MIDEAST MIRROR 01.07.15, SECTION A (ISRAEL)
Trouble in the West Bank
Haaretz and Israel Hayom lead their Wednesday editions with the ongoing saga of the government's efforts to bypass antitrust regulations for the companies operating the national gas reserves. According to Haaretz, companies involved will enjoy a 10-year exemption from laws designed to prevent a monopoly. Israel Hayom, quotes Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's promise to the people of Israel that the plan his government is cooking up is 'good for the country' and his vow that he will fight to pass it.
Yedioth Ahronoth leads with the news that one of the four people injured in a West Bank shooting attack on Monday night has died of his wounds. The paper reports that Malakhi Rosenfeld died 13 years after his brother, an Air Force pilot, was killed during his military service. The Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility for the shooting on Monday night. The Al-Qassam Brigades said that the attack was part of "a series of quality operations" carried out by the group's members in recent months, and that the attackers opened fire at point-blank range on a car of settlers before managing to escape safely.
Speaking at Rosenfeld's funeral on Wednesday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said, 'I tell our very enemies, that from day to day their makeup fades from their faces. You are a terror organization; that’s what you are. Your charade is up. This land will remain Jewish. We have been here for 3,800 years and we are here to stay. Enough time has passed. Let it sink in. when you murder, we build.” Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that the recent terror attacks have been sanctioned by Hamas' international headquarters in Istanbul and funded by Iran.
Netanyahu, speaking during a meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentilloni on Tuesday, slammed the Palestinian Authority for failing to condemn the recent wave of terror attacks, which he said stemmed directly from territory under its control, since Ramadan began earlier this month. "The fact that up until now, the Palestinian Authority has not condemned these attacks needs to bother not only us, but also the international community as a whole," the prime minister said. "Those who do not take an unequivocal stand against terrorism cannot wash their hands."
Netanyahu noted that while the global community is on alert about Islamic State (ISIS), it is ignoring the much larger threat of Iran. "Why would anyone consider giving the Islamic state of Iran - which is a lot more powerful than ISIS and acts with much greater power than ISIS - the additional power of nuclear weapons?" he asked. "That's a mistake." "We need a better deal. This deal shall not pass."
Also speaking on Tuesday, the head of the Shin Bet, Yoram Cohen, said that security forces managed to prevent most terrorist attacks by organized groups, but were less successful in stopping individual attackers. Speaking to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday, Cohen said that in 2014, the number of attacks by individuals have nearly tripled since 2012. The figures include instances of rock-throwing, Molotov cocktails, stabbings, and other types of attacks. The Shin Bet stopped 130 terrorist cells in 2014 and 60 in 2015 so far, most of which were part of Hamas.
Speaking at a meeting that was closed to the press, Cohen explained that terrorist organizations have difficulties attacking, because the Shin Bet and IDF successfully stopped them so many times, and most of the attacks were by individuals or unorganized groups. He also said that cooperation with the Palestinian Authority on security is what allows the PA to survive, despite Hamas activity.
Cohen warned that Hamas is improving its military preparedness for the next possible conflict with Israel. He added, however, that the militant group's control of the Gaza Strip is eroding, though it is maintaining control either out of the people’s fear or for lack of good alternatives. According to Cohen, residents are still economically dependent on the group.
In other news, the papers report that Israel has deported a group of pro-Palestinian activists, including a former Tunisian president, who tried to breach its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said among those sent home Tuesday was former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki. Another 14 people on board the activist boat, which was peacefully intercepted early Monday, will be deported in the coming days.
In other news on the Palestinian front, Army Radio – quoting a report from the Ma'an news agency – says that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fired Yasser Abed Rabbo from his position as Secretary of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Executive Committee on Tuesday. The sources added that Abbas will serve as the committee’s secretary until a new secretary is appointed.
All of the papers report that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Tuesday in Vienna with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif. The State Department announced that the meeting was “productive.” Speaking in Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama said that, if negotiations with Iran do not ensure that Tehran is prevented from attaining and obtaining nuclear weapons, no deal will be reached. “At the end of the day, it is up to the Iranians if they agree to meet all of the demands of the international community,” Obama told the press.
MOW THE LAWN IN THE WEST BANK: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Yossi Yehoshua says that IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot must employ the same kind of tactics that he used during the second intifada to stamp out the recent wave of West Bank terrorism, which has claimed two lives in as many weeks.
"The recent wave of terror attacks in the West Bank, which has claimed the lives of two Israelis in less than two weeks, found the security establishment not only helpless and clueless, but also caused it to send out very mixed messages. While officials in the IDF and the Shin Bet have been unable to find a link between any of the recent incidents, which all took place in the Binyamin district of the West Bank, they have also been unable to locate and apprehend the perpetrators.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon surprised everyone yesterday, when he told a press briefing in the north of the country that the recent shooting attacks in the West Bank were carried out by Hamas' overseas organization, which has its headquarters in Istanbul. He said that the money which is funding Hamas operations in the West Bank comes directly from Iran and he named the attacks which this Iranian-backed cell has carried out in recent days, including the fatal attacks in Shvut Rachel and near Dolev, in which Malakhi Rosenfeld and Danny Ganon were killed. According to Ya'alon, these attacks are being coordinated by Hamas overseas leadership from Istanbul, after it was unceremoniously evicted from Damascus.
Several hours after Ya'alon's briefing, a senior IDF officer spoke to military correspondents and claimed exactly the opposite. He said that the recent spate of attacks was the result of localized organizations and that there was no connection between them. There is no terrorist infrastructure in the Jordan Valley, near Dolev, at Rachel's Tomb or in Qalandiyah, he insisted, although Hamas has established a permanent and prominent presence in the West Bank. It is clear that the attack two days ago close to Shiloh is not part of what the defense establishment refers to as 'lone-wolf attacks.' It is obvious that, in order to carry out a shooting attack from a moving vehicle and to ensure that the perpetrator has a choice of three possible escape routes, the terrorists would need planning and organization – even if they did not get this from a formal organization such as Hamas.
Now is the time for the people of Israel to demand that the IDF and the Shin Bet deal more effectively with the lone-wolf terrorists, since such attacks cannot become a matter of routine. Both these organizations have already proved, at the height of the second intifada, that they are more than capable of dealing with far greater threats than individual terrorists; they managed to destroy the infrastructure of terrorist organizations that carried out nearly daily suicide bombings and turned the main road in Judea and Samaria into bloodbaths.
During the time of the second intifada, such security operations were referred to as 'mowing the grass.' This phrase was coined by the then head of the IDF's Central Command, Moshe Kaplinsky. The officer in charge of carrying out the instructions was a young man called Gadi Eisenkot, who was then head of the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division. Now Eisenkot must demand of his subordinates, and of the Shin Bet, the same kind of creativity in coming up with a new plan to halt this wave of terrorism. It is not, after all, predestined."
DON'T SAY INTIFADA: Writing in Maariv, Yossi Melman says that, given the lack of a peace process, all the Israeli security forces can do is put out localized fires and hope that the situation in the West Bank does not escalate into an intifada.
"During the past week, there have been 11 terror attacks or attempted terror attacks in the West Bank. The situation could be inestimably worse, had the Shin Bet not managed to thwart more than 100 planned attacks by Hamas over the course of the past 12 months.
Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen admitted yesterday at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that, since 2014, there have been more than 1,800 incidents of stone-throwing, Molotov cocktails, stabbings and shootings in the West Bank. In 2012, the Shin Bet documents fewer than 700 such incidents. Clearly, the situation on the ground is heating up, but the IDF and the security forces prefer to talk about a 'series of incidents' and 'lone-wolf attacks.' They say that the atmosphere for the holy month of Ramadan might be encouraging Palestinians to carry out self-motivated terror attacks against security forces and settlers.
In any case, the defense establishment is careful not to use the word 'intifada.' It is true that recent events do not constitute a popular uprising of the kind that we have experience twice before – at the end of the 1980s and early in 21st century. There's no question that the situation today is fundamentally different. This time, the Palestinian Authority and its various branches are not behind the events or those carrying them out. Palestinian officials oppose such violence and continue to cooperate with the IDF and the Shin Bet in their counterterrorism efforts.
But it would be a mistake to look at the situation that is emerging in the West Bank through the prism of the past. This is the same mistake that generals everywhere are accused of making: they prepare for future wars based on their experiences from past conflicts.
The terminology isn't important. What's important is what is actually happening and we must look at recent events logically. The Palestinians in the West Bank oppose the Israeli occupation – 48 years after the Six-Day War – and they refuse to accept a situation whereby Israel continues to expand settlements, expropriate land, set up roadblocks and impose limitations on people who are being treated as second-class citizens or worse.
True, the Palestinian education system does nothing to promote the ideals of coexistence and peace and the Palestinian media is conducting a concerted campaign of incitement against Israelis and Jews. But the root of the problem is the lack of a political horizon and the total absence of any glimmer of hope for a better future. There will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace process when the defense minister doesn't believe in it and when the prime minister, who has committed himself to the two-state solution, is doing everything in his power to thwart it.
Under these conditions, all that remains for the IDF and the Shin Bet to do is to walk on eggshells – to use intelligence, to bolster troop levels, to identify and arrest potential terrorists. But it must do so in a balanced and cautious manner, so that life for the Palestinian residents of the West Bank can maintain some semblance of normality. Until the next terrorist incident. Or, god forbid, until the next large-scale escalation."
ISRAEL VS. ISIS: Writing in Israel Hayom, Ze'ev Jabotinsky says that Israel must stamp out any signs of solidarity between Israeli Arabs and ISIS, or risk see the barbaric phenomenon spread to within its borders.
"In the past 10 days alone, there have been five terror attacks. Some commentators have tried to explain that the reason for this trend is the lack of a political horizon for what they refer to as 'the Palestinian problem,' but this is a superficial explanation from people who live in the past and who refuse to see what is happening to our north and east.
First of all, these attacks are not cut from the same cloth. In Samaria, there appears to be an organized terror cell on the loose, carrying out attacks against Jews. This is something for the security forces to deal with, since they have the tools to identify and locate the perpetrators. The rest of the attacks, which do not appear to have anything in common, are what is referred to as 'lone wolf' attacks. These are a lot harder to thwart, but are usually carried out by people with far less experience. The motivation behind such attacks is usually religious and/or ideological.
It should be clear to anyone who is not deliberately blinkered that the stream of radical Islam that is getting stronger – and I am referring primarily to ISIS – is creating far-reaching changes in the Arab world, which obligate us to fundamentally rethink our strategy. Concepts that were valid until recently will soon become obsolete, just as the dream of peace with Syria and Israelis eating hummus in Damascus, which almost cost us the Golan Heights, no longer exists.
ISIS is far more than a collection of murderous lunatics; it is the realization – albeit the barbaric and bestial realization – of the Muslim world's aspiration to return to the days when Islam controlled significant portions of the world. All attempts to achieve this dream by peaceful means have failed and, since the Western powers have been hesitant to eradicate this phenomenon, it is putting down roots in the minds of a growing number of Muslim youths. Even if they were educated in some of Europe's best schools, the ISIS ideology is now almost ubiquitous. That would explain why there was a decapitation attack in France this week, when a Christian was killed by a Muslim, and that was a continuation of last week's bloody events.
It is only natural, therefore, that some Palestinians in Judea and Samaria will be influenced by these trends. And this influence is intensified by the fact that Muslims are currently marking the holy month of Ramadan. This means that, on the Israeli left and right alike, we must alter our approach entirely.
According to ISIS' philosophy, all secular Muslims are infidels who deserve to be killed. This is also true of Muslims who are not, according to ISIS, religious enough. Only a very small percentage of Israeli Arabs are not considered infidels by ISIS. That is why there have been signs on the Arab street of a growing affinity to the State of Israel, since they know that only Israel will protect them from the atrocities of ISIS. Israel must take advantage of this to engender a genuine coming together between Israeli Arabs and the state. This is exactly the window of opportunity that can create a genuine sense of equality for the Arab minority. But, like all windows of opportunity, it will not be open for very long. We must reach out our hands to all those who understand that the situation is changing and who want to strengthen the State of Israel ahead of an inevitable clash with ISIS.
At the same time, Israel must declare all-out war on any signs of identification with ISIS among Israeli Arabs – and the best way to do this is to pass legislation that would protect the State of Israel from this dangerous tidal wave. Failure to take action is an invitation for increased terror activity, irrespective of Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas and his cronies, who are also seen as infidels by ISIS. Even they must realize what would happen to them if it were not for the State of Israel."
RAMADAN VIOLENCE: Writing on the NRG website, Assaf Gavor says that the Palestinians are taking advantage of Israel's good-will gestures for Ramadan, which is why there has been a spate of terror attacks across the West Bank in the past 10 days.
"Two weeks ago, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Yoav Mordechai, announced a series of good-will gestures for the Palestinians, ahead of Ramadan. The minimum age of worshipers allowed to enter the al-Aqsa Mosque was reduced, the number of permits issued for Palestinians wanting to visit family inside Israel was increased and some of the restrictions on Palestinian travel in the West Bank were lifted. In addition, the government approved several other measures which Israel hoped would contribute to the positive atmosphere during the holy month.
One of the main reasons for these concessions was a sense in Israel that the Palestinians must be allowed to enjoy a different kind of Ramadan. Officials in Jerusalem were well aware of the events of last Ramadan, which started with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths and ended with Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip. Straw polls conducted by the Palestinian media found similar attitudes. Most of those asked wished for themselves and for the Palestinian people a freer and better Ramadan than last year. Alongside the announcement of these gestures, Mordechai also warned Palestinian terrorists not to take advantage of the situation – but his warning was a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy.
Since the start of Ramadan, there have been at least six incidents: the murder of Danny Gonen near Dolev; the stabbing of a Border Police officer close to Nablus Gate; the thwarted attack at a checkpoint in the Jordan Valley; the shooting attack against an ambulance near Beit El; another stabbing, this time in Bethlehem; and Monday's shooting attack. In addition, there have been dozens of cases of stone-throwing and Molotov cocktails hurled at Israeli cars and buses. The defense establishment says that this is a particularly fraught time of year in terms of terror attacks.
During Ramadan, the 'regular' incitement against Jews is augmented by religious extremism and sermons in mosques against the 'Zionist enemy.' These are relayed via official Palestinian media outlets to the people of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. On social media, the incitement is even more disgusting.
When Israel announced that some of the measures that were implemented for Ramadan were being overturned, in response to the violent events of the past 10 days, the Palestinian media reported it. When a rocket was fired from Gaza at southern Israel some two weeks ago, for example, Israel rescinded the permits of 500 worshipers from Gaza who were supposed to make the trip to Jerusalem to visit the al-Aqsa Mosque. This was reported in the Palestinian media as an Israeli attempt to stifle freedom of worship and the continuation of the Israeli occupation and blockade of the Gaza Strip. Unsurprisingly, no one mentioned the real reason for the Israeli decision. Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas has not said a word about the recent spate of attacks. He is too busy preparing the Palestinians' next move against Israel in the United Nations Security Council and his main concern is that Israel is about to sign an agreement with Hamas behind his back.
The last Fridays of Ramadan are considered especially important and are usually marked by an increase in the number of worshippers attending prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque. Because of recent events, Israel is reconsidering some of the good-will gestures it introduced two weeks ago. The working assumption is that, since this is a relatively quiet period, any untoward incidents should be dealt with individually. It is possible that an Israeli response which amounts to collective punishment would merely exacerbate the situation even more and would lead to more attacks. Nonetheless, the fact that there have been half a dozen attacks in 10 days cannot be ignored by the Israeli government, which must respond in some way."
TRAPPED IN GAZA: Writing in Haaretz, Zvi Bar'el says that Israel has effectively placed the whole of the Gaza Strip under administrative detention – just as it did to Islamic Jihad militant Khader Adnan.
"'Terror wins. Khader Adnan to be released,' said the headline on some websites covering the 'agreement' between the Shin Bet security service and the prisoner on a 55-day hunger strike. The headline got it wrong. Terror lost. The legal terror that gives an army officer the authority to detain someone without trial — 'administrative detention' — without evidence, due process or a time restriction is a terror-inducing process from which no Palestinian or Israeli is immune.
Adnan, an Islamic Jihad militant from the town of Arabeh near Jenin, already 'defeated' this legal terror three years ago, when he went on a 66-day hunger strike. Then, too, it was hunger that tilted the scales of justice. Administrative detention isn’t prohibited by international conventions, but it’s only supposed to be used in very exceptional cases.
In Israel, 'exceptional' cases are the norm; only when there’s an international outcry or when an agreement with Hamas, Hizbollah or Fateh requires it, does Israel suddenly discover that even tried and convicted terrorists, not just administrative detainees, can be released.
The problem with administrative detention is that it obliges the public to believe in 'the system' and not the courts — just as it was designed. But in Israel this isn’t really much of a problem because of the blind faith in the Shin Bet. If anything, the complaint is that the Shin Bet doesn’t make enough of these arrests. In other words, every Palestinian is basically an enemy, and if he doesn’t know why he has been arrested, he’ll know soon enough.
It’s not just the Shin Bet that knows what it’s doing here, but also the Prison Service, which handcuffs a dying prisoner to his bed. The doctors who support force-feeding or remain silent about it also know what they’re doing.
In a country where most government agencies seem to haplessly go about their work, where the army is still licking its wounds from the Gaza war and there’s so much rot at the police, it’s hard to figure out why, when it comes to administrative detention, all these government agencies enjoy complete trust. Except for a few human rights groups like Doctors without Borders and those other traitors funded by Israel’s enemies, the consensus remains solid.
It’s the same consensus that supports the administrative detention of Gaza. It’s okay to harass the prime minister over his natural-gas policy; it’s okay to hurl slings and arrows at Likud’s Miri Regev simply because she’s Miri Regev, and war is sure to be waged over the housing issue. But when it comes to Gaza, the government sure knows what it’s doing.
As far as Israelis are concerned, what goes for Adnan, the lone administrative prisoner, goes for Gaza, the collective administrative prisoner. Yes, everyone is in favor of Israel transferring food, medicine and building materials to Gaza piecemeal. But freedom, lifting the sanctions, ending the naval blockade — not, heaven forfend, a port — or letting Gazans travel to the West Bank or freely export their crops — none of that. For eight years now, 1.8 million people have been trapped there in collective administrative detention — and as with Adnan, they merely need to be kept alive. Nothing more.
When you think about it, nothing very dramatic happened. Adnan will go free in July after just a few more days of suffering, the Gaza flotilla politely retreated before the naval commandos, and the consensus is alive and well. What a relief. Allah is clearly on our side.
As one hears when a missile misses its target, 'by a miracle, a disaster was averted.' For Adnan could well have died just before the agreement was signed, and the flotilla could have been much more violent. Just think of the pounding this government would have taken if these miracles hadn’t occurred. How fortunate we have a government that knows exactly when to stop."
THE IRAN DEAL AND DEMOCRACY: Writing in The Jerusalem Post, Baruch Stein says that the countries that are most threatened by an Iranian nuclear program are not represented at the talks with Western powers – which is why Israel and the Sunni Gulf States are highly skeptical about the whole process.
"American involvement in the world has often been viewed by others to be arrogant, self-serving, imperialistic and ethnocentric. President Barack Obama, however, is known for having a softer approach to foreign policy than that of previous presidents, one that is more accepting of non-American interests and beliefs.
Democracy, after all, is rooted in the idea that the use of political power is legitimized by the consent of those who are subjected to it. When America gets involved in activities in other countries that may not accord with the desires of local populations, it is being undemocratic. Coming from 'the leaders of the free world,' it is also being hypocritical. What could be a bigger ruse than projecting political power upon non-consenting people from other cultures and religions in the name of 'freedom' or 'democracy?' It is easy to see how those in other countries subjected to American policies that they themselves might not support might regard the United States negatively and consider it a colonialist aggressor.
For Western countries to force upon the Islamic Republic of Iran their own ideas about how Iran should or should not generate electricity, while they themselves possess nuclear weapons, is the height of hubris, and anti-Islamic imperial domination.
Well, except for the fact that Iran has overtly threatened to exterminate other countries and populations, and actively pursues its own colonial expansion throughout the Middle East. Forcing political policies on unwilling foreign populations might be undemocratic and may rouse a reasonable sense of dissatisfaction among non-consenting individuals subjected to those policies, but self-defense is generally considered legitimate.
So the Iran talks are based on the idea that by providing verifiable assurances that the Iranian nuclear program is peaceful they are protecting other countries, and preventing World War Three and a nuclear arms race. Iran does have a legitimate right to produce its own electricity in accordance with its own policies, but providing verifiable assurances that its program is peaceful is necessary.
But to whom are those assurances being provided? The talks do not include a single representative from any of the countries considered to be the most threatened by the Iranians, namely the Sunni states and Israel. Both the Sunni states and Israel have expressed their reservations that the framework released in April does not sufficiently ensure that the Iranian nuclear program is peaceful. That many of the limitations specified in the agreement expire in 10 or 15 years, at that point allowing Iran a nuclear breakout time of less than two to three months with the legitimacy of this agreement, makes their skepticism understandable.
Despite the objections of the countries most threatened by Iran, Obama and other leaders of the P5+1 and EU consider it their duty to set policy for the entire world. They consider it their responsibility to dictate what will be held as 'international law.'
How should I as an Israeli whose life and country have been overtly threatened by the Islamic Republic feel about the P5+1 and EU taking it upon themselves to decide that in 10 to 15 years it will be fine for Iran to have a nuclear breakout time significantly less than two or three months, without Israel or the Sunni states having any direct representation in the process? It is hard to consider as binding negotiations over a major conflict in which none of the primary actors on one side are represented. It is impossible to expect countries under nuclear threat to abide by such an agreement. Do not look now, Mr. President, but you are an imperialist aggressor."
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