Hebrew media review

Threat of new Gaza war looms large

White-collar crime and flu vaccines make the front pages, but the prospect of renewed conflict with Hamas pervades

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Palestinian militants burn the British, US and Israeli flags during a demonstration to mark the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on November 2, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/SAID KHATIB)
Palestinian militants burn the British, US and Israeli flags during a demonstration to mark the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on November 2, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/SAID KHATIB)

An interlude in Palestinian violence gives the Hebrew press pause to inspect domestic matters on Wednesday, and this time the hot-button issues are vaccinations and white-collar crime by real estate bigwigs. But with the approach of summer, what looms large is the menace of renewed conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“Hearing the coming war” is how Yedioth Ahronoth describes the situation for residents on the border with the Gaza Strip. The paper received an audio recording taken by Israelis living opposite a Hamas training facility in the north of the Palestinian enclave in which military drills are clearly audible.

“For a quarter hour we heard strong thuds and explosions, after which came complete silence — and then calls in Arabic, which sounded like fighters’ battle cries,” a resident tells the paper. “It was very scary, and it’s clear that it was part of their intensive training.”

Have no fear, though. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on the case, and will be meeting with leaders of the communities adjacent to the Strip to discuss Israel’s strategy for a future conflict, the paper says. Moreover, Yedioth Ahronoth assuages readers’ worries, “the assessment in Israel is that Hamas isn’t interested in another round of violence in the foreseeable future.”

Israel Hayom channels a similar message, reporting on the IDF intelligence chief’s statement to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that “Hamas isn’t interested in conflict right now.”

Despite the paper’s headline, however, Maj. Gen. Hertzi Halevi warned — like The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff earlier this week — in the closed-door meeting that the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza could lead to renewed conflict.

Israeli Military Intelligence chief Herzi Halevi in Jerusalem on November 2, 2015 (Flash90)
Israeli Military Intelligence chief Herzi Halevi in Jerusalem on November 2, 2015 (Flash90)

Senior Israeli political and military officials are working to forestall a future outbreak of violence by improving the catastrophic economic situation in the Strip, Haaretz reports.

Among the strategies being considered are several options for opening a commercial port for the coastal enclave. While senior IDF officials and some ministers support such a proposal — so long as it ensures long-term quiet with Hamas and imported goods can be properly inspected — Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon oppose it, the paper says.

“While in the army there’s growing support for the idea, although it’s not clear which is the preferred option, Ya’alon fervently opposes any solution that takes security inspection of goods entering the Gaza Strip out of Israeli hands,” the paper reports.

But summer wars are still far away, and the top priority for Yedioth Ahronoth and the Health Ministry is vaccinating children against the wintertime flu. The paper reports that nine out of 10 Israeli children are currently unvaccinated, 200,000 people have come down with the illness this season, and 30 have died. In response, the Health Ministry will start vaccinating 850,000 schoolchildren against the disease starting in the fall in a bid to put the brakes on the spread of the flu in the general population.

It has one mother bugging out, saying she won’t run to vaccinate her children. “I’ll vaccinate my kids against life-threatening illnesses, not a disease whose remedy is a little acetaminophen and a mom’s hug,” Yifat Ehrlich writes, apparently oblivious to the concept of herd immunity and the virulence of influenza.

“Sorry, but I won’t put dead or half-dead viruses in the bodies of my kids in order to prevent complications for adults who didn’t vaccinate in time,” she continues.

Merav Betito astutely points out that children under the age of 10 are petri dishes rife with diseases, which they disseminate wherever they rove. She says the proposal will increase national productivity by cutting down on sick days and “it’s in essence an important social step that expresses the government’s responsibility toward its citizens.”

Israel Hayom is caught up in financial matters, highlighting the arrest of two real estate company executives on suspicion of tax evasion to the tune of tens of millions of shekels. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s plan to cut tariffs on produce enrages Israeli farmers, and Israel Hayom reports that leaders of the agricultural unions will present an alternative plan to help cut the prices of fruits and vegetables.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (left) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon at the weekly cabinet meeting at PM Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem on January 24, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (left) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon at the weekly cabinet meeting at PM Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem on January 24, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

After publishing a front page report about a Jewish Home lawmaker’s bill to increase Jewish law’s role in court decisions, the paper runs an editorial criticizing the proposal as “unnecessary and harmful legislation stressing Israel’s Jewish character at the expense of its democratic character.”

“Judges can already draw inspiration from Jewish jurisprudence if they wish,” the paper’s editors say. “They can be assisted by many sources, including Bar-Ilan University’s database on Jewish law. There is no need to establish a state-run institute to advise in this area, and there is no need for action designed to inject Jewish law into the courts.”

In case Israel Hayom didn’t have enough to say on Tuesday about the IDF’s decision to allow combat soldiers to take their guns home on leave, Dan Margalit spills a bit more ink on the issue. Alongside an interview with the widow of Sgt. Tuvia Yanai Weissman in which she says she doesn’t blame the IDF for her husband’s murder last week, Margalit lauds the army’s change in policy.

“Better late than never, and therefore Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot did right in his decision that IDF soldiers will leave base with their weapon,” he says. Margalit acknowledges the drawbacks of the move — potential loss or theft of guns, accidental discharges, etc. — but neglects to mention the suicide issue that prompted the army’s change in policy a decade ago. Be that as it may, Margalit says the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

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