We spent the last two nights sleeping in the “safe room” of our suburban Tel Aviv apartment, woken up a couple of times by rocket alert sirens. As I am typing this, I hear Iron Dome intercept booms.
You can ask Mrs. Arbel: when this latest round of rocket fire and internal violence started, I predicted it would give Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu another lease on political life. Now just an hour ago, the Times of Israel reports that Yamina leader Naftali Bennett has bolted from the attempts by center-left Yair Lapid to assemble a “change coalition”, and instead has reached a deal with acting PM Netanyahu and with Ra`am leader Mansour Abbas to back direct election of the PM. In exchange, Bennett and his secular #2, Ayelet Shaked, will get reserved spots on the Likud slate and be given the Defense and Foreign portfolios. (A Channel 1 talking head claimed Bennett was finally convinced by Shaked none of his electorate would follow him into a Lapid government.)
In contrast, New Hope, Gideon Saar’s “Likud without Bibi” faction, reaffirmed they will not join a Netanyahu-led coalition.
Rocket fire continues, with HamAss claiming its latest creation can reach Eilat (!), though that may well be empty bluster, Yesterday, in the town of Sderot bordering the Gaza Strip, a rocket appears to have penetrated the metal hatch and window of a safe-room, and killed a 5-year old boy inside. Yes, over a thousand missiles fored at “the Zionist enemy” achieving deaths of several fellow Arabs, an Indian nurse, and a five-year old boy. I would not insult the insane by calling HamAss insane.
Most worrying is the spiraling violence in mixed Jewish-Arab towns. It began with Arab mobs torching synagogues and attacking Jewish civilians for the crime of being Jewish; then our own crabgrass started acting in kind and now it’s going both ways. (Some of these appear to be out-of-town agitators.) Politicians across the spectrum have condemned the violence and many have expressed anguish, up to and including the head of state, President Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin.
“Like everyone, I watched with deep shock, a heavy heart and great anger the violent and unrestrained disturbances that claimed lives, generated mental anguish, and set alight restaurants and houses of prayer. People’s homes were pelted with rocks, synagogues were torched, people were beaten with barbaric cruelty. I remembered the days when, as a child in Jerusalem, we dreamed of the day when we would have a sovereign state, an Israeli government, an Israeli army, an Israeli police force, with a system of Israeli law and justice. The violent disturbances we saw yesterday are a genuine threat to Israeli sovereignty. We must not allow it – even through silence – but must speak out clearly to commit to the rule of law in Israel, and to our shared existence. We must not allow extremists to set the tone. We must not allow violence to triumph. We represent the moderate majority, Jews and Arabs, who have lived here together for 73 years and want to continue to live together in the State of Israel, a Jewish and democratic, democratic and Jewish state that is committed to the security, welfare and prosperity of all its people. All of them!” https://www.jpost.com/arab-israeli-conflict/rivlin-appeals-to-arab-and-jewish-leadership-amid-rising-tensions-668118
Rivlin made the point that extremists are the only ones who benefit from their brutality, while ordinary citizens pay the price.
“Extremists are the only ones who benefit from their brutality, while ordinary citizens pay the price.”
Police forces seem overwhelmed, but reject offers to deploy the army as “the soldiers have no experience in policing civilians”. Border Police (literally Border Guard, Mishmar HaGvul) is technically part of the IDF but has some features of a paramilitary police force like the Marechaussee in the Netherlands, the Gendarmerie in France, or the Carabinieri in Italy. Netanyahu mulls the use of ma`atzar minhali, administrative detention.
Is the fabric of Jewish-Arab coexistence fraying? In fields like healthcare, you do find solid coexistence — people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds share a unifying purpose. The COVID19 epidemic saw Jewish and Arab doctors and nurses work together more closely than ever, as I could see with my own eyes.
There are other sectors like that. And some towns have a long tradition of Jewish-Arab mostly-peaceful coexistence. But there is endemic violent crime in many Arab towns — in fact, one of the Ra`am [United Arab List]’s program points was combating it. I suspect many of the participants in lynch mobs would otherwise be out on the streets enforcing the protection rackets of their gangs, instead of directing their evil energies toward more ‘respectable’ nationalistic random mob violence.
An elder statesman at work remarked sardonically “nigmar ha-corona, chozerim la-shigra” (COVID is over, we’re going back to routine)… 😉
ADDENDUM: here is a good backgrounder on the Sheikh Jarraḥ eviction dispute. The Supreme Court, in its capacity as court of final instance, have now postponed their decision — wisely, in light of the passions around it. But the bottom line is: this was an excuse, not a reason.
ADDENDUM 2: more on the Sheikh Jarrach story, from Tovah Lazaroff in the Jerusalem Post, who is trying to see a human-interest story from the perspective of the residents themselves. My own summary and analysis in a nutshell: the land was owned by two Jewish organizations before the War of Independence. After East Jerusalem came under Jordanian occupation (1948-1967), the Jordanians expropriated the Jewish owners and made the land state property. They then offered a small group of Arab refugees the chance to build small homes there, in exchange for relinquishing their refugee benefits. Crucially (see previous link), the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan remained owner of the land — had they transferred title to the Arab families, both Israeli real estate law and extensive jurisprudence would have favored the families.
After Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War, the original Jewish ownership was restored, but the owners chose to let the matter lay quiet. Recently, a foundation dedicated to settling Jews in East Jerusalem bought the title off the original owners, and started eviction proceedings on the ground that land tenancy fees had not been paid. On the flip side, the owners had the status of ‘protected tenants’ —- even ordinary eviction proceedings are difficult here, the law favoring the tenants (friends of mine went through the seven fires of Hell, as we saw here, to evict their deadbeat [Jewish] longtime tenants), but this is enormously more the cases for protected tenants. The case has been tied up in Israel’s court system for years, and finally reached our Supreme Court. The latter is widely perceived as both leftist and activist: it is reasonable to say that if any plausible legal grounds existed for upholding tenancy, the court would find in the tenants’ favor. The ruling was to have been made public last Monday, but alternate PM of the caretaker government, Benny Gantz, in his capacity as Justice Minister, requested and obtained a delay from the Supreme Court until after the unrest would die down.
ADDENDUM 3: Chief Police commissioner Yaacov “Kobi” Shabbat directly accuses Kahanist MK Itamar Ben-Gvir of traveling around with a group of rabble-rousers to fan the flames every time the police seem to be getting unrest under control. The bizarre maneuver engineered by Netanyahu [to induce a joint electoral list between Smotrich’s and Ben-Gvir’s so they could together clear the 4 MKs electoral threshold] seems to be another exercise in the law of unintended consequences. [And that’s the most polite thing I can saw about it.]
ADDENDUM 4: MEMRI (an Arab- and Farsi-language media monitoring group) translates remarks by a senior Iranian aerospace type claiming they exported designs and know-how for the new HamAss missile types. Subtracting the inevitable bluster, you see what a toxic presence the Mullahs’ regime is in this region.