Israel media review

Same flareup, different day: 9 things to know for August 9

After another explosion of tensions along the Gaza border, people are getting fed up with the Groundhog Day-esque situation, but don’t really see war in the offing

The site where a projectile from the Gaza Strip hit a house in the Eshkol region of southern Israel, injuring two people, on August 9, 2018. (Eshkol Security)
The site where a projectile from the Gaza Strip hit a house in the Eshkol region of southern Israel, injuring two people, on August 9, 2018. (Eshkol Security)

1. Get ready, or not: An army official’s warning that a war with Gaza is a very real possibility and southerners should get ready to evacuate the Gaza border region may have been meant as a scare tactic in the hopes that Hamas will realize how sideways things are about to turn, but that doesn’t mean it’s not also true.

  • The warning/PSA came after a night that saw some of the heaviest rocket fire on Israel since 2014, but rather than slow things down, it seems to have had the opposite effect, with missile launches continuing, and reaching further into Israel. Only in the early afternoon did the first signs of calm appear, with Hamas saying it will halt rocket fire.
  • While Israel’s main news channels decided Wednesday night to continue broadcasting regular content (at one point a report from a house in Sderot that had been damaged by rocket fire was cut short so the program could return to a segment on tomatoes), by Thursday morning there seems to be a recognition that this barrage may not be just another flareup.
  • News out of the Gaza border region dominates the media landscape, with most news sites, radio stations and TV news programs discussing little else than the swiftly rising rocket and IDF strike tally, along with the number of casualties.

2. Unnerving videos: A video shot in Sderot, showing kids huddled against a wall as a rocket strikes nearby, quickly made the rounds Wednesday evening, shared by Israel’s army, ministries, news outlets and pro-Israel advocates.

The video was also shared by at least one account in Gaza as proof that Hamas should not be messed with and will hit back if attacked.

  • Of course, while Israeli news was playing up pictures of scorched doors, broken windows and shrapnel pocked walls, Gaza had its own videos and pictures to share showing damage from the much more powerful Israeli strikes, which killed at least three people, including a pregnant woman and her infant daughter, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

3. Groundhog Day: If this all seems oddly familiar, it’s because this is not Israel and Hamas’s first rodeo, with a number of similar flareups in the last two months, each one ending in another ceasefire that only seems to last as long as it takes everyone to have a breather.

  • Israelis and Gazans are getting frustrated with the seeming endless, predictable and deadly cycle of violence-ceasefire-violence-ceasefire.
  • “This situation of yes-and-no truce, yes-and-no escalation, yes-and-no fire, and a response to the fire and over and over again is becoming unbearable,” a Sderot resident tells Israel Hayom.
  • Haaretz’s Amos Harel compares the situation to the movie “Groundhog Day,” but says Israel may be looking for a way out. “The exchange of fire continues, it’s possible there will be a display of power — this time from our side — a few days of concentrated attacks, which will show Hamas the level of damage Israel can inflict if it insists on continuing.”

4. War shmar: Few, though, think war is actually in the offing.

  • “War isn’t a real option at this stage, and serious concessions on Gaza are not possible for this government without solving the problem of the Israeli captives in Gaza and the Palestinian prisoners in Israel. There are no good options. One is worse than the next,” writes Avi Issacharoff in ToI.
  • Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor says Hamas doesn’t want war and Israel doesn’t know what it wants: Ministers who met this week are mostly leaning toward a calm, despite the fact that the way there is long and complicated, and doesn’t offer much more than quiet. The question is when and how they will get there — before a war, in order to stop one, or after.
  • Channel 10 analyst Zvi Yehezkeli writes that Hamas has much to gain by stirring things up, even if its goal is a ceasefire: “Hamas knows that even if there is an escalation of violence for a few hours, it will get to a hudna from a stronger position. The world will scream that Israel needs to stop attacking Gaza and international aid will be organized. At the end of the day, it can achieve more with a ceasefire that comes after an escalation and not before it, since world opinion will be on its side.

5. This will fix everything: Israel has never had an easy time winning over the world, and now is no different, despite intensive efforts at pro-Israel advocacy and trying to shut the haters down.

  • On Thursday, the Foreign Ministry lodged a formal complaint with the BBC, demanding it change a headline that said Israel killed a pregnant woman and her child in Gaza, but omitting the Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli civilians that preceded Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes.
  • Even after BBC changed the headline, though, Israel still complained, because the rockets were mentioned second.
  • ToI’s Raphael Ahren notes that Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon did not reply to reporters’ questions asking whether he was disputing the BBC article’s facts or merely the omission of the rocket fire from Gaza on Israel, which triggered Israel’s strikes on the coastal enclave.

6. Get off YouTube: Looking at why Israel is losing the PR battle, former Foreign Ministry head Yigal Palmor blames the focus on social media rather than traditional media, telling the LA Times that it’s so bad it’s “unforgivable.”

  • But David Keyes, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who made a name for himself doing silly prank videos, says the results from YouTube videos and the like “are incredible and inspiring.”
  • But it may be an unwinnable battle: “Even if Israel had 1,000 beautiful, Oxford-educated spokespeople who were prompt and professional at all times, it wouldn’t make much difference,” former ToI correspondent and frequent press critic Matti Friedman tells the paper.

7. Told ya so: Pundits and others have been warning for months that with tensions so high on the Gaza and Syria borders, all it will take is a little mistake to set off a war, and now that it may have happened, they are saying ‘told you so.’

  • The current round of hostilities kicked off Tuesday, when Israel shelled a Hamas post and killed two snipers who were taking part in an exercise, mistakenly thinking they were shooting at Israel. The army admitted the mistake, but Hamas vowed revenge.
  • “This is how wars start,” writes Yedioth’s Alex Fishman, noting that not only did the shelling kill two people, but it happened while international guests were watching the drill, bringing shame upon Hamas.
  • “If only the IDF had known about the Hamas exercise, it seems we would not be seeing this heavy fusillade of rocket fire,” writes Yossi Yehoshua in the same paper.

8. Better days: Israel’s National library tweets out a picture of Gaza in calmer times, sometime between 1956 and 1967.

  • Cynics might point out that it may have been calmer because there was no Israeli blockade on the Strip at that time, as it was occupied by Egypt.

9. Snorting at Israel ties: On a completely different subject, Colombia announced Wednesday that it was recognizing Palestine.

  • The decision was made by outgoing president Juan Manuel Santos days before he left office, and a day after Netanyahu canceled a planned trip to Colombia because of Gaza tensions.
  • New President Ivan Duque says his government is studying the move, but it is legal, despite his drive to improve relations with Israel, including possibly moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Israel’s good relations with Colombia apparently include good access to prostitutes and blow. On August 5, Colombia arrested an Israeli kingpin running the Hotel Benjamin in Cartagena, where Israelis would go to get all manner of drugs and other illicit things.
  • Israel’s Hadashot news managed to sneak a camera into the hotel before it was shut down, capturing Israelis doing coke openly. According to the report, only Israeli men were at the casa, with all the women being poor locals trying to make a few shekels.
  • The program also shows the Israelis singing Shabbat songs and sitting down to a traditional Friday night meal, with plenty of challah, gefilte fish and cocaine for everyone.
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