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Haaretz columnist Reuven Pedatzur killed in traffic accident

Senior Haaretz security analyst Drץ Reuven Pedatzur was killed last night in a traffic accident on Israel’s coastal highway, emergency services said. He was 66 years old.

Reuven Pedatzur, 1948-2014. Photo by Barry Levinson (Courtesy)

Reuven Pedatzur, 1948-2014. Photo by Barry Levinson (Courtesy)

A reporter, commentator and columnist for Haaretz for almost 30 years, Dr. Reuven Pedatzur also co-hosted a military affairs program on Israel’s Army Radio, wrote for Al Monitor and contributed to many other publications at home and abroad. In a field dominated by sycophancy and regurgitation of official spins and figures, Pedatzur was known as a fiercely independent critic and a bold analyst. He was also one of the most respected civilian experts on Israeli military expenditure, a notoriously murky field jealously guarded by the defense establishment. He combined his journalistic career with an academic one, teaching at Netanya College and the National Security College, and with that of a commercial pilot, most recently flying for Israeli airline Arkia.

Pedatzur frequently took the top brass to task about their insatiable demand for funds, and regularly accused them of employing scare tactics to intimidate both the public and the civilian decision-makers. On some occasions, he did that not only in their face, but to their face. ”A few years ago, during a routine argument between the Finance Ministry and the IDF over the size of the defense budget, I showed up at the office of the chief of staff’s financial adviser with a graph on the defense budget published by the Treasury,” Pedatzur wrote in his column in 2012. “The graph clearly showed how the defense budget was growing annually. Are the figures in this chart acceptable to you in the IDF, I asked the adviser. Yes, of course, he replied. In that case, why do you say they’re cutting the budget when the figures show that it’s constantly growing? You don’t understand, the adviser scolded me, we demand a certain sum for the defense budget every year, and when they don’t approve what we requested, that’s a budget cut as far as we’re concerned. That happens every year, and this time too. The IDF requests an add-on of about NIS 4 billion, and if it doesn’t receive it, that’s a cruel budget cut.”

Over the years, Pedatzur criticized many prestigious IDF projects, especially the much-touted missile defense...

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Lapid's Passover prayer: Lord, get the Palestinians away

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, the great secular crusader, has finally found God. And he has but one thing to ask of Him. 

Finance Minister Yair  Lapid, the moderate mainstay of Netanyahu’s right-wing government, published today a long, rambling post drenched in self-pity (typical enough, on the most reassuring of Jewish holidays). The post is titled  ”A (private) Prayer for Passover,” and it contains the following paragraph:

The paragraph has been picked apart by eye rollers – Zeno didn’t live in the 16th century (this, and only this bit, was later edited out from the post), he didn’t invent the omnipotency paradox (it was probably Ibn Rushd), how exactly  several millions of people are one rock, which is also a stone, and who placed it on our collective heart.  The most chilling bit, though, is the core of the “prayer”. Lord, make the Palestinians move away somewhere. Just anywhere. Get them out of our face.

Lapid may not be intelligent, moral, strategic, erudite, principled or good at math, but there is one quality that cannot be denied to him – he is a walking, talking, writing barometer of the Israeli public mood. This is how he got his stardom, this is why he scooped up all these profile votes: because he reflects to Israelis Israelis as they wanted to see themselves. And this inane little ramble touches on the the very heart of the Israeli attitude to Palestinians: They are a nuisance.

Thomas Friedman, back in his actual reporting days in the midst of the First Intifada, had a similar insight in his book, From Beirut to Jerusalem: the rage of the Israelis against the Palestinian is the suburban middle-class rage of people who think they’re home-owners but are constantly reminded that their home is not only their own, and no, they most certainly cannot just kick their shoes off and relax. It is a violent rage (try reading comments on Israeli news sites), but it is curiously like unyielding irritation. And it makes any atrocity Israeli does to Palestinians easy to shrug off and look away from, so long as there is any hope it’ll get them to shut up.

In a way, this craving for Palestinians to shut up and eff off is why anti-normalization is actually soothing and anesthetizing to most Israelis  - we’d find it a lot more difficult to deal with a constant, inescapable inundation...

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Netanyahu gains popularity as peace talks collapse

The prime minister’s personal popularity goes up, while the Likud and Habyait Hayehudi gain seven more seats between them if elections were tomorrow. The Left loses four seats. Coalition troubles aside, ‘peace’ remains electorally toxic. 

The biggest losers from the collapse of the peace talks are the pro-peace parties, a Haaretz weekend poll suggests - a finding unlikely to delight those hoping Netanyahu would swap his hard-right coalition partners for more moderate ones.

According to the poll, conducted soon after the peace talks went into a spiral due to a cancelled prisoner release and the newly announced settlement building plans – Kerry’s “poof” moment – Netanyahu’s personal approval rating went up from 40 percent to 45 percent since mid-February. His faction, Likud-Beitenu, would get five more seats if elections were tomorrow (37 seats instead of 32 in February). Habayit Hayehudi, openly annexationist and home to Construction Minister Uri Ariel whom Kerry indirectly blamed for scuttling the peace talks, would get 15 seats instead of 12.

Read +972′s full coverage of the peace process

The main centrist block in the coalition, Yesh Atid, which neither did nor said anything of substance about the peace talks, manages to keep to the 14 seats it had in February, and the popularity of its chairman, Yair Lapid, improved a little bit from dismal to appalling (from 18 percent in February to 25 percent today). Lapid is still the most unpopular figure in Israeli politics (67 percent think he’s doing a lousy job as finance minister), with Yesh Atid continuing to be the Liberal Democrats to Netanayahu’s Tories – enablers and disposable lightning-rods.

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

If anyone thought this was an opportune moment for the opposition parties to raise the Oslo flags once more and ride triumphantly into power / join demurely at the tail of Netanyhu’s train to the White House lawn, the  slump in popularity of all the remotely pro-peace parties would suggest otherwise: “pro peace” remains the single most toxic brand in Israeli politics. Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua goes from five seats in the February poll to three today (half of the six seats...

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Im Tirtzu founder joins Liberman's party

Head of the movement that once threatened to sue Wikipedia for describing it as ‘right-wing,’ takes a senior position in one of Israel’s most right-wing parties.

Ronen Shoval, co-founder of the Im Tirtzu movement, has joined Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party to serve as the CEO of its international branch.

Shoval, who retired in January as the chairman of Im Tirtzu, will also be Liberman’s candidate in the upcoming World Zionist Congress elections. In an interview with NRG-Maariv earlier this month, Shoval said his aim was to “rejuvenate” the party and the global Zionist institutions. He also criticized the relatively neutral term “diaspora,” which he said has come to replace the more negative concept of “exile.”

Ronen Shuval, head of Im Tirtzu (Yossi Gurvitz)

Ronen Shoval, former chairman of Im Tirtzu (Yossi Gurvitz)

Although the combination of Im Tirtzu’s ideas, goals, donors and tactics place the movement firmly on the right of every imaginable spectrum, the movement has for years operated under the slogan of “bringing Zionism back to the center,” an ethos on which it built itself. The assumption propagated by Im Tirtzu was that the ideology which, by all accounts, defines every single realm of Israeli life and politics had  been ejected from the mainstream by some sort of omnipotent cabal of postmodernist academics (on a personal note, I’d love a bit of what they’ve been having). In his retirement interview in January, Shoval took pride in “giving birth to sacred cows rather than slaughtering them.”

As a result, despite spending much of its time agitating against left-wing movements and NGOs (especially the New Israel Fund) and even authoring right-wing legislation, the movement fought tooth and nail against anyone describing it as right-wing, including lawsuit threats against the Hebrew edition of Wikipedia (where readers-editors repeatedly squeezed the offending adjective into articles on the movement). This tactic culminated in a libel suit against the operators of a Facebook group that described the Im Tirtzu as “fascists.” The trial ended with the court accepting the objective truth plea of the respondents, upholding the opinions of the expert witnesses summoned by the defense, and all but officially proclaiming Im Tirtzu to be, indeed, fascist.

Shoval’s joining with Lieberman doesn’t make the movement he left behind any more or less partisan than it...

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Bennett's response to Palestinian UN bid: Annexation

The leader of the Jewish Home party asks Netanyahu to convene the cabinet and discuss the formal annexation of the settlements and 60 percent of the West Bank to Israel. ‘The peace talks are dead and I’m proposing an alternative.’

Formal annexation of all Israeli settlements, as well as selected parts of Area C of the West Bank (under full Israeli control) – this is Naftali Bennett’s response to the Palestinian bid to join 15 UN treaties and institutions. The proposal, based on the plan Bennett publicly championed before running for Knesset (outlined in the video below), claims that annexation would bring under formal Israeli rule some 400,000 settlers and “only several tens of thousands” of Palestinians. Bennett’s proposal is to offer these Palestinians Israeli citizenship, so as to preempt any claims that Israel is engaging in apartheid. It should be noted that in the status quo, Israeli civilian law is, de facto, applied to settlements and settlers wherever they go, while a Kafkaesque mixture of Israeli military, British and Ottoman laws are applied to Palestinians living in the same territories. This means that a Palestinian from the West Bank and a settler will never face the same court for the same offense.

The Minister of Economy  - and more importantly, Netanyahu’s single greatest rival on the expansionist right – outlined the proposal in a letter to the prime minister on Wednesday night, suggesting the move be put before the cabinet as early as possible. In a later interview to Ynet, Bennett was casually dismissive about the international fallout that could ensue. “In 1967 [Prime Minister] Eshkol annexed Jerusalem. In 1981 Begin annexed the Golan Heights. The sky didn’t fall,” he said, before adding cautiously that he wouldn’t tell the U.S. to leave Israel alone, but rather advise it to concentrate on other crises, like Syria.

Even though Bennett got some surprising (read: disoriented) support from former Labor stalwart Amir Peretz, who welcomed the fact that his cabinet colleague was finally willing to talk borders, the chances that the cabinet acts on his proposal is small. Netanyahu’s overall approach is easy-does-it, and pushing the Americans even further at this point won’t serve any earthly good. And this is before we even get to Bennett’s dodgy math – the numbers he presents in his proposal are highly contested.

But there are still some...

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Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dies at 85

Israel’s former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who spent the last eight years comatose after a series of strokes, died on Saturday, January 11. He was 85 years old.

Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in Tel Aviv, December 16, 2001. (Photo: Moshe Milner/GPO)

A general, politician, statesman, and to many a notorious war criminal, Ariel Sharon was known to combine dogged personal ambition with strategic acumen and ruthlessness, which together shaped one of the most controversial and remarkable careers in Israeli political history. Born in the community of Kfar Malal in 1928, Sharon joined the Haganah in the mid 1940s, and first saw action in the run-up to the 1948 War, when his unit staged raids against Arab villages around Kfar Malal. He was seriously wounded in the battle of Latrun and temporarily left the army in 1949 to study at the Hebrew University. By personal order of David Ben-Gurion, however, Sharon was recalled to military service and asked to head the newly established Unit 101.

The unit was created specifically for the purpose of retaliatory raids against Palestinian refugee guerrillas who operated across the Jordanian and Egyptian borders. As often as not, the attacks were against civilian targets, including refugee camps and villages in the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip and Jordanian-occupied West Bank. One such raid, on the village of Qibya in 1953, culminated in a massacre of 69 civilians who were gunned down as they tried to escape their homes or were buried under the rubble of detonated buildings. The public outcry was so severe that Ben-Gurion initially lied to the Israeli public, claiming the act was a spontaneous act of revenge by Jewish civilians retaliating for the death of a Jewish woman in the town of Yahud several days earlier. Internally, however, Unit 101 was highly praised and its experience and tactics were judged successful enough to make the unit the core of the new Paratroopers Battalion, of which Sharon, not yet 30 years old, took command as lieutenant-colonel.

In the Sinai War of 1956, Sharon led his brigade in a disastrous assault on Sinai’s Mitla pass, losing 38 men and earning allegations of impatience and aggression – allegations that would accompany him the rest of his career....

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British activist detained entering Israel, facing 10-year ban

Gary Spedding was detained after landing in Tel Aviv ahead of meetings with parliamentarians and activists. He says his phone was hacked and contacts extracted. 

A high-profile member of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party and a long-standing activist for human rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories, Gary Spedding, was detained on arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday and told would be deported and banned from the country for 10 years. Speaking from the airport, after being held for eight hours, Spedding told +972 that the interrogating officers hacked into his mobile phone, and copied email addresses and telephone numbers. He also said no reason for his impending deportation was given, except that he was a “liar” and a “security threat.”

“I flew in to Tel Aviv from London Luton at about 4 p.m. local time,” Spedding told +972.  ”When I got to passport control the guy asked me to step aside and wait. After about an hour, three people came and took me to a room. They questioned me and took my phone, asking for my security code. I wouldn’t give my code but agreed to type it in to show the phone was a real phone. What I didn’t realize is that somebody is standing behind me and watching me do it. My Hebrew is not very good, but good enough to pick up he was reading out the digits I was typing to the rest of the security team. ” Spedding said the security team then logged onto his mobile phone without permission and scanned through his contacts, text messages and email, copying some of the content manually onto a notepad.

“They told me they’d hold me for nine days until my return flight, so as not to have to pay for my deportation,” Spedding said. The security team questioning Spedding then changed, and one official told him a decision was made to deport him and ban him from Israel for 10 years. “I was told this was a fact, not a threat, and there was nothing neither I or my government could do,” said Spedding, who is a dual Australian and British citizen.

The activist was still being held near Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday night, and the state’s plans regarding his deportation were not immediately clear. “I’m just one guy, sitting here at Ben-Gurion, pretty tired and not feeling so good but apart from that, I’m ok,”...

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Meretz: We won't oppose annexation of Jordan Valley

Far-right politicians prefer it when their more outlandish proposed laws are shot down prudently from across the aisle. One party on the Left now tries to edge out of that role. 

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon on Monday declared that her party will no longer rescue Israel’s ruling coalition from itself, and will not vote against an annexation bill proposed by Miri Regev (Likud).

The bill, endorsed by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, would apply Israeli law to much of the Jordan Valley – effectively negating the possibility  a future Palestinian state that might share a border with any country other than Israel. Under international – and Israeli – law, the Jordan Valley is as much an occupied territory as Hebron, Jenin or East Jerusalem, successive Israeli governments have long insisted this area was of special concern – and Israelis have developed a narrative to match. Settlements in the Jordan Valley are referred to in Hebrew as “communities” and “kibbutzim,” creating the impression that they are in Israel proper. In a poll conducted two years ago, most Israelis under 20 did not even know the area was occupied.

The bill proposed by Miri Regev is unlikely to pass into law, and Galon hasn’t given up on the two-state solution: annexation would be a provocation even the apathetic second-term Obama would find impossible to swallow. When I interviewed Galon a few months ago she declined to even discuss alternatives to two states because she feared that would legitimize the one-state prospect. Like much of the center-left at the moment, Meretz seems intent on going down with the two-state ship rather than so much as be overheard considering a lifeboat.

The bill is actually meant as a statement of general intent from coalition members to the right of Netanyahu, and as a means of scoring points with their own electorate. The intention is not to wreck the negotiations so much as to rock the boat a bit. For balance, the provoacteurs and Netanyahu rely both on their own coalition partners – Livni’s Hatnua and Lapid’s Yesh Atid – and on opposition parties like Meretz to stop the boat from capsizing. This way, they can present themselves, time and again, as patriotic victims of back-stabbing lefties, while Netanyahu relies on the same lefties to spare him the need to intervene against a motion most of his own electorate would support. This...

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Woman fined $140 a day for refusing to circumcise son

Rabbinical judges in the case said they fear the effect that allowing Israeli Jews to freely decide on the ritual circumcision of their own children might have on the global debate over the issue. 

A Jewish child is circumcised in a traditional Brit Mila ceremony (Illustrative photo by

An Israeli woman is being fined NIS 500 ($140) every day for refusing to circumcise her one-year-old-son, Israel’s Channel 2 reported today. There is no sweeping legal requirement for Jews in Israel to circumcise their children, but the woman is undergoing a divorce process at the Haifa Rabbinical Court, and her husband has appealed to the court to pressure the woman into circumcising the son.

“I’ve been exposed to a lot of information about circumcision and decided not to proceed with the circumcision,” the woman told Channel 2. “I have no right to cut at his genitals and to maim him, and the court has no authority to force me to.” Her lawyer also said the rabbinical court does not have the authority to enforce the procedure, but the secular family court would. The woman went on to add she was unemployed, and cannot afford to pay the fine, which already adds up to NIS 2,500 ($700). She said her husband originally had no objections to avoiding circumcision when the child was born, but changed his mind during the divorce process.

The rabbinical judges in the case said in their decision the woman was opposing the circumcision as a means to bringing her husband back to her. They also referred explicitly to the growing debate around ritual male circumcision elsewhere in the world, and voiced their fear of the precedent that could be created by a Jewish Israeli woman allowed not to circumcise her son.

“We have witnessed for some time now public and legal struggles against the brit milah in many countries in Europe and in the United States,” the judges wrote. “The public in Israel has stood as one man [sic] against these trends, seeing them as yet another aspect of displays of anti-Semitism that must be combatted. How will the world react if even here the issue of circumcision is given to the discretion of any person, according...

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Kabbala curse cast upon 'Zochrot' founder

The curse, which places Eitan Bronstein in the powerful club of premiers Sharon and Rabin, was issued in New York and promises the activist death by’ mysterious work accident,’ as well as being devoured by ravens and foxes. 

A “Pulsa Dinura” curse was issued by a New York group against Eitan Bronstein, co-founder of “Zochrot” – an organization working for Israeli recognition of the Nakba and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Bronstein was informed of the curse by a letter incongruously printed in the playful Bradley Hand font and signed with a magic marker.

Authored by the “The Great ‘Pulsa Di Nura’ Committee” of 231 Street West, New York, the curse is addressed to the Zochrot conference that took place at the Eretz Yisrael Museum in Tel Aviv in September – although the letter misspells the venue as the “Haaretz Museum,” which might account for it taking some three months to arrive.

It condemns Bronstein to death “for conitnues [sic] incitement and actions against Zionism and Israel.” The spell, according to the letter, will be carried out within 30 days. A footnote explains it can take the shape of “Sudden illness, Car Accident, Mysterious Work Accident” – a perfectly explainable one doesn’t count, apparently – and, presumably by way of a bonus if you pay with credit card, “Free Fall from building.” Bronstein’s corpse will then be “devoured by Ravens and Foxes”.

Signing “for the Board” are J. Martinson and S. Epstein.

While the term “Pulsa Dinura” is mentioned once in the Talmud and once in the Zohar book – a canonical text of Kabbalah mysticism – it is used on both occasions as description of divine punishment against sinners, unsolicited by third persons. The use of the term as a curse is thought to have originated in various non-canonical texts dealing with Kabbalah “magic.” It has been frequently invoked in Israeli politics, most famously against prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon and against MK Ahmed Tibi.

The 2010 letter informing Tibi of the curse bears some resemblance to the Bronstein one in style and manner of delivery. Unlike the Bronstein letter, it is signed by a certain Johann Rasmunsen, but considering many believe the curse will revert upon its maker if the purported victim does not succumb to it within the year, and Tibi is still alive and well, some turnover among “the board”...

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PHOTO: French diplomat at the feet of Israeli troops

A French diplomat and several of her European colleagues were manhandled today by Israeli troops near the recently demolished village of Khirbet al-Makhul in the West Bank, Reuters said. The diplomats were accompanying a truck of tents and emergency aid supplies, and the French diplomat, Marion Castaing, was physically dragged out of the truck and thrown to the ground in disregard of her diplomatic immunity. The troops then confiscated the truck and drove it away.

A picture, below, taken by an eyewitness at the scene (who wishes to remain anonymous) and sent to The National correspondent Hugh Naylor shows Castaing lying at the feet of armed troops. Judging by the uniform, the troops belong to the paramilitary Border Police, which handles much of the grunt jobs of the occupation.

French diplomat Marion Castaing lies at the feet of Israeli troops, West Bank, 20.9.2013. (photo provided by European aid worker who wished to remain anonymous)

The diplomat herself sounds understandably livid, commenting to Reuters that “this is how international law is respected here.” There has been no official comment from the French embassy as of yet.

The IDF issued an announcement a few hours later, alleging that ” dozens of Palestinian and European activists [sic] tried to set up an illegal outpost in an area close to the community of Hemdat. The Palestinian activists threw stones at IDF forces that arrived to evict them. Three rioters who refused to be evicted and attacked the soldiers were detained, and the truck was confiscated.” A Red Cross convoy that set out for the same village was stopped and turned back on Tuesday.

The original Reuters report seems to have been filed by correspondent Noah Browning, but the byline in subsequent reprints was amended to Crispian Balmer, the Reuters bureau chief for Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Update (September 21, 12 p.m.):

The following video was uploaded by Palestinian filmmaker Enas I. al-Muthaffar. In the clip, there is no visible stone throwing or other violent activity on the side of the aid workers, diplomats or Palestinians prior to the arrests and use of stun grenades.

This article originally questioned whether the border policeman’s weapon was pointed at Castaing in the above image....

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Three men talking: Stepping away from privilege is not enough

You can practice gender awareness all you like, and it will still be incredibly easy to slip back into familiar patterns. But quietly washing your hands of it is not enough, and a dramatic renunciation can backfire. 

A few weeks ago, I took part in a discussion after a film screening at the SOAS Israel Society in London. The film concerned the Wannsee Conference, where the “final solution” was planned, and the screening was organised by a member of the society, a barrister doing his PhD at the LSE. Of those present, three were men (myself included), and six were women, including one of the principal organisers of the society, a theater student who, as we remembered much too late, had said before the discussion she’ll want to talk about Holocaust education in Israel; and another principal organiser, a history student, who, among other things, has been exploring issues of complicity and real-time denial by combatants conducting ethnic cleansing in the War of 1948.

The credits rolled, and the barrister made some introductory remarks explaining the political and legal history after the events of the film. He then opened the floor to the rest of the group. Nobody spoke, so I pitched in. The third man, a history PhD student in his forties, picked up, and the moderator rejoined him.

Fifteen minutes into the discussion, it hit me that only we men in the room were talking.

Once I realised I was part of the problem, I contended myself with withdrawing from conversation. I was hoping one of the women present would step into my space, but in reality, all I did was let the two other men seamlessly fill up that space with their own conversation. And while women did join the discussion towards the end, they still spoke considerably more briefly (even if more to the point) than the men. The fact the men were in their thirties to forties, mid-career (myself) or PhDs and most of the women were postgrad or undergrad students under 25, didn’t help either. Whenever the discussion died down and no one would say anything, I would permit myself to pitch in with a comment, assuming that someone has to say something and no one was saying anything, so I might as well. I was usually rejoined by one of the men, followed by the other, and the dynamic cheerfully resumed itself.

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Rightists say bring down the Wall, leftists say let's keep it

Noted right-wingers call to demolish the separation wall. True, they are driven by a desire for annexation, but the Left finds itself in an unseemly position – defending one of the great injustices of the occupation in the name of the distant prospect of two states. 

Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens yesterday told Ma’ariv he thinks the separation wall – which snakes its way around the West Bank and has been responsible for cutting tens of thousands of people from their livelihoods and from each other – should be torn down. “The wall is no longer of any use and it’s only doing Israel harm,” he told the website. “It’s obvious today that the separation wall [sic] is completely useless. It’s damaging Israel in the international arena and it causes hardship for the Palestinians in their day-to-day lives.” Arens, a noted hawk who has served as defense minister in three different Likud cabinets (Begin, Shamir and Netanyahu), attributed construction of the wall to hysteria rather than strategic thinking. “There was panic. When terror attacks occur almost every day, sometimes twice a day, and the Shin Bet comes to you and tells you it’s impossible to block terrorism without a wall, you get convinced. I was also convinced, but today it’s clear there is no connection between the wall and the cessation of attacks.”

The former defense minister instead attributed the slump in Palestinian political violence to IDF activity within Palestinian areas and the collaboration of Palestinian police forces, adding that “the wall is ugly. It’s like a scar on the face of the Land of Israel. There have been walls before and they fell down.” Finally, he said, “we should remember many Jews live beyond the wall,” and some fear the wall might someday become a political border.

In my mind, the last argument is the most important – both for Arens himself and for the settler politicians who rallied to his support. MK Yoni Chetboun of Habayit Hayehudi party (led by annexationist Naftali Bennett) argued to Ma’ariv that “the wall actually increases motivation for terrorism among the Palestinians by projecting a message of weakness, defensiveness and entrenchment.” Chetboun, who sits on the pivotal Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, credited the wall with a “short term” role in stopping waves of attacks, but said, “what...

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