leaders.”

  • Mayan Schneor, head of the local Netiv Haasara council, also does not mince words, saying the country needs “to put an end to this insufferable situation of imagined and tense quiet,” describing “another Friday of Gaza surprises. Shock, fear, tensions, a night of waiting for a serious response and ho! going back to normal.”
  • Even Likud’s Gideon Sa’ar spoke out against the response, saying it “should be far more severe than that which was taken.”
  • In a sign they may get their wish, several media outlets report that the army is preparing for rocket fire to expand and the possibility that violence may ramp up.
  • Israel Radio reports that the security cabinet will convene Sunday afternoon to discuss the issue.

4. Hold your fire: On the other hand, Haaretz’s lead editorial has rare praise for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not taking the country into war, writing that nobody has any answers, including all the politicians and pundits urging this or that.

  • “The prime minister was right to order a measured, limited response that does not go beyond the rules of the violent dialogue between Israel and the terror organizations of the past few years. It is the only reasonable policy available to Israel, given the lack of a political and public consensus and the connection between the threats in the north and the south of the country.”
  • New Right leader Naftali Bennett, who has been among the biggest proponents of action against Gaza, appears to change his tune and now says that people should hold their horses.
  • “There’s no need for a stronger response to Gaza. This will lead to a needless round [of violence]. The ‘root canal’ that the Strip needs must be done seriously and not in haste,” he tells Army Radio.
  • The apparent about-face comes after Channel 12 news reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is thinking about making him defense minister while he still has reins of his interim government.
  • Asked about the possibility of Bennett becoming defense minister, former almost-IDF chief of staff and current absorption minister Yoav Gallant tells Kan that “in this complicated situation we are in, it’s important that whoever is dealing with has experience, depth of knowledge and the public’s trust.”
  • He also predicts that “there is no choice and there will be another round with Gaza.”

5. A message to you, Islamic Jihad: One sign that Israel is likely not headed to war immediately is the fact that while Hamas was ultimately blamed and suffered the majority of the damage from retaliatory Israeli airstrikes, the IDF made sure to spread the message, via its network of trusted correspondents who write whatever they are told to, that it actually thinks the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad group is to blame.

  • Haaretz reports that the bombing runs on Hamas were actually meant to signal to the group that it should rein in Islamic Jihad.
  • Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor writes that “the chances of this happening in the long term are good, but in the short term are much smaller. And so assuming nothing changes in Gaza — and there’s no progress in talks — the sides will slide toward an escalation.”
  • Yedioth’s Yossi Yehoshua writes that the army sees Hamas as the lesser of the two evils and willing to work toward a deal, but wasn’t prepared to go whole hog against Islamic Jihad.
  • “The army immediately recognized that the fire came from the Islamic Jihad but the response was exacted against Hamas in order to stir up internal Palestinian strife,” he writes, without quoting any hint of an actual source for the info. “The reason [they went this way] was to not send the area into war at the same time as there are tensions in the north and against Iran. … However, given the fact that Hamas was not responsible for the strikes, the IDF response was proportional and was not meant to cause any casualties.”
  • In actuality, at least one Palestinian was killed in the strikes and the factions have vowed revenge.

6. Who let the missiles out? Even while signaling blame for Islamic Jihad, Israel appears to be trying to stay away from being forced into confronting Iran, with several pundits, as if by magic, writing that nobody should assume Tehran gave the order to fire.

  • Instead, everybody’s fingers are pointed at Baha Abu al-Ata, Islamic Jihad’s wildcard northern Gaza supremo (and unfortunately not one of the Baha men).
  • “Israeli defense officials view Abu al-Ata as a local bully whose star is briefly shining. He occasionally takes action against Israel in order to reinforce his position in the Strip vis-a-vis both the Hamas regime and his rivals within Islamic Jihad,” writes Haaretz’s Amos Harel. “He didn’t even have a specific reason for Friday’s flare-up. No one was killed by Israeli fire during the regular weekly protests along the border with Israel, nor was there an exceptional level of violence.”
  • In ToI, Avi Issacharoff notes that nobody seems able to rein in Abu al-Ata —  not Hamas, Islamic Jihad or even the ayatollah.
  • “Time after time, the Israeli security establishment takes pains to publish or leak al-Ata’s name to various media outlets as the person behind the rocket fire and efforts to launch other attacks, in the hopes that Hamas will rein him in. Hamas, however, is not doing so,” he writes. “Al-Ata, whose picture has previously been released by the IDF spokesperson’s office, wants an even more extreme and uncompromising stance toward Israel and does not necessarily adhere to Iranian orders, but rather his own whim.”
  • Maariv’s Tal Lev Ram writes that even if Abu al-Ata isn’t being told by Iran when to push the button, “he sees himself as part of the Iranian axis, and does not need direct orders, and so the defense establishment believes that if anything happens in the north, the south will see fire as well.”

7. SA what? Proof that Israel remains more concerned about the north than Gaza despite the weekend flareup could be seen on the front page of Israel Hayom, seen as a mouthpiece for Netanyahu, which leads off not with the southern discomfort, but rather a followup on Hezbollah fire at an Israeli drone last week.

  • “Hezbollah fired a ground-to-air missile,” crows the massive front page headline.
  • The headline writes a check that the story does not quite cash, though. The paper reports that many claimed the missile fired at the drone was a shoulder mounted Strela, and then notes that Hezbollah has managed to acquire Russian SA-8 and SA-17 missiles, which were state of the art back in the 1970s but still pose a threat.
  • “Hezbollah has never used these systems in the past and the assumption in Israel is that it’s saving them for a future war, but it’s possible that the group has changed its policies in an attempt to rebalance its deterrence against the IDF,” is as much as is offered as proof.
  • The IDF has never confirmed Hezbollah has the SA-17, but in 2016 a German outlet, presumably quoting an Israeli intelligence source, reported that the group had acquired the system.
  • The SA-17 Grizzly would be the “most advanced surface-to-air missile in [Hezbollah’s] possession,” expert Nadav Pollack told ToI at the time.

8. The second coming of Rabin: While the north and south were fretting, the center was remembering slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin at an annual memorial in Tel Aviv Saturday night.

  • The highlight of the evening appeared to be a speech by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who appeared to try, and maybe succeed, to emulate Rabin.
  • Haaretz’s Ravit Hecht writes that the whole point of the speech was to put Gantz “in Rabin’s shoes,” something he managed fairly successfully, but noted that it’s still too early to know whether he will be the one to lead the peace camp “out of the desert.”
  • Yedioth’s Nahum Barnea is not waiting around for that, though, anointing him as the second coming of Rabin.
  • “Gantz was crowned as the legitimate heir to Rabin, the keeper of his legacy,” he gushes. “His speech strengthened that perception: He encouraged with no caveat, full on, everything Rabin pushed for in his last two years: military activism alongside peace agreements.”
  • Others are less sure. “Gantz’s similarly considered tone and delivery may have come across as slightly labored, and fell short of the warmth and grit that Rabin was able to project in his public speeches. But it was a comparison that the would-be premier was clearly keen to evoke,” writes ToI’s Raoul Wootliff.
  • “It was a good speech but I think he tried too hard to sound like Rabin,” one Tel Aviv resident is quoted telling him. “And let’s be honest, he’s no Rabin.”
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