Monday, June 17, 2019

Israel's fallen soldiers: a preview of what will drive the September election?

In an essay I wrote June 12, 2019 (see below), I explored the possibility that Israel might, finally, be ready to stand firm to bring home its fallen soldiers. I explored that topic because last week, Israel told Hamas that, unless the bodies of two soldiers who fell in the last Hamas-Israel war were returned, Israel would not allow a delivery of cash from Qatar to pass into Gaza (ibid).

Israel's declaration was simple: no bodies, no cash.

Yesterday, Israel media reported that Israel had failed to stand firm for these two fallen soldiers. The Qatari cash held up by Israel is no longer frozen. Instead, it appears that the cash had arrived in Gaza (here). So much for Israel's "getting tough with Hamas".

This decision to allow the cash to reach Gaza has provoked fury. Netanyahu's September 2019 election opposition was livid (here). For example, Netanyahu's, strongest opponent, Blue/White Party co-leader Benny Gantz, declared that this transfer proves that Israel's "deterrence has collapsed" (ibid). A Labor Party MK declared that Israel's policy for Hamas amounts to, "If you shoot, we'll send you more [money]" (ibid).  Meanwhile, Netanyahu's nemesis, Avgidor Liberman, said, "Explain to me something I haven't managed to understand. Anyone with a brain sees the fires ignited [by Gazans launching fire-balloons into] Gaza-area towns every single day, and in exchange $25 million dollars was passed to Hamas with Israel's approval [?]" (here).

Liberman's criticism didn't stop there. You see, Liberman wants to see Netanyahu lose the next election. Some even suggest he hates Netanyahu (here), and is currently working hard to convert that hate into a Netanyahu defeat. 

As he criticized the transfer of money to Gaza, Liberman went after Netanyahu by attacking his Right-wing support. Specifically, he asked rhetorically why Right-wing media was silent about Israel's failure to stop the transfer. He said, "Why are you almost completely ignoring the continuation of the protection money (sic) and this embarrassing surrendering to a terror organization? Where were you yesterday (Sunday, June 16, 2019) when $25 million were transferred to terrorists in Gaza?" (ibid).

He answered his own question by accusing Right-leaning media of refusing to stand up for its pro-Israel beliefs. He accused that media of acting only to protect Netanyahu. He said, "My only conclusion is that these media outlets are not ideological [promoting their beliefs] but personal... they only serve to promote the personality of one man [Netanyahu]" (ibid).

Liberman wants the pro-Israel Right to turn against Netanyahu--and indeed, many on the Right are angry about this cash transfer. It took place exactly when Hamas once again (after a brief hiatus) used Gazans to loft dozens of fire-balloons into Israel, causing many fires (here). 

Hamas, it seems, becomes more aggressive at will. In response, Israel appears to become increasingly passive. This apparent passivity doesn't make Netananyahu look strong in the eyes of Israel's Right.

Former Army Chief-of-Staff Benny Gantz, Netanyahu's main opponent in the coming September election, slammed Netanyahu for not seeking a "political" solution to Hamas (here). But many on Israel's Right (Gantz is politically Center or, according to some, Center-Left) don't want a "political solution" with Hamas because, they argue, Hamas isn't interested in such a solution: Hamas wants to destroy Israel. Period. 

Many on the Right, particularly the religious Right, believe that Israel should do unto Hamas what Hamas wants to do unto Israel. They want Israel to carpet-bomb Gaza, so as to end this non-war war for good. Netanyahu isn't doing that, so Gaza-area Israeli farms and nature preserves continue to burn.

Liberman is known for wanting a harsh approach to Hamas (see Caroline Glick here). By contrast, Netanyahu seems unwilling to go down that road. Hence, one of the greatest differences between the two men, a difference Liberman wants to exploit in order to separate Netanyahu from his base.

Right now, Netanyahu's base appears to agree with Liberman regarding Hamas. Liberman understands this. Therefore, he will attack this 'Netanyahu Hamas weakness'. 

That attack could cost Netanyahu. His natural base is growing tired of his reluctance to attack Hamas. Netanyahu's base wants what Liberman demands.

If Netanyahu isn't careful, he could lose his base. If that happens, he could lose the September election. If he loses the election, he could take the Right with him.

All the while, Israel's fallen remain in a spiritual limbo, without a proper Jewish burial, without closure for their families. Will Netanyahu pay at the ballot box for this failure?

Stay tuned. This election movie has barely begun.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Will Israel now finally stand steadfast for its fallen soldiers?

During the 50-day 2014 Israel-Hamas war, IDF soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt Oron Shaul disappeared while serving in combat. Although both soldiers' bodies were never retrieved, the IDF has concluded that both were indeed killed in action (here).  

The problem is, Israel still doesn't have possession of their bodies. Their families have never had the opportunity to give these men a proper burial. 

Hamas is mute. Contrary to International law (here), Hamas hasn't returned the bodies to Israel, despite multiple requests to do so. Hamas has refused to share anything about these soldiers (here).

To the IDF, bringing home all of its war dead is important.To Israeli citizens, it is most important. In fact, it's so important that, last year, twenty IDF soldiers who had fought in that 2014 war traveled to the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem. They carried 400 medals previously awarded to 400 IDF soldiers who had participated in the 2014 war. 

These twenty soldiers carried these medals to bring a message to Israel's Prime Minister. Their message was simple: Israel's failure to return the bodies of these slain soldiers rendered these medals "worthless" (here). 

It is perhaps true that the IDF's most emotionally significant value is that no war is over until the last soldier has been returned to his family (ibid). In this, Israel is not alone. Other countries share this value. 

Such a value is considered a "customary" international humanitarian rule: the remains of soldiers killed in combat must be returned to their families, upon request. This concept is based upon the 1949 Geneva Convention. It's been restated numerous times in subsequent International Agreements (here) . It's enshrined in International humanitarian law as ICRC Rule 114 (here). 

Civilized nations adhere to this law. Uncivilized entities don't.

It's been almost five years now since those soldiers were killed fighting Hamas. Hamas will not return their remains. 

Hamas doesn't care if it violates International humanitarian law. It says nothing about these two men--the better to torment their families (here).

According to some, Israel has had several opportunities to pressure or even threaten Hamas to return these fallen soldiers. Each time, Israel has either failed to do so, or has failed to do so for reasons not acceptable to the soldiers' families (here).

Now, at last, a news report emerges that Israel may well be ready to stand up for its fallen soldiers. Specifically, a report has surfaced that Israel will not allow Hamas to receive a scheduled payment from Qatar (reported to be $15 million USD) unless Hamas, among other things, first returns the bodies of Lt Goldin and Sgt Shaul  ("Israel has set two conditions for transfer of Qatari money to Hamas", arutzshevanewsbrief, June 11, 2019 @1531 hours).

Hamas has condemned these conditions. Hamas calls these conditions, "impossible" (ibid). Really?

Hamas is so offended by these conditions it threatens Israel to escalate its weekly Gaza border riots if the conditions are not dropped. They demand that the Qatari money be transferred with no conditions whatsoever.

Will this new attempt to bring back these men work? It might. Hamas desperately wants that Qatari money. 

Will this effort succeed?  

Israel certainly has sent a compelling message. Essentially, Israel is telling Hamas, you want that $15 million? Give us the bodies of Goldin and Shaul first.

This message is simple. It's very clear. It's about time Israel did this.

We'll see if this report is true; and if it is true, we'll certainly find out if Israel will stick to its word, and stand steadfast for its fallen.