“Schlaglicht Israel” offers an insight into internal Israeli debates and reflects selected, political events that affect daily life in Israel. It appears every two weeks and summarizes articles that appeared in the Israeli daily press.
Main topics covered in this Publication:
- Flow of Refugees
- Iran Agreement
- Thwarted Child Arrest
- Selection of Topics from the Media
- Flow of Refugees
The Arab Spring and Europe’s fall
(…) The drowning Syrian, Iraqi or Libyan children fleeing war zones all want to escape the infernos of their native Arab countries, where civilians are slaughtered daily by their governments and by extreme jihadi organizations (…). In Marseille, France, about 35% of the population is Muslim; in Barcelona, about 30% of residents are Muslim, as are over 25% of the residents of Brussels, Amsterdam, and Luton in the U.K. (…) While some of the refugees, albeit a small percentage of the population, will be grateful to have been permitted to enter Europe, their future demands are likely to grow. (…) France’s and Britain’s Muslim communities employ private “police forces” that enforce Shariah law, and Budapest and Bucharest are no longer a suitable substitute for crumbling Aleppo. (…) This is not the behavior of grateful individuals, and while the Right aims to boost its power by reaching native European voters, the Left understands the new demographics and is appealing to the immigrants via generous social welfare policies. Israel, which has nothing to do with Europe’s influx of Arab immigrants, is affected by it on two levels. On a negative level, there is a rise of anti-Israeli protests and support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. (…) On a positive level, the Arab immigration to Europe may prompt European Jews to (…) decide to make aliyah (…).
Shahaf Mezin, IHY, 03.09.15
A dangerous trap
(…) opening Israel’s gates to Syrian refugees would lead to the implementation of the “right of return” — with Syrians playing the role of the Palestinians. Of course, there may be some limited circumstances in which Israel will have an interest in providing refuge for certain Syrians. But the blanket welcome proposed by Herzog, Galon and Stern would be a dangerous trap for Israel. (…) Israel wants to be a Jewish and democratic state, and any mass infusion of Syrian refugees here would undermine Israel’s very foundations. Syria is an enemy state. Has there ever been a country that has taken in refugees from an enemy state during wartime? (…) There is no justification for Israel taking in Syrian refugees. (…) There is no reason for Israel to permit drastic demographic changes to take place here and the world should know that anyone who walks toward our borders will be met by an “iron wall” of military and police personnel who will prevent violations of Israel’s right to protect its sovereignty. (…) It is time for the world to get serious about ending the bloody conflict in Syria, where, unfortunately, none of the involved parties are particularly friendly toward Israel. And in Africa, the time has come for a new Marshall Plan-style initiative that will allow the continent to finally flourish. Israel should take part in all of this, but only to a certain extent.
Dan Margalit, IHY, 06.09.15
Yes, I would personally take in a Syrian refugee family: Here’s why
(…) The kids and I barely close out our month above zero in the bank. We’ve had to borrow. There were two days two years ago where we ate a lot of Ramen, white bread, and chocolate spread. But I do notice that there’s always enough for another cappuccino at Arcaffe, or a glass of Jameson at the pub, or a new scarf, or a new dinosaur puzzle. Ok. So one less cup of coffee, one less whiskey. A few less plastic toys and I can live without yet another scarf and we have enough to buy more rice and more lentils and even meat and veggies too. We have enough. For us… and for others, too. (…) So yes, take out the extra mattress in storage, and bring out a few more pillows and yes, there’s space for another child or two. And their mother. Our table is small, but we can bring in folding chairs, and we can still eat outside in the sweet end of summer for now, if we have to. (…) We are lucky that way. We weren’t always lucky – but others were good to us, and we have enough now. And what’s the point of having enough with enough for more, if we can’t share with others who don’t have anything and have no place to sleep? (…) This mother and her two children will take in another mother and her two children for as long as they need. A refugee camp is no place for a mother and her children — I know this from having spent three long weeks without a stable place to sleep with my two children. So let them in — just a few thousand — let in the children, let in their mothers. And let families like mine do the right thing.
