“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:
- Head-To-Head Race Between the Two Camps for and Against Netanyahu
- More Dead in West Bank Raids
- Rosh Hashana
- Selection of Articles
Israel’s Right Fights With Each Other Just as Much as the Left
(…) Nothing is going to change. The most dramatic difference between this election and the previous ones is that this time the political crisis benefits Yair Lapid, who has succeeded through political cunning to arrive at the most desirable position a politician can be in a time of crisis: caretaker prime minister. This is the place to warn Benny Gantz (…) that it’s not enough to go first as prime minister in a rotation. It’s a conceptual error for Gantz to think that as long as he’s first and Benjamin Netanyahu goes “after him,” that he’s safe. (…) Lapid simply doesn’t have the mandates to form a government (…) the legend has returned of a left unable to help itself from beheading its leaders (…) while the right is united behind their leaders – come hell or high water. But, in fact, you have to be blind not to see that the political crisis is in fact an internal crisis of the right. The patent for this belongs to one person alone: Avigdor Lieberman, flesh of Netanyahu’s flesh. But it carries on, thanks to Gideon Sa’ar, Bennett, Ayelet Shaked, Zeev Elkin and a long list of right-wingers. It’s reasonable to assume it will continue when the right stops arguing among itself. Ideologically speaking, the right counts more than 70 Knesset seats. The only reason it isn’t in power is that they fight with one another no less than the left. (…)
Carolina Landsmann, HAA, 16.09.22
How the Arab vote can determine Israel’s next government
(…) the experiment of having Arab parties in the ruling coalition has not been successful. That political cooperation came at the expense of the same public it was meant to serve. (…) The dramatic split of the Joint List was not lost on the leaders of parties opposed to former Prime Minister Netanyahu. They all understood that they would need the support of the Arab factions if they were to secure a coalition. (…) After agreeing to serve in an anti-Netanyahu coalition, Abbas made the current government possible (…). His historic decision demonstrated such a political alliance was possible, even if challenging. (…) After the Joint List lost one of the factions of its alliance, political observers were quick to proclaim Netanyahu’s chances of returning to power have greatly increased. But, Likud members were not celebrating. One senior member of the Netanyahu party explained that the jury was still out on the split’s affect on the election results. (…) Lapid remained calm when the news broke. He had been trying to isolate the Balad party, which is considered by Jewish Israelis to represent the more extreme nationalist views of Israeli Arabs. Their absence from the Joint List alliance could make future cooperation with the remaining Arab factions more realistic. (…)
Attila Somfalvi, YED, 18.09.22
Will Arabs no longer have a voice in the Knesset?
The fragmentation of the Joint Arab List ahead of the Nov. 1 election into three different slates could have historic repercussions: The list has self-imploded to the point that the next Knesset might have no representation of Israel’s Arab citizens for the first time since its founding. Polls show that all the Arab lists will be beaten badly, and even the two larger ones could fail to cross the minimum electoral threshold to win seats. (…) The Arab parties will have to find a way to avoid the biggest electoral defeat of Arab parties; they will have to run a campaign that would get Arab voters to the polls, regardless of which Arab party they end up voting for. If Arab turnout is 40% or lower as the polls project, Arab parties will have been dealt a potentially fatal blow due to the apathy among Arab voters. Assuming Israel has another election some six months later, this could create a golden opportunity to rethink their strategy and to create a new Arab party – or perhaps two – that would present a new agenda. (…) The Arab sector is facing a severe crisis of leadership. The fact that none of the Zionist parties have Arabs in safe spots in the candidate lists should set off the alarm bells among Jewish voters, not just among Arabs. (…)
Jalal Bana, IHY, 18.09.22
Why the splitting of the Joint List is so important to Netanyahu
(…) There is no chance that Balad (…) will pass the 3.25% qualifying threshold if it runs on its own. (…) unless Hadash-Ta’al get their act together in the next 42 days and manage to significantly increase the number of Arab voters planning to go out to vote on November 1, what remains of the Joint List might also fail to enter the 25th Knesset. (…) What this whole episode proves is that in the current political divisions in Israel, the two decisive elements that will determine whether Netanyahu will be able to break the political stalemate and form his dream government (…) are his success in getting the two Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox parties to run in a single list and all the extreme right-wing religious Zionist lists to run together in another single list, and what happens in the Arab sector. The smaller the number of Arab MKs who are not members of Zionist parties, the better for Netanyahu. (…) If it weren’t for Netanyahu’s trial, and if it weren’t for the fact that there are many right-wingers, including former Likudniks, who refuse to have anything to do with him because of broken promises in the past and totally self-centered conduct on his part, there is no earthly reason why the Likud, Yesh Atid and the National Unity Party (Gantz’s party), which polls predict will command together close to 70 Knesset seats in the 25th Knesset, cannot form a stable, Liberal-Conservative, security-minded coalition, including quite a few Hovshei Kipot. This is a feasible dream but only for a post-Netanyahu era (…).
Susan Hattis Rolef, JPO, 19.09.22
The Rules for a Unity Government
If, as the latest polls suggest, neither of the two main blocs wins a clear victory in the November 1 election, the back-burner conversation regarding a possible unity government will gain new relevancy. (…) The legal woes of Likud chair and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu have exacerbated the polarization and the rift. He and his supporters believe that he can and should serve as prime minister despite the corruption charges against him, and they continue to advance laws that would improve his legal situation. His opponents are divided between those who see this as a moral and practical failing and those who have a personal bone to pick with him – also connected indirectly to his legal situation, because from Netanyahu’s perspective, if you’re not working for him and with him, you’re the enemy. (…) if we want unity, and if we understand that this possibility will soon become more likely, we should talk about the conditions. The main rule: a person facing criminal prosecution will not be prime minister and will not appoint key officials in the judicial or law enforcement systems: justice minister, public security minister or attorney general. Before this rule causes the Netanyahu bloc to leave the table and say there’s nothing more to discuss, the rival bloc has to understand that it requires a complementary rule. The public has great sympathy for Netanyahu, and he is the elected leader of the largest party in Israel. It would be better for him to resign of his own volition or that a ruling coalition be established without him, but this seems unlikely. (…) If we want stability, we need a solution that will reflect Netanyahu’s political power and public sympathy: giving him a senior ministerial portfolio – defense, foreign affairs or finance, where he can have an impact and his honor and the honor of his voters will be maintained, together with his distance from making decisions that affect the courts and law enforcement. (…) if the choice is between an indicted prime minister and an indicted cabinet member other than the prime minister, it is more important that the prime minister is indictment-free. (…) The advantage of such unity is consensus over the rules of the game and at the same time, consideration of the large group of Netanyahu voters.
Sami Peretz, HAA, 21.09.22
Israel must fix its election system to end the political crisis
The current political crisis (…) reflects a breach of accepted rules of the game that are based on simple assumptions about the nature of politics. (…) who could have imagined that Knesset members, who only recently took their seats after an exhausting election campaign, would give themselves the boot? (…) Second, we now know that the size of a Knesset faction isn’t all that important. It doesn’t even determine who can serve as prime minister. The only thing that matters is one’s strategic location on the political map. (…) the last two governments were based on parity, despite the clear advantage held by the right wing in the Netanyahu-Gantz rotation government and by the left wing in the Bennett-Lapid rotation government. This instability undermines governance, and especially the government’s ability to adopt policies that can provide long-term answers to problems. Even worse, frequent elections weaken citizens’ trust in the basic mechanisms of democracy – elections – which are supposed to create a new government (…) that will hold office for a reasonable length of time. (…) We need to strengthen our parliamentarians and protect them from themselves, and especially from those who are willing to keep (…) calling elections (…) until they get the result they want. (…) dissolution must be supported by a very large majority (…). Third, the link between passing the budget and the dissolution of the Knesset must be eliminated. (…) no more Knesset votes for or against a government, but rather a vote among competing options, with the winning option being the one that enjoys the most support (…). We will see that it’s possible to live with a minority government that must attract “external” support in the Knesset for its legislation. Certainly, this is not the ideal model for governance, but it does establish a government that empowers the elected body, the Knesset, to rein it in. (…)
Gideon Rahat, JPO, 22.09.22
Rise of far-right party shows racism deep-rooted in Israel
(…) far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir (…) is continuing the ideology of racist Meir Kahana (…) where do we stand, that our people are no longer embarrassed by being racist? (…) 1,000 Palestinians living in Masafer Yatta, and facing expulsion from their homes under the excuse that the IDF must use the area as a firing zone, with the approval of the High Court of Justice. This hardly begins to cover all the ways in which racism and hatred against Arabs guide the actions of politicians, judges, the IDF, and the police. It’s been taking place for 74 years. It is true that many of us are in awe when we come upon such blunt racism, but that is likely because we simply prefer it in the form of a government policy.
Gilad Grossman, YED, 28.09.22
2. More Dead in West Bank Raids
Israel’s battle over terror in Judea and Samaria is a priority
Terror is on the rise in Judea and Samaria, and (…) it cannot simply be analyzed in narrow terms as part of the ebb and flow of a local conflict. (…) Iran has an appetite for integrating, not only Jihadist groups in Gaza, but forces hostile to Israel everywhere west of the Jordan River into their strategic war plans. In a number of potential scenarios, most of all in an open war between Iran and Israel, the regime in Tehran would want an armed insurrection and hyper-intifada waged throughout Israel from the Galilee to Judea, the Negev to Jaffa. Together with a war front on Israel’s northern borders – from the Mediterranean Sea to the southern tip of the Golan Heights – as well as air, sea and land-based attacks from beyond Israel’s immediate borders; Iranian military planners envision overwhelming Israel’s defenses, inflicting maximum damage on the civilian population and IDF alike, and in their ideal scenario, the conquest and occupation of parts of Israeli territory. (…) If allowed to arm itself with nuclear weapons Iran’s strategy and plans would then be escalated to the goal of the complete and utter destruction of Israel. (…) if the current so-called nuclear deal with Iran is actually signed, one could only imagine the terror and chaos that would be developed and unleashed by an Iran infused with tens of billions of dollars. (…) The circumstances and situational realities on the ground in Judea and Samaria make it clearer and clearer that no matter how much the United States and Europe, or Israel for that matter, would prop up Abbas, his successor or his successor’s successor, eventually, the house of cards would fall. (…) if free and open elections were held in Arab-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, the terror group Hamas would come out victorious (…). The result of such a scenario would be yet again an Islamist terror entity dominated by Iran. (…)
Ilan Pomeranc, JPO, 16.09.22
Trump’s offer of West Bank to Jordan is out-of-the-box thinking Israel needs
When former U.S. President Donald Trump allegedly offered Jordan the West Bank, the response from politicians across the spectrum was verged on ridicule. (…) Trump assumed the Jordanian option, or rather the Jordanian-Palestinian option, could be a potential solution to the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Jordanian option, was first proposed by the Labor Party after the Six-Day War. (…) The proposal was adopted unanimously during the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 – territories in exchange for peace. In 1972, a revolutionary plan to establish a Jordanian-Palestinian federation had emerged. According to it, the West Bank territories would be called the “Palestine District” and would be granted extensive self-government rights. To realize the option, then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met with King Hussein in London in 1987, reaching an agreement, but then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir torpedoed the deal. Some years after the agreement between Peres and Hussein fell through, the First Intifada broke out, and Hussein ordered to break all ties between Jordan and the Palestinians in the West Bank. The split was approved in the Arab League, and de-facto turned Israel into the midwife meant to deliver a Palestinian state sovereignty. A role Israel could not fulfill. (…) We must face reality, the relations between Israel and the Palestinians reached a dead end. Only those who wish to stick their head in the sand – and there are quite a lot of them across the political sphere – still believe the two-state solution is alive. (…) Our occupation regime serves no political purpose nowadays, other than to thwart terrorist activities. In this tangled situation, the Jordanian-Palestinian option can provide a gust of new, creative thinking outside the worn-out statements. The potential difficulties in implementing it, or even forming an operative definition, are enormous. In present political and security circumstances, it borders on impossible. But, without groundbreaking political innovation, we will remain trapped in this bloody cycle for generations, which will eventually lead to a bi-national state.
Sever Plocker, YED, 19.09.22
This Isn’t a Palestinian Intifada, Yet – but One Serious Attack Could Change That
The situation in the West Bank is still not reaching the magnitude of a third intifada, but anyone following the events on a daily basis can clearly see that a fundamental change is taking place. Not only the weak control by the Palestinian Authority in the northern West Bank, or the growing opposition to the detention campaigns in Israel, but also an increase in the number of shooting attacks, which are once again spilling over onto the major highways. At the moment, it doesn’t seem as though the steps being taken by the two sides will suffice to check the spread of the fire. (…) There are no major demonstrations during which Palestinians show up en masse to confront IDF soldiers. But clearly, young people, particularly in and around Jenin and Nablus, are feeling more emboldened to challenge Israeli and Palestinian security forces. (…) At the same time, there are signs of increasing attempts by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in the Gaza Strip and at headquarters abroad (…), to hitch a ride on the back of the tiger. (…) in light of the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank (over 80 since the start of the year) and the many clashes, terror is once again spilling over, to the highways. In the current situation, one serious attack would be enough to change the situation and to lead to a larger flare-up, which could also include a more extensive military operation in the West Bank. (…)
Amos Harel, HAA, 20.09.22
Hamas’ foothold in West Bank requires urgent Israeli response
If we look into the attempted attacks that have been thwarted in recent days along the West Bank security barrier, it is evident the peak of the current terror wave is still to come. In order to uproot Hamas’ presence in the West Bank, Israel must not only think ahead, but also act swiftly and immediately. (…) The current situation requires finding a solution to Palestinian militant squads who approach the security barrier, and to shooting attacks on West Bank roads aimed against soldiers and settlers. The current wave of violence is characterized by disorganized terror, with operatives who have been incited by social networks, hoping to become social media stars and local heroes. But you have to admit, they are less experienced than the terrorists the IDF and Shin Bet are used to fighting, and therefore, less methodical. The Hamas cell that was exposed is similar to those that have been dissevered in the West Bank in the past – wide-ranging, proficient, with high-grade weapons, advance planning and guidance from Gaza. (…) In the midst of all this, the IDF also has one eye on the northern border. Although the military estimates that Hezbollah won’t attempt to start a war any time soon, all eyes are glued to the negotiations on the maritime border dispute with Lebanon. If an agreement over the disputed gas field is reached, the border will likely remain quiet. If not, it’s a free-for-all.
Yossi Yehoshua, YED, 20.09.22
Israel slips into catch-22 situation with West Bank anti-terror raids
(…) The more Palestinian militants are killed, the more motivation other Palestinian militants gain to go out and fight. This impetus doesn’t only drive terrorist organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but also members of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatus. (…) more and more Palestinian youths are arming themselves, regardless of political persuasions or affiliations with terror groups. In Nablus, members of a terrorist cell known as the Lion’s Den have been clashing with security forces for months. This cell has dozens of militants with no specific affiliation, some are from Fatah and others are from the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatus. This cell’s members, largely teens and men in their early 20s, regard the killed terrorists as heroes and martyrs and wish to follow in their footsteps. (…) Jenin, a hotbed of terrorist activity which Israel is attempting to isolate from the rest of the West Bank, is becoming revered by many Palestinian youths, along with rising tensions in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. This conundrum is well known in Israel and no matter which course of action it opts for, it may only make things worse. The Palestinian Authority might be taking baby steps to curb terrorist activity in Nablus, but does nothing in Jenin.
A large-scale operation in Jenin could lead to violence spreading throughout the West Bank, with more members of the Palestinian security forces joining the fighting, especially with the growing tensions around Jerusalem. (…) Dismantling the Palestinian Authority and wresting full control over the West Bank, like some in Israel suggest, would most likely lead to another Intifada.
Avi Issacharoff, YED, 29.09.22
3. Rosh Hashana
Das jüdische Neujahrsfest Rosh Hashana ist gleichzeitig der Beginn der zehn “ehrfurchtsvollen Tage”, die bis zum Versöhnungstag “Yom Kippur” von Reue und Buße geprägt sind. In diesem Jahr können dank der Entspannung der Corona-Lage Familien wieder im großen Kreis zusammenkommen. Gleichzeitig stehen die Feiertage im Schatten gewaltsamer Unruhen im Westjordanland. Außerdem steht das Land vor erneuten Parlamentswahlen. Das Neujahrsfest ist auch eine Zeit der Rückbesinnung auf die guten Dinge, die sich im endenden Jahr ereigneten und die Hoffnung auf die guten Dinge, die das neue Jahr bringen soll.
Rosh Hashanah: What image best embodies the past Jewish year?
There are a lot of images that make up the mosaic of life in Israel, and every year presents its own select group of photos. (…) But there is one image that in my view best tells the story of 5782: the one (…) of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan – foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates and a member of the royal family – laying a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem. ABZ, as he is known, is the innovative son of Sheikh Zayed, founder of the modern United Arab Emirates. (…) Seeing an Arab royal and dignitary standing in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust before the State of Israel was formed is to understand the change that has overcome our region, as well as the amazing potential that lies ahead. That photograph (…) should fill us with the hope that there are better days to come, since it shows a recognition that bin Zayed’s country stands today with the Jewish state in the battle against antisemitism in all its different forms. (…) Three days after Sheikh Abdullah’s visit to Yad Vashem, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi questioned the Holocaust in his 60 Minutes interview on CBS. And there we saw the other side of the Muslim world, and what happens when someone decides to embrace lies and destruction. Here were two leaders who represented such a stark and different image of what it means to not only be a Muslim, but also to respect the State of Israel. On one side stood Sheikh Abdullah, who showered Israel with affection; on the other, there was Raisi, whose denial of the Holocaust continues to lead his people down a path of ignorance, falsehoods, and violence.t we also must continue to cherish this amazing and still new alliance that Israel shares with the UAE. It cannot be taken for granted. (…) there is still a lot more that needs to be done. (…) In the two years that have passed since normalization, no other Gulf state has come forward (…). Assuming everything will be fine on its own is not going to work. (…)
Yaakov Katz, JPO, 22.09.22
Rosh Hashana: A Day of Mindfulness at the ‘Head’ of the Year
(…) Rosh Hashana is far more than a Jewish version of the secular New Year of January 1st. In fact, it is one of the holiest days of the year, the beginning of the period known as the High Holidays and the Days of Awe. (…) the Jewish New Year is a time of deep introspection and reconnection. Rosh Hashana is not merely the celebration of God’s creation of the universe millennia ago, it is also an observance of the day that He will hopefully choose to create the universe anew. The mystics teach that Hashem recreates the world at every second, but on the anniversary of His original inception each year, He pauses to decide whether He will continue the project for another year. If we sincerely invite God to be our king for another year, recognizing our relationship to Him and committing ourselves to working to reveal Him throughout His creation in the year ahead, then He once again recreates the world and thereby provides us the opportunity to do so. If, however, He is forgotten by His creations and we have devoted ourselves instead to false gods, earthly kings, and self-serving agendas, then He may determine that there is no reason to sustain the creation any further. (…) Rosh Hashana is not to be a day of guilt, but rather a day of intense MINDFULNESS. If we have been distracted and preoccupied throughout the past year – as many of us tend to be on account of all of the responsibilities, worries, and desires that divert us on a daily basis – Rosh Hashana is the day for us to put all of our concerns aside and to focus intently on our existence. Why are we here, who is responsible for our being, and what are we doing with the precious gift of every moment?
Pinny Arnon, TOI, 23.09.22
Jewish High Holidays – a good time to remind ourselves what unites us
The endless rounds of elections have led to neglect of the principle topics in politics, those which the very existence of Israel depends upon: ideology, morals, and ideas. Instead, these building blocks have been replaced by an obsession for hatred, creating a new reality. One of the topics that fuels this new hate-filled reality is the issue of religion and state. It goes beyond the matters of religious coercion, kosher certificates, etc. (…). The nature of our existence as a Jewish and democratic state is dependent on maintaining a status quo. Sociologists claim that collective tradition is a necessary condition for the existence of a society. (…) The upcoming Jewish High Holidays offer a chance to examine our common attributes, which are indeed falling apart. Our calendar (…) represents our culture and society’s priorities. When a society renders a certain day culturally significant, it will put it in a calendar, anchoring a collective tradition. (…) The holidays have become mostly a time to gather around a table full of food and take a vacation. (…) We no longer see the calendar as something that shapes our culture. In order to avoid slipping down this slippery slope of dwindling collective attributes, we must bring back the issue of religion and state to the forefront. (…) We should remind ourselves that Jewish culture and tradition do not necessarily belong only to the religious world. We need to get out of the narrow-minded perspective that you have a hint of affinity to Judaism and tradition, you must make it clear you are not religious to be cool. We need leaders who are not ashamed to tackle the challenge of creating collective culture and tradition through education, media, and the legal system. With Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur fast approaching, we have a window of opportunity to examine the truly important question – who are we, and for what purpose do we get up every morning specifically in this small, Jewish state we call Israel?
Mordechai Sklar, YED, 24.09.22
Signs Yom Kippur is almost here in Israel
(…) in the days leading up to the Day of Atonement there’s a certain tension in the air as Torah-observant Israelis take the opportunity for some repentance, prayer and charity to try to ensure being signed into the Book of Life on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. (…) strains of chazanut waft out of many windows as many radio and TV stations broadcast operatic renditions of the well-known Yom Kippur prayers in a variety of styles. Almost every radio and TV channel also features a physician prescribing pre-fast measures to stave off headaches and ensure an easy fast, and advice on the best type of food with which to break the fast. (…) In the streets on the eve of Kippur, men hurry along with towels to the nearest mikvah (…). Polls indicate that around 60 percent of Israeli Jews between 18 and 35 will fast, but not everyone feels comfortable in a conventional synagogue setting. (…) Because there’s no traffic, it’s become a traditional time for mass outings on bikes. Kids and adults enjoy the one-time freedom of movement for their two-wheeled transportation. As congregants spill out of the synagogues after the Kol Nidre service concludes on Tuesday evening, streets normally clogged with traffic become pedestrian walkways. Many will be dressed in white as a sign of the purity we’re working on during the holy days. Strolling in the middle of a normally busy street, greeting friends and family, people-watching, and marveling at the antics of the kids on bikes is the prime entertainment for the evening. (…)
Judy Lash Balint, IHY, 30.09.22
4. Selection of Articles
Iran Is Sidelined
Now the West understands who it is dealing with
(…) Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi managed to make headlines and draw attention away from the royal funeral and the United Nations meeting with his interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” during which he cast doubt on the Holocaust.
It was amazing to discover how deep the matter runs, and even more so: how non-gallantly Raisi spoke about it, despite the damage and backlash that such remarks cause. (…) Raisi does a better job at diplomacy for the Jewish state than Israeli officials themselves. (…) The United States slammed him following the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian woman who died while in the custody of the country’s so-called “morality police,” who had arrested her after finding fault with her hijab. (…) Although these incidents are not directly related to what concerns Israel the most – the nuclear deal – it does impact public opinion, which in turn influences decision makers, especially with the mid-term elections coming up. This is partially why the US, Britain, France, and Germany are steadfast in their refusal of the conditions Iran has set for the return to the agreement, primarily ending the International Atomic Energy Agency’s probe into enriched uranium traces found at several of its undisclosed sites. The powers have made it clear that they will not agree to the demand, even at the expense of the accord. This bodes well for Israel, although one must remember that these decisions can change. Prime Minister Yair Lapid spoke about the matter with leaders in New York, but his main challenge remains to formulate a policy – internal and international – on what to do if the deal is not signed, especially if Iran decides to challenge the world and sprint to an atomic bomb.
Yoav Limor, IHY, 23.09.22
HAA = Haaretz
YED = Yedioth Ahronoth / Ynetnews
JPO = Jerusalem Post
IHY = Israel HaYom
TOI = Times of Israel
GLO = Globes
Published: October 2022.
Dr. Paul Pasch,
Head of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel