Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a ceremony of the unveiling of a new monument to the victims of the 1948 Altalena incident, at Nachalat Yitzhak cemetery in Tel Aviv. October 27, 2016.

The Arab world is watching a “civil war” in Israel in the shadow of its ongoing political division. After the elections in the shadow of the growing split between the left and the right and the protest against the incoming government, the Arab world sees another Altalena Affair coming.

(The Altalena Affair was an incident in 1948 when a civil war almost broke out in Israel between feuding Israeli military groups after Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion ordered the sinking of the cargo Altalena. He gave the order because it carried arms for a military group known as the Irgun which was led by his political rival Menachem Begin. Begin, in response, gave the order to not fight back, thus avoiding a civil war.)


Interviews and articles in the Arab media refer to post-election Israel in the shadow of internal division and calls of protest on the left side of the map, alongside the strengthening of its right side and assess that “Israel is facing internal disintegration and even civil war.”

The articles show a picture of a weak, disintegrating and divided Israel after the elections, a country facing the fall of the elites and the emigration of liberal publics from its territories, and suffering from “gaps that are created between one army, the first Israel, a second army, the second Israel, and the lack of consensus around the IDF.”

The articles state that “the strengthening of the right in Israel alongside the disintegration of the left are currently shaping the image of the new Israel.”

One article published by the “Al Mayadin” website, which is close to Hezbollah, raised the question “Will Altalena return to anchor off the coast of Jaffa” and estimates that “there are signs that herald an internal civil war.”

The author, Muhammad El Halsa wrote, “The IDF is losing its prestige and training in the Israeli public, due to the fact that it is now subject to criticism from within government circles and not from marginal circles and is wading through a political minefield.”

The issue of the Civil Administration and the Israel Defense Forces also proves that the IDF is no longer above politics, claims the author of the article and explains, “This is the result of the fact that the wealthy and secular elite families send their sons to the cyber units for economic reasons, while Middle Eastern (Sephardic), religious and traditional families send their sons to the fighting field units and now demand to use force against the Arabs.”

“The IDF’s shock was caused by the fact that it always believed that it was above politics, being the “people’s army,” but in practice the symbol of consensus is already approaching a crossroads and signs of rebellion are increasing among its soldiers.”

The article explains “Israel is breaking away from the consensus around the IDF and is at a crossroads and if it fails to stop the internal disintegration, we may see the smoke of Altalena rising above the shores of Tel Aviv.”

An article on the “Al Hora” channel, which operates from the US, referred to Jordan’s situation under the existential threat from the new Israeli government and states that “Israel is changing its face while the elites from the left are declining.”

“A current that combines religiosity and nationalism has moved from the edges of the Israeli map to the center. The right is more ‘right’ and only the remnants of the left are still looking for crumbs on the tables of the right,” states Al Hora.

“The conflict in Israel is reaching a boiling point while the opposition is escalating its steps and calling for millions of demonstrations and a revolt against the Netanyahu government” wrote independent Arab newspaper, “El Rai El Yom” and adds “the obsession with division and the collapse of the Hebrew state dominates the thinking of the leaders in Israel, following the coalition agreements.”

“It may be a coincidence that the ghost of the civil war is returning to Israel, but it is already routine for politicians to use terms like internal division, and it is getting worse every year.”

An article in the Jordanian Al Aad stated, “The unprecedented situation in Israel is manifested in the speed with which political opinions in the country have changed and in the deepening of divisions. Conservatism in Israel is on the rise and the demography of the settlements guarantees the future of the right in Israel, also as a result of the conflicts in the cities involved and the enmity between Israelis and Palestinians since the second intifada.”

On the other hand, MK Matans Shahada from Balad wrote on the Arab 48 website, a few days ago, “The results of the last elections in Israel put what is left of the liberal Zionist left in a dead end. This left remained silent and resigned to the general atmosphere, and did not oppose, for example, the Nationality Law and adopted the Ehud Barak’s approach, according to which there is no partner for peace.”

In conclusion, the media discourse in the Arab world often reflects a lack of understanding of the rules of the game in Israel and a longing for a reality that is not there, as well as an avoidance of the need to deal with Arab weakness and self-criticism. The criticism against the left in Israel today should be seen as a desire to justify the struggle on the way to the collapse of the Zionist vision, but alongside these, it is important for Israel to understand the way in which it is perceived in the wild “neighborhood.”


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Baruch reports on Arab affairs for TPS.