For the third day straight Israeli newspapers covered the human aspect resulting from the violence between Gaza and Israel - that is, on the Israeli side. The empathy of Arab members of Knesset for the Palestinians in Gaza raised the ire of right-wing MKs also made the news. Angry Egyptian MPs voted to recall their ambassador from Israel and end gas sales to the Jewish statejust as Egypt appointed a new ambassador to Tel-Aviv. Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to send a letter with an ultimatum to Israel's premier out of frustration over the freeze in the peace process and a freelance American-Israeli journalist caught on video soldiers throwing a tear gas grenade at a group of Palestinians by-standers, but the soldiers deny it.
After nearly 200 rockets fell in Israel and 37 Israeli air strikes killed 26 Palestinians in Gaza, including four civilians, a cease-fire deal between Islamic Jihad and Israel that was negotiated through Egypt and Hamas was to take effect at 1AM local time last night. Five mortars were shot at Israel this morning, but the IDF has not responded. Haaretz has a timeline of the rockets shot at Israel over the last year. As it always does, the IDF blamed the civilian deaths on the Palestinians, whose fighters often shoot from populated areas. And while the IDF warned that continued fire could prompt a ground invasion, commentators such as Haaretz's Amos Harel wrote that both Hamas and Israel are interested in the ceasefire. Those behind the rocket-firing were not only Islamic Jihad, but members of Fatah, said IDF officials. IDF claimed that Iran was encouraging Islamic Jihad to continue to fire. This would not be the first time Hamas' archrival has participated in attacks on Israel to put Hamas in a difficult spot. The IDF said that the high number of rockets launched from Gaza is a "dramatic development in terms of the quantity and rate of the fire.” They were medium-range and the IDF saw no indication of attempts to target central Israel with long-range rockets. The Israeli papers discussed how the violence in the south affected the children, the local businesses, and the working parents.
The reactions of Arab MKs to the Israeli attacks on Gaza also made the news. In the Knesset, emotions ran high as Arab MKs accused Israel of instigating the Gaza fighting. "Israeli blood is no purer than Palestinian blood,” MK Jamal Zahalka said to Minister for Home Front Defense Matan Vilnai. And when MK Ahmed Tibi wrote on his Facebook page, 'Oh Gazans, be strong' right-wing MKs called for him to be dismissed from the Knesset, Israel Hayom reported. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reacted saying, "Tibi's identification with Gaza, even hinting, is a grave thing, even very grave."MK (Likud) Danny Danon asked the Attorney General to dismiss Tibi from the Knesset and MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) presented a bill to end the term of MKs supporting, as per her definition, the armed struggle against Israel. Tibi responded to the attacks saying, "I never hid my opposition to the shooting of missiles at Israel. I opposed in the past the shooting of Lebanese rockets at Israel and I continue to oppose unequivocally. But Israel in a completely immoral manner justifies the killing of civilians claiming that someone hid behind the armed men and then they shot. I oppose the harming of civilians and I oppose the harming of people under occupation. For this people need to be ashamed, especially people like Danny Danon." Ynet also has a piece on it here.
The Israeli parliament was not the only one up in arms over the Gaza-Israel fighting. Haaretz and Ynet reported that Egypt's parliament unanimously voted in support of expelling Israel's ambassador in Cairo and halting gas exports. The motion is largely symbolic, because only the ruling Military Council can make such decisions. Yet, on the same day, Egypt appointed Amb. Atef Salem as its new ambassador to Tel-Aviv, Yedioth reported. He was previously the Consul-General in Eilat and he replaces Yasser Ridda.
Frustrated by the stalled peace process Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his advisers are preparing a letter to be delivered to Netanyahu, most likely by the end of the week, that will put the blame on Netanyahu for the freeze in the peace process and will pose an ultimatum to Netanyahu. For more details about the ultimatum see Haaretz's article here.
Meanwhile, new journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid said yesterday that "The Palestinians right now are not ready to make peace with us," Maariv's NRG Hebrew site reported. Speaking at a business-academic forum at Tel-Aviv university meeting, he said, "Of course everyone in this country knows what needs to be given, and we all know how it will end, but what we don't know is when that will happen and how many will die till then...I don't want to control three and a half million Palestinians because I'm an Israeli patriot, and I don't want a state for all its citizens because I want a Jewish state." (Maariv's NRG Hebrew)
Jewish American-Israeli photojournalist Mati Milstein caught on video Israeli border police tossing a gas grenade at Palestinians who were not doing anything. The Border Police claims the clip was staged, but I know Mati - he's an honest man and a very good journalist.