Sarah Tuttle-Singer, TOI, 08.09.15
Refugee crisis is taking place in Middle East, not in Europe
(…) If I open the door, they will flood my apartment, fill the house with words in Arabic and a Muslim prayer. If I don’t open the door, they will remain behind it, hungry and thirsty, their children crying bitterly. A raging sea of refugees. (…) Israel is watching what is known as “the refugee crisis in Europe” with a mixture of sharing in grief and malicious joy. Grief over the refugees, (…) joy over the exposure of the hypocritical Europeans’ face. (…) The absorption of a million refugees in the EU countries will require an investment of €50 billion (about $55 billion) – only 1 percent of the EU’s annual product (€19 trillion). That’s pocket money, which pales into insignificance compared to the future economic contribution of a young working population to the aging Europe. Europe is not being threatened by an economic or demographic refugee crisis, but by a political crisis reflecting the rise in power of the different populist movements. (…) An unbearable refugee crisis is taking place exclusively in the Middle East, in our area. The civil war in Syria – with a death toll of about 300,000 people so far, at least 15,000 of them children – has driven millions out of the country. (…) What if tens of thousands of people arrive tomorrow from the battle and oppression areas in Syria and Iraq at border in the Golan Heights, seeking refuge in Israel? (…) In the blink of an eye, a refugee crisis could arrive at Israel’s doorstep. (…) Let’s lower the rebuking moral tone towards Europe and prepare for the definitely not trivial possibility of lines of refugees at our doorstep.
Sever Plocker, JED, 06.09.15
Europe’s refugee crisis a warning to Israel
(…) It is a humanitarian disaster of monumental proportions, to be compared only with the man-made Maoist disasters and the Second World War, in both of which tens of millions died, most at the hands of their own governments. (…) What is the meaning of this human disaster for Israel? In the first place it must be recognized that Israel is not only a small country, already housing almost eight and a half million people, but it is a country with a certain ethnic purpose and reason for being, which cannot and will not lend itself to accepting many thousands of refugees from neighboring areas. (…) Perhaps some Christian and Druze might be accepted, and probably should be, but their numbers would be limited and they would be welcomed and helped by their own communities here. However, another disastrous outcome is possible. (…) Suppose that thousands of unarmed, miserable civilians, including many women and children, were to simply begin to walk towards the Israeli frontier with Lebanon, Syria or Jordan? (…) The only way to prevent it from happening some day is to do what Israel has already done in its southern border with Egypt–build a fence. In other words, without delay, all of Israel must be fenced. (…) We are directed, properly, to be charitable. We are absolutely forbidden to commit suicide.
Norman Bailey, GLO, 10.09.15
Why Jews Should Look to Germany for Inspiration this Rosh Hashanah
(…) As we start over in synagogue, tens of thousands of impoverished families across the world are quite literally leaving their homes in desperate search for a better life. (…) No one wants these people. (…) Our modern international community may pride itself on ethics and morality, but it’s all talk. The facts betray the empty promises of life and liberty to all. (…) Somehow, Germany has emerged as the beacon of light in this darkness. Every other country comes off terribly. Germany can proudly look herself in the mirror. Germany?! Germany. (…) There is no place in Europe that is more welcoming and helpful to Jewish people. (…) How did Germany go from being an aggressor to being a savior in a few short decades? (…) Through legislation, education, social programs, and plain old kindness, Germany has produced a tolerant and benevolent society. It is built on top of the ashes of people who were murdered because they were different. (…) In many ways, we all have a little Germany in us. We’ve all sinned grievously. We’ve all harmed others. (…) Look to Germany for inspiration. A short 75 years ago, Germany and many of her citizens were efficient murderers. They were stoics with no soul. But two generations later, we’ve discovered that change is possible. If they did it, we can do it. (…) Freedom, justice, and modernity are the tools a society needs to be just. (…)
Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, HAA, 10.09.15
- Iran Agreement
With Iran deal battle in Congress over, it’s time to rehabilitate U.S.-Israel ties
Only a reckless, arrogant prime minister would get into a head-to-head battle with the president of the United States, leader of a world super power and Israel’s best friend. Benjamin Netanyahu did it, despite all the warnings. He figured he’d be able to defeat Barack Obama on his home court and foil the agreement that world powers reached with Iran to suspend the latter’s nuclear program for at least a decade. Netanyahu erred in calculating the power relations in Congress. He believed that rich Jewish-American big shots were powerful enough to persuade the senators and their friends in the House of Representatives to prefer his arguments to their own national interest, as presented by their authorized leadership. (…) The U.S. Administration is sophisticated enough to distinguish between Netanyahu and Israel. Obama took pains to say that the American commitment to Israel’s security would not be impaired. (…) It’s time Netanyahu and his government stop the obstinate struggle. The personal scars won’t heal until Obama leaves the White House in January 2017, but Israel must be pragmatic and take stock of its needs and opportunities. (…) Netanyahu’s declaration of war on Obama was a bad thing. It’s a good thing he lost. A supervised implementation of the Vienna deal will be good for Israel. A rupture with the president, the American public and U.S. Jewry is more dangerous to Israel than the Iranian threat.
