Fight, truce, repeat: 10 things to know for August 10

Another ceasefire after a day of fighting; some are fed up, but there’s little agreement over whether the answer lies with guns or pens

Today, 11:54 am

A picture taken on August 9, 2018, shows people inspecting the rubble of a building targeted by the Israeli Air Force in response to a rocket attack that hit southern Israel earlier in the day on August 9, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

1. Until we meet again: A day of rocket strikes and Israeli reprisal raids ended with a shaky ceasefire, but nobody is convinced the last projectile has been fired and the feeling that war is in the offing is stronger than ever.

  • If those words look familiar, it’s because I published them on July 15, but it’s just as relevant today, as it may be after the next round of fighting. If Israel and Hamas are stuck in a seemingly endless loop of bad decisions and worse consequences, then the two are currently in the hangover stage after another bender, searching blurry-eyed for their AA sponsor’s phone number, but instead finding a series of texts from their bros inviting them for another night out.
  • “Until next time,” reads a headline on a Yossi Yehoshua column in Yedioth Ahronoth, which kind of says it all.
  • As a sign of the frustration felt not only in the border region, at an outdoor performance of Verdi’s Nabucco in Tel Aviv Thursday night attended by tens of thousands, the conductor stopped the show before the famous “Va Pensiero” (The Hebrew slaves’ chorus) to dedicate the song to the residents of the south and demanded that “something must change so kids can sleep at night, on both sides of the border.” It received the largest applause of the night.

2. Keep it copacetic: Calm can be reached either through war or a long-term deal and it seems that while the army and Hamas prefer the latter, others are insistent that girding for battle may be the better choice.

  • The defense establishment thinks the chances of all-out war have decreased significantly, Haaretz reports.
  • A Hamas official says that the terror group is not interested in going to battle, but wanted to send a message that it won’t tolerate being attacked, according to Channel 10, citing Asharq al-Awsat.
  • The rescinding of special instructions keeping southerners close to their bomb shelters is seen by many as a sign that the army believes the ceasefire will remain in place, at least for a few days.
  • But Israel is clearly girding for the next round and trying to return what little is left of its deterrent capability, as evidenced by the front page of Israel Hayom, seen as a government mouthpiece, vowing with a large headline that “The attacks will continue until the rockets stop.”

3. The last bullet: While a ceasefire after a day of rockets seems de riguer at this point, it’s still a feat to get the sides to stop fighting, writes former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror in Israel Hayom.

  • “Both sides want to prove that they can keep firing, because a one-sided ceasefire will be seen as weak,” he writes.
  • “Neither side wants to lose control, nobody wants this to descend into war, but each side is fighting for the right to shoot the last bullet,” Nahum Barnea writes in Yedioth Ahronoth.

4. US pressure: That Egypt puts pressure on Hamas to stop firing rockets is an old story, but Haaretz’s Zvi Bar’el says that the US is also putting pressure on Israel to keep from hitting Gaza too hard.

  • “Both Washington and Cairo see ending Gaza’s humanitarian crisis as much more important than dealing with the tactical confrontation between Israel and Hamas,” he writes.
  • Bar’el also notes that both Egypt and Israel (and the US) want to rebuild Gaza with a responsible party in charge, a status they have all granted to Hamas: “In the past, Israel negotiated with Hamas only over prisoner exchanges and ceasefires. Now, it’s holding diplomatic and economic negotiations with Hamas over Gaza’s future. The fact that Israeli and Hamas officials aren’t negotiating directly doesn’t change the fact that talks are taking place.”

5. Aiming at the IDF: Not all Israelis are willing to view Hamas as a partner, even a secret one. Representing those — including many in the government — who want the IDF to go further against the terror group, Israel Hayom’s Amnon Lord issues a scathing attack on the military..

  • “The army doesn’t want to kill balloon and kite launchers and places itself as judge over someone who has been convicted of murder who says, ‘I was forced to pull the trigger, what can I do.’ But on the other side of the border is the body.”
  • “That’s how it is in the western Negev. On the Gazan side they are ‘kids’ but on our side is the destruction of thousands of dunams.”
  • He’s not alone. In the right-wing Israel National News website, columnist Boaz Shapiro also directs fire at the heads of the army — and the government — whom he says “have long shown weakness and inertia which are not understood on any level, and are not transparent.”
  • “Tell me… do important people not understand what even a child understands,” he writes, directing his message specifically at prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, and army head Gadi Eisenkot.

6. Scaredy rabbit: Channel 20, also on the right, put together a strange gag on Thursday in which anchor Boaz Golan interviewed a bunny (the Hebrew version of a scaredy cat), apparently to show how weak the army and government are.

  • “Netanyahu is doing great work in many fields, but with anything regarding Gaza, many feel he has failed,” presenter Boaz Golan wrote later.

צפו: הארנבת שכבשה את האולפן והמסר לממשלת ישראל

7. Dome of Arc: If there’s anything the Israeli press does agree on, it’s on the sublimity of this picture of an Iron Dome rocket interceptor, captured by Amir Cohen of Reuters.

  • The picture, or variations of it, grace the pages and screens of pretty much every media outlet (at least those that subscribe to Reuters).

8. Bogota bummer: Mystery still surrounds Colombia’s decision to recognize Palestine, just as the country seemed to be moving closer to Jerusalem, and came as a surprise to pretty much everybody.

  • Before the news became public (though after the outgoing government of Juan Manuel Santos signed the official recognition) Tzachi Hanegbi, representing Israel at the inauguration of new president Ivan Duque, wished the outgoing administration luck and happily gave interviews, a sign of how clueless Israel’s government was about the news, ToI’s Raphael Ahren reports.
  • Mixed messages were coming from Bogota, long considered Israel’s most staunch ally in Latin America, following the move, leaving Israel’s Foreign Ministry nonplussed and unable to answer reporters questions for 16 hours after the move was announced. The only one to make a statement was Israel’s Embassy in Bogota, which issued an angry denunciation, in Spanish.
  • “The fact that ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon did not even provide reporters with a Hebrew translation of the Bogota embassy’s angry statement led Israel’s Diplomatic Correspondents’ Association to send him a formal protest letter,” Ahren writes.
  • A Palestinian source tells ToI that the move was because Santos “agreed that Netanyahu doesn’t do anything to advance peace.”
  • Amichai Stein, a reporter for Israel’s public broadcaster, writes on Twitter that a Colombian official told him that the new government may yet reverse the cancellation.

9. Just say no: Haaretz Knesset correspondent Chaim Levinson jokes on Twitter that Likud lawmakers are now demanding Colombia stop importing drugs into Israel.

10. Who is Israel: With Sacha Baron Cohen continuing to make headlines each time a new episode of “Who is America” comes out, especially for the exploits of his Israeli macho character Erran Morad, Shmuel Rosner writes in the New York Times that the stereotype might reflect more on Americans than Israelis.

  • “Israel’s most avid supporters in America might like us more as crude machos than as start-up entrepreneurs. They might even prefer our satirized fossils to our real selves,” he writes.
  • But Rosner also says that the stereotype isn’t false and there are still many “Morads” roaming about Israel: “Every Israeli who serves in the military knows that we still have Morads. But for every idiotic Morad, we also have two prankish Cohens. That’s why we can afford a laugh.”
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