“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.
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Main topics covered in this Publication:
- Police recommend indictment against Netanyahu
- Israeli fighter jet shot down
- Polish government ratifies Holocaust law
- Selection of Arcticles
1. Police recommend indictment against Netanyahu
Reality Check: Justice needs to be blind
(…) Netanyahu and his supporters cannot suddenly demand any postponement of the police findings or downplay the seriousness of the recommendations because of a sudden security escalation. (…) there should be no special privileges for a prime minister suspected of wrongdoing. The heavy duties of state do not outweigh an individual’s responsibility to act within the letter of the law and the wheels of justice must continue turning no matter the circumstances. (…) why did Alsheich suddenly feel the need to expose himself on prime-time television? Such a miscalculation on the part of the police chief adds another dent to the not-so-immaculate image of the Israel Police (…). Alsheich’s parachuting into the top job from the outside was meant to signify a cleaning of the stables and the restoration of the police’s reputation as an organization fit for purpose. If that was the aim of Alsheich’s TV appearance, then it backfired spectacularly. (…) But in one important respect the prime minister is right: there needs to be an immediate investigation into Alsheich’s allegations. If in Alsheich’s words a “powerful figure” – clearly referring to Netanyahu – did hire private investigators in an attempt to intimidate police investigators, then this is a crime far more serious than the ones the prime minister is currently accused of. (…)
Jeff Barak, JPO, 11.02.18
The police recommend, the attorney general decides
(…) Under Israeli law, deciding on an indictment is the attorney general’s exclusive prerogative (…) and he must exercise this authority with moderation, without prejudice, and with an open mind. (…) One cannot overestimate how heavy the burden is on the attorney general’s shoulders and the sound judgment he has to exercise, especially when the case involves a prime minister. (…) police recommendations should be taken into account. But should their recommendations decide a case? No. (…) Some entities recommend, others decide. Let’s keep it that way.
Prof. Aviad Hacohen, IHY, 14.02.18
Mendelblit, don’t delay
(…) Speedy action by the prosecution doesn’t only have legal importance (…) but also political and public importance. If the decision is to prosecute, subject to a hearing, and the hearing itself before an indictment takes place close to the next elections, they will serve as a tool in political struggles and their social value as an objective instrument for getting at the truth will be lost. (…) the attorney general must conduct marathon discussions until a decision is made. The corruption cases (…) basically tell a very simple story. Netanyahu allegedly accepted favors in corrupt deals with a series of people, while he promised and, in some cases, provided something in return. He cannot continue as prime minister of Israel for even one day beyond what’s required.
Editorial, HAA, 14.02.18
Netanyahu’s big problem: Evidence has rules of its own
(…) The police recommendations are firm, decisive and reasoned. (…) Netanyahu won’t be able to (…) escape an indictment. (…) It’s hard to imagine what Netanyahu was thinking when he demanded, according to the police, the illicit gifts. (…) The expected attacks on Lapid (…) and the fact that his name has been mentioned as a witness for the prosecution, likely make him uncomfortable. For Lapid too, the recommendations have turned into an event that requires proper media management to prevent them from affecting the public popularity he has been enjoying up until now. (…) Netanyahu’s big problem is that evidence has rules of its own, and these rules are isolated from the voices outside, both those in favor of him and those against him. In any event, the night of February 13, 2018 will possibly be remembered as the beginning of the political end of the best politician we ever had here: Benjamin Netanyahu.
Moran Azulay, YED, 15.02.18
Netanyahu has to leave
(…) Netanyahu can certainly be convicted of putting together the most corrupt government in Israel’s history. For that alone he no longer has the moral right to ask for voters’ confidence. (…) His desire to rule is too strongly rooted in him, although one can assume that even he feels that his friends are viewing him differently. (…) it’s impossible to ignore that Netanyahu’s actions and the wholesale corruption that has already been proved in his inner sanctum have created an unbearable situation and weakened his standing around the world. Justice and law should not back down so that Netanyahu can rehabilitate his standing. He’s the one who must withdraw, certainly as a person who presents himself as having only Israel’s best interests at heart. Therefore, the process must be expedited. There can be no delay. The fact that a prime minister is willing to exploit the law to stay in power without any benefit to the people condemns him. (…)
Dan Margalit, HAA, 15.02.18
‘Defending’ Netanyahu with the new S-words
(…) Let’s talk for one brief moment about the word “shtinker.” (…) Amsalem, a son of Moroccan immigrants, used a German word for someone who literally smells. The word was adopted by Yiddish speakers before, during, and after the Holocaust to connote Jews who collaborated with the Germans by revealing hiding places (…). When I discovered that then-president-elect Donald Trump was considering US Ambassador David Friedman for his post, I begged Jews and non-Jews alike to refrain from using the word “kapo,” as David Friedman had done, to depict Jewish supporters of a pro-two-state solution. (…) And I’m asking now that we avoid using “shtinker” as a weapon for the same reasons. It is particularly offensive when one knowingly uses this word to directly address a child of Holocaust survivors. Believe me, we never asked our parents what they did to survive. To say that calling a 2G a “shtinker” is “triggering” is like saying that there were snowflakes in you-know-where. (…)
Varda Spiegel, TOI, 15.02.18
Sad days for Israel
(…) These are sad and difficult days for Israel. (…) The police recommendations portray a tough picture to look at (…). True, the prime minister is entitled to a presumption of innocence and according to the letter of the law is not obligated to resign because of the police recommendations. But publicly, he is in an untenable situation. Public faith in him has been dealt a serious blow and a dark cloud is hanging over his head. There was a good reason why he and his colleagues demanded that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resign when he found himself in a similar situation. (…) The good of the country and the stability of the system, especially in the face of security and diplomatic challenges, demand that the state attorney and attorney general duo drop everything else and make an immediate decision in the cases involving the prime minister. (…) We need to step away from the keyboard and shut our mouths and let legal officials do their work without disturbance, without being slandered, without delay, and most of all, without fear.
Isaac Herzog, IHY, 15.02.18
2. Israeli fighter jet shot down
Step back from the brink of war
(…) the downing of an Iranian drone (…) was a legitimate and necessary action. (…) This action and its outcome – which could have (…) dragged Israel into large-scale military action (…) – requires a reevaluation of the policy of response in particular, and the strategy guiding Israel in its conduct in the Syrian war in general. (…) isolated incidents have explosive potential and can lead to military action that might get out of hand. (…) Israel must steer very carefully between its desire to thwart further Iranian involvement in Syria and the outcome that this desire might produce. (…) A military initiative that stretches the limits of Russian “permission” might lead to its cancellation, or at least place Israel on a collision course with Russia – the only country operating in Syria that is willing to take Israel’s interests into account. Israel recently delivered a series of very clear messages, according to which it is prepared to act military to stop the growing threats against it in Syria and Lebanon. At the same time, it states it does not want war. The balance between these two strategies requires huge military caution, good judgment and increased restraint when feeling angry and vengeful. The brink of war is too close, and we must step back from it.
Editorial, HAA, 11.02.18
Iran wants Putin to intervene
Israel and Iran (…) took another step closer to all-out conflict. (…) It is difficult to exaggerate the severity of the Iranian threat. (…) there is a real wolf on our doorstep whose intentions are clear: to entrench itself in Syria and open an active front against Israel. (…) it appears the ensuing airstrikes were not improvised. And yet, Israel will have a hard time summing the day up as a success: the downing of an F-16 is a victory for the radical axis fighting Israel. (…) Syria (…) is sure to stand a bit straighter now. The downing of the Israeli jet will provide a tailwind for the regime to continue challenging Israeli activity in the name of preserving its sovereignty. In this regard, Israel has another reason to worry: Damascus (…) merged its interests with those of Iran, and declared (…) that attacking Iranian targets on its soil is no different than attacking Syrian targets. (…) it is now clear that the Iranians are firmly on our fences.
Yoav Limor, IHY, 11.02.18
Dangerous U.S. inaction
(…) The clash over the weekend between Israel and Syrian and Iranian forces signals a new chapter in the ongoing realignment of powers in the Middle East. Yet, while Russia, Turkey and Iran continue to assert themselves in the region and constitute a loose axis of powers, America is sorely missing from the geopolitical equation. (…) The turning of backs to the Syrian Kurds, a group that did more than any other to fight IS, is a harbinger of what the US reaction might be should Israel get dragged into a direct conflict with Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and perhaps even Russia. If the Trump administration has no qualms about watching Turkey use US-supplied F-16s against supposed American allies in northern Syria, what does that say about US declarations to support Israel’s right to defend itself? US inaction to protect the Kurds has more far-reaching ramifications as well. It indirectly strengthens Russia and Iran by adding Turkey to the list of nations that are openly defiant of the US. It undermines NATO, an organization set up to counter Russia, by giving Turkey, a NATO member, full rein to advance Russian interests. (…) Despite Russia’s heavy involvement in the region, the US remains the world’s most powerful nation, backed by the world’s biggest, most dynamic economy. Only the US has the ability to defuse the situation in Syria by taking steps such as forcing Turkey to stop its attacks on the Kurds and by putting pressure on Iran to keep clear of Israel’s borders. By failing to act, America emboldens Iran and increases the likelihood of war.
Editorial, JPO, 12.02.18
As Syria and Iran threaten Israel, America signals its ally is on its own
(…) The U.S. focus in Syria has been to complete the defeat of ISIS in central and eastern Syria, provide support for Kurdish and Sunni allies in preventing an ISIS resurgence, and, to a degree, stemming an Iranian or Syrian-regime advance into areas formerly under ISIS control. (…) Much less American attention has been directed at preventing the establishment of Iranian military facilities in Syria that could be used to launch attacks against Israel. (…) One reason for that lack of emphasis has been Israel’s effectiveness in addressing these threats by itself. (…) Hezbollah, under Iranian sponsorship, will establish production lines for precision-guided missiles in Lebanon. These weapons, which, in the next war, could pose a direct threat to critical Israeli targets (…) have been the primary focus of Israeli strikes on shipments from Syria to Lebanon. The prospect of a domestic production capability in Lebanon might cause Israel to recalculate whether it can afford to wait, or whether it must destroy those facilities in Lebanon sooner, potentially igniting a broader conflict. (…) In the event of war, the United States will inevitably seek to lead the diplomacy to bring it to an end after Hezbollah has been dealt a decisive blow. But there will be immense suffering on both sides before it is through. (…)
Daniel B. Shapiro, HAA, 13.02.15
With his army battered, Assad bolsters Anti-aircraft capabilities
(…) This is not the first time Syrian forces fired at Israeli jets when they acted against Hezbollah’s buildup (…) though in most cases failed to endanger the planes. (…) Now the Syrian defense system has a variety of modern antiaircraft capabilities (…). Most anti-aircraft missiles, such as surface-to-air missiles, are not intended to hit targets on the ground, such as bases or towns. Up until Saturday, most Syrian anti-aircraft missiles fired at Israeli warplanes exploded in mid-air, with their fragments scattered across the northern region of the country. (…) the pilot has preliminary intelligence about anti-aircraft missiles (…) but stressed that there’s a big difference between being targeted by only one or two missiles and being assaulted with entire missile batteries.
Yoav Zitun, YED, 11.02.18
Israel achieves strategic gains against Iran
Despite Iranian claims that the F-16’s downing was a game changer, it served Israel as a pretext for important strategic gains. As a small but highly productive country, Israel is greatly dependent on the outside world for its economic and financial well-being (…). As a result, the perception of Israeli security from external threats and from domestic instability is of vital concern to the state. Recent events have the potential to seriously impact this perception. (…) The clear winners from this situation are Israel and Russia, whose military advisers mysteriously vanished from the anti-aircraft battery sites prior to the Israeli strikes, according to reports. (…) All in all, the current balance of Israel’s very strong economic, financial and commercial situation versus its political and social negatives is positive, and events in the skies over Syria have only enhanced it.
Norman A. Bailey, GLO, 15.02.18
3. Polish government ratifies Holocaust law
The competition over suffering
(…) Since 1945, a universal view of the Holocaust has formed in the West, which defined it as a crime against humanity and then became a metaphor – the metaphor – for human suffering. (…) At the same time, the more the Holocaust is turned into a metaphor, the more the unique suffering of the Jews is obscured. (…) Poland’s self-image is anchored in political victimization (…). In the national memory of the “suffering nation,” there was no room for the suffering the Poles themselves caused (…) There are absolute victims or absolute victimizers and Poland falls into the first category. (…) If Holocaust relativism in Eastern Europe plays down anti-Semitic persecution, Western Europe has reached the same point by a different route: The more the Holocaust comes to symbolize suffering, the more collectives that suffer are seen as metaphorical Jews. (…) The saga about the Polish Holocaust law might be about something other than the glorification of their own suffering, suffering that leaves no space to discuss the crimes the Poles themselves perpetrated. It’s not impossible that the law is also fueled by a desire to match the Jews when it comes to suffering or even be seen as the true sufferers. (…)
David Baron, IHY, 02.02.18
Who owns Auschwitz?
(…) the Polish insistence that no one use the term “Polish death camps” is understandable. After all, the camps were built and operated on the orders of the German Third Reich, and millions of Poles suffered and died in them. (…) What doesn’t make sense is passing a law that prohibits calling the camps “Polish” or even suggesting that the Polish nation was in any way complicit with Nazi crimes. (…) the Poles have a very conflicted attitude toward the camps, especially Auschwitz. (…) Auschwitz was a killing factory for non-Jewish Poles as well – some 150,000 perished there – but the scale, the survival rates and conditions were still different. (…) There is only one Auschwitz, and you can understand the frustration of many Poles that, around the world, it is a name associated only with the Holocaust of the Jews and not a symbol of Polish suffering. (…) There is an inescapable contradiction in our desire for the whole world to treat the Holocaust as a unique symbol of suffering for all humankind, but at the same time to retain a complete monopoly on how it is to be defined and commemorated. There is a limit over how much we can have it both ways, and everyone wants some recognition for their suffering. (…)
Anshel Pfeffer, HAA, 04.20.18
Sowing hatred, reaping anti-Semitism
(…) this ridiculous, distorted and unenforceable law outraged public opinion in Israel, from Left to Right (…) In today’s Poland, anti-Semitism is proudly rearing its head (…) Many people inside and outside Poland are under the impression that the current government has accepted anti-Semitism and is even encouraging it with a wink and a nod. (…) The law against the “defamation of Poland” is seen, therefore, as part of this dark chain, legitimizing it. (…) The excellent relations between Israel and Poland can still be restored, but it will require a special Polish effort to eliminate anti-Semitism, and not just amendments of the law against “the defamation of Poland.” The anti-Semitic demon has come out of its hiding place. It’s so dangerous, that there is a need to install concrete barriers outside the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw and tighten security around Ambassador Anna Azari, who has courageously issued harsh condemnations.
Sever Plocker, YED, 06.02.18
Why the Poles are frustrated
(…) many Israelis see the Poles as Nazi allies and full partners in the German program to exterminate the Jewish people. (…) The Polish government and many citizens of Poland are frustrated because they believe such an image distorts their wartime role, and such frustration underlies the controversial law recently approved by the president of the Polish Republic. (…) Unfortunately, wartime Poland had its fair share of collaborators, some of whom had willingly helped to kill Jews. (…) But do the Poles share responsibility for the Holocaust not only as individuals, but also as a state and nation? Certainly not as a state. (…) Contrary to other occupied states, such as France and the Netherlands, Poland did not supply the Germans with a collaborationist government. The Polish people were neither allies of the Nazis nor bystanders. Instead, they were subjected to severe persecution, massacres, planned starvation and partial extermination, especially of the upper class. (…) Poland had one of the biggest and most effective anti-Nazi undergrounds in Europe. This underground and the Polish government-in-exile were not indifferent to the fate of the Jews. The government-in-exile publicized the facts about the Holocaust and cried for world intervention. (…) In Poland, the punishment for saving Jews was cruel death for the rescuer and his entire family, while informers were rewarded by the occupation authorities. Yet many thousands of Poles did risk their lives. (…) The Polish law was born not only out of the Polish government’s intention to whitewash the past, but also due to justified frustration. Poles, who were victims of the Nazis, cannot understand why they are being perceived by many Jews as Nazi murderers. (…)
Danny Orbach, JPO, 09.02.18
An Israeli in Krakow: Reflections
(…) the new law proposed by the government is extraneous, misleading and the cause of much strife; on the other hand, the vitriol of certain politicians in Israel only exacerbated the issue creating more anti-Semitism, more prejudice and disunity. Each side has its truth and each side has its extremists who add fuel to this fire. (…) It is absurd to say that Poles created death camps, just as it is absurd to think that no Poles caused Jewish deaths during the Holocaust. (…) Israel and Poland share much history and much heritage. (…) Throughout the thousand-year history Poland was a home and sometimes a refuge to Jews from external persecution. The Holocaust has almost completely extinguished Jewish life and Jewish memory of life in Poland. We in Poland live on proudly to declare that Hitler did not snuff out life in Poland; rather, it survived miraculously and now it is making a revival, a return! It is small, but growing. (…)
Avi Baumol, TOI, 14.02.18
4. Selection of Articles
We must fight Palestinian terrorism without rewarding Jewish terrorism
(…) We must stamp out Palestinian terrorism, but not by rewarding Jewish terrorism. (…) some are exploiting that blood to request that Israel authorize the heretofore unrecognized Havat Gilad outpost, where Rabbi Shevach had been residing. (…) Havat Gilad is one of the most violent of the settlements and outposts. (…) If Havat Gilad residents haven’t killed anybody, it can only be due to dumb luck. (…) There isn’t room to go through all of the incidents in which Israelis from Havat Gilad covered distances to attack Palestinian farmers and those of us protecting them. Every Palestinian in the area lives in fear of Havat Gilad. (…) If there is one unauthorized outpost symbolizing the ideology of “price tag” violence directed against everybody, including Israeli security forces, it is Havat Gilad. Even if the current government is not concerned about Palestinians, I would think that the defense minister would take into account the violence of Havat Gilad residents and their supporters against the Israeli security forces before rushing to recognize this outpost. The message of recognition will be that systematic violence pays. Rather than fighting terrorism, authorization is likely to encourage more Jewish and Palestinian terrorism. (…)
Arik Ascherman, JPO, 04.02.18
Don’t wait for the next murder
Sometimes the messiah comes dancing, and sometimes crying. Havat Gilad, a settlement outpost near Nablus, should have been legalized long ago, and not just as a result of Rabbi Raziel Shevach’s murder in early January. (…) the declaration communicates a clear message to all terrorists everywhere that the price for murdering Jews will also be paid in settlements, and that where they cut life off, life will regrow. (…) Havat Gilad is only a drop in a sea of “unauthorized” settlements (…). The name of the game is prevention. To avoid another year of court-mandated evictions, (…) we must act quickly and effectively. The lifespan of the current government and the Trump administration with which it coordinates (…) is uncertain. (…) The Israeli government has a moral obligation to the thousands of settler families, and it does not have to wait for a terrorist attack to do right by them. (…) Meanwhile, a critical mass of settlers must also be maintained in the recognized settlement blocs. It needs to be big enough to prevent the mere thought of evacuation in the future. (…)
Nadav Shragai, IHY, 05.02.18
Aufforderung zur Ausreise
Illegal migrants: Separating truth from hysteria
(…) these are overwhelmingly young male economic migrants, who left their countries to better their lives. (…) The Supreme Court unequivocally repudiated the claim that sending the illegal migrants to Rwanda or Uganda (…) represents a danger to the deportees. (…) The people of south Tel Aviv are now living in occupied territory, with no left-wing NGOs there to support them. (…) the reality that Israel cannot afford to be a safe haven for any and all seeking a better life and still hope to be Israel, the world’s sole Jewish state serving as a Jewish homeland for a Jewish population that is a statistical rounding error in the world’s population. (…) The Israeli government (…) has a responsibility to preserve a Jewish state that, yes, shows compassion to those who are displaced or without hope (…), yet maintains its faith with the moral imperative to provide for the continuity of a Jewish state. (…) Israel has a duty to act on behalf of its beleaguered citizens and on behalf of its historic mission. And we, its citizens, have a duty to resist fear mongering and false and self-destructive fabrications.
Douglas Altabef, JPO, 05.02.18
Migrants’ lives are not at risk
Africa is a very confusing place. At once an enchanting and tragic continent; it is both heaven and hell on earth. (…) It is easy to sell us, the “whites,” dramas and tragedies that set off pangs of conscience and a desire to help. While this works particularly well with formerly colonialist countries, it turns out is also an effective strategy in Israel, a country that has never conquered an African territory. (…) Rwanda is a safe and organized place. If the deported migrants decide to leave Rwanda for Europe, they are knowingly putting their property and lives at risk. (…) Of course the standard of living in Rwanda will be very different to the one the migrants were accustomed to in Israel (…). There is no legal obligation to provide illegal migrant workers a life of convenience (…). Those who truly want to work will find a way. (…) Others, who wish to continue to live comfortable lives at the expense of others, will need to try their luck elsewhere.
Eldad Beck, IHY, 04.02.18
Wachsende Not im Gazastreifen
What Israel´s policy should be regarding Gaza´s `humanitarian´ crisis
(…) The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises – the specter of mass hunger and contagious disease – is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. (…) In such a situation, the first to leave are the relief agencies, then, the local medical staffs, local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam, leaving the destitute to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals. Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the major source for this fake news of humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron hand. (…) Nowhere is there any evidence that the World Health Organization, which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. For good reason. The WHO knows, just as hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza know, that the hospital system in Gaza is of high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world, which comprises most of humanity. (…) Israel, should of course be prepared to address a humanitarian crisis in the unlikely event that one comes to pass. To prevent it, the message to Hamas is that you must give up your murderous offensive capabilities. To prevent humanitarian crisis, Hamas should be left with policing capabilities, because the most important single cause preventing humanitarian crisis is law and order.
Hillel Frisch, JPO, 06.02.18
HAA = Haaretz
YED = Yedioth Ahronoth / Ynetnews
JPO = Jerusalem Post
IHY = Israel HaYom
TOI = Times of Israel
GLO = Globes
Published: March 2018
Head of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel