“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:
- 25 Years Oslo Declaration
- US discontinues payments to UNRWA
- Chief of Police replaced
- Selection of Articles
Israel’s selective memory on the Oslo Accords
(…) I sense no special excitement even in anticipation of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accord on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993. Is it not important to reconstruct the outbursts of joy on that day? Should we not focus on the handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, the man who would betray him and destroy in the blood and fire of terror attacks the agreement that he had just signed with him? (…) Then, in the days of ecstasy, you allowed no criticism to be voiced against the self-deception in which you were imprisoned and which you led. Now, and just for the sake of professionalism, consider airing statements like those of Haggai Segal (today the editor of Makor Rishon) on Arutz Sheva, the only media outlet that came out against Oslo: “Dear listeners, keep your newspapers from this week. Keep the red and blue headlines that announce the coming of the messiah, (…) the tears of Yoram Kaniuk and the self-congratulations of Uri Avnery … If you throw them in the garbage can, your grandchildren will not believe a word you say about everything that was written and said on the occasion of that insane event taking place tomorrow in Washington. They will not be able to believe that such intelligent people, so experienced, were willing to do business with a creature like Arafat, and even to describe that business in terms of a vision of the End of Days.” Chilling.
Israel Harel, HAA, 01.09.18
The Oslo Process – 25 years on
The Oslo process (…) did not result in peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. The nearly 1,600 Israeli casualties and many more thousands of wounded during this period by Palestinian terrorist and rocket attacks testify to this failure. Yitzhak Rabin’s land-for-security formula did not work. (…) The differences in positions, particularly on refugees and Jerusalem, are unbridgeable. (…) 25 years after Oslo, we are left with two revisionist Palestinian national movements, one traditional and one Islamist, controlling parts of Palestine. Palestinian-ruled territories constitute local bases of terrorism against Israel. (…) the awareness that the Palestinians are not ripe for statehood has slowly spread into foreign policy decision-making fora. (…) The decisions of the Trump administration to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the cuts in aid to the UNRWA and the PA reflect as well the decreased appeal of the Palestinian cause in the international arena. (…) Israel’s cautious strategy of conflict management (…) of recent years has been successful in minimizing the domestic and international damage from the continuous Palestinian hostility. Israel’s willingness to make concessions is useful for retaining social cohesion at home and for gaining points among friends abroad. (…) the Oslo process failed to attain peace and security for Israel, but it much relieved the Jewish state of the Palestinian burden. (…) Israel is no longer responsible for the Palestinians, and they are on their own. (…)
Efraim Inbar, JPO, 02.09.18
Breaking the cycle
(…) Instead of peace, the sides seem to have never been more distant (…). While it has brought relative quiet to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip still remains Israel’s most volatile military front, one that the IDF brass believes has the greatest potential of exploding (…) while Israel has achieved economic prosperity (…) the same cannot be said about the Palestinian territories. (…) Are there leaders on both sides – in Jerusalem and Ramallah – who are really interested in a deal and prepared to make the tough decisions and painful concessions to achieve one? (…) Can Israel today withdraw from enough of the West Bank to satisfy Palestinian demands? It seems that no matter what we offer, it will never be enough. (…) It would be only natural that after 25 years of doing the same thing, people would start to think differently and try to come up with a new plan or try a different tactic. (…) annexing large swaths of the West Bank while giving the Palestinians an “autonomy on steroids” in Areas A and B (…) might not be ideal, but at least it is an attempt to think out of the box (…) a regional peace deal (…). What does it mean (…). Netanyahu has the political power and capital today to pretty much do whatever he wants. If he decided to annex all of the West Bank, he has the coalition to pass the needed legislation through the Knesset. (…) this coming year is an opportunity to demand more from our leaders – and most importantly, to expect answers. (…)
Yaakov Katz, JPO, 07.09.18
How Oslo Accords contributed to Israeli occupation
(…) we can congratulate the signatories of the Oslo agreement on a current reality in the Palestinian territories, and not because the agreement was signed, but rather because it was never fully implemented (…). The Oslo agreement is not dead, it is alive and breathing. (…) the reality it had created has benefitted Israel—the occupation of the territories became much cheaper. The establishment of a political Palestinian entity exempted Israeli governments from a burden of sustaining the territories, not only when it comes to: economy, education, health, employment, infrastructure and welfare, but from the enormous security burden that only those who have been to Nablus, Jenin and Hebron before Oslo, would understand. (…) As far as the Right is concerned, the agreement did not interfere with a settlement enterprise. (…) since Oslo there has been a fourfold increase in the number of settlers (…) The Palestinian entity is run as a state in every sense of the word—with a flag, an anthem, police and army forces and government apparatuses—and it does not cost the Israeli taxpayer a penny. (…) The problem is that although the reality created by the Oslo Accords is convenient for the Israeli Right, it is dragging the two nations into a de facto binational state—a sure recipe for continuing violence and bloodshed, which only harms Israel as a Jewish, democratic and Zionist state. If we were to entertain ourselves with an idea of “if” and imagine the Oslo agreement had been implemented in its entirety, Israel would have been a country with a Jewish majority that would not need a legislation such as the Nation-State Law, with recognized borders and open relations with the Arab world, and without the stain of occupation stamped on its forehead. Most importantly, the word “peace” would have been part of our everyday discourse. Too bad that did not happen.
Roni Shaked, YED, 08.09.18
I advised the Palestinian negotiating team. It was a mistake to have negotiated with Israel at all
(…) 25 years later, Palestinians are no closer to freedom, as Israel has further entrenched, rather than lessened, its now 51-year military occupation. (…) Today, the settler population is more than three times the size it was in 1993, with nearly 700,000 settlers living in the West Bank. Back in 1993, settlements were, for the most part, confined to hilltops, with Israeli settlers considered to be fringe. Far from being ostracized, today, some Israel’s largest cities are settlements, settlers have taken over homes in the heart of Palestinian towns and settlers command positions on the Israeli cabinet and on the Supreme Court. In short, settlers are the norm, not the exception. Today, Israeli settlers speak openly about annexing the West Bank or expelling Palestinians. (…) the real reason for failure (…) is because the parties should not have started negotiating in the first place. To demand that Palestinians – living under Israeli military rule – negotiate with their occupier and oppressor is akin to demanding that a hostage negotiate with their hostage taker. It is repugnant that the world demands that Palestinians negotiate their freedom, while Israel continues to steal Palestinian land. Instead, Israel should have faced sanctions for continuing to deny Palestinians their freedom while building illegal settlements. (…) The negotiations process has, in effect, served as cover for the world to do nothing – while giving Israel the cover to build and expand settlements. (…) For Israel and its supporters, the past 25 years have been a victory. With Trump at the helm, Israel’s settlers are at an all-time high, Palestinians are confined to bantustans and the U.S. is cracking down on Palestinians for demanding their freedom. (…)
Diana Buttu, HAA, 12.09.18
Oslo Accords: 25 years of naivete
There were no celebrations this week to mark the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, the deal that was supposed to do away with war and terrorism. (…) already in the year following the Oslo signing, Israel had adopted a pattern of concessions and compromises that only encouraged Arafat to double down on his deception. (…) Even after Arafat said, in a speech in South Africa in 1994, that the Oslo Accords were nothing more than a modern version of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah – namely, a ploy aimed at buying time and eventually defeating Israel the way the Prophet Muhammad had crushed the infidels – the Israeli Left remained in a state of denial. (…) Rabin saw the peace process as a means of establishing nothing more than Palestinian autonomy. But his very willingness to sign a deal with the PLO unleashed all the demons: the Palestinian “right of return,” refugees, Jerusalem, and the armed struggle against Israel. (…) Israel, and especially the Left, gave the PLO international legitimacy. Just as no one in 1993 thought the Gaza Strip would become a hub for missiles and suicide bombers, no one thought the PLO would be in a position of being able to deny Israel its international legitimacy. A quarter of a century later, it has become apparent that a coalition of terrorist groups has managed to create a major internal schism within Israeli society.
Amnon Lord, IHY, 13.09.18
The Trump administration’s decision to cut funding to UNRWA, the UN agency serving Palestinian refugees, was justifiably applauded by Prime Minister Benjamin (…) there have been a number of cases of its employees and facilities harboring terrorists, spreading incitement in textbooks and other materials, and even housing rocket launchers used to shoot at Israel. But beyond the UNRWA system being abused by terrorists, its written mandate plays a central role in perpetuating the Palestinian refugee myth and the demand for the “right of return.” (…) UNRWA has been fleecing the world since it was established (…) and has failed in its 69 years of operations to do what the UNHCR did within a decade for the millions of refugees of World War II. (…) How can the Palestinians be expected to engage in state building if they refuse to take responsibility for themselves and are constantly holding their hand out to the world? (…) the fact that the US (…) is pulling out, sends a strong message. (…)
Editorial, JPO, 02.09.18
Shame on you, America
(…) Washington decided to hit the Palestinians in the wallet. Of all the huge sums going to aid corrupt regimes, of all the trillions spent on pointless wars and mass killing, it’s the aid to the Jabalya refugee camp that’s mismanaged and has to stop. (…) In the next decade, the United States is set to pour $38 billion into Israel, among the most developed countries on the planet with one of the best-equipped armies in the world — which of course follow the right business model. Not a single dollar can be cut. Humanitarian aid to a needy country that doesn’t waste a single cent. (…)The leader of the free world, the greatest warmonger since World War II, cuts flour for Yarmouk and cooking oil for Bureij, because the Palestinians overestimate refugee numbers. (…) Anyone familiar with the conditions in the refugee camps knows just how dependent their inhabitants are on the UN agency. There might be some waste, certainly there are freeloaders, reform is absolutely necessary, but UNRWA provides basic humanitarian assistance. Without it there are no schools, clinics and food in the camps. America owes an indirect debt to the people there; it funds and supports the Israeli occupation, and it has never lifted a finger to reach a genuine solution to their suffering. (…)
Gideon Levy, HAA, 02.09.18
A step in the right direction
(…) The US Department of State’s announcement (…) is actually implementing UN resolutions from those years. Not the perpetuation of refugee status, but rather rehabilitation. (…) The so-called “Palestinian refugee problem” would have been resolved if only standard refugees procedures been implemented with the Palestinians as well. The fear by security officials of a vacuum, that would be filled by Hamas, if UNRWA leaves the Gaza Strip, is a little strange, because in any case, in the recent elections for UNRWA institutions, in which nearly 11,500 of the organization’s employees voted, the Hamas associated “Professional List” won a crushing victory. Despite all the denials, education at UNRWA institutions primarily produces Hamas activists. (…) the direction is right. After almost 70 years of the big refugee scam, the time has come for a change. The cessation of US aid will not cause the refugee problem to disappear. The transition from the fostering of refugees to their rehabilitation must be a gradual, coordinated international effort. But it is absolutely clear that as long as the organization is the main instrument for perpetuating the refugee problem and nurturing the return fantasy — UNRWA is the problem. Not the solution.
Ben-Dror Yemini, YED, 02.09.18
What should be done with UNRWA?
(…) UNRWA considers Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza as stateless refugees, despite the fact that they are already living in the land the international community says will be their eventual state. The problem is that the Palestinians living in the West Bank (Judea/Samaria) and Gaza, as their “Mass March of Return” clearly states, consider themselves refugees from today’s Israel within the 1949 armistice line, demanding an unlimited right of return that UNRWA’s mission advocates for and which would effect the demographic destruction of Israel. (…) Palestinians (…) have a perpetually growing refugee population, without a single descendant of a Palestinian refugee ever taken off the UNRWA roll. (…) UNRWA refuses to help any Palestinian resettle outside of Israel. (…) Emphasizing the absurdity and danger to American interests of continued funding of UNRWA without a change in its definition of refugees is indeed a step toward destabilizing the current unsustainable situation, a step away from funding the Islamist desire to destroy Israel, and a step toward a genuine peace. Let the Palestinians have a normal economic life, exchanging productivity with their neighbors, including Israel, to everyone’s benefit, instead of maintaining a desolate state of war, propped up forever by foreign aid, with the corruption that it almost always entails. Palestinian “refugees” receive more aide than any other refugees in the world. (…)
Eric R. Mandel, YED, 12.09.18
UNRWA perpetuates the refugee problem
(…) One can be fully supportive of Palestinian rights to self-determination without believing in UNRWA. (…) It has become highly politicised agency seeking to preserve the status of second and third-generation Palestinians as refugees. (…) The biggest funder of UNRWA has been the United States (…) The administration is the first to recognise that an organisation with the main purpose of preserving refugee status is out of keeping with the rest of the world, where permanent settlement and integration is the goal. It makes peace in the region more difficult by encouraging the multiplication of numbers. That makes the promises of ‘return’ in any peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians infinitely more complicated. (…) The real hope for the Palestinians are programmes such as those run by the World Bank which seek to unleash enterprise and economic development not to preserve a dependence culture. (…)
Alex Brummer, TOI, 12.09.18
UNWRA: What will be the repercussions of Trump´s funding cuts?
(…) Arab and other states use the demise of the Palestinians to generate political capital by lambasting Israel for subjugating them and for instigating a “humanitarian disaster” in the Gaza Strip. Still, the Arab and other states that have left it to the US to shoulder one third of the funding to keep UNRWA afloat since its inception, have a vested political interest in UNRWA. (…) What is surprising is how UNRWA has ingeniously manipulated the more commonly accepted International Humanitarian Law and the 1951 UNHCR Convention definitions of a refugee to accommodate more permanent provisions to its original, temporary mandate. (…) it has succeeded in turning a temporary relief mandate into a quasi-governmental and permanent political fixture in the West Bank and Gaza. (…) UNRWA spends one-third of all the resources donated to refugees internationally. Per-capita annual support for a Palestinian refugee is more than twice the amount of support allocated by the UNHCR. (…) If the “refugee” term remains uncontested, UNRWA will continue to serve as a political springboard for those states which seem to be more interested in using UNRWA to keep the right of return on the international political agenda than they are for meeting the humanitarian needs of its Palestinian beneficiaries.
The police chief made himself a lame duck
(…) One day we’ll have to examine how as commissioner he became so entangled in investigating the prime minister. (…) the decision not to extend a police commissioner’s term isn’t a dramatic one. (…) The police was caught in the massive political-media pressure campaign (…). Alsheikh projected a cold disdain toward the prime minister; the hostility toward the person accused by the police and state prosecutor exuded from him. (…) It seems that some politicians in Israel are blind to the rules of democracy. Anything that falls under the label of opposition to Netanyahu is deemed democratic, even if it reeks of a coup. (…) Alsheikh himself also responds by espousing the worldview that “the Israel Police is at the forefront of defending the country’s image, character, security, and integrity.” Perhaps the police’s job is possibly also to enforce the law? And maybe not in a selective manner. (…)
Amnon Lord, IHY, 14.09.18
Netanyahu Probes: What will be the impact of Alsheich leaving office?
What impact will the governing coalition’s choice of a new chief have on the probes against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? Surprisingly, not much. (…) Netanyahu and Alsheich were not always enemies. (…) Early in his term, Alsheich took pains to protect the Netanyahu family, facing criticism from the media and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit when he almost covered up the police recommendation to indict Sara Netanyahu in the “Prepared Food Affair”. However, a series of events with each side offending the other eventually led to complete alienation. (…) The police have already done their damage in Cases 1000 and 2000. The remaining case 4000 is nearly complete on The Police side of things, with no need for further questionings of the prime minister. If anything, the main result of Netanyahu and his Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan making sure to replace Alsheich as early as possible will probably be that the police commissioner will be sure to send Mandelblit the police’s final recommendation to indict the prime minister in Case 4000 no later than December. So Alsheich will get the last laugh. In that case, his successor’s hands will be tied regarding the Netanyahu probes; the decision will already be fully in the hands of Mandelblit. (…)
Yonah Jeremy Bob, JPO, 14.09.18
Removed after getting in the way
(…) Benjamin Netanyahu deposed the commissioner since the latter refused to fulfill the unofficial mission for which he was selected, namely, to interfere with the investigations of the prime minister and his wife. (…) Alsheich was deposed for fulfilling his role as gatekeeper. He was let go for conducting the criminal investigations against Netanyahu lawfully, fearlessly and impartially. He was ousted for backing his own people in the police force and publicly supporting the recruitment of state witnesses against the prime minister. He was terminated for being loyal to his role instead of to the personal interests of the prime minister and his wife. (…) He was let go as revenge for the fact that the police under his command recommended indicting Netanyahu. Alsheich’s ousting is no surprise. (…) One can only hope that the police completes its part of the investigations by December 2, when Alsheich steps down, so that there is no interference, and that the next person appointed commissioner turns out to be another wrong gamble by Netanyahu.
Editorial, HAA, 15.09.18
Eurovision’s demands should serve as wake-up call for Israel
(…) the European Broadcasting Union, the organizer of the Eurovision Song Contest, (…) is asking for an Israeli authority, preferably the prime minister, to promise that Israel will grant entry visas for the event regardless of applicants’ political opinions; (…) that there be no religious restrictions on rehearsals on Saturday; and that Israel’s public broadcasting company, Kan, be given complete independence in editing the broadcasts. (…) Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (…) urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to sign this basic memorandum of understanding, even at the price of ceding Israel’s right to host the competition. (…) The right-wing government’s disingenuousness borders on the grotesque. With one hand it passes laws that undermine the state’s democratic character, and with the other, it holds its head in shock when the Western world treats it with suspicion because of those very same laws. (…) The Eurovision is an opportunity to host an international cultural celebration. But the Israelis responsible for the event must understand that reality can’t be left outside the hall. The flattering videos of Tel Aviv beaches, Masada and the Dead Sea that will surely be screened during the event won’t be able to hide the government’s policy in the territories or the radicalization and religionization within Israel. But allowing freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of the press could plant a seed of hope that Israel’s ministers haven’t yet forgotten what democracy is.
Editorial, HAA, 05.09.18
Shutting Palestinian offices in Washington long overdue
The US president has finally decided to close the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington (…) This step was needed long ago (…). There is no doubt that the man in the White House will continue his scrutiny, despite the attacks waged on him by people who worked for him until recently. (…) The entire time they enjoy the benefits of their governmental role. Trump was alright from their point of view. When they were forced to resign or when they retired, they suddenly realized that he is a “disaster” and that he the man who will destroy the US. (…)
Noah Klieger, YED, 12.09.18
European hypocrisy rears its ugly head
(…) By calling on the Israeli government not to act in the spirit of the High Court of Justice’s ruling and evacuate and demolish the illegal Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Britain have violated official EU foreign policy, which supports the achievement of peace on the basis of the 1993 Oslo Accords and recognizes Israel as a sovereign state. According to the Oslo Accords, Israel is responsible for Area C until other diplomatic agreements are reached on the matter. (…) The EU routinely rushes to condemn any construction in “illegal” Jewish settlements beyond the Green Line. But to the EU, the illegal but non-Jewish settlement of Khan al-Ahmar is an entirely different matter. It is the EU’s stance on Khan al-Ahmar that makes its objections to “illegal settlements” that much harder to swallow. (…) Europe has chosen to defend its Palestinian protégés in such a way that prevents any chance for an agreement to be reached. Europe is now the greatest obstacle to reaching a regional peace agreement. And when EU representatives attend an exhibit in Khan al-Ahmar that features anti-Semitic propaganda ahead of its demolition, Europe can no longer feign surprise when it is accused of anti-Semitism.
Eldad Beck, IHY, 12.09.18
A list of issues Israeli public had to face in the past year
At the start of the new year, it is customary to make an inventory list of the past year, or do a bit of soul-searching, depending on whether you are an owner of a business, a believing Jew, or a state. (…) There is a growing sense that law enforcement in the State of Israel is wearing down in an alarming way. There is no sense of personal security: in some places, strolling alone at night is unpleasant, and a silly argument about parking, a chair at the beach, or a supermarket line, might end in a stabbing. (…) Last years also did not bring us good tidings as we expected, and so we gave the Minister of Finance a chance to curb the real estate market. (…) the Israeli health system is a chronic patient. (…) There are not enough doctors, nurses, beds, rooms, medical centers, medical equipment, and more. (…) The residents of the north are not protected. (…) A party that promises to solve the traffic jams problem (…) will form the next government. (…) This problem is being handled at a slow pace and budgets are inadequate. Why in the country of broadband, the arteries of transportation are constantly clogged? (…) Two states for two nations? It’s already here. They live right next to each other. The gaps in education, wages, health, and culture, have never been wider. (…) No, not all is good. In this land of milk and honey, bees sting.
Shai Cohen, YED, 12.09.18
HAA = Haaretz
YED = Yedioth Ahronoth / Ynetnews
JPO = Jerusalem Post
IHY = Israel HaYom
TOI = Times of Israel
GLO = Globes
Published: September 2018
Dr Paul Pasch,
Head of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel