“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:
- Terror in Paris
- New EU Guidelines for the Labeling of Settlement Products
- Netanyahu in Washington
- Selection of Articles
1. Terror in Paris
(…) Paris — if nothing else — stands for free society. That is why Paris is under attack. It is being targeted not for its policies as a country, but for its principles as people. Principles such as (…) equal (…) rights (…) and opinions (…) taken straight from France’s 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man (…). Poignantly, the document also includes references to faith, as in “No one may be disturbed for his opinions, even religious ones.” That is what the attackers are against. That is what the Islamists — practicers of the most militant form of Islam — so vehemently oppose. Freedom of religion. As Americans, Israelis, and upholders of politics based on human rights, we need to recognize this attack for what it is: An affront to our values. What is being attacked is culture. Because it is more than a coincidence that the city ISIS chose to make its mark on first is the capital of Western thought. So why Paris? Because Paris is us.
Amanda Botfeld, TOI, 15.11.15
(…) It is high time that the international community mobilize together against ISIS. If there is no concerted effort to combat this radical organization that thrives on terrorism, we might see an escalation of ISIS attacks around the world. (…) It’s time for the civilized world to stop talking and to take action. ISIS must be recognized for what it is – a barbaric terrorist organization seeking to establish a radical caliphate throughout the Middle East. It must be stopped.
Editorial, JPO, 15.11.15
Welcome to World War Three
(…) we are in the midst of World War III. (…) This is a war between jihadist Islam and Western civilization; a war between radical Islam and all those who refuse to surrender to its values and political demands. (…) This is what the third world war will look like, which Israel has been a part of for a while now. (…). France was the target of a combined assault of radical Islam not just because it has a tradition of human rights and freedom of movement, but because France and French culture symbolize everything that radical Islam is afraid of and is in an all-out war against. (…) Huge quantities of arms and ammunition arrive in Europe from Libya via Sicily, Malta, Greece and many other places. (…) The same is true with explosives, although terrorists are able to manufacture explosives from local products – acetone and hydrogen peroxide, for example. (…) Horror is effectively spread. It appears that the attackers were equipped with the pages of messages that declared so that those victims who survive would be able to cite to a media thirsty for every detail. “You bomb us in Syria and we bomb you in Paris,” was heard. They also were dressed in frightening clothing, right out of a Hollywood horror movie, but the weapons and explosives were real. ISIS mixes the virtual world with the real world fluidly and this is the secret of its success and its appeal to young Muslims in the West. (…) We need to prepare for further attacks not only in France, but throughout Europe. (…) The West will have to establish a joint intelligence apparatus (…). European countries will have to establish special forces (…). The world war between murderous fundamentalist Islam and Western civilization – and basically anyone and anything not Muslim – will have to be waged without compromise and without half-steps on land, air and sea. Brussels may not like it – but we’re all in the same boat. (…)
Ron Ben-Yishai, JED, 14.11.15
Response to Paris attacks mustn’t be dictated by grief and anger
(…) Emotional reactions that called for immediate revenge created the war in Afghanistan in 2001 and the second Gulf war of in 2003. In hindsight, the harm they caused outweighed the benefits. Now, strict observance of the values of civilization, adherence to civil rights — especially that of Muslim minorities — and aid to refugees fleeing from terror organizations can at least thwart such organizations’ ambitions to recruit supporters from these minorities. (…) the persecution of Muslims solely because they are Muslim and draconic legislation in the name of fighting terror will only aid terror organizations toward their goal of creating persecuted communities in the West. (…) It may be assumed that quite a few ordinary Israelis and government officials now expect greater understanding, from France in particular and the European Union in general, of the nature of Israel’s war on terror. There are certainly also some who will regard the attacks in France as suitable punishment for voting to label products from the settlements. Nothing could be more twisted. (…)
Editorial, HAA, 15.11.15
What can be learned from Paris’s black Friday the 13th
(…) France marks the misconception and Western failure when it comes to the way many European and Western countries deal with terrorism. (…) Organized attacks by terrorist groups, contrary to independent initiatives of lone wolves, are the most lethal and take the biggest toll of casualties. (…) These attacks (…) allow intelligence agents a theoretical ability to infiltrate and thwart attacks more effectively than in the case of the lone wolf. With this in mind, the French security services in particular and the Europeans in general must carry out a thorough self-examination to discover how an attack of this scale went under their radar. The French must develop better intelligence capabilities alongside a more effective doctrine to cope with terrorism. (…) Europe and France should reconsider and reassess their policies on foreign migrants, their border control of migrants entering their countries and their agreements to allow free travel from one country in Europe to another. (…) A balance must be found between countering the operational abilities of terrorist organizations via a continuous operational battle involving targeted killings of terrorists, arrests of terrorists, harming their military and operational infrastructure, drying out their financial sources, among other things, and at the same time dealing with the motivations and motives for terrorism. (…) Decision-makers must recognize the fact that you don’t thwart terrorist attacks by your values, but by neutralizing their motivation through a nonstop battle against those who carry out terrorist attacks, and their backers. However, this battle must be waged while preserving the liberal democratic values of the western world.
