“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.
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Main topics covered in this Publication:
- Gantz Declares Palestinian NGOs to Be Terrorist Organizations
- Israel Declares War on Global Warming
- Hacker Attack on Iranian Gas Stations
- Selection of Articles
1. Gantz Declares Palestinian NGOs to Be Terrorist Organizations
Israel’s peace activists must back terror tags for Palestinian rights groups
(…) anti-Israel bias is a concept deeply ingrained in the agenda of the two international human rights groups (…), the BDS and Amnesty (…) the very concept of human rights has recently become a platform for spreading of lies, manipulation and hate-mongering against Israel. (…) Palestinian rights organizations in particular are just political platforms that deny Israel’s right to exist, with some taking it even further. (…) These so-called “Palestinian rights organizations” received no less the $200 million from the EU between 2014-2021. (…) many members of these organizations are also affiliated with known terrorist groups, while some have even carried out attacks against Israelis. The EU, however, still thinks it knows best and remains adamant in its support. (…) The former head of the prisoners’ rights group “Addameer,” another outlawed organization, Khalida Jarrar, is also a PFLP member. The list of members of these EU-funded rights groups who are connected to terror organizations goes on and on. (…) when politicians and “rights organizations” in Israel stand up to defend these bodies, they are basically killing what was supposed to be Israel’s “peace bloc.”
Ben-Dror Yemini, YED, 24.10.21
A stain upon Israel
The government’s declaration of civil society organizations in the West Bank as terrorist organizations is a destructive folly that tarnishes all of the parties in the coalition and the state itself. The outlawing of human rights groups and persecution of humanitarian activists are quintessential characteristics of military regimes, in which democracy in its deepest sense is a dead letter. (…) From now on, there is no distinction between those waging a violent struggle against the state and hurting innocent civilians, on one hand, and on the other hand lawyers in human rights organizations who give prisoners legal aid or leftist activists in organizations that oppose torture, protect women and children and their rights or document human rights violation in the territories. Now, anyone affiliated with such an organization is akin to a terrorist. There is a straight line from defining the nonviolent struggle against the occupation as “diplomatic terror” and designating human rights groups as terrorist organizations. The literal meaning is clear: All resistance to the occupation is terror. Israel is undermining the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate struggle. This is a boon to terrorist organizations and the use of violence. (…)
Editorial, HAA, 24.10.21
The smoke and mirrors of Palestinian rights groups
Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s designation of six Palestinian groups linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine as terrorist organizations is a courageous and revolutionary step for Israel. The six organizations claim to be “civil society” or “human rights” groups but are, in fact, an integral part of the Palestinians’ war strategy against the Jewish state. In many ways, it is these organizations, that do not engage in a physical warfare, that are more successful in the fight against Israel. They pretend to stand up for justice, but in reality act as a frontline to the enemy organizations that seek to destroy the Jewish state. (…) The groups were also allegedly recruitment centers for terrorists. (…) These institutions take advantage of the legal system and use psychological warfare and propaganda to achieve their goals. (…) Gantz is unafraid of criticism by fellow coalition members. A lot more can be achieved that might ruffle the Left’s feathers before the state budget is approved.
Amon Lord, IHY, 24.10.21
If so, Benny Gantz, I’m a proud terrorist
(…) Among these “terrorist organizations,” according to the defense minister, are Al-Haq, an award-winning human rights organization with a high profile international reputation; the Palestinian branch of Defense for Children International, which protects the rights of Palestinian minors; and Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, which defends Palestinian security prisoners and detainees held in both Israeli and Palestinian prisons and detention centers. (…) designating this almost-holy NGO as a terrorist organization is like declaring Israel’s National Council for the Child to be a branch of Al Qaida, or claiming that it’s dark outside at noon – an intolerable and unforgivable madness. (…) Israel abuses minors, their families and entire communities. If the person making this claim is a terrorist – then I am a proud terrorist. (…) We are living in an insane, upside-down world, if the terrorist is the one protecting the rights of children, working on their behalf and rescuing them from those who impose systematic political terror on them. There is disrespect and undermining of the term “terror,” which characterize actions that arbitrarily harm innocent people in order to advance political agendas. More than that: There is real scorn here for the genuine struggle that must be adopted against terror of any kind. Gantz’s declaration is like a prize to the actual terrorist organizations. It is a blow to the nonviolent Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence. (…) If DCIP is a terror organization, what should we call the Israel Defense Forces?
Moria Shlomot, HAA, 27.10.21
Israel is not suppressing Palestinian civil society
(…) Israel is not suppressing Palestinian civil society (…) the organizations now listed as terrorist groups are not targeted because of their anti-Israel stances, but rather because of a legitimate and well-documented track record of collusion and cooperation the PFLP, the internationally recognized terrorist organization. (…) dozens of NGOs – Palestinian, Israeli and international – are fiercely critical of Israel yet they, with the exception of the six in question, are not labeled terrorist organizations. (…) In the case of Al-Haq (…) its director, Shawan Jabarin was convicted and served time in prison for terrorism recruitment for the PFLP. Jabarin also sits on the board of DCI-P, another of the six organizations, along with numerous other PFLP members and convicted PFLP terrorists. The sixth organization, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), is already designated by USAID as the official women’s organization of the PFLP. Additionally, Fatah declares the NGO as an official affiliate. (…) these six NGOs (…) were found to have diverted international funding and forged documents to provide financial assistance to the PFLP. (…) it is not an attack on civil society to designate NGOs as terror fronts when they are abusing their status as NGOs to fund and assist terror. In fact, it is a known tactic of terrorist organizations to use NGOs as a cover. (…) No organization, of any nationality, should get a free pass to assist violent terrorist organizations. (…)
Emily Schrader, JPO, 27.10.21
2. Israel Declares War on Global Warming
Bennett, there’s an emergency ahead
(…) even if politicians will desperately want to take extreme actions in the coming years to prevent the climatic extremes that are likely to attack us, their actions will no longer be able to prevent deadly heat waves, floods, hurricanes, fires, droughts and rising sea levels, but only will succeed in reducing them to a much smaller extent than is possible today. But in Israel, which is expected to suffer from the effects of the climate crisis at a higher intensity and speed than the global average – the country has already warmed by 1.4 degrees Celsius since 1950, compared to a global rise of 1.1 degrees since 1850 – the so-called change government, which pledged in its basic guidelines to act on the climate crisis, still slumbers. Only last week did Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announce that he will attend the conference. (…) Dozens of countries have already declared climate emergencies and pledged to reach net zero emissions, but Israel is taking its time and has not yet decided whether the climate crisis is an emergency. (…) Bennett (…) must instruct the finance and energy ministries to (…) pass a law declaring a national climate emergency at the next cabinet meeting.
Editorial, HAA, 22.10.21
The climate crisis report is an indictment of Netanyahu
(…) Israel is located in a region of heightened climate crisis risk. Warming in our region has already surpassed the 1.5 degree Celsius target threshold and is increasing at a frightening rate. (…) decision-makers, bureaucrats and elected officials who failed the public they are supposed to serve (…) have names. The transportation minister from 2009-2019 was Yisrael Katz. The failure to strengthen public transportation and reduce car travel, and to replace pollution-producing buses with electric buses is on him. The energy minister from 2015-2021 was Yuval Steinitz. He bears the blame for the failure to increase the rate of renewable energies in the electricity network. Last year only 6 percent of Israel’s electricity came from renewable sources. (…) The finance ministers who failed to advance reforms to address the climate crisis were Katz, Moshe Kahlon, Yair Lapid and Steinitz. Then there are (…) the environment ministers who did not adequately warn the public and the government about the severity of the crisis and failed to properly tackle the treatment of waste. Senior officials in government ministries, the Electricity Authority, the Israel Land Authority, the Planning Administration and elsewhere also share in the responsibility. But above them all is one man at whose doorstep the blame for this failure really lies. The man who headed Israel’s governments for the past 12 years, and who, aside from making occasional statements at international forums, did nothing to prepare Israel for the climate threat. The state comptroller’s report is incomplete without mentioning the name of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Editorial, HAA, 28.10.21
The shift to solar energy will take time
There are no good guys or bad guys in this performance, there are only just dreamers and realists. The dreamers are fighting for us to immediately shift to solar energy; the realists remind us that isn’t a possibility just yet. The dreamers say Israel is lagging behind Northern Europe and other Western states; the realists remind the dreamers those countries have rivers that produce hydraulic energy 24 hours a day, as well as strong winds that also produce energy a majority of the day. There is no real comparison to our green solar energy. We want peace and we want green energy, too, but that’s just not possible now. The push for solar energy is a real threat. (…) From both an environmental and economic perspective, Israel should move to quickly shift to natural gas. Of all the fossil fuels (…) natural gas is considered the cleanest. Beyond that, ours is blue and white. (…) Had we developed this resource quicker, at the same time as we moved to power plants that run on natural gas, the air would be cleaner today and we would be less dependent on energy imports. The shift to solar energy cannot happen as quickly as the previous government had planned, and it certainly can’t happen quicker than that. (…) Preaching to the public won’t make it happen any faster, but the technological developments that allow it to store energy in greater quantities will.
Eran Bar-Tal, IHY, 29.10.21
Misguided energy policy affects the Middle East and the world
(…) What is underappreciated as a significant security challenge is how the West’s desire to become fossil fuel independent is strengthening the hand of authoritarian regimes in the region like Iran and Russia, while weakening the influence of Western democracies. (…) America’s and Israel’s interests do not coincide with Russia’s, a friend to Iran, Turkey and Syria, all Israeli adversaries. While the West commits hari-kari by ending fracking and expecting solar and wind energy to replace natural gas and oil without damaging their economies, the Russians, Iranians, and the Gulf states will be more than happy to extort inflated energy prices and fill their coffers. China and India’s rapidly increasing demand for fossil fuels will make the West’s reduction seem insignificant. (…) And the damage to our economy, prestige, and ability to influence other nations to advance our security interests will be severely diminished. (…) the path the West is choosing is wishful thinking, if not impossible. Almost every product and service today consumes fossil fuels. The gains in renewables replacing fossil fuels for electricity are impressive, yet electricity represents only 20% of fossil fuel use. (…) If you want to reduce man’s carbon footprint, the best and most reliable method would be nuclear power, which has become a safe source of energy despite its toxic name. (…) If you are ambitious and want to attack a primary source of CO 2 equivalents, target agriculture and man’s insatiable desire for animal protein. Create a moon-launch type of program to make animal meat in laboratories that would be indistinguishable from meat from slaughtered animals. (…) the real problem is that the green agenda as currently conceived is an effective machine for undermining the economic and political power of the democratic world (…). We need to acknowledge that our energy policy targeted against climate change can undermine our security interests. This happens when we ask too much of renewables too soon and absolve the worst fossil fuel abusers like China and Russia. If you really care about climate change and the environment, think nuclear in addition to solar and wind.
Eric R. Mandel, JPO, 28.10.21
Israel is changing its views on climate, but promises and words are not enough
(…) The Israeli (…) National Security Council, which recently adopted the climate-change issue under its auspices, set several goals for the country: reducing greenhouse-gas emissions; preparing for emergencies caused by meteorologic extremes, such as wildfires, flooding and snowstorms; and leveraging Israel’s assets, such as innovation in climate-related areas and advancing regional cooperation. (…) Bennett pledged acceptance of the goal of net zero-carbon emissions by 2050, an essential component in the global goal to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. (…) There is no vaccination for climate change, but there are measures that can and must be taken, such as prioritizing renewable energy over fossil fuels and improving energy efficiency; improving public transportation to make it an attractive and viable option over the use of private vehicles; and making sure construction meets green standards, including environmentally friendly buildings and conservation of green, public spaces and providing shade in open areas. Part of the revenue from the country’s gas fields must be used to help develop renewable energy and a gradual transition to green energy in the future. A recent State Comptroller’s Report warned that the country is not prepared for climate-change emergencies. The government has now created a “climate change task force” and approved a program designed to tackle climate change. (…) A switch needs to be made in the way we approach the subject of climate change and environmental protection in Israel. (…) Above all, it needs to be understood that combating climate change has to go beyond narrow political concerns. This is not a matter of Left and Right; this is something that is essential for our children and grandchildren.
Editorial, JPO, 31.10.21
The climate crisis: An opportunity
(…) The scientific community is in agreement that it is now too late for humankind to avert the climate crisis. All that remains now is to minimize the expected damage. States that do not adapt will simply be left behind. (…) it is essential that government policy will ensure maximum availability of transport solutions and will promote urban planning that encourages walking and using bicycles, alongside financial disincentives for private car use. In this context, the purchasing tax on disposable tableware containing plastic has attracted criticism due to its disproportionate impact on families from lower socioeconomic brackets, who are more likely to use paper and plastic tableware. It is important to note that this is (…) an economic incentive designed to change behaviors and purchasing patterns. Israel is a small, crowded, and polluted country, exceptionally so relative to the rest of the world. If current trends are not changed, this situation will only deteriorate until life in public spaces becomes unbearable. Around 90 percent of pollution on Israel’s beaches comes from plastic waste. Thus (…) it is perfectly reasonable to apply the principle of making the polluters pay the real costs of the results of their actions. (…) the climate crisis is (…) a real and threatening crisis that demands significant changes in public behavior, the economy, and public policy. (…) The climate crisis is also an opportunity, and by taking the right actions we can foster growth and create jobs of the future that will raise employment rates. By the same token, failing to act methodically against the crisis will result in even greater damage to the entire population, and particularly to the most vulnerable. The early policy decisions taken in this area are the first steps in the right direction, placing us on a path that will support low-carbon and sustainable economic growth.
Yohanan Plesner, TOI, 31.10.21
3. Hacker Attack on Iranian Gas Stations
Israel’s ability to attack Iran is vital for reasons other than you know
Besides the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which is under Iranian control, there are (…) other Iran-backed threats facing Israel. The first one is Iran’s attempt to establish a Hezbollah-like military force in Syria; the second is its attempts to conduct cyberattacks on Israeli targets; the third is its ability to strike the Jewish state with cruise missiles and armed drones that could come from Syria, Iraq, and Yemen; and the fourth – and biggest – threat is the potential to very soon produce nuclear weapons. (…) The first scenario is a direct attack on Israel with cruise missiles and armed drones operated by Iran or militias under its rule. This kind of attack was carried out two years ago against the Saudi oil infrastructure, which paralyzed it, although not for long. And even though Israel has better defensive capabilities than Saudi Arabia, such an attack by Iran would likely require an Israeli retaliation on Iran’s soil. The second scenario involves Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities if the Iranian regime violates the nuclear agreement, if it is brought back to life, or simply begins accelerating toward a nuclear bomb. The importance of the ability to perform such is great in order to show the international community that the threat of an Israeli strike is real. As a result, they might try harder to reach an agreement that will keep Israel safe, or harden the sanctions against the Islamic Republic or even prepare their own military options. (…) The chances of a direct military confrontation between Israel and Iran, or even between Israel and Hezbollah, are still slim. But Israel has no choice but to improve both its defense and attack capabilities – including its cyber units. The paralysis of Iran’s gas stations earlier this week may indicate that Israel is not neglecting this vital area of operations.
Giora Eiland, YED, 30.10.21
Cyber warfare: Playing with fire
Last week, a cyberattack in Iran paralyzed the government system governing fuel subsidies, causing chaos at some 4,300 gas stations across the country. The attack came on the heels of previous cyberattacks in recent months, which shut down vital services and infrastructure in Iran – from disruptions to traffic lights and train services to water and electric supplies. (…) It’s unreasonable to assume that fuel disruptions will cause the Iranian regime to think twice about its nuclear adventure. More painful blows it has sustained in recent years failed in this regard. (…) And yet, these cyberattacks are not without reason and justification, as their goal is to create a balance of terror and deterrence against a radical regime that can only be stopped by force. If Israel is indeed behind them, it can be viewed as an extension of the so-called “war between wars” the two enemies have been waging for over a decade. This is a cold war that mostly flies under the radar and is apparently convenient for both parties as it allows them to avoid an all-out confrontation that neither side wants. (…) Iranian hackers attack Israel incessantly, occasionally with lethal repercussions. (…) These cyber games, therefore, will continue on a low flame, but ultimately won’t be the deciding factor in the ongoing tug of war between Jerusalem and Tehran.
Eyal Zisser, IHY, 31.10.21
Israel’s misguided war against Iran’s gas stations
Israel’s greatest achievement against the Iranian nuclear program was when it managed to convince the international community that the Iranian threat wasn’t Israel’s private concern, but was aimed at the entire world. This achievement is rightly credited to Benjamin Netanyahu, now the opposition leader. (…) This mobilization produced the nuclear agreement that was signed in 2015 and curtailed Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for the removal of sanctions on it. (…) Three years later, in 2018, Israel racked up another huge “achievement,” once again thanks to Netanyahu. U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement and significantly intensified sanctions on Iran. But this move boomeranged and blew up in Israel’s face. Iran resumed enriching uranium in large quantities, began producing material necessary to build a nuclear bomb and is now a more immediate and dangerous threat than it was just before the agreement was signed. (…) It now seems that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has (…) even set far more megalomaniac goals than his predecessor. The cyberattack on Iranian gas stations was explained by defense officials as a means of spurring public protests in Iran that could develop into a civil uprising that would eventually lead to the collapse of the regime. And indeed, apocalyptic messianists have never abandoned this doctrine. But Iranians don’t need an Israeli shot in the arm to be fed up with the regime. And just like Israelis won’t revolt against their government because of the cyberattack on the Atraf website, Iranians presumably also won’t rush to take to the streets. The Iranian threat is too serious and too dangerous to be left in the hands of gamers and hackers. The nuclear agreement is currently the only realistic option for halting Iran’s nuclear program. Any attempt to thwart it is tantamount to sabotaging Israel’s national security.
