Miniwar, what is it good for? 10 things to know for May 7
Israel media review

Miniwar, what is it good for? 10 things to know for May 7

Calm has returned to the south, but nobody is under the impression it will last, and everybody has different ideas of what to do next, just after Eurovision

Damage is seen in a residential area after it was hit a by a rocket fired from Gaza in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon,, May 5, 2019. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
Damage is seen in a residential area after it was hit a by a rocket fired from Gaza in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon,, May 5, 2019. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

1. More war on the horizon: The Gaza ceasefire appears to be holding, but fears of another war on the horizon are rampant among both pundits and officials.

  • On Monday, the IDF appeared to come out against the ceasefire deal as it stands, saying that war will be quickly back on the table unless Israel changes its policies.
  • Army Radio reports the IDF thinks the sides could be back at each others’ throats “within weeks.”
  • An unnamed cabinet member pushes back, telling Channel 12 news that they are ”shocked” by the briefing, which does not reflect what the political leadership had been told.
  • Nonetheless, by morning, Qatar is announcing that it is sending over $480 million to help out, and Israel Radio reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will approve the entry of $30 million of Qatari cash to the Strip.

2. Only a matter of time: “Until the next round,” read headlines in Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom, reflecting the feeling of frustration that another violent flareup is a practical certainty.

  • Yedioth’s Alex Fishman says that after each round the army boasts that it has revamped its deterrent effect: “but every weekend, the ‘enhanced’ deterrent is weakened, and every few weeks it dissipates entirely in a round of violence. If this deterrence is so strong now, after the harsh bow dealt to Islamic Jihad, why did we need to reach another understanding with them to stop the fire? And what will be if they send arson balloons into Gaza tomorrow?”
  • Haaretz’s Amos Harel writes, “With the direction things are headed, particularly as the violence escalates from round to round, another clash with Hamas and Islamic Jihad is a matter of time. In the Israeli army, they are already beginning to discuss the prospects of a broad military campaign in Gaza in the coming months as rather reasonable.”

3. For once, music actually does bring peace: Despite the cabinet saying otherwise, the IDF officer who briefed the media confirmed that the political leadership had made strategic decisions with the goal of avoiding conflict during the upcoming Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays and the Eurovision Song Contest.

  • The need to wrap up the fighting quickly prevented the IDF from conducting strikes on Hamas’s longer-range rockets, according to the officer.
  • On Twitter, outgoing deputy minister Michael Oren calls for Israel to “evict Hamas,” but to wait until May 19 to do so.
  • According to several reports, Israel had feared that Islamic Jihad would try to disrupt Eurovision, but now that’s thought to be no longer an issue.
  • “No one in Israel is promising that the latest round brought calm that will last more than a few weeks, but the reigning belief is that the risk of Islamic Jihad firing on Tel Aviv during the Eurovision has dropped, if not disappeared,” Lilach Shoval writes in Israel Hayom.

4. Ramadan worries: On the Gazan side as well, there is speculation that holiday timing brought the fighting to a sudden stop, and similar expectations of another round of fighting.

  • “It may be that what most influenced Hamas to push for a ceasefire was the realization that otherwise Gaza would spend the first days of Ramadan under attack,” ToI’s Avi Issacharoff writes.
  • “Several leading figures in the organization briefed reporters in Gaza to the effect that Hamas had no intention of stopping the fighting until Israel agreed to dramatically change the Gaza reality — such as by opening a safe sea route from Cyprus to the Strip. But these declarations turned out to be empty. … ultimately Hamas realized that there was a limit to what it could achieve, militarily or economically, at this stage. And that the best that could be done was to try to get back to where things stood before the opening of this round of violence,” he adds,
  • Samir Zaqut, the deputy head of Gaza’s Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, tells Haaretz that things are so bad in the Strip that many are not even thinking of Ramadan.
  • “Someone in the world needs to wake up and understand that Gaza is on the brink of collapse in every aspect. It is impossible to speak all the time in terms of giving sedatives and we will wait for the next crisis,” he says.

5. Two sides of the same coin: The New York Times’s David Halberstam takes note of the seeming mirror image between Israel and Gaza during the fighting, saying that despite frustrations over the boom-calm cycles on the street, the leaders see benefit in the status quo of occasional limited outbursts.

  • “With each iteration of the cycle that does not lead to a conflagration, Israel and Hamas are serving one another’s purposes, and getting more and more used to doing business this way.”
  • While neither side wants all-out war, Hamas can use the violence to flex its muscles and seek a better deal with Israel, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want to topple Hamas because what comes instead could be worse.
  • Plus, keeping Hamas in power means that Netanyahu does not have to deal with the possibility of negotiating a two-state solution.
  • Netanyahu is “looking to Hamas as a more credible partner than the PA,” expert Celine Toubol is quoted saying.
  • The US may also have little interest in seeing things change, as ToI’s Jacob Magid notes that Washington has taken a backseat in trying to clamp down on cross-border violence since US President Donald Trump took office.
  • “When the US has been involved in ceasefire talks coordinated with both Cairo and Jerusalem ‘the outcomes have been better and have lasted longer,’ even if they are not permanent,” he writes, quoting former US envoy Dan Shapiro.

6. Hit ’em harder: In Yedioth, though, former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin writes that the era of deals is over anyway.

  • “The strategy of quiet met with quiet, or quiet for money, has met its demise, and keeping ‘Hamas as an address’ is a mistake,” he writes, referring to the idea that a knowable enemy is better to have around. “We need to shift from policies of restoring deterrence, with serious strikes on Hamas’s military wing. With no regard for enemy casualties, plus targeted killings of senior people and surprise operations.”
  • In Israel Hayom as well, Doron Matza says Israel should “go crazy,” and really hit the group hard to send a message.
  • “A painful blow of this sort wouldn’t reflect any pretense that Israel believes in the illusion of reshaping the political order or regime in Gaza; but it will push Hamas, which fears for its survival and rule, toward a significant diplomatic arrangement that could possibly coincide with U.S. President Donald Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ and the economic initiatives it might possibly introduce to the region,” he writes.

7. PIJ library: One thing that did change this time around was Israel’s focus on Islamic Jihad rather than Hamas, which Israel accused of targeting its troops.

  • “The point was made so insistently, and so ham-fistedly, that radio announcers were forced to ask military spokespeople what ‘gep’—the Hebrew pronunciation of PIJ, a military acronym—meant,” Noga Tarnopolsky writes in the Daily Beast.
  • Yedioth’s Yossi Yehoshua reports that “Military Intelligence believes there is momentum for a deal, and that terror groups in the Strip are deterred, but Islamic Jihad could endanger any deal or calm.”
  • Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation of Defense of Democracies tells AFP that he thinks the Islamic Jihad may have set off the tussle at Iran’s behest, as part of the same threat that has sent a US carrier group steaming to the region early.
  • The strikes sought “to tie down Israeli forces and create a crisis to distract the US and Israel from IRGC plans elsewhere,” he says, referring to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.

8. Iron Dome remains the king in the south: Not to be left behind, Hamas boasted Monday that its massive barrages managed to overwhelm the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

  • Not so, says the IDF: “While Hamas and Islamic Jihad indeed attempted to overwhelm Iron Dome by repeatedly firing large fusillades at a specific location, comparatively few rockets actually succeeded in penetrating the system, according to the Israel Defense Forces,” ToI’s Judah Ari Gross reports.
  • Maj. Tom Scott, one of the commanders of an Iron Dome battery in southern Israel, says the missile defense system is capable of intercepting “many different threats,” including “large barrages or short-range rockets or rockets fired at high altitude or at low altitude.”
  • Even more solidly in the realm of fake news is a video going around that claims to show a massive barrage of missiles being shot at Israel … from a large open field, which Gazan terrorists never do.
  • In actuality the video is taken from the war in eastern Ukraine.

  • Among those to share the video is Trump adviser Katrina Pierson, whose tweet has almost 8,000 shares.

9. In memoriam: One doesn’t need fake news to prove that war sucks, as Tuesday’s night’s onset of Memorial Day proves.

  • The holiday, which leads into Independence Day, is among the most somber in Israel, with two national sirens for moments of silence and ceremonies in nearly every city and town for locals killed in war or terrorism.
  • Both the Yedioth and Israel Hayom tabloids devote the lion’s share of their pages to Memorial Day remembrances.
  • “It’s not easy year after year to approach this day, which brings with it a pain that is impossible to describe,” GOC Central Command Ghassan Ala’an writes in Israel Hayom.
  • The Seventh Eye notes meanwhile that in the ultra-Orthodox press, the day gets nary a mention on front pages, save a small item in Hamodia. What they do cover is the Russian plane crash and a cricket invasion, among other hot items.

10. Joined in sadness and hope: One ceremony of the day that has increased in prominence in recent years is a joint memorial service of bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families.

  • On Monday, the High Court struck down the Defense Ministry’s decision to not give permits to Palestinians to enter Israel for the ceremony, chiding those responsible for the decision — mainly Netanyahu — for trying to tell people how to grieve.
  • “The fates of the Jewish and Palestinian peoples are intertwined, whether they want it or not. The happiness and welfare of the one depends on the other, and no statesman or general can erase that,” Haaretz’s lead editorial reads. “Israel will never be genuinely independent until the Palestinians achieve genuine independence. These days are a painful reminder of these facts.”
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