Posts tagged Netanyahu

Netanyahu, E-1 and the problem with democracy

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One big problem with democracy — in most of its forms — is that leaders can be tempted to put their own re-election above the state’s civic and diplomatic interests. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision-making in recent days may be one of the finest examples of the phenomenon.

Every Israeli government for the past decade has deferred to international diplomatic pressure not to advance construction in the “E-1” zone outside Jerusalem. Every Israeli prime minister since Ariel Sharon knew that such a move would cause a diplomatic uproar, and for good reason.

One of the foundations of the Oslo Peace Process, the Clinton Parameters and the Road Map for Peace, all of which have long passed their expiry date, is that East Jerusalem will in some form or another become the capital of Palestine. But that becomes all-the-more impossible if Israel builds new settlements in E-1, further sealing Palestinian East Jerusalem and cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank. Construction in E-1 would (more…)

Gaza: New rules in an old war

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There’s something different about the most recent flare-up between Israel and Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians’ modus operandi appears to have changed, and Israel seems to be unsure of how to respond.

In the past month, armed Palestinian groups in Gaza launched a string of three, seemingly well planned and ultimately successful attacks against IDF forces along the border. Planted explosive devices, a massive and unprecedented tunnel detonation and an anti-tank missile left a total of eight Israeli soldiers injured, some seriously.

Already there was something strange. Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, has declared for some time that it was focusing on military targets, a change from its rocket attacks on Israeli civilian centers. Nevertheless, to have nearly a month go by without rocket attacks on civilians is almost unheard of in recent years.

The IDF’s responses to the attacks were also uncharacteristically restrained considering the Israeli casualties, limited to immediate defensive fire and late-night airstrikes on empty buildings and tunnels. Following the (more…)

Iran: A game gone too far

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The story of how Israel reached the – real or perceived – brink of war with Iran is not exactly what it appears to be.

At some point in recent years, Israeli decision-makers decided to play a game. Through a fairly innocuous and innocent lens, the game can be described as “good cop, bad cop.” At worst, it is a dangerous exercise in diplomatic and military brinksmanship that risks catapulting one of the world’s most well-armed regions into an unpredictable and open-ended war.

Either way, the game has gone too far.

Israel is terrified of a nuclear-armed Iran. Although less daunting than the prospect of a second holocaust, the danger Iranian nukes pose is real: they threaten the thus-far unchallenged regional hegemony the IDF has enjoyed for decades.

Earlier this year, the IDF’s top planning officer, Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, explained how an Iran with nuclear weapons would change Israel’s strategic (more…)

The Iranian threat: What Israel really thinks

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One of the biggest distortions about the Iranian nuclear threat is Israel’s explanation of its basis for fearing it. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cites Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying the Israeli regime should be wiped off the map, invoking powerful imagery to lead the Israeli public and the world to fear a second Holocaust. But is that really what he and his intelligence assessments fear?

The top officer in the Israeli military’s planning directorate, Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, presented Israel’s fear of a nuclear-armed Iran in a less existential and more strategic context last month. Israel, he said, would be deterred from entering into conventional wars with its traditional adversaries, Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria, if their Iranian sponsor became a nuclear power.

Nuclear deterrence, Eshel explained, would dramatically alter Israel’s strategic military posture in the region. “If we are forced to do things in Gaza or Lebanon under an Iranian nuclear umbrella, it might be different.”

Another major fear, shared by the United States and regional actors in the Middle East, is that Iranian (more…)

Why Netanyahu is wrong about Fatah-Hamas unity

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“You can either have peace with Hamas or peace with Israel,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a public statement Monday, hours after Abbas signed an agreement to form an interim government with Hamas ahead of Palestinian elections. The ultimatum, however, is fundamentally flawed; even if peace with Israel was around the corner, it would not be possible for the Palestinian president to reach a deal with Israel before mending ties with Hamas.

The only solution to the conflict currently on the table – although many others are lurking in the background – is the two-state solution, which by definition necessitates one unified Palestinian leadership. The goal of the two-state framework is the establishment of the State of Palestine, not two separate states in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But there are other more important issues involved. Mahmoud Abbas is not Yasser Arafat. Abbas’s credibility on the Palestinian street has been consistently waning. Currently entering the seventh year of a four-year (more…)

Israel’s response to terror: Intelligence failure or blatant lies?

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In the early afternoon of August 18, 2011, terrorists launched a three-pronged attack on Israeli civilians and soldiers, shooting at civilian cars and buses, blowing up another bus, and launched cross-border shooting attacks. The violence along the Israeli-Egyptian border caused the deaths of eight Israelis, a number of the attackers and a handful of Egyptian security personnel.

At around 3 p.m. that afternoon, with shooting still audible in the background of a live press conference in Eilat, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the world that the attack (and attackers) originated in Gaza and vowed to respond “forcefully and decisively.” Minutes later, Israeli Air Force jets took off from their nearby bases and bombed the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees’ leadership. Six people were killed in that initial strike.

A few hours after the air strikes began, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held a dramatic press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. He presented a new doctrine of immediate, harsh response to any attack against Israelis and lauded his security services for (more…)

Taking the ‘peace’ out of the process

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The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been dead for years, but a revival of talks between the two sides this week in Amman proved that ‘the process’ still serves a purpose. For Israel, even topical engagement in the process is necessary to maintain its aura of righteousness – that the Palestinians are to blame for a perpetual state of conflict – thereby allowing it to continue presenting the status quo as the only viable option. For the Palestinians, returning to the table justifies the revitalization of a stalled push for statehood by pointing to the futility of negotiations, and in a way, also helps maintain the status quo that serves the Ramallah political elite.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak took to the Israeli airwaves to discuss the upcoming talks a day before the two sides met in Amman this week. He discussed the various strategic advantages for Israel in resuming contacts with the Palestinians and at the same time made clear he had no expectations from them. But most notably, never in the 15-minute interview did he once say the word “peace.”

Perhaps feeling the need to justify to a domestic audience the simple act of sitting at the (more…)

Israel’s flawed and dangerous ‘libel law’

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In the past year, a string of legislation has passed through Israel’s Knesset that chips away at free speech and expression using civil, monetary penalties. First the “Nakba Law” penalized any commemoration of the Palestinian narrative of the 1948 war, from which the State of Israel was born. Soon thereafter, lawmakers passed the “boycott law,” which permits civil suits against anyone boycotting, or advocating a boycott against West Bank settlements.

The latest piece of legislation seeks to modify an already-existing law against slander and libel. Considering recent attacks on independent news media in Israel using the existing law (and threats of using it), journalists are warning that changes made by the new legislation would deal a heavy blow to investigative reporting.

Of course, the targets of critical journalism – who would most benefit from the new law – would like you to think otherwise. The amendment to Israel’s Defamation Law is not a “libel law,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu quipped to the Knesset (more…)

Ehud Barak thinks Iran is a rational actor

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Ehud Barak once said that if he were a Palestinian of the right age he would join a terrorist organization. This week he went one step further. Asked by Charlie Rose if he too would want a nuclear weapon were he in the shoes of the Iranian leadership, the Israeli defense minister answered affirmatively.

More interestingly, in the nearly 15 minutes that Barak discussed the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, his arguments against Tehran’s proliferation efforts were focused entirely on preventing the Islamic Republic from acquiring the deterrence power a nuclear weapon would give it. He did not, as Health Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has tirelessly argued, charge that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seeks to annihilate or “wipe Israel off the map.”

“I don’t delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel,” Barak explained.

The Iranians look around and see that their neighbors, Pakistan, India, Russia and China all have nuclear weapons, he continued, “and they look westward and see (more…)

Israel tries out ‘Occupy’: Fleeting notions of (social) justice

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Israel’s social justice movement, which was retaking city squares in the name of the average citizen months before Occupy Wall Street came along, attempted a comeback last week with its first mass protest after a two-month hiatus. Keeping to its “apolitical” social platform, the protest movement continues to carefully quarantine its definition of social justice, keeping it safe in the comfortable confines of the 1967 Green Line that shields the majority of Israelis from Palestinians. One mainstream Israeli politician, however, shattered that concept last week in a barely noticed and subsequently buried outburst in the Knesset.

The now-famous public faces of the Israeli social protest movement, first amongst them folk hero Dafni Leef, were present for the opening session of the Knesset’s winter session last week. As cameras panned to the social activists during the plenum’s widely-televised opening debate, politicians fulfilled expectations by vowing (more…)

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