Editorial, HAA, 31.10.21
Iran’s Growing Conventional Threat to Israel
As the international community focuses its attention on efforts to renew negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, we should not ignore the full extent of Iran’s threats to the security of Israel posed by Iran’s terror proxies. These include rockets, precision-guided missiles, and we can now add drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (..) to the growing conventional threat to Israel. (…) Indeed, Israeli military planners know that almost any weapon system that Iran has will ultimately get into the hands of its terror proxy forces: Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Iranian proxy forces in Syria. This is all by design, and it is the foundation of Iran’s strategy for the destruction of Israel. (…) Israel could be faced with a situation where Iran’s proxy forces would try to overwhelm Israel’s air defenses by using massive rocket fire combined with drones, U.A.V’s and precision-guided missiles. They would not only target civilians with indiscriminate rocket fire but also launch precision attacks against Israel’s critical infrastructure: electrical power plants, desalination plants, Ben-Gurion Airport and IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv. (…) If the international community is serious about preventing a very destructive war in the Middle East, it should look at the full array of Iran’s threats to the security of Israel that are both conventional and nuclear.
Bob Feferman, TOI, 31.10.21
4. Selection of Articles
Violence in the Arab Sector
Enlist Arab leaders in efforts to rein in violence
The intolerable ease with which a weapon can be obtained is not just the result of a desire by criminals or other negative elements in Arab society to walk around with them as if it is part of a “culture” or a desire to instill fear in others. It has to do with supply and demand, and as long as criminal elements are able to get their hands on Israeli military weapons, this phenomenon will only grow. (…) Why is it that elite Israeli intelligence able to locate any weapon hidden in a home or a cave in the Palestinian territories or any weapons mill in the Gaza Strip? Israeli forces are able to pinpoint any spot where weapons are situated if they are to be used against Israeli citizens. (…) Police data points to an absolutely shocking number of weapons, more than all the weapons in the hands of Arab, Druze, and Bedouin soldiers in the IDF and the security forces, in Arab Israelis’ hands. Despite police efforts over the last year, we have buried a disturbing number of victims who paid the price of the use of illegal weapons with their lives (…). In all of these instances, the weapons they used were IDF-issued. (…) There have been cases where police have discovered weapons in high-school students’ backpacks in the Galilee and Triangle regions as well as in the South. This phenomenon should keep every Israeli citizen, both Jewish and Arab, up at night. The government was right to approve a multi-year plan (…). Over the last decade, however, the problem has never been with the plans but their implementation and regulation. Perhaps now that crime has become a strategic threat to both Arab and Jewish society, the plan will be implemented in its entirety (…). Dominant figures in Arab society, along with local authorities, civil society organizations, youth groups, and large companies should be involved in the plan’s implementation. Young people who lack motivation and the proper framework are at the most risk of finding refuge in the criminal world.
Jalal Bana, IHY, 25.10.21
COVID Vaccinations for Children
Vaccinating children will protect everyone from COVID-19
(…) US Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine in children aged 5 to 11 is very welcome news for the global and Israeli fight against the most serious pandemic the world has faced in the last century. (…) Israeli approval for the vaccine is fast approaching. (…) The sensitive nature of the decision to vaccinate children is understandable, although seemingly exaggerated since for decades every global vaccine campaign (…) has been based on the great success of vaccinating babies and children. (…) healthcare providers across the country are preparing for the arrival of the vaccines for children (…) something that will allow 1.25 million children in this age group to get the jab. (…) vaccines will only be given with parental approval, in accordance with the Patient’s Rights Law. The vaccination of children is aimed first and foremost at protecting the children themselves from the virus, which although it tends to impact children only mildly could still prove to be very serious and even fatal. (…) The inoculation of children is also aimed at protecting the health of all Israelis. Israel’s vaccination rate will grow significantly if a majority of children in this age group get the jab, and the growing vaccination rate could prove critical to the national fight against the pandemic, decreasing the renewed spread of the virus, bringing down mass infections, serious morbidity and death, and limiting the need for quarantines.
Ran Reznik, IHY, 31.10.21
HAA = Haaretz
YED = Yedioth Ahronoth / Ynetnews
JPO = Jerusalem Post
IHY = Israel HaYom
TOI = Times of Israel
GLO = Globes
Published: November 2021.
Dr. Paul Pasch,
Head of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel