There is no “ceasefire” agreement as I write. And I pray it does not come to be. Consider:
At the end of prayers today for the beginning of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Ismail Haniyeh, chair of the politburo of Hamas, delivered an address to the people of Gaza (all emphasis added).
“We are on track to the removal of the unjust siege on the Gaza Strip,” he told them. “This is the result of our struggle and our steadfastness.”
What is more, he declared that, “There will be no political price for humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip…There are international projects that will be implemented in Gaza soon…However the March of Return [violence at the Gaza fence] continues until the blockade is lifted.”
Now, I know the Arabs have a tendency to declare victory even when they have lost and that they are not above distorting the facts. The blockade on Gaza is not about to be lifted.
But Haniyeh’s take here is not far off the mark.
The Gazans, prodded by Haniyeh himself, rioted at the Gaza fence on Friday. Israel, however, neither shut down the Kerem Shalom crossing, where goods go through, nor indicated that negotiations on a “ceasefire” would require a cessation of future violence at the fence.
This was the policy established by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
It was a ploy, he explained, to separate the people from the Hamas leaders.
And what a magnificent ploy it turned out to be! Now Hamas leadership is telling the people: You are getting humanitarian relief because of us – because of our steadfast struggle. We are going to be getting more benefits and, what is more, we can keep rioting at the fence.
So sure of themselves are the Hamas leaders feeling right now that Haniyeh also indicated during his talk that they won’t even discuss a prisoner exchange until Israel has let out the 54 men re-arrested after their release during the Shalit deal: “We have told all the mediators who have mobilized to discuss a new exchange that there won’t be any negotiations before the release of all those Israel detained from among the Shalit deal group. There will be no talks without their unconditional release.”
Please, be clear about this: First we are expected to release 54 terrorists who were re-arrested because of “security-related issues.” And only then will Hamas discuss with us what else they will insist upon in exchange for the bodies of our two soldiers and two Israeli civilians.
Yesterday, in response to criticism of Lieberman’s approach by Minister Naftali Bennett (chair Habayit Hayehudi), a spokesperson for Lieberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party responded: “…Anyone who is ready and willing to sacrifice our soldiers’ blood on the altar of political concerns is not worthy of being involved in security issues…”
This particularly irked me, because I knew that Bennett had said he was opposed to a ground war. This seemed like a political low blow, implying that Lieberman wvasion of Gaza,” suggesting that it was time to start thinking outside the box. “There are other ways to eradicate the Hamas terrorism.”
“It cannot be that for 140 days they would be firing rockets and balloons at us, and then, when they whistle, we stand at attention … we must not surrender to these threats…
“We won’t decide who governs Gaza, but we deny them the ability to hurt us.”
Bennett insisted that “this is possible with determination and creativity on our part. We must not enter Gaza with our soldiers again.”
In addition to sharing this to set the record straight, I repeat Bennett’s position here because I believe it heads us in the right direction. There is a very fallacious notion that we either do a horrific ground war that aims at taking Hamas out or we must placate the enemy somehow. What he argues for is a different approach, which – military men have assured us – we would be very capable of actualizing if the political echelon were to give the word.
We must make the leaders of Hamas afraid of us. Were we to do this, you would be seeing a very different response.
I wonder how many of you have noticed, as I have, that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been exceedingly quiet with regard to all of the “ceasefire”-related issues.
Yes, most certainly, he has other important matters to attend to. US Security Advisor John Bolton is here for a three-day visit, and Netanyahu will be meeting with him several times: They indicated in a joint press conference that Iran – including its “aggression in the region” and its ballistic-missile and nuclear-weapons programs – was at the top of the list of issues to discuss.
This is greatly welcome. Bolton, pictured here with Netanyahu, is a good guy.
And yet? Is Lieberman doing cover for Netanyahu on the “ceasefire” issue?
Before switching to other news, I have yet one more story to which Lieberman has a connection.
On Friday, an Israeli Arab from Umm al-Fahm (an Arab city in the Galil with a radical population) lunged at a police officer in Jerusalem’s Old City with a large knife in his hand, attempting to stab him.
He was shot dead by another officer. Police maintain that this was proper procedure for the circumstances, claims by the family that this man was mentally ill notwithstanding.
Subsequently, the police handed the body of the attacker over to the family in Umm al-Fahm. This is always a questionable, and hotly debated, practice and one that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan says should not have gone forward in this instance because of evidence that there was going to be a problem. His statement raises questions immediately.
Arrangements for such a funeral are routinely set in place by the police in agreement with the family: there are to be no more than 150 mourners, the route and timing are set, procedures are to be low-key, etc. The goal is avoiding large hysterical funerals, which are inciteful.
In this case, the family did not honor its commitment: fireworks were set off at the beginning of the funeral, which 1,500 attended; the route that had been agreed upon was not followed – the procession was more circuitous; the crowd cried, “in spirit and blood we will redeem you martyr.”
The police are investigating and the family will be hit with a hefty fine. There are some significant issues regarding how such situations are appropriately handled.
What Avigdor Lieberman tweeted, however, is that the behavior at this funeral is the final proof that Umm al-Fahm should “be part of Palestine.”
Palestine? Excuse me?
Years ago, Lieberman had advanced the notion that the “triangle” area of the Galil, heavily Arab-populated, be turned over as part of a Palestinian state. It was a non-starter in any event. But now? When there is no expectation of a Palestinian state?
Speaking of a “Palestinian state,” let me just mention here news stories that indicate President Trump may release his long-awaited “Deal of the Century” at the opening of the UN General Assembly in September. This is from secondary sources, however, and not from the administration directly.
There are hints, very obscure, that suggest the possibility that the plan might somehow involve Jordan in negotiations in lieu of a totally reluctant PLO. There is no suggestion of an overthrow of King Abdullah. Rather, this is about a return by Jordan to its position prior to 1988, when it provided Jordanian citizenship to Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria and claimed sovereignty (illegally) of the region. It is difficult to say more now, as I have encountered two considerably different versions regarding how matters might play out. In the end, it is possible that it is all simply speculative.
It is important to keep the good news in mind, and so I share a couple of upbeat items (with a hope for even more next time):
It is some time ago that the High Court granted Jews, in theory, the right to pray on Har Habayit (the Temple Mount). There was some jurisdiction allocated to police in this matter – with regard to security issues. What happened, outrageously, is that this came to be interpreted as meaning that Arabs might riot if Jews prayed, and so in the interest of maintaining peace, and thus security, on the Mount, the police had the authority to prohibit Jewish prayer.
There have been some absolutely outrageous and very painful stories that have been told in this regard.
With the recent hullabaloo about “Jewish rights” in Israel and how they impinge on the rights of others, I have been struck with the bitter irony of the situation. For when it comes to Har Habayit, it is Jews who are deprived of their rights. This is not only with regard to saying prayers, but also concerning the limits in the hours during which Jews may ascend.
Last Wednesday, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow (pictured below) and the Moked association petitioned the High Court of Justice for the rights of individuals to have access to the Mount and to be able to pray there.
The Court has given the State 60 days to respond.
Bless those involved in fighting this fight, may it come to a good end. This is one more instance in which it is important that Israel unabashedly protect the rights of Jews.
A brand new medical school has just been opened at Ariel University, in the Shomron. An additional Israeli medical school, badly needed, is itself good news.
But there is more: Because it is over the Green Line, this university has had to fight every step of the way. And this has been the case with the new medical school. Objections were registered because it is “in occupied territory” (sic), and claims made that it thus would offer training only for Jews.
Not only is this not the case, the Arab students at the university are now speaking out to refute the charges.
“According to journalist Omar Rabiya, who is studying political science and Middle Eastern studies, the allegations that the institution hurts the Arab community are baseless.
“’I am surprised by the things that are being said…They are not true. I study at Ariel University and there are a lot of Arab students studying in various departments. All the Arab communities are represented, such as the Christians, Muslims, and the Druze…There are hundreds of Arab students here.
“’…I have never encountered a case of racism here. There is also an office for the Arab students, and there are wonderful people who help us if we need help in the exams.’”
With the charges of “apartheid” leveled against Israel these days, it is helpful to have this sort of testimony.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.