I had written before the holiday began that I would post again after Sukkot, and begin to look at some of our more serious problems in greater detail at that time. Yet, even in the midst of family time, and sukkah time, certain news should not wait. We Israelis refuse to let go of our holiday celebration: this is what keeps us strong. But we don’t close our eyes.
Before I touch upon that news, I want to thank all those who have written to me in recent days. It is impossible for me to answer everyone individually, but I read all communication.
When a terrorist takes the life of one of ours, I consider it a mark of minimal respect to note it without delay. Before Sukkot I reported that a Border Police officer had been killed in a terrorist attack at the Shu’aft Checkpoint. But full information was lacking.
Now I am able to report that her name was Noa Lazar, from the Erez Battalion of the Border Police. She was 18 (younger than first reports indicated.) Eighteen. She was from the community of Bat Hefer in central Israel.
There was one gunman – who got out of a car and shot at point-blank range, caught on security video – and two apparent accompanying accomplices. As I write they have not been apprehended, but their identities are known. The shooter is from Shu’afat. Others suspected of being associated with this attack, including members of the terrorist’s family, have been taken into custody.
A civilian security guard – David Morel, 30 – wounded in the attack, remains in a serious and unstable condition, having suffered injuries to the head. He is in a medically induced coma in intensive care. Read between the lines and understand that a successful recovery is doubtful.
Morel made aliyah from Brazil in 2017 and served in the IDF as a lone soldier.
And then there is Staff Sgt. Ido Baruch, who died on Tuesday because of wounds inflicted on him when he was helping to secure a demonstration outside the community of Shavei Shomron, in the Shomron. Baruch, 21, was from Gadera. a member of the reconnaissance unit of the Givati Infantry. Security footage showed a gunman shooting from a vehicle and fleeing at high speed, headed towards the Palestinian Authority town of Deir Sharaf.
Be proud of him, Ido’s commander told his family – he exemplified a “spirit of devotion, human love and optimism.”
One member of the government commented that we would get the terrorist who killed Noa (and it applies now to Ido as well), either dead or alive. And I will say without a moment’s hesitation that the best terrorist is a dead terrorist.
“Deplorable” struck me as an appropriate term for describing the terrorist murders of our young people in uniform.
But as I move to the last major topic for this posting, regarding a deal with Lebanon, I find it quite applicable here, as well. What Yair Lapid, serving as interim prime minister, is doing is horrendous.
In a nutshell:
Israel is on the verge of reaching an agreement that would establish Israel’s maritime border with Lebanon, acceding to Lebanon an area of the Mediterranean that contains gas deposits worth billions of dollars in the huge Qana natural gas field, a good portion of which lies within Israel’s maritime territory.
This area has been in dispute for at least 12 years. But all of a sudden it must be resolved immediately.
For a more detailed description of the situation, see Caroline Glick’s article:
The problems with this situation are numerous and exceedingly serious:
Since we are technically at war with Lebanon (which in fact is controlled by the terrorist Hezbollah), there were no direct negotiations between Israel and Lebanon. At all points the US did the negotiating for Israel, with Amos Hochstein serving as chief negotiator. Hochstein is a former advisor to Biden. Rest assured, he was not negotiating with Israel’s best interest in mind. (More on Biden below.)
What this situation means is that our deal is with the US, not with Lebanon – which has promised nothing.
This is an unacceptable situation upfront.
Whatever guarantees allegedly exist are American guarantees, and I invite my readers to present even a single reason why we should trust this. (We might ask the Ukraine how it went for them to have surrendered their nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees, including by the US.)
Among the reassurances being offered by the US is that the money secured by Lebanon from these gas deposits will not go to Hezbollah, which is nonsense. Glick had this to say about Hezbollah involvement:
“Lapid and Gantz are claiming the deal is the key to a Lebanon free of terrorist influence. This claim is weird on its face. After all, they insist that the Lebanon they are negotiating with is an independent entity not controlled by Hezbollah. And at the same time, they say Lebanon needs tens of billions of dollars from gas proceeds from Qana to free itself of Hezbollah control…
“Lebanon’s financial dealings are both controlled by Hezbollah and entirely opaque. Hezbollah can be trusted to take as much of the gas proceeds as it sees fit.”
Lapid is babbling about how this increases Israeli security. But Israeli security belongs exclusively in Israeli hands and what Lapid is doing undermines this principle.
Asher Kaufman, an expert on border dynamics between Israel and Lebanon points to a further complication of the fact that there has been no direct agreement between Israel and Lebanon:
The agreement has not created an internationally recognized border between the two countries.
“There is a very clear process for making a maritime boundary internationally recognized, and this agreement did not follow this process. The two countries would have to sign an agreement that is sanctioned internationally, and that specifies that they agree on their shared boundary.”
What this means is that Lebanon might change its demands in the future.
Israeli basic law says that no Israeli territory can be relinquished by a government without the approval of 2/3 of the Knesset or in referendum with a majority of the public approving. Lapid is attempting to circumvent this by saying what we are dealing with is about economic waters and not territory and does not require this approval. He is wrong.
The deal has been approved by the Cabinet and sent to the Knesset for a two-week period of discussion, but no vote. Recommendations will then be sent back to the Cabinet.
The question is WHY? Why the big rush now?
Netanyahu, who is speaking out against this deal, has pointed out that he resisted pressure to relinquish Qara for ten years.
And David Friedman, who was US ambassador to Israel when Trump was president, tweeted:
“We spent years trying to broker a deal between Israel and Lebanon on the disputed maritime gas fields. Got very close with proposed splits of 55-60% for Lebanon and 45-40% for Israel. No one then imagined 100% to Lebanon and 0% to Israel. Would love to understand how we got here.”
There are two answers. One has to do with the eagerness of Lapid and Gantz to present this deal as a great diplomatic and security victory for Israel before the elections.
This is perhaps the most horrendous and maddening part of the entire scene. Lapid has announced that this deal prevented war with Hezbollah.
Incredible!! Hezbollah was threatening us. Israel was supposed to start development of the Karish gas fields, which are in Israeli waters, but Hezbollah warned us not to proceed until the deal with Lebanon was complete or it would attack. It then launched several drones at Karish, which were intercepted. Work on Karish was delayed and negotiator Hochstein then pointed out to Lapid that it would be best to surrender 100% of the Qana fields to Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah hostilities and allow development of Karish to proceed.
So what Lapid is actually saying is that he caved – thereby inviting more aggression from an emboldened Hezbollah in the future. And he brags about this?
The other has to do with the vast pressure put on an ever-eager-to-please Lapid by Biden. Again citing Glick:
“As Lebanon expert Tony Badran from the Foundation for Defense of Democracy has copiously documented, the Biden administration is dead set on giving as much money as possible to Lebanon—with full knowledge that money to Lebanon is money to Hezbollah.
“The administration’s desire to enrich a state dominated by Hezbollah/Iran stems from what Badran and the Hudson Institute’s Michael Doran described in May 2021 as its overarching goal of realigning the United States away from its traditional allies—Israel and the Sunni states—and towards Iran.
“During his visit to Israel in July, just days after Hezbollah’s drone attacks on Karish, Biden upped U.S. pressure on Israel to conclude a deal with Lebanon…”
This, too, sets a very worrisome precedent, as the leaders of Israel fail to stand up to the US even when Israel’s interests are subverted.
I will add to the list of problematic factors surrounding this deal that Lapid is heading a caretaker government, and in that position is not to take actions not required immediately. Lapid is attempting to circumvent this, as well, by representing the need for the deal as urgent. But Eugene Kontorovich, Director of International Law at the Kohelet Policy Forum, says this violates Israeli constitutional norms.
“The proposed natural gas agreement between Israel and Lebanon represents a total capitulation to Hezbollah, and a transfer of sovereign Israeli territory to an Iranian puppet state.”
I have hardly touched upon every problem with this agreement. There is a one-sidedness to it (e.g. Lebanon will be able to bring ships into Israeli waters for certain operations, but the reverse will not be permitted). And tremendous ambiguity. Part of what is worrisome is the potential involvement of Iran.
There is no question but that I will be returning to this. But I leave on a potentially hopeful note. The Kohelet Policy Forum has filed a petition with the High Court to stop this, as, I believe, has another group. I do not have the particulars of the petition, but there are so many grounds, and brilliant minds working on it. At the very least, this should prevent the agreement from going forward before the November 1 elections, which is what Lapid and Gantz were aiming for. Hopefully, prayerfully, the Court will invalidate the agreement before it is finalized.
And the last message for every Israeli reader: run, don’t walk, to vote on November 1, and cast your vote for one of the parties on the right. Make certain, absolutely certain, that Lapid and Gantz will not come to the fore in the future. Our nation deserves and needs better.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.