Thursday, January 5

Elor Azaria, the Israeli Soldier - a Hero or Criminal?

The biggest military trial in Israel’s history has ended with a verdict. Sgt. Elor Azaria has been found guilty of manslaughter in a Military Court, on 4th January 2017. The verdict was surrounded by much controversy in Israel and it has shown up the divisions in Israeli society. The verdict is a reasonable verdict, and is just short of cold blooded murder.

It was a trial overshadowed by politics and many members of the ruling government coalition expressed support for the convicted soldier right throughout the trial for the purpose of scoring populist points with the electorate. It was wrong and unjustifiable for the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to even contact the parents of Elor Azaria to express his sympathy. This was obviously a populist move to rabble rouse the right wing in order to increase support for his coalition.
 
Elor was filmed by B’tzelem shooting a prone Palestinian terrorist, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, who had stabbed a fellow soldier before being neutralized. About 11 minutes after al-Sharif was lying neutralized on the ground, Azaria decided to take revenge for the stabbing of a fellow soldier by shooting a bullet into the terrorist’s head. Despite Azaria’s claims that he felt that his life (Azaria’s) was endangered by the fact that the terrorist may have explosives and endangered the lives of fellow soldiers. Apart from that, is there any logic shooting a prone terrorist who may have an explosive vest as Elor claimed in his trial? If this was the case, he should have warned his fellow soldiers that their lives were endangered before shooting.

The attitude towards the shooting of the terrorist by Elor Azaria by the previous Minister of Defense, Moshe Yaalon, had cost him his portfolio.

The presiding judge, Col. Maya Heller, unraveled version after version of Azaria’s testimony, and claim after claim made by his attorneys. Her ruling was unequivocal, and had the backing of the other judges on the military court panel. One of them, Lt. Col. Yaron Sitbon, is a combat officer who today commands the army’s anti-terror unit. The only plausible conclusion is that the prosecution’s charge of manslaughter against Azaria was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The result was the violent reaction of the crowd outside the military court. It was so disgraceful and all the extreme right wing scumbags started chanting threatening the judge, press and TV of influencing the verdict as well as the IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot. All the racist scum arrived from all over the country to demonstrate and to support the convicted soldier. La Familia of Betar Soccer Club, Jerusalem, extreme right wing supporters of the Late Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach movement, Benzi Gopstein the leader of Lehava, Baruch Marzel (who shook Elor’s hand after he shot the terrorist). To this extremist right wing, racist rabble, Elor Azaria is a hero, who was wrongly convicted of manslaughter. He was saving his fellow soldiers from being stabbed by the prone terrorist. The reaction of the Government Coalition to this hate rhetoric from the demonstrators was relatively mild.

The IDF orders of firing a weapon is for neutralizing those who endanger the lives of others. Many Palestinian terrorists were killed in their stabbing sprees against innocent civilians in order to save lives. Nobody, apart from Palestinian terrorist groups and their pundits, condemn the use of firearms to kill terrorists in action. This was not the case of Elor Azaria, whose act was nothing but an act of vengeance as was proved by the military court.

Despite that, many Israelis believe that Azaria is a hero and did what was required of him in order to save lives. Even Israel’s cabinet members, PM Netanyahu, Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have expressed views that Elor should be pardoned for what he did. Even on the so-called left, Shelly Yachimovich has expressed the populist view of pardoning Elor Azaria. It would have been prudent of them not to comment or get involved apart from stating that they accept the court judgment and allow matters to take their course according to the law of the land without political involvement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he supports a pardon for Sergeant Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier convicted of shooting and killing a Palestinian attacker who had been disarmed and was lying on the ground.1

Killing a shackled prisoner, neutralized terrorist, or any criminal in custody is an offense and this case is no different. IDF Protocol is very specific about when to fire a weapon. The right wing extremists accuse those who agree with IDF protocol on using a firearm as being treacherous. They seem to have a bloodlust.


The hype surrounding the Elor Azaria case and its political overtones have done much harm to the IDF, democracy and freedom of the courts that also ensures the freedom of all Israelis. The demonstration of the rabble rousing scum outside the military court has done nothing but harmed Israel. 


Saturday, December 31

John Kerry's Departing Speech

After having heard John Kerry’s speech as objectively as possible, I concluded  that it was NOT anti Israel but anti settlement in the occupied territories. He viewed the settlements as an impediment to the Two-State solution.


Kerry laid out his vision for a Two State Solution and its advantages for peace on both sides. Many Palestinians and Israelis, as well as the Arab League, have stated that they would accept a two-state solution based on 1949 Armistice Agreements, more commonly referred to as the "1967 borders" [1 ]
Only a biased person can interpret the speech as hostile to Israel. He made a number of salient points, which were obvious and could be accepted by reasonable minded people. Kerry is one of the few diplomats in the Obama Administration that has knowledge of the conflict. He has been involved in trying to facilitate talks between Israel and the Palestinians under Obama’s tenure for many years. Unfortunately his efforts had failed for a number reasons, some of which are mentioned later in this article.


He is aware of the pitfalls and the severe problems involved. There was no hostility to Israel in Kerry’s delivery although one can sense a tinge of disillusionment and failure in achieving the goal of a Two State Solution. He saw the settlements as holes as in Swiss cheese that render the Two State Solution not viable.


He criticized the Israeli Government for this situation making the Two State solution impossible to achieve. A One State Solution would be bad for both parties and would only increase violence between both sides as well as threatening Israel’s democracy. He admitted that Israel has the most right wing Government in its history. The speech was a speech of disillusionment that spelt out doom if the Two State solution is abandoned.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled broad guidelines Wednesday for an eventual peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, warning that a two-state solution to the conflict is in "serious jeopardy." [2]


The speech spelt out dangers for both peoples because of the settlements and their expansion by the Israeli Government.


Kerry failed to enlarge on the reasons why negotiations failed.There are no partners for peace negotiations. The Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas has its hands tied by Hamas, who is against any form of negotiation with Israel. They view Israel as occupied territory since its establishment.  If Abbas signs a peace treaty with Israel it will be “off with his head” as in Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, (published 1865), The Queen of Hearts shrieks the phrase several times in the story - in fact she doesn't say a great deal else:
The players all played at once without waiting for turns, quarrelling all the while, and fighting for the hedgehogs; and in a very short time the Queen was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting' Off with his head!' or 'Off with her head!' about once in a minute.
Apart from that, all that Abbas can do is to utter hostile rhetoric against Israel on its intransigence. By doing this, he can drum up support against Israel and thus save his own skin by not signing any peace treaty with Israel.


Meanwhile both Hamas and the PA are raking in the cash from foreign donations for the Palestinians into their leaderships’ foreign bank accounts. They plead poverty blaming Israel for its intransigence and lack of progress while they themselves are becoming wealthy under the occupation. This is their livelihood. The eternal negotiator since the Madrid Conference of 1991, Saeb Erekat, is a professional negotiator and not doing badly out of it financially.


John Kerry seems to be devoid of reality and this reflects in his departure speech. He said the right things that are true and really indisputable. He condemned terror in general terms as if it's the settlements that promote it.


Even if there were no settlements in the occupied territory as was the case prior to the June 1967 War, an excuse will be found as it was then to destroy Israel. The problem between Israel and the Palestinians is existential. One needs to read the hate propaganda against Israel even before the Six Day War of 1967 to understand that. The Palestinian education system is full of anti-Israel hate as well as being anti-Semitic. The conflict is not only about land but about religion as well. In this respect, Daesh and Hamas share similar goals. It is unfortunate that Kerry did not touch on this subject in his speech as it really is the root course of the conflict. The settlements in the occupied territories is an added factor of course but the basic hate for Israel even existed before the occupation.


Businesses also play a vital role in sustaining the settlements, thereby facilitating and benefiting from Israel's violation of the international law prohibition on an occupying power transferring its civilian population into occupied territory and contributing to Israel's discrimination against Palestinians in the West Bank. [3]


Israel under PMs Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak, and Yitzhak Rabin did make serious attempts at peace, including land swaps, which the Palestinian leadership rejected. It is a pity that Kerry did not mention these. The freezing of settlement activity by PM Netanyahu for 10 months on November 25th 2009 was cosmetic and can be taken with a pinch of salt. The Palestinians were zig -zagging all the time by disagreeing with every Israeli proposal that Kerry avoided mentioning in his speech. He failed to recognize that the Palestinians do not recognize Israel's right to exist. It was all a show over the years. If they did, progress could have been made and even land swaps initiated to end the occupation and achieve a solution. This is the cold reality. Now with Hamas involved in Palestinian Street, the emphasis on non recognition of Israel is even more blatant. Now we have a dangerous stalemate, which will lead to more violence between Israel and the Palestinians with the Two-State solution receding from reality.


It is no use crying over spilt milk, but had there not been settlements established after 1967 and had Israel declared these occupied territories a closed military zone totally settlement free, Israel would not have been accused of colonizing territories and its credibility would be high as well as gaining world support as was the case prior to 1967. The occupied territories would be held as a trump (not to be confused with US President-Elect Donald Trump) card for a true peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians. The world would have pressurized the Arab countries and the Palestinians to make peace with Israel and the Two-State Solution would have had a chance of becoming a reality.


Rightly or wrongly, world support is always against the conqueror and for the conquered. The Palestinians are viewed as the conquered.

All that remains is to see how President-elect, Donald Trump will handle the situation and if he will stick to his pledge of being more settler-friendly. This is the last great hope of PM Netanyahu after he had been spraying invective against those who voted against the settlements and the US, who had abstained in UN Security Council Assembly.



Tuesday, December 27

Netanyahu in Vengeance Mode

The 15 members of the UN Security Council had voted. 14 countries voted for Resolution 2334 condemning the settlements and their expansion while the US abstained, allowing the resolution to be passed.

PM Netayahu in "vengeance mode"
The reaction of PM Benjamin Netanyahu was hysterical, vengeful, lacking in logic, and unnecessary. He is behaving like a spoilt child who did not get what he wanted - the US veto on the resolution.

Netanyahu and his team had lobbied the members of the Security Council, many of whom are close friends of Israel, not to support the resolution but failed. He is unable to come to terms with the fact that the world does not support the building of settlements in the occupied territories nor their expansion. THIS RESOLUTION IS NOT AGAINST ISRAEL as Netanyahu is trying to convey to the Israeli public in order to woo the extreme right into his camp from Naftali Bennett’s extreme right wing Bayit Hayehudi Party. Apart from that, building settlements contravenes International Law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Israel has built 145official settlements and about 100 unofficial settlement “outposts” and permitted 560,000 Jewish citizens to move to East Jerusalem and the West Bank (as of early 2013). [1]1

 Even the Israeli Supreme Court accepts that settlement building and expansion in occupied territory is illegal. This is the reason why the Amona settlement is destined to be disbanded by an Israeli Court decision.

Netanyahu is calling in ambassadors of the various countries for a reprimand. Jerusalem. (CNN) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned the US ambassador and launched a scathing attack Sunday on the Obama administration after its refusal to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel's settlements in the West Bank. [1] He is also threatening Senegal with sanctions. Poor Senegal! I guess paranoiac Bibi feels that Senegal is a threat to Israel’s existence. He behaves as if the world wants to destroy Israel and he is firing from every corner like a spoilt child who does not get what he wants.

East Jerusalem and with it all the holy sites including the holiest Jewish site - the Western Wall - is also considered occupied territory according to International Law. Ouch! This is a problem and a real hot potato. Perhaps East Jerusalem should have been given special status allowing free access to all faiths to pray at their respective holy sites unhindered under international control rather than Israeli control until such time as East Jerusalem’s final status is resolved by negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Both the EU and the UN, even though they still refer to the Corpus Separatum Plan, speak about an Occupied East Jerusalem and envision a two-state-solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian State and West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. [2]

Meanwhile Netanyahu’s paranoid, hysterical ranting and raving against the UN Security Council members will strengthen BDS as well as the Palestinian standpoint and this could also ignite more terrorist acts against Israel.

There is really nothing new in Resolution 2334. It has been the US standpoint for many years. In fact, this resolution has also condemned Palestinian violence and rhetoric against Israel as well as Palestinian terrorist activity. (See link to Resolution 2334 at the beginning of this post)

Under the present circumstances, there does not seem to be any light at the end of the long tunnel of intransigence as far as negotiations between the two parties are concerned. While there is a total stalemate between the two parties to negotiate a settlement in order to arrive at the Two State solution, the status quo will continue. While Israel faces constant terror attacks from the Palestinians, including lone wolf stabbing, car ramming and general suicide terror, there is no way that Israel will ever withdraw from the territories and leave a vacuum as the US did in Iraq in 2003 after the demise of Saddam Hussein. This resulted in ISIS terror all over the Middle East. If an highly unlikely unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank and the uprooting of illegal settlements occurs there would be chaos and bloodshed that Hamas and its Jihadist allies would initiate against Jews and non-Muslims. The scenario will be a nightmare!

There is nothing that could be an alternative to direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to end the conflict as well as the occupation.

The vengeful mode of PM Netanyahu will not solve anything. His only hope to maintain this mode is to wait until President-Elect Donald Trump takes over from President Back Obama on 20th January 2017 in the hope that he and his team will propose a resolution cancelling Resolution 2334. The chance of this happening is very remote.


1.                 

                   1.        http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/25/politics/israel-un-settlements-netanyahu-ambassadors/. Accessed 27 Dec. 2016.


3.                 
                          2   http://www.kas.de/palaestinensische-gebiete/en/pages/11509/. Accessed 27 Dec. 2016

Saturday, December 24

Outgoing President Obama's "Parting Shot" at Israel



A U.N. Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlement construction in areas Palestinians want for an independent state was delayed Thursday, hours after President-elect Donald Trump, several other prominent Republicans and Israel slammed the motion and called on the Obama administration to veto it. [1]

The U.N. Security Council on Friday passed a resolution demanding that Israel cease Jewish settlement activity on Palestinian territory in a unanimous vote that passed when the United States abstained rather than using its veto as it has reliably done in the past.[2]

On Friday, in a dramatic departure from longstanding US practice, Barack Obama's government stepped aside and allowed the UN Security Council to censure Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a violation of international law.[3]



The international community considers the establishment of Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories illegal under international law.[1][2][3][4][5] Israel maintains that they are consistent with international law[6] because it does not agree that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the territories occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War.[7] The United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice and the High Contracting Parties to the Convention have all affirmed that the Fourth Geneva Convention does apply.[8][9]

The passing of this resolution was a great disappointment for PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his team. They seem to take for granted that the US will automatically veto any anti- Israel resolutions drawn up in the UNSC. This time it just did not happen.

Many Israeli pundits view this as a “parting shot of vengeance” against Israel from outgoing President Barack Obama, whose dislike for PM Benjamin Netanyahu is no secret. All those who PM Netanyahu had regarded as close friends of Israel in the Security Council supported the anti-settlement resolution, which they viewed as a large obstacle to the Two-State Solution. Israel will re-assess its ties with the United Nations following the adoption by the Security Council of a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday [4]. The fact that the Jewish settlements in the West Bank are expanding as well as the establishment of new settlements is destroying the Two-State Solution. This is what the Security Council members believe. This reflects the worldview on the Two-State Solution.

Having mentioned this, we must bear in mind that while this is true, and it was not in Israel’s long term interests to encourage Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas occupied soon after the Six Day War of June !967. It was a war that was thrust onto Israel by Egypt, Jordan and Syria with the objective of destroying Israel. It was not a war against the occupation as there was no occupation. They regarded Israel’s establishment as the occupation since 1948. The memories of UN Security Council members are short and possibly non-existent. Israel’s biggest mistake in the aftermath of the Six Day War was the encouragement of settlements in the areas occupied. The neighboring Arab States never, recognized Israel’s right to exist and this had nothing to do with the occupation of territory after the war. Perhaps Israel should have declared the areas occupied after the war a closed military zone (and not an area for Jewish settlement) for the purpose of using these occupied areas as a bargaining chip for negotiations for peace and recognition of Israel’s right to exist leading up to a peace treaty. However the Arab countries were never prepared to recognize Israel’s right to exist whether they had occupied territory or not as was proved in the years from 1948 until June 1967.

The biggest problem for Israel is an existential one and this has been the case since its establishment in 1948. Now that facts have been created on the ground and there are over 400 000 settlers, many of whom are second and third generation Israelis who have grown up in the occupied territories and forcing them to move out is just not a practical option. How can it be achieved, especially when there are no partners and the peace process has become moribund? The scenario for an end to the the occupation without peace partners and with Hamas, ISIS and Jihadist extremists on Israel’s doorstep coupled with the general instability and slaughter in Syria and Lebanon..We all wish that the occupation would end. The occupation is unacceptable morally. Unfortunately, the reality is different and if the occupation goes, the alternative for both Israel and the Palestinians will be far worse. The conflict has become more radical and the element of religion has become part of the conflict which is not only a dispute over land. We must also take into account the various players, including the Islamist terrorist groups such as Hamas, ISIS (Daesh), Salafis, Islamic Jihad and others. The right wing Jewish terrorist movements are also a factor that cannot be overlooked. This resolution that was passed on 23rd December 2016 by an overwhelming vote in the UNSC is not a realistic resolution and under the present circumstances is not feasible. Boycotting Israeli settlements in the occupied territories will not change the situation on the ground for the better as Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, especially the former by their own admittance, want to see Israel destroyed.



The basic thinking of the Security Council members in supporting a Two State Solution is morally justifiable but it is not practical for the reasons mentioned in this article. The big question is how to negotiate the end of the occupation and with whom. Unfortunately as circumstances are today nobody - certainly not the US and the UNSC members, have any answers or solutions. This resolution against the settlements in the occupied territories is an exercise in futility and naivety and will achieve nothing apart from elevating the ego of the Palestinian Leadership against Israel.