“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:
- Gantz and Netanyahu Agree on Coalition
- Israel Is Loosening Corona Restrictions
- Commemoration Ceremonies and Independence Day in the Shadow of Corona
- Selection of Articles
Benny Gantz is in Netanyahu’s hands
Without a whiff of manipulative argument, Gantz explained the motive behind his U-turn: “The emergency forced all of us to recalculate our path,” he said. He wasn’t saying anything we didn’t already know. Neither he nor Netanyahu could form a government without the other. “The emergency forced me to compromise on my intention not to serve in a government with him,” he explained. It is so starkly true that it sounds like a lie. That’s how things are in Netanyahu’s Israel: Sincerity and simplicity are synonymous with being a loser. (…) Gantz did not get trapped in Netanyahu’s hands, he placed himself there in full view of the entire country (…) Netanyahu (…) must decide if he’s going to be loyal to the country and its citizens and establish a national emergency cabinet to deal with the coronavirus, leaving his legal fate solely in the hands of the courts, or whether he’s going to crush Gantz and prove that Netanyahu is above all else. (…) In the world of sociobiology there are known strategies in which weakness has an evolutionary advantage. Sincerity could be interpreted this way. Perhaps these people feel that what really motivates Gantz is “Israel above all else.” Gantz’s sincerity only highlights Netanyahu’s lies, and his positive character emphasizes Netanyahu’s bad qualities, even in the eyes of his supporters who are – like everyone else on the left and right – captives of the concept of politics as a playing field of suave thuggishness. (…) Who knows, perhaps we’ll discover that the former chief of staff believes in a non-violent struggle in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, and that he preferred beating “Bibism” to fighting Bibi.
Carolina Landsmann, HAA, 19.04.20
Benny Gantz: Your Actions Are Worse Than Naive!
(…) You don’t have to be a college graduate to know that you never quit one Company to join another Company till you have an agreement in hand. But that is what Gantz did. (…) Gantz has acted like a car buyer who comes into a Dealership to negotiate a new car purchase. When he enters the Dealership he is greeted by a smiling Dealer Principal who tells him it is his lucky day, because today more than any other day the Dealership needs to make a sale. Gantz tells the Dealer that he wants to put any differences aside as there is a health crisis ravishing the world. He has entered the Dealership in order to come together for the good of our country. He even broke up with his natural family to prove this point. So the Dealer Principal offers him the most expensive vehicle with the highest payments and the longest contract….because that is the only vehicle he has left to sell. (…) Anybody who has seen Benny Gantz talk in person knows charisma is not his strong point. Nevertheless people voted for him because they believed that he had integrity and a plan to make the country better and as such they voted for the change he promised. By blowing up the Blue and White Party, which had continually gained strength from its’ inception, Mr Gantz handed a prize to Mr. Netanyahu without receiving anything in return. Benny Gantz basically spit in the face of his voters. (…)
Robbie Michaelson, TOI, 20.04.20
New unity government ends 17 months of political stalemate at last
An agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz has paved the way for a government (…). It is cumbersome and controversial and likely paves the way for endless political jockeying that will serve the interests of a few politicians but leave Israeli citizens abandoned again. Israelis should be happy that the 17 months of political stalemate are coming to an end and that finally, it seems, there will be a stable and functioning government in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, this optimism is tempered. To function properly, this new government needs to act quickly to fix the economy and make clear the guidelines for dealing with the continued pandemic. It also must deal with security challenges stemming from Iran and from Hezbollah in Lebanon. The government is a behemoth in size. Despite previous eras when Likud and its allies actually sought to have fewer ministers, now there will be an estimated 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers. (…) For the vast majority of Israelis, wage stagnation, poverty, negative bank account balances and unaffordable housing are what awaits. (…) The more harsh the guidelines for us, the more those in government seemed to flout them. (…) Under the coalition agreement, Netanyahu will be able to veto the new attorney-general, the state’s attorney and the police inspector-general. That gives him a hold over the legal aspects of the state. Unlike in other democracies which have one official residence, Israel will now have two official residences for Netanyahu and Gantz over the next three years. One of them will live in the official Prime Minister’s Residence while serving as prime minister and the other in a new one while serving as deputy. This means paying twice for expenses (…) for the state and the taxpayers at a time when many people are slipping below the poverty line and more than a million Israelis are still out of work due to the pandemic. (…) Governments are never perfect but they also should not purposely waste money. (…)
Editorial, JPO, 21.04.20
A sad day for democracy
(…) the head of the “Just Not Bibi” camp, Benny Gantz, laid the foundation for a historic precedent, by which a lawmaker accused of criminal wrongdoing is entitled to form a government. Moreover, Gantz agreed to anchor a clause in the coalition deal that requires him to dissolve the Knesset if the High Court of Justice dares to intervene and disqualify Benjamin Netanyahu. In the name of hundreds of thousands of people who voted “just not Bibi,” Gantz has exempted Netanyahu from being subject to the prevailing law, thereby whitewashing Netanyahu’s corruption and lending his hand to the destruction of the foundations of this country’s democracy. (…) The attempts by Gantz and his partner, former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, to signal to their voters that they would be like undercover agents defending democracy and the rule of law from within the coalition, were pathetic (…). The former chiefs of staff not only let the accused decide which justices sit on the panel appointing new judges, but also “succeeded” in maneuvering their rival into accepting veto power over the appointments of the police commissioner, the attorney general and the state prosecutor. (…) With the flimsy excuse of responding to the wishes of “the majority of the nation,” Netanyahu and Gantz have agreed to establish a government that is totally disconnected from the nation. At the height of the coronavirus crisis, with over a million Israelis added to the ranks of the unemployed, businesses collapsing and the economy rapidly approaching the point of no return, these two will head the most bloated government in the country’s history, with over 30 cabinet members, 16 deputy ministers, two official prime ministerial residences and one Norwegian law, which will enable further bloating. (…) This is a national corruption government, and it is a sad day for Israeli democracy.
Editorial, HAA, 22.04.20
2. Israel Is Loosening Corona Restrictions
Don’t let the fear kill you
(…) is taking great pains to avoid the scenario presently unfolding in New York, which is seeing a quick and exponential rise in the number of deaths. At the same time, however, more than a few people in Israel are dying and could continue to die because of fear; fear of the virus that is preventing them from seeking treatment for urgent medical problems. (…) amid all the discussions about the exit strategy, it seems one vital aspect has been brushed to the side of the public’s interest: routine medical care. (…) This is the time (…) to increase the healthcare system’s emergency capacity – to do everything possible to expedite the admission of new workers into the field and train them, invest resources in creating new hospitalization options similar to Germany, which doubled the number of beds in intensive care units and is building new hospitals, and also establishing generous incentive benefits packages for those medical workers risking their own welfare on the front lines on behalf of us all. (…) Already now, on the verge of the initial steps to lift restrictions, we must go back and create “routine medical care in the presence of the coronavirus.” In this new routine, we must provide a worthy response for the millions of patients who, due to the stoppage of elective healthcare, postponed procedures, surgeries, and other necessary treatments. (…) If we keep the healthcare system paralyzed for a period of months, patients will pay the price with their health. (…) Due to their natural fear of contracting the coronavirus, people have also postponed receiving urgent care and have died as a result. It’s important to note: Chest pain, exacerbated depression and other acute ailments should frighten us much more than the coronavirus. (…) If you are feeling ill – don’t hesitate, go get checked, and don’t die from fear.
Ran Balicer, IHY, 17.04.20
Before Israel reboots its economy…
One of the reasons the Israel Air Force is such an outstanding organization is its policy of thorough self-examination. (…) introspection focuses on the lessons that we learned from our past mistakes. (…) Even if we do hand out medals to Netanyahu and the Health Ministry for the successful containment of the virus, they still must show us what they have learned from the outbreak and prediction models and what awaits the economy in a future defined by coronavirus. (…) Israel needs a cabinet dedicated to coronavirus affairs comprised of highly experienced lawmakers. We cannot allow health authorities to be the only ones setting policy, because when the curve finally flattens, the state may flatline with it. (…) Israel must expand and improve its testing capacity before executing a staggered exit plan for the economy, to better monitor and prevent potential outbreaks. We must not solely focus on coronavirus patients and abandon all the other issues that bedevil the country. Although more than 170 coronavirus patients have passed away from the disease since the pandemic’s onset in Israel, over 2,500 Israelis have died of various other reasons during the same time period. Allocating crucial health and infrastructure budgets to fight coronavirus could mean death for others. (…) The Health Ministry has repeatedly stressed the importance of these mechanized respirators, but in practice, only five percent of Israel’s ventilators are currently in use. This is an unprecedented margin of safety for any crisis. Conditioning the reopening of the economy on a pie-in-the-sky target of just 10 or even 50 new daily diagnoses will ensure that the economy remains under water long after we have run out of oxygen. (…) Lifting a lockdown requires much more precise planning than placing one. Rushing it may cost us a heavy price, both financially and in human life. (…) Leaders seem to underestimate the economic and social toll the public will pay when Israel seeks to balance the budget and push for financial growth again. Education, welfare, housing, and infrastructure will for many years to come all pay a heavy price for our inability to plan ahead and properly exit this crisis.
Amos Yadlin, YED, 19.04.29
Dear schools: Let my fellow parents go
(…) Distance learning is a fantastic idea in theory. When the schools were first closed (…), I was glad to learn that our three kids’ elementary school would be sending daily tasks. (…) the tasks from school would help keep the kids busy. What I didn’t realize was that more than it would keep my kids busy, it would keep me busy. (…) we are a multiple-device family with enough computers, tablets, and phones to handle the technological onslaught. There are plenty of families with more kids and fewer devices than we have — and the parents may need to use those devices for their own work. (…) By and large, high school students are independent enough to manage their own tasks, sort through the emails and WhatsApps, and study by themselves. Elementary school students are not, and this model of distance learning relies too much on the intervention and organizational skills of parents who have enough on their plates already. It is also discriminatory at its core. The students who will fall behind will be the underprivileged, those without access to a device, a high-quality Internet connection, and/or an available parent who can help them sort through the chaos. (…) Elementary school is important for acquiring fundamental learning and social skills and good learning habits. But the vast majority of actual material learned in this period is usually forgotten within a few years and none of us will ever remember or draw on it. (…) missing a few months of school is not going to create an entire generation of illiterate good-for-nothings. If a parent is able and willing to engage in distance learning and finds it helpful to their child — great! If not… give us the freedom to decide what’s right for our families. (…) plenty of (…) parents (…) are struggling so much with their mental health, with their marriages, and with their relationships with their kids because of all the stress and uncertainty. Adding to their burden is the opposite of helpful for the children of Israel. The best thing the our schools can do for us at this point is take the pressure off and give us support as we figure out how to get to the other side of this crisis with our physical and mental health, and that of our children, intact.
Daniella Levy, TOI, 20.04.20
Can the coronavirus help repair ties between Israel’s Jews and Arabs?
The video clip broadcast last week on Channel 13 was touching. Two nurses in white protective suits worn by those who care for coronavirus patients were caught on video carefully placing tefillin on the arm of a quarantined patient in a Tel Aviv hospital. What made a touching image downright soul-stirring was that the two male nurses were Israeli Arabs. (…) Every crisis, the old adage goes, carries within it the seeds of opportunity. And one of the biggest opportunities coronavirus has presented Israeli society is the chance to repair relations between the country’s Jewish and Arab populations, so badly strained over the last two years by the Nation-State Law and divisive rhetoric by Jewish and Arab politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Nobody has any illusions that this plague will wipe out the deep ideological differences that exists between the country’s Jews and Arabs. But what it can do is nurture sympathy and empathy – two ingredients critical in getting disparate communities to view one another positively. (…) It has always been much easier highlighting the differences. But (…) suddenly both Jews and Arabs are fighting the same enemy. (…) One picture from this crisis that will endure long after the coronavirus is gone is that of two Arab and Jewish paramedics praying outside their Magen David Adom ambulance, the Jew in a tallit praying toward Jerusalem and the Arab kneeling on a prayer rug facing Mecca. (…) The government should take real action immediately to send a message to the country’s Arab minority that its concerns are being taken seriously and will be addressed. And the Arab community (…) should encourage and take an active part in this undertaking. Both sides separately, and the country as a whole can only benefit from a genuine process of reconciliation.
