Hebrew media review

Terror in a teapot or cause for concern?

A rocket attack transports southern Israelis back to last summer’s horrors, though it was more likely the result of an internal terrorist kerfuffle than an actual escalation

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Palestinian Islamic Jihad supporters celebrate what they said was a victory over Israel, in Gaza City on August 29, 2014. (Photo credit: Emad Nassar/Flash90)
Palestinian Islamic Jihad supporters celebrate what they said was a victory over Israel, in Gaza City on August 29, 2014. (Photo credit: Emad Nassar/Flash90)

Hebrew-language papers are united Wednesday morning in recognizing Tuesday evening’s rocket fire out of Gaza as a pretty big deal. Whether the attack represents a serious breaking of the shaky 9-month calm with Gaza, or simply an internal terrorist kerfuffle (henceforth: terrorfuffle), is a point of contention, though.

Yedioth and Israel Hayom both play up the fact that the rocket fire broke the south’s so-far calm spring.

“Once again not quiet,” reads the headline in Yedioth, though it somewhat undercuts itself with a graphic listing all the times the ceasefire with Gaza-based militants has been broken, including just three weeks ago when a rocket was shot at Israel but failed to make it out of the Strip.

What sets this attack apart from the others, though, is the type of rocket used – a Grad missile, which can reach deeper inside Israel, and did this time, flying as far as the town of Gan Yavneh, outside Ashdod, some 40 kilometers from Gaza.

Eyewitness accounts recounted in all three papers bear echoes of the traumas of last summer and the hopes that the rocket was in fact just an isolated event, and not part of an emerging trend that will lead the country back into war.

“It caught everybody completely off guard,” Yossi Levy, who was shopping in Ashdod when the siren went off, tells Israel Hayom. “As if we forgot what happened here last summer. For a few seconds people froze in place, but quickly realized that this was a siren and ran for the parking lot, which is a bomb shelter. It was enough to look at the faces of kids and other people to understand that everyone returned to the same fears [from last summer.] I hope there isn’t an escalation—but if so, that there will be a serious response.”

According to assessments in the press, Levy doesn’t have to worry about any escalation, at least for now. Haaretz plays up the fact that the rocket was apparently fired as part of an internal Islamic Jihad dispute, according to military estimates.

The paper’s Amos Harel correctly predicts that Israel will issue a symbolic response ( which they did), noting, as Israeli pundits love to do, that both Israel and Hamas are currently uninterested in war, though that can change.

“Hamas, which is apparently no less concerned than Israel by the uncontrolled rocket launch from Gaza, will continue digging tunnels, testing missiles and training its fighters for the next war,” he writes. “But two assumptions that have been in force since the last war ended remain valid. First, neither side wants another war right now. But second, that fact was also true last summer – and a series of miscalculations, actions and reactions led to war anyway.”

The south may or may not be heating up, but it’s hard to dispute that the weather is. With temperatures Wednesday skyrocketing above 100 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) across the country, papers report that the heat could send the mercury into record-breaking territory.

Israel Hayom notes that the highest of the highs will be felt at Ein Gedi, in the Judean wilderness next to the Dead Sea, where the thermometer is expected to kiss 113 F (45 C).

Haaretz reports that while that’s hot, the Jordan Valley has seen temperatures reach 129 F (54 C), a record set in 1942. On the coastline, where temperatures above 100 F are rarer, the forecast of 105 to 109 F (41-43 C) could mean some areas break the heat record of 111-113 (44-45) for that area.

Begin to say goodbye?

Everyone in the country will be sweating Wednesday, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be sweating a bit extra, as he continues to scramble to get his cabinet set. Yedioth reports that aside from angering Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat by ceding the Jerusalem affairs portfolio to Zeev Elkin (as compensation for losing the strategic affairs portfolio to Gilad Erdan), Netanyahu still has to find a way to massage away Benny Begin, whose minister without portfolio function was sacrificed to the coalition gods to make room for Erdan.

The paper reports that Begin is refusing to quit, as Netanyahu needs him to, but coalition partners are unwilling to let the prime minister add another Likud member to the cabinet to let Begin stay, in what it calls Netanyahu’s “newest headache.”

“Netanyahu for his part, isn’t interested in firing Begin, and therefore is continuing to work to expand the cabinet,” the paper reports. “Another solution that’s been floated is for the prime minister to appoint one of his ministers as UN ambassador – and the name connected to this is that of minister in the Communications Ministry Ofir Akunis – and thus Begin will be able to stay in the government without it expanding.”

In Israel Hayom, Dan Margalit holds forth on why Netanyahu would be so hot and heavy to keep Begin in the government, and it’s not just because he has the same last name as the man who made Likud what it is ( though that plays a part).

“Begin is a quality addition to any government. He is the ‘power of quality’ as Gad Yaakobi wrote in his book on the subject. Begin is the proof,” he writes. “To this is added the glory of the house built by his father Menachem Begin on the subject of the rule of law and the status of the Supreme Court, and the manifesto written in 1951, and him as a beacon of justice. Thus it’s important that he be in the government, whether via coalition partners agreeing to add him or through party arithmetic, by which Netanyahu will ask one of the youngsters to make room for him. Because Begin is still the name of the firm, even if it’s somewhat eroded over the years.”

Begin’s name is also on the freeway running through Jerusalem, though don’t expect many Palestinians to ever get to ride on its smooth asphalt. On Haaretz’s op-ed page, Zvi Bar’el wonders why critics went to town on the (quickly rescinded) decision last week to try out separate buses for Palestinians and Israeli settlers, while the larger problem of restrictions on movement for Palestinians has not been solved.

“So what was all the fuss about? After all, brutal discrimination is the daily lot not just of the thousands of Palestinian laborers, but of the nearly five million Palestinians who have been living under occupation for 48 years already,” he writes. “Roadblocks regularly separate settlers from Palestinians, the occupation laws are enforced differently with regard to the two population groups; for decades, policies related to building permits, land appropriation and house demolitions have been sketching crude lines of segregation.”

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