“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:
- Countdown to the Fifth Parliamentary Election
- Abbas in Berlin
- Three Days of Fighting Between Israel and Islamic Jihad
- Negotiations on Renewed Nuclear Agreement With Iran Ended
- Selection of Articles
Israeli Voters Can Still Turn Around the Left’s Titanic
(…) The loyalty regime is the system of government that Netanyahu has established since 2009. He has turned voting for right-wing parties into semi-official criteria for receiving government benefits and investments. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, this was a substitution for the welfare state and a means to dismantle it, a mechanism to compensate the lower classes harmed by his neoliberal policies. (…) the loyalty regime is the axis of Israeli populism and shapes its image. (…) The “Anyone but Bibi” coalition came out against the loyalty regime, seemingly in the name of democracy but in reality to uproot the class bias of the compensation mechanism for the lower classes. So, because the “government of change” is the representative of the better-off classes, it has adopted a strict Thatcherite policy. This has idealized the compensation mechanism among the lower classes, putting the return of the loyalty regime – and Netanyahu as its representative – into the heart of the political battle. The Thatcherism of the “government of change” was revealed immediately in the cancellation of the furlough policies that Netanyahu introduced to help workers stung by the pandemic. (…) The true antithesis to Thatcherism and populism are democracy and the welfare state. (…) The people with the power to change (…) are the members of Labor and Meretz. Voters (…) can promote candidates with a radical distributive agenda; promoters of budgetary expansion with links to the unions. These are candidates who see their parties’ futures in a dialogue with the lower classes that support Netanyahu, earning their trust to establish a new political alliance in Israel.
Daniel Gutwein, HAA, 02.08.22
The battle for the moderate Right
(…) after the final results in the Likud primaries were announced, party leader Benjamin Netanyahu (…) demanded “campaign discipline,” including that candidates stick to campaign messages and coordinate interviews with the party campaign headquarters. Netanyahu is pleased with the list, but wants to be very careful. (…) The more Netanyahu secured ardent followers on the new party list, he could also have to deal with some embittered members. (…) Israel Katz and Edelstein were pushed down on the list, and conspiracies could start spinning that in a scenario in which Netanyahu doesn’t get 61 mandates, he could find himself waging a tough war on his home ground. (…) One of the reasons Netanyahu is encouraged by the primaries is the high voter turnout. Of 140,000 eligible Likud voters, almost 80,000 cast ballots. (…) that’s a nice number. But does it mean that Likudniks will turn out in force on election day? (…) It’s not certain. (…)
Yehuda Shlezinger, IHY, 12.08.22
For Israel’s sake, Arab citizens must vote in droves
For Israel to stand a chance of crafting a vision of a better, more stable and more peaceful future (…) it will need a strong, effective government. That is true for the sake of breaking the endless cycle of terror and responses to it in Gaza. But it is also true in terms of addressing the Iranian threat and that of Hezbollah. And if Israel’s divided society is to be healed and its cohesion and resilience resurrected by managing Israel’s significant economic, infrastructural, and educational imbalances. For the larger picture, Israel needs a new means of seeking a resolution with the Palestinians. (…) Indeed, this government has undertaken constructive action (…). More will need to be done, however, if the pattern of tactical responses to terror from Gaza is ever to give way to a longer term, strategic solution. (…) Israel’s dysfunctional electoral system does not offer much hope for a strong, stable and enduring government capable of addressing Israel’s challenges in a strategic way. For the parties of the left, center, and center-right, however, the priority must be averting a return to directionless government led by the self-serving and propped up by religious fundamentalists and ultra-nationalist pyromaniacs. But right now that scenario can only be prevented if Israel’s Arab population is motivated to vote. (…) Alarmingly, however, recent polling predicts voter turnout among Arab Israelis to be as low as 40 percent. Over the next three months, parties who aspire to forming a coalition without Ben Gvir, Smotrich, coercive Haredim or a leader of yesterday will need to think about the environment that must prevail to facilitate a higher proportion of Arab Israelis exercising their democratic rights at the ballot box. If the left, center, and center-right Jewish parties think only about their own fight for Jewish votes, the opposition awaits. (…)
Mick Davis, TOI, 15.08.22
Not fit for public office
(…) Yair Golan is one of the people least worthy of holding public office in Israel. He looks like someone with a clear belief system, but the perverse depths that appear from the jumble of words he spits out cause anyone who looks at him to see him as a representative of embarrassment. (…) The fact that a person like this, with a divisive and hateful, poisonous and inciting world view commanded soldiers and was part of our military’s leadership, puts us all in an extremely uncomfortable position. Are their more Yair Golan’s coming up through the IDF ranks to destroy us all from inside? (…) the Gaza Strip (…) was a difficult place, full of Arabs, some of whom really want us to die and are trying to implement that desire. We weren’t there because it was fun, but because – among other reasons – we wanted to prevent the situation in which we find ourselves now, with Hamas shooting on Tel Aviv because we have no strategic depth or quality intelligence. Even if Golan’s ideology opposes settlement in the Gaza Strip, as an IDF general he is supposed to understand that. He doesn’t. Or he’s lying. (…)
Karni Eldad, IHY, 16.08.22
Likud’s Electoral Slate Looks Nothing Like Its Predecessors
(…) Likud today has close to 135,000 members, and it is indeed Israel’s largest party. However, in 1996 Labor had 300,000 members and 200,000 voters. The fact that it has shrunk over the years proves that the primary system does not guarantee a party-political prosperity. The public votes for a finished product and does not favor one method over another. Indeed, Likud’s finished product is more concerning. The party approaches this election campaign wounded and fearful. Its expulsion from power was (…) was a powerful, petrifying blow that shook the entire party. (…) Likud’s current list (…) constitutes a real declaration of war – first and foremost against the judicial authority. (…) Benjamin Netanyahu is an intelligent man. (…) He will speak about security and the economy, about the cost of living and expanding the circle of peace. He will try to paper over the tremendous desire to eliminate the judicial system. Beneath that desire lies basically the ambition to liquidate liberal democracy and replace it with a nationalist democracy in the style of Hungary or Poland. (…) The challenge presented by Likud demands the utmost vigilance by the opposing bloc. (…) We must force those who declared war on democracy to put the sword back in the sheath.
