1. Teenage wasteland: Israelis are still trying to figure out what is going on in Gaza after a series of infiltration attempts.
- Hamas on Sunday attempted to distance itself from the latest attempt, as it has from previous ones, blaming it on “rebellious youth.”
- Far from trying to push Israel by using the youths and playing dumb, Hamas officials are apparently actually worried that the attempts will lead to war, according to a report in Arabic daily Al-Araby al-Jadeed.
- Al-Jazeera notes that Gaza officials are blaming the attempts on widespread anger in the Strip over the humanitarian conditions there and a lack of hope for Palestinians.
- “There is anger among the Palestinian youth over the Israeli aggression and crimes, including the crimes in dealing with Palestinian prisoners, arrest and attacks on West Bankers, and the siege on Gaza,” Islamic Jihad spokesman Dawood Shihab is quoted telling the outlet.
- In Haaretz, Amos Harel calls the would-be infiltrators the Gaza equivalent of East Jerusalem and West Bank Palestinians who have carried out a rash of “lone wolf” attacks in recent years.
- “The difference is that in the Gaza Strip, most of these young men have firearms, not knives. Their attacks apparently reflect frustration over Hamas for distancing itself from violent confrontations with Israel, along with criticism over the scant accomplishments that agreement to keep things quiet has provided to Gaza residents,” he notes.
2. Say no to war: Harel also notes that among Israeli intel experts there is “nearly wall-to-wall disagreement” with the theory that Hamas is actually behind the attacks and just trying to avoid responsibility.
- Speaking to al-Monitor recently, though, Hamas leader Yahya Moussa said the group was not taking responsibility because it was wary of poking Israel.
- “The fact that the resistance factions did not recognize these operations is an exception linked to the [sensitive] phase we are undergoing amid serious efforts to uphold the truce agreement.”
- It perhaps need not worry as Israeli defense officials and politicians seem wary of pursuing an offensive in Gaza, especially with elections coming up. In Israel Hayom, seen as a mouthpiece for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, columnist Amnon Lord says there’s no need to go after Gaza.
- “With the Palestinian national movement splintered between the Hamas-controlled Strip and the Fatah-ruled West Bank, a reliable Palestinian leadership with which to pursue the two-state solution no longer exists,” he writes, crediting Netanyahu for the “achievement.” “It would be a shame to waste this achievement when the IDF is so successful in its defensive operations,” he adds.
- In Yedioth Ahronoth, Yossi Yehoshua accuses the army and politicians of “protecting Hamas” to avoid going to war.
- Channel 13’s Zvi Yehezkeli notes that even if Hamas isn’t directly behind the attacks, it is still in favor of keeping pressure on Israel: “They want to keep the flame at a certain height,” he writes, noting Hamas’s recent push for attacks in the West Bank.”
3. Border damage: While youths in Gaza are angry, some in Israel are being scarred by constant tensions and waves of violence.
- Army Radio reports that 380 southern residents have been recognized as disabled with mental health issues due to enemy activities since 2017.
- One resident of a kibbutz near the border tells the station that during a recent vacation in Thailand, her son refused to enter the hotel until a manager found a room that could also be used as a shelter.
- Walla News reports that the Finance Ministry, Histadrut labor union and Manufacturer’s Association recently forged an agreement to reimburse southern residents for days of work missed because of fighting in the south.
4. Turning a mole into a mountain: The political arena is being roiled by a scandal inside Blue and White after it emerged that party head Benny Gantz had hired a private security firm to track down who within the party was leaking to the media.
- The story is seen as yet another sign of internal splits within the party, which is an amalgamation of several disparate political parts, especially given reports that Gantz did not let his senior partners know.
- Yedioth, which first broke the story about the security firm, reports that Yesh Atid, one of the factions within Blue and White, is stridently denying reports that the mole is within its ranks, though the paper strangely does not actually include the original accusation.
- “Yesh Atid people are barely in the Blue and White campaign headquarters.This is a dumb story. The bigger story is that none of Gantz’s people put out a denial of this ridiculous claim. Someone has an interest in putting out a certain story to cover up another one,” the source is quoted saying.
- Moshe Ya’alon, one of the Blue and White leaders seemingly kept in the dark, appears to confirm it to Army Radio, but denies any split. “I found out when I found out. This is not about a mole or rat. It’s a legitimate security operation.”
- Speaking to Israel Radio, Yesh Atid lawmaker Ofer Shelah denies any split, but also says the probe was unnecessary: “If you want to know that nobody in Yesh Atid is working against the Blue and White campaign or against unity, you only need to look at Yesh Atid’s record — we’ve been around for seven years. The unity of action among us is known throughout Israeli politics,” he says unconvincingly.
5. Split decision: ToI’s sister publication Zman Yisrael, however, reports that internal tensions got so bad that Yesh Atid members planned to break off from Blue and White and join Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu.
- “The divides were deeper and more serious than apparent to outside observers, according to the Yesh Atid sources, with suspicions running deep despite the Blue and White leaders’ brotherly embraces in public, joint statements on the border with the Gaza Strip, and shared meals at one another’s homes,” Shalom Yerushalmi notes.
- According to polls commissioned by party officials, a Yesh Atid-Yisrael Beytenu joint list would pick up 26-27 seats in the elections, more than the two would receive separately, but while Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid initially entertained the idea, he eventually torpedoed it.
- “I signed an agreement with Benny Gantz and Bogie Ya’alon and I can’t violate it. This will also look really bad in the eyes of the public,” a source quotes Lapid saying.
- Unsurprisingly, Likud mouthpiece Israel Hayom plays up the reports of internal tensions within Blue and White, running the story across its front page under the headline “Blue White Gray.”
- “The bitter truth is that Benny Gantz does not believe a word that comes out of the mouth of Yair Lapid, the man who is supposed to rotate the premiership with him,” writes columnist Mati Tuchfeld.
- As for Lapid, Tuchfeld writes that “he is fighting with all his might over the identity of Yesh Atid, the party he started and is now stuck in the mud of unending fights, leaks, private investigations, polygraphs and number one, a former IDF chief who after each interview needs to explain what it is he said.”
6. Princess and the pilot: Netanyahu himself is in Kyiv, where apparently he is getting caught in the morass of Ukraine’s fight with Russia, something he could not want less given Russia’s regional importance.
- While Netanyahu did not say anything about Crimea or Donbass publicly, both president Valdimir Zelensky and his spokesperson thank him for his “strong position.”
“I am pleased to meet personally and to welcome @IsraeliPM in #Ukraine. Grateful to our partners for the continued support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and fir the strong position towards the conflict in the Donbas of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea,” @ZelenskyyUa
— Iuliia Mendel (@IuliiaMendel) August 19, 2019
- But getting caught in the Ukrainian swamp still beats getting caught between his wife and the media, who are having another field day.
- The media jumps all over the story that during the flight Sara Netanyahu had to be pulled back by security after trying to enter the cockpit to tell off the pilot for failing to thank her.
- “When they landed, Sara Netanyahu demanded the pilot clap for her,” Shay Reshef jokes on Twitter, referring to the Israeli tradition of passengers cheering upon landing a plane.
- A number of journalists, who were seated in the back of the plane and far from the prime minister and his wife, say they did not see the incident, which allows right-wing Channel 20 to accuse those who did report on the incident of “spilling Sara’s blood over gossip.”
7. Bread and circus: While that may be up in the air, nobody can deny that upon landing Mrs. Netanyahu was seen on camera refusing bread given her as part of a traditional ceremony.
- “She refused to taste the roll and threw it on the ground in front of the cameras and her guests,” Channel 12 news reports.
בנאדם יורד מהמטוס וממתינה לו חלה אוקראינית pic.twitter.com/ynbdUnoziE
— יאיר שרקי (@yaircherki) August 18, 2019
- A reporter for Ynet writes that Ukrainians are not taking the insult lightly and news sites in the country are filled with “angry comments” from locals.