Editorial, HAA, 04.09.15
After the Iran deal, what now for Israel?
(…) Israelis are naturally worried about the future (…), there is reason for concern. Israeli-American relations were harmed during the fight over the deal and it will take time for them to mend. Iran, already close to having an atomic bomb, will almost surely have the atomic bomb within the next decade. (…) Israelis are acutely aware that more than 90 percent of them live in only 9,000 square kilometers. This makes them vulnerable to a handful of Iranian missiles carrying atomic bombs, which can reach Tel Aviv in 11 minutes. (…) And yet there are many reasons for hope as well. (…) Militarily, Israel is by far the strongest power in the Middle East. It already has the most advanced anti-missile systems in the world (…) and within several years is likely to have an even more modern anti-missile system. (…) By 2017 Israel will have six German-built Dolphin-class submarines reputed to be capable of launching nuclear weapons.(…) Even more important, Israel is reputed to have 80-100 atomic bombs and doubtless could produce many more in the next few years. While Iran has a weak air force and army, and an even weaker navy, Israel has a first-rate air force and army with satellite, cyber warfare and intelligence capabilities significantly better than Iran’s. (…) There is much about which to be concerned – and even more that gives hope to Israel in the years to come.
Jonathan Adelman, JPO, 07.09.15
What was Netanyahu thinking when he kept fighting Obama?
(…) It’s a bad agreement, professionals agree. They also agree that the battle led by Netanyahu was justified. But this battle, which ended the way it did (…) raises a number of troubling questions, on a cautious note. (…) A political strategist, as Netanyahu is expected to be, should have realized two things: The first is that a moment after the agreement is signed, the battle is over. (…) The second thing, which stems from the first, is that an Israeli victory in Congress, under the circumstances which have been created, would have been rightfully perceived as a putsch. Not just as meddling in another country’s affairs. A putsch that no country, definitely not the United States, could have ignored. Israel, proverbially, would have been erased from the American administration’s telephone directory, and every Israeli prime minister would have become a persona non grata in Washington, and rightfully so. So the question we must ask is what exactly was Netanyahu thinking. (… ) He failed to realize at real time that it’s a lost battle, he did not make the required switch, did not change direction, did not use the created circumstances to minimize damages and maximize the chances for considerable compensation. (…) Adapt himself to a the new reality created. It’s not a bad word. It’s not opportunism either. It’s called a rational policy.
Ariala Ringel Hoffman, JED, 10.09.15
A rigged vote without any real debate
When I was growing up, “filibuster” was a dirty word. (…) Yet, President Obama and his followers in the senate deployed this undemocratic weapon in order to stifle real debate about the nuclear deal with Iran (…). The President had an obligation to use his bully pulpit to try to obtain majority support among voters. Not only did he fail to do that, he also failed to persuade a majority of senator and house members. So this minority deal will go into operation over the objection of majority of our legislators and voters. (…) The absolute low point in the non-debate was a New York Times chart, identifying opponents of the deal by whether they were Jewish or Gentile. The implication was that Jews who opposed the deal must be more loyal to their Jewish constituents or to Israel than Americans who supported the deal. But the chart itself made little sense. It turns out that the vast majority of democratic Congressmen who voted against the deal were not Jewish, and several of them represented districts in which less than 1% of the voters were Jewish. (…) Identifying by their religion members of congress who voted against a deal that the Times strongly supported is, (…) more than a dog whistle; it is a bull horn. It plays squarely into anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews having dual loyalty. (…) This has been a bad month for democracy, for serious debate and for the treatment of all Americans as equally capable of deciding important issue on their merits and demerits. (…) even those who support the deal should be ashamed of some of the undemocratic tactics and bigoted arguments employed to avoid a real debate and a majority vote.
Alan Dershowitz, JPO, 11.09.15
- Thwarted Child Arrest
Armed robbery: The Israeli army’s policy in the West Bank
The soldier who choked 12-year-old Mohammad Tamimi last week belongs to the organization that carries out and ensures the continued armed robbery of land in Nabi Saleh, employing various methods to terrorize the residents. (…) In the eyes of Israeli society, the courageous behavior of a civilian confronting an armed soldier is mutiny. (…) For the sake of the soldier (…) we must hope that it was a conscious decision to refrain from seeking the trigger of his rifle, and not the numerous cameras around him that led to his restraint. (…) Tamimi is the one who alerted the officer so that he could rescue the soldier, and pull him out of the swamp in which the policy of armed robbery had cast him. The Palestinian father worried about the life of his own son, and at the same time worried about the wellbeing of the soldier. He did not want any of the angry youths in the village to try to harm the soldier who was, at that moment, the weakest link of this same armed organization.(…) If there were no land theft and no settler-lords, there would be no need for a rifle to enable the settlements to blossom and expand, while the Israel Defense Forces’ Civil Administration disseminates demolition orders and stop-work orders for houses in the Palestinian village on whose land the settlements are built. And if there were no rifles and soldiers to block access to the spring, there would not be rocks. So simple really, just like it sounds. (…)
Amira Hass, HAA, 02.09.15
Nebi Salah footage a reflection of Israel
(…) the footage was difficult, even shocking. It illustrated not only what the occupation is doing to the Palestinians, but also, and mainly, what it is doing to the IDF. What it is doing to the State of Israel. Whether we admit it or not, that soldier is us. (…) We should not blame the person who steals, our forefathers said, but the hole which allowed him to steal. The hole is the IDF; the hole is the legal system; the hole is the government. In the current government’s cabinet, the settler lobby holds a majority; the Bayit Yehudi ministers are theirs. The Likud ministers are with them. (…) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks about a political horizon – but the horizon, as a horizon does, will never arrive. Everyone realizes that – and Abbas is now realizing it too. (…) Netanyahu sees Abbas as an enemy, and the political battle as a war. He seeks to strengthen Hamas, because Abbas is threatening him in the international community and Hamas isn’t. Israel could pursue an Abbas-mediated ceasefire with Hamas. Netanyahu is saying no to that. He is pursuing a ceasefire with Hamas against Abbas. (…) Rivlin had raised the possibility of establishing a confederation between Israel and Palestine. “They only have to make me the offer,” Abbas said. (…)
Nahum Barnea, JED, 06.09.15
Israel is destroying its own freedom
(…) If there is a symbol that summarizes and distills the reality of the State of Israel in the territories, it is the photograph from Nabi Saleh, which spread around the world like wildfire. In Israel some people were angry that the soldier did not shoot the boy, and some were astounded at the humanity of the soldier, who decided, on the basis of either his conscience or the presence of television cameras, not to shoot. This is a distorted dichotomy, which would not exist if Israel understood that occupation and morality, occupation and heroism, occupation and democracy, cannot coexist. (…) As long as Israel persists in the occupation, it condemns itself to destroying the freedom of the Palestinians and of itself. It condemns itself to being trapped in the picture of Nabi Saleh.
Editorial, HAA, 13.09.15
- Selection of Topics from the Media
Encountering peace: After Abbas
It seems that the era of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is coming to the end. (…) his absence will be a great loss for Israel and for those who seek true peace. Whoever takes over the PLO and leads the state of Palestine in the post-Abbas era is going to face a growing call among the Palestinian people to close the chapter on Oslo. (…) While many people, especially young Palestinians, are trying to be part of the global community and are busy advancing themselves and their own economic welfare, everyone supports resistance against the Israeli occupation. (…) For the next generation of leaders, the whole field of possibilities is open and it is impossible to predict what will be the political agenda of the next leader.
Gershon Baskin, JPO, 02.09.15
On peace and realism
(…) there were a whopping 6,500 Palestinian terrorists, operatives and suspects arrested in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) over the past year: 2,500 arrested by the Palestinian Authority (…), and 4,000 arrested by the Israel Defense Forces (…). The PA makes mostly revolving-door arrests for political and intelligence purposes, while the IDF goes after the hard-core, armed militants to prevent and interdict terrorist operations. This ongoing invasive and pervasive security activity is what keeps the Palestinian Authority alive and what keeps Israel safe. Without this, there isn’t a shred of a doubt that the PA would fall to Hamas rule (…) within a matter of weeks. (…) This is a reality that all those who still hanker for rapid establishment of a Palestinian state prefer to ignore. Neither Israel nor the PA can tolerate real Palestinian statehood in the near future. A situation in which Israeli forces cannot operate all across the West Bank all the time would be super-unstable and dangerous. (…) The PA is also currently kept afloat by billions of dollars in foreign aid (…) and value-added tax transfer payments from Israel. This (…) PA’s threats (…) are simply not credible. (…) Abbas (…) is seeking to wedge his cronies and his son into leadership pole positions, while keeping his thumb on the whole Mafioso enterprise from above. (…) Israel should worry less about Mahmoud Abbas’ shenanigans, and focus more on buttressing and broadcasting its own myriad, inspiring successes.
David M. Weinberg, IHY, 04.09.15
Leviathan gas can be directed to domestic use
In one of the stories about Chelm, the mythical Jewish village of fools, a treasure is discovered in the village. After endless arguments about how to distribute the money, the village wise men devise a brilliant solution: rebury the treasure in the ground, thereby restoring tranquility to Chelm. A similar solution has been gaining popularity in recent days among prominent Israelis known for their wisdom. In their opinion, leaving the natural gas in the Leviathan reservoir under the sea is better than taking it out (…) In that case, its value will be zero. (…) The world is switching to renewable energy – wind, sun, and water. This transition is being delayed because there are no technological solutions at present for efficient storage of electricity, and smart management of an electrical grid is a gigantic challenge. It will take 10, 20, or 30 years, but the revolution will come. Oil, coal, and the rest of the fossil fuels will be marginalized. (…) development of Leviathan is preferable to leaving the gas under the sea. The Ministry of Finance forecasts listed here assume that if the gas is sold at an average price of $5 per mmbtu, the state treasury will receive $55 billion in the coming years. (…) Half of Israel’s electricity is still produced from polluting coal imported from Australia, Indonesia, and South Africa. (…) If all the electricity produced with coal were produced with natural gas, consumption of gas in Israel would grow by 5-6 BCM annually – close to the amount in the deal with BG that was supposed to have paid for the development of the Leviathan reservoir. In practice, the proportion of electricity produced from gas has actually been falling and the proportion produced from coal has been rising, due to the recent substantial drop in the price of coal. (…) modern combined cycle gas operated (…) power plants, located on the beach, can produce electricity at lower cost than any other plant current operating in Israel, and can consume 2 BCM a year of gas. (…)
Amiram Barkat, GLO, 02.09.15
Think about it: Teaching Zionism, Judaism and democracy in the school system
(…) Bennett is also extremely active (…), he doesn’t appear to be acting in a frenzy (…) Examples are his efforts to reduce classroom over-crowding, and his campaign to get more pupils to take five-unit mathematics matriculation exams. Nevertheless, there is one aspect of Bennett’s plans for the education system that worries me: his intention to fortify the Jewish and Zionist consciousness of the children and youths in the secular school system. (…) The question is whether Bennett is capable of dealing with the issue fairly, squarely and effectively, or whether the fact that he is religious and right-wing, in a reality where there is no separation between religion and state, creates a problem. The fact that he does not speak of the need to tackle the issue of the Jewish, Zionist and Democratic consciousness of all Jewish children in Israel is suspect. I would say that in the secular school system new thinking is necessary with regard to all three issues. (…) One does not have to be religious to be a Zionist, and one does not have to believe that the modern Jewish state must control all the lands that were historically under Jewish control, or are mentioned in the Bible. How many secular Jewish children in Israel have any sort of clear notion on all of this? As to democracy, human rights, pluralism, equality – here too there is a lot of confusion and ignorance in the secular school system, no less than in the religious school systems, and this despite civic studies being a mandatory subject of instruction in the national education system. (…) If Bennett is (…) determined to proceed with this idea, and if, as he says, he respects the right of the “other” to lead his life in accordance with his “otherness,” he ought to sit down with secular educationalists and find a solution that is acceptable and palatable to the non-religious sector. (…)
Susan Hattis Rolef, JPO, 06.09.15
Give young Bedouin a chance
(…) The Negev is the area that receives the smallest amount of government funding and the one the state invests in the least. The Bedouin sector receives the least amount of attention and resources from the state. (…) The current reality in the Negev is complex, to put it mildly. Eighty percent of the Negev’s population are Jewish and 20 percent (some 200,000 people) are Bedouin. Sixty-two percent of the Bedouin society is under the age of 18. Unlike the Jews in the Negev, the migration rate for young Bedouins is zero. They aren’t going anywhere. The State of Israel must (…) provide them with quality education, and later, to open doors for them and provide them with employment opportunities in high-tech, industry and the public sector. (…) the Negev has experienced a wave of development and growth. The state is investing more resources, road and train infrastructure has been improved, which has helped, and factories from central Israel have been discovering the Negev and moving there. (…) The government must pair the increasingly growing needs of the industry, trade and public sector with the immense potential of the Bedouin society, whose members are just waiting to become part of the workforce. (…)
Kher Albaz, JED, 08.09.15
Shame on Shin Bet: Almost 6 weeks pass and baby killers still walking free
Almost six weeks have passed since the murderous attack on the Dawabsheh family’s home in the West Bank village of Duma, yet as far as is known Israel’s security agencies still don’t have a clue about who perpetrated it. This is an unreasonable and intolerable situation. (…) security agencies, first and foremost the Shin Bet security service, aren’t doing enough to capture the murderers. (…) It’s enough to recall how the Shin Bet, the Israel Defense Forces and the police behaved after three Israeli teens were kidnapped more than a year ago, even once it was clear that they had already been killed: (…) Israel reacted savagely at that time, but it proved that every Palestinian terrorist will end up either in jail or in the grave. The burden of proof that Israel doesn’t have a policy of discriminating among the perpetrators of vile crimes on the basis of their nationality now rests on the investigative agencies and the government that gives them their orders. As long as the perpetrators of the triple murder in Duma continue to walk free, it will be impossible to dispel the suspicion that this haplessness was not inevitable. (…) The people who burned an entire family to death and sentenced the one member who remained alive, a 4-year-old boy, to orphanhood, are extremely dangerous — not just to the Palestinians, but also to Israeli citizens. People who burned babies alive are walking around free. And there is no greater shame for those who should have caught them long ago.
Editorial, HAA, 09.09.15
Soccer and Shabbat
When people refer to Israel as a uniquely “Jewish” state one of the things they have in mind is that the Shabbat and other Jewish holidays are national days of rest. (…) a religious “status quo” has developed over the years that has balanced strict adherence to Orthodox Jewish law, or Halacha, with a developing secular Israeli culture. Traditionally, professional soccer games have taken place on Shabbat. (…) Saturday is the only day of the week there is no school, soldiers are home on break and no one works. (…) for many Israelis who respect tradition but who do not adhere to an Orthodox definition of what constitutes rest on Shabbat, going to a soccer game does not constitute a desecration of the holy day of rest. (…) this “status quo” has been challenged, not by the haredi community that does not attend soccer games in any event, but by the soccer players themselves. (…) This is not a case of religious coercion. It is a case of balancing the right of less observant Israelis to attend soccer games on Shabbat with the right of a fairly large number of players to refrain from playing. Since Israel is a Jewish state, the religious needs of the soccer players are taken seriously and legislation is in place to protect those needs. There might, however, be a way of meeting the needs of all parties involved. We should reconsider instituting another day of rest – either on Friday or on Sunday. (…) Israeli society becomes increasingly religious – the call by soccer players to halt games on Shabbat is a sign of this growing religiosity – instituting a second day of rest as a means of protecting the rights of those from all walks of society has become more pressing.
Editorial, JPO, 10.09.15
HAA = Haaretz
JED = JediothAhronoth / Ynetnews
JPO = Jerusalem Post
IHY = Israel HaYom
TOI = Times of Israel
GLO = Globes
Published: September 2015
Dr. Werner Puschra,
Head of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel