“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:
- Summit in Singapur
- Terror with kites and helium balloons
- Approach between Netanyahu and Putin in the Syrian question
- Selection of Articles
Mideast ‘friends’ beware: With North Korea, Trump just proved how easily he’ll sell out America’s allies
(…) Trump does not look at the world in terms that usually shape U.S. presidential doctrines (…). Rather, he evaluates everything by one metric: What does any possible outcome mean for him personally? (…) It is for this reason that Trump (…) embraced one of the world’s most odious, murderous, corrupt human beings in Singapore because he thought it might make him look better and distract from his legal problems at home in the U.S. (…) Trump laid on the concessions to Kim like a car dealer trying offering options in a hard-sell to a buyer. He gave him international recognition Kim’s family had long craved but had always been denied. (…) He even suggested he might consider pulling U.S. troops out of the Koreas. None of it was warranted. Kim didn’t really reciprocate with much except a suspension of nuclear testing and missile engine testing that can easily be reversed. But Trump (…) didn’t consider (…) the risks associated with suspending what he disparagingly termed “war games” or offering to send troops home. Because those risks are risks Americans and our allies would face. Trump personally won’t be hurt by them at all. So to him, they were freebies, easy giveaways. (…) A deal is only as good as it is for him as long as it is good for him. (…) So, to Bibi Netanyahu and the leaders of the Gulf, ask not for whom the news from Donald Trump’s Washington tolls, because sooner or later it will toll for thee.
David Rothkopf, HAA, 12.06.18
Singapore summit won’t bring peace on earth, but it does prevent a war
(…) the fact that the parties made trust-building moves even before the historic summit in Singapore gives us a reason to believe that both of them (…) are seriously intending on performing a strategic and reliable change in their relations. (…) We mustn’t have any illusions. This isn’t about an improvement of the human rights situation and the humanitarian situation in North Korea. This isn’t about peace on earth either. This is about an agreement (…) to relieve tensions and prevent a nuclear war. (…) just like there is a “dynamic of escalation” which leads to war although the parties aren’t interested in war, there is also a “dynamic of de-escalation” which starts with small steps and gains momentum if they succeed. (…) The American and South Korea negotiation teams deserve a compliment for working for months on a balanced package of trust-building steps and on the agenda of the negotiations which will now begin on North Korea’s demilitarization of nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles threatening the US. (…) The American president is right, (…) when he estimates that if only part of the agreements achieved in Singapore are implemented, the North Korean people stand to benefit from it too. At least their economic situation will improve.
Ron Ben-Yishai, YED, 13.06.18
Trump’s America is once again leading the world
(…) Long live the difference between the U.S. talks with North Korea and its negotiations with Iran; the difference between a superpower and a regular country and, in other words, the difference between former U.S. President Barack Obama and Trump. (…) the 45th president of the United States should not be underestimated (…). Trump’s America has resumed its position as the world’s leader. (…) Trump proved to the world that resolute foreign policy pays off and that when one has no choice, one must exercise force, because that is the way of the world, and at times the only way to earn your adversary’s respect. (…) While Obama’s approach to Tehran was based on obsequious appeasement, which was taken as a sign of weakness, Trump approached the summit from a clear position of strength. Obama had set out to lift the sanctions imposed on Iran, while Trump made sure to keep them in place as the proverbial sword swinging above North Korea’s head. (…) There is no need to hold a ceremony in Oslo. The Nobel Peace Prize committee should just ask Obama to hand over the prize to his successor.
Boaz Bismuth, IHY, 13.06.18
The Donald Trump negotiations academy
(…) US President Donald Trump knows how to negotiate. (…) Singapore was the first time a Western leader from any nation has gotten the better of his opponent at the negotiating table. (…) For the past generation, American and Israeli leaders engaging in negotiations with their enemies have given their opponents a say (…) over the members of their negotiating teams. US and Israeli leaders used their team roster as yet another tool to appease the other side. (…) Trump took the opposite approach. After setting up the talks in a manner that minimizes the cost of walking away from the table for him and maximizes the cost for Kim, he chose negotiators that would both minimize the chance of reaching a bad deal and assuage and encourage his constituents that he can be trusted. (…) A quick look at the “agreement” showed that there was really nothing there beyond platitudes. (…) The point wasn’t to reach a serious agreement. The point was to sign a piece of paper that said “Agreement” on it. By signing the piece of paper, Trump took all time pressure off of himself and his team. They have their deal. He signed it. (…) They have all the time they need now to do what it takes to get Kim to cough up all of his nukes. (…) Kim will want to reach a deal and implement it as quickly as possible. (…)
Caroline B. Glick, JPO, 15.06.18
There is no ‘solution’ for Gaza
Another round of fighting in the unending series of rounds, and the Israeli arena is already flooded, as after every round, with “solution” proposals for the Gaza problem. The serious solutions cite the economy. The proposals are based on the assumption that man will always choose what’s good for him. In the case of Gaza, a Hamas government committed to the people’s welfare will act in a way that will be good for them. (…) As far as the Palestinians are concerned, if Gaza is rebuilt and their economic situation improves, they may lose their devotion to their sacred, immutable destiny – their return to all their towns and villages. (…) The eminently logical humane concept that rising living standards will make the people elect a government that will abandon terror was shattered on the wall of sanctifying the Nakba and the right of return. But many Israelis, including officials, continue to hold on to this. To this day they deny the failure of the official assessment that the Gaza disengagement was based on: The moment we retreat, the government that arises will abandon terror and focus on what governments usually deal with – the people’s welfare. (…)
Israel Harel, HAA, 01.06.18
Toppling Hamas is the only logical solution
(…) we have been trying to deal with Hamas terrorism in every way. (…) We imposed an economic blockade on Gaza. We reached a “hudna” with Hamas, which violated it shortly afterwards, of course. We invested billions in defense measures—the Iron Dome system, uncovering tunnels, building a fence and a sea barrier. Nothing helped. (…) The thought that Gaze can be rebuilt and that its residents can enjoy some relief under the Hamas rule is baseless (…). The claim that toppling Hamas could lead to a worse rule (…) is ridiculous. It’s perfectly clear that Hamas would be replaced by the PA and no one else. The IDF waged a day of battle (…) against an ephemeral organization like Islamic Jihad, which operates under the auspices of Hamas. It’s absurd. Israel, the country with the strongest army in the Middle East, is letting Hamas claim lives and make the lives of Israel’s residents in general, and the Gaza border area residents in particular, a misery for more than a decade now.
Haim Ramon, YED, 02.06.18
The moral test of Israel and the world
Israel has been for many weeks under attack from tens of thousands of demonstrators, so-called innocent civilians – in fact thousands of “human bombs.” This is an updated version of a satanic weapon the Palestinians were the first to introduce to the Middle East, in the year 2000. (…) killing true civilian demonstrators without attempting beforehand to contain them is immoral. However, to facilitate the murder of Israelis by failing to use lethal force is immoral as well. (…) Attempts to impost on Israel restraint that leads to the murder of Jews is not only immoral, but a way to force upon Israel, whose forefathers introduced to the world the concept of the sanctity of life, the ancient Mesopotamian death culture. The Palestinians were the pioneers of returning it to the Middle East and from there it spread swiftly to the United States, European capitals and the rest of the world. (…) The fences of Gaza do not merely separate Israel and the Palestinians, but also civilizations. (…) The moral toolbox of cultures in which life is held sacred lacks the tools to cope with the inhuman behavior of those whose survival instinct has been neutralized and who therefore cannot be deterred. (…) Support for Israel today is support for the heritage of the culture of life. (…)
Hanan Shai, JPO, 03.06.18
It is not the economy, stupid
No cliché has dominated the discourse on the Gaza situation more than the perception of Palestinian violence as a corollary of the Strip’s dire economic condition. (…) the inverse of the truth. For it is not Gaza’s economic malaise that has precipitated Palestinian violence; rather, it is the endemic violence that has caused the Strip’s humanitarian crisis. (…) there is no causal relationship between economic hardship and mass violence. On the contrary, in the modern world it is not the poor and the oppressed who have carried out the worst acts of terrorism and violence but, rather, the militant vanguards from among the better educated and more moneyed circles of society (…). Nor has Hamas been an exception to this rule. (…) apart from reflecting the West Bank’s basic socioeconomic superiority vis-à-vis Gaza, the widening gap between the two areas during the Oslo years (…) was a direct corollary of Hamas’s transformation of the Strip into an unreconstructed terrorism entity, in contrast to the West Bank’s relative tranquility in the post-al-Aqsa Intifada years. This, in turn, means that so long as Gaza continues to be governed by Hamas’s rule of the jungle, no Palestinian civil society, let alone a viable state, can develop. (…)
Efraim Karsh, JPO, 03.06.18
Gaza isn’t a lost cause
(…)We don’t need to prove to Hamas or Islamic Jihad that our air force is more powerful than their incendiary kites. (…) If Israel does not take the initiative, the next round of fighting will occur soon (…). And Gaza-area communities will again fall into the cycle of fear and anxiety. It would have been simpler to propose a diplomatic solution that includes Gaza, but the refusal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to talk to Mahmoud Abbas when he first became Palestinian Authority president; (…) helped Hamas seize control of the Strip and severely hinder the prospect of achieving any sort of diplomatic agreement. What’s feasible today is to try reaching a peace deal with the PLO, which in its initial phase would be implemented in the West Bank only; and to try securing a long-term armistice, via Egyptian mediation, with Hamas. (…) if any sort of prospect for a “hudna” (truce) arises, and Hamas violates it before its predetermined expiration date – then all the more so the IDF will have to take action, as it has done in recent years. (…) Abbas wouldn’t love any deal between Israel and Hamas; but the Israeli interest is to stabilize the situation on the Gaza front and if the PA isn’t capable of delivering, it then falls on Israel. (…) A stable and developing Gaza is our interest (…).
Yossi Beilin, YED, 03.06.18
Holding everyone else responsible
There is no blockade on the Gaza Strip. Goods that are turned into tools of destruction enter from Israel unhindered. The people responsible for sabotaging the supply routes are members of Hamas. (…) the merciful compete to offer suggestions to provide relief for Gaza’s residents, as if doing so would bring any change to the violent agenda promoted by Hamas. And the much-discussed “hudna” (truce) will only serve as a catalyst to bolster the terrorist organization’s standing. In our yearning for peace and placation, we strengthen Hamas. (…) this is a society that shirks responsibility and blames others for its problems. (…) it is only in Israel that among these inciters, the voices of the members of a despicable group of people can make themselves feel like members of the elite by acting against the state and its “ignorant” officials, supporting the Palestinian “right of return” and Israel’s destruction, slandering Israeli soldiers and cooperating with the boycott movement. They do this, of course, “for our own good.” In a police state, the “universalist” Left and the Joint Arab List understand that we, the child murderers, are preventing the Palestinians from access to medication and imposing a blockade, that all the disasters that have befallen them are the result of the “occupation,” and that the Arabs deserve better, including their own state with its capital in Jerusalem. What do the Jews have to do with Jerusalem? What is the Bible? A forgotten narrative. Those who cry out that “the road from Gaza leads to Haifa” and demand an end to the blockade and would allow the smuggling of deadly weapons to be used against us through both maritime and land border crossings would be wise to remember that the path from Haifa to Gaza remains open.
Dr. Reuven Berko, IHY, 06.06.18
Deal with Gaza now, leave Iran for later
(…) our southern fields are burning. (…) We must admit that after years of rounds of fighting and bragging from the prime minister and his ministers, the reality on the ground is terribly simple: We keep suffering blows, and they keep dealing us blows. (…) the tens of thousands of Israelis living in the south have the right to demand a solution (…).
At the moment, there is no plan or horizon that could indicate a point of exit from this brutal reality. (…) Talking about bringing down Hamas and about targeted assassinations of Gaza’s leaders (…) isn’t serious. The biggest absurdity in the government speakers’ recent messages is that the system is giving priority to the northern arena over finding a solution to the threats from the south. This is where we should say to the prime minister and the cabinet: Stop dealing with Iran. Leave something for the Americans and world leaders. The rage of millions of Palestinians in the strip isn’t because of Iran, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires some sort of arrangement. But Netanyahu announced that he would talk about three issues in Europe: Iran, Iran and Iran. He seems to have borrowed this sentence from a real-estate agency’s commercial, which declares that an apartment’s value is measured according to three parameters: Location, location and location. That may be good for commercials, but it isn’t very practical when you look at the burning fields in the Gaza vicinity.
