The situation is so surreal it is difficult to know where to begin. I am not only confused and frustrated, I am livid. Once again, my friends, I advise you that what I am going to share will not all sound coherent. But there is a simple reason for that: It is not coherent.
Please, take the time to read this through.
Last week we learned that Egyptian General Intelligence chief Abbas Kamel had come into Israel. We had already been hearing reports that some sort of Israel-Hamas ceasefire deal (more official than “quiet for quiet”) was close to being realized. Kamel would not have come “to advance the negotiations” in meetings with Israeli leaders unless they were expected to yield results.
This was not good news for those of us adamantly opposed to such a deal. This is for several reasons, starting with the fact that it continues to allow Hamas to be in control and that it actually rewards Hamas for terrorism.
Hamas is speaking of a “prisoner exchange” as part of a deal. They are adamant that they must secure the release of terrorists let out during the Shalit deal and then re-arrested.
This is not acceptable. But then, there is a good deal about the potential agreement that is not acceptable.
Were this a rational situation we might have expected that – with a deal that would have offered them a number of benefits possibly in the offing – Hamas would have kept the situation at the Gaza fence quiet. But this is a situation awash in contradictions and so we had “business as usual” at the fence on Friday: many thousands (according to one report, as many as 20,000, but certainly 5-10,000) gathered to riot, with tires burned, firebombs hurled, and attempts to break through the fence. And yes, incendiary balloons launched, as well. The whole violent shebang.
Lest there be any doubt about whether Hamas instigated this, there were reports of Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar out there at the fence, buoying people on and checking on the situation.
As I believe I mentioned previously, Hamas has indicated that a “ceasefire” would, in their understanding, apply only to launching of rockets, and not to the border violence at all. They refer to this violence as a “popular uprising,” which obviously it is not.
And how has Israel responded? Apparently the “negotiations” are “on hold.” But there is no indication that we have now said that this is over the top, that no deal is possible.
Defense Minister Lieberman has closed the Erez crossing at the north of Gaza – the only land crossing for the movement of people between Gaza and Israel – except for humanitarian situations. He did this, he said, “due to the violent events on the border on Friday.”
Impressive, is it not? What strength this communicates.
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi further explained that this was a “warning” to Hamas. Says Hanegbi, “We have seen in the last week a dramatic decrease in the scale of the [rocket] attacks,” and they have to understand that it has to be even better.
“Quiet will be met with quiet. We did not initiate this battle and we have no interest in it. As long as it disappears from the view of our lives we will be happy,”
This is so painful. Shameful. He’s telling Hamas they can increase their readiness to attack as they wish, as long as we cannot see it, it’s OK with us.
What is more, the Kerem Shalom crossing, through which goods travel, has been allowed to stay open. Defense Minister Lieberman explained last week:
“It is important to emphasize that I am trying to separate the Hamas leadership from the wider Gazan public. This is a clear message to the people of Gaza, if Israelis enjoy the quiet they also will enjoy it – violence does not pay off.”
Lieberman has been sending messages encouraging the people of Gaza to revolt against Hamas. If he truly considers this a solution, I am moved to wonder if he has started smoking something.
I note here that head of the Shin Bet (Israeli Security) Nadav Argaman has told the Security Cabinet that a deal with Hamas would send a message that terror is rewarded. What is more, a deal that excluded Mahmoud Abbas of the PA would also strengthen Hamas in Judea and Samaria in areas where the PA is based.
“Such a move would additionally weaken the moderates and prove to the Palestinians that only the path of violence achieves results.”
But it does not seem that the Security Cabinet has taken his message to heart.
Abbas is apoplectic about the current situation; and, sure enough, he has now called for “keeping the ground aflame with popular resistance.”
The warnings of Education Minister Naftali Bennett (chair Habayit Hayehudi) for me constitute perhaps the only sane voice I’m hearing these days. He has said (emphasis added):
“Lieberman chose to give in, and this will lead to war…
“The same Lieberman who promised to bring down Hamas and eliminate [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh is now giving them rewards, at the expense of the State of Israel’s security…
“Anyone who gives in to terror brings terror – and Lieberman gave in. His approach endangers the State of Israel and will bring an unavoidable conflict on the terms Hamas dictates and at a time which is convenient for them.”
We are facing a time of greatly increased anti-Semitism, which is reflected in anti-Israel attitudes. We see this even in a statement by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who was touted as a friend to Israel when he took up his position.
Now, worried about the “safety” of Gazans at the fence, and apparently blinking at terrorism directed against Israel, he has called for an international force in Gaza to protect the Palestinian Arabs.
It is the task of Israel to stay strong at this time. What is happening??
I have already written about the Nation-State Law, which established in Israel’s Basic Law the fact that Israel is the Nation- State of the Jewish people. The hullabaloo that has been raised about this has been nothing short of astonishing. And so, I return to the issue here:
There is little doubt that unrest regarding this Law has been fomented on the Israeli left. See the comments of Mandi Safadi, Chairman of the Druze for Israel Forum (on the left in picture below):
“What was explained to them [Druze leaders]…by Tzipi Livni and others is that the new law will deprive us of various rights…
“The law was explained to them in a distorted and ugly manner and there are those who believed that the law deprives the minorities of the rights. There is a lot of politics with all of this.”
The attempt on the left to challenge the Jewish character of our state is not new. For years, far left Israeli NGOs have complained that a flag with a Magen David (Jewish star) on it was not “fair” to Arab Israelis, nor was Hatikvah as the national anthem, etc. This is not about being “fair,” rather it is a calculated effort to dilute Israel’s intrinsically Jewish nature.
The rights of non-Jewish Israelis are already solidly established in the Declaration of Independence and other items of Basic Law. What the Nation-State Law has done is to establish the balance between the rights inherent in a democracy and the Jewish nature of the state – to ensure that this nature, which is why the state was founded in the first place, cannot be undermined.
All citizens of Israel have the same basic rights – to vote, to run for the Knesset, to petition the courts, to practice their religion, to own property, to receive health care and welfare assistance, etc. There is no differentiation and the new law has changed nothing in this regard.
But when Arabs and Druze demand that they be “treated equally,” that they be given the “same rights,” we have to ask what they are talking about. Can they have their own national anthem, their own flag? No. They are citizens of a Jewish State.
Can they participate in the Law of Return (which guarantees citizenship to all Jews)? No, they cannot. This would be the quickest way to finish our Jewish state.
Hebrew is the official language of the state, and Arabic is accorded a special status. A fallacious rumor has been circulated – that Arabic was an official language and this New Basic Law reduced its status. But it was only in Mandate times, when the British governed, that this was the case.
The Druze resent being categorized with Arab Israelis, because they, in stark contrast to the position of most Arabs, routinely serve in the IDF, having forged a “covenant of blood” with the Jews over 60 years ago. For this they are to be saluted. Netanyahu has spoken about passing a law that would recognize this honorable distinction and the sacrifices that Druze have made for the state. I think that would be a good and proper move.
However, says Druze Zionist Council head Atta Farhat, “…loyalty to the country shouldn’t be conditional on anything. Loyalty to the country must come from the heart, 100 percent.”
And the point he makes should not get lost in all of the negative publicity: “There are no Druze in the world who can claim a better and freer life than the Druze citizens of Israel.” (Emphasis added)
Over the course of the Syrian civil war, Israeli Druze have been deeply concerned about their brothers in Syria, hundreds of whom have been killed. Last November, in a departure from IDF policy regarding non-involvement in the Syrian civil war, the IDF spokesman declared Israel’s readiness to help the Syrian Druze village of Hader in the Quneitra region, and prevent it from being “harmed or occupied.” The reason given by the IDF spokesman for this departure was “commitment to the Druze population” of Israel.
This speaks for itself.
A week ago Saturday night a demonstration was held at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv protesting the Nation-State law. Organized by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel (which includes Arab members of the Knesset, Israeli Arab mayors and other Arabs of prominence in Israel), it was attended in the main by Israeli Arabs and some far left Israeli Jews.
It was a shocker, providing clear evidence of the true motivation of those opposing the law.
Some made the outlandish and libelous charge that the law was apartheid. Apartheid is a buzz word utilized by those seeking to delegitimize Israel. Anyone who has witnessed the way in which Arabs and Jews move within our society — cared for in the same hospitals and sometimes the same hospital rooms; attending the same classes in the universities; shopping in the same stores; etc. – knows how ridiculous the charge is.
While others in the crowd yelled: “With blood and fire, we will redeem Palestine.”
Many Palestinian flags could be seen. Those carrying them are not seeking equality. They are seeking to overturn the Jewish State.
But as commentator Evelyn Gordon has pointed out, it was worse than this (emphasis added):
“…the demonstration’s organizers explicitly asked people not to bring Palestinian flags since they hoped to attract Jewish moderates rather than just the usual far-left fringe, and understood that Palestinian flags would make Jewish moderates uncomfortable. Nor is it their fault that some people ignored this request…
“What’s far more telling is that the organizers also banned Israeli flags at the protest, arguing that they would make Arab demonstrators uncomfortable…They did this knowing that it would undermine their goal of strong Jewish participation since many Jews opposed to the nation-state law would still feel uncomfortable at a protest where Israeli flags were unwelcome…
“In other words, the organizers believed that Israeli flags were unacceptable to most of their community. So they informed Jews that no partnership was possible, even over an ostensibly major shared concern, unless the Jews agreed to forgo even the most basic symbol of their Israeli identity…
“Israeli flags were much in evidence at the Druze community’s protest against the nation-state law the previous week. Those demonstrators, Druze and Jews alike, considered themselves proud Israelis, nor did they have any objection in principle to Israel’s Jewish identity. They merely thought the law as currently worded contradicts Israel’s best values as a Jewish and democratic state.
“By banning Israeli flags, the Arab community’s protest sent the opposite message. Arabs didn’t come as proud Israelis who felt that Israel was betraying its best values; they came because they oppose the very existence of a Jewish state…In other words, Arab demonstrators were dismayed because they fear the nation-state law will impede their decades-long effort to erode Israel’s Jewish identity—which, of course, is precisely why the law’s supporters favor it.
And now it gets even worse: Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, has agreed to cooperate with the PLO in marking July 19 every year, on the anniversary of the Knesset’s enacting of Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People “day of the Struggle against Israeli Apartheid.”
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.