Little did Israelis know six weeks ago that the man who threatened Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza would soon become defense minister.
Right-winger Avigdor Lieberman vowed six weeks ago that if he were defense minister he would give Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh 48 hours to return the bodies of dead Israeli soldiers or be assassinated.
Now that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expanded his governing coalition by bringing in Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, the Hamas leader in Gaza’s days are ostensibly numbered.
Dr. Yuval Dror, dean of the communications track at the College of Management (and occasional Haaretz contributor), has thus set up the website isismailhaniyehdeadyet.com to remind Lieberman of his pledge.
“Because we’re only talking about 48 hours, which is really short, I bought the domain to track whether Israel’s new defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, fulfills that promise,” Dror wrote on his blog. “I’m convinced that within 48 hours I’ll change the word NO to the word YES. Why? Because only the right wing can, that’s why.”
The compromise reached by Netanyahu and Bennett will save the coalition and strengthen the security cabinet, but the risk of war – which has to do more with top officials' judgement – still remains.
The somewhat forced compromise between Habayit Hayehudi and the Likud party, reached Sunday night in the last minute, should not void the weight of demands made by Minister Naftali Bennett to strengthen the security cabinet.
The events of the past week, up until Sunday night's agreement allowing the confirmation of Avigdor Lieberman's appointment as defense minister, may also give an indication of what's coming – the difficulties expected in the work of the new right-wing coalition.
The basis for Naftali Bennett’s demand to increase the security cabinet’s profile is his deep distrust for the way security decisions are made. This lack of trust is aimed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and even more at the incoming defense minister, Lieberman.
But it’s also aimed at the long-standing tradition of prime ministers and defense ministers in cahoots with the heads of the security agencies, who often seek to limit the information the security cabinet receives. Bennett is also disappointed with the performance of the National Security Council.
One of Bennett’s arguments is that there is no military secretary advising the security cabinet. Overall, his criticism of the security cabinet’s weakness, its lack of information and its inability to digest the information it does receive are supported, even if off the record, by other members of the panel.
At the end of last week, a forum of former ministers, comprised of politicians from various political camps who convene periodically at the Israel Democracy Institute, issued a letter of support for Bennett’s demands. And the reports by investigative committees and the state comptroller over the past decade bolster Bennett’s arguments about the decision-making process and the security cabinet’s weakness.
The Winograd Report on the 2006 Second Lebanon War was scathingly critical of how the decision was made to launch that conflict. That report stressed the NSC’s inefficacy but noted that the security cabinet was also emasculated because decisions were made by small, unofficial forums that met in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office.
Then there was the state comptroller’s report on the seizing of the Gaza-bound aid ship the Mavi Marmara in 2010. It stated that the decision-making process under Netanyahu took place “with no orderly staff work that was summarized, documented and coordinated.” It said Netanyahu only convened a debate among his confidants “on the spot” with no preparation and without involving the agencies girding for the flotilla’s arrival.
In the case of the 2014 Gaza war, as was reported in Haaretz, the state comptroller’s draft report states that the security cabinet was denied crucial information before the conflict erupted and was given only a partial picture throughout the fighting.
The most blatant information gap related to the attack tunnels dug by Hamas under the Gaza border into Israel. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon were aware of the gravity of the threat, and of Israel’s limited intelligence on Hamas’ plans. They knew that the military only had sketchy plans for dealing with the danger. But most of the security cabinet knew nothing.
Only during the week of the escalation in early July 2014 did the security cabinet begin addressing the tunnels seriously. On Sunday Army Radio has reported that during internal military discussions after the war there was serious criticism of the army’s preparedness to deal with the tunnels. Officers also mentioned the gap between progress in destroying the tunnels and what was told to the public. Once again, members of the security cabinet have only learned of this debate now.
It is doubtful that the compromise reached overnight will actually strengthen the work of the security cabinet, as Bennett suggests. The bolstering of the security cabinet could only bring some balance to decisions taken mainly by the prime minister, defense minister and the IDF chief of staff. And in any case, it's the replacement of Ya’alon with Lieberman, not the weakness of the security cabinet, that is most worrisome.
The risk of war, which could break out without any planned Israeli initiative as has happened a few times in the past 10 years, is linked more to the quality of top officials’ judgment than to the decision-making structure. Even though the Winograd Report seems to state otherwise, the main problem with the Olmert government’s running of the 2006 war wasn’t procedural. It was leaders who turned out to be inexperienced, careless and didn’t think things through.
Despite Bennett’s principled demands, we can’t ignore the political context. The considerable support he’s getting from those who agree with his requests, as well as from those who want to bring down the government, is strengthening his position as a potential defense minister in the next round. Together with his vow to defend the lives of the soldiers and his declaration that he seeks nothing for himself or his party, Bennett tried to score points by choosing to confront Netanyahu on a fundamental security question.
When he first ran at the head of Habayit Hayehudi in 2012-13, his military background played a central role in the campaign. His message to young secular voters was, if you rely on us kippa-wearing officers in battle, there’s no reason not to rely on us in the Knesset. It was a strategy that served him well, and now it took him further – presenting him as a future defense minister candidate – at least until he folded under the risk of being accused of bringing about the collapse of the right-wing coalition.
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Sgt. Elor Azaria is facing manslaughter charges for shooting Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, who was killed while lying wounded on the ground.
Hundreds attended in Hebron the funeral of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, a 21-year-old Palestinian assailant who was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier while lying wounded on the ground. The funeral took place more than two months after the March incident following the transfer of the body to the family on Friday evening.
Although Sharif's family demanded the immediate return of his body, it was withheld by Israeli security authorities. An autopsy was also carried out as part of the investigation of the case. The body was transferred to Hebron's Al-Ahli Hospital Friday evening.
On Saturday, a military procession was held from the hospital to Sharif's parents' home and from there ultimately to a cemetery in the west of Hebron, with the participation of Palestinian police officers. Along the route, hundreds of young Palestinians shouted praise for Palestinians killed by Israelis security forces. Onlookers also shouted their condemnation of Israel and the occupation.
After Sharif and an accomplice stabbed a soldier in Hebron in March, video footage made public showed that security forces had already subdued Sharif, who was seen lying on the ground when he was then shot in the head by Sgt. Elor Azaria, an Israeli army medic who is now facing manslaughter charges over the incident.
At the funeral, Sharif's father, Yusri Sharif, said the family had insisted on holding a large funeral befitting of what he said was his son's stature in death. The father said the trial of Azaria was designed to mislead international public opinion, adding that he does not believe that justice would be served in the case.
In related developments, the Israel army returned the body of a Palestinian woman who had tried to stab Border Police personnel last week near Givat Ze'ev, north of Jerusalem, at the Ras Bidu checkpoint. The Border Police force became suspicious of the woman as she approached the checkpoint. An investigation found that they then followed procedure in an effort to arrest her, including firing into the air. She reportedly continued to advance toward them, and drew a knife from her bag, at which point the border policemen shot and killed her.
Earlier last week Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan instructed the police not to return any more bodies of terrorists from East Jerusalem to the Palestinians. The directive came after hundreds of people took part in the funeral procession of Alla Abu Jamal, who had carried out a car ramming and knifing attack in Jerusalem in October that killed Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky.
"I saw the infuriating photographs from the funeral, in which the terms imposed by the police and assurances from terrorist's family were violated, and a funeral was held with numerous participants, in which calls of incitement and support for terrorism were heard. The families of the terrorists lied to the High Court of Justice after they pledged to meet the demands of the police, and it is a shame that the High Court believed them and pressured the police to give back the bodies by Ramadan," Erdan wrote on his Facebook page in explaining his decision to halt handing over the bodies.
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.721955
Israel Systematically Denies 1,400 Years of Muslim History
The education system, the media and the tourism industry all collaborate in erasing the country's Palestinian past.
How many among us have the slightest idea of what was happening in the Land of Israel during the Fatimid, Mamluk or Seljuk periods? While we’ve been busy arguing about the Nakba, all of us have been denying the Muslim past of this country.
“Filastin: It is the last one of the regions of Syria in the direction of Egypt. Its most famous cities are Ashkelon, Ramle, Gaza, Arsuf, Caesaria, Nablus, Jericho, Amman, Jaffa and Beit Guvrin.” This is the opening sentence of the section entitled “Filastin” that appears in the book “Dictionary of the Lands,” written by Muslim geographer Yaqut ibn Abdullah al-Hamawi in 1225. That was nearly 800 years before Likud MK Anat Berko raised the dubious assertion that “there isn’t even a ‘P’ in Arabic, meaning that the term ‘Palestine’ merits greater scrutiny.” She went on to explain that the Palestinians began to express their fabricated nationalism by means of adopting this name, “which was, in fact, being used by the Zionist movement.”
Berko’s baseless assertion provoked ridicule in the media. Yet the criticism of her at times bordered on the hypocritical, since denial of the Palestinian past of Israel is a widespread local phenomenon. The education system, the media and the tourism industry are all collaborators in the denial and omission of 1,400 years of Muslim history here.
Our history, as is well known to the majority of Israelis, abandoned the country following the Bar Kochba revolt, and reappeared only with the establishment of Petah Tikva in the late 19th century. Thus it is that precious few Israeli Jews, even among those who are well read in the Bible and the annals of the Zionist enterprise, know anything about the Fatimid, Mamluk or Seljuk periods?
Such subjects are studied by a limited circle of experts, and are considered in these parts to be about as esoteric as the history of the Aztecs. Similarly, the displays at archaeological sites in Israel underscore the short-lived Jewish past of the country (as the reader may recall, Jewish sovereignty existed over part of the land for only a few centuries, at most – if we include the kingdoms of both Israel and Judah). In many instances, strata from Muslim periods of history have been removed from the sites in order to showcase structures from periods of Jewish habitation. Crusader and Roman strata have been removed, as well. The idea is to de-emphasize periods of gentile rule.
The quote from the book by Yaqut cited above, can be found in “The Land of Israel in Arab Sources from the Middle Ages,” by Uri Tal, published (in Hebrew) two years ago by the Ben Zvi Institute. The book’s title is somewhat ironic because the sources it cites do not refer to the land in question as “Israel,” but rather as Falastin, as it is pronounced in Arabic. Nevertheless, the book is quite eye-opening, describing the wealth of villages and cities that existed in Falastin during periods of Arab rule.
In anti-BDS Move, Italy Bringing Huge Academic Delegation to Israel
Dozens of researchers and academics from the two countries will meet in 'unprecedented' response to campaign to boycott Israeli universities.
In a move that Italian officials say aims to counter calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel, Italian researchers and academics will be meeting with their counterparts in Israel this week for a series of joint conferences and other cooperative events.
A series of 10 simultaneous conferences will be held across Israel between Tuesday and Friday. Dozens of researchers will be sharing the latest discoveries in fields ranging from robotics to plastic surgery.
“It’s an unprecedented effort to respond concretely on a very delicate issue,” Francesco Talo, the Italian ambassador to Israel, told Haaretz. “We believe that research and universities should be free and open to dialogue and exchange.”
While the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in Italy has been less successful than elsewhere in the West, it has been pushing for local universities to cut ties with Israeli institutions.
Earlier this year, some 300 Italian academics signed a petition calling on Italian universities to cancel cooperation agreements with Haifa’s Technion and other Israeli universities.
“We thought that the best answer would be action: to concretely do exactly the opposite of what some people ask us to do and bring a significant number of Italian researchers and academics to Israel,” Talo told Haaretz in a telephone interview on Sunday. “Everybody is free to say what they want, but we will respond with actions.”
Rome has frequently voiced its opposition to the BDS campaign. During a visit to Israel last year, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said in a speech to the Knesset that whoever boycotts Israel “is boycotting himself” and “betraying his own future.”
New treatments for heart disease
The delegation to Israel will be the largest ever brought by Italy, including more than 60 researchers, as well as representatives of the Italian Conference of Rectors, which gathers the leaders of major Italian universities. The group will be led by Education and Science Minister Stefania Giannini.
The conferences will focus on different topics in the sciences and the humanities, including new treatments for heart disease; the use of robotics to help elderly and disabled people; the latest advances in plastic surgery; research into cures for rare diseases; bioethics, psychology and economics.
The conferences, most of which will be held in Tel Aviv, are free and open to the public, although some require registration.
On Thursday morning the entire delegation will gather at the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv, where three cooperation agreements in the fields of material sciences and biophysics between Italian and Israeli universities will be signed.
The events are meant to coincide with Italy’s national day, which falls on Thursday and will be marked with other celebrations, including the presentation in Israel of the recent Italian translation of the Talmud and a festival of Italian folk dancing in Tel Aviv.
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.722160