The problem(s) with Israel

November 20, 2014

Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Jews carry the body of Rabbi Mosheh Twersky onto a vehicle during his funeral in Jerusalem

Israel had grown accustomed to an absence of terrorist attacks in its cities: so the bloody murder of four worshippers and wounding of eight more at a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday was a shock. It illuminates the fragile, fractious state of the country, including the fact that the cabinet is riven, and may collapse soon.

Though the situation for Israel may not, in the longer term, be so bad, it’s bad now. The relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas is terrible. The two are currently at loggerheads over Palestinian claims that Israel is encroaching on the al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount: Netanyahu denies any such intent, and slammed Abbas for inciting more violent demonstrations, implying Tuesday’s murders owed something to the Palestine leader’s call for protests. No progress is possible on an agreement between the two leaders. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that “the time was not right” for further negotiations – though added that “both sides need to see that things are changing.”

Current strife is not bringing out unanimity in Israel’s government. Netanyahu alerted senior members of his Likud Party to the possibility of early elections on Monday. The governing coalition is riven with so many divisions, both of principle and of personality, that it’s hard to see how they can work together going forward.

Haaretz, the liberal daily, wrote this week that though political divisions were deep, none of the leaders of the parties in the coalition actually wanted elections – but were “galloping” towards them because of “deep suspicions, lack of faith and mutual loathing.”

The next government is unlikely to be any more solid. And the instability is exacerbated by no longer having “an American uncle” – as the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Itamar Rabinovich, said at an Oxford conference over the weekend. Relations between President Barack Obama and Netanyahu are cool at best: the journalist Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in The Atlantic last week that Obama is furious at the continuing building of settlements on Palestinian land, while Netanyahu thinks Obama doesn’t understand Middle East politics. This isn’t a schism: the United States and Israel remain allies. But there’s no proactive help.

One of the bones of contention between the two men is Iran’s nuclear capacity. Netanyahu wants complete and verified dismantlement of what he calls the “military nuclear program.” Obama, and European leaders, are willing to give concessions in exchange for commitments not to develop a weapon. If Netanyahu is right, and Iran does weaponize its nuclear program, the likelihood is that other Middle Eastern countries – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and the wealthy Gulf states – will follow suit.

And while Israel’s disagreements with the United States are serious, it also finds itself increasingly at odds with the world over its treatment of Palestinians living both within and outside of country’s borders (however they are defined).

An Israeli soldier fires a tear gas canister toward Palestinian protesters during clashes following an anti-Israel demonstration in solidarity with al-Aqsa mosque, in HebronIsrael’s image suffered badly in the summer offensive – Operation Protective Edge — it mounted on Gaza over the summer, in which over 2,000 Gazans were killed, while 68 Israeli soldiers and five civilians died. The coverage, especially on foreign television channels, concentrated on the Palestinian losses and suffering, reportedly stoking an increase in anti-Semitic incidents, especially in France.

The moral balance is still being debated hotly. Hugo Slim, a research fellow at Oxford’s Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, told the Oxford conference that both Israelis and Palestinians were fighting an “existential” conflict. Israel’s attack on the Hamas–dominated territory was in response to thousands of rockets designed to kill civilians, while Hamas used civilians under their control to  shield their rocket launchers and to “deliberately lure fire on them” because, being militarily much weaker, “they need to have impact, so require spectacle to gain global sympathy.” The Israel onslaught, however, did raise an ethical problem, said Slim: “we intuitively feel they were killing too many civilians,”  and there “were better ways” to counter the Hamas threat.

For sure, Hamas is an unyielding foe. According to the Israeli scholar at Tel Aviv University Meir Litvak, Hamas sees Israel and the Jews as eternal enemies, and the current confrontation as the continuation of a civilizational conflict going back to the inception of Islam and the Crusades. It demands the dismantling of Israel and the acceptance by Israeli Jews of Arab rule: since that is refused, violent jihad is the only option. Hamas can be defeated over and over by superior force: it can never surrender.

But John Kerry is right: things are changing, and could change further. Egypt has a terrorist problem presently much larger and more active than Israel: Hamas-affiliated groups are launching attacks in Sinai and in the western desert area, killing dozens of Egyptian police and soldiers. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, backed by Saudi Arabia, is targeting these groups, and aggressively blocking and dismantling the tunnels Hamas and other Jihadist groups in Gaza have constructed into Egypt’s Sinai region, under the short border between Gaza and Egypt. 

Egypt and Saudi have common enemies with Israel: that does not make them friends, but stops them being active enemies. Neither Iraq nor Syria, old and fierce enemies of Israel, is in any position to launch attacks. Israel has many threats in the future: a breathing space in the present.

Two things it might do in that space that could lead Israel toward a better future.

First, the Jewish state must offer truly equal rights for all citizens, which includes some 1.7 million Arabs in a total population of 8.2 million. More and more, the Arab Israelis’ most active figures turn towards radicalism, yet the majority still wish to become full Israeli citizens. Inclusion is the sensible option: hard, with deep mutual suspicion to be overcome – but it would be a real breakthrough for the state.

And then there’s the Arab Peace Plan, put up by the Saudis 12 years ago. It would trade a comprehensive peace deal with all Arab states in return for Israel’s withdrawal to the country’s 1967 borders, the acceptance of a Palestinian state and a “just solution” to the Palestinian refugee problem. The problem is likely to be defining a “just solution.” If it means the right of all Palestinians to return to the lands their families once held, Israel can’t accept that: and Israel won’t dismantle all settlements and return to 1967 borders.

But according to former Ambassador Rabinovich, the plan could and should be the basis of talks: “Israel should use it as a starting point.” In this time of turmoil, as the Arab Spring comes to a bloody end, it’s a prize which might be snatched from the flames.

 

TOP PHOTO: Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Jews carry the body of Rabbi Mosheh Twersky onto a vehicle during his funeral in Jerusalem Nov. 18, 2014. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

INSET PHOTO: An Israeli soldier fires a tear gas canister toward Palestinian protesters during clashes following an anti-Israel demonstration in solidarity with al-Aqsa mosque, in the West Bank city of Hebron Nov. 14, 2014. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

18 comments

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The apartheid state of Israel is not interested in peace. The Arab peace plan was put forward in 2002, and the Apartheid state rejected it OUTRIGHT!!! Becuase it would dismantle their racist apparatus in the West Bank and most especially East Jerusalem.

They wish to slowly but surely elimiante all of the Palestinians from East Jerusalem and its surronding areas and offer the Palestinians a banana republic, similar to the crap they offered back in 1999.

The only good thing about the future is that the Apartheid regime will not survive in the region for too long. As soon as America’s largess runs out (and it will run out sooner than you think) they will be facing too many enemies that are battle hardened and who do not give a flying F#*! about air strikes!

Posted by No_apartheid | Report as abusive

Don’t care one iota about Israel’s or anybody else in the Middle East. It is something they themselves have created and to solve. Maybe only maybe if it gets really bad I mean real bad they might have a lucid moment and recognize their stupidity. Hindsight being hindsight the whole mess has been created by the old empires of Britain, Turks and the never ending meddling for regime changes by the Americans.

You made you solve but leave us (me) out of it and make sure it doesn’t cost me money.

Posted by cynical175 | Report as abusive

Yes if only those pesky Jews were not so determined to survive it would all be so much simpler, eh?

Posted by evilhippo | Report as abusive

The only way Israel will accept peace with the Palestinians is when the US stops being their only friend in the world. When the US stops it’s military and even non-military aid, Israel will start to pay attention to the negotiations. When the US stops their support of Israel in the UN, they will become an outcast on the world stage.

Posted by bryanric | Report as abusive

I love this when the censor see comments they don’t like they just delete them. great society of free speech we live in. They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

Posted by cynical175 | Report as abusive

“But there’s no proactive help.”

Aren’t all those missiles, guns, armored vehicles, bulldozers, stun grenades, etc, etc, from the US to Israel for free?

“2,000 Gazans were killed, while 68 Israeli soldiers and five civilians died.”

They ‘Gazans’ who dies were civilians too. Many women and children. Watch your wording next time… Oh wait, you clearly did…

“The coverage, especially on foreign television channels, concentrated on the Palestinian losses and suffering, reportedly stoking an increase in anti-Semitic incidents, especially in France.”

Actually, the coverage concentrated on civilians dying, losing their homes, and watching what’s left of the world meager world destroyed. That stoked calls for justice a lot more than the exceptional, paltry cases of anti-Semitic incidents.

“Israel’s attack on the Hamas–dominated territory was in response to thousands of rockets designed to kill civilians…”

Thanks for mentioning that Israel is under investigation for war crimes for those ‘attacks.’ Great omission, add that to the growing list so far from John Lloyd.

“According to the Israeli scholar at Tel Aviv University Meir Litvak, Hamas…”

Umm, did you bring the Palestinian side into this at all? I must have missed it… But thanks for the Israeli teaching me about Hamas, I’m sure he’s not biased at all…

“Israel won’t dismantle all settlements and return to 1967 borders.”

Why should it? It has the most advanced air force in the world, is expanding settlements at record pace, almost free reigns over US Congress, and, unlike how you tried to push in your terrible article, no real threats that could impede it. Sounds like changing that status quo would be stupid.

Next time, right something thought provoking John. This is just rambling, omission filled, insightless dribble.

Posted by EastinWest | Report as abusive

Jordan is Palestine.
The real issue is Arab Anti-semitism which is only going to destroy them.

Posted by indianC | Report as abusive

Free speech comes with responsibilities!

Some people do not take responsibility seriously.

Posted by Flash1022 | Report as abusive

Reuters did not publish my remark either. So much for free speech!

Posted by No_apartheid | Report as abusive

@IndianC, I guess you are like most Americans do not have any knowledge about the facts and region.

ARABS ARE SEMITES AS WELL!!! AN ARAB CAN NEVER BE ANTI-SEMITIC!!!!!!!

Although the Arabs have a whole host of problems, which no one can deny, the fact is the Palestinians have had there land stolen from them. PERIOD!

Posted by No_apartheid | Report as abusive

What about the 200 Summit? Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The Israeli prime minister offered the Palestinian leader approximately 95% of the West Bank and the entire Gaza Strip. Arafat rejected this offer. Negotiation is a 2 way street. 95% is better than 0%.

Posted by TireOfTheLies | Report as abusive

When the world acknowledges the fact that Arab Palestinians are a made up group that wants the death of Israel and the Jews (against the teachings of their holy book ) and that until the 1960s a Palestinian was a Jew living in the area of the British Mandate then we can look at who occupied who’s land and ethnically cleansed it of the native population.

It was the completely artificial country, made up of 80% of the British Mandate (Jordan) that invaded and ethnically cleansed the area it renamed the West Bank. Jews had lived there for 3500 years under different powers.

Arafat’s efforts to overthrow the Jordanian kingdom shows he knew Jordan is Palestine.

On the other hand, Israel has tried to give the Arabs their own country 7 times, only to be turned down with violence each time. Israel has shown it can and will give up land (Sinai, Gaza, South Lebanon) always to be attacked from the “liberated” land.

Posted by Eric.Klein | Report as abusive

God gave him this land and beyond way before there was a Muhummand, so the hate mongrel muslims are occupying land that does not belong to them. Israel should deport all muslims from their state.

Posted by Auburnease | Report as abusive

I keep coming to Reuters because of reporting like these. Its now my go to site for international news and analyses after I recently parted ways with the BBC following their one shameless coverage of the Gaza war. Blatantly one sided journalism is reserved for news channels like FOX, CNN or MSNBC. Clean, raw cut journalism is what I aim for. Dare to speak the truth at all times.

Posted by Ibenzawla | Report as abusive

Nicely written and well summarized.
For a change, we have a reasonable summary.
While agreed that both sides are stoking the flames through rhetoric, another obstacle is that the PA is too chummy with Hamas. When one hears Hamas, it is Muslim Brotherhood, and Egypt is certainly finding this out the hard way.
For Abbas to make any headway in a peace process, he needs to distance from parties which are sworn to, and announce daily, a desire to destroy Israel and drive all Jews into the sea.
A thornier issue, likely to be a “make or break” element, is Jerusalem; what to do with it? Historically, before the 1967 War, the Kotel and surrounding area were used as a garbage heap by Arabs. Despite all recent conflicts, Israel has indicated much more respect for the other side.
Now, what seems really mind boggling,is how the rest of the world views Islamist radicalism and violence in this small territorial region, while the whole Mideast is in conflagration and all major parts of Europe are under daily threat of terrorist attack. When the EU’s Federica Mogherini, on a one day visit, announces that all this must stop, without offering any intelligent details.Thus the outsiders’ meddle becomes a hindrance, not a path to solution, and it is really the EU, not Abbas or Netanyahu, that appears out of touch.

Posted by gabe010 | Report as abusive

SOUTH MEDITERRANEAN POLITICS : CORRECTING SOME MISCONCEPTIONS BY WESTERN MEDIAS AND JOURNALISTS :

AT THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT MORE AND MORE WESTERN MEDIAS ARE CLAIMING, THE MAJORITY OF POPULATIONS IN THE ARAB-BERBER SOUTH MEDITERRANEAN PEOPLE , DID NOT MISS MUSLIM CONSTITUTION/ISLAMIST CONSTITUTION…FOR DECADES UNDER THE RULE OF THOSE WESTERN PUPPET ISLAMO-AUTOCRATES. AND THEY WERE NOT ALL HAPPY TO SEE ISLAMISTS/OBSCURANTISTS ACCESSING POLITICAL POWER IN THEIR COUNTRIES AS EGYPTE (ISLAMO-FASHIST GROUP BROTHERHOOD/MORSI, OR TUNISIA THE ISLAMO-FASHIST GROUP ENAHDA

AT THE TOTAL OPPOSITE, ARAB INTELLECTUALS OF THE SOUTH MEDITERRANEAN AND A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF CITIZENS, OF ALL LEVEL OF SOCIETY DID FIGHT FOR DECADES IN THIS REGION , AT LEAST AS THEY COULD, IN THE DESPERATE HOP OF TRUE DEMOCRACY . — THROUGH A SECULAR CONSTITUTION/ SEPARATION BETWEN RELIGION AND STATE, AND THE REMOVAL OF THEN WESTERN IMPOSED/SUPPORTED ISLAMO-AUTOCRATES RULERS!

THE CIA, THE FRENCH INTELLIGENCE AND THE MOSSAD DID WORK ACTIVELY, VERY CLOSELY AND FOR DECADES, WITH LOCAL SERVICES OF THOSE SOUTH MEDITERRANEAN DICTATEURS FOR SEVERAL DECADES, TO IDENTIFY, ARREST OR KIDNAP, TORTURE AND SOME TIME KILL, OR MAKE DESPAIR FOREVER, ARAB INTELLECTUAL OPPOSITION MEMBERS IN MOST COUNTRIES OF THE SOUTH MEDITERRANEAN INCLUDED EGYPTE AND TUNISIA!!!!!!! SOME OF THE VICTIMS ARE STILL IN LIFE AND MANY OF THE AGENTS TOO…— FAMILIES ARE STILL CRYING FOR THE DESPAIRED, UNTIL TODAY! SILENCED OPPONENTS OF COURSE INCLUDED SOME RACIALE AND RELIGIOUS MINORITIES OF THE SOUTH-MEDITERRANEAN.

BESIDE IN VILLAGES AND SOME VERY OLD WOMEN VERY FEW WOMEN WANTED TO WEAR THE VEIL OR LIKED THE VEIL…AND IT WAS NEVER FORBIDDEN IN ANY OF THESE COUNTRIES AS IN SOME WAY CLAIMED IN THIS DISHONEST ARTICLE.

CURRENTLY, AT THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT WESTERN JOURNALISTS WANT TO CLAIM, MILLIONS OF SECULAR ARABS AND BERBERS OF THE SOUTH MEDITERRANEAN DO WANT, SEPARATION OF STATE AND RELIGION, IN THEIR RESPECTIVE COUNTRIES. DESPITE ALL WHAT HAPPENING THEY ARE STILL HOPPING TO ACHIEVE SEPARATION BETWEEN RELIGIOUS LAWS AND STATE IN THIER COUNTRIES.
OF COURSE WESTERN CURTSIED PRO-MUSLIM CONSTITUTION ACTIVISTS, DO NOT AGREE AND FIGHT HARD AGAINST A CONSTITUTION WITHOUT BLASPHEMY OR ADULTERY LAW ETC. DO WESTERN MEDIAS AND OTHERS, WHO KNOW WHO THEY ARE, HONESTLY THINK THOSE LAWS AS BISIS OF CONSTITUTION CAN PRODUCE DEMOCRACY?

THE GENERAL STRATEGY SEEMS TO BE UNFORTUNATELY STILL THE SAME..: JUST PUT NOW, SOME PRO-WEST ISLAMIST PUPETS, (TO REPLACE THE OUTDATED ISALMO-AUTOCRATES), WE WILL HELP THE NEW DICTATORS TO , SILENCE AND OPPRESS THE INTELLECTUAL OPPOSITIONS AND OTHER SECULAR OPPONENTS WHO REFUSE TO SUBMIT AND STOP FIGHTING FOR TRUE DEMOCRACY. THEY CALL THIS “STABILITY”. UNACCEPTABLE!

NO AND NO, NO STATE ISLAM/ISALM BASED POLITICAL MOVEMENT, IN THE ARAB-BERBER SOTUHMEDITERANEAN, (WHATEVER THE BRAND OR SCHOOL), BROTHEROOD, ENAHDA, ISIL, TURKISH ISLAMIST ETC. SHOULD BE ELECTED OR MISSED.
ONLY THE TRUE DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL SYSTEM : THE SECULAR ONE CAN ALLO DEMCORACY. PEOPLE SHOULD’NT LESSEN TO LIES OF ISLAMIST MEDIAS AND PRO-MUSLIM CONSTITUTION WESTERN MEDIAS.

NO ISLAMISTS AND NO ISLAMO AUTOCRATES!

PRO-SECULAR CONSTITUTIONS ARE THOSE WHO ARE OR JUSTICE, FREEDOM, CIVIL STATE AND CONTEMPORARY PROGRES IN THE SOUTH MEDITERRANEAN

— AND IF THERE IS ANY PEOPLE IN ISRAEL WHO UNFORTUNATELY BELIEVE THIS NEW DOOR OPENING TO PROGRES, WILL BE A TREAT OR BAD FOR THEM, THEY ARE SURELY WRONG. DESPITE THEIR POSSIBLE FUTURE ACCESS TO CONTEMPORARY PROGRES, THEY WILL HAVE NO RAISON TO DEVELOP NUCLEAR OR OTHER SOPHISTICATED WEAPONS TO ATTACK ISRAEL.
AND EVERY HUMAN, ALL THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD, HAVE THE LEGITIMATE RIGHT TO ACCESS DEMOCRACY AND GLOBAL CONTEMPORARY PROGRES.

THERE IS NO QUESTION ABOUT THE HISTORICAL RIGHTS OF THE ISRAELI PEOPLE, BUT THE TWO STATES SOLUTION IS PROBABLY STILL A SOLUTION…AND POSSIBLY THE ONLY SOLUTION, AS IT SEEMS THERE IS NO OTHER SOLUTION…— WHERE PEOPLE ARE HEADING?

ALL SOUTH MEDITERRANEAN COUNTRIES/POPULATIONS/RULERS, FROM SYRIA TO MOROCCO, SHOULD START AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, TRUE SECULARIZATION OF EDUCATION SYSTEM, JUDICIARY SYSTEM AND POLITICAL SYSTEM, AS WELL AS MEDIA, TV AND RADIO, IN THE PURPOSE TO IMPROVE CULTURE AND MENTALITY OF CITIZENS AND AVOID THE WORST. LET’S ONLY HOPE IT IS NOT TOO LATE!

MUSLIM CONSTITUTIONS IN THE SOUTH MEDITERRANEAN ARE MORE TREATING TO THE NEIGHBORING ISRAEL, — AND UNDER ANY MUSLIM POLITICAL MOVEMENT…BECAUE IT WILL ALWAYS DEGENERATE TO SOMETHING ELSE. THE MACABRE “SUCCESS” OF THE WESTERN SUPPORTED TOTALITARIAN DICTATORS OF SAUDI ARABIA, CAN NEVER BE REPLICATED IN THE BERBER-ARAB SOUTH MEDITERRANEAN. NO WAY! NOT SAME PEOPLE!

FOR DECADES, THE WEST AND ISRAEL DID WHAT THEY GENERALLY WRONGLY THOUGH IT WA GOOD — BUT PEOPLE SUFFERED IN A CONSIDERABLE WAY, AND WE CAN SEE THE RESULT AND ESPECIALLY NOW AND FOR ABOUT A DECADE…WHAT IS HAPPENING… WHO CAN REALLY CLAIM SUCCES?

POSSIBLY…IF CHINA AND RUSSIA WERE INVOLVED IN THE SOUTH MEDITERRANEAN FOR ALL THOSE DECADES, THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN A CERTAIN BALANCE OF POWERS INFLUENCE IN THE REGION, AND SECULAR CONSTITUTION STATE SYSTEME WOULD PROBABLY HAVE MUH MORE CHANCE TO TAKE PLACE AT THAT TIME. THE CURRENT SITUATION OF THE SOUTH-MEDITERRANEAN WOULD BE DIFFERENT.
NOW, THIS GOAL IS MUCH MORE DIFFICULT TO ACHIEVE BY THE PRO-SECULAR CONSTITUTION/STATE, ESPECIALLY DU TO THEIR WEAKNESS… COMPARED TO ISLAMIST…AND STILL NOW IN SOME WAY…BECAUSE OF THE WEST! — AN ACHIEVEMENT ALMOST COMPROMISED!
By Johanna Chentov / NOVEMBER 22, 2014 – 5:23 / UK

Posted by Johanna-Chentov | Report as abusive

So when can we expect an article about the problem with the Palestinians?

Here are some starting points: The culture of racism, death, martyrdom and violence that characterizes its leadership and a big part of the Palestinian society, the constant incitement to murder and violence that comes from them, the (ab)use of children as soldiers and perpetuators of violence, which is the result of decades of indoctrination that keeps being intentionally ignored (at best) by the West, the illegitimate nature, functioning, and goals of UNWRA (which was created whith the only purpuse of perpetuing the conflict, which treats Palestinians separately from other refugees of the world and assigns them a unique, different status not shared by anybody else, and which receives billions of dollars from the West), its composition (most members in Gaza are from Hamas), and its role in enabling, supporting and even helping terrorists and terrorism…

BTW, Israeli Arabs have the same rights than the rest of the Israelis. How about they start to share the obligations as well?

Posted by lorenabe | Report as abusive

There are lots of morons out there that never look at the fact that there is no Muslim Democracies out there……why do so many Muslims leave there countries for the West…..???…To either have a better live or spread there religious venom……Muslim Countries do not tolerate other religions on there land……they only export they ship around the word is death…..

Posted by toywatch | Report as abusive