Seize the day!! Do not let it pass.
The poll numbers are shifting in favor of the right wing bloc. It appears that this bloc may require only three additional mandates in order to win the election. The votes for winning are there: but they must be registered at the ballot box.
It can happen if we make it happen. That is the message of the day and should be shared widely.
Every time Benny Gantz opens his mouth, he inspires lack of confidence. A prime example (one I have alluded to before): When he refused Netanyahu’s invitation to engage in three televised debates, he charged that this invitation was simply “spin” motivated by the prime minister’s upcoming trial.
Spin? Well, it turns out that 50% of the electorate wants to see such a debate series, so that differences in policy between the candidates can be clearly put out there. Of course, that is part of the problem: Gantz does not have clear policies; he is hedging it. That might work with 20 second statements for the press but does not play well in a televised debate.
After being invited to Washington to discuss the “Deal,” he was very reluctant to come out against it (in truth, he had been co-opted). And so he said that he was in favor of applying sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria with international cooperation: Transparent political doubletalk: pretending to be for it when he knows the international community is not.
The right wing voters of Israel have a chance to decisively reject Gantz and put the right wing bloc in charge, which is as it should be.
In contrast to Gantz, Prime Minister Netanyahu has made some definitive statements regarding application of sovereignty.
Last Thursday, during a visit to Kiryat Arba, which is adjacent to Hevron, he pledged to apply sovereignty to Kiryat Arba and well as to the Jewish community of Hevron, including the Machpelah, the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
He also moved to approve provision of electricity to 12 developing outposts – often erroneously referred to as illegal, but, more accurately, unofficial. These had been built on state land, and in many instances with tacit government approval for security purposes.
And he announced that he has lifted the freeze on Givat Hamatos in eastern Jerusalem, where 3,000 homes for Jews would be built.
At the same time he announced the establishment of a new neighborhood in Har Homa (pictured), in the southeast of Jerusalem, which will add an additional 2,200 homes for Jews.
Lastly, on Tuesday, at the B’Sheva Jerusalem Conference, he announced that he would be giving the order for 3,500 housing units to be built in E1, an area adjacent to Ma’ale Adumim.
There have been charges that the prime minister could have done this sooner had he wanted to, and that this is all electioneering. But the situation is more complex than this: These are all hot-button areas.
The Arabs – and their buddies in the EU and the UN – are going to throw a major fit about sovereignty over Jewish Hevron.
There were objections to building in E1, where indeed Netanyahu had said he would build some time ago, because it blocks contiguity for a Palestinian state running from south to north (from Bethlehem to Ramallah).
There were similar issues with regard to Givat Hamatos, which will cut off the Palestinian Arab neighborhoods of Beit Safafa and Sharafat, located within the Jerusalem municipality, from Judea & Samaria.
When Har Homa was originally built, there were major protests because it was said this community would block the contiguity of a future Palestinian Arab state. Netanyahu was newly elected prime minister when he authorized building there in 1997 in the face of much protest, saying that it was necessary to protect the southern gateway to Jerusalem. Expansion of this community is not going to be received well in certain quarters.
Can Netanyahu’s word on these projects be trusted now? I believe it can, because he opted to go with Trump’s request to wait until the final map was drawn before proceeding (I’ll get to this), and that, having done so, he now depends upon unequivocal support from the Trump administration.
When making his announcement on Tuesday at the Jerusalem Conference, he declared (emphasis added):
“We have brought a presidential declaration that the United States will recognize the application of Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea and in all localities, small and large, in Judaea and Samaria.”
On Monday, the committee working on the final map met in Ariel with the prime minister. When US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was asked by a journalist about the application of sovereignty to Jewish areas of Hevron, he responded, “That’s no problem.”
No problem? What a marvellous turnabout that is.
As to that committee, it is reportedly hard at work.
The American contingent consists of US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, his adviser Aryeh Lightstone (an Orthodox rabbi and educator, pictured) and C. Scott Leith, senior adviser for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of the National Security Council.
They are working with the Israeli team: Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, acting director of the Prime Minister’s Office Ronen Peretz, and Likud Minister Yariv Levin.
This feels like a good group. They are saying that it won’t take that long for the job to be complete. But, of course, as I indicated in a recent posting, “the devil is in the details”: the areas over which Netanyahu has declared intention to apply sovereignty should be so marked on the map. I do not anticipate difficulties, but we must await final results.
My understanding is that once the map is complete, there is no need for further delay, and sovereignty would be applied in all the regions mentioned at one time.
Is this ideal? I would never pretend so. We should have sovereignty over all of Area C, at a minimum. And there should never be a Palestinian state, but rather at a maximum an autonomous Palestinian Arab region.
Yet, it is light years from anything we have achieved until now – it dispenses with the entire premise of the “’67 border” and recognizes Jewish rights in Judaea and Samaria. It is also light years from what would happen if Blue & White were to take the reins of government. To move forward on this, we must have a right wing bloc at Israel’s helm.
On Sunday, two Gazan terrorists, who the IDF later identified as being associated with Islamic Jihad, attempted to place a high powered explosive at the Gaza security fence near Khan Yunis. Members of the IDF Kfir Brigade moved in to respond. One terrorist was shot dead and the other badly wounded.
Gazans attempted to retrieve the body, but our army would not permit this: It is now Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s firm policy – which I applaud – to hold on to the corpses of all terrorists, to use as bargaining chips in our efforts to secure the return bodies of our two soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, held by Hamas.
An IDF commander in the field, whose actions Bennett later supported, sent an armored bulldozer, guarded by a tank, into the buffer zone on the Gazan side of the fence in order to retrieve the body.
Protests erupted in the streets calling for revenge, and by Sunday afternoon, Islamic Jihad had launched 20 rockets into Israel; 10 were taken out by Iron Dome and the rest fell in open fields. A number of Gaza border communities were in range of these rockets, in Shaar HaNegev Regional Council district, the Eshkol Regional Council district, the city of Sderot, the city of Ashkelon, and the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council district.
There were no casualties and no property damaged.
On Sunday evening, the IDF responded with seriousness: Inside of Gaza, dozens of Islamic Jihad sites were hit. In Rafah, underground infrastructures used to store raw materials for rocket production were attacked. Additionally, the Khan Yunis headquarters of Islamic Jihad was hit.
But more significant, I believe, is the fact that the IDF also attacked an Islamic Jihad site on the outskirts of Damascus. This was a first attack outside of Gaza; it is a location for weapons development.
During this attack, two members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and four members of Iranian militias were killed.
This, however, did not achieve quiet. On Monday morning, Prime Minister Netanyahu told Radio Jerusalem that a “large scale military operation” in Gaza may be unavoidable. “War is a last resort, but there may be no escape from it. We’ve prepared a radically different campaign.”
He let it be known that we would continue until there was quiet.
“I have a message for the heads of the terrorist organizations. If quiet is not restored – you are next in line…We are continuing to strike now with jets, tanks and helicopters.”
Later in the day on Monday, Islamic Jihad declared that its military goal had been reached and sought a ceasefire via Egypt. Israel was skeptical, however, as the rockets continued to fly.
At about 11 PM, an uneasy ceasefire appeared to take effect, and within the next 24 hours life gradually returned to normal in the South. For now.
I wish to make several observations about a very complex situation:
Islamic Jihad was in control here, not Hamas. The idea that Hamas can be held responsible for everything that happens in Gaza is a myth, however it may be promoted.
Of the two terror organizations, Islamic Jihad, promoted directly by Iran, is by far the more militant. While Hamas has not become genuinely moderate by any means, at the moment it seeks quiet. Intelligence has it that Hamas leaders are feeling sufficiently shaky so that they are not looking for a conflict that might bring them down.
And so here we have the true schizoid nature of this situation: While we were bombing IJ, we were also negotiating a long term truce with Hamas, and arranging for money from Qatar to go in.
If “quiet for quiet” works for the moment, I accept it, with unease. But I am opposed to a “long term” deal with a totally unreliable Hamas.
It is my opinion, and that of many others, that there is too much talk. Don’t tell us, when the time is right, show us! Instead we get all sorts of inflated warnings. Not long ago, Netanyahu declared that the leaders in Gaza were wrong if they thought we wouldn’t go to war before the election. But that is clearly the case: do we want people unable to get to the polls for the third election in a year because rockets are flying?
And all those descriptions of what awaits IJ: a radically different campaign, a new approach that will totally change things. Part of this feels like saber rattling, part may have to do with the election, of course. It is not clear that it has any effect on IJ.
Bennett has spoken a good deal about timing, about hitting them not when they want us to go to war, but when we want to. We will not attack Gaza when everything is quiet. We will only do it defensively when we have been attacked, and so at some level they are setting the agenda via provocation. But we avoid being manipulated if we declare, right now is not the time, which is what we have just done
On Tuesday Bennett made a statement to the Jerusalem Post that may be significant:
“I have come to the conclusion that there is a 95% chance…that we will have to launch a large campaign to restart Gaza” in the near future.
“We are ready and the plans have been formulated with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the military. We will give one very last chance to the terrorists to maintain quiet, but I don’t believe them. They are liars, murderers, and we are going to have to act. It’s always a last resort to go to war. But this time it will be on our terms with our timing and a very clear vision of the day after.”
He further said he wanted Hamas to have a “painful spring,” which indicates a fairly immediate time frame.
This campaign, he warned, would be “totally different” from past campaigns, and once Gaza was “reset,” there would be years of quiet. He is eager to deliver this to the long-suffering people of the South.