Uzi Bar´am, HAA, 17.08.22
Israel’s Left-wing Primary Results Tell a Clear Story
(…) Galon’s resounding defeat of Golan for party leadership (…) represented a firm rejection of Golan’s argument that the party needs to turn away from what he called “esoteric” issues like climate change and LGBT rights, and that the focus should turn more squarely on diplomatic, security and economic issues. His combative campaign message that the party needed to declare itself unequivocally “Zionist” also fell flat. (…) The list chosen in the primaries embraced what has been called in the campaign the original “DNA” of Meretz – representing a choice to play it safe. The top two members of the newly elected list are party veterans close to Galon and her vision of the party: Mossi Raz, a peace activist (…). The results are likely to renew the pressure on the Labor Party, led by Merav Michaeli, to agree to merge with Meretz for a joint run in the November 1 election. (…) Michaeli insists that Labor under her leadership has potential to be a larger political force in the country, even though polls show it just barely passing Israel’s electoral threshold. (…)
Allison Kaplan Sommer, HAA, 24.08.22
Israel’s loud mouth left-wing leaders remain big fish in small ponds
(…) Zehava Galon was elected the leader of the Meretz party (…) after beating Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan with 60% of the vote, four years after stepping down from the dovish faction’s top job. During the two candidates’ election campaign, it seems the pair made every possible effort to push its voters even further away. Golan began his campaign while still in uniform as IDF deputy chief of staff, in a Holocaust Memorial Day speech, where he compared the changes in Israeli discourse and society in 2016 to those seen in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular, during the 1930s. That speech is often quoted by those demonizing the Left. He (…) did not stop there, and has since said that the IDF is no longer Israel’s Defense Force, but “army of occupation.” (…) Galon, for her part, is less a manifestation of Meretz and more of a link with the communist Hadash party, a member of the predominately Arab Joint List alliance. (…) Galon enjoys the support, not so much of Meretz voters, but of those on the far-left who view themselves as anti-Zionists. There is no denying that there are fascist elements in the Israeli Right, but she is an example of fascism of the Left. (…) Galon called right-wing activists “subhuman” and threatened to “deal with their fascism the same way the original fascists had been dealt with.” (…) There are many more examples of both the Labor and Meretz parties’ movement to the far-left. (…) What has become evident is that left-wing Zionist voters have had enough. They are not only left-leaning in their politics. They are also Zionists and that is why they are finding that centrist candidates represent them much better. The days when the Labor Party was winning 46 seats Knesset seats are long gone. Voters who were moderate then, have not budged but their party has, and the party is paying for it with a loss of Knesset seats. The Israeli public, unlike some of its political leadership, aspires to a negotiated end to the conflict with the Palestinians, but will not concede on matters of national security. (…)
Ben-Dror Yemini, YED, 27.08.22
Merav Michaeli’s Dangerous Bet Ahead of Israeli Election
The Otzma Yehudit and Religious Zionism parties reached an agreement (…) to run together in the Knesset election (…). This is how it works in a political camp, all of whose components are enlisted for a victory of the bloc: They overcome ideological differences, unite for the sake of an electoral victory and leave their internal disagreements for debates around the cabinet table. Meanwhile, in Yair Lapid’s bloc, the leader of the Labor Party, Merav Michaeli, is entrenching herself in her opposition to a potential merger between Labor and Meretz. This is a dangerous gamble. If one of these two parties does not pass the electoral threshold – and according to the polls, this could happen – victory for Netanyahu’s bloc is guaranteed. (…) Michaeli’s refusal to consider a merger is especially surprising in light of the fact that it would take a very strong microscope to discern the ideological differences between members of the two parties. The candidates on the Labor slate could be Meretz members and those in Meretz could easily be Labor members. (…) Lapid must tell Michaeli that a merger between Labor and Meretz is the need of the hour (…) and she must get her act together. Michaeli is making a dangerous gamble, which could very well end in a political tragedy.
