Israel media review

Until we meet again: What the press is saying about the Gaza ceasefire

Skepticism over the chances that the halt in fighting will hold for the long term is high, and questions over what may come are rampant. One thing is certain: Israel didn’t win

Rockets are launched towards Israel from Gaza City on May 20, 2021. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Rockets are launched towards Israel from Gaza City on May 20, 2021. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

1. Is it safe? And just as quickly as it began, the war was over, a ceasefire ending 11 days of rocket fire and airstrikes, death and destruction.

  • There are no iconic pictures of soldiers smooching their gals (or guys) or flag waving victory celebrations (at least among Israelis) in the mainstream press though. Rather, the media is ready at the helm with a healthy dose of skepticism regarding the tenability of the ceasefire, what was accomplished over the 11 days of fighting, and when Israel and Gaza will be at each others’ throats again.
  • Both the Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom tabloids run “the ceasefire test,” as their top front page headlines, underlining the deep lack of trust that the sides are ready to stop fighting beyond the immediate term.
  • “Hamas, one assumes, will be a good kid for the time being,” writes Yoav Limor in Israel Hayom, noting that the group has an interest in giving Gazans a breather and taking advantage of whatever international goodwill it’s accrued thanks to being on the blunt end of Israel’s bombs. “But if Israel sticks to its stances in negotiations, eventually Hamas will lose patience and try to challenge Israel again, either directly or via a side channel.”
  • Describing the zeitgeist among communities closest to Gaza Friday morning, Eshkol Regional Council head Gadi Yarkoni tells Army Radio that “there are a ton of questions, we need to be very alert to what may happen. Where is this going? Is this really quiet?”
  • The problem is one of expectations, writes Amos Harel in Haaretz. “Once every few years, Israel initiates a new operation in the Gaza Strip or finds itself involved in one. The disparity between the limited goals that the army wants to achieve, and the crushing victory that the majority of the public wants to see, will remain large,” he writes. “ Israel waged a campaign of deterrence in Gaza, not one of decisive victory. … The success of a campaign of this sort will be measured only over time, not by raising the flag on an imagined Iwo Jima in the sands of the Gaza Strip. There will not be a clear, resounding victory here.”
  • Commenting for Kan, former IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis notes that the army hasn’t exactly done a great job of telling the public what’s going on.
  • “There’s a culture here of a serial lack of official information. Nobody gets up and nobody speaks about anything. Over 11 days, nobody in civilian clothes stood in front of citizens and told them what they want, what the military goals are and when they were achieved.”

2. Victory formation: While Israel is hemming and hawing over its non-win, Hamas is more than willing to hoist the trophy for itself.

  • “In Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem: celebrations of ‘victory’ after the ceasefire,” reads the top headline on Ynet.
  • Accompanying the story is a picture of Palestinians cavorting while waving Palestinian flags, with the news site noting that the celebrations were akin “to those following prisoner swap deals.”
  • “Car drivers honked and flew flags out of their windows,” the paper reports from Gaza. Many residents shot volleys of bullets in the air, lit explosives and even threw firecrackers.”
  • Channel 12 reports that Hamas is trying to broadcast strength after its big win, calling for a day of rage in the West Bank on Friday with the goal of “broadcasting power and showing who the real boss in the West Bank is, and for that they need to go into the streets and show their presence.”
  • In ToI, Avi Issacharoff calls Hamas the big winner of the war: “On a tactical level, Hamas did not register significant gains. Most, though not all, of its rockets were intercepted or missed their mark, and its efforts to carry out other, still more devastating attacks, failed. Yet Hamas, which began this mini-war with its May 10 barrage of rockets towards Jerusalem, nonetheless succeeded beyond even its own expectations at the strategic level,” he writes, also noting that ”Hamas managed to create the illusion around the world that Israel was the aggressor that had initiated the fighting.”

3. Loded weapon: Gaza may be a question mark, but a number of outlets report on cleanup efforts in Lod and elsewhere following brutal ethnic violence there last week.

  • Channel 13 documents the return of residents who fled Lod, getting sound bites off some of them saying that they are still scared tensions will flare again. “[This was after] two days of quiet, during which residents were still asking where is this headed, what happened, and mostly, what will happen,” reports anchor Udi Segal.
  • In ToI, Aaron Boxerman writes of the lingering tensions, especially between the city’s Arabs and the Garin Torani community of national religious Jews, who have been branded “settlers” by critics.
  • “As long as those religious Jews are there, there will be conflict. They’re settlers,” teenager Ali Nasasrah tells him outside Lod’s Great Mosque. “As long as they’re there, our blood will still run hot.”
  • Israel Hayom’s Ariel Kahane expresses exasperation over the fact that a year ago, he was reporting on plans to annex West Bank settlements and now, “Every Jew is a settler and Israel doesn’t even have sovereignty over its areas inside the Green Line.”
  • In Jaffa, another city to be rocked by Jewish-Arab fighting, Haaretz reports that Arab residents are the ones who feel as if the month of unrest has sent them hurtling back in time. “It feels like our parents’ stories about the military regime,” said Rawan Bisharat, a Jaffa resident who lives near the Bat Yam border, tells the paper’s reporter, comparing police actions there to the army’s presence in Hebron. “The police enter neighborhoods ostensibly in order to calm things down, and throw stun grenades. We have no security. We don’t know where [trouble] will come from – the settlers or the police. And what’s most disturbing is that the media doesn’t talk about it.”

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