Today's Papers

Strip Stake

The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox, and Washington Postall lead with Israel’s so-far limited thrust into Gaza. USA Todayreefers Gaza and leads with the Senate failing to pass a constitutional amendment on flag burning by just one vote.Fourteen Democrats supported the amendment, and three Republicans opposed it.

Israeli airstrikes destroyed a few bridges—”slicing Gaza into three sectors“—and knocked out power to much of the Strip. The LAT calls the offensive “by far the largest” since Israel pulled out of Gaza last year, though so far soldiers have just moved into a few open areas.

The immediate goal is to make it harder for militants to move the Israeli soldier they’ve kidnapped. And the Israeli paper Haaretz does the best job of explaining the operation: It is going to be a “gradually stepped up campaign” meant to create “bargaining chips.” Israeli officials also now think another Israeli—a settler in the West Bank—was kidnapped over the weekend.

Everybody mentions that Palestinian President Abbas and at least some parts of Hamas appear to have agreed to a vaguely worded joint platform that includes implicit recognition of Israel. Based on a document drawn up by Hamas and Fatah prisoners, it calls for a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders. The wording is sufficiently fudgy that some Hamas officials are saying they’re all for the deal but aren’t particularly interested in Israel’s right to exist.

Again it’s the Israeli papers that seem to give the best glimpse of what’s really going on: Not only is there a split within Hamas—with political leaders supporting the joint platform and the exile leadership, which controls most of the militants, opposing it—but, according to a Jerusalem Post piece sourced to Palestinians, the militants kidnapped the Israeli soldier in hopes of killing the rapprochement

That conclusion is echoed in a fine NPR dispatch, which says “many analysts” think Hamas’ exile leadership approved the kidnapping and that it was “aimed, in part, at sabotaging any Hamas-Fatah agreement that might lead to a resumption of peace talks.”

A front-page NYT piece previews tough new rules on welfare the administration “plans to issue” today. States will be required to verify that 50 percent of their recipients are working or taking classes. The Times declares it the “biggest changes in welfare policy since 1996.” It would have been helpful if the piece cited some outside experts’ perspectives on that.

The military announced the killing of three Marines and one GI in Iraq. About 20 Iraqis were killed in assorted attacks. The military also offered what the A.P. dubs a “sober assessment” of the recent—much-hyped—security crackdown in Baghdad. It acknowledged that attacks have barely decreased.

The papers point out inside that Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki told reporters that the “amnesty” he’s proposed will apply only to those who “did not kill anyone.” Maliki’s comments came after much criticism in the U.S. about the proposal to pardon those who’ve killed U.S. troops. A NYT editorial notices that the latest formulation “would seem to leave few, if any, real insurgents eligible for any amnesty.”

The NYT notices that two British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan and two boys there were killed in a suicide attack.

The LAT and WP front a report by the surgeon general emphasizing that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke and that it kills about 50,000 Americans annually. The NYT notices that the surgeon general didn’t call for any federal restrictions on smoking, saying policy isn’t his job. The WP, seemingly alone, points out that the administration has been “neutral or negative” on major antismoking initiatives.

Yesterday, TP suggested the NYT might want to follow-up on its now 10-day-old lead story—sourced to “senior American officials”—that a North Korean missile was all fueled up and a launch was likely coming. Today, the Times sucks it up and rolls back. The paper cites two “officials” who said intel analysts actually weren’t sure about the fueling and only offered it as “a worst-case scenario.” The article, as it happens, focuses on a senator’s doubts and buries the “officials” clarification. The prominent placement the rollback piece is given: Page A9.