Editorial, HAA, 29.08.22
2. Abbas in Berlin
Despite Everything, Abbas Is the Partner
(…) Abbas’ comments were reproachable, and he did well to clarify his intent. But now that we have all agreed on the Holocaust being a unique historic crime, it is best to return to the present. One in which Palestinians have been living under Israeli military control for 55 years, and Israel refrains from holding diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinian president in an attempt to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the occupation. (…) Abbas tried to emphasize the ongoing Palestinian tragedy and put it at the top of the global agenda. (…) Abbas is Israel’s partner for any diplomatic negotiations. Not just because he is the president of the Palestinian Authority, but also because of his commitment to diplomatic steps. Contrary to the character-assassination from the right, Abbas is neither a supporter nor encourager of terror. According to the assessment of all Israeli security agencies tasked with monitoring the territories, the PA is in bad shape and expected to get worse. The succession battle in the PA has already begun, and Israel may find that it missed the chance to work with the most convenient partner for diplomacy (…). If Israel only respects organizations that take up arms against it, and shows contempt for the Palestinian leadership that renounces terrorism, it sends a warped message to the Palestinians. (…) Israel must fundamentally change its approach: Recognize Abbas as a partner and return to the negotiating table. (…)
Editorial, HAA, 17.08.22
The many lies of Mahmoud Abbas
(…) Mahmoud Abbas (…) has always been a Jew hater. (…) He, along with a large part of the Arab and Muslim world and much of the so-called fascist liberals of the west, have built an industry – an industry of hatred and malice and evil. An industry built on fairy tales and lies and deceit whose only aim is to delegitimize the Jewish people – our history, our nation, our culture. Everything. (…) Mahmoud Abbas may just be one person, but he represents many who share his warped sentiment. It is shameful that knowing all we know about him; world leaders continue to treat him with a certain respect and reverence that is unfathomable to any decent person of conscience and justice. Just last month, President Joe Biden stood alongside this illegitimate unelected antisemite and dictator (…). For too long, too many people have put their faith in this evil man, refusing to see what is so blatantly obvious and so abundantly clear. And all those organizations and world leaders who continue to blindly support him and his cause are tainted by the same evil brush strokes he is painting. The world may not see it, but we do. Mahmoud Abbas is not a partner for peace, but an agent of evil.
Justin Amler, TOI, 17.08.22
Why the world won’t care about Abbas’s Holocaust lie
There’s something almost pathetic about the outrage generated after the latest comments by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. (…) Of course (…) Yair Lapid was entirely correct to say that for Abbas to falsely claim that the Jewish state had committed “holocausts” while standing on German soil “is not only a moral disgrace but a monstrous lie. (…) Other condemnations, such as that of Scholz, who – to his shame – did not contradict Abbas when he uttered these words in his presence, were also angry and entirely justified. But the fury about this seems both oddly misplaced as well as somewhat hypocritical, especially when it comes from those in Israel, Europe and the United States who have spent so much energy and time puffing up Abbas as a partner for peace and doing their best not only to appease him, but to pressure the Jewish state to accommodate his every demand. This was no gaffe. Abbas’s long career has been nothing of a series of offensive actions, decisions and statements that should have long ago convinced the civilized world to shun him completely. After a lifetime of criminal behavior in which he has aided and abetted the slaughter of countless victims of terrorism, coupled with corruption and opposition to peace, the real question about this incident is why anyone should bother getting upset about a mere offensive comment from such a person? (…) Abbas was anything but a force for peace. Even though it was a cheap price to pay for the independent state the Palestinians had always claimed to want, Abbas was just as adamantly opposed to recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders were drawn (…). Abbas, along with his family and friends, has grown wealthy by stealing vast sums of money that have poured into the territories in the form of aid from the rest of the world. (…) it is his corruption that has discredited his rule and the reason why he is afraid to hold another election. At this point, there’s no longer any doubt that Abbas has done more to exploit and perpetuate the suffering of his people than anything he falsely accuses Israel of having done. A career criminal, his Berlin statement is just one more in a long litany of offensive statements and gestures. (…) His deeds are far worse than his words, and those who continue to demand that he be treated as a head of state are nothing but hypocrites.
Jonathan S. Tobin, IHY; 18.08.22
Dr. Mahmoud and Mr. Abbas: Palestinian leader is an enigma for Israel
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has a penchant for Holocaust denial. (…) Abbas, 86, can’t use his advanced age as an excuse for such rhetoric since he made similar remarks when he was younger. The initial instinct of every Jewish and non-Jewish person living in Israel would be to excommunicate him and storm his office in Ramallah. But reality presents us a complex person who is far from an Israel lover but his presidency is, in large part, an important factor in keeping the relative peace across the West Bank. (…) the Palestinian Authority (PA) under Abbas is a stabilizing factor in the West Bank. Without the two, the situation in the territory would have looked completely different, and not for the better. As odd as it might come off against the backdrop of his antisemitic remarks, many Israelis owe him their lives, soldiers and civilians alike, within the West Bank and elsewhere. Abbas maybe talks a blue streak about the Holocaust and continues to pay stipends to Palestinian terrorists but at the same time, his security apparatus has been acting against Palestinian militants and preventing attacks on Israeli targets since he took office in 2005. (…) Abbas has worked for many years to stamp out any Palestinian violence against Israel. (…) Those who pride themselves on not having met with Abbas (…) forget that the PA and Abbas at its helm are helping to prevent attacks and preserve the relative peace here. (…)
Avi Issacharoff, YED, 17.08.22
Abbas has a history of Holocaust libel
When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of committing “50 holocausts” on Tuesday, he not only deeply offended the Jewish people, but many others, including his German hosts. (…) While Scholz could be seen wincing at Abbas’s Holocaust reference, he did not immediately rebuke the Palestinian president, although he had earlier rejected his use of the word “apartheid” to describe Israeli policies. (…) For his part, Abbas continues to perpetuate the lie that Israel is guilty of Nazi-like crimes, echoing his absurd argument in his doctorate from Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow that Jews helped perpetrate the Holocaust. (…) Abbas’s true colors once again emerged in Berlin (…). His latest statements not only reinforce the libel of his unique Holocaust denial, but demonstrate once again that the 87-year-old Palestinian leader is not a partner for peace with Israel.
Editorial, JPO, 18.08.22
A Palestinian Partner in Israeli Apartheid
In the land of dwarves, to paraphrase a popular Hebrew children’s song, there’s much noise and commotion. An elderly Palestinian leader spoke ill of our Holocaust. That really wasn’t nice of him. (…) What else is needed in order to convince the people of Israel that Mahmoud Abbas is not a partner? (…) Let’s assume a center-left government is formed in Israel, headed by Yair Lapid or Benny Gantz, and it deigns to resume negotiations with the Palestinians. What exactly will they talk about? What diplomatic solution could they offer their certified partner? (…) Which illegal outposts would the settler Avigdor Lieberman evacuate? How many lawmakers would vote for recognizing an independent Palestinian state, even on a sliver of the West Bank? Even Yair Golan, vying for the leadership of the left, claims that there is no one to talk to and nothing to talk about, calling for a unilateral separation from small chunks of the West Bank. In the Hebrew spoken in most homes in Jewish Israel, this means managing the conflict, or in the words of Micha Goodman, “shrinking” it. Resolving the conflict, to use the language they speak at the Muqata, will have to wait for the advent of a Palestinian partner who invites MK (soon a minister?) Itamar Ben-Gvir to an Iftar meal during the Ramadan. Long before that, Israel will officially and conclusively become an apartheid state. In the frenzy of analyzing his words on the Holocaust (…) Israeli media ignored the important things Abbas actually said in Berlin. (…) here’s the short version: we are ready to work with all the relevant partners in order to achieve peace and security, taking care to resist the occupation only through peaceful methods while rejecting violence and terror. We’ll continue our efforts to defend a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders and the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, striving for a just solution to the refugee problem (…). In the absence of a two-state solution, Abbas concluded, the Palestinian people have no choice but to seek their rights in a single state, with equal rights for all. “Is this what Israel wants?” he wondered. In a normal state, this question should be raised on every billboard and resonate in every electioneering clip on TV. But, in a land of dwarves, to go back to that song, there’s much noise and commotion. And, as the song says, the army dons its uniform and goes to war.
Akiva Eldar, HAA, 23.08.22
Abbas’ comparison of Israel to Nazis is prevalent sentiment in today’s Germany
At first glance, it could be perceived as some sort of madness. Even if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is known to dibble in Holocaust denying, he should have known that some things must never be uttered out loud on German soil. (…) But Abbas felt very comfortable saying these things precisely in Germany, he did not think at all that it would cause such a big uproar. And why should he not think that? German and Israeli organizations and volunteers operating in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been for years alluding to an Israeli-perpetrated genocide on the Palestinian territories. The massive German financial (…) funds are delivered without any supervision to ensure that they are not diverted to other objectives, such as support for terrorists and their families. In recent years, Berlin has become the capital of hatred of Jews and the Jewish state. (…) Germany officials are preoccupied with pleasing Iran, fond of Holocaust denying, in the wake of the nuclear deal, while local media’s narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is egregiously one-sided. (…) Many Israelis residing in Berlin had contributed to the antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiments, fearing retribution if they do not join in the choir, a many hide their Jewish and Israeli identity. (…) Abbas didn’t come up with the idea, he merely only echoed sentiments he had heard there before. (…)
Zeev Avrahami, YED, 26.08.22
Holocaust inversion: Abbas’ longtime weapon of choice
Widespread Palestinian violent rejectionism (…) has been long and strategic, trying less to build the case for a Palestinian national homeland, but using the majority of its time and resources to try and demolish the case, legitimacy and existence of the Jewish national homeland. (…) While some internal and external critics like to claim that the change in Israel’s international image was because it now occupied territory it did not previously hold, a more accurate understanding shows that this was when the Soviet Union assisted the Palestinian Arabs to build a sophisticated international machinery of rejectionism. (…) It was into this shadowy milieu that a middle-aged but rising PLO star named Mahmoud Abbas stepped to achieve his doctorate in what is essentially a vehement denial of central aspects of the Holocaust. His thesis doubted the existence of gas chambers, number of Jews murdered, and accused the Zionist movement of secretly colluding with the Nazis and supporting the genocide of the Jews of Europe. It was Zionist Inversion, the turning of the victims of the Holocaust, the Jews, into perpetrators, par excellence. Abbas found a highly willing environment not just to entertain his fantasies and conspiracies about Jews, but one that encouraged and assisted. With this in mind, it really should not be a surprise to hear Abbas, now Palestinian leader, recently claim in front of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, that Israel had perpetrated “50 holocausts” against the Palestinians. This was no mere slip of the tongue. It was probably the most public and prominent Holocaust inversion, but by far not the first from him or his leadership over the years. (…) Like all other forms of rejectionism, it needs to be fought and thoroughly defeated.
Karma Feinstein Cohen, JPO, 27.08.22
3. Three Days of Fighting Between Israel and Islamic Jihad
Israel deals painful blow to Islamic Jihad in arrest of al-Saadi
The Islamic Jihad terror group took a major hit overnight when its West Bank commander Bassam al-Saadi was arrested by IDF troops, in the Jenin refugee camp. (…) The 61-year old had previously spent years in Israeli jails and was a major force inside the Jenin camp. (…) Al-Saadi and some of the less prominent detainees will likely break in their interrogations and provide security forces with valuable intelligence that will lead to more arrests. This could further impact the Islamic Jihad’s ability to launch attacks from the West Bank and explains the group’s Gaza leadership’s strong statements and threats of attack on Israel. (…) Unlike the Gaza ruling Hamas terror group, the Islamic Jihad has less to inhibit its launching attacks from the Strip. While Hamas is responsible for the welfare of Gazan’s the smaller Islamist faction is only committed to the “resistance,” or to the holy war against Israel and can only be restrained by Hamas. (…) If the Gaza faction fails to identify a possible target in Israel in the coming days, their anger and humiliation over the arrest of their senior operative may subside and the urging of Hamas to hold their fire in the hopes of preventing a new cycle of violence, might fall on more receptive ears.
Ron Ben Yishai, YED, 02.08.22
Residents of Israel’s South held hostage to security lockdowns
(…) While throughout the days after Saadi’s arrest several closed roads were reopened, the vast majority are still locked down to all civilian vehicles. (…) The security units in the area are at the highest level of alert, with the Iron Dome missile-defense system ready for any sign of potential rocket fire. (…) IDF is (…) applying lessons learned from last year’s Operation Guardians of the Wall to fend off any threat to civilian safety. However, after three consecutive days of living with closures and curfews, it’s time to ask who has the upper hand here – Israel or the terrorists in Gaza. It’s an untenable situation for Israelis to live in fear because a terrorist leader was arrested. Freezing the entire South makes living there – already difficult due to the years of rocket attacks from Gaza – a nearly impossible task. One of Israel’s biggest projects over the past few years has been bringing people to live in the South. Infrastructure, business, accessibility – so many different aspects of life have been brought and adapted to the South in an effort to help populate the region. (…) While we must weigh the safety of our citizens above all else, we cannot at the same time be held hostage. That in itself would be a victory for the very terrorists we seek to punish. (…)
Editorial, JPO, 05.08.22
Israel Must Talk to Hamas to Break the Cycle of Bloodshed
A popular joke, paraphrasing playwright Hanoch Levin, says that Israel only has three seasons: summer, elections and war. And like clockwork, before we could say “next year in an apartment with a reinforced room” – the seasonal round of fighting erupted against the Gaza Strip. It’s hard not to feel trapped in despair by the vicious cycle of bloodshed (…). The main difference between those who despair and those who despair more is between those who still hope the cycle can be broken by purely military means (…) and those who are prepared to concede that diplomacy (…). In this debate, if one wants to hold on to any optimism, the former seem to be losing. Israel has been trying it their way for years: pounding, assassinating, smashing, and the Gaza Strip just keeps going on. Commanders come and go, but the desire for national independence stays put. Because any rational person realizes that you can’t “disappear” the Gazans and Gaza – along with the use of military means it seems that the realization is growing in Israel that a partner needs to be prepared in Gaza. (…) These days, Israel now seeks to differentiate Hamas more clearly than ever before. (…) Israel’s efforts to differentiate between Hamas and Islamic Jihad started many years ago, and reached their peak in 2019 when Netanyahu, as prime minister, authorized Operation Black Belt. That operation was clearly aimed at Islamic Jihad targets and was accompanied by similar statements, to the effect that the intent was to cool Hamas down. (…) While it is convenient for Israel to present Egypt as the mediator – in fact, the conversation over the economic and civil rebuilding of Gaza is being conducted with Hamas. Some of the money transferred as part of earlier arrangements was also specifically conditioned on Hamas’ pledge to “restrain” Islamic Jihad. (…) the solution to the conflict is diplomatic, not military, should welcome the understanding that whether we want it or not, Hamas is the only partner for dialogue in the Gaza Strip. (…)
Noa Landau, HAA, 07.08.22
How Israel Attacked Gaza and Radicalized Yet More Palestinians
There is something catastrophically reckless, if not malevolent, about the timing and nature of Israel’s unprovoked attacks on Gaza (…). The impact on internal Palestinian power dynamics will be long lasting – and it will cast a long shadow over the calm Israel purports to pursue in the south of the country. (…) Hamas has been working around the clock to keep the PIJ in line to uphold the ceasefire, (…) PIJ hardliners needed a powerful trigger to defy Hamas and take action on their own. And Israel’s government gifted them not one trigger, but two. (…) There was no significant security value in humiliating Saadi, a political rather than a militant figure, who has no operational role. (…) Unlike Hamas, the PIJ is not in charge of Gaza, so it had little to lose from this stand-off, but it was still relatively constrained by Hamas. That is when Israel gave the Iran-backed militants their second, decisive gift. (…) The Israeli government decided to go for a limited escalation with the PIJ alone, without engaging Hamas. This started with the assassination of Tayseer Al-Jabari, commander of the PIJ’s Northern Gaza Brigade. (…) Israel’s targeted killings in Gaza always lead to the same results: a more radical and more popular PIJ with a base more unified around revenge and retaliation; a compelling pretext for an escalation that unleashes the pent-up fury of Gaza’s siege and status quo; and greater legitimacy for armed groups and armed resistance in general. (…) The escalation could have actually ended in its first hours, had Israel offered a reasonable compromise to restore calm that the PIJ would have had no choice but to accept. (…) Instead, (…) Israel assassinated the PIJ’s Southern Brigade commander, Khaled Mansour (…). That marked an irrevocable turning point in the PIJ’s internal power struggles. (…) Once the dust settles from this round, Israel’s political establishment is more likely than not to unlearn everything this escalation made clear. The Israeli government will continue Gaza’s 15-year-long draconian besiegement, immiseration and slow suffocation, and pretend there is nothing abnormal in keeping 2 million people under a permanent state of non-life. (…) Israel will only know peace once it ceases its own military’s provocations, abuses and violence in the West Bank and treats Palestinians as individuals and a collective with rights, rather than as atomized, dehumanized subjects. Only then will Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s platform of militant resistance become redundant, and its leaders reluctant to threaten such major breakthroughs with violence.
Muhammad Shehada, HAA, 08.08.22
A victory for Israel … and Hamas?
(…) economic leverage was a major reason why Hamas stayed out of the fighting. Even so, Gaza’s civil and economic crisis is great. (…) Hamas is a Jihadist group that will continue to seek the destruction of Israel, but it is also in charge of the strip and heeds the residents. Steps that will increase the standard of living in Gaza will certainly also increase Hamas’ future considerations of initiating a conflict. Of course, this should happen alongside Israel maintaining deterrence, similarly to how it’s acted in the past year, harshly responding to every rocket, shooting, or incendiary balloon. The combination of these two aspects – security and civil – may enable Israel to create a more reasonable equation of existence vis-à-vis Gaza. (…) The terror group has made impossible demands (…) but may now be more flexible. (…) The results of the operation also give Hamas an opportunity to create a new balance of power against the PIJ, which was significantly weakened after the assassination of two of their leaders in Gaza. (…) yet, the success of the operation must not overshadow the big picture: Gaza is not gone, and is not going anywhere. Its two million residents – due to their problems and the terrorist organizations that control them – are here to stay, and they will continue to challenge Israel in the future as well. Although Israel scored some good points and strengthened deterrence, it will need much more than that to solve the Gaza problem.
Yoav Limor, IHY, 09.08.22
Hamas’ Pragmatism Creates a New Partner for Israel
Israelis’ enthusiasm over Hamas’ apathy toward Islamic Jihad’s private war against Israel was like that of someone who found an uncle who was lost for decades. Hamas suddenly became Israel’s go-to not only in the Gaza Strip but also in Jerusalem and throughout Palestine. Calls for talking directly with Hamas are already seen as necessary, natural and appropriate (…). There’s just one little problem: The groom doesn’t want to talk to the bride. He (…) opposes her very existence. (…) Hamas is not a partner, and it is not a substitute for a partner, but it is a pragmatic organization that is committed to its own survival and its continued rule of Gaza, and that is also Israel’s strategic goal. The most effective, tried-and-true way to achieve this shared goal is based not on the delusion of direct talks with Hamas, but rather on securing and shaping a web of regional guarantees. The bridgehead has already been established, in the form of Egyptian and Qatari involvement. This network could now be expanded to include Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and maybe even the European Union – all of which could mobilize to fund Gaza’s reconstruction and improve the quality of life there. This doesn’t just mean small-scale largess like granting work permits or transit visas to students, expanding the permitted fishing zone off Gaza’s coast and letting Qatar transfer funds to pay civil servants’ salaries. It would entail a strategic decision to end the closure on Gaza quickly along with a comprehensive plan for the territory’s reconstruction and economic development (…). This is the way to conduct direct negotiations with Gazans, without waiting for Hamas to recognize Israel and without holding direct talks with Hamas. Granted, Hamas won’t recant its ideological principles. But it might then don a suit and tie, as befits a civilian political organization that has to administrate its autonomy.
Zvi Bar´el, HAA, 09.08.22
Will the Gaza ceasefire last and why is Israel obsessed with a dog’s death?
(…) the three-day operation called Breaking Dawn was a success (…). From the beginning, this operation felt different, mostly because the government made clear from the start that it was determined to end it quickly. (…) Hamas’s decision to sit on the sidelines is worth pondering. It spared Israel a wider conflict (…) Hamas’s decision not to fight should not be interpreted as a sign of moderation, or weakness, or a sudden desire to build up the lives of the population in Gaza. It did not suddenly come to terms with Israel’s existence, or decide that it wants to put behind its terrorist past. (…) But (…) Hamas might have become a bit more pragmatic – in part because it needs to continue rebuilding its infrastructure, but also continue to manage the Gaza Strip. (…) That is why this situation presents Israel with an opportunity, but also a risk. There is little doubt that another conflict, outright war, is just a matter of time. Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the story has only been one of war and bloodshed, an operation taking place on average once every two years. (…) Can that cycle be broken? (…) the results of last weekend’s conflict should prompt us to look at what innovative steps we can take – more worker permits, indirect talks with Hamas regarding a long-term ceasefire, a seaport for Gaza – to try to stave off the next war, not just for ourselves but also for the people of Gaza. (…) Zili’s death came just two days after the operation ended in Gaza, an operation that – despite not being Israel’s fault – included the deaths of Palestinian children. (…) The lack of proportion was highlighted by the original Zili, the nickname of former soldier Ben Silberstein who trained the Yamam dog. Silberstein wrote on Facebook that while he was proud to see the dog that was named for him referred to as a hero, he was uncomfortable with the silence when it came to Qadoom’s death. (…) let’s not forget something basic – compassion, even when we are right.
Yaakov Katz, JPO, 12.08.22
What are the implications, consequences of Israel’s Gaza operation?
Israel’s decision to go out to a military operation in the Gaza strip was inevitable, due to Islamic Jihad’s (PIJ) attempt to paralyze areas in the south of the country for several days. (…) Israel also focused on targeting solely the PIJ, while signaling to Hamas not to intervene. The main advantage of the split between the PIJ and Hamas is that the IDF can reduce the military and infrastructural strength of the second most powerful terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip (…), without encountering the full force of terrorism from the Gaza Strip Gaza under the leadership of Hamas. Dealing with limited firepower from Gaza allows Israel to focus more on fighting. Another advantage concerns the deepening of friction and tensions between the two organizations. (…) The elimination of the security top of the PIJ in Gaza (…) have sown confusion in the field ranks of the PIJ. In addition, the elimination of almost the entire leadership creates a leadership vacuum that will take time to fill. It is also possible that succession wars will begin now. It is possible that there was a chance to take advantage of the military situation in which Hamas does not intervene in the warfare, and that international attention is directed to more important matters for the world. Israel should have continued the military activity for a few more days in order to further crush the military infrastructure of the PIJ, such as rocket launchers, munitions warehouses, headquarters, training facilities and military positions. (…) In addition, the Israeli military initiative and offensive in itself has a deterrence message for Hamas, as well. A decision to launch a preemptive military operation due to mere threats to Israeli targets and not just as a response to them, equates Israel with a certain image of an unpredictable state. (…)
Omer Dostri, JPO, 15.08.22
A revived deal will not stop Iran from becoming nuclear
A return to the Iran deal that was negotiated in 2015 seemed impossible just a few weeks ago. (…) it seems that right now the Iranian regime is holding things up as it continues to try and wring more concessions from the West. These kinds of concessions are concerning, as is the overall nature of the deal. Iran wants its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which funds and arms terror groups around the region, to be removed, for example, from US sanctions lists. It also wants free rein for its missile and drone programs. Most concerning has always been the fact that Iran has advanced centrifuges and has enriched large quantities of uranium to high levels. It has been enriching the uranium far beyond the agreements in the 2015 deal. (…) The major problem is that every day Iran enriches it grows closer to being able one day to build a nuclear bomb. (…) The deal in 2015 appeared to merely postpone the inevitable. It is now 2022 and any deal that might be signed now would seem to just kick the can down the road in terms of eventually having to confront a nuclear Iran. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and tensions between the US and China have complicated an already difficult situation. The US prefers not to have to confront Iran at the same time, or deal with a new Iran-Israel crisis. The recent battles in Gaza against Palestinian Islamic Jihad seem to have been aimed at preempting the Iranian proxy’s ability to threaten Israel. Nevertheless, that brief conflict shows that even the smallest of Iran’s proxies is a threat. (…) The deal being discussed today must take into account Iran’s threats to the region and Israel.
Editorial, JPO, 12.08.22
Iran nuclear deal all but revived; Israel can only work to keep sanctions on Tehran
(…) Israeli security officials know very well Iran already has all the necessary technology and capabilities needed to rapidly enrich uranium to at least 60%, enough to manufacture a nuclear weapon core. The Jewish state is trying to convince the Americans to set tougher conditions for signing of the agreement, which would torpedo the talks and prevent Iran from receiving tens of billions of dollars that Tehran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) would gain if the economic sanctions on them are removed (…). Israeli officials understand the West was defeated in its battle to prevent uranium enrichment, and that Iran can already enrich it to any level it desires (…). However, if a nuclear agreement isn’t signed and sanctions are not lifted, it would still be possible to prevent Iran from receiving funds the country will likely use to finance terror activities in order to undermine stability in the Middle East and harm Israel. (…) billions of dollars Iran will earn from the removal of sanctions upon signing the agreement, worry Israeli officials far more than the flaws and weaknesses of the renewed nuclear deal. The new agreement can still benefit Israel and the West in two aspects: It may delay the production and accumulation of nuclear material for several years, and will renew the full and sometimes invasive monitoring of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s nuclear facilities. In the present situation, where there is partial surveillance, as some cameras are currently turned off, no one can monitor how much uranium has been enriched, to what level, and how many new centrifuges were installed. If the agreement is signed, the West and Israel will have a much clearer picture of what is going on Iran’s nuclear sites. (…) Israel and the U.S. should co-formulate a new strategy against Iran that will “renew the vows” of commitment to stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. (…)
Ron Ben-Yishai, YED, 23.08.22
Israel may need a paradigm shift on Iran
(…) The emerging deal is much worse than the original one. (…) it does not take into account the time that has gone by since 2015 and the limited time left before the sunset clauses take effect. The deal does not address the Iranian nuclear archive and the various violations that the International Atomic Energy Agency has been investigating over the possible military dimension to the nuclear program. The concessions that have already been agreed upon in the new deal include allowing Iran to keep the assets it has gained by breaching the deal, including the use of advanced centrifuges and sophisticated manufacturing capabilities. (…) From 2031 onwards, it will no longer be limited by the amount of enriched uranium, but under the limits set by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its inspection regime, but we all know how toothless this document is. Iran will also get massive sanction relief, including lifting restrictions on companies that do business with the Revolutionary Guards. This is almost as good as de-listing the IRGC from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. (…) The money will let Iran rebuild its economy, as well as upgrade its nuclear and conventional capabilities and bolster support for terrorism through Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Houthis, and others. (…) If a deal is signed, preventing Iran’s ability to enrich uranium to weapons-grade level would no longer be an option, regardless of any new capabilities we develop. One of the most plausible paths that could remain at our disposal is through comprehensive plans to weaken the regime. (…) the recent attacks inside Iran, some of which have been attributed to Israel by foreign media, have led to paranoia, hysteria, and a reassessment of Iran’s aggressive conduct. This is just one example of a paradigm shift that could quickly lead to unexpected results. (…) Israel must engage public opinion and make it clear to decision-makers, particularly in the US what the dangers of a nuclear deal with Iran are, while simultaneously building legitimacy for increasing its activity in the “war between wars.” It must start thinking of a paradigm shift toward a comprehensive plan to weaken Iran, along the lines of the Reagan Doctrine, including by setting measures of success to gauge its effectiveness.
Jacob Nagel, IHY, 26.08.22
With an agreement or without, Israel may be left alone to face nuclear Iran
The negotiations between the United States and Iran on the nuclear agreement involve a fundamental imbalance between the parties. U.S. President Joe Biden and his administration evaluate the regional reality through the prism of the political reality in America. Their horizon does not stretch beyond the end of the current Biden presidency. Therefore, from the administration’s perspective, preventing Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons in the coming years is a goal worthy of pursuing. The Ayatollah regime in Tehran, however, has a long-term strategic goal – the achievement of Iranian hegemony in the Middle East followed by its transformation into a global power at the help of the Muslim world thanks to its tremendous military power. The Iranian leadership never loses sight of its long-term goals and has the utmost patience in achieving them. Iran understands the need to make concessions in the short-term in exchange for bringing it closer to its long-run goals. Israel for its part, must preserve its existence both in the long-term, ensuring the security of our children and grandchildren, and in the short-term. (…) Iran will have billions of dollars in funding to promote its regional takeover, built on militias armed with missiles that could conquer countries with weak central governments, such as Lebanon and Iraq. The extent of destruction these militias could bring upon Israel, mainly through the use of precision missiles, is enormous. (…) The confrontation with the Iranian proxies, which have surrounded Israel, is inevitable and must end with their elimination. Otherwise, our lives here will become unbearable even before Iran produces the enriched uranium necessary to complete the assembly of a nuclear weapon. (…) I foresee differences in assessment between Jerusalem and Washington regarding a potential implementation of a military option in case Iran does acquire a nuclear bomb. To put it simply, there may be differences regarding when it would be necessary to use military force to destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Israel can’t leave this decision in the hands of foreign states, however friendly they may be. (…) we need to prepare to act quickly.
(…) the U.S. must provide Israel with two vital things: essential weapon systems for carrying out the mission, and political backing for the military operations. (…)
Ephraim Sneh, YED, 31.08.22
5. Selection of Articles
Shutdown of Palestinian NGOs
NGOs in the Palestinian Authority aren’t a threat
(…) NGOs are central to building and developing any democratic civil society and Palestinian NGOs (…) are a means to build the value of human rights and justice in individuals, government and society. (…) Israel’s military raids and closing of several central NGOs in the PA (…) is at best difficult to understand especially in light of the fact that many, if not all of these NGOs have received support and funding from the European Union and the US government. (…) It is time that Israel actualizes its commitment to allow the PA to develop infrastructure, take responsibility for its citizens and develop an independent civil society. NGOs, even when they criticize Israel’s operation in the PA, are the cornerstone of building civil society in Palestine. (…)
Bob Fenton, JPO, 31.08.22
Letter of Warning to Persons Who May Be Responsible for the Meron Disaster
Legal warning letters signal start of a show called ‘Meron disaster inquiry’
(…) More than a year has passed since the first public discussion of the inquiry was held in August 2021. Since then, 43 discussions have been held and 141 witnesses have been questioned. Some may believe this signals the end of the inquiry, which was supposed to publish its findings by spring 2023. But this, my friends, is only the beginning. (…) If until now, every official involved in the disaster presented his or hers version to the inquiry committee under fairly sterile conditions and tried to shift the responsibility to someone else, now Israelis will have the privilege of witnessing live intriguing and embarrassing head-on confrontations between senior officials, some of whom are political allies, belonging to the same camp. (…) Interestingly, Aryeh Deri, who acted as Interior Minister at the time of the Meron disaster, was not issued a warning letter. This, despite numerous testimonies saying his office pressured police and health experts to try and approve the 2020 event without a crowd limit despite Israel at the time battling a severe coronavirus wave. Deri managed to avoid a warning letter due to him not taking an official part in the planning and execution of the event at Meron (…).
Kobi Nachshoni, YED, 31.08.22
50 Years After the Olympic Attack in Munich
Some Advice to the Families of the Munich Olympics Victims
The families of the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered in the 1972 Munich Olympics feel like participants in the theater of the absurd. (…) The German government has treated the families despicably and abusively for 50 years. It refused to take responsibility for its failures. It prevented them from reviewing documents on the incident, claiming they were top secret and that revealing them would endanger national security. It didn’t want to compensate them. (…) a number of weeks after the Munich massacre, the German government struck a deal that even the devil wouldn’t have made. In order to remove the threat of Palestinian revenge attacks, Germany collaborated with the PLO by staging a Lufthansa hijacking to release the three surviving Munich terrorists, and paid the PLO $9 million. The families demand compensation from the German government in line with international precedents. Families of American and British victims of terror committed by Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi received around $10 million each. (…) Even after the despicable and stupid declaration by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the presence of Scholz, which compared the Holocaust to Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israeli occupiers, my advice to the families remains the same: As a final act of protest in the theater of the absurd, into which you have been forced against your will, pay your own way to the ceremony and hold up signs proclaiming the words of the Prophet Elijah: “Have you murdered and also inherited?”
Yossi Melman, HAA, 18.08.22
HAA = Haaretz
YED = Yedioth Ahronoth / Ynetnews
JPO = Jerusalem Post
IHY = Israel HaYom
TOI = Times of Israel
GLO = Globes
Published: September 2022.
Dr. Paul Pasch,
Head of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel