“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:
- Visiting the White House
- 18 Monate Imprisonment for Elor Azaria
- Change of Crew at the Supreme Court
- Selection of Articles
Trump is good for the Jews
(…) A new era has begun in Washington, a much more refreshing one. The press conference with Trump and Netanyahu was a U-turn from everything we have heard, known, understood and considered for decades. (…) Not only have the eight years of the Obama administration become history, even Bill Clinton’s era now sounds obsolete and detached from reality. Trump has left the 1993 Oslo Accords and peace initiatives to the archaeologists (…). While no one can truly promise peace between Israel and the Palestinians is within reach, peace certainly awaits us with the White House. (…) There may be another solution or the regional conflict and many other options can be considered as the cards have been re-dealt. All in all, one can conclude that the idea of two-state solution is in its final days (…). Trump is far more attentive to Israel’s security needs. For him, Iran and jihadist terrorism are enemies against which he must fight and win. (…) Trump believes Israel and the Palestinians both must compromise to achieve peace. This too is a new approach, as we were used to only Israel having to make concessions. Now the onus lies on the Palestinians as well. (…) We can breathe a sigh of relief. The president is a friend. A true one.
Boaz Bismuth, IHY, 16.02.17
(…) On one hand, it seemed that Trump was continuing US policy that opposes settlement growth on the West Bank. (…) But then it appeared that Trump was willing to support full annexation of Judea and Samaria (…). Then again Trump qualified his support for a one-state solution. (…) Trump’s pick of David Friedman as his ambassador to Israel seems to imply that he supports settlements. (…) But then again, in an exclusive interview with the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, Trump said, “I am not someone who believes that advancing settlements is good for peace. (…)” So which is it? (…) The answer, most likely, is that even Trump has not formulated a clear position on the matter. (…) That’s why it is so important for Netanyahu to proceed cautiously. (…)
Editorial, JPO, 16.02.17
Right From Wrong: A bear hug for all the mullahs to see
(…) everyone can and should relax, because nothing whatsoever has changed on the ground. (…) The Palestinian leadership is not seeking statehood alongside Israel, but resistance against Jewish statehood. PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his henchmen (…) make no bones about demanding that any territory they claim to be their own be void of all Jews. Nor did Trump disavow the two-state solution; he simply said that it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to decide how to proceed. (…) More importantly, he was doing so while proudly showing appreciation – and even affection – for Netanyahu. And herein lies the seismic shift that is causing such a stir. (…) The new US president not only snubbed Abbas, purportedly refusing to answer his calls, but promptly invited Netanyahu to Washington, where he gave him a literal and figurative bear hug for all the world’s mullahs and other detractors to see. (…) For Trump to grasp that his country and Israel are fighting the same war is cause for trepidation among their shared enemies. The Palestinians – a footnote in this global story – may finally lose their leverage. It’s about time.
Ruthie Blum, JPO, 19.02.17
Trump wants the ‘ultimate’ peace deal? The two-state solution is still waiting
(…) The two-state solution remains the only viable path forward for Israel to remain both Jewish and democratic and the only one that has any chance of being accepted by both parties. (…) the lack of unambiguous support for two states betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what is possible in this context, and Trump would be wasting his time and effort if he expends American resources on behalf of exploring a fantastical one-state alternative. The reasons that the two-state solution is the only workable one are legion. (…) there is no other way for Israel to maintain both its Jewish and its democratic character. (…) A one-state reality in which only part of the West Bank is annexed, while keeping the rest of it in a state of permanent limbo as advocated by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, would spell the demise of Israeli democracy. Israel cannot reject a two-state solution with finality and maintain its democratic status while refusing to grant full citizenship to Palestinians in the West Bank. Yet maintaining the status quo indefinitely is also not an option, as the status quo does not exist; it changes every day in ways that do not redound to Israel’s benefit. (…) An Israeli-Palestinian confederation would be a recipe for endless violence and bloodshed between two populations that have no level of trust at present, even when they are mostly separated. (…) The two-state solution is imperfect but certainly not impractical. (…) Trump would be well-advised to firmly and decisively keep the Israelis and the Palestinians on the path of two states, since the simple truth is that there is no alternative.
Susie Gelman, HAA, 17.02.17
After his magical meeting with Trump, real life awaits Netanyahu
The fact that Netanyahu got exactly what he wanted from the American president is indisputable. (…) To me, he still seems as ignorant and shallow as he was throughout his entire campaign. An egocentric, slipshod and inarticulate person, who has no idea what his opinions are on each of the issues on the agenda, and worse—what his opinions will be tomorrow. He is someone who is engaged in how his views make him look (…). On Trump’s part, we can talk about three main messages, for now at least, and without committing to what the messages will be tomorrow: He wants a deal, it doesn’t matter what deal, that both sides will agree on. (…) And he, Trump, expects a “holdback” in settlements. (…) The prime minister will have to decide whether he is sticking to the vision he presented eight years ago in his Bar-Ilan speech, or adopting Bennett’s plan for the annexation of Judea and Samaria, which means, as President Reuven Rivlin said last week, granting citizenship to all Arab residents of Judea and Samaria. (…) Trump is a total mystery, an unpredictable person, and there is no way of knowing what his stance will be tomorrow. The weeks that have passed since he entered the White House have only confirmed all the fears, that the man arrived completely unprepared. (…)
Sima Kadmon, YED, 19.02.17
The debate in Israel is over. Annexation it is
(…) Israelis are used to having to choose between a binational state, with or without apartheid, and a Palestinian terror state to be established alongside Israel. Those are the options. And with options like those, most people support annexation. (…) There is no political leader on the horizon among those who aspire to succeed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who can or wants to extricate Israel from the madness of the occupation and save it from oblivion. (…) most Israelis really don’t care about the settlements or Judea and Samaria. The settlement family, like the crime families, have taken advantage of the political and public flaccidity and won. A binational state is not preferable to a terror state. On the contrary. A terror state is a problem that can be dealt with. It does not constitute an existential danger. Israel has solutions for a terror state. It does not have solutions for a binational state. A binational state is an existential danger. (…) Annexation means deepening already existing apartheid. Annexation is a historic mistake and an act of political insanity. Pure self-destruction. (…) Israel will disappear as a Jewish and democratic state. It will be the end of the Zionist vision. (…)
Rogel Alpher, HAA, 19.02.17
The horrific one-state vision
(…) It doesn’t have a majority among the people, but it definitely has a majority in the coalition. President Reuven Rivlin has presented this option in all its glory: One state, full and equal civil rights for everyone. (…) I run into BDS supporters, Jews and non-Jews (…). And this is exactly what they are demanding: One state (…). So why the hell should I oppose a solution when it comes from the anti-Zionist side and support it when it comes from the Right?
(…) The Palestinians are ready for a two-state arrangement, but not for two people. They want to turn Israel into another Palestinians state through the “right of return.” (…) The fact that there is no chance of reaching an agreement in the foreseeable future doesn’t lead to the conclusion that there is nothing to do. (…) Israel’s proclaimed and public acceptance of a two-state arrangement is part of the solution. (…). Even without an agreement, Israel can take unilateral steps which would include both full security control and clear characteristics of a demographic separation and a transfer of authorities to the Palestinian Authority. It’s not simple. (…) But there are situations in which there is no desirable solution and the least negative direction should be taken. The greatest disaster could happen if Trump encourages the Right, or allows it to keep marching towards one state. (…) This anti-Zionist vision must be prevented.
Ben-Dror Yemini, YED, 20.02.17
Sorry Mr. Trump, 2-states is off the table
(…) The two-state solution is no longer on the menu. It hasn’t been realistic or relevant for quite a while now. That option gave up the ghost somewhere over the past few years, evaporating into the air of the settlements, and lost amidst the split between Gaza and the West Bank. (…) 421,000 Jews live in the West Bank (…), not including East Jerusalem. Assuming that between two-thirds and 70 percent of them live in settlement blocs that would come under Israeli rule, this leaves approximately 140,000 Israeli Jews who live in settlements that Israel would have to remove in the event of a peace agreement. Does anybody really believe such a scenario is possible in Israel in 2017? (…) Does anybody really think Hamas will beat its swords into plowshares in Gaza the day after a peace agreement is signed, announce that it is giving up control in Gaza, and surrender it to the Palestinian Authority? The truth is that the settlement enterprise won long ago. It has already reached the point of no return. (…) Difficult, bloody times await us (…). Two and a half million Palestinians in the West Bank are not going to disappear, nor does it seem that anybody on the right intends to grant them Israeli citizenship any time soon. (…) Maybe the time has come for Israel’s prime minister, who has been in office for the past eight years, to tell the Israeli public the truth: that we helped to destroy the two-state solution with our own hands and are now heading toward a violent explosion with the Palestinians at best, or one binational state at worst.
Avi Issacharoff, TOI, 20.02.17
Ethically stronger, weaker in stature
(…) Azaria is a victim. Had he had better advisers, ones less prone to shouting and less hasty, they would have chosen a different, more successful line of defense for him, one that did not try to paint him as a hero (…). Anyone who holds Azaria and the Israel Defense Forces dear should have advised him to bow his head and acknowledge his mistake, and not engage in a futile and unnecessary battle that has left a wake of hurt people and damaged the public trust in the military system. Azaria, however, chose (…) a different path, a wrong path(…). With all due respect, there is no way to justify the unnecessary shooting of a neutralized terrorist, which runs counter to the rules of engagement and purity of arms. Shootings of this sort are a recipe for anarchy (…).Azaria erred, and for his error he has been sent to prison. He alone stood trial, not all IDF soldiers. The hundreds of soldiers who have killed Palestinians in the recent wave of terrorism are silent testaments to Azaria’s guilt. (…) None of them was put on trial for their actions. It is upsetting to see a combat soldier being sent to prison, but cooler heads will realize that Azaria’s is a unique case of a soldier who erred and has now been punished. (…) Once the dust settles on this affair, the IDF will emerge ethically and legally stronger, but weaker in the eyes of the public. (…)
Yoav Limor, IHY, 21.02.17
Calm after storm
(…) A nation that has been split over the trial has yet to accept that justice has been served, but it is time to move on.
(…) Of all the defense arguments, the most ridiculous was Azaria’s story (…) that he suspected the supine terrorist to be wearing an explosive vest. A suicide bomber does not attack soldiers with a knife – he or she blows them up. (…) Azaria’s conviction sends a clear message to his comrades in arms and to the entire nation: The IDF is a moral military force that abides by its core value of the purity of its arms and will not tolerate cases when soldiers take the law into their own hands as happened in Hebron last March. (…) Azaria was unlucky that his crime was recorded on the camera (…). Israel should though be thankful for the video that captured the shooting on camera. While it caused the country diplomatic damage, it forced it to grapple with a difficult case and reinforce the ethos it has lived by for nearly 69 years – that the IDF is a moral and ethical military. The trial proved that it still is. (…)
Editorial, JPO, 22.02.17
The era of purity of arms has ended
(…) the exceptionally lenient sentence (…) in the case of soldier Elor Azaria (…) represents a serious deviation from the norms expected of the legal system by the military court that heard the case. (…) Tuesday’s sentence looks like it was tailored as a kind of political compromise, and thereby stains the fundamental norms that guide the military justice system. An army that imposes a sentence of just a year and a half in jail on a soldier who killed a terrorist who was already mortally wounded doesn’t just send a message of contempt for human life, but also one that threatens the Palestinian population of the territories, because the soldiers who carry out policing functions there are now liable to have light trigger fingers, and the army will refrain from calling them to any real account. (…) The sentence didn’t merely capitulate to the populism of the political right by including irrelevant considerations. It also, to a great extent, constituted a declaration that the era of purity of arms has ended in the IDF – the very purity of arms that leads politicians to boast of the IDF and call it “the most moral army in the world.” (…) The Israeli justice system, including the military justice system, must send an unequivocal message to both Israeli society and the entire world that the IDF operates within the bounds of the rule of law.
Editorial, HAA, 22.02.17
Take the sentence and run, Elor Azaria
(…) Believe me, you got off lightly. (…) Considering the verdict, the court handed you a very lenient sentence. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll sit in prison for a few months. That’s a walk in the park compared to the act that was committed, to the bullet that was fired without any justification into the head of a dying terrorist. (…) although you did not express any remorse or show the court that you understand the severity of the act, there was a lot of thoughtfulness and compassion here. So even if people try to spark anger in you towards the army, the court, the media, the leftists—you really have no one to be angry at. It’s true (…) that the State of Israel puts its soldiers in complicated, sometimes impossible, situations. (…) But you, Elor Azaria, you were lucky. (…) Only recently, the Appeals Court ruled that the punishment for adult Palestinians who throw stones during a riot without causing injuries or damage is 18 months in prison. On Tuesday, the Military Court handed down an 18-month sentence against a soldier who was convicted of manslaughter, violating the supreme value of the sanctity of life. So take the sentence and run, Elor Azaria. (…) All those who are telling you that you’re a hero, that you did what had to be done, are doing a great injustice to you, to the IDF, to the state. (…)
Sima Kadmon, YED, 22.02.17
Life is brutal in the jungle
The Elor Azaria case (…) is a shining example of everything that’s wrong with how things work here.(…) Even before all the facts had been released, and well before the military had a chance to announce its plan of action, members of Knesset – including Prime Minister Netanyahu – began making public statements. Then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon immediately issued a strong condemnation of the soldier, saying that he’d committed a grave transgression. (…) Even IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot ran to speak with the press well before the facts were clear. (…)
The amateurish and irresponsible conduct of all of the above-mentioned politicians signaled to Israelis in every sector to come forward and publicly express their opinion on this specific case, on the IDF in general, and about anyone who didn’t agree with them. (…) The most disturbing aspect is that not one leader tried to stop the incitement and hatred, or to mend the schism. Not one politician said publicly that the IDF should be left out of the political debate. No one tried to unify the country and calm the waters. (…) The Azaria case should have been dealt with in an internal IDF investigation, and not a worldwide political event. (…) This failure is more proof that Israeli society has become increasingly polarized in recent years. (…) Our society has become violent – both physically and verbally. (…)
Lior Akerman, JPO, 23.02.17
Politics instead of merit
(…) Political considerations in the Supreme Court justices’ appointments have never been so blatant as now. (…) Choosing more than a quarter of the top court in the land is a defining moment that will shape the image of the court for many years. Unfortunately, Shaked steered the committee into making less-than-optimal choices. (…) politics was given more weight than merit with their selections. (…) Shaked’s true legacy is in scorning the significant quality advantage of the court system – the Supreme Court in particular – in favor of what’s acceptable in the civil service. Irrelevant considerations, including sectoral and political considerations, have always been part of the appointments committee’s work – but it has never been so blatant. (…) There was no reason to reject Judge Elron because of his fraught relations with some sitting justices, just as there was no reason to support him simply because he is Mizrahi (…) or because he grew up in an absorption camp. But now that the four new justices have been chosen, we must rise above the disputes of the past. In this context, Naor did the right thing when she publicly welcomed the new justices to the court. (…) One hopes that someone who is entrusted with upholding the law and is loyal to the truth will not make judicial rulings in accordance with a political agenda, whether he sits on a district court or the Supreme Court.
Editorial, HAA, 24.04.17
The new Supreme Court: more conservative, more right-wing
The State of Israel took a significant step (…) towards implementing a cultural, governmental and moral change (…), orchestrated by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (…) to lead the Supreme Court on a different path which will (…) make the court more conservative and (…) facilitate an “understanding” of the rightist-religious-settler agenda. (…). What was once a fortified defense impenetrable against a bulwark of steadfast justices, became an institution on the front lines (…) On paper, Wednesday’s selection marks a victory for Shaked’s conservative line. But experience shows that when a judge reaches the most important place in the legal system, he or she puts on a different hat. (…) when a judge is in the company of others, he is (…) subject to influences, arguments and mutual persuasion On the other hand, the relations in the Supreme Court are considered excellent. There are no camps and no pressures.
(…) Alongside their brave rulings, the Supreme Court judges do not live in a bubble. (…) They are constantly forced to go against the grain of popular opinion. (…)
Tova Tzimuki, YED, 23.02.17
New judges reflect society
The appointment of new judges to the Supreme Court on Wednesday was an expression of the power of Israeli democracy. (…) Anyone who thought that this selection of justice would be problematic and crisis-ridden was wrong. (…) the judges chosen are excellent and will bring honor to the Supreme Court in all its glory. (…) the process of appointing judges has become known as members of a club bringing in their friends. Even if that is not entirely accurate, is reflects the feelings of many people in Israel (…) we should welcome the expansion of the family through the addition of judges who are not necessarily identified with judicial activism, which the court has adopted, especially since its precedent-setting ruling that the Basic Laws in effect comprise a national constitution. The new appointments allow us to say that the makeup of the Supreme Court allows the many sectors of our society to be represented, without harming the high level of professionalism expected of those same judges. (…) The change is welcome and a reason to celebrate, but characterizing it as a revolution goes a bit too far. (…) There have already been cases in which justices changed their minds during their time on the Supreme Court bench. (…)
Dr. Haim Shine, IHY, 23.02.17
The revolution that never happened
(…) The truth is that this isn’t even a glimmer of a revolution, definitely not a historic turning point (…) this is nothing but political spin (…). In order to lead a conservative revolution it’s not enough to appoint judges who eschew political robes, in contrast to most Supreme Court justices in the last few decades. A revolution is generated by people whose personal constitution is revolutionary and who, through their learning and depth of judicial wisdom, can bring their opinions to bear against the judiciary branch’s intervention in areas that are under the jurisdiction of the legislative branch of government. Examining the philosophy and character of the new “conservative” appointees does not show them as possessing these qualities. Moreover, the chosen justices were wronged when the justice minister harnessed them without their consent to her ideological (…) wagon, declaring that these are the ones who will spearhead the counter-revolution she is leading. (…) Past experience shows (…) that judges who were appointed for their “conservative” outlook quickly blended in with leading and “correct” opinion holders. Other than on specifically religious issues, they make their rulings in the spirit of the majority, even on political issues related to national identity. (…)
Israel Harel, HAA, 24.02.17
The Israelization of antisemitism
In the 21st century, criticism of Israel that is grounded in antisemitic thinking and aimed at Jews in general has become the dominant verbal form in which Judeophobic ideas are articulated and disseminated. Between 2002 and 2012, the Israeli Embassy in Berlin and the Central Council of Jews in Germany received over 14,000 emails, letters, postcards and faxes from all regions of Germany. (…) the vast majority began with criticisms of Israel’s policies but immediately deteriorated into antisemitic assaults. We call this phenomenon the “Israelization of antisemitism.” (…) Israel has become the collective Jew and should be destroyed. (…) When Israel, the Jewish state, is denounced as uniquely evil and immoral, antisemitism is clearly at play. Modern antisemites have turned “the Jewish problem” into “the Israel problem.” In this world, where we are trying to eliminate racism, misogyny, homophobia and more, it is time to include the age-old hatred of Jews as well.
Monika Schwarz-Friesel and Jehuda Reinharz, JPO, 16.02.17
So what if they’re not the finance minister’s mother?
(…) When the finance minister boils with fury over the abuse of elderly nursing home residents, he’s appalled because he thinks about his own mother. (…) he forgets to think about the severely disabled children in hostels for the autistic, about the seriously mentally ill in closed wards, about the youths sent to live away from home due to a physical or mental disability, or both. None of these folks, the weakest people in Israeli society, remind the minister of his mother. Therefore, it is easy to ignore the occasional reports of abuse, neglect, whitewashing, lies and the gloomy and privatized institutions where Israel houses its dependents. Once in a rare while, one of these places shuts down and its tenants are sent elsewhere (…). It’s very easy, all too easy, to forget they even exist. But they are no different from the heartrending seniors. They, too, are helpless. (…) A society is measured by how it treats its weaker members. (…) What’s needed is not just more oversight of those with money and power, but a whole new way of thinking, a comprehensive reform – practically and ideologically – regarding all of the weaker and dependent member of our society. (…)
Ariana Melamed, HAA, 23.02.17
Ikea owes ultra-Orthodox women more than an apology
(…) the prohibition on displaying images of girls and women is new, and is not found in the Bible or in the Shulhan Arukh, the code of Jewish law. Haredi life is based on the observance of the Torah’s commandments, but over the past 50 years we have adopted commandments and rules that do not exist in the Torah. One of the worst of them is concealing images of women and girls. (…) Unfortunately, over the years the Haredi community has erased images of women from the public sphere. (…) Haredi women, arose and chose to continue to observe Jewish law stringently but also to examine the prevailing system of rules with a critical eye. We sought the commandments, the customs, and the violations in every social guideline. (…) We’ve come a long way to Israeli reality. (…) Quite a few Haredi women are no longer willing to pursue a field predetermined for them (…) and there are those who aren’t prepared to give up shopping in the mall because their seminary forbade them entry. Changes in the Haredi sector begin from within. Only we Haredi women can foment change. (…) As a Haredi advertising executive, I expect Ikea Israel and Ikea international to be fair. Let them continue distributing the Haredi catalogue (…) in Haredi areas. At the same time, however, they should advertise Ikea, with women’s images where possible, among Haredim as well — on Haredi websites, or in dedicated posts on Facebook and WhatsApp, where we, Haredi women, are prominent in the quality and value that we bring to Haredi discourse. (…) An apology isn’t enough.
Naama Idan, HAA, 20.02.17
An end to identity theft
We are living in a wonderful age, the age of information. (…) Anyone who thinks anonymity is possible in this day and age is sorely mistaken. It is not. (…) Anonymity, which so many people seem to miss, also has its defects. (…) All those who oppose a biometric database need to know they that can suddenly find themselves with a double, who can present their passport or identification card with exactly the same personal information as yours — just with a different picture. We ask ourselves, what are the benefits of this law? (…) By incorporating “smart” technology, ID cards will have an electronic chip with our personal, encrypted information, which will include fingerprints or facial characteristics, and this will eliminate the problem of identity theft. With this information, it will also be possible to verify that the person carrying the ID card is the person for whom it was made, rendering impersonation unfeasible. (…) A person who has lost his ID card will easily be able to prove his identity, and law enforcement authorities will be able to identify citizens they are looking for without trouble. (…) In a country with ceaseless security issues, this is of utmost importance. The biometric database (…) will of course obligate the state to protect us. A database of this sort comes with disadvantages and dangers that need to be accounted for in a serious manner. Such a database will be a primary target for hackers. (…) Progress cannot be stopped, but it is imperative and possible to safeguard it. Building the database in a gradual manner, under continual supervision, is precisely the proper way.
Dr. Guy Leshem, IHY, 28.02.17
Enemies of the state
(…) When an Israeli-Arab citizen is killed by police gunfire, in today’s climate there is no crime in being quick to denounce the victim as an Islamic State terrorist before a detailed investigation has been conducted to see whether this was in fact the case. The incident during last month’s house demolitions in the unrecognized Beduin village of Umm al-Hiran was truly tragic. Yacoub Abu al-Kaeean was killed by police fire as he drove away (…). Alsheich was even quick to promote Kaeean’s guilt by association. (…) This rush to condemn, and the need to label Israeli Arabs a fifth column, seeking to bring about the country’s destruction, is a common theme of the current Netanyahu government. (…) The ease with which Netanyahu, his government, and, in the case of Yacoub Abu al-Kaeean, the Israel Police, seek to stigmatize Israeli Arab citizens as enemies of the state (…) is a mark of shame (…).
Jeff Barak, JPO, 26.02.17
HAA = Haaretz
YED = Yedioth Ahronoth / Ynetnews
JPO = Jerusalem Post
IHY = Israel HaYom
TOI = Times of Israel
GLO = Globes
Published: March 2017
Dr. Werner Puschra,
Head of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel