If there’s anything the Israeli media gets excited about, it’s a storm, or at least the threat of one. That goes for political brouhahas, the foreboding clouds of war menacing overhead or actual storms of rain, thunder and wind lashing this dried out strip of land. On Friday, all three overshadow the news media landscape, dumping buckets of ink and thunderous hyperbole.
The tabloids Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth, which are basically just cable news in print form, excitedly preview the actual thunderstorm that began to hit Israel overnight. What would be regarded as barely a story in many other, wetter places is major news in Israel, which has been thirsting for rain for much of the season and only gets a few major storms a year.
Both papers feature pictures of people holding umbrellas, windsurfers flying over stormy seas and tales of people getting ready ahead of the coming storm.
“The Education Ministry has announced that recess will take place indoors,” Israel Hayom reports shockingly high up in its story, just one sign of many of the pitfalls of covering what amounts to a mostly non-news event.
Another sign is a dateline on a Yedioth Ahronoth story, which is literally “In line at a supermarket.”
“Yesterday was a big day for the food chains,” Eitan Glickman writes with all the elan of a story about clocks moving forward or backward. “Between the coming weekend and the coming storm, the masses showed up at the supermarkets, preferring to wait in line rather than be stuck in the rain with the trunk open and oodles of bags in their hands.”
In the same paper, forecaster Danny Roup says yeah, maybe this is a bit overblown (pun mine, and very intended), but it’s better than not taking the weather seriously.
“This is our first winter system and could bring a large amount of rain and we need to be careful about damage,” he writes. “Bottom line: It doesn’t matter what happens today, because of the amount of buzz around the storm, even if it whacks us hard and causes damage, tomorrow everyone will say ‘that’s it?’”
The paper’s front page notes that the storm will be hitting its peak on Friday and the same word “peak” is used in Haaretz’s top headline, which reports that “Rocket fire and IDF strikes against tunnels have brought tensions with Gaza to their peak.”
“The fact that there have been no casualties from the 45 rockets and shells launched from the Strip, half of which fell inside Israel, is the main reason that the country’s leaders can refrain from taking harsher retaliatory measures. However, with respect to Gaza, Israel is operating on borrowed time. Heads of local councils along the border and in the Negev are patient, as long as there are no casualties and the cycle of sirens and people running to shelters is not exacting a psychological toll on the residents,” columnist Amos Harel writes. “What seems like a routine journalistic chronicle from Tel Aviv may again make life intolerable in places like Sderot and Kibbutz Nirim.”
In a strikingly similar column (usually a sign that talking points are coming from above), Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor writes that Israel will soon need to decide if its current methods of deterrence are working, or whether to change course, with the obvious risk that it could lead to war.
“They will need to decide whether to continue giving it to Hamas on the head so that they then give it to the other groups on the head, or start acting against Islamic Jihad directly,” he writes. “It’s a complicated decision, since it could lead to an escalation in tension — which is absolutely against Israel’s interests.”
The coordinated analyses are likely an attempt to signal to the Islamists in Gaza that Israel is considering going after them directly, though Yedioth’s Alex Fishman notes that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman did the same himself when he appeared on the COGAT’s Arabic mouthpiece and declared that Israel knows exactly who is behind the fire.
“Those in the know emphasized that this was a direct and personal warning to those jihadists shooting rockets,” he writes.
Liberman and his threats of doom and destruction also feature prominently in Haaretz’s weekly politics roundup from Yossi Verter, accompanied by some gallows humor thanks to the minister’s bid to get the coalition to back a bill extending capital punishment to terrorists, which he says is even worse than Shas leader Aryeh Deri’s bid to shutter mini-markets on Shabbat, though both are representative of the charade he says the Knesset has become.
— Amos Biderman (@AmosBiderman) January 5, 2018
“The folly that goes by the name of the death-penalty-for-terrorists bill is Lieberman’s equivalent of Dery’s supermarkets bill — but with a dramatic difference — similar to the difference between being denied coffee and a croissant on Shabbat, and turning Israel into a country where executions take place. Charlatanism bowed its head in shame at what happened this week in the Knesset,” he writes.
The paper’s lead editorial also excoriates the death penalty legislation as “superfluous and dangerous.”
“The death penalty is nothing but cold-blooded murder carried out by civilian society, and is therefore morally invalid,” the editorial reads. “The gallows will not win the war on terror, but only increase the damage to Israel’s moral strength.”
The top story in Yedioth Ahronoth also deals with life and death matters. In this case, former Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen, says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s children, both in their 20s, have security details protecting them which is against the recommendations of the security agency, sparking a fight between Cohen and Netanyahu’s office over who decides on what.
Adding a bit of mud to the scrum, the paper brings another former Shin Bet guy — Oded Raz, who was deputy head of the agency’s security division — who accuses the Netanyahus of having an obsession over bodyguards.
“These are the first kids in Israel to have set bodyguards,” he tells the paper. “I have a feeling that the decision to give it to them was not made professionally.”