Boaz Ganor, JPO, 15.11.15
A resounding security failure
(…) France’s involvement in the fight against the Islamic State group and the ease in which France can be targeted had most experts believing it should have happened a long time ago. (…) What happened in Paris over the weekend can only be described as a resounding security failure, on intelligence, operational, and perceptual levels.(…) It is very difficult to thwart the actions of a lone terrorist, who leaves his surroundings ignorant of his intentions. A group of terrorists uses communication devices that can be tracked and therefore their plan can be foiled. If that does not happen it signals an intelligence failure, especially since the perpetrators were quite obviously radical Islamists, and it is likely some of them were familiar to law enforcement agencies in their respective countries. (…) The obvious conclusion is that the French must wake up, stop hesitating, change their laws, begin gathering intelligence on suspect French citizens, and fight back. The same goes for other Western countries. This is a war for the very existence of mankind, and it requires resources, tenacity, and perseverance. (…)
Yoav Limor, IHY, 15.11.15
2. New EU Guidelines for the Labeling of Settlement products
(…) European officials would like us to believe that labeling is just a way of providing European consumers with information and has nothing whatsoever to do with nasty boycotts. (…) Another disingenuous claim being put forward by the Europeans is that labeling will be “an interpretive note that is not legally binding.” European vendors, in other words, will be allowed to choose whether or not to attach the labels. But once the European Commission makes a recommendation to label, most countries will see it as morally binding, as though it were moral to force Israel to capitulate to Palestinians’ demands without demanding anything of the Palestinians, such as to stop the incessant incitement against Israel. (…) Singling out Israel for special condemnation (…) imposes the entire blame for the failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Israel. Those who support a boycott against Israel refuse to acknowledge the historical realities of the ongoing conflict, they also ignore contemporary realities. (…) An EU decision to label Israeli products now, as the Palestinian political leadership turns to incitement and the glorification of terrorists, is not only wrong and immoral, it is dangerous. It rewards Palestinian violence while vilifying Israel, thus setting the stage for yet more violence.
Editorial, JPO, 05.11.15
Badges and labels
Israel has launched an all-out campaign against the publication of the European directives requiring the labeling of settlement products at precisely the same time that the Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, has circulated the text of a government bill compelling representatives of nonprofit organizations receiving a majority of their funding from foreign governments (…) to wear badges proclaiming their sources of support. How is it possible to justify opposition to marking products just as Israel is poised to tag in law some of its very own citizens? The truth is that it simply isn’t, and that is the best possible reason to stop this folly before it undermines what’s left of Israel’s human and democratic face. (…) No small measure of cynicism (…) accompanies what may be more appropriately called the “Tagging Law.” (…). Civic associations perform essential democratic roles: they limit the power of the state; they give voice to the concerns of the weak, the dispossessed and the marginalized; they pluralize, by their very existence, the public landscape; and, perhaps most importantly, they constantly remind those in power that deep democracies have an ongoing obligation to promote the civil liberties of all their citizens. (…) Using power to silence opponents through legislation is, above all, a sign of governmental weakness. If the bill forcing civil society activists to wear badges actually passes, it will contribute directly to the present government’s determination to undermine Israel’s failing democratic order (…). It will also dishonor the memory of millions of Jews humiliated and later killed by the Jewish badge barely two generations ago. A country that claims to be a democratic state and the homeland of the Jewish people must not, under any circumstances, tag its own citizens; if it does, it cannot expect its products not to be labeled for dismissing the fundamental rights of those under its rule.
Naomi Chazan, TOI, 09.11.15
Return of the yellow star
(…) At the moment, women and children are being raped and sold as slaves en masse in Iraq and Syria, and Christians are being driven out or slaughtered with abandon in both these locations. (…) “Christian” Europe has its priorities straight. It is urgently tackling those dangerous Israeli settlers raising their children and developing their businesses in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. (…) The EU continues to pour oodles of money into an economically and politically corrupt Palestinian Authority — well over $10 billion since Oslo (…). This includes training and equipment for the PA’s thuggish mini-armies, salaries for more than 50,000 PA bureaucrats, antenna towers and studios for murderer-martyr-glorifying Palestinian TV stations, and tens of millions of euros for the families of convicted Palestinian terrorists, funneled through the PA budget. (…) in the warped weltanschauung of the European Union, it is (…) logical to pressure Israel and coddle the Palestinians. Everyone understands that the labeling of settlement products is only the first step toward an overall boycott of Israel and Israelis. It is a giant step forward in the delegitimization of Israel. (…) It seems that old habits die hard. Europeans have a knack for judging and moving Jews. They’re actually quite experienced at banning Jews from schools and universities, depriving Jews of scholarships, boycotting their businesses, restricting Jews to specific pales of settlement, and placing yellow stars on their arms. Now they are going place yellow labels on Israeli products. They might as well shape the labels (…) When double standards, delegitimization, demonization of Israel kick in, you know that Jew-hatred lurks just beneath the surface. (…)
David M. Weinberg, IHY, 13.11.15
3. Netanyahu in Washington
Think About It: A penny for your thoughts, Netanyahu
(…) I think it is reasonable to assume that like Baratz Netanyahu believes that US President Barak Obama is an anti-Semite, and that the US has had more sophisticated and savvy secretaries of state than John Kerry. (…) The bottom line: Did you tell Obama that you are going to “deal” with the Baratz issue after your return from Washington just because you are trying to temporarily pacify him, or do you understand that a man like Baratz cannot serve Israel’s propaganda effort, because he doesn’t understand the first thing about effective diplomacy, or because the views that you share with him are simply not explainable to anyone but your own political supporters? And (…): Did you withdraw your accusation that it was the Mufti of Jerusalem (…) who convinced Hitler to burn the Jews (…)? Which brings me to my last set of questions. Within the limits of the feasible (…), how do you perceive of an ideal Israel? Would it be a smaller state with a secure Jewish majority, or a state with the largest possible territory, irrespective of demographics? (…) Would its Arab citizens have true equality, or would you expect them to thank Israel on a daily basis for not taking away their citizenship and the right to vote and be elected to the Knesset? (…) And last but not least, would this ideal Israel do everything in its power to be part of “the family of nations,” or would it be “a people that dwells alone,” that doesn’t care about what all those “anti-Semites” and “delegitimizers of Israel” (…) think? If the latter is the case, Baratz is your man!
Susan Hattis Rolef, JPO, 08.11.15
(…) unlike his last visit, (…) the question for Israel is how precisely this security upgrade will be implemented. (…) Will the Obama administration agree to significantly raise the current MOU level of about $3 billion a year in military assistance or about $30b. over a 10-year period? (…) Obama and Netanyahu must get beyond the acrimony that has characterized their relationship thus far. Regardless of what is going on in their heads or behind closed doors, both men have an interest in fostering an improvement in ties. (…) Obama and Netanyahu might not see eye to eye on a number of issues, from the feasibility of establishing a Palestinian state right now to the ability of diplomacy to “engage” enemies like the Iranians. But much more unites Israelis and Americans than divides them. (…) It is, therefore, inevitable that the two leaders and their respective administrations look beyond their differences in a fruitful dialogue regarding Israel’s new challenges in a rapidly changing Middle East.
Editorial, JPO, 09.11.15
Netanyahu, Obama and an offensive media adviser who must be dropped now
(…) You might consider it beyond unfathomable that nobody in the Prime Minister’s Office was tasked with reading Ran Baratz’s Facebook feed, where they would have swiftly found him describing Obama as guilty of anti-Semitism, Secretary of State John Kerry as a fool, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon as a dullard, and plenty more in similar vein. (…) This in a country that performs rigorous background checks for candidates for entry-level positions to all manner of military and intelligence hierarchies. But (…) the failure to conduct rudimentary vetting in the case of Baratz is merely more of the routinely radical top-level Israeli government incompetence (…) Left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Pitiful mismanagement. Dangerous amateurishness. (…) once Baratz’s conclusive unsuitability for the task of representing Netanyahu and Israel in any remotely sensitive public role had been definitively established, the prime minister did not immediately amputate: On Wednesday, Baratz was tapped for the very prestigious post of media czar. On Wednesday night, he was exposed. By Thursday morning, he should have been history. (…) No Israeli politician should want the country represented in a sensitive position by an official with an unpalatable history of giving gratuitous offense, whose track record of utterances is a patently damaging handicap. (…) crisis after crisis makes it (…) harder to find credible excuses and explanations for some of Netanyahu’s behavior. (…)
David Horovitz, TOI, 08.11.15
Netanyahu’s appointments aren’t the problem. He is.
(…) The head of the National Information Directorate is supposed to be a professional spokesman, someone well-versed in both management and the work of the media. He must also be personally acceptable to his direct boss, the prime minister. Of all these requirements, the only one Ran Baratz might fulfill is the latter. If so, that means Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shares Baratz’s views of presidents Reuven Rivlin and Barack Obama, his contempt for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his desire to build the Third Temple. The only possible alternative is ignorance: Netanyahu didn’t know, and didn’t bother to find out, what Baratz thinks and how he expresses himself.(…) As usual in cases like this (…), it’s not the eyebrow-raising candidate who’s to blame. The responsibility falls entirely on the man who appointed him, a serial failure. (…)
Editorial, HAA, 08.11.15
Netanyahu and Obama’s blind date
(…) The White House’s working assumption was that there was no chance of an agreement, or even the start of negotiations, with the Palestinians during Obama’s remaining year in office. (…) Obama wanted to get two things out of this week’s meeting: Sending Israelis the message that things are back to business as usual, and sending members of the Democratic party the message that they don’t have to worry about cash flow from Jewish-American donors. Netanyahu had other goals: Proving that, despite the dismissive treatment he gave President Obama, and despite the ideological chasm between them, the ties between the two nations haven’t been completely destroyed. (…) Obama hasn’t forgotten how Netanyahu framed him as a spineless leader during negotiations with Iran, how he stuck his foot in American politics with his support of Mitt Romney in 2012, and how he came to Congress at the invitation of Obama’s Republican rivals, and gave a firebrand speech against the Iran deal. (…) While Netanyahu was fawning over all Washington had to offer during his three-day visit, the White House sent an invitation to President Reuven Rivlin to come and meet President Obama for the first time, in the United States. The Obama administration knows how much Netanyahu loathes Rivlin and how hard he worked against him as a presidential candidate. It was no coincidence that while Netanyahu was in town, they tied up the loose ends with the Israeli president’s office in Jerusalem and announced that in addition to the official meeting, where they will discuss state matters, Rivlin would be Obama’s guest at a special Hanukkah dinner. Along with his wife.
Orly Azoulay, JED, 14.11.15
4. Selection of Articles
President Abbas, tell your people to stop stabbing us
President Abbas, if you truly care about your people, you need to tell them to stop stabbing us. (…) You’ve not condemned them. In fact, you’ve encouraged them — while simultaneously peddling the double-speak that we’ve been killing them in cold blood. You’ve publicly declared that “every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem” is clean and pure and blessed. (…) But since your people understandably seek their own independence, and to be freed from our rule, you need to tell them that trying to kill us (…) is as counterproductive (…). The path to the statehood and independence you seek is actually relatively straightforward. It was wide open in 1947 — all your predecessors had to do for a first-ever Palestine was accept a revived Israel. Instead, they opted for war and futile, bloody, tragic self-sabotage. (…) Step one in that process of persuasion: Stop trying to kill us. Stop the stabbings. Stop the encouragement of the stabbings. Stop. (…) President Abbas, is that most of us want to partner your people to statehood. We don’t want to rule over you. (…) We certainly will live by the sword for as long as we must, but we’d much rather not. (…) you, President Abbas, still have more power than most anybody else to help advance the gradual process of moderation that is crucial to realizing your own people’s aspiration for statehood. (…)
David Horovitz, TOI, 01.11.15
Restraint is key
(…) The military investigation into the incident foolishly deemed that she might not have been a terrorist, but rather a disturbed individual. Were Israeli soldiers expected to channel Sigmund Freud and psychoanalyze her in the middle of all that drama? She came at them with her weapon drawn and her intent clear — of course they should have opened fire. (…) In the course of a terrorist attack, unless the terrorist drops his weapon, puts his hands up and declares his surrender, he or she should be shot, and security forces would be wise to remember that even once captured, terrorists may still harbor nefarious intensions. Rapid response and engaging is important for another reason: It restores order and protects innocent civilians. (…) Once a terrorist has dropped his weapon and declares his surrender, security forces must be allowed to take him into custody. Lynching is unacceptable. It is not the Jewish-democratic way. The rage felt by the crowds seeking to exact vengeance on the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks in Rishon Lezion and Netanya on Monday is understandable, but it is still immoral, unacceptable, and damaging to Israel’s international image. (…) Restraint plays a key role in Israel’s fight against those seeking to harm it.
Dan Margalit, IHY, 03.11.15
Israeli minister’s cat transfer plan is absurd on so many levels
In doing away with the budget for sterilizing street cats because of religious considerations, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel took one of the most ridiculous steps imaginable by a minister responsible for anything. (…) the step Ariel took will lead to an almost immediate worsening of the cats’ situation, but the minister can sleep at night. (…) The earlier idea that the minister raised before making the absurd decision to reallocate the designated budget to research – to transfer tens or even hundreds of thousands of cats of the same sex to other countries – was ridiculed. This idea expressed the powerlessness of local authorities in the face of the cats’ population explosion, for reasons such as an inadequate budget, and even that is now taken away from them. Carrying out such an operation would require much greater resources than those allotted today, and it is doubtful whether this is technically possible. Minister Ariel would do better to try catching one street cat(…), before he dreams up schemes to catch every Israeli cat. The Pavlovian, right-wing response is also interesting because of from where it derives. Transfer is the answer to every problem, be it Jewish-Palestinian, African refugees and now cats. There is no denying that the solution of sterilizing is brutal. If only there was another way. (…)
Editorial, HAA, 04.11.15
No cheers for pension tax benefit cut
It behooves us to applaud the Ministry of Finance when it acts in the name of equality, gives to the less well-off, and takes away from the richer and stronger section of the population that enjoys greater tax benefits. Only there’s a problem: what is being taken away now is not being taken from the wealthy, but from the upper levels of the middle class, and this move carries a high risk of causing too many contribution plan pension savers to receive an old age pension that is too low when they reach retirement age. What’s more, what is being taken from them is not being given to the economically weak (…). many middle class savers (…) will prefer to reduce their tax payments and choose the present over the future, by making pension contributions on the basis of a lower amount than their actual salaries. (…) Over the years, this will open up a large gap between the salary they live on and the pension that is supposed to sustain them in old age. (…) For its part, the state throws everyone into the deep end, and whoever swims, swims. (…) in the name of equality the state is not really contributing to less well-off savers (…), but it is taking from the stronger workers who bear a large portion of the tax burden, and is running the risk of turning them into much weaker pensioners. So there is a contribution to equality. It’s just a pity that it is being made by dragging people down lower.
Ron Stein, GLO, 09.11.15
Israeli business’ Robin Hood is more like a carpetbagger
(…) Michael Golan (…) knew he had come to take a ride on our backs, like in the third world, where you make promises, sign agreements and walk away — with treasure in hand. (…) The rates made no sense. They wouldn’t let the company invest in building a network, making technological progress and expanding services over time. But Golan wasn’t concerned (…). He had come for a quick fling, a sting. He attracted customers to Golan Telecom and when their number reached the hundreds of thousands the company was big enough to be sold to one of its older rivals, if only to stop the hemorrhaging. And that’s what happened. Cellcom offered the insane sum of 1.17 billion shekels for Golan Telecom; with debt at about 350 million, the real price tag was more like 1.5 billion shekels. That’s an absurd price with no economic merit. (…) Meanwhile, Golan sounds confident. He tells the press that the merger with Cellcom will boost competition. It’s like Bank Hapoalim saying it’s buying Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot to spur competition among banks. Is there no limit to charlatanism? (…) Now only two people remain who might save us from this bad merger: the antitrust commissioner and the finance minister. Any antitrust commissioner worth his salt would quash the deal because it diminishes competition and raises prices. But if that doesn’t pan out, there’s Kahlon. He’ll have to tell Netanyahu: Either cancel the merger or cancel me. Either cancel the merger or find a new governing coalition. (…) I dream of seeing Michael Golan, clad in jeans and a T-shirt, climb aboard his plane at Ben-Gurion Airport with a one-way ticket and no cash in his pocket. After all, he taught us not to be suckers.
Nehemia Shtrasler, HAA, 09.11.15
Israel must stop the deportation of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers
Israel is continuing its attempts to get rid of the Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers in its territory by any means possible. Instead of treating them humanely, as required by both international law and basic justice, it is trying to embitter their lives so they will leave. After its “voluntary departure” program — which was never truly voluntary — failed to bring the desired results, Israel has now begun a program of forced deportations to Rwanda and Uganda. (…) Judge Rachel Lavi-Barkai wrote that there is no barrier to deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda and Uganda or to jailing those who refuse to leave, because “the petitioners didn’t meet the burden of proving that these third countries are countries where their freedom and well-being are endangered.” (…) What the judge failed to take into account is that the state is seeking to transfer asylum seekers to destinations that are decidedly vague when it comes to protecting the deportees and their rights, and that reports on the condition of the asylum seekers who are already there are troubling and far from complying with basic legal and moral standards. Israel treats the asylum seekers as if they were human garbage that can be thrown from one place to another, in exchange for an unknown payment and pursuant to an agreement whose content is concealed from the public. (…)
Editorial, HAA, 11.11.15
Amos Oz, BDS’s man of the year
Amos Oz will win the BDS campaign’s man of the year award. (…) Oz is joining a new trend of a small and noisy minority among US Jews: We love Israel, we are Zionist, but we are basically joining the boycott against Israel. It’s true that the leaders of the boycott campaign are against peace, it’s true that they are against two states, it’s true that they object to the actual existence of the State of Israel, it’s true that they mainly identify with Hamas – but does that really matter? (…) It’s sad because the Zionist Oz – an Israel lover, not an Israel hater – symbolizes the tragedy of the Israeli Zionist left. (…) You can’t make rebuking comments of a loving person, which can be accepted by most Israelis, including a large part of right-wing voters, and at the same time join Israel haters’ operation pattern. (…) when (…) “criticism” is mainly used by the campaign for Israel’s destruction – you become part of it. (…) You are not bringing the reconciliation closer. You are turning Israel into a monster. And if Israel is a monster, then BDS is the right answer. Now it’s Oz. He loves Israel but is basically supporting BDS. What will intellectuals invited to cultural events at an Israeli embassy say? Like Oz, they love Israel, but are critical towards it. If one of the most important writers in Israel boycotts the embassy, why should they act any differently? (…) I feel sorry for Amos Oz. I feel sorry for the camp which used to be a peace camp. It has failed to bring peace closer, but has succeeded in bolstering the Palestinian rejectionist camp and the campaign for Israel’s destruction.
Ben-Dror Yemini, JED, 09.11.15
HAA = Haaretz
JED = JediothAhronoth / Ynetnews
JPO = Jerusalem Post
IHY = Israel HaYom
TOI = Times of Israel
GLO = Globes
Published: November 2015
Dr. Werner Puschra,
Executive Director Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel