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MIDEAST MIRROR 01.06.15, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

Offside

 

Haaretz leads its Monday edition with news that the IDF is considering rethinking its policy toward soldiers who smoke soft drugs during their free time. All other newspapers lead with the fallout from Friday's drama (or lack thereof) in Zurich.

Yedioth Ahronoth's lead headline – 'Fighting the boycott' – refers not only to the Palestinians’ aborted attempt to get Israel kicked out of FIFA, but to a wider global trend of boycotts against the Jewish state. In a long article highlighting organized attempts to turn Israel into a pariah state, Ben-Dror Yemini is given a free hand to summarize the history of the BDS movement and to comment on the current state of affairs. His conclusion – which echoes Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's comments at Sunday's cabinet meeting – is that there is a very real threat to Israel's right to exist.

Israel Hayom, for its part, eschews any attempt to examine the phenomenon in depth and merely quotes Netanyahu, who told his cabinet that Israel is facing an 'international campaign to tarnish its image.' According to Netanyahu, that campaign is not connected to Israel's policies in Gaza or the West Bank, but is rather an anti-Semitic attack to deny Israel the right to exist. 'The last thing that we should do is bow our heads and ask where we erred, where we went wrong,' Netanyahu said. 'We did not err, we did not do wrong. We are put up to standards that no other democracy is forced to face. We do not need to justify ourselves. We just need to say the truth. It doesn't matter what we do, but rather what we represent. What hasn't been said about Jews throughout history - that we are the source of evil in the world; that we drink the blood of small children - all this has been said of us. It wasn't true then, and it isn't true now. As long as we reject this and refrain from self-flagellation, we will be stronger and more solid,' Netanyahu added.  'They say if only we were nicer, or more generous,' the prime minister continued. 'We've made many concessions and it hasn't changed a thing, because this campaign of delegitimization is much deeper, it wishes to strip us of our right to live here.'

Speaking later in the day at a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Walter Steinmeier, Netanyahu reiterated that he is committed to the peace process and said that direct talks are the only way forward with the Palestinians. Netanyahu also commented on the arrest of a Lebanese man in Cyprus accused of planning attacks on Israeli targets, describing it as an example of Iranian terrorism.

Steinmeier is due to visit the Gaza Strip on Monday, to assess the socio-economic situation in the wake of last summer's war. In meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials on Sunday, he expressed concern about Gaza, which is struggling to recover from devastation of Operation Protective Edge. He said that 'concrete measures' were needed to reconstruct the coastal enclave in order to prevent a renewal of the conflict.

Steinmeier told President Reuven Rivlin that Gaza's rehabilitation would build confidence between both sides, and added that resumed peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians should focus on Gaza as well as on the West Bank. Rivlin said that 'the need to rebuild Gaza and the renewal of direct negotiations' is very clear to Israel.

Hamas welcomed Steinmeier's visit to the coastal territory, even though the German diplomat has no meetings scheduled with officials from the Islamist movement. A Hamas statement said the visit is an important step, and Hamas expects Germany to play a role in lifting the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. A Hamas source denied rumors that the foreign minister's visit is tied to contacts on a swap between Israel and Hamas.

Elsewhere on the Palestinian front, a senior Palestinian official said that in light of the ongoing diplomatic stalemate, the Palestinians are considering lodging a complaint against Israel with the International Criminal Court in about two weeks’ time. Speaking to Israel Radio, Nablus Governor Akram Rajoub said that in light of the impasse, going to court is a legitimate right of the Palestinians, even though it is anticipated that Israel will respond by imposing collective punishment. He speculated that if the impasse continues, there will be implications on the ground – but he said he does not expect a third intifada to break out.

In other news, settler-run news service Arutz 7 reports that Hamas is planning to kidnap more Israeli soldiers, a spokesperson for the group said Sunday. According to Abu Obaidah, kidnapping IDF soldiers is one of the best ways to ensure the release of prisoners from Israeli prisons. Writing on his Twitter account, Abu Obaidah said that Hamas members not in prison 'are obligated to do everything to ensure the freedom of prisoners.' He said that he was thus sending a message of support to the prisoners, urging them not to lose hope, and that the day of their release would come soon.

