“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:
- Final Sprint in the Coalition Negotiations
- FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
- Combined Bomb Attack in Jerusalem
- Selection of Articles
1. Final Sprint in the Coalition Negotiations
New coalition can give Temple Mount back to Jewish people
(…) what could possibly be more innocent – and iconic – than a patriotic young Jewess giving voice to her love of country by singing the national anthem? One would assume that in a democratic state which upholds the exercise of free speech as a fundamental right (…) to hum a tune on the Temple Mount would hardly warrant police intervention. And yet, apparently, it does. By contrast, when Muslim Arab worshipers hoist Hamas flags on the Mount and lustily chant “With blood and with spirit we shall redeem you, O Palestine!” the police fail to take action. This absurd state of affairs, where Jews are openly discriminated against in Israel’s capital, is the result of years of government apathy of both the Left and the Right, and it is time for this to change. Jewish visits to the Mount are limited to just four hours a day, five days a week. No similar restrictions apply to Muslims. Jews cannot ascend the Mount on their Sabbath. Muslims can. Jews are heavily discouraged from praying on the Mount, and there have been cases in which the police detained Israelis for saying a blessing before drinking water or reciting “Shema Yisrael.” Muslims, by contrast, can pray as they wish. There is no moral, legal or philosophical justification for this prejudicial policy against Jews, which has no place in a free society. (…) Simply put, the Jewish people’s basic rights to freedom of worship and expression on the Temple Mount are being trampled underfoot in a manner unheard of anywhere else in the Western world. The (…) coalition in formation has an opportunity to change this. (…) Denying Jews their elementary right to commune with their Creator on the Temple Mount for fear of offending others is nothing less than a stain on Israel’s democracy. And the sooner it is removed, the better.
Michael Freund, JPO, 19.11.22
Ben-Gvir is threatening Jewish unity worldwide
(…) the right-wing populist fanatic, Itamar Ben-Gvir, intends to take the wrecking ball to contemporary Jewish pluralism and prohibit the recognition of Reform and Conservative conversions for the purpose of making aliyah (…). It is bad enough that the Chief Rabbinate will not recognize such conversions, now Ben-Gvir wants to extend the ban to the secular realm by urging the reversal of a Basic Law that has been in place for more than half a century. Speaking from the perspective of an American Jew, I simply ask, “how dare he?” In a time of rising antisemitism in the US and abroad, Ben-Gvir would shamefully close the door to literally thousands of Jews who might one day soon find themselves in need of flight to the safe haven that Israel represents for every Jew who seeks refuge in times of existential crisis. (…) Ben-Gvir (…) ignores the sweep of contemporary Jewish history and thinks only of political gain and the grasp and allure of power. (…) Ben-Gvir is the real threat to Jewish unity. He must not be allowed to wield his politics of exclusion and intolerance in Israel’s next government. (…)
Mark S. Freedman, JPO, 20.11.22
Far-right government would be a gift to Israel boycott movement
Quietly, and with little public debate, the emerging coalition government has already began working to authorize illegal West Bank outposts established over the past two decades. Each one of them will now likely have a local council, a head rabbi and new infrastructure – all to fulfill the vision of the Land of Israel. (…) off all matters that are now being debated, the most important one – which may lead to the end of the Zionist dream – is being overlooked. (…) Netanyahu knows it would be a violation of commitments made in 2003, to remove all illegal outposts. He also knows that the only thing worse than a Palestinian state, is a one-state option. (…) The majority backed Netanyahu, the same prime minister who avoided annexing parts of the West Bank, opted instead to sign peace deals with Arab Gulf nations, and was an instrumental in the articulation of a peace plan put together by former U.S. President Donald Trump, which included the establishment of a Palestinian state. (…) Now, Smotrich is eyeing the defense portfolio. He will (…) have dramatic control over the West Bank and the settlements. He will be de-facto the ruler, and his policies will be the law. He will legalize outposts (…) build a new settlement on the disputed land of Eviatar and remove the Palestinians from the village Khan al-Ahmar. (…) In the long-run, settlement policies are the most important for Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. They must not be imposed by an extremist party, even if elected democratically. (…)
Ben-Dror Yemini, YED, 22.11.22
Women Will Be Sent to the Back
(…) Religious Zionism and United Torah Judaism have demanded that a law be passed stipulating that gender separation at public events, businesses and services will not be considered discrimination. This law would change the nature of Israel’s public spaces. (…) Once it receives official recognition, doubtless accompanied by generous public funding, separation between men and women will creep into additional walks of life. That’s the nature of religious extremism – it knows no bounds and doesn’t recognize fundamental principles of a democratic society like equality and human dignity. Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of this religious/ultra-Orthodox demand is a clear and immediate signal to all women, regardless of how religious they are, that they are second-class citizens. (…) Separation between men and women will also necessarily affect the secular public. (…) We shouldn’t accept the naïve claims that separation doesn’t harm women. Experience shows that at cultural events, they are sent to the back of the hall, just like they are in a synagogue. (…) We must not accept this. Public spaces should remain open and fair to both women and men.
Editorial, HAA, 22.11.22
The proposed High Court override clause will reverse gender equality gains
(…) We face the prospect of growing gender separation in key arenas becoming a routine phenomenon, backed up by legislation, and in a situation in which the High Court is unable to intervene. The low level of women’s representation in the 25th Knesset and the scarcity of women representing the parties likely to form the coalition are not the only factors that render the success of the constitutional struggle for gender equality and women’s rights as highly unlikely. Added to these factors is the declared intention to pass into law the override clause, which may turn back the clock on years of achievements and gains made in this struggle, including those relating to women’s representation. If the Knesset does indeed introduce the override clause, enabling it to pass legislation with a majority of 61 Knesset members even if the High Court has ruled that the law in question contravenes rights anchored in a Basic Law, this may well deal a blow to women’s rights. Many of these rights were first acknowledged and articulated or were given protection in High Court rulings. (…) Over the years, the High Court has been the go-to address for those seeking to ensure the most basic protections for women. (…) Without this defense, women’s rights will be much more vulnerable. (…) In the past, the High Court has forbidden forced gender separation on buses, but the override clause will make it easy to override these rulings. In such a scenario, the separation we have seen in public spaces in recent years will become the norm, with strong legislative backing from the current Knesset – not only at cultural events but as part of our daily routine. (…) Thus to protect women’s rights, the legislation of the override clause must not be allowed to proceed (…). After all, it is the democratic character of Israel, and a proper system of checks and balances that protects us all: women, mothers and daughters.
Anat Thon Ashkenazy, JPO, 27.11.22
Netanyahu’s new government is a threat to Israel’s institutions
(…) The immediate targets are the Supreme Court and judicial system, with the state prosecution being on top of the agenda. (…) Another institution to be targeted will be Israel’s internal security agency, Shin Bet, and specifically its department responsible for Jewish terrorism. The authority given to Ben-Gvir in his coalition agreement with incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cast doubt on any government decision pertaining to West Bank policies, and the continued security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority. There will no doubt be pressure to table legislation to force the Shin Bet to investigate crime in the Arab sector instead of the police, and demand for a different policy toward Palestinian terrorists, including the introduction of the death penalty. (…) The final institution the new government will want to reform will be the Israel Defense Forces. A new military chief is scheduled to take over next January, at a challenging time for the military. Netanyahu associates have spoken clearly about the incoming prime minister’s intent to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. Success in this endeavor is doubtful, but they can definitely succeed in bringing Israel to the International Criminal Court. (…) Previous coalitions had a range of political views, and the good of the nation was always valued over the personal advantages of any one politician. But, this coalition is different. It relies on the support of a public that was educated to reject those holding opposing views and to despise national institutions. A divisive society breeds a divisive rule, as the United States has learned, and now – Israel will also learn it. This is no time to remain calm.
Nahum Barnea, YED, 28.11.22
The Misogyny and Homophobia Authority
The coalition agreement between Benjamin Netanyahu and the Knesset’s Noam faction, standard bearer of the fight against the LGBT community, women and Reform Judaism, attests to the character of Netanyahu’s sixth government now taking shape. It will be the most right-wing, extremist, racist, ultra-nationalist and benighted government in Israel’s history. A full-scale right-wing government also means its most retrograde one, espousing a reversal of the achievements of liberalism on all fronts. The coalition agreement determines that an authority for national-Jewish identity will be established within the Prime Minister’s Office, headed by Noam chairman Avi Maoz, who will get the title of deputy minister. (…) It’s not only women and gays in his sights. Maoz also claims Reform Jews erode the country’s Jewish identity. He favors retaining the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly on conversions. As part of the coalition agreement, he will be in charge of the Nativ liaison unit at the Prime Minister’s Office, which examines the eligibility of residents of the former Soviet Union to immigrate to Israel. (…) Netanyahu has handed an ultra-nationalist, homophobic, chauvinist and misogynist Jew the power and money to shape the personal, familial and national identity of Israel’s citizens, according to his twisted values.
Editorial, HAA, 29.11.22
2. Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022
An Israeli in Qatar for the World Cup
(…) Upon arrival in Doha, everything seems to be working like clockwork. The metro system is efficient and able to transport the almost two million fans who will be arriving to the eight stadiums that will be hosting this World Cup. One does not see many of the local Arab inhabitants (…). But a lot of Spanish can be heard due to the thousands of Argentinian and Mexican fans who have already arrived. European fans are few and far between. Many of the expatriates from the Indian subcontinent (…). And of course, there’s Hebrew. Having so many Israelis together in such close proximity is both heartwarming – and prone to calamity. Trying to preempt the chances of Israelis behaving like Israelis sometimes do abroad, the Foreign Ministry released a guide last week, instructing them on how to behave in Qatar. Israel national soccer team captain Tal Ben Haim warned the Israeli travelers that drinking alcohol in public is illegal, as well as other infractions that would result in fines or even jail. (…) one can buy a plate of hummus, ful and a can of Pepsi for the equivalent of NIS 12. All of the games are accessible, with the cheapest price being 250 Rial (about NIS 240) and the most expensive ticket set at 800 Rial (about NIS 760). One must take into consideration that compared to prices of Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball, where the cheapest price for a ticket to a EuroLeague game is almost NIS 350, buying an inexpensive ticket for the World Cup is a bargain. Regardless of the effort and cost entailed to get here, now that the games are about to begin, it’s all worth it. (…).
Michael Jankelowitz, JPO, 19.11.22
International scrutiny toward Qatar hosting World Cup
The FIFA World Cup, which kicked off Sunday in Qatar, has been subject to international scrutiny and condemnations for a series of irregularities. (…) Singers Rod Stewart, Dua Lipa and previous World Cup favorite Shakira all reportedly turned down huge sums and declined to appear in the opening ceremony. (…) Qatar, of course, is not the only problematic host country of the World Cup and other international major sporting events: The last World Cup, four years ago, was hosted by Russia, which hosted the Olympic Games four years prior to that. And China hosted the Olympics in February despite its appalling record on human rights and threats to Taiwan and the region. These games are as much about Qatar’s standing as an influential player in the Arab world and global affairs as they are about international football. (…) From Israel’s viewpoint there are also heightened sensitivities due to Qatar’s financial support of Hamas’s regime in Gaza (…) In addition, Qatar maintains cordial relations with Iran, whose support of terrorism and human rights abuses are evident. (…) It would be wrong to ignore the human rights issues and Qatar’s double game when it comes to support for terrorists. Yet, the World Cup in Qatar could also be an opportunity for the small state to prove that this international mega-event was not simply “sportswashing.” It can significantly improve its treatment of migrant workers and gays, for example, without compromising its Muslim religious values. Especially when it comes to the relationship with Israel, having hosted Israeli fans and media and permitted direct flights from Tel Aviv, Qatar could put its best foot forward and go a stage further. (…) official ties between Qatar and Israel would be a win-win situation and a fitting step to take when the World Cup is over.
Editorial, JPO, 20.11.22´
There are things in life more important than soccer
(…) there are things in life more important than soccer. But in soccer-mad Iran, what happens with the national team both on and off the field frequently takes on a political significance unknown among those teams coming from democratic countries. Iran’s World Cup appearances are invariably an opportunity for Iranians living outside their homeland to express their patriotism while loudly opposing the ayatollahs. (…) The regime is taking all the measures it can to ensure that mass sessions of soccer watching don’t become the occasion for additional protests. (…) At the end of last week, the Qataris announced that they had revoked the World Cup credentials of Iran International (IITV), an anti-regime broadcaster based in London with a solid following in Iran despite the regime’s various censorship mechanisms. (…) Qatar’s censorship on behalf of its Iranian ally aligns with the sly, underhanded manner through which it used its wealth and influence to get FIFA to award Doha the 2022 World Cup, an outcome that former FIFA President Sepp Blatter now belatedly admits was “a mistake.” Those who tune into the games should at least be aware of the context in which they take place. Over 6,000 migrant workers have lost their lives in unsafe, unsanitary conditions to build the air-conditioned stadiums where the matches will be hosted. More than 90% of the population, consisting exclusively of foreigners, lives under a form of apartheid, to the point that they are banned from entering the swish malls where Qatari citizens purchase luxury goods and eat at western food outlets. Women are second-class citizens while homosexuality is the subject of medieval repression, with gay men who are also Muslim facing the death penalty if they are apprehended. (…) Those who choose not to heed this call are entitled to their opinion, but please do us all a favor, and don’t call the spectacle in Qatar the “beautiful game.”
Ben Cohen, IHY; 20.11.22
Israel’s Emissaries of Hypocrisy in Qatar
(…) TV journalist Ohad Hemo, who is not a sports correspondent (…) was seen asking Lebanese fans where they were from (…) and without waiting for an answer, telling them in Arabic that he was from Israel. They turned their back on him and walked away. (…) In another interview, Palestinian fans approached him and told him they were from Palestine. He of course told them he was from Israel, perhaps expecting a dialogue. What a dove of peace. But when they replied that there is no such thing as Israel, he abandoned his journalistic ethos and joined Israel’s propaganda service. There is an Israel, Israel is there forever, shame on you, he told them. What did Hemo think when he turned to Palestinians and Lebanese people, telling them he was from Israel? (…) Israel was and remains a bleeding wound in the history of Lebanon. And as for Palestinians, after the Nakba, the expulsion, becoming refugees, the refusal to reconcile and find a solution, along with the signing of the “peace accords” with the Arab world over the Palestinians’ heads, are they really at fault for not talking to him nicely? It’s difficult to see the blindness and lack of self-awareness of Israeli journalists, who regard 1948 as a localized event in the past, culminating in the establishment of Israel, and not as the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians and the changing of the entire region to this day. Israel defines Lebanon and the Palestinians as enemies, but in Qatar, its journalists believe that we are “neighbors” and expect embraces or a wish to engage in sincere and courageous talks on camera. (…) At least these fans are not hypocrites. If they’re viewed as enemies, they behave accordingly. (…)
Hanin Majadli, HAA, 27.11.22
Qatar World Cup shows Israel is still hated
(…) The Qatar World Cup has brought Israel face to face with an unpleasant truth and harsh reality that is extremely painful for Israelis, as for the first time all those Israelis who to date have been so enthusiastic about the Arab or Persian Gulf, have now had their first bitter taste of the rejection, disregard, and refusal to accept Israelis in an Arab Muslim state. All those who claim that the inhabitants of the Gulf states harbor no ill will toward the State of Israel, have now seen their theory shot to pieces and have woken up to an entirely different reality. The news correspondents of the various Israeli media channels who so eagerly traveled to Qatar (…), but it didn’t take that long before they found themselves the subject of contempt, ridicule and disdain, from those selfsame Arabs who have nothing against Israel, not to mention those who boldly declared that there is no such thing as Israel, as there is only Palestine. (…) It was most embarrassing to see an Israeli journalist beg, plead and even hug an interviewee during a live broadcast for being so gracious as to say a kind word about Israel, only to find out that he was referring to the Palestinians and not the Israelis at all. This is a stinging slap in the face for anyone thinking that peace is just around the corner and that normalization with the Arab states is merely a question of time. This behavior of the average Arab citizen towards Israel is indicative of a depth of hostility that goes back more than 70 years, clearly underscoring the fact that the roots of the problem are still alive and kicking, if not indeed delivering a big, fat slap. (…)
Majdi Halabi, IHY, 27.11.22
Belligerence to Israelis at Qatar World Cup was more than expected
One of the biggest stories in Israeli media this weekend was the unpleasant encounters of Israeli journalists with Arab fans at the World Cup in Qatar. (…) Most of the encounters of Israelis, fans or journalists, with Arab fans end with those fans walking away. Some give a dirty look, others add a dirty comment. Usually, this is where it ends. Not much different from meeting Palestinians, Saudis, or Tunisians anywhere else in the world. (…) Israel is still, unfortunately a hated entity for many in the Arab world despite the very happy developments seen in recent years with the Abraham Accords. Put an Israeli journalist in a main street in Cairo, Amman, or Khartoum, all of them in countries which have peace agreements with Israel, and the reception will probably be far worse than it is in Doha. (…)
Jonathan Regev, YED, 28.11.22
3. Combined Bomb Attack in Jerusalem
Who is responsible for bomb attacks in Jerusalem?
(…) We can estimate who might have an interest in carrying out such an attack in exactly the kind of manner we saw it happen in Jerusalem – someone who is affiliated, or wants to be affiliated, with the Islamic State. The horrific outcome of the blasts may not be directly related to the wave of violent incitement that engulfed the Palestinian youth lately, who sometimes carry out attacks for the sole purpose of posting them on social media. These attacks were likely carried out by a well-organized terror cell that planned the explosives way ahead of time. (…) Explosives being placed in bags and operated remotely is a method favored by Islamic State members in Europe, and also in Israel. It could be that its members wanted to target areas where there’s a large religious and ultra-Orthodox Jewish population, pointing to a possible Islamist and religious motive. This adds to the fact that Israel has witnessed the rise in terror attacks by people who affiliated themselves with the Islamic State in some way. (…)
Ron Ben-Yishai, YED, 23.11.22
Israel now has a ticking timebomb on its hands
In the wake of the double bombing (…) in the capital, Israel’s security establishment is now engaged in an intense effort to locate the lab where the devices were prepared as well as to detain or eliminate the terrorist cell members who operated it. (…) The severity of the attacks stems not just from the large number of casualties (…) but also in that they involved sophisticated explosive devices that had been successfully smuggled to the capital and placed near civilians. This was most likely achieved via a remote detonator or a timer, with the terrorists watching from afar or already fleeing the scene. The attacks indicate that there is an explosives lab within Judea and Samaria with effective know-how. In a way, it is a ticking timebomb in and of itself: Every minute that goes by could potentially mean that another improvised explosive device had already been dispatched to Israel after having been assembled there. Moreover, such capabilities mean that the lab may manufacture explosive vests for suicide bombs, with the impact – both in sheer numbers and from a psychological perspective – being that much greater. That’s why the main effort undertaken by the Shin Bet and the Israel Police should be on hunting down the perpetrators (…) and then destroy the lab, under the presupposition that it had already assembled more bombs. Then they should locate the ring leader and the rest of the members so that this terrorism surge ends immediately. (…)
Yoav Limor, IHY, 23.11.22
Terror is still here, Israel needs secure government to stop it
The (…) explosions that rocked the entrance to Jerusalem were a reminder that Palestinian terrorism is still rearing its head. It is here, it is real and it is deadly. The attacks were far more sophisticated than the type of terrorism that Israel has grown accustomed to in recent years. This was not a lone attacker who took a knife, an assault rifle, or a car and embarked on a terrorist rampage (…). This was an attack that required the involvement of a number of people – to assemble the bombs and obtain the necessary ingredients, smuggle the bombs into Israel and plant them next to their targets. This is already what is called “terrorist infrastructure,” the kind that likely is affiliated with a known organization, which should have been on the Israeli intelligence community’s watch list. (…) After 75 years of statehood that has been marred by wars and terrorist attacks, we do not need to look for excuses for why Arab terrorists want to try and kill Israeli Jews. This has been part of the Israeli story since it was created as an independent state and will, sadly, likely continue as long as some of our neighbors refuse to come to terms with our existence here. There was terrorism when there were left-wing governments in power and there was terrorism when there were right-wing governments. (…) What Israelis need right now is security, not boasting of how the incoming government is going to do things differently. (…).
Editorial, JPO, 23.11.22
The Shabab have come to Hebron
(…) Jewish youths vandalize Palestinian homes, and attack and injure civilian Palestinians, a female soldier, and even a security guard of likely imminent minister Ben Gvir who was hospitalized for injuries sustained while protecting the soon-to-be-minister from rabble-rousers. (…) This is the latest in a spree of violent incidents committed by Jewish youth across the West Bank which many left-leaning organizations claim is a growing trend in violence committed by the Jewish residents of the area. (…) Where is the condemnation of these Jewish thugs in the West Bank? (…) What began as hooliganism targeting local Palestinians has now turned into ever more frequent attacks on Israeli institutional personnel. (…) Racially and nationalistically motivated Jewish violence on the fringes of wide-scale celebration is not new, but a growing menace left mostly unaddressed by police or leadership. (…) As this new right-wing nationalist government forms, it is critical that they look at their own mission statements with pure and objective commitment. If they are to truly bring “rule of law and safety to Israel and the West Bank” it must come in a wholistic form that addresses the issue of political and vigilante violence in its entirety, not just the raging “Shabab” in East Jerusalem and Lod, but also this nascent but growing form of settler violence perpetrated by our own Jewish Shabab raging against our Palestinian neighbors and increasingly our own state, staining the mission of building a Jewish presence in our ancestral homeland and the morality of the Zionist cause itself along the way.
Eitan Charnoff, TOI, 28.11.22
4. Selection of Articles
What Next After the Failed Nuclear Negotiations?
The Iran deal is dead. What now?
Two years after the election of US President Joe Biden, it should be crystal clear to even the last of the skeptics that the nuclear deal is dead and buried. (…) The talks broke down during the summer. Since then, Iran’s focus has been firmly on trying to put out the flames of the mass protests ignited in September, but even this has not led the ayatollahs to adopting any flexibility. On the contrary, Iran even raised the bar of its efforts to provoke the West when it began to provide military aid to Russia in the war against Ukraine. If that is not enough, has just Iran announced that it had expanded its prohibited activity at the underground Fordo facility, using new centrifuges to enrich uranium to a level of 60% purity. (…) if anybody is under the illusion that the Iranians are out for the count or will soon begin to crawl on all fours into the arms of the Western superpowers, then he really has no idea of what he is talking about. (…) the key question is not ‘How can we get back to the deal?’, (…) but (…) what can be done in the absence of a deal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. (…) The US is certainly not looking to spark any new wars at this particular moment. Economic sanctions, as past experience has shown, are not sufficiently effective. So, what can be done then? Here’s hoping that the senior Israeli officials charged with this brief have some appropriate answers.
Ariel Kahana, IHY, 23.11.22
HAA = Haaretz
YED = Yedioth Ahronoth / Ynetnews
JPO = Jerusalem Post
IHY = Israel HaYom
TOI = Times of Israel
GLO = Globes
Published: December 2022.
Dr. Paul Pasch,
Head of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel