Friday, October 19, 2018

Israel's Gaza problem: Netanyahu just got lucky

On October 15, 2018, a news headline appeared that seemed to sum up where the almost 7-month long Gaza border fence rioting was headed: "Hamas turns Israeli border into '24/7' war zone in new bid to kidnap Israeli soldiers" (here). The story under the headline didn't say much about Hamas planning to kidnap IDF soldiers. But the context of that story was clear:  'unless Hamas backs off, Israel will hit back very, very hard'.

That could mean war. Bets are, that's exactly what it means.

By late afternoon October 18th, Israelis saw what Netanyahui had meant with those words. News reports-with photos--appeared in the press that showed Israeli tanks and other heavy equipment being transferred South to the Gaza border area. This is how Israel heard about a war build-up in the days leading to the 2014 50-day war with Gaza. It's what Israel was looking at again.

This kind of heavy military traffic on Israel's few South-bound highways isn't an everyday occurrence--at least, not to this extent. Such a large scale movement of equipment is normally no empty show-off  operation--it's too expensive for that. Normally, it means something serious. 

Now, 0930 am (Israel time) October 19th, war with Gaza seems to have suddenly been dropped from top Israel headlines. Just like that, war stories have fallen from first-ranked headlines to positions below first-in -order. 

While news for Netanyahu just four days ago wasn't  particularly good PR for him as Israel's top leader, this morning's news had him almost completely off the 'war-with-Gaza' story. He's gotten lucky. Israel's media suddenly has other things to write about. 

Note that war stories in Israel's media haven't completely disappeared. They've just dropped from, say, top-five on the banner-head, to lower positions. 

There are three new stories. While you'll have to decide for yourself which of these three stories is most important for Israel, one fact seems clear: these new stories grab everyone's attention--and give Netanyahu a break from a growing criticism over his hesitancy to act against Gaza.

The three new stories are these: 

-on October 2, 2018, a Saudi 'journalist' was apparently murdered by Saudis (?) in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey (here)--and still no one knows who did it; 

-Israel's Supreme Court has just ruled that a pro-BDS non-Israeli must  be allowed to enter Israel to study at Hebrew University for a year, notwithstanding her anti-Israel affiliations (here)--and an existing Israeli law giving the State the explicit right to ban such people; 

-the head of the anti- Israel Jewish/Israeli NGO, B'Tselem, has condemned Israel before the UN Security Council (UNSC) in a way that some in Israel say sounded more like a Hamas collaborator talking than an objective observer (here).

Here are the details of these stories, as they impact on Israeli interests:

The Saudi story has some importance to Israel because Saudi Arabia is, arguably, the most important Arab country to even hint at 'talking' with Israel on a regular basis. Israel wants this openness to continue--and to grow, not collapse. If the Saudis have indeed enticed a Saudi citizen into one of its Consulates to murder him, the US may revise its diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. The US may impose sanctions.  In theory, sanctions could impact Israel's ability to continue 'interacting' with  Saudi Arabia.  

Regarding Israel's BDS/Supreme Court story: Typically, when Israel's Supreme Court rules on the legality of, or application of, an existing law in Israel, it has a history of ignoring both legal precedence and the legal standing of the legislative or executive branches of Israel's government. Instead, the Court has often ruled only according to the personal beliefs of the judges. This dismissal of precedence and 'legal standing' angers lots of Israelis because, for some, this kind of 'dismissing'  behavior is not how a judiciary is supposed to work in a democracy.

Today's Israel Supreme Court is, in other words, very close to what some in America claim is the American Democrat Party's desire to have the US Supreme Court become--activist and Leftist; that is, a Court that drops a commitment to precedence and 'rule of law' in order to rule according to something called, 'social justice'. 

Many Israelis don't want 'social justice'. They feel that 'social justice' and democracy don't go together. 

Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in this BDS case attracts much attention, for the Court has rejected the State's case against a charged BDS-supporter (here). Specifically, the Court has ruled that the State cannot deny the defendant's right to enter Israel, despite an existing law that gives the State the right to do exactly that.

Regarding the B'Tselem story, some in Israel say that an anti-Israel presentation by B'Tselem at the UNSC hurts Israel. That presentation, some argue, validates all the anti-Israel accusations that emanate from the UN against Israel. It defames Israel. 

All of these stories, appearing on the same day, are a bonus for Netanyahu. War-with-Gaza and 'let's-criticize-Netanyahu' have, at least during breakfast this morning, lost steam for Israel's media. For a few hours at least, Netanyahu is off the  proverbial media hot-seat. For the moment, the Gaza-Netanyahu story-line has gone relatively quiet.

How long will such luck hold for Netanyahu? Hey, today's Friday. This is the day of the week Gaza fence rioting usually explodes in a violent tantrum of hate, black, acrid smoke from burning tires, explosions at the fence and fire-kites launched into Israel. 

Yes, Hamas has said it will calm things down for a few days. But will it? Yes, Israel has said it will hold back attacking Gaza if the fence riots and 'launchings' (kites and rockets) stop. But will Israel really hold back those attacks if the rioting and 'launchings' don't stop?

Stay tuned. 

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