In the United States, finally, where a solidarity march with Israel was held in New York on Sunday, CIA director John Brennan said that, despite the disagreements between the United States and Israel with regards to Iran, the intelligence cooperation between the two countries has not been harmed. Speaking on CBS News, Brennan stressed that there is a 'very, very strong relationship between the United States and Israel on the intelligence, security and military fronts.' 'It's one of the great things, I think, about our system; there can be policy differences between our governments but the intelligence and security professionals know that we have an obligation to keep our countries safe and secure,' he added.

 

OFFSIDE STORY: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Nahum Barnea says that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians – including but not limited to Palestinian athletes – is the root cause of a growing sense among our Western allies that they can no longer defend us on the international stage.

"Faisal Husseini, the late leader of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, began a hunger strike one day, to protest Israeli construction over the Green Line. He climbed a hill opposite a new Jewish neighborhood and set up a protest tent there. To the best of my memory, there was only room for two people in his tent – and only if they were prostrate.

And then Yisrael Hasson, the deputy director of the Shin Bet, turned up on the scene. He lay down next to Husseini. A group of journalists was gathered outside, waiting for some news to emerge from the tent. After almost an hour, Hasson emerged and, without saying a word, left the scene. Husseini, too, remained silent, but the halo of heroism surrounding his hunger strike had disappeared. A while later, he took down his tent and went home.

I have no idea who convinced Jibril Rajoub to show some flexibility during the FIFA congress in Zurich: it could have been the organization's invincible president, Sepp Blatter, who was fighting for his seat, or it could have been the representatives of Qatar, who, having bought the right to host the 2022 World Cup, were afraid that their massive investment could go down the drain. Perhaps it was the dazzling diplomatic moves of Deputy Foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely or the winning smile of Israel Football Association chairman Ofer Eini. If I were a betting man, however, my money would be on a different answer: I would bet that someone simply reminded Rajoub where he came from and where he's going. Maybe he remembered without any help.

Rajoub's glory days were back when he served as head of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. If Yasser Arafat was the king of the territories, Rajoub was the crown prince. His praises were sung by Shin Bet officers, who remember with appreciation the way that he took on Hamas in the aftermath of the wave of suicide bombings in 1996. Acting on Rajoub's orders (some say that he even took part in the operations personally) Hamas activists were driven from the hilltops of Betunia – south-west of Ramallah – where Rajoub would later establish the headquarters of his security force. I once asked Rajoub why he needed such fancy headquarters. In his croaky Hebrew, he replied: 'Hamas respects us when they see our strength.'

During Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, Rajoub refused to hand over to Israel the Hamas members who had taken shelter in his headquarters. He was acting on the direct orders of Yasser Arafat. After a four-day siege, the IDF destroyed the building using attack helicopters and tanks. The villa in which Rajoub lives to the north of Ramallah came under fire from an IDF unit stationed in Beit El. The commander of that unit was a certain Benny Gantz.

I met with Rajoub in Ramallah at that time. He sounded like someone whose whole world was collapsing around him. 'You tell me,' he said. 'Why are they doing this to me?'

His assistant, Abu Osama, took me on a tour of the compound. Anything that had not been destroyed by IDF fire had been smashed, including a massive portrait of Rajoub hanging in his luxurious office. 'You can destroy a building,' Rajoub told me, 'but you cannot destroy our dream of freedom.' The terror attacks of the previous month were insufferable, I told him. No government on earth would sit quietly by and allow that to happen. 'I understand,' he replied, 'but it will get worse before it gets better.'

Rajoub went on to rebuild his political career, taking over as the head of several Palestinian sports bodies. He saw the economic, political, diplomatic and perhaps even sporting potential. Israel does not discriminate against Palestinian athletes; it treats them the same as it treats all of the Palestinians under occupation. And that is exactly the problem.

All sides in this story are playing a game of make-believe. FIFA is pretending that Palestine is a country. It deserves professional soccer leagues and tournaments, with the best players and lots of fans, who are allowed to access the stadia unimpeded. The people of Palestine deserve a national team they can cheer on. The occupation, however, plays by different rules and FIFA is not equipped to deal with that.

The settlers' lobby is also playing make-believe. They believe that what is true for Be'er Sheva is true for Alon Moreh, that the rules that apply to a factory in Tefen are the same rules that apply to a factory in Barkan and that Beitar Tel Aviv is subject to the same laws as Beitar Ariel. For years this is the rulebook that the Israeli government has been playing by – but the international community refuses to play ball.

That is why the celebrations of Israeli politicians are, at best, premature. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was right when he argued that the occupation is not the only reason that the Palestinians wanted Israel booted out of FIFA and that they were, in fact, challenging Israel's very right to exist. But our problem is not just with the Palestinians; it's with many of our allies in the West. From junction to junction, from vote to vote, it is getting harder for these friends of ours to defend Israel's policies in the West Bank – morally and politically. We can always find a way to get Rajoub to back down. But as long as we remain an occupying power, we will have a problem with the rest of the world."

Ends…

 

RAJOUB'S FINEST MOMENT?: Writing on the Walla! website, Avi Issacharoff says that Jibril Rajoub's decision to put the good of the Palestinian people ahead of his own political interests is typical of the man – but warns that there are others who are pushing for a resumption of violent confrontation with Israel.

"Jibril Rajoub has made plenty of mistakes during his decades of involvement in Palestinian politics and security. His decision over the weekend to drop his demand that Israel be expelled from FIFA over its treatment of Palestinian soccer players is not, it seems, one of those mistakes. Ironically, it was his decision to push for Israel's suspension without knowing how it would end that can be counted among his worst errors – and one that he is likely to pay a heavy political price for on the Palestinian street.

For years, Rajoub was known by Jacob Perry and other senior Shin Bet officials as Gabriel Regev, thanks to the close cooperation that he, as head of the Palestinian Preventative Security Forces, gave Israel. Now Rajoub is in the vanguard of an active opposition to Israel. Not in military terms, but with what he refers to as 'the nonviolent struggle.' His goal was to embarrass Israel on the international stage while, at the same time, distancing the Palestinians from a return to the path of violence.

Rajoub's main mistake was complacency. Just like the Palestinian Authority was with its United Nations Security Council push – when it was sure that it has a majority backing its resolution recognizing the Palestinian state and that the United States would have to impose a veto – he was wrong. This time, too, at the moment of truth, Rajoub discovered that he did not have the required votes to boot Israel out of FIFA. He was convinced that almost 200 of 209 members of FIFA would support his effort to expel Israel, but Israeli Foreign Ministry officials and FIFA itself were busy working to thwart him. FIFA recognized that ejecting Israel would be a major blow for its own future.

At that stage, Rajoub had two options available to him. The first was the suicide option: forging ahead with a vote on expelling Israel, even though he knew that he would lose it. If he had done so, he would not have achieved any practical change on the ground, but he would have earned plaudits on the domestic Palestinian political scene, since he would have proved that he is willing to go the whole nine yards in his struggle against Israel – which is what the Palestinian people want of their leaders.

The second option was to scale back his offensive. He could try to lift some of the travel restrictions on Palestinian soccer athletes, thanks to increased supervision of the issue by FIFA and by a joint Israeli-Palestinian committee that would be established. This option would do him severe damage on the domestic political front, however.

It came as little surprise when he went for the second options. Had he successfully spearheaded the expulsion of Israel from FIFA, Rajoub would have been seen as the leading candidate to succeed Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas, yet he opted for the least populist course of action imaginable and dropped (temporarily, at least) his demand that FIFA expel Israel. He even shook Eini's hand in full view of the television cameras.

On Palestinian social media and among Palestinian politicians, reactions to Rajoub's decision were predictably scathing. Hamas, as always, was extremely critical of his conciliatory move – despite the fact that Hamas itself is ensuring quiet on the Gaza border and has rounded up those militants responsible for last week's rocket attack. As one Fateh official said recently, Hamas would stop birds flying from Gaza to Israel if it could.

Hamas' criticism was echoed by Rajoub's so-called colleagues from Fateh, who used the opportunity to try and bring him down a peg or two. Can you imagine an Israeli politician deliberately doing something that harms his or her own standing in order to improve the lot of Israeli sports? And what has Rajoub himself got to say about all this? 'Let the dogs bark,' he told me. 'I have been through a lot worse during my career. I am looking out for the interests of the Palestinian people; I don't count how many people are cheering me.'

Some people would say that I am laboring under delusions of naiveté and that Rajoub is a cynical politician from his head down to his toes. That might be the case, but experiences would suggest otherwise. Looking at the history of Rajoub and of Abu Mazin, one gets a picture of two leaders who have, on more than one occasion, swam against the flow. When the Palestinian public expected them to do something extreme and contrary, they both proved on several occasions that the good of the Palestinian public is more important to them than popularity.

During the second intifada, for example, Abu Mazin was almost the only Palestinian leader who expressed reservations. He clashed with Yasser Arafat on the issue, demanded an end to violence and, as a result, was excluded from the inner circles of the Palestinian president. He was also the first Palestinian leader who called for an end to violence in the struggle against Israel – even though doing so was hugely unpopular. When he ran for president in 2005, he stunned observers by unequivocally calling for an end to rocket attacks against Israel.

The only other Palestinian leader who opposed the intifada – and the only member of the Palestinian security forces to do so – was, of course, Rajoub. As head of the Preventative Security Forces, he ordered his forces to refrain from any kind of clashes with Israel and warned that anyone who did not abide by his order would be dismissed. The same cannot be said of Rajoub's counterpart in the Gaza Strip, Mohammed Dahlan, or the head of the Palestinian intelligence services in the West Bank, Tawfiq Tirawi.

Rajoub paid a price for this behavior. When Israel captured the headquarters of the Palestinian Preventative Security forces in April 2002, Dahlan was the first to attack Rajoub for surrendering Hamas members to the Israeli enemy. Despite the accusations, Rajoub was actually responsible for Israel inadvertently releasing some Hamas members, whose identity had been concealed.  Rajoub was called a traitor by Dahlan and his ilk.

So where is all of this leading Israel? As always, politicians from the Likud and the other right-wing parties will have a field day. One cannot expect them to welcome Rajoub's attempt to have Israel booted out of FIFA, but one can expect them to wake up and recognize the status quo will only lead to more anti-Israeli measures in various international bodies and, at the same time, to a rise in the number of Palestinians who want their leaders to engage in full-on battle with Israel – not just on the diplomatic front, but on the ground, too. At the same time, we could also see a growth in the number of people on both sides who, having despaired on the two-state solution and of intifadas, are now willing to see a single state established between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea."

Ends…

 

DON’T COUNT ON ERDAN: Writing on the NRG website, Ilil Shahar says that, by dismantling the Foreign Ministry, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has harmed Israel's efforts to stave off the threat of boycotts.

"Over the weekend, we witnessed a diplomatic campaign against Israel's expulsion from FIFA. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke to FIFA president Sepp Blatter; the Foreign Ministry sent a delegation headed by Israel Football Associated chairman Ofer Eini to Zurich and representatives of the Israeli diplomatic service across the globe exerted pressure on other countries' federations. There was one minister, however, who was not reported to have taken an active role in the effort: Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Minister of Information Gilad Erdan, who is supposed to have overall responsibility for the issue of boycotts in the fourth Netanyahu government.

It's not entirely fair to blame Erdan. He only took up his new position a few days ago and has not yet learned the ropes – especially who is on whose side. But this whole story highlights how problematic and inefficient Netanyahu's dismantling of the Foreign Ministry really is. Even after Erdan has fully studied the issue of boycotts against Israel, how are he and his small team supposed to deal with the large number of calls for boycotts and the activities of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli organizations across the world? After all, most of the manpower for such things is in the Foreign Ministry, which is the only government ministry to have representatives in all four corners of the globe? Instead of pooling its resources, the State of Israel is spreading them out and, in so doing, reducing their efficiency.

In the United Kingdom alone, there are more than 160 trades unions. If the United Road Transport Union – the organization that represents the interests of workers in road haulage, distribution and logistics – were to impose a boycott against Israel, there would be no one to transport Israeli-made goods from the ports to the shops. There are also some 50,000 churches in Britain. If one of them were to declare a boycott against Israel, that could lead to a domino effect. Therefore, Israel must identify the potentially problematic organizations and nip any boycott proposal in the bud.

Can one Jerusalem-based minister – no matter how talented he might be – identify such threats and deal with them in time? The only people truly capable of doing do are diplomats at the Israeli embassy in London – but the moment that the prime minister transferred responsibility for dealing with boycotts to a different ministry, he effectively relieved them of all responsibility for the matter. The often-understaffed embassy will now be dealing less with the boycott threat and more with those matters that are still under their responsibility: regular meetings with British officials and helping out Israeli nationals who get into trouble. As a result, one of the key strategic threats facing the State of Israel is likely to fall between the cracks.

The State of Israel needs a full-time foreign minister. Our prime minister seems to think that he is best equipped to take on that job. With his fluent English and his proven public diplomacy skills, there's no question that he's the best man for the job – but he has a country to run. His attempt to please all of his ministers by dismantling the Foreign Ministry will harm us all."

Ends…

 

WHERE DOES BIBI STAND? Writing in The Jerusalem Post, Jeff Barak slams Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for chiseling away at the responsibilities of the Foreign Ministry and parceling them off to politicians whose sense of self-importance is greater than their talents.

"Let’s assume Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely was talking tongue-in-cheek when she said in a weekend newspaper interview she had no problems shaking the hand of a male diplomat (Hotovely is religiously observant and avoids physical contact with the opposite sex) because, as she put it, there was no danger of there being any affection in the contact.

Given Israel’s standing in the world, it’s fair to say that any foreign diplomat on the receiving end of Hotovely’s handshake would probably make the same claim. Which, in the eyes of many, makes it scandalous that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has chosen not to appoint a full-time foreign minister to make Israel’s case on the world stage, preferring to keep the portfolio to himself for now and leaving the relatively junior politician Hotovely as a deputy minister to run the ministry.

Moreover, in a desperate move to keep his more senior Likud colleagues onside, Netanyahu has also chiseled away at the responsibilities of the Foreign Ministry, slicing and dicing its various activities and parceling them off to politicians whose sense of self-importance is greater than their talents.

Silvan Shalom, whose day job is interior minister (as well as holding the meaningless title of vice prime minister), is also the minister responsible for Israel’s strategic dialogue with the United States and negotiations with the Palestinians. At least this latter title is unlikely to take up much, if indeed any of Shalom’s time in the foreseeable future.

Yuval Steinitz, meanwhile, the minister of national infrastructure, energy and water (yes, the longer the title, the less important the position), is also theoretically responsible for dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat, an appointment which has not been met with any signs of discernible concern in Tehran.

And finally, Gilad Erdan has been rewarded for his long sulk by having the ministries of public information (or hasbara to use the Hebrew term) and strategic affairs (but obviously not the strategic dialogue with the U.S.) added to his duties as minister of internal security. All that’s needed now is for Netanyahu to create a new ministry for rescuing Israelis caught in earthquakes abroad, and there really will be no reason for the foreign ministry to exist.

But the truth of the matter is that the foreign ministry has always been at the mercy of the whims of the prime minister of the day. Having a full-time foreign minister, as the dismal record of Avigdor Lieberman in this position shows, is also no guarantee of diplomatic success. In fact, this year we’ll be spared the embarrassment at the United Nations annual general assembly of having the country’s foreign minister publicly contradict positions laid out only a few days earlier by the prime minister, as Lieberman used to do to Netanyahu.

The example of Shimon Peres as foreign minister best highlights how success in this role depends on the backing of the prime minister. While foreign minister under Yitzhak Shamir, Peres signed the 1987 London Agreement with Jordan’s King Hussein, which aimed to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict via what was known as the 'Jordanian Option'; the resolution of the Palestinian issue through Jordanian sovereignty over the entirety or most of the West Bank.

While Peres had Shamir’s approval to negotiate with Hussein, Shamir refused to support the agreement reached. As a result, it was never brought to the cabinet for discussion and Hussein, frustrated by Peres’ failure to deliver, soon after relinquished any claim to sovereignty over the West Bank, paving the way for Yasser Arafat to win international recognition as the legitimate Palestinian representative.

But Peres, as we know, never gives up. As foreign minister under Yitzhak Rabin, he gave his backing to secret talks between two Israeli academics and three senior PLO officials, the beginning of the Oslo process that eventually led to Israel’s recognition of the PLO and direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Despite the long and bitter history of disputes between Rabin and Peres and their diametrically opposing characters, Rabin shared Peres’ view of the need to change the status quo regarding the Palestinians and the two men jointly created a new reality. Peres, his deputy Yossi Beilin and the foreign ministry director- general of the time, Uri Savir, were rightly seen as the front-runners of the Oslo process, but they could not have progressed without the support of Rabin as prime minister.

The issue facing the foreign ministry today is not whether it needs a full-time minister in place, or whether Israeli diplomats arguing Israel’s case should rely on the Bible and Rashi for proof of their argument, as Hotovely has suggested (this time not tongue-in-cheek), but rather a clear sense of direction as to where the prime minister stands on the defining issues of Israel’s foreign policy.

Is Netanyahu in favor of a two-state solution or against? Is the Bar-Ilan speech relevant or not? Without knowing the answer to this, no foreign ministry, no matter how well-staffed or in control of all diplomatic- related activities, stands a chance of success."

Ends…

 

GAME (NOT) OVER: Writing in Haaretz, Moshe Arens says that territorial withdrawals persuade Israel’s enemies that Israel is weak – and the state has abandoned its duty to assure the safety of the civilian population.

"Fifteen years ago Ehud Barak, as prime minister and defense minister, took one hell of a gamble. He ordered the Israel Defense Forces’ unilateral withdrawal from the south Lebanon security zone, abandoning in haste Israel’s allies of many years, the South Lebanon Army. It was one more move in the seemingly never-ending deadly game of Israel versus Hizbollah. The game isn’t over by a long shot, but it’s not too early to venture an assessment of this bold move.

Four years earlier in 1996, while Shimon Peres was prime minister and defense minister, the IDF conducted a 16-day campaign against Hizbollah, Operation Grapes of Wrath. It ended in a UN-brokered cease-fire providing that Hizbollah not use Lebanese villages for attacks against Israeli targets and Israel refrain from attacking Lebanese villages.

But Hizbollah kept on using villages as bases for attacks against Israel, while Israel stuck to the agreement and was now fighting Hizbollah with one hand tied behind its back. Fighting between Hizbollah and the IDF continued over the next four years, during which the IDF lost about 24 soldiers a year. It was Barak’s intention to put an end to these losses. His calculation was simple. After an IDF withdrawal to the international border, Hizbollah would have no reason to attack Israel and would limit its activities to Lebanese politics.

To preempt the possibility of such attacks, he warned that Israel would retaliate with devastating blows that would 'set fire' to Lebanon. After having UN officials confirm that the IDF had withdrawn to the international border, he believed he had the legitimacy for that kind of response, and Hizbollah would be deterred from taking any hostile action against Israel.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Hizbollah struck again and Barak didn’t make good on his warning. A number of Hizbollah provocations finally led to the 2006 Second Lebanon War in which thousands of rockets were launched at Israel and 165 Israeli soldiers and civilians lost their lives. It was a reminder that deterrence against a terrorist organization and legitimacy are elusive concepts. Whether on balance the 2000 withdrawal saved Israeli lives is not at all certain.

The withdrawal did create a perception in the eyes of Israel’s enemies of Israeli weakness. Hizbollah emerged victorious, becoming the dominant power in Lebanon, and began amassing a vast arsenal of rockets and missiles aimed at Israel. Hassan Nasrallah did not miss the opportunity to celebrate 'victory.' Two days after the May 26, 2000, withdrawal from Bint Jbeil, abandoned by the IDF, he announced: 'We offer this victory to our oppressed people in occupied Palestine; our people in Palestine your destiny is in your hands …. Your path to freedom is through serious resistance and a real uprising, intifada …. Israel is weaker than a spider web.' Four months later, in September 2000, the second intifada broke out, claiming thousands of Israeli victims.

A sinister part of Barak’s unilateral withdrawal was the abandonment of Israel’s allies the South Lebanon Army. They had for years fought side by side with the soldiers of the IDF and had sustained losses greater than those of the IDF. Israel betrayed them. But the long-term effects of the withdrawal are the most serious of all. Israel abandoned its traditional defense doctrine that it is the state’s duty to assure the safety of the civilian population.

That’s why David Ben-Gurion insisted that France’s air force guard the skies and ensure the safety of Israel’s civilian population before he agreed to Israel’s participation in the 1956 Suez Campaign. That’s why Menachem Begin launched Operation Peace for the Galilee in 1983 to protect the civilian population in the north from rocket attacks from southern Lebanon. That’s why Israel maintained a presence in the south Lebanon security zone for years.

Since then, almost unnoticed, Israeli withdrawals and the increasing rocket ranges have brought Israel’s entire civilian population under the threat of rocket and missile attacks. The game is not over."

Ends…

 

 

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