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.
The US Treasury added three top Hezbollah figures to its list of sanctioned individuals on Tuesday, including two members of the Lebanese Parliament and a security official responsible for coordinating between Hezbollah and Lebanon’s security agencies.
It was the first time the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control had designated a member of Lebanon’s Parliament under a sanctions list that targets those accused by Washington of providing support to terrorist organizations. Washington has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
South African fans in Cairo celebrating their team’s win over Egypt at the African Cup of Nations. Photo: Reuters / Sumaya Hisham.
Three days after South Africa stunned the world of international soccer by knocking hosts Egypt out of the 2019 African Cup of Nations, the sound of elation remains clearly detectable in the voice of the team’s Jewish midfielder, Dean Furman.
“It was a fantastic victory, just fantastic,” Furman told The Algemeiner during a break in training on Tuesday, as South Africa prepared for its crucial quarterfinal game against Nigeria, another of the continent’s toughest sides, tomorrow.
Pieter van Oordt, left, with his brother, Roger, at the Israel
For the second time in recent history, a Dutch Christian organization dedicated to supporting Israel has gone head-to-head with the government. With their family tradition of belief in Israel that preceded the state of Israel by almost one hundred years, it seems unlikely that the van Oordts are about to back down, no matter what the odds.
Last month, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy made a request from the management of the Israel Products Center (IPC) to ensure they were in compliance with regulations adopted in 2015 by the European Commission requiring products made by Jewish owned companies in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights, and sections of Jerusalem to be labeled in a manner indicating their origins.
Studies have shown that dairy cows contribute large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, caused by the organisms living in their microbiomes.
Genetically modifying cows may help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and feed world populations, a new study led by Prof. Itzhak Mizrahi of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev suggests.
“Our findings are both a major breakthrough for basic science and will have a positive impact on two major challenges facing the international community for the foreseeable future: climate change and food security,” Mizrahi said.
The decision by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi to promote Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter reflects his future political aspirations.
Incoming Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi walks out at the end of a handover ceremony where he replaces Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, Jan. 15, 2019.
Israel has its own version of Napoleon’s famous saying, “Every soldier carries a marshal’s baton in his pack.” In these parts, every general carries a prime minister’s baton — or at least that of a defense minister — in his pack
As Islamist Watch has pointed out many times before, Islam is enormously diverse – containing many competing schools of theology, schools of jurisprudence, sects, ethnicities, cultures and mysticisms. Islamism is also not a single force; it comprises dozens of (both) competing and collaborating radical ideologies.
One of the most intriguing divisions, then, within both American Islam and Islamism of late has been growing dissent over the question of liberalism.
Right after Trump’s inauguration, I ran an article about how incredibly fake the news coverage was about his inauguration. (Those reading my site know I’m not a big Trump fan, but credit where credit is due and calling fake where calling fake is due.) The media was nothing short of spectacularly fake in the news it contrived that week on CNN, the New York Times and the other major fake media, and they mostly got away with it.
It wasn’t condescension or contempt. Recent remarks by former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit reek of racism. That is the proper way to frame them, calling them anything else is letting him off easy. In its classic, formal sense, racism is when a certain social sector perceives itself as superior because of clear racial criteria. Shavit represents an updated version of racism that doesn’t require ethnicity or religion as proof of a defect – you can call it “essential racism.”
Little Napoleon Barak is going to save Israeli Democracy? What a bunch of claptrap Orwellian doublespeak.
Well let’s check out history. How well did the original Napoleon save France’s democratic revolution against the monarchy?
Hmm, if I recall he crowned himself emperor!
For years, the pundits have been telling us that Israeli democracy is in danger because of the Arab birthrate, or because of the Jewish nation-state law, or because of the debates over the powers of Israel’s High Court.
I wonder if they will recognize the danger posed by the 10 left-wing American Jewish organizations that have formed a new umbrella organization, the essential purpose of which is to undermine Israeli democracy.