Editorial, JPO, 22.04.20
The Holocaust and the coronavirus
(…) the corona era appears to have spawned a new wave of global antisemitism, and we need to be vigilant against blood libels blaming Jews for the current plague, as well as to prevent attacks against Jewish institutions. (…) There have also been a number of cases of what has been termed “Zoombombing,” in which extremists have interrupted Zoom confrerences with antisemitic hatred. (…) That antisemitism has raised its ugly head again during this pandemic is particularly disturbing. Israel’s first fatality from COVID-19 was a Holocaust survivor from Hungary named Aryeh Even, 88 (…) a number of Holocaust survivors have succumbed to corona, including Benjamin Levin, the last of the partisan Avengers in Poland (…). It is even more tragic that survivors such as Even and Levin had to spend their last days alone, away from their families, and had to be buried after tiny funerals due to the virus. As we honor the memories of six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust and salute the estimated 400,000 survivors still alive today, we should also pause to remember the dozens of survivors who have recently died from corona complications. (…) Despite the many tragedies experienced by the Jewish people, it has proven to be a resilient nation which today has a state of its own. Israel is a source of strength in fighting antisemitism and hate around the world. That is why, even as we are separated today due to the coronavirus, we stand together and declare “Never again” for the entire world to hear.
Editorial, JPO, 21.04.20
3. Commemoration Ceremonies and Independence Day in the Shadow of Corona
Ensure the memory does not fade
Sadly, even the Holocaust can only be remembered for so long. (…) one out of five Europeans ages 20-40 (…) had never heard of it. (…) even here, the annual memorial ceremony that shapes a major part of our identity rests mainly on the generation of survivors, the last of whom are still alive. But what will happen 20, 50, or 100 years from now, when even their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who heard their testimony, aren’t here anymore? Will we all remember? What will we remember? (…) The late Prime Minister Menachem Begin once suggested connecting Holocaust Memorial Day to the line of Jewish religious memorial days by marking it on the 9th of the Hebrew calendar month of Av. Begin wanted all Jews to imagine themselves having been there, in the terror of the Holocaust. The trips Israeli students take to Poland, for example, meet that demand to a large extent. (…) but (…) films, trips, filmed testimonies – none of these are enough in and of themselves to replace the actual memories and ensure that they are retained forever. (…) we need to anchor the Holocaust in Jewish memory through rituals that are essentially similar to the ones that allow us to commemorate the Exodus or the destruction of the Temple. (…) we need to start working on a codified ritual and book that tells the story of the Holocaust – like the Passover Haggada – that will be read aloud in every home. (…) anyone who wants to make sure that “we will never forget” (…) must help build memorial ceremonies and rituals that will become a part of Jewish life. Just like the major events of the distant past.
Nadav Shragai, IHY, 20.04.20
Today, More Than Ever, The Memory of the Holocaust Lives with Us
(…) This year in particular, our hearts and minds are with Holocaust survivors isolated in their homes. Their mental strength and nobility are with them today during these trying times and serve as an inspiration to each and every one of us. (…) The global crisis affecting humanity brings us face to face with our own resilience, with our ability to stand together, firm and united in order to overcome. This ability was rooted within us through the souls of those who perished in pain and valor in camps, ghettos and mass graves. This ability was given to us by our grandfathers and grandmothers, who survived the horrors of the Holocaust and established for our nation and our people a strong state and gifted us the opportunity for a better life. (…) We must remain vigilant in order to act against all manifestations of anti-Semitism and any phenomenon of racism and hatred of the Jewish people. (…) The State of Israel is also required, especially today, to ensure the safety and health of Holocaust survivors living among us in order to give them the life and respect that they so deserve. (…) With the spirit of this nation, in this country, which, despite disputes and hardships, remembers and does not forget, knows forever, and will always do all it can to sanctify life.
Haim Bibas, JPO, 21.04.20
Anti-Semitism is world’s oldest ‘fake news
In order to perpetrate the most heinous act in human history, it took the Nazis years of brainwashing of its public. Over the course of human history, Jews were always demonized (…). After all, anti-Semitism is the world’s oldest fake news. Not every brainwashing ends with a genocide, but every genocide starts with brainwashing. (…) It is not only a matter of delusional intellectuals, in the UN there is an automatic majority of ignorant states, and while we have grown accustomed, we shouldn’t. (…) Western academia and media have both become obsessed with blaming Israel for all of the world’s problems, which does nothing but help spread atrocious propaganda. Once it was the ignorant who hated the Jews. Now, it’s the liberal, enlightened, and educated who hate the Jewish state. (…) When, however, there attacks are committed against Jews, they are rationalized and sometimes justified by the international community. (…) It has been 75 years since the Holocaust and the enlightened have taken the place of the ignorant. This includes international organizations, heads of states which support these organizations, academia, the media as well as Jews and Israelis who are partners in the spread of hate and propaganda.
Ben-Dror Yemini, YED, 21.04.20
Celebration and concern
(…) Israel will celebrate its 72nd Independence Day under the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus (…). The feeling of being closed in and the sorrow that will accompany this day to a large extent symbolizes the state of the country, which currently seems to be imploding under a government that is undermining democracy and planning to annex territory. The traditional torch-lighting ceremony will, as always, be accompanied by hopeful, unifying rhetoric. But this kitsch must not be allowed to hide the tectonic shifts that are occurring, which may well lead us to the brink of an abyss. Under the cover of empty slogans like “the will of the people,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is leading a revolution whose goal is to destroy the rule of law, get rid of the gatekeepers and sabotage the checks and balances that are the basis of Israel’s democracy. (…) This entire demolition job is meant to serve two supreme ends: Extricating Netanyahu from the legal problems that threaten his continued rule, and preparing the ground for annexing parts of the West Bank and officially declaring the two-state solution dead. Thus, governmental corruption and diplomatic corruption go hand in hand, each protecting the other and each enabling the other. And what they symbolize isn’t independence. Rather, this is a recipe for putting the final nail in the coffin of Israel as a democratic state.
Editorial, HAA, 28.04.20
One day a year, give us peace and let us mourn
Memorial Day and the immediately following Independence Day are one inseparable unit. Both serve a festive and sacred reminder of our shared fate as Israelis, for better and for worse. Not only in grief and not only in happiness: solidarity. (…) There will come a day when both Israel’s Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox will also feel a part of this bond. Whether they like it or not, Israel is part of them. (…) This year, the ceremony was held in a different format, but our values of solidarity and commitment will be ever-present – and coronavirus has only strengthened them. (…) “Unlike the Holocaust, this time we’ve detected the danger in time,” Netanyahu said. (…) Well done to us, we struck a great deal: six million dead against 200, and we even got a fifth Netanyahu government to boot. It was definitely worth it. (…) Everyone is Hitler – and I, Benjamin Netanyahu – can alone defeat him. (…) n normal times, we can live with this contempt. Netanyahu is not the first politician to make this comparison, nor will he be the last. But on Memorial Day? The decision to prevent people from going to military cemeteries on Memorial Day was justified. It could have been worded differently, in a different tone, as a reasoned request rather than a command, but it is difficult to argue with the very decision. Ok, now that we’ve given up cemeteries, we ask for one thing in return: Mr. Netanyahu, please don’t try to do deals on the graves of the fallen.
One day a year, give us peace.
Nahum Barnea, YED, 27.04.20
With the families, even at a distance
Soldiers of the IDF, commanders, and employees: In the past few weeks, the streets and been quiet and there has been silence outdoors. We’re almost used to it. But today, the silence is completely different in nature. This is a silence that erupts from deep pain and reflects the memories of soldiers whose voices were silenced between one explosion and another, and the memory of the families who sat silently for several long minutes after being given the bitter news. This is the silence of an entire people, whose sons and daughters are all part of the ongoing battle for our independence and security. (…) We won’t stand beside you at a ceremony, but we will stand by you in every other sense. We (…) bow our heads and remember. (…) In the name of all IDF soldiers and officers, I salute the fallen and make the commitment that we will do everything to bring our missing and captives back home, strengthen the bereaved families, embrace them, and promise that we will do everything we can to protect Israel and its citizens. (…)
Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, YED, 27.04.20
4. Selection of Articles
Season 3 of the Netflix Series “Fauda” Started
‘Fauda’ isn’t just ignorant, dishonest and sadly absurd. It’s anti-Palestinian incitement
As a Palestinian living in the occupied territories, I understand that a lot of Israelis, and many viewers worldwide, genuinely believe that the Netflix series ‘Fauda’ presents an informed, even “neutral,” point of view about the conflict in Israel and Palestine. (…) That faith in ‘Fauda’ is badly misplaced. (…) In the just-released season three, the (…) undercover commando unit (…) participate in an operation to release two Israeli youngsters kidnapped by Hamas. Palestinians in Gaza have been under an Israeli and Egyptian land, air, and sea blockade since 2007. (…) Very few Israelis may have entered Gaza in the last 15 years. Very few Palestinians from the West Bank have either. (…) So does Fauda offer a rare window into an effectively closed-off territory? (…) 38 percent of the population lives in poverty. 54 percent suffer from food insecurity. 39 percent of the youth are unemployed, and over 90 percent of the water is undrinkable. I saw kids from Gaza leaving through the Erez border crossing for cancer treatments in Israel without their families: it’s almost unimaginable, but you won’t learn that from Fauda. (…) Perhaps Fauda needs more Palestinian advisors. This leads me to my biggest problem with the show. (…) Fauda’s writers present the Israeli commandos as personally and operationally principled, lingering on their deep concern for protecting the civilians of Gaza, going out of their way to fulfil their promise to the family of the Palestinian informer who supported them. They aren’t shown shooting or killing any Palestinian women or children. But this is Fauda’s war on truth. All the data shows that the opposite is true. (…) Israelis need to know (…) that their army is responsible for killing (…) civilians, and to recognize the chasm between those deaths, their perpetrators and Fauda’s fantasy soldiers. (…) for me, one of the worst, even dangerous, scenes occurs towards the end of the third season, when an Arab physiotherapist, as he’s starting a therapy session in an Israeli hospital attempts to kill the head of a Shin Bet branch in the West Bank. It’s worth deconstructing this plot: 17 percent of Israel’s physicians, 24 percent of its nurses and 47 percent of its pharmacists are Arabs. There has never been a single incident in history where Arab medics in Israel have betrayed their Hippocratic oath and harmed a patient. It is beyond ridiculous to platform a character and plotline that marks Arabs working inside the Israeli health care system as untrustworthy and disloyal, and capable of violent attacks. It can only create further mistrust between people. (…) With the region already bursting with so much disinformation, name-calling and dangerous propaganda, there’s no need to further confirm prejudices and deepen ignorance. (…)
George Zeidan, HAA, 24.04.20
HAA = Haaretz
YED = Yedioth Ahronoth / Ynetnews
JPO = Jerusalem Post
IHY = Israel HaYom
TOI = Times of Israel
GLO = Globes
Published: May, 2020.
Dr Paul Pasch,
Head of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel