That is the simple truth of the matter, put boldly. It sucks because it demeans the appeasing party and puts it at greater risk. Appeasement strengthens the enemy.
There was a time when I believed that our government understood this, albeit imperfectly – and in spite of bowing time and again to pressure from the US to “make a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians.”
But today it’s a different story and it is important to directly confront what is going on.
This worrisome situation began eight months ago, when a new government was sworn in, signaling a major shift:
In order to avoid cooperating with Binyamin Netanyahu, whose Likud party had by far the largest number of mandates of any party, Yair Lapid stitched together a coalition, with the cooperation and partnership of Naftali Bennett.
That coalition was a nightmare from the get-go. It included, for the very first time, a jihadist-Arab party, Ra’am, headed by Mansour Abbas. I do not care what those on the right (relatively speaking!) in the new coalition had against Netanyahu, an “anyone but Bibi” position was both stupid and destructive for the country.
There are those who believe Abbas has mellowed, but I don’t believe it for a second, because I know that Ra’am is the political wing of the Islamic Movement, southern branch, and I know what its charter says:
”The State of Israel was born of the racist, occupying Zionist project; iniquitous Western and British imperialism; and the debasement and feebleness of the Arab and Islamic [nations]. We do not absolve ourselves, the Palestinian people, of our responsibility and our failure to confront this project.”
Abbas is smart and knows how to present himself, and he’s got the coalition twisted in knots. If he leaves, the coalition is finished, and so he most often gets his way. This is a shameful situation.
He secured passage of the Electric Law, which will allow tens of thousands of Bedouin in the Negev who are in illegal housing to be hooked up to the electric grid, thereby de facto making them legal. But just a short time later, he and his associates managed to defeat a similar bill to provide unregistered Jewish communities in Judea & Samaria with connection to the electric grid. That had to be defeated, you see, because the idea is to push Jews out of Judea & Samaria.
Mansour Abbas, of course, does not operate alone. He has inherent support from Labor, and, most significantly, from Meretz – which claims to be a Zionist party, but which, standing only miniscule steps to the right of Ra’am politically, is truly not.
While others – Defense Minister Benny Gantz, of Blue & White and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, of Yesh Atid – who are centrist-left go along. And those who claim affinity for the right wing – Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (both of Yamina), Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar (of New Hope) – do as well. “Claim affinity”: All of Yamina and New Hope voted against electricity for unrecognized communities in Judea & Samaria.
The name of the game here is keeping the coalition intact so that its various members can hold ministerial positions they are never going to hold again once it has fallen apart. They are hanging together far longer than I and many others thought they would.
All of this is by way of introduction, my friends. Now to the heart of a situation that is very deeply troubling.
I wrote last about MK Itamar Ben Gvir (Religious Zionist Party), who last Sunday set up a temporary office in the Shimon HaTzadik (Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhood, after a home owned by the Jewish Yushuvayev family had been torched by Arabs on Saturday night. He was furious because this family had been subjected to Arab violence on multiple occasions (with their cars burned an incredible nine times), but the police neither acted sufficiently against those who torched the family car again and again nor provided police protection for the family.
His intent was to bring an enhanced police guard to the area. He knew that his presence would require additional police on the scene and he declared that he would not leave until were guarantees that the Yushuvayev family would be sufficiently protected.
There is nothing shy and retiring about Ben Gvir. He is a proud Jew who understands that unless police control of the area is enforced there is a loss of sovereignty in this neighborhood that is a part of Jerusalem.
He also understands that a reluctance to stand strong for our rights results in a weakening of our position. It is widely recognized that Israeli governance in this neighborhood has been weak to non-existent.
The Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood is fraught with tensions because in a number of instances the High Court has found that Arabs living in homes in the area (who were actually squatters who were not paying rent) had to leave because the properties belonged to Jews. The existence of Jews in this neighborhood is resented by the Arabs; and in point of fact, residing in the house next to the Yushuvayev home is an Arab family that has been ordered to vacate in March.
Not only is the area fraught with local Arab tensions, it is a focus for Hamas incitement. Hamas officials wasted no time in calling on local Arabs to go to the scene of the Ben Gvir temporary office. A melee followed.
As I explained in my last posting, Ben Gvir then agreed to negotiations with police regarding the terms under which he would close that temporary office. His representatives were still engaged in the negotiations when police came to dismantle his tent. He was infuriated because the police had over-stepped their authority; he and those with him scuffled with the police – and then he fainted.
At that point I did not know exactly what had transpired. Now I know, and it is not pretty: He was violently evicted from his temporary office by police. Ben Gvir was taken to the hospital and held overnight.
“Apparently there was an order not only to dismantle my parliamentary office, but also to tear me apart,” he said on Monday. “But it won’t help them. Until they restore security to Shimon Hatzaddik, my office will continue to operate there.”
And here an observation from David Israel of the Jewish Press:
“Ben Gvir has many enemies in law enforcement, including the top two decision-makers who could have possibly issued the order to beat him up: his arch-nemesis, chief of police Kobi Shabtai, who blamed him for the Arab violence against Jews in the mixed cities; and his other arch-nemesis, Internal Security Minister Omer Bar Lev. Both represent the worst in Israel’s history of police brutality by design.”
I add to this the information that Bar Lev was a founder of Shalom Achshav (Peace Now).
But sure enough, later on Monday, he returned. This time MK Omir Ohana (Likud), former Minister of Internal Security was with him. Ohana is one of the good guys. I’ve known him for years as a dedicated Zionist.
On Monday night, Ben Gvir noted that, “In the last few hours, they have started offering all kinds of proposals from political brokers who are trying to resolve what’s happening here at Shimon HaTzadik.
“…There was an offer that I was ashamed to hear, that we would take the family out during Ramadan, and officials would fund alternative housing for them. These are offers of surrender, shameful offers.” (Emphasis added)
Wrap your head around this, if you can. A model of appeasement and I cringe even as I write this.
On Monday, Naftali Bennett had stated: “We don’t need provocateurs to come and set Sheikh Jarrah on fire for political purposes. … We don’t need…Ben Gvir to run Jerusalem. That’s the job of the Israeli government and not anyone else.”
To which David Israel observed, “Well, that’s exactly what Ben Gvir was arguing after local Arabs had set Jewish homes and cars on fire – that the Israeli government is not doing its job in Shimon HaTzadik.”
On Tuesday morning, Yair Lapid told Reshet Bet radio: “He’s not there to protect Jews, he’s there to ignite fire and violence, he’s a wretched provocateur. Arabs and Jews will die because of this man’s behavior.”
To this, Shlomo Karhi (Likud) observed: “Who is he to preach morality to us when he is in a coalition with the Muslim Brotherhood.”
On Tuesday Ben Gvir filed a formal complaint with the Police Internal Investigations Department against the police officers who violently evicted him from his temporary office.
He accused the officers of assault, and of entering private property to dismantle his temporary parliamentary office.
“The police crossed a red line and attacked me physically. There is no place in the police department for violent officers, this is criminal behavior, and they must be brought to justice.”
I have written this to make clear my own position on Ben Gvir. The notion that he is a “provocateur” is outrageous. The more vile the behavior of the government, the more I admire his clarity of vision and courage.
The embarrassing proposal by the police regarding a change of residence for the Yushuvayev family over Ramadan is significant. What police and other security officials are concerned with is the very high possibility of Arab violence over Ramadan, in April. (This is something I will be returning to discuss further.)
The Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood is a flashpoint, which Hamas – which is very instrumental in fomenting that Ramadan violence – uses with great effectiveness. Now is the time for the Israel government, the police, and other security agencies to send the message that we are not to be challenged or fooled with. But that, of course, is not the message being sent.
I am particularly aggrieved by the report, which I shared in my last posting, that the Shin Bet is apparently seeking information on attempts by the Jewish community to actively prepare for the violence.
Members of the government and security official would be advised to see a new report regarding the fact that that “a cleric from the highly influential Islamic Movement…effectively controls coalition kingmaker Mansour Abbas and his Ra’am party.” This cleric describes Arab riots in Israel as part of a “holy war.”
But that would mean pointing a finger at Mahmoud Abbas and bringing down the coalition. Easier to accuse Ben Gvir of being a provocateur.
We will get through this time, although it will not be easy.
But if there is a message I would like to leave my readers with, it is that there are many, many good people in Israel who know how to stand strong.
There is Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Tsfat, for example. He was approached by the Shin Bet but refused to meet with them.
“I have the greatest of respect for the Shabak,” he said, and I used to meet with them. But this political department of theirs wants to portray Jews as being responsible for the problems we have here, when 99 % of violent incidents re caused by Arabs. Is Jewish graffiti really going to ignite the Middle East?”
Then there’s Amichai Chikli, who told the Knesset this week:
“There are those who have become accustomed to the presence of enemies who support terrorism in the Knesset of Israel, I refuse to accept this and I will turn every stone to put an end to this.”
More power to him and all those who see clearly and have determination to see an end to our current situation.
Chikli is nominally in Yamina (although he almost absented himself at one point), and is outside of Yamina thinking.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.