November 20, 2018

Coalition Crisis

When Liberman walked out of the government last Wednesday he created the biggest coalition crisis I think Netanyahu has ever faced. Both right-wing factions – Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi and Kachlon’s Kulanu demanded to go to elections ASAP. And all the pundits said elections were totally inevitable.
But Bibi dissented, and stuck to his line that elections could be avoided and should be avoided at this sensitive point to deny Hamas and its sponsors in Tehran, the satisfaction of having brought down the government of the ‘Zionist Entity’ with 400 rockets.

And by yesterday, Bibi won. Bennett conceded his claim to the defence ministry ‘or else elections’ with a very responsible statement saying: "It's better that Netanyahu beats me in a political fight than that [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh beats the State of Israel."
Netanyahu may have his faults, just like all of us. But he has proved again and again that he is a brilliant tactician. There can be few things more tortuous and exasperating than Israeli coalition politics. It’s a gorilla pen of massive egos beating their political chests, grasping for their moment of fame. But Netanyahu seems to have the deepest pockets of self-confidence and sticks it out to the end.
Netanyahu holds the record for the longest single term (his second term) of any Israeli prime minister and, if he survives until July 16, 2019, he will tie Ben-Gurion to become the longest serving prime minister in Israel's history.
In today’s Knesset, that’s achieving the impossible.

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November 14, 2018

Liberman and 'The Day After'

There is no doubt that, short of sending in troops on the ground, the IDF dealt Hamas its most lethal blows in this last round of hostilities. It will take a lot more than Qatar's $15m to rebuild and a lot more time than after previous rounds of fighting.
Yes, the average Israeli taxi driver - usually the wisest of all people in Israel - will be baying for full revenge and the total flattening of Gaza or to take the strip back completely.
Isn't that exactly what the US coalition did in Iraq? They never planned for the 'day after' and now - 15 years after the allied invasion, or 'liberation' - Iraq is a basket case of terrorism and political corruption.
There is one person who wants Hamas destroyed even more than our Israeli taxi driver. That is PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas. And he desperately wants Israeli soldiers to do his work for him, and deliver him control of the 'other part' of his so-called Palestinian State.
Our mainstream Likud has always been opposed to a Two State Solution. The plain fact is that any serious notion of a viable Palestinian State is a non-starter so long as the leadership of its two parts - Abbas in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza - are in conflict with each other. Relations are now at their bitterest point, with Abbas trying the starve Gaza of salaries and other essentials needed to maintain civic life. This is why Qatar had to come to the rescue last month. Israel is not the bad boy in this game - it is merely a bystander caught in between these two terror enclaves.
It was quite understandable that Liberman resigned in frustration at a cabinet that was preventing him from carrying out the duties of Defence Minister the way he saw fit. But in our view it is not right for him to make this an election issue. This is a time for cool heads, not elections. Nothing makes Hamas and its Iranian paymasters feel more victorious than seeing their 24-hour barrage throwing the "Zionist Entity" into disarray and toppling its government.
Unlike Liberman, living in the moment and wanting to pander to the masses with a show of force to match his physical stature, Prime Minister Netanyahu has much broader considerations in his calculus.
Firstly there is Iran, and the Trump sanctions which are literally crippling the 'ayatocracy' in Tehran. If and when the mullahs come to heel, Trump will almost certainly insist on their withdrawal from Syria and Gaza as two key demands for the removal of sanctions, over and above the imperatives of nuclear inspection. If Iran stops sending money, Hamas ceases to exist. Gazans may soon have to sell their rockets for fuel and food.
Then there is the unpublished Trump peace plan hanging in the firmament. As we have said above, the reality of a Palestinian State is a non-starter without reconciliation between Abbas's PLO and Hamas. We should not help that happen.
Beyond that there is the wider regional picture and our good relationship with Egypt's president Sisi who has significant influence over Hamas, not least in holding the keys to their vital smuggling routes. For the Hamas leadership the two top priorities are killing Jews and making money - lots of it.
And beyond Egypt there's the new relationship with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states opposed to Iran's regional hegemony. A new Gaza War may kill that nascent Israeli-Arab axis in the crib.
All this is not to say that Israel can allow Hamas to fire off hundreds of rockets and then declare a ceasefire every other month. Short of launching a war that may put another 1.7m Arabs under 'occupation', it may be wiser to move a tank division to the Gaza border and keep it permanently stationed there, ready for the army to move in at the next rocket barrage. Hamas needs to know that the IDF can and will roll in and flatten them all within a matter of hours.
The combination of such visible deterrence on the ground, plus the economic pressures coming through Iran seem to be a much smarter means of dealing with the situation than firing from the hip without a clear plan for the day after.

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November 12, 2018

Gaza is is not a city or a country ...

As we retire safely to our beds in London, Paris and New York, our brothers and sisters in Israel will have no sleep this night. 
Some will be in bomb shelters, others will be kept awake by the sound of sirens. Most will be glued to their TVs and phones. And, many parents will be packing up their sons and daughters called up by the army for deployment to the front.
Tomorrow the media will be all over the story, with the usual bias against Jews for daring to defend themselves. They will point to this or that incident which sparked the latest round of fighting - but the consensus will always be the same: "it all started when Israel retaliated".
The truth is that Gaza is is not a city or a country.
It is simply an Iranian rocket base, filled with human shields.
And make no mistake about who is fanning the flames here, in total disregard for civilian life on either side. 
It is the rabid ayatollahs in Tehran.
And right now they are desperate, wounded animals.
Trump's sanctions have all but crippled their precious Islamic Republic. Its currency is in free-fall, its cities are crippled with power cuts for large parts of the day and its citizens are without basic food and medical essentials for lack of hard currency which is being burned unceasingly as rocket propellant in Gaza, Syria and Lebanon.
Their way of getting back at the Great Satan is to unleash, through their Hamas proxies, fire and fury at Little Satan, and Israel is once again having to pay a heavy price.
There is no doubt that this amount of damage and ferocity has crossed a red line with Israel's leadership, and this time there will be no retaliation against soft targets. The vipers' nest will now have to be cleared out once and for all. The Hamas leadership must be sent to their virgins like Sheikh Ahmed Yassin - in scorched bits.
And this time, thank G-d, there will be no calls from Bush and Obama to show restraint and withdraw.

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November 04, 2018

Game set and match to the patriarchs!

This past Shabbat’s Torah reading was Chayei Sarah, in which Abraham comes to Hebron to buy a burial place for his wife Sarah. That burial place is the Cave of Machpela, in which the patriarchs and their wives are all buried, and is the second most sacred shrine in Judaism after the Temple Mount and its Western Wall.

As in most years, I spent this special Shabbat in Hebron with tens of thousands of my Jewish brothers and sisters to have the enormous privilege of hearing the Torah reading and story of the burial of Sarah in the exact place where it actually happened 3,800 years ago. If you’re looking for a means of really “earthing” yourself to Jewish history, this time and place never disappoints.

I returned to Jerusalem after Shabbat to hear of the crowd forming in Tel Aviv to mark the 23rd anniversary of the murder of Prime Minister Rabin z’l  in the same square as he had then held a rally in support of the Oslo peace accords.  Rather than ‘mark’ the anniversary, it seems the demonstration was held more to ‘politicise’ it. Failed prime ministerial aspirants like Avi Gabbay (Labour) Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) and Tzipi Livni (no fixed abode) jumped at the chance to make themselves relevant on the podium. No surprise that Hanegbi got booed while far left Meretz leader Tamar Sandberg got the biggest applause. This is after all Tel Aviv!

The biggest story the following morning was about someone who was not there. Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein. He reportedly declined to attend because a “settler in a kippa” would not be welcome to speak at such a gathering. The headlines made a meal of his comment that Rabin’s assassination had “no historical impact” on the peace process. That is of course true. The Oslo process didn’t die at Rabin Square, but collapsed 5 years later at Camp David. Israelis still live with its deadly legacy of thousands of Jewish lives ended or disabled, along with the empowerment of the PLO and the advent of Hamas.

I have a better reason why Speaker Edelstein was not in Tel Aviv. That’s because he was in Hebron, where I spoke to him Friday night in the Cave of Machpela. This is a place where settlers in a kippa are very welcome indeed. Their interest is in deepening their roots to the Jewish homeland and heritage, rather than negotiating it away to Arabs in hopes they will stop stabbing our people in the supermarkets and stop machine-gunning families by the roadside.

And whilst Rabin’s left-wing exploiters managed to garner just a few thousand in Tel Aviv, Abraham and Sarah pulled in 40,000 for Shabbat.
Game set and match to the patriarchs!

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