Not agreeing to not agree
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Hebrew media review

Not agreeing to not agree

Some see spiraling tensions in the north and south, while others see compromise, and some spy tensions in Israel's political heartland where others see a cry for reconciliation

Illustrative: An IAF F-16 from the Red Dragon squadron during a drill, November 2013. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Flash90)
Illustrative: An IAF F-16 from the Red Dragon squadron during a drill, November 2013. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Flash90)

As a brouhaha in the US in recent days has made clear, some people can see the winds of war where others see compromise, or a lack thereof. In Israel though, those conflicts are of a much more recent vintage than the American Civil War, with headlines on Thursday morning blaring about either tensions in the northern and southern borders, or actually maybe comprise, at least in the south. And the same dynamic, at least on a very figurative plane, is at play regarding the memorial for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, where some saw a loud and clear declaration of hostilities and other saw a call for compromise.

It’s the former front, or rather fronts, which are the main story in the major newspapers Thursday morning. Israel Hayom’s top headline notes that there is “increased preparedness, with tensions in the north and south.” The north is where there seems to be consensus over pressure building up, though Israeli outlets are forced to rely on foreign reports regarding alleged Israeli strikes in Syria and Syria returning fire.

“The Al-Meyadeen channel, associated with the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, along with other outlets, claimed that the attack took place against a missile silo belonging to Hezbollah, in the Al-Kheisa industrial zone south of Homs, near the Lebanon border,” Yedioth Ahronoth reports, name-dropping like it’s going out of style. “In Lebanon it was further reported that the Syrian Army’s 72nd air defense unit shot an anti-aircraft missile at the Israeli planes which were flying at a low altitude, but did not register a hit. Syrian state television confirmed the attack yesterday.”

As for the goings-on down south, where Israel fears Islamic Jihad will attempt a revenge attack after the IDF blew up a tunnel, there seems to be no such consensus. To Haaretz, “The event that had the biggest strategic impact wasn’t the blowing up of the tunnel,” as the paper puts it in the lede to its top story, but the transfer of Gaza crossings from Hamas hands to the Palestinian Authority, which it says is the first major sign of a compromise agreement between Hamas and Fatah.

To Haaretz’s Zvi Barel, the changeover of the crossings is so significant, it renders Israel’s 10-year blockade on Gaza and its policies regarding the Strip pretty much useless.

“Transferring control of the crossings to the Palestinian government throws Israel through a security and diplomatic loop. Not only that it now finds itself cooperating with the Palestinians’ national reconciliation government, against its stances, but also the fact that the expected opening of the Rafah Crossing will make the blockade on Gaza irrelevant,” Barel writes. “The excuse, in Israel’s eyes, is that the crossings are in the hands of the Palestinian national police and thus kosher. But in reality, they are working it total cooperation with Hamas.”

In Israel Hayom, though, it’s not the blockade that is now meaningless, but the so-called reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, with Hamas unlikely to give in to the outstanding demand that it disarm.

“This is a costume. Hamas is not interested in real reconciliation, not with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas and certainly not with Israel,” columnist Oded Granot writes. “It ‘gave’ up control of the crossings, among other things, in order to get the money frozen by the PA and to give Egypt an achievement of having opened the Rafah Crossings.”

In Yedioth Ahronoth as well, the crossings opening is not quite as significant as the tunnels, with the paper running a story on Israel’s plans for a “guillotine” for the underground passageways that cross under the border, with the help of a brain-trust made up of scientists, officers and others working to help the army solve the tunnel problem.

“We are building our underground wall solution and once we finish the project there will be a guillotine that will chop off all the existing tunnels, if there are any, and block any tunnel that might be dug. On the other side they are starting to grasp what we are doing and understand there it’s a problem, that their tunnels have no future. We will create a completely different balance of threats in the underground world,” the head of the unit tells the paper, sounding like a character out of “Stranger Things.” “The challenge is at the deeper depths, not the shallower. We are on our way to flanking the enemy. What happened this week is not a coincidence.”

Another place where consensus and compromise are hard to find is with the other top story, Yuval Rabin seemingly letting loose against prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a memorial service, saying the incitement that led to his father’s death is still alive and that his father was not a crybaby who ran from taking responsibility.

Haaretz’s front page picture of Netanyahu speaking in front of a looming picture of Yitzhak Rabin, on top of Yuval Rabin’s words, makes it plain to readers who he was talking about, even if his sharpest words did not address Netanyahu directly.

Yedioth Ahronoth quotes heavily from Rabin’s speech, calling it a “harsh attack on Netanyahu.”

“Yitzhak Rabin did not work against the democratic rights of those who opposed him, or tried to silence those who opposed him. He never fled from responsibility and never whined. Those who opposed him most strongly always found his door open when they came to him,” the paper quotes him saying. “Even when he was exposed to waves of the most terrible incitement he was the prime minister for everyone. That is not how things are today.”

The papers also include, lower down, Netanyahu’s response later in the day calling for them to come together rather than fight, which is the focus taken by Israel Hayom — seen as in the prime minister’s camp.

The tabloid as well plays up a column by former IDF chief Benny Gantz as part of an effort by former top generals to turn the annual Rabin Square memorial rally into one where all are welcome and it’s not politicized against the right-wing, as the event has become.

“One cannot talk about statesmanship and unity or in their names and at the same time act differently,” Gantz writes. “We need to take the slogan ‘the other is me’ out of the schools and raise them, practically, to the level of the country’s leadership. It’s important that we understand, politically, practically and ethically, that the other is me!”

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