Nahal Oz (TPS) – An Israeli army vehicle was hit by gunfire from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited troops stationed on Gaza border and inspected a recently uncovered Hamas “terror tunnel” reaching into Israeli territory.
A military vehicle was struck near Nahal Oz, an Israeli community just beyond the security fence bordering the northern Gaza Strip, the IDF announced. The vehicle suffered damage but no one was injured in the incident.
Earlier in the day, Netanyahu toured the southern area of the Gazan border accompanied by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Col. Gadi Eizenkot and inspected the Hamas tunnel uncovered by IDF forces several weeks ago. Netanyahu and Ya’alon were briefed by Gen. Eyal Zamir, Director of the Southern Command, on the most up-to-date Gaza survey findings.
“Tomorrow is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Seventy years ago we were like a leaf in the wind, with no defense force and helpless. We were slaughtered,” Netanyahu told soldiers of the 51st battalion stationed at the border. “Today we have a country and we have an army. We have the ability to defend ourselves on all fronts, both near and remote. What drives me is to secure the future of Israel and its people.”
“We are in the eye of the storm,” Netanyahu continued. “You see what’s happening. Millions are fleeing for their lives to Europe, and we have ISIS in the Golan on the other side [of the border], and ISIS here on the other side,” he said, referring to extremist forces in the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Desert.
“We are basically in the eye of the storm, and relative to the area we are the most stable, tranquil, and safest country.”
Just a few hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded a visit to the troops in the area, terrorists opened fire at IDF soldiers and vehicles operating near the Gaza Belt community of Nahal Oz, close to the security fence along Gaza’s northern border.
No soldiers were injured in the attack, but at least one military vehicle was damaged.
According to the IDF Spokesperson, soldiers from the Engineering Corps were doing routine maintenance on the security fence at the time of the attack.
The soldiers were working on a section of the fence near the Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaya – the location of one of the toughest battles fought by the IDF against Hamas during Operation Protective Edge.
Two left-leaning Israeli media outlets, Ha’aretz and Channel 10, on Monday signaled the formation of advanced negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) and Opposition Leader Itzhak Herzog (Zionist Camp a.k.a. Labor) to build a broad coalition. The talks, which have been egged on by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu), were interrupted by police investigation of Herzog over election corruption charges. Now, as it appears that the investigation is about to be concluded without a recommendation for an indictment against the son of Israel’s late president and grandson of Israel’s late Chief Rabbi, the rumors of new talks have returned to the foreground in full force—but, as we noted, mostly from the left. Is it wishful thinking or reality?
Ha’aretz on Monday framed the story as a new confrontation between Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennet and the prime minister. According to the daily, Bennett has been threatening that if Netanyahu transfers the Justice portfolio from his party’s number 2 Ayelet Shaked to an incoming Labor minister, the National Religious would depart the coalition. Bennett is quoted as having said “behind closed doors” that “we see in the Justice portfolio an essential issue, which would mean the same as changing the government’s guidelines agreement. It’s not just a personnel issue.”
Ha’aretz, which has been advocating the kicking of Bennett et al to the curb since about the time Netanyahu presented his 61-seat coalition, relishes the story which it presents as the first ultimatum made by a coalition party leader this term. That is, of course, inaccurate, not only because said ultimatum is yet to be voiced publicly, but because Haredi MK Yisrael Eichler in March voiced an actual ultimatum regarding the reversal of Netanyahu’s permissive policy regarding the Reform and Conservative in Israel.
Ha’aretz cited a “senior Likud member” who insisted that the Justice portfolio is, nevertheless, on the table, because Netanyahu is convinced that he can’t go on much longer with his tiny and fragile majority. Over the Winter Session, the PM was blackmailed by several of his members, which cost him a few key votes and ended up costing his government an arm and a leg in flying to Israel hordes of Ethiopian Christians who may or may not have Jews somewhere in their background—all because two pro-Ethiopian Likud members stayed out of the plenum when they were most needed.
But an examination of the reality in both Netanyahu’s coalition and Herzog’s opposition reveals several hurdles the two leaders may not wish to tackle, never mind jump, at this point. There’s little doubt that Bennett, whether he threatened or didn’t threaten with an ultimatum “behind closed doors” would leave the coalition in a huff over Netanyahu’s violation of the coalition guidelines. He will then join with Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu in a rightwing block that would make Netanayahu’s life miserable at every turn, and will certainly cost him a hefty chunk of the Likud base. With several Likud members already barricading themselves along the party’s rightwing wall, this could mark the beginning of the end for Bibi.
But that’s not all. Despite the fact that about a third of Labor, especially the Histadrut trade union chairman Avi Nissenkorn, are very much in favor of joining a Netanyahu government without Habayit Hayehudi, a third of the party—those MKs who don’t stand to gain portfolios or committee chairmanships—are only somewhat inclined to follow, and a third, led by Herzog’s chief opponent MK Erel Margalit, are vehemently opposed to the move and will surely vote with the opposition on most issues.
So that even if Netanyahu manages to wed Herzog, he won’t be getting much more than half his seats as a dowry. He’d be giving up a sure 8 seats and getting in return an iffy 12 to 16, with a chance for open rebellion in the Likud’s right flank.
One of the minor victories of Israeli rightwing pundits has been fueled by the gruesome holocaust taking place over the past five years in Israel’s northern neighbor, Syria. Back in April 2008, then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agrees to fully withdraw from the Golan Heights in return for peace with Syria. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad confirmed Olmert’s remarks at the time that Jerusalem and Damascus were holding talks through a third-party in an attempt to resume the negotiations between the two countries.
“There are efforts exerted in this direction,” Assad told reporters. “This is nothing new, and we have discussed this in the past.” Assad added that “Syria takes every opportunity to express its willingness to establish just and comprehensive peace in accordance with the international decisions… The criterion for the acceptance of any negotiations is that they will be held seriously and that there will be a commitment to implement the UN resolutions, particularly as the Israeli side knows very well what is acceptable and unacceptable by the Syrian side.”
What was acceptable to the Syrian ruler back then was a complete return of every last inch of the Golan Heights to Syrian control, removal of every last Jew and Jewish property from the area, and a return to the 1967 borders, when Syrian snipers ruled the lives of Israeli farmers along the eastern shores of the Kinneret.
Imagine, a long string of Israeli columnists, bloggers, Facebookers and Tweeters have been saying, if Israel had indeed returned to the 1967 border just before the scum of the Middle East — Sunni rebels, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Syrian chemical warfare operators were to crowd the basalt hills overlooking Tiberias — where would we be today?
It’s a winning argument, open and shut, other than Gideon Levi and a couple other useful idiots there really is no Israeli who would ever entertain returning the Golan Heights.
But at Foggy Bottom, where life behaves according to more sublime rules than the Jewish aspiration to stay alive, no lessons have been learned regarding the wisdom of returning Syrian murderers of whatever ilk to the hills above the Kinneret.
It began during the State Dept. Monday press briefing this week. Spokesman John Kirby was asked about the official US recognition of Syria. Essentially, the reporter wanted to know, if the US is so invested in ousting President Bashar al-Assad as a prerequisite for ending the civil war in Syria, why does it still recognize him as the legitimate sovereign of that tortured land?
The reporter asked (redacted): “Legally and diplomatically you only recognize Syria, as you have in the past. In fact, you still issue press briefings in the name of the US Embassy in Syria and so on. From time to time I see that you recognize the government of the Arab Syrian Republic. You have not recognized anyone else as exercising any kind of authority or any kind of sovereignty over any territory of Syria.
Kirby: I’m not sure I understand your question.
Reporter: My question is very simple. Do you recognize any other entity in Syria to have sovereignty over that territory?
Kirby: We recognize that there is a Syrian Government in place. We also recognize that it’s led by a dictator who continues to barrel bomb and gas his people. And the government that’s in place right now, led by Bashar al-Assad, can’t be part of the long-term future of Syria, which is why we’re doing this entire political process to begin with. It’s why so many nations have come together to try to resolve the civil war and the conflict there so that people can have a government in place that they’ve actually had a voice in putting there and that is responsive and responsible for them.
MK Yitzhak Herzog, chairman of the Zionist Camp (Labor) party and leader of the Knesset opposition, on Sunday was interrogated with a warning by the police anti-corruption unit Lahav 433 on suspicion of receiving illegal donations, failing to report donations and providing a false affidavit. The interrogation focuses on Herzog’s activity during the primaries for Labor Party Chairmanship in 2013, when he competed against incumbent chairman MK Shelly Yachimovich. The special police unit received the approval of Attorney Genral Avichai Mandelblit to pursue the interrogation.
Police want to know whether Herzog set up a parallel campaign center whose assignment was to find out and publish dirt on Yachimovich. Police suspect that Herzog funded that “dark headquarters” through copanies and business people whose interests he had served as minister of social services.
In May 1999 police investigated former prime minister Ehud Barak over alleged violations of the Party Funding Law, which later involved the interrogation with a warning of Herzog, who then served as cabinet secretary. In his interrogation Herzog maintained his right to keep silent. The prosecution eventually decided to close the case against Herzog, despite police objections. At the time Herzog was criticized severely for his conduct both during the campaign and in his interrogation by AG Elyakim Rubinstein (now Supreme Court Justice) and state prosecutor Edna Arbel (former Supreme Court Justice). But despite their rebuke, they let him get away with it.
Herzog’s office issued the statement: “Head of the opposition and chairman of the Zionist Camp MK Yitzhak Herzog arrived this morning to offer his version of events in response to a request from law enforcement officials. From the moment his investigation had been leaked, Herzog stressed and requested to be allowed to offer his version of events in order to leave the matter behind him, which he has done. Herzog has full confidence in the law enforcement officials and he is grateful for their dignified and decent conduct.”
MK Yachimovich said on Sunday that she is “convinced Herzog has the best interests of the party and the opposition on his mind.” She promised to “act in cooperation with him and with my colleagues in the party to decide what steps to take next. There is no doubt that an interrogation with a warning of the chairman of the party and the opposition makes the situation worse. I trust completely the police and law enforcement authorities.”
Last week Herzog referred to the possibility that he would be invited for an interrogation with a warning and said that the job of a leader is to “deal with crises, deal with criticism and also deal with libel.” Speaking at a ceremony of raising a glass in honor of the approaching Passover organized by MK Amir Peretz, Herzog added that “there are few leaders who have endured personal and political upheavals, absorbed nasty criticism, dealt bravely with a complex reality and still managed to carve out one of the most impressive success stories in military history ever — I believe Amir is familiar with all of the above up close.”
As defense minister, Amir Peretz endured a punishing war against Hezbollah in Lebanon and was ridiculed worldwide for looking through a pair of covered binoculars pretending to be seeing something. Eventually, though, he made his reputation as the man who dreamed up the concept of Iron Dome, the computerized defense system that allows Hamas to continue amassing and shooting rockets at Israeli civilian centers without Israel’s having to retaliate for it because few civilians are ever hurt.
Herzog told his party pals on that occasion: “You’ve followed me since I entered politics, you know my clean hands and honesty are the values in whose light I’ve walked and in which I believe. Since the announcement of the authorities’ looking into the party primaries became public knowledge, I’ve been telling all of you, publicly and personally, that this is part of the role of a leader: to also deal with libels that always rise up on the eve of elections. The job of the leader is to deal, lead and win. You elected me to lead this party and this camp towards governing and I intend to continue marching on this path, even if it is difficult and full of obstacles.”
An American Jewish man was arrested on the Temple Mount on Sunday morning after it was noticed that he was quietly murmuring a prayer, according to a TPS report. At this time it is unknown if the arrested man is an Israeli citizen or a tourist.
A second Jew was warned by the Israeli police that he would be arrested if he didn’t stop looking at the Siddur app on his cellphone. He was not arrested as he wasn’t yet praying at that point.
Prime Minister Netanyahu can relax, his status quo has been upheld.
State Dept. Spokesperson John Kirby’s daily press briefing on Thursday touched on the ominous possibility that the Obama Administration will wait until after the November election, so as not to steer Jewish votes away from the Democratic candidate, and then, in a final splash of power, just before going down from the world’s stage, blow up a landmine in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s face and support or fail to veto a UN Security Council resolution creating a Palestinian State and ordering the hasty removal of all Jewish presence on the “wrong” side of the 1967 border.
We redacted and edited the exchange to make it a tad more entertaining. But one can smell the danger hidden in the spokesman’s evasions. Barring divine intervention, the Obama gang is planning to install a Palestinian State and create facts on the ground so that the next Democrat in the White House will have to start from that point, rather than with today’s murky uncertainty.
We join the conversation that’s already in progress…
Reporter: On Security Council resolutions – will you consider either supporting or failing to veto a resolution on settlement activity in the West Bank?
Kirby: …We are very concerned about trends on the ground and we do have a sense of urgency about the two-state solution. We will consider all of our options for advancing our shared objective of lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but I’m not going to comment on a draft Security Council resolution. Okay?
Reporter: What does that mean, we do have a sense of urgency for a two-state solution?
Kirby: It means exactly what it says and what I’ve been saying from the podium here for months and months and months.
Reporter: So you see a sense of urgency to get to a two-state solution?
Kirby: Sure we do. We very much would like to see a two-state solution realized, yes.
Reporter: I don’t understand.
Kirby: I don’t know what’s not to understand about “we have a sense of urgency.”
Reporter: Well, because there’s only, like, eight months left of the Administration. … You had a sense of urgency back in 2009; you had a sense of urgency when Secretary Kerry took over in 2012.
Kirby: So as time gets shorter, we shouldn’t have a sense of urgency?
Reporter: But if you had a real sense of urgency, you would’ve done something already, right?
Kirby: We have consistently had a sense of urgency.
Reporter: Does that mean, when you say you have a sense or urgency about this, that you’re going to try to cram something in that results in a two-state solution by the end of this Administration?
Kirby: I’m not going to hypothesize on future actions, whatever we continue to do or continue to consider, I don’t know that I would say it’s about cramming. It is about trying to move forward in a productive way towards a two-state solution. And as I’ve said before, we also look to the sides to enact the right kind of leadership to get us there, because ultimately it has to be done by them.
Reporter: But you’re not automatically opposed to a UN Security Council resolution that would call for a two-state solution?
Kirby: We’re not going to comment on this informal draft resolution.
Reporter: I’m not asking you to comment on this informal one. I’m saying that if a resolution presented itself that was evenhanded, in your view – not one-sided or biased against Israel – that called for an end of settlements, called for an end of incitement, and also called for the creation of two states, would you automatically oppose?
Kirby: Well, without getting into those provisions that you listed out there and making a judgment about that, I’d go back to what I said before, and that’s we will consider all of our options for advancing a shared objective, a two-state solution.
Reporter: And that would include a resolution?
Kirby: We’ll consider all options to advance a two-state solution.
Reporter: When you spoke of urgency, did you mean that the urgency comes from the possibility that the two states [solution will go] beyond reach?
Kirby: A sense of urgency about the importance of getting to a two-state solution, which has been a consistent point that we’ve made.
Reporter: But there’s a difference between consistency and urgency.
Kirby: What’s the difference?
Reporter: Well, if it’s always urgent, then it’s never more urgent than before.
Kirby: Well, I don’t know that I’d agree with that. Sometimes something can be always urgent and consistently urgent —
Reporter: You sound like a Foreigner song. (Laughter.) … There’s a song called Urgent. Maybe you’re too young to remember —
Kirby: No, I remember that. (Laughter). I know – I remember the song. I didn’t like it.
For the record, here’s the refrain from Foreigner’s memorable ending to Urgent:
“It gets so urgent / So urgent / You know it’s urgent / I wanna tell you it’s the same for me / So oh oh urgent / Just you wait and see / How urgent our love can be / It’s urgent.
“You say it’s urgent / Make it fast, make it urgent / Do it quick, do it urgent / Gotta rush, make it urgent / Want it quick / Urgent, urgent, emergency / Urgent, urgent, emergency / Urgent, urgent, emergency / Urgent, urgent, emergency / So urgent, emergency / Emer… emer… emer… / It’s urgent.”
Reporter: There are those within the President’s party, certainly the former Secretary of State, that say that simply the venue itself is not the place to impose a solution from without. I just want to be clear that you think that, because you’re considering all of your options, you may consider the UN Security Council to be the venue to impose —
Kirby: I don’t – I’m not going to elaborate on my answer to you. I think I’d point you back to what I said before.
Reporter: Let me just follow up on this just for a second, okay? I mean, seeing how time after time you call on the Israelis to refrain from settlement activities, to cease settlement activities, you call them illegal and so on, but in fact they don’t really listen much to what you have to say. So in that case, in that situation, why not have a forum in the United Nations where the world can collectively come up with some sort of a resolution that they all agree on, which is the cessation of settlement activities? Why would you be opposed to that? Why can’t you say that you would support this at the United Nations?
Kirby: Again, I’m going to point you back to my original answer, which made it clear we’re not going to comment on a draft resolution that’s only been informally presented in New York, and that, as I said, we’ll consider all of our options to try to get to a two-state solution. So I think I’m just not going to go any further than that, Said. I know that’s not satisfying for you, but that’s really where we are right now.
(The conversation we refer to starts around min. 43:50)