I begin by thanking all of you who wrote supportive messages last week. Once again, I assure you that I read everything, even if it is not always possible to answer.
Then I share a link to an article of mine – “Crossroad for Israelis – Society and Government” in the Spring 2023 edition of inFocus, the quarterly magazine of the Jewish Policy Center.
See the entire inFocus issue, which highlights Israel at 75:
Now as to that euphoria: Few things make it fizzle faster than the prospect of war, and that is where we were late yesterday.
In four different episodes, rockets and mortars were launched towards southern Israel. On one occasion there were 22 rockets. In one of the first barrages, a construction site was hit, wounding three foreign workers, one seriously. There was damage to buildings and cars in Sderot, and others were subsequently hospitalized – although not with serious injuries (shock, injury when falling on way to a shelter, etc.).
The attack was said by Gaza terror groups to be in retaliation for the death of Khader Adnan, a senior figure in Islamic Jihad who was being held in prison awaiting trial. He had gone on a three-month hunger strike in an effort to secure his release and had refused all medical care. This was the first time a prisoner on a hunger strike had died in in an Israeli prison 30 years. Adnan had tried this previously and secured release from prison; he was a major advocate of this tactic for others.
There was a joint response to his death by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. A Hamas spokesman said, “Adnan was executed in cold blood.” The rockets came from Islamic Jihad and associated groups, but with the full knowledge and approval of Hamas, which Israel holds responsible.
PA prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh also got into the act, calling Adnan’s death a “deliberate assassination,” and charging that Israel had killed him “by rejecting his request for his release.”
Just so we have this right: the man died because of a self-imposed condition and refusal to accept medical care that had been offered, but Israel is responsible because we did not respond to his demands ꟷ for which, by the way, we can thank no-nonsense National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir. Ben Gvir then ordered a lockdown of the prison where Adnan died, to prevent a riot.
Late yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Defense Minister Gallant (to his left below) and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, as well as other military and security officials (not pictured), to discuss the situation.
We were then told that they decided to authorize a “significant” retaliatory attack.
According to security officials: ”…the retaliation will be widespread and disproportionate even if it will mean a possible round of fighting that will last [a] number of days.”
Additionally, it was decided that the body of Adnan would not be handed over.
But already before dawn today (Wednesday), a ceasefire, mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations, was announced.
That was it? “a possible round of fighting that will last [a] number of days”?
In all, some 100 rockets had been launched from Gaza. Israel attacked Hamas sites in a number of locations — including military compounds, weapons manufacturing sites and depots, but didn’t go after terrorists.
In several quarters there is now criticism that Israel signaled a readiness to stop too soon, without doing sufficient damage.
Wrote Yaakov Lappin : “…each time Israel signals to its adversaries that it is interested in ending escalations as soon as possible, and responds in more-or-less predictable manners to attacks from Gaza, other, more powerful adversaries like Hezbollah and Iran take notice.”
That is the worry. Strong deterrence is critical at this juncture.
Alon Davidi, the mayor of Sderot, charged that the ceasefire encourages terror and that Israel’s response had not been decisive enough.
“This is a serious mistake. There is a war going on between the Gaza Strip and Sderot, and the government is adopting a policy in which it lets terrorists off the hook and protects the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. This policy is too lax, and we will pay a price for it this summer.
“It’s funny that the terrorists shoot to kill us, yet the government ties the hands of the IDF and does not allow them to harm the terrorists themselves.” (Emphasis added)
A key critic of the speedy truce is Ben Gvir (Otzma Yehudit), who is angry that he was not included in security consultations in spite of the position he holds.
Now he is saying that his faction of six Knesset members will boycott coalition votes.
See details here:
I fully comprehend Ben Gvir’s anger and frustration, but I note here as well the statement by Bezalel Smotrich (RZ):
“My friends and partners in the government and coalition, let’s calm down. Internal discussions and debates can and should be conducted, and there is definitely a lot to improve. But we must keep the government united and not give a reward to terrorism and bring the left with the supporters of terrorism to power. We have four years to fix and improve things by working hard and together.”
This government must not fall apart. A major problem is that it has been represented as a right-wing government, but – as I have noted before – the prime minister is not right-wing and at present tiptoes a great deal.
Truth be told, my friends, the euphoria had evaporated even before the very brief exchange with Gaza.
Those of us who are on the right were high on Thursday night and Friday, during and following what was called the March of the Million – a huge right-wing demonstration outside the Knesset. People gathered to send a message to the government regarding action on judicial reform.
No one thought there were a million people gathered, but the numbers were exceedingly impressive. Some are saying 600,000. See an incredible video here:
Now, we said, the government will feel empowered, will receive this new mandate from the people and act.
On Saturday night, there was a left-wing demonstration. We knew there would be. Could we have expected less? It was business as usual for them.
Then on Monday, the Knesset began its summer session, but there was no indication of anything having changed because of what happened last week.
It would perhaps be unfair to suggest that there would have been any significant activity in this regard on Monday – for the focus was elsewhere: Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R, CA), who led a bi-partisan group to Israel, addressed the plenum.
This, in the midst of everything else, was a very good thing, for McCarthy is a true friend of Israel. The only other speaker of the house who had ever addressed the Knesset was Newt Gingrich.
He had previously said that Netanyahu has waited too long for an invitation to the White House, and he would extend one to the prime minister to address Congress if it was not forthcoming.
To the Knesset he spoke about US guarantees for Israel’s security, the extraordinary strength of US-Israel bonds, and more.
You can see his statements to the press here:
Something to bring a smile.
In his statement at the opening of the Knesset summer session, Netanyahu said:
“We saw the support [for the judicial reforms] during the massive Thursday demonstration as well as the demonstrations on the other side. This is evidence of our vibrant democracy. We are determined to reach as broad an agreement as possible on the judicial reform that is at the heart of the public dispute in Israel…I believe that with the good will and genuine willingness of both parties – it is possible to reach these agreements.”
And I believe that the prime minister knows this is nonsense. At a meeting just hours later on Monday night, he said to members of the opposition:
“You only talk about dialogue but in [negotiations] say, ‘No, no, no, no.’ I would be happy to hear what you do agree to.
“I call on you to listen, come to your senses, chart a new course, and enter into real talks with us to try to reach agreements.”
So he admits that the opposition is obstructionist, never agreeing to anything, and that there have been no “real” talks in all these weeks.
But he doesn’t say, “Enough! Had you wanted compromise we would have had it by now. It is time for our coalition to listen to the voice of the people and move forward on this.” More tiptoeing.
There is a great deal of discussion about what is motivating him now.
MK Simcha Rothman (RZP), who chairs the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, tells it straight:
He believes the work on advancing the legislation for judicial reform should never have been halted – it should have continued alongside discussions. That way the opposition could not have dragged out discussions, thereby delaying the legislation. If there were sincere desire for a compromise, it would have been achieved.
“There is no real desire to advance things. The differences between the parties are very small, which is why the shouting is so loud.”
Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
The first order of business in the Knesset now is the budget. It must pass by the end of this month or the government falls.
But it would take one day to vote on the first piece of judicial reform legislation on changing the makeup of the selection committee, which has been prepared and has already gone through two readings.
When will we see some action, when will the coalition decide to move ahead?
I close with an amazing news item:
When Lucy Dee succumbed to the injuries inflicted upon her by a terrorist, a number of her organs were harvested for donations to recipients.
This week, at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, her surviving family was introduced to the five recipients who received Lucy’s organs. Her two surviving daughters, Keren, 19, and Tali, 17, were given the incredible opportunity to listen to their mother’s heart beating in Lital Valenci’s chest. “Can you hear her heart beat?” she asked the girls, who wept.
See the video here:
Ein millim. There are no words.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution