Viser arkivet for stikkord tzipi

-Political drone attack

Uri Avnery
January 24, 2015

THERE USED to be a joke about a sadist and a masochist.

“Hit me! Beat me! Kick me!” the masochist pleads with the sadist.

The sadist smiles a cruel smile and slowly answers: “No!”

THAT, MORE or less, reflects the situation on our northern border at this moment.

Two Israeli drones have bombed (or missiled) a small Hezbollah convoy, a few miles beyond the border with Syria on the Golan heights. 12 people were killed. One was an Iranian general. One was a very young Hezbollah officer, the son of Imad Mughniyeh, a very high-ranking Hezbollah officer who was also killed by Israel, some seven years ago, in a Damascus car explosion.

The killing of the Iranian general was perhaps unintended. Seems that Israeli intelligence did not know that he, and five other Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, were in the convoy. An Israeli army officer admitted this in a roundabout way. A second officer denied the statement of the first.

He did not apologize, of course. One cannot apologize when one does not officially admit to being the perpetrator. And, of course, Israelis do not apologize. Never ever. Indeed, one far-right party in the present election has turned this into an election slogan: “No apologies!”

The intended victim of the attack was the 25-year old Jihad Mughniyeh, a junior Hezbollah officer whose only claim to fame was his family name.

IMMEDIATELY AFTER the killing, the question arose: Why? Why now? Why at all?

The Israeli-Syrian border (or, rather, cease-fire line) has been for decades the quietest border of Israel. No shooting. No incidents. Nothing.

Assad the father and Assad the son both saw to this. They were not interested in provoking Israel. After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which started with a huge Syrian surprise success and ended with a complete Syrian defeat, the Assads wanted no new adventure.

Even when Ariel Sharon attacked Lebanon in 1982, the Syrian troops stationed in Lebanon did not intervene. But since one of Sharon’s war aims was to drive the Syrians out of Lebanon, he had to open fire himself to get them involved. That adventure ended with a Syrian success.

Any intention Bashar al-Assad might ever have had to provoke Israel (and it seems that he never had any) vanished when the Syrian civil war started, more than four years ago. Both Bashar al-Assad and the various rebel factions were fully occupied with their bloody business. Israel could not interest them less.

SO WHY did Israeli drones hit a small convoy of Assad’s allies – Hezbollah and Iran? It is very unlikely that they had any aggressive intentions against Israel. Probably they were scouting the terrain in search of Syrian rebels.

The Israeli government and the army did not explain. How could they, when they did not officially admit to the action? Even unofficially, there was no hint.

But there is an elephant in the room: the Israeli elections.

We are now in the middle of the election campaign. Was there, could there be, any connection between the election campaign and the attack?

You bet!

TO SUGGEST that our leaders could order a military action to increase their chances in an election borders on treason.

Yet It has happened before. Indeed, it happened in many of our 19 election campaigns till now.

The first election took place when we were still at war. David Ben-Gurion, the war leader, won a great election victory, of course.

The second election took place during the fight against the Arab “infiltrators”, with almost daily incidents along the new borders. Who won? Ben-Gurion.

And so on. In 1981, when Menachem Begin ordered the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor, somebody dared to suggest that the action was connected with the upcoming Knesset election. This gave Begin the opportunity for one of his greatest speeches. Begin was an outstanding orator in the European (and very un-Israeli) tradition.

“Jews!” he addressed his audience, “You have known me for many years. Do you believe that I would send our gallant boys on a dangerous mission, where they could be killed or, worse – fall into the captivity of these human animals – in order to gain votes?” The crowd roared back “No!”
Even the other side played their part. The Egyptians and Syrians launched their surprise attack on Yom Kippur 1973 in the middle of the Israeli election campaign.

After the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, his heir, Shimon Peres, also faced an election campaign. During his short regency, he managed to start and lose a war. He invaded Lebanon and during the fighting a UN refugee camp was bombed by mistake. That was the end of the war and of Peres’ reign. Binyamin Netanyahu won.

WHEN LAST week’s killing was announced, the country and the army were requested to prepare for war.

Along the border, tension spread. Massive troop deployments took place. Armored brigades moved north. “Iron Dome” anti-missile batteries were positioned near the border. All the media prepared the public for instant revenge actions by Hezbollah and Iran.

That’s where the joke comes in. Netanyahu fully expected Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah chief, to bomb Galilee in retaliation. Nasrallah just smiled one of his enigmatic smiles.

Revenge? Sure. But not just now. Some other time, perhaps. Some other place, too. Maybe in Bulgaria, where Israeli tourists were killed to avenge Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination. Or even in Argentina, where the prosecutor investigating the destruction of two Israel-Jewish centers was found shot this week (by himself or by others.) The bloody attacks in Buenos Aires, 20 years ago, were attributed to Hezbollah and Iran after another Israeli action in Lebanon.

So why doesn’t Nasrallah avenge the drone action now? When you count on an enemy’s revenge action, it is very frustrating when it doesn’t come on time.

TO UNDERSTAND this, one must review the election campaign.

It is being waged by two large blocks – the right-wing led by the Likud and the center-left led by the Labor party. The left has gathered unexpected momentum by uniting Labor with Tzipi Livni’s little faction, and now, incredibly, has overtaken Likud in the polls. Aside from the two blocks there are the Orthodox and the Arab citizens, who have their own agendas.

The two main blocks sail under different flags. Likud and Co. sail under the flag of Security. The public believes that Netanyahu and his allies are more trustworthy when it comes to war and keeping our army big and powerful. The public also believes that Labor and its allies are more effective when it comes to the economy, the price of housing and such.

This means that the outcome will be decided by which side succeeds in imposing its agenda on the campaign. If the campaign comes to be dominated by the issues of war and fear, the Right will probably win. If, alternatively, the main issue is housing and the exorbitant price of cottage cheese, the Left has a chance.

This is not a matter of particularly acute perception, but of general public knowledge. Every missile launched by Hezbollah or Hamas will be a missile for Likud. Every day of quiet on the borders will be a day for Labor.

IT WAS therefore quite obvious to many Israelis that the sudden flair up on the northern border, caused by an unprovoked Israeli attack that makes no sense, was an election ploy by Netanyahu and his companions.

Many knew. But nobody dared to say so. The political parties were afraid of being seen as stabbing the army in the back. Accusing Netanyahu of risking a major war in order to win an election is a very grave matter.

The Labor party published a lame statement supporting the army. Meretz kept quiet. The Arab parties were busy with creating a united Arab list. The Orthodox couldn’t care less.

Gush Shalom, of which I am a member, prepared to publish an unequivocal accusation.

And then the silence was broken from a totally unexpected quarter.

General Galant gave an interview in which he squarely accused the government of warming up the northern border for election purposes.

Galant? Incredible!

Yoav Galant was the chief of the Southern Command during the cruel Molten Lead campaign. After that he was appointed by Netanyahu as the new army Chief of Staff. But before the appointment could be consummated Galant was accused of expropriating public village land for his palatial home and had to back out. I always considered him an out-and-out militarist.

Two weeks ago, Galant suddenly reappeared on the stage as candidate No. 2 on the list of Moshe Kahlon’s new center party with no ideology except bringing down prices.

Galant’s statement caused an outcry, and he quietly retracted it. But the deed was done. Galant had opened the gate. A horde of commentators stormed through it to spread the accusation.

The campaign may never be the same again after Galant’s gallant deed.

Uri Avnery: Who's the boss?

Uri Avnery
4.4.09

Who’s The Boss?

ON THE first day of the new Israeli government, the fog cleared: it’s a Lieberman government.

The day started with a celebration at the President’s office. All the members of this bloated government – 30 ministers and 8 deputy ministers – were dressed up in their best finery and posed for a group photo. Binyamin Netanyahu read an uninspired speech, which included the worn-out cliches that are necessary to set the world at ease: the government is committed to peace, it will negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, bla-bla-bla.

Avigdor Lieberman hurried from there to the foreign Office, for the ceremonial change of ministers. He, too, made a speech – but it was not a routine speech at all.

“Si vis pacem, para bellum – if you want peace, prepare for war,” declared the new Foreign Minister. When a diplomat quotes this ancient Roman saying, the world pays no attention to the first part, but only to the second. Coming from the mouth of the already infamous Lieberman, it was a clear threat: the new government is entering upon a path of war, not of peace.

With this sentence, Lieberman negated Netanyahu’s speech and made headlines around the world. He confirmed the worst apprehensions connected with the creation of this government.

Not content with quoting the Romans, he explained specifically why he used this motto. Concessions, he said, do not bring peace, but quite the reverse. The world respected and admired Israel when it won the Six-day war.

Two fallacies in one sentence. Returning occupied territory is not a “concession”. When a thief is compelled to return stolen property, or when a squatter vacates an apartment that does not belong to him, that is not a “concession”. And the admiration for Israel in 1967 came from a world that saw us as a little, valiant country that had stood up to mighty armies out to destroy us. But today’s Israel looks like a brutal Goliath, while the occupied Palestinians are now viewed as a David with his slingshot, fighting for his life.

With this speech, Lieberman succeeded in stirring the world, but even more in humiliating Netanyahu. He exposed the peace declarations of the new Prime Minister as nothing but soap bubbles.

However, the world (as I wrote last week) wants to be deceived. A White House spokesman announced that as far as the American administration is concerned, it is Netanyahu’s bla-bla-bla that counts, not Lieberman’s straight talking. And Hillary Clinton was not ashamed to call Lieberman and congratulate him on assuming office.

THAT WAS the first test of strength inside the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak triangle. Lieberman has demonstrated his contempt for both Netanyahu and Barak.

His political base is secure, because he is the only person who can topple the government at any moment. After the Knesset debate on the new government, only 69 members voted for it. If one adds the five Labor members who “were present but did not participate in the vote” (a voting device that is less negative than abstaining), the government has 74 votes. Meaning: without Lieberman’s 15 members, the government does not command a majority.

His speech was intended to underline this political reality. He as much as told Netanyahu: If you intend to shut me up, forget it. In fact, he held a pistol to Netanyahu’s head – in this case, it could be a German Luger Parabellum, a pistol whose name derives from the Roman saying.

The full extent of Lieberman’s Chutzpah came to the fore only an hour later. From the Foreign Office ceremony he hurried to another ritual ministerial handover, this time at the Ministry for Internal Security (formerly called the Ministry of Police).

What business did he have there? None. It is highly unusual for a minister to attend such a ceremony in another ministry. True, the new Internal Security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, belongs to Lieberman’s party, but that is not relevant. After all, he did not attend the similar ceremony at the Immigration Absorption ministry, where another member of his party was installed.

The riddle was solved the next day, when the freshly installed Foreign Minister spent seven hours in a police interrogation room, answering questions about suspected bribery, money laundering and such, in connection with huge sums that were transferred from abroad to a company that belongs to his 23 year old daughter.

That explains his presence at the police ministry ceremony. He was photographed standing next to the chiefs of the criminal investigation department. It would be hard to see his appearance there as anything other than a crude and shameless threat against those who were to interrogate him on the morrow.

His presence at the ceremony declared: I am the man who appointed the minister who is now in charge of each of your careers, for promotion or termination. And the same message went out to the judges: I have appointed the new Justice Minister, and I shall decide upon the promotion of all of you.

IT ALL reminds me of a diplomatic reception at the Egyptian embassy exactly 10 years ago. There I met most of the members of the new government which had just been formed by Ehud Barak. All of them were depressed.

Barak had done something that bordered on sadism: he had appointed every minister to the post most unsuitable for them. The gentle and polite Professor Shlomo Ben-Ami was appointed Minister of Internal Security (where he failed miserably during the October 2000 disturbances, when he failed to prevent his police from killing a dozen Arab citizens.) Yossi Beilin, a diplomat with a very fertile mind, a natural candidate for the Foreign Office, was appointed Justice Minister. And so on. In private conversations, all of them vented their bitterness against Barak.

Now Netanyahu has trumped Barak. The appointment of Lieberman as Foreign Minister borders on the insane. The appointment of Yuval Steinitz, a professor of philosophy and a personal friend of Netanyahu’s wife, Sarah, a man devoid of any economic experience whatsoever, as Minister of the Treasury, at the height of the world financial crises, crosses the border of the absurd. The appointment of the No. 2 Likud leader, Silvan Shalom, to two junior ministries has made him into a deadly enemy. The creation of a long list of new and hollow ministries, just to provide jobs to his cronies, has turned the government into a popular joke (“a Minister for Incoming Mail and a Minister for Outgoing Mail”).

BUT A government is no joke. And Lieberman is no joke. Far from it.

Already on his first day he made clear that he – he and not Netanyahu or Barak – will set the style of the new government, both because of his strong political position and his massive personal presence and provocative character.

He will maintain this government as long as it suits him and overthrow it the moment he feels that new elections will give him supreme power.

His rude and violent style is both natural and calculated. It is intended to threaten, to appeal to the most primitive types in society, to draw public attention and to assure media coverage. All these are reminiscent of other countries and other regimes. The first one to congratulate him was – not by chance – the ex-fascist Foreign Minister of Italy.

This week, earlier statements by Lieberman were quoted again and again. He once proposed bombing the huge Aswan dam, an act that would have caused a terrible Tsunami-like deluge and killed many millions of Egyptians. Another time he proposed delivering an ultimatum to the Palestinians: At 8 am we shall bomb your commercial centers, at noon your gas stations, at 2 pm your banks, and so on.

He has proposed drowning thousands of Palestinian prisoners, offering to provide the necessary buses to take them to the coast. Another time he proposed deporting 90% of the 1.2 million Arab citizens of Israel. Recently he told the President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, one of the staunchest allies of the Israeli leadership, to “go to hell”.

In the recent election campaign his official program included the demand to annul the citizenship of any Arab who did not prove his loyalty to Israel. That was also his main slogan. This, too, is reminiscent of the programs of certain parties in history.

This is coupled with an open hostility to the Israeli “elites” and everything connected with the founders of the State of Israel.

SOME PEOPLE believe that Lieberman is really not a new phenomenon at all and that he simply brings to the surface traits that were there all the time but were buried beneath a thick layer of sanctimonious hypocrisy.

What is his solution to the historic Israeli-Arab conflict? In the past, he spoke about a regime of cantons for the Palestinians. They will live in several enclaves in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which will be disconnected from each other and dominated by Israel. No Palestinian State, of course, no Arab East Jerusalem. He even proposed adding to these cantons some areas of Israel inhabited by a dense Palestinian population, whose Israeli citizenship would be revoked.

This is not so far from the ideas of Sharon, nor from those of Netanyahu, who declares that the Palestinians will “govern themselves” – of course without a state, without a currency, without control of the border crossings, without harbors and airports.

At the Foreign Office ceremony, Lieberman declared that the Annapolis agreement, which was dictated by President Bush, is invalid, and that only the “Road Map” counts. The Foreign Ministry spokesmen hurried to explain that the “Road Map” also speaks about “two states”. They forgot to remind the world that the Israeli government had “accepted” the Road Map only with 14 provisos that rob it of any content. For example: that Palestinians must “destroy the terrorist infrastructure” (What is that? Who decides?) before Israel shall make any move, including the freeze of the settlements.

(That may remind one of the rich Jew in the Shtetl, who dictated his Last Will and Testament, dividing his wealth between his relatives and friends and adding: “In case of my death, this Will shall be null and void.”)

As far as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is concerned, the controversy between Olmert and Livni on the one side and Netanyahu and Lieberman on the other is about tactics rather than strategy. The strategy of all of them is to prevent the creation of a normal, free and viable Palestinian state. Tzipi Livni was for a tactic of endless negotiations, decorated with pronouncement about peace and “two nation-states”. Not for nothing did Netanyahu mock her: You had several years to achieve agreement with the Palestinians. So why didn’t you?

This debate is not about peace, but about a “peace process”.

But in the meantime Tzipi Livni settles into her new job as the Leader of the Opposition. Her first speeches were vigorous and hard-hitting. We shall soon know if she can fill this job with content. If having to speak about peace will convince her of its value and turn her into a real alternative to the government of Lieberman and Liebermania.

Published with the permission of Uri Avnery