Shimon Shiffer, YED, 07.06.18
With no more tricks up its sleeves, Hamas has become more dangerous
(…) Hamas has no more tricks up its sleeves. (…) All it is left with to remain relevant is continuing the protests to secure the sequence of violence and maintain the military tension vis-à-vis Israel. This organization is suffering from a governance crisis, but is still standing on both its feet. (…) the anarchy on the Israel-Gaza border will continue. (…) On the security side, the IDF provided the required results and curbed the waves of protestors trying to breach the fence. The “marches of millions” threat evaporated. (…) The two sides haven’t put out the flames but have limited their height for now, so as not to reach dozens of casualties again. (…) the cabinet (…) should accept the IDF recommendation to ease the siege in order to give Hamas an opportunity to present an achievement. (…) The cabinet can also decide to advance the project led by the UN envoy to transfer funds to Gaza, bypassing Hamas and the PA. There is goodwill in the world, but no one wants to fund infrastructures that could be erased in a bombing. The victims Hamas sacrificed don’t justify its poor diplomatic achievements. Europe is the only place where it has recorded an international achievement: For the past three months of violence, Israel has failed to get through to the public opinion in friendly Western countries and to torpedo the Palestinian narrative. The European leaderships—even if they do sympathize with Israel—are subject to hostile public opinion against Israel. And this is another reason for Hamas to keep creating shahidim.
Alex Fishman, YED, 10.06.18
Israel’s negotiations with Russia on Syria not yet concluded
(…) What the Russians are suggesting is to pull back forces loyal to Iran—including Hezbollah—to a distance of 60-70 kilometers east of the ceasefire line in the Israeli Golan. (…) Netanyahu (…) phoned the Russian leader to make it clear to him that (…) Israel (…) will not accept Iran and loyalist militias remaining on Syrian land even if they never cross the Damascus-as-Suwayda road west towards the Golan ceasefire line. (…) Israel (…) seeks guarantees that Iranian forces and militias loyal to the Islamic republic will not join the Syrian 5th Armored Division, for instance, to which an Iranian-sponsored unit has been attached. There is also the Palestinian Liwa al-Quds brigade, which is purportedly loyal to Iran as well. The presence of this unit in the force heading south to the vicinity of the Israeli border is completely unacceptable to Israel (…). The Russians, for their part, are willing to promise that once the army overtakes southwestern Syria, Iran and its proxies will depart and fall back east, beyond the Suwayda-Damascus road. (…) Israel, for its part, is demanding the withdrawal of foreign forces happen now, rather than later—in a year or more. Negotiations between Israel and Russia, therefore—both on southwest Syria and on the strategic matter of preventing Iranian entrenchment in the country—are still ongoing.
Ron Ben-Yishai, YED, 01.06.18
No Iran in Syria
(…) The current situation in southern Syria is a result of the cease-fire signed in July 2017 between Russia, the US and Jordan. (…) Jordan, which is currently suffering limited protests, does not want instability caused by a Syrian offensive in the south which might see the rebels defeated and refugees pour across the border. (…) But it appears only a matter of time before Damascus moves its forces south. (…) While Israel has asserted that Iran has bases in Syria (…) Assad asserted (…) that “we never had” Iranian troops. (…) Damascus is clearly laying the groundwork for keeping the Iranians in Syria, but in a different form. It puts out rumors that the Iranian-backed militias called the National Defense Forces will be disbanded. It pretends that there are only Iranian “advisers” in Syria. (…) Israel must demand a full accounting of the Iranian forces in Syria and that any agreements made on the south be based on verification. (…) Israel must demand for its security that no Iranian forces, no advisers, no drones, no missiles, no militias, no vehicles, no training bases, no barracks, no assets beyond declared diplomatic personnel, be present in Syria and that the Syrian regime be transparent about their presence. The subterfuge where the regime says one thing and does another, as it has with chemical weapons for instance, must end now.
Editorial, JPO, 03.06.18
Reality check: Iran isn’t going anywhere
(…) Iran didn’t invest hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars in Syria, didn’t lose thousands of fighters, members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and regular army alike (…) to suddenly up and leave just because Putin or Assad ask politely. (…) neither Putin nor Assad asked the Iranians to leave Syria at all. (…) This doesn’t mean that Russia and Iran aren’t competing or that inherent tensions don’t exist; both want to control Syria when the civil war ends. (…) Assad also won’t want the Iranians to embroil him in a clash with Israel. (…) he knows very well that Israel is not his main enemy or problem. He’ll cross that bridge when he gets there. For now (…) Assad and Putin both need the Iranians. After all, next to the Russian jets in the air, the tide of the war was turned and the survival of Assad regime is ensured by Iranian and Hezbollah forces on the ground. (…) Russia’s problem (…) is with the United States and the West, not with Iran. The latter, as stated, is a tool wielded by the Russians in their fight against the West and there is no reason to relinquish it. Will disengagement from Iran make Assad a darling of the international community and open doors for him in Washington, after slaughtering hundreds of thousands of his own people; and will Iran’s exit from Syria win Putin points in his fight in Ukraine, Eastern Europe and other corners of the globe – with Washington and Western Europe? No, of course it won’t. It is therefore feasible to reach loose understandings on keeping Iran away from the Israeli border, but it’s also uncertain the Russians even have the desire or ability to make that happen. What’s clear is the fight to dislodge Iran from Syria is still far from over.
Prof. Eyal Zisser, IHY, 05.06.18
Russia agrees to rein in Iran
Putin has given Israel carte blanche to take military action against Iranian targets in Syria, and against Iran’s proxy Hezbollah, in Syria and Lebanon. (…) Vladimir Putin is president/dictator of Russia, a country of continental proportions (…). Benjamin Netanyahu is prime minister of a very small country of less than nine million people (…). The two statesmen have one thing in common (…) – they need each other and they recognize it and act accordingly: Despite its size Russia is a dying society; its population is declining steadily and the public health situation is ghastly. The population decline is not just because of a low birth rate but also because of a high death rate. Despite its size Israel is an economic, scientific and technological powerhouse and has by far the most powerful military in all of the Middle East/North Africa region (…). Russia wants no rival to its creation of a sphere of influence in the region and thus is opposed to the spread of Iranian domination. Israel wants its northern border to be as free of external threats as possible. Given that their objectives not only do not clash but actually coincide, these two master statesmen reached agreements in Moscow designed to suit both their interests. Putin is telling Iran not to try to complete its arc of influence or it will meet with Russian opposition, as well as that of Israel and presumably the US. He is giving Israel carte blanche to take military action against Iranian targets in Syria, as well as against Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, in Syria and Lebanon. (…)
Norman Bailey, GLO, 06.06.18
Don’t cry for Argentina, Israel!
(…) if this is the kind of “victory” that the Palestinians and the BDS movement have to resort to, it demonstrates their frustration and desperation. The world has moved on. Right-minded people (…) know that Hamas are brazenly hoodwinking them with their lies to camera in English about atrocities (…) that most of the dead were their members and can barely contain their glee that it has all gone exactly to plan in terms of garnering world sympathy and moving the Palestinians back onto the front page. (…) Threatening acts of violence against players and their families (…) is a desperate attempt at a cultural intifada, and it’s a sign of a movement that has lost its core arguments and would rather continue to evade taking responsibility for the welfare of its own people by deflecting criticism with cheap publicity stunts at the expense of a third country. (…) Any time the Palestinian leadership and their erstwhile supporters want to actually do the right thing by the Palestinians, they will stop these petty campaigns of vilification (…). Attempting to disrupt or destroy Israeli trade and other civil relations with the international community does not help this at all — it actually comes at both our expense. When Israel struggles and is isolated, it makes matters worse for Palestinians, not better — this is not a zero sum game where trade we lose is money you win, or a football game we don’t host is one you now will. If the Palestinians were seriously intent on building their own state (…), their approach would be to ask Israel to arrange the same privileges and access as it has, not try to undermine the same (…). It could not ask for a better road map to resilience and prosperity than Israel.
Michael Freedman, TOI, 06.06.18
Terrorism has no place in sports
Palestinian Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub is one of the main reasons Argentina’s national soccer team decided to cancel its final World Cup warm-up match against Israel. (…) he succeeded in bringing terrorism into the world of sports. (…) The Israeli public can easily differentiate between opposition to the government and opposition to the state. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and not one humanitarian organization has risen to avenge their deaths. A Jewish state that is an enlightened and flourishing democracy and world power contradicts 2,000 years of dogma. A world that has always seen the Jews as eternal victims is now incapable of internalizing that the Jews have returned to history big time. For Israel’s detractors, it makes no difference whether the Right or the Left is in power or where the game was to be held. (…) It is precisely at this time that one would expect the leaders of the Israeli Left to unite against the waves of hatred instead of settling petty political scores. Only a fool would believe those that threatened Messi did so because the match was moved from Haifa to Jerusalem. And even if the change in location was the cause of the cancellation, one would expect any and every Zionist political party to reject outright such a boycott of Jerusalem. (…)
Dr. Haim Shine, IHY, 07.06.18
A new Europe
(…) Angela Merkel (…) no longer holds the reins of power in Europe. (…) The face of Europe has (…) changed dramatically in the past two years. Many believe it is now French President Emmanuel Macron, not Merkel, who sets the tone for the European Union. Macron aspires to introduce reforms to the EU that would strengthen its federal character, in particular as concerns its financial management, at the expense of the sovereignty of member states. Merkel has become the main force obstructing these reforms. The rise of the populist Right, which opposes the idea of a “United States of Europe,” and supports in principle, a Europe of nation-states instead, seems to have made it clear to Merkel that if she hopes to prevent the break-up of the EU and the weakening of Germany’s senior status, the EU must navigate a new course. (…) There is growing anti-German sentiment in France, Italy, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Even Austria is grumbling over Berlin’s seemingly authoritative role. (…) in light of Iranian provocations in Syria and Palestinian provocations in the Gaza Strip, the new German government has expressed full support for Israel’s unconditional right to protect its citizens, borders and territory. This support is a stark contrast from the weak language of the EU Commission. This refreshing change comes not just from Merkel’s office, from which a number of officials with problematic views on Israel have recently departed, but as a result of a generational shift led by the Christian Democrats’ social democratic partner. The older generation, which had an uncontrollable urge to preach morality to Israel, was sent home. (…) Israel should begin to engage in polite discussions with this German government over the problematic nature of Germany’s involvement in Israel’s internal affairs and funding of Palestinian organizations that do nothing to promote peace.
Eldad Beck, IHY, 04.06.18
The Palestinians deserve so much more than Saeb Erekat
(…) Unfortunately, Dr. Erekat’s rhetoric and his claims were in many respects simply inaccurate. (…) For far too long, the United States has turned a deaf ear to such words, but ignoring hateful and false words has not brought peace and it will never bring peace. (…) By moving the U.S. Embassy to Israel’s capital of Jerusalem, we have provided a realistic basis for direct negotiations. (…) President Trump (…) recognizes that “the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties (…) When Dr. Erekat and the Palestinian Authority are finally ready to reject Hamas’ violence and lies and work with us to bring relief to Gaza, we believe real progress could be made that would lay the foundation for a more hopeful future.(…) Dr. Erekat – we have heard your voice for decades and it has not achieved anything close to Palestinian aspirations or anything close to a comprehensive peace agreement. Other Palestinian perspectives might help us finally achieve a comprehensive peace agreement where Palestinian and Israeli lives can be better. The time for leadership and responsibility is now. The time for meeting after meeting of government officials repeating the same talking points is over. The Palestinian people want real action, and they need honest, realistic and decisive solutions. (…)
Jason D. Greenblatt, HAA, 10.06.18
HAA = Haaretz
YED = Yedioth Ahronoth / Ynetnews
JPO = Jerusalem Post
IHY = Israel HaYom
TOI = Times of Israel
GLO = Globes
Published: June 2018
Dr Paul Pasch,
Head of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel