When I placed the Legal Grounds cartoon in my last posting, I said I would be sharing more about the EU. The cartoon was aimed at the distorted perspective of the EU, and it is just the beginning.
EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen consistently makes statements about the “fact” that, according to “international law,” Israel has no rights in Judea and Samaria. Thus has Legal Grounds decided to invite him to participate in a debate with prestigious international lawyer Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, a member of our Legal Advisory Board, on the issue of Israel’s legal rights. The invitation has been sent and we are waiting for the ambassador’s response.
Credit: Yoni Kempinski
See more about the issues and what he has said, here:
I had written last, as well, about a drop in the incidence of terrorism here in Israel, and with the latest statistics out, the news is even better:
In March there was a total of six terrorism incidents (including shootings, stabbings, and vehicle rammings), compared to 56 in February.
According to an announcement by the Bank of Israel, Israel last year recorded stable economic growth of 2.5 percent and its lowest unemployment rate in three decades…”
Pictured is Governor of the Bank of Israel, Karnit Flug, at a press conference days ago.
Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90
If the above is fairly amazing, in light of all that’s going on, what follows is perhaps even more so (emphasis added):
According to a Tourism Ministry official, last year saw no dip in tourism. Uri Steinberg, the North American Israeli tourism commissioner, said that “2015 was the best year ever for tourism to Israel from North America and the first quarter of 2016 is up over 2015.”
Folks, if you haven’t visited Israel yet, you might think about scheduling a trip soon!
“[Ministry of Tourism Director-General Amir] Halevi also noted additional sources of growing tourism: China and India. In 2015, tourism from China to Israel grew 43 percent — to 50,000 visitors. The Tourism Ministry expects that number to double by 2018. Indian tourism rose 13 percent, with 40,000 tourists in 2015. The ministry foresees 80,000-100,000 Indian tourists visiting the country in 2018.”
A surprising and welcome turn of events, as well, near the border with Gaza, according to a JPost analysis:
”Once battered by Gazan rockets and shells, the southern border region is experiencing its quietest period in many years.
”Beneath the surface, the IDF is taking many steps, most of them covert, to prepare for any surprises Hamas may attempt to spring on the South. It appears as if these steps are contributing to the current calm, for now, by deterring Hamas from risking a massive Israeli response…
”On the civilian front, a blossoming is under way. The area has seen record numbers of new residents moving to villages and kibbutzim that were once considered war zones. Farmers work their lands right up to the Gaza border under the watchful eye of the IDF, and a recent festival in the area drew over 100,000 revelers…
”The IDF tries not to disrupt this normality with too heavy a presence, but it stealthily inserts its forces into areas that allow it to call upon speedy firepower in incidents.
”Nestled between trees in the birch forests of the area, Merkava tanks could lay in wait, out of view but not out of the minds of Hamas, which likely suspects their hidden presence, though not their precise locations. Further back, artillery lies ready to go into action at any time.
”On the border, Combat Intelligence units gather information 24 hours a day, feeding it to control centers. Radars and cameras feed the control rooms.
”The Northern Brigade maintains a large quantity of firepower at the ready, and often shifts them around to keep its cards close to its chest…
“The IDF remain on high, discreet alert, investigating every suspicious activity it detects, multiple times a day…”
How long this state of affairs will last is very difficult to predict, but it is certainly a blessing now.
French Minister of Health Marisol Touraine visited Israel last week to learn from Israeli medical expertise on treating victims of terror attacks.
“Touraine also expressed her desire for greater cooperation between France and Israel, so that France can “’learn from the Israeli experience.’”
Last week, the Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington DC.
The subject under discussion – a very frightening one – was nuclear terrorism. What this involves is most likely not a terror group stealing a nuclear weapon but rather acquiring radioactive material and using it in a terror attack:
Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s Minister of Energy explained that many of the injuries from such an attack would result from crowd panic, and that it was important for world leaders to think proactively about how to minimize panic, and also to develop strong cyber defense for nuclear reactors.
The concern is “radioactive materials stolen from nuclear reactors or from hospitals or from factories. Then if you take that and scatter it you can cause some serious harm. Israel is preparing for that scenario.”
Explained Steinitz, “Israel is one of the countries most prepared for scenarios of nuclear terrorism…On the whole we can sleep soundly, relatively speaking, definitely when compared to other nations.” (Emphasis added)
He told the security summit that Israel is prepared to help prevent the smuggling of radioactive materials to any state in the Middle East, even if that state does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
I watched this process and found it maddening, but follow this story to the end for some tentatively good results (which surprised me):
In all, the PA (in part via the PA-controlled Jerusalem District Electricity Company) owes Israel some 1.7 billion shekel (about $450 million) for electricity supplied. And there has been no genuine effort on the part of the vastly corrupt PA – which pays salaries to terrorists – to honor this debt.
Last week it was announced that starting Thursday, there would be a partial power cut to the PA city of Jericho, by the Israel Electric Company (IEC) with a warning that cuts to other cities would likely follow.
On Sunday came reports that full power had been restored to Jericho – actually within hours of when it had been cut off. The restoration of power was accompanied by a warning that cuts could happen again at any time.
This was pretty much my response:
Then came a report that there were IEC plans to cut power in “various districts” in Judea and Samaria over the next two weeks. On Monday it was Bethlehem. Following that, Hevron, briefly.
That still felt inadequate. Brief outages, with power promptly restored, it seemed to me, would not secure debt satisfaction. What seemed to me to make sense at some point is activation of a more basic rule of “no pay/no power.” But of course there would be enormous international outrage against Israel for what would be called “collective punishment” and making poor Arabs in need suffer. Putting the onus on Israel and not the PA, as is the norm. That is the bottom line here on why we walk carefully on issues such as this. For my response simply see the illustration above.
But today some unexpected news broke:
The Israel Electric Company reached an agreement with the PA this morning. The PA has agreed to pay 20 million shekels (roughly $5.3 million), a small percentage of the money due, now, in exchange for a cessation of the outages for a period of one week. During that week, negotiators would work towards reaching a settlement on the rest of the money owed. A settlement might mean a plan for paying it out, but it also might mean that a percentage of the debt would be forgiven with the remainder paid. If no agreement is reached in a week, then power outages will resume.
This is interesting from a couple of perspectives. First, the IEC has indicated that it can no longer absorb the debt, which tells us it was this contingency that motivated the series of power outages: The IEC did not go after the PA money until it had to. Saying it can no longer “absorb” the debt means until now everyone who is paying for electricity has been carrying the PA, does it not?
Then there is the fact that when pushed to the wall, the PA finds itself able to come up with some funds, funds which it never bothered to advance as a good faith effort to pay down its debt. It takes advantage of the situation, and Israel’s reluctance to be tough, to the maximum. Undoubtedly the PA was aware that the current situation had rendered the IEC more serious about demanding payment.
There is little more that needs to be said here, except to ponder whether anything has been learned.
Last Thursday, Mahmoud Abbas of the PA was interviewed by Ilana Dayan on Israel’s channel 2. It was, all in all, an interview that was so disingenuous as to be nauseating. Abbas has no trouble at all posturing and lying. Having been directly accused by Netanyahu and others of being an inciter of terrorism – which he most certainly is, big time – he decided to suddenly play the role of peacemaker:
“I do not like to see Palestinian children take knives and stab Israelis,” he intoned…it saddens me greatly. It is unacceptable…You cannot kill a human being, never. Human blood must not be spilled for any reason. I object to that, I want peace…”
This is the same man who said just months ago, “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah.” (Emphasis added)
Perhaps the single most significant, albeit also disingenuous, statement of his interview – attempting to place the onus on our prime minster – was this:
“I still reach out to Mr. Netanyahu because I believe in peace. I believe that the Israeli people want peace and the Palestinian people want peace.” If invited by Netanyahu to a meeting, he said, he would meet him “anytime and anyplace.”
Well, that was just too easy. Said Netanyahu to reporters on Tuesday:
“A few days ago, on Israeli television, I heard president (sic) Abbas say that if I invite him to meet, he’ll come. I’m inviting him again. I’ve cleared my schedule this week. Any day he can come, I’ll be here.”
And now we have the PA backtrack (emphasis added):
“Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator and Secretary General of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), told ‘Voice of Palestine’ Radio that the Palestinians reject the notion of restarting the peace talks with Israel unconditionally…
“’In case the meeting is held, Netanyahu should first announce an end of settlement, release prisoners arrested before signing Oslo peace accords in 1993 and recognize all the signed peace treaties between the two sides,’ said Erekat.
“He insisted that ‘If Netanyahu doesn’t do this, there will be no resumption of negotiations…’”
I trust no one is surprised by this.
Netanyahu was responding to a statement by Abbas, he was not suggesting formal peace negotiations begin. What he did say is that the first item on the agenda would be ceasing Palestinian incitement against Israel.
A brief note about calling Abbas “president”: His term ran out in January of 2009 and no elections have been called since. I refuse to call him by his expired title.
I will write about Duma as many times as it seems appropriate to do so. Every time I write, I see yet another layer in this complex story. There is, it seems to me, far more under the surface that we don’t know, than what is presented publicly – a scenario in which a “Jewish extremist” allegedly is responsible for the arson that killed three people in an Arab family in this village.
The latest news:
In a nighttime raid in the village of Duma on Sunday, the Shin Bet arrested Wissam Dawabsheh (alternately spelled Dawabsha), the brother of the woman who died in the arson. He is suspected of having Hamas associations.
Do I know how this fits into this complex tale? I do not. But I sure would like to.
For a variety of reasons, I have refrained from writing about the young soldier who shot dead a terrorist who had already been wounded and was lying on the ground. That is, until now.
You may well have read about him. He insists he saw the terrorist, who was wearing a heavy coat on a warm day, move his hand, and believed he might have been about to detonate an explosive belt. There are those who were present who corroborate this impression, and others who refute it.
The news today reveals that “an IDF platoon commander present at the scene of the Hebron shooting expressed concern that [the terrorist], though wounded, might have been wearing an explosives vest.”
This was major news because an IDF Appeals Court has ruled that the accused does not have to remain in prison, as demanded by the prosecution, but could be released to open detention on his base.
Credit: Noam Amir
Appeals Court Judge Brig.-Gen. Doron Filis, wrote, “Even if the soldier made a mistake, a mistake regarding which he should have acted differently – to alert his commanders – to warn in a more accelerated fashion those nearby that they should move [rather than shooting the terrorist]…However the level of criminality of his actions would be much lower than how the prosecution has defined them.”
Filis is not the judge who will hear the case if the IDF prosecution charges the soldier with manslaughter, as expected. But his statement may, as the JPost indicates, “foreshadow” how the court that will hear the case might rule.
What particularly enraged me, in the midst of all of this, was a statement made yesterday by Defense Minister Ya’alon: “Those who back the soldier don’t back our laws and values.”
Was he there? Does he know what happened? Why does he not wait for the determination of the military court before making judgment?
What particularly concerns me is that soldiers who are at risk may hesitate for fear of prosecution, and thus lose their lives.
What I want to do here is share an incisive and deeply feeling article on the issue, “Soldiering on through tears,” by Ruthie Blum.
“The soldier,” she writes, “is now serving as a symbol for all sides of the dilemma that our boys and girls must face as soon as they don the uniform.
She ends with, “Whatever the outcome of the soldier’s trial, which the facts of the case – not public opinion or political posturing – will determine, I will shed no tears for the dead terrorist and many for the soldier who put an end to his life.”
Her piece is well worth reading in its entirety. It addresses the moral dilemmas faced by our young soldiers and the stringencies placed upon them by regulations:
And I close, most appropriately, with the prayer for the soldiers of the IDF, with IDF Chief Cantor Shai Abramson and choir.
We must never forget that these are our young children and grandchildren we are speaking about in the IDF, who at a tender age put their lives on the line to keep us safe.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.