Israel media review

The Gaza raid and other things that went awry: 8 things to know for November 12

By keeping information under a heavy fog, some say the IDF let Hamas and the social media rumor mill control the story, only later waking up to play catch-up

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

A member of Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades stands next to the remains of a car that was destroyed following an Israeli airstrike, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
A member of Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades stands next to the remains of a car that was destroyed following an Israeli airstrike, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

1. After the fire: Exactly 100 years after the guns fell silent following years of a war sparked by a series of missteps, Israel nearly found itself in a war it doesn’t want, after a secretive operation that went wrong in the heart of Gaza led to a massive firefight, several deaths and more questions.

  • Details are still coming to light Monday morning about what exactly happened in Gaza the night before, with the name of the special forces soldier killed in the raid also under wraps.
  • “One day the full story of his heroics will come to light,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Monday morning., but in the meantime, check out great reporting from Judah Ari Gross and the rest of the ToI news team for the latest updates.

2. Letting the rumor-mill win: They say that news is the first draft of history, but these days the actual first draft is written by tweeted rumors and whoever gets out “official” information first.

  • On Sunday night, that was not the IDF; hence Hamas and Gazans were able to shape the narrative, describing the raid, naming Hamas commander Nour Barakeh as the supposed target of an Israeli assassination plot, and publishing a (apparently fake) photo of a car filled with IDF gear it says was driven by the Israeli commandos.
  • Only on Monday morning did the IDF start attempting to set the record straight with its version of events, after simply playing defense all through Sunday night — reacting to rumors of a kidnapped soldier, remaining mum on injuries and deaths (even as pictures of soldiers being unloaded from helicopters at a Beersheba hospital started to float around) and simply calling the photo of the car (which it had blown up as part of the rescue effort) “fake.”
  • The IDF’s inability to keep the story under control raises some questions about the military propaganda arm’s tactics, as well as the censorship of details.
  • “For almost half a day, the Israeli media ran with the Hamas version of events. And isn’t to blame for that… It’s unacceptable that only this morning are they bothering to counter the Gazan narrative that the operation was an assassination/kidnapping attempt. In 2018, they don’t have the luxury of waiting 10 hours before countering the claims being spread by the other side, and here as well,” Israel Radio’s Gal Berger writes on Twitter.
  • Meanwhile, what little is known of the “heavily censored heroics” (in the words of Walla News) of the killed Israeli soldier are feted by officials as the media grasps whatever info it can.

3. Operating in the shadows: Attempting to answer the question of why Israel would launch such an operation now, several pundits note that raids like this are not that uncommon, though the result of this one was.

  • Former IDF commander Tal Russo, making the rare round of the Hebrew media Monday morning, notes that operations like this take place all the time, for intelligence gathering, though not for assassinations (which usually come in the form of hellfire from the sky).
  • “There are operations, including kidnappings, that stay below the media’s radar as a result of mutual interests of both parties,” Yedioth’s Elior Levy writes.
  • “In recent years Israel has been using the chaos in the Arab world to conduct many such operations across the border. Most of these are not blown and therefore do not reach the public,” pens Haaretz’s Amos Harel.
  • “Pretty much every night, the most elite special forces of the IDF, Sayeret Matkal, Shayetet 13 and others infiltrate deep into enemy territory, do what they do and return, usually the same night. Secrecy is the name of the game,” columnist Shai Levy writes on the website of Hadashot news, in a piece headlined “Fauda is here.”

4. Cash for quiet: Avi Issacharoff, creator of the actual “Fauda” TV show, writes in ToI that despite the flareup, the overall trend toward calm should still be in play, especially with tens of millions of Qatari dollars headed Hamas’s way.

  • “Typically, these kinds of casualties would have caused severe retaliation from Hamas, but someone in the organization apparently decided against it,” he writes. “The ultimate goal of quiet and improvements to Gaza’s flagging economy beat out calls for vengeance and other inflammatory statements by the Hamas leadership.”
  • In Yedioth Ahronoth, though, columnist Alex Fishman contends that the fighting is proof that all the dollars in all the suitcases won’t buy real calm: “Neither side wants war, and neither side can recognize the other, and so this is the result: A temporary deal, on condition of quiet for money and humanitarian aid. But from the reports out of Gaza, it seems this deal also exploded.”

5. Forget Paris: The firefight came while Netanyahu was still in Paris, where he gave a rare press conference defending the cash transfers and saying there is no way to reach a settlement with Gaza.

  • The most memorable part of the press conference, though, was Netanyahu’s exchange with Channel 10 reporter Barak Ravid, in which the prime minister threatened “to do an Acosta,” referring to US President Donald Trump’s sparring with a CNN reporter.
  • As ToI’s Raphael Ahren notes, the exchange and whole press conference was redolent of Netanyahu’s attempts to use his diplomatic achievements (being seated alongside Trump, Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron and others) to cover domestic woes, with reporters refusing to let Gaza and the submarine affair go.
  • “From the look of it, Israel punched way above its weight during Sunday’s memorial events,” he writes. “But when Netanyahu called a rare press conference, nobody seemed much concerned with Jewish fighters during World War I or Israel’s place in the world.”
  • Some also question the tastefulness of a video of highlights of Netanyahu shaking hands with world leaders at a commemoration for the end of the bloodiest war in history, set to a techno beat.

6. Jerusalem betrayed: At the press conference, Netanyahu also refused to reveal whom he would vote for in Tuesday’s runoff election for Jerusalem mayor.

  • If Israel Hayom, which often acts as his mouthpiece, is any indication, the prime minister will be casting a ballot for secularist Ofer Berkovitch, seen as a dark horse against Haredi-backed Moshe Lion.
  • “Jewish Home’s support for Moshe Lion is treason against Jerusalem,” the paper’s Amnon Lord writes, fuming at the right-wing party and adding that Lion has “no support in the street, he is just a puppet being pulled by the ultra-Orthodox factions.”

7. Topsy-turvy: Media watchdog The Seventh Eye points out that Haaretz, Yedioth and Maariv all print nice pictures of Sara Netanyahu with other wives of world leaders in Paris, while pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom leaves her out.

  • Referring to a suspected quid pro quo in which the prime minister would have helped torpedo Israel Hayom for better coverage in Yedioth, the Seventh Eye jokes that it is “Case 0002.”

8. Hearing from the hate-monger: Right wing Channel 20, also a strident Netanyahu backer, is under fire after broadcasting a chatty lighthearted interview with Yitzhak Gabai, a right-wing extremist recently let out of jail after setting fire to a Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem.

  • Gabai told the station the hate crime was worth the jail time, though Haaretz’s Josh Breiner notes that when he appeared before a parole board, he told them the act was a “stupid mistake” and he’d learned from it.
  • After a loud outcry by the media and others, including Channel 20 host Erel Segal, who called the interview “disgraceful,” Channel 20 puts out a statement saying “The interview strayed from all accepted norms and we completely disapprove of the crime committed and the manner in which the interview was conducted.”
  • Host Boaz Golan also apologizes, writing on his Facebook page, “The aim of the interview was to give him an opportunity to repent his actions. To my regret, Gabai made it clear that he is not sorry for that incident.”

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