This Friday night, Jews across the world will be participating in the Pesach Seder. And so I begin by extending wishes for a Pesach Kasher v’Sameach to all who are observing.
Every year I share a link to a video of Vehi shamda, which is found in the Haggadah:
That which stood for our ancestors stands for us as well.
For it was not only one individual who stood up against us to destroy us.
Rather, in every generation they stand up against us to destroy us.
But the Holy One, Blessed Be He, redeems us from their hands.
It is a powerful message for us in these days.
The most famous modern arrangement is by Yonaton Razel.
This year I found a video I had not seen before of Yaakov Shwekey and Shlomi Shabat singing it with great fervor:
(If you find yourself on a new YouTube page after you click, click again on “Browse YouTube” and it will come up.)
There is no question but that Israel is an enduring miracle. Without help from Above, we would not be here. However, this fact in no way absolves us of the responsibility to be strong for ourselves. In fact, our sages taught that we should not rely on miracles. The need to believe in our legacy and stand strong for our rights is a constant theme in my postings. And these days I am communicating it with increasing urgency: signs of weakness loom large.
In this regard, I want to visit a number of topics.
In my last posting, I reported on that Kever Yosef (Joseph’s Tomb), outside of Shechem (Nablus) had been vandalized, with the tomb over the grave smashed and several fires set. Defense Minister Gantz called the incident “extremely serious” and said he “sent a sharp message” about this to the Palestinian Authority, which has responsibility for the site under the Oslo Accords.
Gantz was then criticized by Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, as well as others, for not taking the situation into Israeli hands and sending in IDF troops to guard the Kever. What had been done, said Dagan, was an affront to all of Israel, especially right before Pesach. And he was right.
The beginning of our national weakness on this issue, however, was not with Gantz, but with the very fact of such an agreement under Oslo, giving the PA jurisdiction for protecting an ancient Jewish holy site. This is not the first time that the Kever has been vandalized, and yet no prime minister, no defense minister, has ever acted to reclaim authority over the Kever in spite of the fact that the PA has not properly executed its responsibility. Perish the thought that we might be accused of being “against peace.”
As it turns out, Gantz has a disturbing history of weakness with regard to this site. In 2000, during the intifada, 12 Israeli Border Police were stationed at the Kever when an Arab riot began. Sergeant Madhat Yusuf, a Druze, was shot. IDF forces were a mere 600 meters away, and were prepared to go in and rescue Yusuf. Benny Gantz, then IDF regional commander, declined to send them until he had approval from superiors – because this would have impinged on PA jurisdiction. In the end, PA forces were asked to rescue Yusuf. But because he had been left there for more than four hours, he had bled to death.
Gantz put allegiance to an agreement with the PA ahead of securing the life of an Israeli soldier.
Yesterday (Monday), for the second time in rapid succession, Palestinian Arabs entered the Tomb to vandalize it. I see no indication that the PA had placed sufficient guard to prevent this.
Gantz, an advocate of the “two-state solution” aspires to be prime minister. This is a troubling prospect.
One of the measures announced by Gantz following the recent spate of terrorism was the strengthening of what is known as the security barrier. It was clear, both from reports that surfaced and from photos, that there were gaps in the metal fence, which made it possible for terrorists from places such as Jenin to slip through. (These gaps are also used frequently by Palestinian Arabs who are not terrorists but want to work illegally in Israel.)
I had thought – without having sufficient clarity on the matter — that what was being referred to were major repairs to the current barrier. And relying on that impression, I had indicated to readers who queried me about this that this seemed an immediate measure that could save Jewish lives.
I now have greater clarity about what is planned and apologize for my lapse. What the government wants to do is erect a high stone wall that cannot be breached readily. By its very nature it is more permanent than a metal barrier. And here I agree with others who protest that this generates a de facto “two-state” situation. It must be noted that a number of Jewish communities – Itamar, Shilo, Ariel, Ofra, Kiryat Arba, etc. – are outside the barrier and are afforded zero protection by it.
It would be preferable to repair the current barrier and then utilize funds allocated for the wall on other methods for controlling the situation, relying on security forces to determine what would be most effective: Persistent incursions into problematic areas, jeep patrols, cameras, multiple checkpoints outside of Arab areas that are terror hotspots, etc. This approach would provide the Israeli citizens living in Judea & Samaria beyond that barrier some protection.
In my last posting I pointed out that the father of the Tel Aviv terrorist, who praised what his son had done, was a high ranking member of Fatah. One reader suggested that I provide a closer look at Fatah. An excellent idea: it is directly connected to questions of the viability of that “two-state solution.”
Fatah was founded as a national liberation movement in 1959 in Kuwait by that inveterate terrorist Yasser Arafat and a handful of his cohorts.
The word ‘Fatah’ is a reverse acronym of the Arabic meaning ‘conquest by means of jihad.’ Its emblem features a grenade with crossed rifles superimposed on the map of Israel. This emphasizes the dedication of Fatah to the “armed struggle” against Israel. It was the first group outside of Israel to launch terrorist attacks against Israel.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in Cairo by Egyptians in 1964; it promoted the “liberation” of Israel, which was said to be Palestinian Arab territory. The PLO has been recognized since 1974 as the sole legitimate representative of Palestinian Arabs and does negotiations on their behalf. (The Palestinian Authority is an administrative entity, established in 1994 in the course of the Oslo negotiations between the PLO and Israel.)
By 1968, Fatah had become the dominant, the controlling faction of the PLO. That is a situation that pertains to this day. Fatah had developed the “Doctrine of the Armed Struggle,” which was incorporated into the PLO’s national charter. It declares:
“Mandatory Palestine in its entirety is to be liberated and the State of Israel is to be destroyed; no recognition of Israel nor the Jewish right to self-determination in mandatory Palestine is acceptable; the armed struggle is the only strategy to liberate Palestine.”
When Fatah became dominant in the PLO, Yasser Arafat became Chair of the PLO and remained such until his death in 2004, at which point Mahmoud Abbas assumed Arafat’s positions.
Abbas, dressed in a suit and tie and wearing no keffiyeh, appears to be more moderate than Arafat was, but he is not. He was Arafat’s protégé, brought into Fatah in Kuwait by 1961. Abbas incites, praises terrorists, and insists on supporting them and their families with “salaries.” The Palestinian Authority, which he heads, utilizes textbooks that teach their children hate and promote the idea that all of the land belongs to them.
In 1968, the PLO adopted the “Phased Plan,” which acknowledged that all of Israel could not be liberated at once. Thus a plan for weakening Israel in stages was put into place. Negotiations that undermined Israel were deemed acceptable, as were pretenses of moderation. Thus were the Oslo Accords negotiated in the mid-90s.
Many assumed these accords marked a change in the PLO; it was advanced as evidence of a desire on Arafat’s part to have a state side-by-side with Israel, living in peace. Nothing could have been further from the truth. (I will return to this on another day.) Had the PLO/Fatah wanted peace, they could have had it long ago.
A look at evidence provided by Palestinian Media Watch regarding the position of Fatah officials today makes it crystal clear that there is no moderation, and there are no good intentions:
Fatah officials still have pictures of the terrorists of an earlier time on the walls of their offices; they also post maps of “Palestine: that totally eliminate Israel.
Fatah Revolutionary Council member Abd Al-Ilah Atteereh: “We have no choice but to strengthen the resistance with what Allah will provide us with. When you see a 15-year-old Palestinian child carrying a rock or another tool or a knife, know that this cause continues in the blood of our people, and that it is inherited.” (On PA TV March 7, 2022, emphasis by PMW))
Fatah Jenin Branch Secretary Ata Abu Rmeileh: “We [in Fatah] are not arguing with anyone. We are taking action for Allah…Our goal is not Fatah, Fatah is a means. Fatah is a means for the liberation of Palestine. Our war is with the Jews.” (Fatah Facebook page, March27, 2022)
So there is no “peace process” because Israel has no partner. And yet this myth, this impossible construct, is accepted by so many. I struggle to understand why the world has accepted the narrative: Palestinian land stolen by Israel, the occupier. A cursory study of history and law would quickly tell another story. Yet the world persists in embracing this, and I cannot but believe that beneath it all lies a persistent contempt for the Jewish people.
And here it is again, risen once more to haunt us. Biden pushing for “top level negotiations.” Blinken talking “two-states” at a conference with Abraham Accord states.
The Oslo Accords did what the PLO/Fatah set out to do: it weakened Israel. It will only continue to weaken us if we let it. Most disturbing of all are the Israeli Jews – seeing themselves as kind and caring — who also embrace the narrative, berating our nation for not doing enough, pushing the “two-state” concept. Are they totally deluded? Is there self-hatred hidden within their ideology?
For years after the signing of Oslo, there was such a push to make it succeed that PLO failures to honor the negotiated terms were just ignored by Israel. Look at Gantz, who ended up letting an Israeli soldier die because he was not willing to contravene Israel’s agreement with the PLO.
At this time, we need strong leaders who believe in our rights and will stand for them. But there is not a possibility of seeing this until the current government falls. In the last few days we have come a bit closer to seeing this realized.
Too much is uncharted yet, too much in flux, too many rumors are flying, for me to describe in many particulars what scenario might be coming. In a nutshell:
Until last week, the governing coalition had 61 mandates and the opposition 59 – giving the government the slimmest possible majority. Then on April 6, Idit Silman, who was an MK in the Yamina party and Coalition Chair, resigned from the party. She is going to be joining Likud.
Ostensibly she resigned over a feud with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who was pushing for chametz (forbidden leavened food) to be brought into hospitals over Pesach – something she, as a religious woman, could not accept. But in the end, the issues were much bigger: she had simply had it.
It is rumored that Netanyahu offered her a plum position in the future if she came over to Likud. And that MK Betzalel Smotrich (Religious Zionists) played a role in encouraging her departure. She says it was her decision alone, and, in the face of attempts to lure her to change her mind, has made it clear that her decision is final. Many of us salute her for this now.
This is big because now the coalition and the opposition will each have 60 mandates. This means that the government cannot pass any legislation without support from the opposition. But it does not bring the government down, and the opposition does not have the majority for a vote of no confidence.
The hope, of course, is that others who have been considering a departure from the government will now be inspired to follow Silman. Those most likely to do this have been identified: Amichai Chikli, Nir Orbach, and Abir Kara, all of Yamina. Orbach (pictured below) has delivered Bennett with three ultimatums for remaining, with a deadline; it is unlikely that Bennett, given his coalition, can meet all demands. Chikli has been labelled a renegade for not supporting his party, which means he cannot run in the next election. He says Kara was going to resign and then backed down.
If any one of these MKs leaves, the government falls and new elections will be called. It seems a given that those who are thinking of leaving are consulting with each other, and are likely to do so in a group, if at all. Three people together can declare a new party, and that party can run in a bloc with Likud in the coming election. Clearly, the right wing is working to lure them, and Bennett is breaking his head to get them to stay.
Their names are not being discussed at the moment, but I see Zvi Hauser and Sharren Haskel of New Hope as possibilities for leaving as well. And there may be others. Or perhaps not. That the government will fall in the next month or so seems likely. (The Knesset is currently in Pesach recess.)
Oh! Then there’s Ayelet Shaked of Yamina. There were signs that she was on the verge of leaving. She is denying this, but rumors persist.
Now here’s the tricky part: If a sufficient number leave so that the right-wing bloc in the opposition – Likud, Religious Zionists, Shas and UTJ – has 61 mandates, then there is no need for a new election. That bloc becomes the new government. It’s tough to achieve but would be the best solution. That right- wing bloc currently has 54 mandates – as the Joint Arab List, which is in the opposition, would not be part of the new coalition. Seven people would have to move over to the other side.
I have what to say about the head of the Joint list, Ayman Odeh – and it is scathing. But I will save it for my next posting when there may also be more political clarity. I will have more to say as well about individuals who claim to be right-wing, but persist in sitting in this government.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution