Benny Gantz, Israel’s Reluctant Warrior, Takes Aim at Netanyahu’s Post, The New York Times
David Halbfinger reports, “He kept quiet for months, his poll numbers creeping up against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Benny Gantz, a former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces who is offering himself up as a savior to the opposition, is finally making some noise.
In three hypermacho new campaign videos, Mr. Gantz, a three-star general who fought two wars in Gaza, flaunts the numbers of ‘terrorists killed’ and ‘targets destroyed.’….Yet in a fourth ad, Mr. Gantz drops the warmongering and picks up an olive branch. ‘There’s no shame in striving for peace,’ he says, as former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s photo appears — daring to utter a word that Israeli politicians have long avoided for fear of being branded weak or naïve.”
“Israel has approved the transfer of $15 million from Qatar to the Gaza Strip. The money is expected to be distributed at the end of the week. An envoy from Qatar, Mohammad Al- Emadi, arrived in Israel on Wednesday to make preparations for the transfer. The transfer was delayed for more than two weeks following an escalation along Israel’s border with Gaza. Emadi was to have left for Gaza early on Thursday. According to a source involved in discussions of the matter, all security cabinet members except for Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin (Likud) supported the move. The beginning of the funds transfer was expected to take place on Thursday, but it is to be distributed to officials in Gaza only on Friday afternoon, at the time when protesters gather near the border fence. Israel believes that Hamas would not put the transfer of the funds at risk and will therefore act robustly to prevent violence at the demonstrations.”
Barak Ravid reports, “Israeli officials tell me they have asked the Trump administration to amend a law that would essentially end aid for the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, who have a cooperation program with Israel that many believe has provided stability to the West Bank….An Israeli security official told me: ‘If the law doesn’t change and no solution is found, it could be a deadly blow to the security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians. This will harm a top priority Israeli national security interest.’”
“A new road in the West Bank that separates Palestinian and Israeli drivers was closed by protesters on Wednesday, before they were dispersed by Israeli police deploying teargas and stun grenades. Route 4370 is dubbed the ‘apartheid road’ by some campaigners because of its 8-metre dividing wall of concrete and metal. The western side of the road is principally for Israelis, and the eastern side principally for Palestinians. The road, which opened earlier this month, allows residents of Jewish settlements in the West Bank to reach Jerusalem faster than if they had to pass through the congested Hizma checkpoint north of the city.”
At least 50 Americans were killed by extremists in 2018, according to a report published on Wednesday by the Anti-Defamation League. The report noted that in each and every one of the 17 incidents involved, the killers were affiliated with right-wing groups, in most cases white supremacy movements. At least 16 of the victims, representing one-third of the total, were Jewish – 11 of them shot at a Pittsburgh synagogue in late October and five of them at a mass shooting at a Florida high school in February.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced a torrent of criticism from the opposition on Wednesday, with legislators blaming his public confirmation of Israeli airstrikes in Syria for Russia’s call for Israel to halt such actions, and claiming the prime minister’s actions were guided by political considerations. The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier Israel should stop its “arbitrary” strikes in Syrian territory. It warned that such strikes encourage an “atmosphere of hostility in the region” and warned of the “possible consequences of provoking a new round of chaos in the Middle East.”
“An international conference in Poland next month that the Donald Trump administration had intended to showcase global unity and resolve to isolate Iran is instead highlighting wariness among US allies. European allies are scrambling for excuses to send lower-level diplomats instead of their foreign ministers to the Feb. 13-14 Warsaw conference and also are looking for ways to dilute the agenda while not outright snubbing the United States, European sources said. Meanwhile, the US envoy to the UN insisted this week that the Ministerial to Promote Peace and Stability in the Middle East was not intended to be a forum to demonize Iran.”
The 16-year-old Jewish minor suspected in the October murder of a Palestinian woman in the West Bank was formally charged with manslaughter on Thursday. The charges come one day after a court was told that the DNA the Jewish minor was found on the rock that hit her car and caused her death.
Judah Ari Gross reports, “The cash transfer is, not surprisingly, a deeply divisive issue within Israeli society, especially as campaigning for the April elections is in full swing. The timing of the matter has turned it from a primarily security-focused, cost-benefit analysis to a question of political realities and optics….Former head of the Shin Bet security service and Yesh Atid parliamentarian Yaakov Peri told Army Radio on Wednesday that withholding the funds raised the chances of renewed clashes in Gaza….In Gaza, Hamas is increasingly feeling pressure domestically as the humanitarian conditions there deteriorate, with the pace of the decline increasing in recent months due to an ongoing, ugly feud with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.”
Josh Leifer writes, “Jewish progressives today face several serious challenges. We must be patient enough to work through, and when necessary correct, our partners’ misconceptions or misunderstandings, without allowing the difficulty of that work to shake our dedication to the causes we care about and or our commitment to the organizations to which we have devoted countless hours. We must continue to combat anti-Semitism in progressive spaces, whenever it rears its head, while refusing to allow the cynical conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism to drive a wedge between us and our activist partners. We must become comfortable with being uncomfortable, for we have been thrust into a deeply uncomfortable position – spoken for by unelected institutional leaders who often don’t have our best interests at heart.”
“Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, aka ‘Tommy Robinson,’ is one of the most prominent anti-Muslim activists in the world. A political adviser to a right-wing British party, he is the founder and former chair of a far-right Islamophobic group….According to a recent investigation by The Guardian, Robinson is being bankrolled by a nexus of international organizations. Many of those groups, it turns out, are part of the American right-wing infrastructure supporting the Israeli cause. The Philadelphia-based think tank Middle East Forum is one of the British extremist’s biggest sponsors. Daniel Pipes, MEF’s president, confirmed to The Times of Israel that his group has spent roughly $60,000 on three demonstrations defending Robinson’s legal trial.”