Now that the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike has ended, safely reelected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can move forward with an arrangement with Hamas.
Demonstrators take part in a rally marking Prisoners Day and calling for the release of jailed Palestinians held by Israel, Gaza City, Gaza, April 17, 2019.
The Hamas prisoner hunger strike came to an end April 15, and each side can view the agreement as an achievement. Israel agreed to install public phones in the prisons. The phone conversations will be monitored, thus allowing the prisoners to talk to family members, while maintaining the cell-phone jamming that prevents the use of phones smuggled into the prisons.
It all began in January with the controversial decision of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to clamp down on high-security prisoners. A pilot program began one month later in two prisons, Ketziot and Ramon, to jam cellular signals. The Shin Bet did not oppose the very logical step to prevent the prisoners from using smuggled cell phones, but felt that the timing was off: Israel was in the throes of an election campaign and also trying to reach an arrangement in Gaza. Members of Israel’s security system felt that while the minister’s actions were perhaps warranted, they were unwise at that point in time: Smuggled cell phones did not constitute a security threat to the State of Israel. The Shin Bet will never acknowledge it publicly, but we can assume that most of the cell phones smuggled into prisons are known to the security system. (There are evidently only several dozen of them.) The phones remained the only option for prisoners to maintain contact with family members after Israel stopped all family visits from Gaza to the prisons.
While trying to end the hunger strike, Israel held indirect negotiations with the perpetrators of the cruelest and most appalling terror attacks carried out in the country. For instance, Israel negotiated indirectly with Mohammed Arman, sentenced to 36 life terms for his part in planning a long list of attacks in Israel. Arman also heads the prisoner leadership.
Head of Hamas’ political bureau Ismail Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza April 16 that he maintains direct communication with another Hamas prisoner leader, Abbas al-Sayyid. Sayyid planned the infamous terrorist attack in the Park Hotel in Netanya , one of harshest attacks in Israel during the second intifada that led the Israel Defense Forces to conduct the Defensive Shield operation in the West Bank. Haniyeh revealed that UN emissary to the Middle East Nikolay Mladenov was in the room while he spoke with Sayyid. Israel intercepted the conversation and promptly send prisoner Sayyid to solitary confinement.
Haniyeh added an interesting detail when he revealed that the agreement that emerged was a package deal connected to an arrangement in Gaza that is slated to be implemented in the very near future. According to Haniyeh, if Israel had not acceded to the prisoners’ demands, the whole agreement would have blown up. Thus, the prison leaders and the wider Palestinian leadership feel that the hunger strike had its intended effect, forcing Israel to give in to their demands. Only after the agreement was achieved at the end of the secret negotiations did it emerge that these talks had been conducted by the Shin Bet under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal supervision — kept secret to avoid arousing anger on the eve of Israel’s elections. Mladenov was tasked with transmitting messages between the parties while providing an international umbrella for the agreement. The goal was to end the hunger strike before Prisoners Day, April 18, and avert escalation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Netanyahu has been determined to reach an arrangement in the Strip for quite some time, even during Israel’s tense election campaign when he faced accusations from both the right and the left that he was paying “protection money” to Hamas in allowing Qatar to transfer Gaza aid money. Many accused him of giving in to Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, who terrorized the Israeli south, but throughout, Netanyahu remained steadfast. “I don’t launch unnecessary wars,” Netanyahu explained before the elections. He maintained this stance following the missiles launched at Israel’s central Tel Aviv-Dan region even when a home in the Sharon was hit. Then came the prisoners’ strike, an unforeseen complication at the time, when Erdan opened yet another front at a very inconvenient point that also demanded the direct involvement of the prime minister.
Notably, Erdan was not one of the decision-makers regarding an agreement with the prisoners, even though he was involved in concocting the sticky situation to begin with. And even though it was Netanyahu who managed the crisis, Erdan can also present the agreement that was reached as a victory. After all, everyone agrees that public telephones are much better than smuggled cell phones.
Netanyahu, though he was preoccupied with his political survival and fought for every vote, simultaneously dealt with putting out security-related fires. He hoped to achieve a quiet front in Gaza by promising Hamas that he’d tend to the arrangement after the elections. He was thus able to end the prisoners’ hunger strike without looking like he capitulated to their demands. Another reason for his success was that Hamas also understood that it wasn’t a good time to start a conflict with Israel. The Hamas leaders must have been satisfied by Netanyahu’s victory in the elections. They had waited patiently and now the arrangement is ready to be carried out and the prisoners have access to telephones. They could not have hoped for a better outcome.
A Hamas source who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity said that the pressure on the movement’s leaders, especially on Sinwar (who views himself as a father figure to the prisoners), to resolve the issue was extremely strong. The source added that Israel agreed to free several hundred prisoners whose terms of incarceration are almost up and other prisoners sentenced to short terms, but not prisoners with Jewish blood on their hands. This message was delivered via Egyptian mediators involved in the talks. Their expected release as a goodwill gesture during Ramadan is designed to create a positive atmosphere for a wider deal: the return of the bodies of soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin as well as two Israeli captives held by Hamas in Gaza.
Netanyahu wants to finalize the arrangement details even before his new government is sworn in so he can nip any opposition in the bud. He also needs silence the hawks in his coming government and let them expend their energy in another direction — such as the US president’s “deal of the century” that waits around the corner.
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
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The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
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One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
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Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.