Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev is working on a proposal that would require all institutions that receive state funds, or whose facilities were built by the State of Israel, to fly the Israeli flag. This would include sports centers, soccer fields, cultural institutions and theaters, etc.
Sounds like a no-brainer, does it not? But this is to apply to Jewish and Arab municipalities, and there remains the lingering possibility that there might be push-back somewhere along the line. No, let me be honest: there is a good likelihood of objections being raised somewhere within the Arab community.
Which is why what Regev is doing is good news. This is an instance of Israel moving in the right direction.
“It is unfathomable that flying the flag in cultural institutions and in sports arenas that were built by the state be left to the discretion of one person or the other,” she said. “The institutions that Israel builds should wave the flag with pride.”
The Shin Bet (Israel’s national security agency or Shabak) has a new head: Nadav Argaman.
Courtesy Shin Bet
Having grown up on a kibbutz in the Beit She’an, Argaman joined the Sayeret Matkal special forces unit of the IDF and from there moved on to Shin Bet. Most of his career was spent in the most prestigious and highly secretive “Operations Division.” Notable for me is the fact the he was responsible for the assassination of “The Engineer,” Yahya Ayyash, chief bomb-maker for Hamas, and, within that capacity, head of the West Bank battalion of Hamas’s military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. A terrorist who very much needed eliminating.
And speaking of the Shin Bet…
It was announced last Thursday that the Shin Bet had, on April 16, apprehended a Izz ad-Din al-Qassam operative who had slipped into Israel from Gaza carrying knives. Mahmoud Atauna, 29, confessed readily enough that he was on a mission to kill whichever Israelis he encountered. But that was just the beginning of what he revealed to Israeli security – as he had been involved in tunnel activities;
He spoke about “the physical features of tunnels in northern Gaza, about techniques used by Hamas in digging them, and about the use of private homes and institutions by Hamas, from which it digs the tunnels.
“He also provided information on the means and materials Hamas uses. During questioning, Atauna pointed to many digging centers, and to tunnel shafts that are supposed to serve the Nuhba [Hamas’s elite unit] operatives for attacks during fighting with Israel.”
He provided names of others who worked with him, and information on hospitals and private homes used for the storage of weapons. His own home was “a storage center for many weapons, including bombs, assault rifles, and suicide bomb vests, which he was supposed to distribute before a large-scale conflict with Israel broke out.”
It was also on Thursday that the IDF announced another Hamas tunnel had been discovered emerging from southern Gaza into Israeli territory. It is 28 meters deep and runs close to the tunnel that was discovered last month.
Credit: IDF Spokesman
“The IDF considers above and below-ground terror activity a violation of the State of Israel’s sovereignty and a threat to its citizens and deems Hamas solely responsible,” a spokesperson said. “It is our job to locate and destroy them [tunnels in Israel’s territory].”
The IDF spokesperson further indicated that the tunnel was uncovered using a combination of intelligence, technology and engineering. What I would say, based on all I’ve read, is that it was the information gleaned from the Hamas operative that did the trick. Once he provided approximate parameters of the tunnel, hi-tech equipment enabled its exposure.
As a result of IDF attempts to unearth Hamas tunnels, the situation at the border grew hot last week. Mortar shells were fired at IDF soldiers who were at work near the border in at least 12 incidents between Tuesday and Friday. Friday night and early Saturday, two rockets were fired into Israel.
Israel responded, first by returning fire in response to the mortar shelling and then via a series of five airstrikes into Gaza aimed at Hamas targets.
For a period of time, there was serious speculation as to how much these hostilities were going to escalate.
As I write there is quiet, but it is an uneasy quiet.
Israel has begun dismantling the best offensive weapon Hamas had, which was being enhanced in preparation for a war some time down the road. Hamas cannot force the IDF to stop looking for tunnels in Israeli territory (as more most certainly exist). The IDF is in possession of some stunningly detailed intelligence now, as well as machinery that utilizes advanced technology.
As IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said: “The repeated attacks against the IDF activities to locate and destroy cross-border tunnels will not be tolerated. Hamas’s diabolical plan to infiltrate into Israeli communities must be stopped. The IDF has the obligation and a duty to safeguard the people in southern Israel and the sovereignty of our borders, we will continue to do so.” (Emphasis added)
What Hamas could do, however (but apparently chooses not to do at this point) is continue to fire across the border, inviting retaliation from the IDF so that an escalation of major proportions takes place.
The only thing to be said now is that the situation is volatile, and that the dynamic is shifting.
There have been some international suggestions made regarding a “truce,” in which Hamas would agree to refrain from shooting into Israel in return for Israel’s agreement to stop searching for tunnels. These suggestions infuriate me. A truce is in order when there is aggressive action between two parties. However, Israeli action against the tunnels that have been dug in Israeli territory is absolutely legitimate self-defense and does not constitute aggression against Hamas. We must trust that we can take Lt. Col. Lerner, who is speaking for the IDF, at his word.
The biggest question here, I would imagine, is what Hamas leaders decide is in their best interest. Before the discovery of the tunnels, and the capture of Atauna, it did not seem to be the case that they were on the verge of precipitating another war. That they were preparing to do so down the road, of course. But our greatly enhanced ability to uncover their tunnels has to have them furious and frustrated. Will they see it as wiser to provoke an escalation soon, while there are still tunnels that might be utilized? Or would they prefer to hold off because they have not completed other sorts of preparations and they have barely begun to recover from the last war?
All of this echoes enormously because of what broke in the news the other day: A report on political failures during the 2014 Gaza war by State Controller Yoseph Shapira was leaked.
Credit: Moti Milrad
“According to the leaked report, the comptroller first slams Netanyahu, Ya’alon and former IDF Chief-of Staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Benny Gantz (pictured) for failing to warn the security cabinet about intelligence they had from the Shin Bet about the possibility of war with Hamas prior to the start of Operation Protective Edge…”
“Next, the report attacks the trio for failing to hold serious security meetings about the Hamas tunnel threat…”
Needless to say, the entire situation has been highly politicized. Netanyahu’s defenders say this was leaked simply to damage him and that the information was drawn from a draft that is greatly different from the final document. We will know more in this regard when the final document is released to the public – which apparently is scheduled to happen soon. Shapira has called upon Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to investigate the source of the leak, as well.
But even if the charges made by those defending Netanyahu et al are true to a degree, this seems to me a case of “where there’s smoke…” I have my own memories of realizing after the fact that there had been tunnels in Israeli territory and that nothing had been done about them until the war started. It was, in fact, Minister Naftali Bennett, who pushed the issue of the necessity of an operation against the tunnels at cabinet meetings, to the great irritation of Defense Minister Ya’alon.
And I remember the wide-scale feeling here that the war had ended prematurely. There was enormous international pressure, and the incessant Hamas PR about how Israel – with the most moral military in the world – was wantonly killing civilians. Huge anti-Israel demonstrations in various nations. It takes tremendous resolve on the part of our leaders to keep going in the face of that. But that is what we must demand of our leaders: spines of steel.
Especially now, we need leaders who are strong and proud.
There have been instances of late of some in leadership positions – not all by any means! – who seem too eager to show the world how tough we can be on our own and how “nice” to others.
There was the rush in certain quarters to prematurely condemn the soldier who killed a wounded terrorist in Hevron – before the facts were known. Chief among these was Ya’alon, who spoke with great harshness, when he should have simply said that he had confidence that the military courts would see justice done – that it was a point of pride with the military that justice would be sought. The soldier, Elor Azaria, is standing trial now and there has been some discomfiting press about that, as well.
One gets the feeling that there may be a fear that if he is found innocent of manslaughter – and it is possible that he is innocent of manslaughter even if his judgment was poor – then the world will accuse us of going easy on murderers of Arabs. In fairness to the IDF, there seems a strongly held conviction that he is guilty and must not get away with what he did. Right now, the court is looking for a plea bargain.
And there was Netanyahu’s maddening but unsurprising reversal of his order – of just weeks previous – not to return bodies of terrorists to their families. He gave the word to Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who has authority regarding terror acts inside the Green Line, and to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who oversees the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, that they were free to release bodies at their discretion with the proviso that the funerals would be very small and quiet affairs. Bad policy, in my opinion, to have different people making decisions on the same issue in different areas. (I wrote recently about Harry Truman’s motto that “The Buck Stops Here,” but I guess Netanyahu missed that.)
Erdan is opposed to release. But Ya’alon wasted no time.
Ahmed Reyad Shehada was shot dead by IDF forces after ramming his car into a group of soldiers, injuring three, one critically. Forthwith, his body was returned. And guess what? A huge funeral for him attended by thousands took place in a suburb of Ramallah.
Credit: Flash 90
This does not serve us well.
Within hours, a siren will sound signaling the beginning of Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day. And so I leave off writing now and will in my next posting look at this most somber day of mourning and the joyous Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, which follows.
I close with Neshama Carlebach singing “Shomer Yisrael” – Guardian of Israel – a traditional prayer.
The video includes a mix of pictures about Israel.
Guardian of Israel,
protect the remnant of Israel
Don’t let Israel be destroyed
Those who say “Shma Yisrael”
Guardian of the unique nation
Protect the remnant of the unique people
Don’t let the unique nation be destroyed
Those who proclaim the oneness of your name;
“Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One”
(Guardian of Israel)
Guardian of the holy nation
Protect the remnant of the holy people
Don’t let the holy nation be destroyed
Those who proclaim three-fold
Sanctifications to the Holy One
(Guardian of Israel)
© 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.