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Is Abbas serious about freezing security coordination with Israel?

Will Palestinian security forces open fire on Israeli soldiers who raid Palestinian cities? Is the PA still going to hand over the names of wanted Palestinians? Or is it all a bluff?

By Menachem Klein

At a time when there is no peace process and Israel continues building settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination with Israel is gnawing away at public support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The current crisis over Al-Aqsa Mosque has brought things to a boiling point, such that Abbas simply cannot allow himself to continue the security coordination — or at least had to announce that he is suspending it it.

Let us assume for a moment that Abbas’s announcement was cynical, and was driven by his lack of support among the Palestinian public, and that in reality the security coordination is continuing unabated. That would align with Abbas’s modus operandi of doing everything he can to prevent the type anarchy that reigned during the Second Intifada, for which Palestinian society paid a heavy price.

If it was indeed insincere, such a proclamation by Abbas could be dangerous: he risks being seen as a fraud and untrustworthy. For Abbas, this is one of the main things that differentiates him from his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. In the eyes of his supporters in the PA and outside it, as well as among the Israeli security establishment and the West, Abbas is seen as an honest figure. Arafat, on the other hand, was viewed as manipulative. A complete loss of trust in Abbas could also carry a high price for Palestinian society. He could lose the support of a third of the Palestinian public, which according to recent polls, still supports him.

Thus Abbas’ announcement seems sincere. However, it is yet unclear how it will be implemented. Are Palestinian security forces going to open fire on Israeli soldiers who enter those Palestinian cities under full PA control? Will the Palestinian security apparatus continue — as it does today — handing over names of wanted Palestinians to Israel, including those whom the PA is afraid of arresting? How can Abbas ensure that Hamas and his arch-rival Mohammad Dahlan — who recently formed an alliance with the Islamist movement in Gaza — don’t exploit this moment to undermine his regime. He would seem particularly vulnerable at a moment like this, when he has neither security...

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Why the metal detectors at Al-Aqsa are such a big deal

Palestinians aren’t against security measures at the Al-Aqsa compound — they are against changing the delicate status quo at one of Islam’s holiest sites.

By Noa Levy

Why are the Palestinians up in arms over metal detectors at the entrance to Al-Aqsa? Let me assume for a moment that most of you, like me, don’t get what the big deal is. After all, there are metal detectors at the entrance to every mall, train station, and even the Western Wall and the holy sites in Mecca. Islam forbids bringing in weapons to the holy Al-Aqsa compound, and the metal detectors are there for the protection of the worshippers. So what gives?

The issue is the framing. Framing this story as one in which Palestinians have a problem with metal detectors does an injustice to the demands of the worshipers at Al-Aqsa. Since the occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967 Israel has respected the status quo vis-a-vis the city’s Muslim holy sites: the Aqsa compound is managed by the Islamic Waqf, the body that controls the compound according an agreement between Israel and Jordan. Israel knows that this arrangement is what prevents conflagration with the Muslim world. When the status quo was first violated by Ariel Sharon in 2000, it lead to the Second Intifada.

There are security checks, managed by the Waqf, at the entrance to Al-Aqsa that no one has ever opposed. If the Israelis want metal detectors, why not let the Waqf be put in charge of them?

But this was never the issue at hand. Worshippers are upset about an Israeli checkpoint being manned by Israeli Border Police officers — a checkpoint similar to the ones in the West Bank, which Palestinians associate with long lines, humiliation, and abuse by soldiers and police officers. This is a checkpoint that was erected at the entrance to one of the holiest sites in Islam, where Palestinian worshipers enter five times a day to pray. The compound also includes mosques, a school, homes, and several other buildings.

The protests, then, are against the Israeli checkpoint at the entrance to Al-Aqsa, as a violation of the states quo on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, as well as increased Israel control over those who enter it. It’s not only about the metal detectors themselves. No one had a problem when the security checks were handled by the Waqf.

It is the government, not the...

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The Syrian ceasefire in the Golan is good for Israel

Netanyahu called Trump and Putin’s ceasefire in Syria a ‘bad deal.’ But it could be the one thing that prevents Israel from being dragged into war — whether by miscalculation or military escalation.

By Shemuel Meir

The dramatic announcement by presidents Trump and Putin of a ceasefire in “south-west Syria” earlier this month was greeted in Israel with skepticism. Official Israel wasn’t impressed with the agreement reached by the two superpowers to establish and enforce a buffer zone on Israel’s northern border in the Golan Heights, free of all military activity.

In the first Israeli cabinet meeting held after the ceasefire agreement was announced, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke in stipulations: “Israel will welcome a genuine ceasefire in Syria but this ceasefire must not enable the establishment of a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria in general and in southern Syria in particular.” One week later, at a press briefing in Paris, Netanyahu called the ceasefire a “bad deal” and declared Israel’s opposition to it.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was even more scathing. Israel is not obligated by the ceasefire deal and reserves “absolute freedom of action” to respond to developments on the ground as it sees fit, according to Liberman, irrespective of the understandings reached between Trump and Putin.

Most of the analysis in Israel fell in line with Netanyahu and Liberman, minimizing the agreement and ignoring any strategic value it might have for Israel. That is a mistake. There is more than meets the eye in this agreement.

Even if the ceasefire agreement doesn’t fully address the entire enforcement arrangement, it does indicate American involvement in Syria in the era that follows the routing of ISIS and the conquering of its de facto capital, Raqqa. The agreement, therefore, should alleviate Israel’s concerns about the vacuum that would be created if the Americans left, which would negatively affect the situation in the Golan Heights.

The ceasefire agreement also came at a critical point in time for Israel. The calm fostered on the ground helped prevent Israel being dragged into the war by miscalculation or unplanned military escalation.

Several days in a row in June 2017, we saw daily reports of the IDF attacking Syrian military targets in response to artillery or mortar fire into Israeli-controlled territory. The routine of errant shells falling in Israeli territory now included an automatic IDF response,...

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No more waiting: LGBTQ Israelis must take the rights they deserve

The Israeli government doesn’t believe LGBTQ Israelis should be able to adopt children, yet continues to tell the world what a wonderful place Israel for the queer community.

By Yael Marom

The past few days have been a stark reminder of just how the Israeli government views the LGBTQ community. The Welfare Ministry’s statement calling LGBTQ families “irregulars,” who should not be allowed to adopt children, is just the latest in a number of legislative moves and court decisions that go directly against LGBTQ rights. As the annual Jerusalem pride march approaches, the queer community in Israel can clearly see the hypocrisy of the Only Democracy in action.

With the masks finally off, the community now has a golden opportunity to rear its head and understand that the state needs it far more than that the community needs the state’s approval in order to be “normal” or get married. Who asked them, anyway?

On Monday, Tel Aviv University law professor Aeyal Gross published an excellent article in Haaretz, after he went to the Foreign Ministry’s website to see how Israel presents its LGBTQ community to the world. From the website:

Even more incredible is the fact that Gross found that the website mentions equal adoption rights no less than four times. Someone here is lying.

The time has come to understand that between the Nation-State Law, attacks on the “left-wing media,” and Netanyahu’s corruption scandals, the LGBTQ community is one of the last remaining fig leafs propping up the deceitful image of Israel as a Western, liberal country. The community has a great deal of power, and it’s time to stop playing nice.

No one is going to give LGBTQ Israelis their rights — they need to take them. The community cannot sit and wait for Amir Ohana, Israel’s only gay lawmaker, to make good on his promises through back room deals, while the community shuts its mouth and looks pretty.

Before the last elections, a small group of LGBTQ activists, along with housing rights activists, burst into several events held by the right-wing Jewish Home party, protesting the homophobia of a party that today controls the Justice Ministry. There were some in the LGBTQ community that accused the protestors of acting violently, arguing that the community should not be “political.”

After the murder of Shira Banki during the 2015 Jerusalem pride march, queer activists protested against a government...

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In Israel's 'eternal capital,' anti-Palestinian discrimination is built-in

A closer look at Jerusalem’s new construction plans are a testament to the fact that Israel cannot continue lording over hundreds of thousands of Palestinians without infringing on their basic rights.

By Aviv Tatarsky

After a considerably long lull, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat have rebooted their plan to build beyond the Green Line in the city. These days, the government is working to build 2,000 housing units in East Jerusalem — and that’s only the beginning. Israeli building in the territories occupied in 1967 is usually tied to Israel’s attempt to thwart all attempts to make East Jerusalem the future capital of the Palestinian state, and thus perpetuate the bloodletting.

But Israeli construction has another angle that we tend to ignore: almost every single plan that was proposed over the past week directly violates the basic rights of Palestinians to live here. Not over “there” in the West Bank, where settlers (not us, that is) are willing to live alongside people without rights; but right here in the democratic state of Israel, and in proximity to the Israeli mainstream. The long list of construction plans proposed last week is yet another reminder of what Palestinian life looks like in our capital. Here are just four examples of basic Palestinian rights that will be violated as a result of these plans.

Equality. Nir Barkat joined the Right’s celebration over the lifting of restrictions on settlement construction, announcing last week plans to build 800 apartments in Israeli neighborhoods beyond the Green Line. “Construction will continue unabated in order to strengthen the capital of Israel.” Barkat also announced that the construction of 114 housing units in the city’s Palestinian neighborhoods “as part of the city’s policy to build in all parts of the city.”

These are the mayor’s numbers, which according to him are a testament to the equality and fairness with which he runs the city. However, a quick calculation shows that while Palestinians make up 38 percent of the city’s residents, those 114 housing units constitute only 12 percent of the 914 units Barkat is so proud of. Real equality would mean that alongside those 800 “Israeli” apartments, the municipality would plan to build 490 units in Palestinian neighborhoods — more than four times what it has committed itself to. In eight years of Barkat and Netanyahu’s rule, the Jerusalem municipality has approved numerous, detailed master plans for...

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My village is under threat. I'm not giving up hope

The residents of Umm al-Khair have been robbed of humanity and justice. We have the right to live without the constant threat of demolition, to have enough clean water, and to live without fear.

By Awdah al-Hathalean

My name is Awdah Mohammed al-Hathalean. I’m 23 years old and I live in Umm al-Khair, a village in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank. My story is bittersweet.

When I was seven months old, I fell into a fire in my home, and my father was not able to move fast enough to rescue me because of his disability. After that I had a lot of surgeries on my face. I traveled to Egypt and Jordan for medical treatment three times before I was five years old. When I was six I entered first grade and was the best student in my class.

Year by year, as I grew aware of the situation in my village, I remember my father telling me, “Only through education can you help us in our village.” He also explained that we are refugees from the city of Arad, on the border of the Negev and Judean deserts. We came to Umm al-Khair to take refuge, buying this plot of land in the south Hebron Hills. In 1981 the Israeli settlement Carmel took half of our land. Carmel and the occupation, he continued, prevented us from building on our own land. Meanwhile we don’t have enough water and all of our homes are slated for demolition.

I understood my father when he said that only with education could I help my village, so I loved learning and education. Then I became one of the best students at school. When I was in seventh grade I saw the first disaster in my village: from the school window I saw soldiers, army vehicles, police, and bulldozers in my village. I remember being too scared, and the fear froze me. I couldn’t do anything, not even ask what had happened.

After class, I immediately went to the village to see what happened, but they had already finished. They demolished some of the houses, and I still remember the tears and anger of the women and children. I thought that we would leave the village, but we began to rebuild the tents. Tents can’t protect from the hot sun and cold winter, and all of them collapsed in the snow that year.

Eventually, I made it to the 12th grade and took pre-university exams. I...

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‘If we ever get 24 straight hours of electricity, it'll be a culture shock’

With the electricity crisis far from being over, Gaza resident Ghada Al-Haddad recalls that the dire situation in the Strip is not a temporary exigency, but rather a culmination of a persistent reality that has developed over a decade of closure.

By Ghada Al-Haddad

To children born after 2006 in the Gaza Strip, stories about the days when electricity was available all day long sound like fairytales, fantasies that can scarcely be believed. Born into a reality structured by an unreliable power distribution schedule, the inconsistent supply of electricity for domestic use has often been insufficient for children to watch an episode of their favorite TV show in its entirety. Nine-year-old Misk Said keeps asking her parents in bewilderment, “is it true that there was once a whole day without a single power cut?”

“Going through a full day, or night, or both, without power isn’t new to us; it has become part of our daily routines for upwards of a decade,” says Misk’s father, Mohammed Said, solemnly, as we trudge through the darkness of Al Shati Camp, to the west of Gaza City. The only sources of light in the narrow allies are the dim rays beaming through the windows of the closely-packed houses, faded from the excessive use of generators, used to power them when the power grid is off. “If we get 24 hours of electricity, it’ll be like total culture shock,” added Said.

From the very beginning of the closure in 2007, and even before that, people of the coastal enclave were confronted with unpredictable power cuts at various hours, but managed to get by. Then the adversity they face started to intensify; the electricity cuts grew more frequent, and far longer than before. The following year, Gaza’s residents were familiarized with what it means to live life dictated by an electricity schedule. The schedule allowed for two eight-hour slots of electricity supplied each day. Depending on changing circumstances, the intervals of uninterrupted power supply are sometimes reduced to six hours, four, even two, and at times, none at all.

Residents of Gaza pray never to reach the point at which the power grid cannot support the eight-hour supply schedule, which inevitably causes all aspects of life to grind to a halt. The eight-hour-schedule has become the peak of their expectations, regardless of its unsteady outages. Now the thought of having entire days of undisturbed electricity...

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Israel is expelling 300 Palestinians, to a village it plans to demolish

Dkaika, a tiny Bedouin-Palestinian village in the south Hebron Hills, is under threat of demolition. The state hopes to expel its residents to a nearby village — which is also under threat of destruction.

By Eli Bitan

Israel’s High Court of Justice is set to decide the future of a small Palestinian village in the West Bank next week. Dkaika, located on the edge of the South Hebron Hills in Area C, is living under the shadow of demolition, with the state threatening to uproot its villagers by March 2018. The village’s 300 residents are to be expelled to the nearby village Hamida — which is also under threat of demolition.

The High Court is set to hear the case on July 17.

Out of Dkaika’s 140 structures, 114 are slated for demolition. In order to prevent the expulsion, the village submitted a detailed plan, put together by Professor Rasem Khamaisi, to the state. The Civil Administration rejected the plan, and in 2014 the village petitioned the High Court to demand the state either accept the plan, or order the Civil Administration to come up with its own that will allow the village to remain in its current location.

Should the petition be rejected, or should the High Court refuse to intervene and defend the residents from expulsion, the state may completely or partially demolish the village. Fifteen of the homes that were built after the petition was submitted are especially vulnerable to demolition. The villagers, who live off agriculture, demand that the state allow them to continue building inside the boundaries delineated by Khamaisi’s proposed plan.

From the very outset of the occupation of the West Bank, the Israeli authorities implemented a planning policy that severely restricted Palestinian construction, all while encouraging Israeli settlements, which were allocated vast areas for establishment and expansion. Israel thereby created a situation in which thousands of Palestinians are forced to build illegally. This remains the policy in Area C, under full Israeli control, which comprises approximately 60 percent of the West Bank.

Without an approved plan, the Dkaika’s villagers are resigned to continue building illegally. The same goes for Hamida, the village which Israel hopes to expel Dkaika’s residents to. This means that the villagers will be exposed to forced removal and additional demolitions.

Dkaika is recognized by the Palestinian Authority as an independent village, and includes a school, a mosque, and a cemetery from the Ottoman period. Despite this, the...

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IDF sentences conscientious objector to five days in prison

Noa Gur Golan will spend five days in military prison for refusing to serve in the Israeli army.

By +972 Magazine Staff

The Israeli army sentenced conscientious objector Noa Gur Golan to five days in military prison Wednesday, after she announced her refusal to serve due to the violence of the IDF.

Gur Golan arrived at the IDF induction center in Tel Hashomer on Wednesday morning accompanied by family members and activists. Following her sentence, she will once again be asked to show up at the center, where she is expected to continue to refuse induction, and will likely be sentenced again. She is being supported by Mesarvot — Refusing to Serve the Occupation, a grassroots network that brings together individuals and groups who refuse to enlist in the IDF in protest at the occupation.

Gur Golan, 19, from Netanya, refuses to serve in the IDF due to her pacifist beliefs in nonviolence, and because she believes that she must actively work to reduce violence and bring about peace. She has previously stood before a conscientious objectors committee, which rejected her request for exemption. Gur Golan demands to be recognized as a conscientious objector, rather than a pacifist (whom are more easily granted exemption from the committee), and is willing to pay the price.

In her declaration of refusal, she wrote the following:

Last month, the army released conscientious objector Atalya Ben-Abba from military service after spending a total of 110 days in military prison for refusing to be drafted. Ben-Abba was released on grounds of unsuitability, after her request to be recognized as a conscientious objector was rejected a day earlier.

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When Gaza has no power, we all swim in sewage

As Netanyahu drinks water from a new Israeli mobile desalination technology with the visiting Indian prime minister, Israel’s actual desalination plant, planted firmly next to Gaza, stares down the consequences of Israel’s disastrous policies: raw sewage flowing its way.

By Hagai El-Ad

Last week, the prime ministers of Israel and India posed for a relaxed photo-op together, wading into the Mediterranean Sea on an Israeli beach. The fun day, complete with a demonstration of a new desalination device attached to an ATV, was apparently so idyllic that Netanyahu later enthused on Twitter: “There’s nothing like going to the beach with friends!”

New Delhi is about 2,500 miles away, but just 60 miles south, along the same coastline, is Gaza. It is so close that the raw sewage flowing into the sea from Gaza’s incapacitated wastewater treatment plant has become a health hazard for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Unlike Gaza’s sewage treatment plant, which lacks the electricity necessary to function, Israel’s desalination plants have all the power they need. But the sewage flowing north in the Mediterranean from Gaza has become a practical problem for Israel, polluting the sea water meant for desalination.

The shot of the two men grinning on the beach was a poetic, tragicomic testament to the extent of Israel’s repression and dream world. Our neighbors are Gazans, not Indians. Our desalination plants are firmly dug into the Mediterranean coast, not attached to four-wheel drive vehicles. And when Gaza has no power, we all swim in refuse. But Netanyahu is banking on Indian support to continue controlling the Palestinians without paying the price internationally. Even if he is successful, will that change the fact that our fates are inseparably entwined with that of the Palestinians?

Just two hours’ drive from Tel Aviv, almost two million people are living in third world conditions. That is a recipe for disaster – and the excrement floating on our waves is just the tip of the iceberg. The majority of Gazans are young, educated – and unemployed. Most of them were born after 1967. While the direct Israeli occupation of their childhood was replaced by external forms of control, they still live at the mercy of Israel’s whims. Not sure about that? Just consider this: it is entirely Israel’s choice whether to allow Gaza to treat its sewage or pollute the sea. If Netanyahu decides to turn Gaza’s power back...

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Watch: Israeli settlers harass Palestinian man in Hebron as troops look on

The B’Tselem video shows a group of Israeli settlers and their dog, who decide to celebrate a festive Jewish holiday by intimidating and abusing a Palestinian man at a checkpoint. Instead of intervening, the Israeli troops on scene made the victim leave, telling him it is a place for Jews only.

By Yael Marom

There is no blood in this video, published here in English for the first time. There is no extraordinary physical violence. For a checkpoint in the occupied city of Hebron, it’s fairly routine — a few Israeli Border Police officers and a handful of settlers having a little fun for the Jewish holiday of Purim. Their fun, however, includes intimidation, harassment and bullying with a canine. Fun times.

This past Purim, March 12, 2017, Hebron resident ‘Abd al-‘Alim a-Salaimeh filmed Israeli Border Police officers detaining a young Palestinian man who wanted to cross an Israeli army checkpoint on his way to the Ibrahimi Mosque, part of the same complex Jews refer to as the Cave of the Patriarchs. In the film, comprised of footage by a-Salaimeh and B’Tselem volunteer Suhair Fakhuri from the window of her home, one of the officers is seen approaching the a-Salaimeh and asking for his ID. Then vehicle full of settlers shows up, along with their German Shepherd. It seems they decided to celebrate Purim by “backing up” the border cops, and the best way they could think of doing that was to boost their morale by harassing Palestinians at the checkpoint.

“Guys, we’re here. Don’t worry,” they tell the border cops, as they throw their impromptu party around a-Salaimeh. The Border Police officer returns the ID card to a-Salaimeh, who continues filming once he puts some distance between himself and the settlers. Then one of the setters approaches him again, with his barking dog in a threatening manner. The officers ignore his please to get the dog away from him. He then threatens to file a complaint against the officers who are standing idly by, and the settlers continue dancing around him confidently. They know that even if he does file a complaint — who’s going to do anything about it? (See the police statement at the end of this article.) “This is what happens when you mess with our soldiers,” the settlers shout as they dance around a-Salaimeh in colorful wigs and costume hats. The...

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'Israel Hayom' outs prominent Jewish American BDS activist

Israel’s most widely-circulated newspaper outs Ariel Gold, just months after the Knesset passes law banning entry to anyone who encourages boycotting Israel. 

By Yael Marom

Under the headline “BDS activist tricks authorities, enters Israel against protocol,” Israel Hayom, the country’s most widely-circulated daily newspaper, published an article last Thursday that outed Jewish American activist Ariel Gold over her support for boycotting Israel. The article, written by Shimon Yaish and Yair Altman, provided a golden opportunity to make sure the interior minister was made aware of the situation, after the Knesset passed legislation earlier this year banning foreign nationals who support the boycott of the country from entering its borders.

Yaish and Altman made sure to call the authorities’ attention to the so-called “oversight.” From the article:

The two even went so far as to quote an anti-BDS activist, who called Gold’s entry “a disaster.” According to Israel Hayom, a Public Security Ministry official said the ministry was reviewing the situation, and that Gold would not be allowed to enter Israel in the future.

The recent steps taken by the Israeli government against Jewish activists — both Zionist and less Zionist — such as Jennifer Gorovitz, the vice president for finance, operations, and administration of the New Israel Fund, who was held for interrogation at Ben Gurion Airport earlier this year, signal a possible change in Israel’s Law of Return. If until now every Jew was freely able to enter or immigrate to the Jewish state, it appears that the government is changing direction and allowing only those Jews who hold a specific set of views to enter. Those who aren’t Jews, as always, are left out.

Israel Hayom did not bother speaking to Gold or asking her for a response. Moreover, she has yet to be contacted by any government or police official. We spoke to Gold, a prominent activist in the left-wing feminist organization, CODEPINK, to ask her a few questions about the controversy.

According to Israel Hayom, you tricked the authorities in order to enter Israel.

Upon entering Israel I was taken in by security for further questioning. We spoke about my previous activities in Palestine and Israel, as well as my connections to this region and Judaism.

I told them that I support Palestinian human rights and international law, and believe only in nonviolence as a way to achieve that. I told them that I have raised my children in the Jewish faith, that...

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Ultra-Orthodox anger over Western Wall deal isn't about American Jews

The Israeli government’s decision to abandon a deal creating an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall led to an unprecedented rift with Diaspora Jewry. But American Jews, and the Reform Movement in particular, are merely collateral damage — caught in the crossfire of an internal ultra-Orthodox power struggle.

By Eli Bitan

With all the coverage of the brouhaha among Diaspora Jewry over the suspension of a deal to create a pluralistic prayer space at the Western Wall, one might reasonably think that the ultra-Orthodox parties in the Israeli government chalked up a victory last week. They didn’t. The real victory was won by their biggest opposition — from within the ultra-Orthodox community.

Interestingly, the ultra-Orthodox anger over the Western Wall deal targeted neither Reform Jews nor Prime Minister Netanyahu. Most of their ire was saved for the ultra-Orthodox political parties and rabbis who backed the compromise.

The narrative that was reported — mostly unchallenged — throughout the Jewish American media, as well as in Israel, was that ultra-Orthodox politicians were striking back against the evil Reform Movement, which they view as a clear and present threat to the very soul of Judaism. The version of events that suggests the Western Wall compromise was forced on the ultra-Orthodox politicians couldn’t be further from the truth. The deal, which was signed a year and a half ago, was formulated with the ultra-Orthodox, including Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and other prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis.

So who did protest the Kotel deal, as it’s known? Every single ultra-Orthodox rabbi, politician, journalist, or writer who isn’t directly associated with the ultra-Orthodox political parties.

The first was Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, who attacked the Western Wall rabbi for his support of the deal. After that came Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic chief rabbi of Jerusalem, an ideological opponent of Shas, who also expressed his disapproval for the deal. Then the rest: Rabbi Auerbach, who heads a sect of radical ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, top Sephardic rabbis, and many, many others — all of whom openly oppose the ultra-Orthodox political establishment.

Their biggest fear is losing the ultra-Orthodox population’s leverage and deterrence over the rest of Israeli politics, in this case manifested in their political parties’ willingness to compromise on matters of religious principle. The ultra-Orthodox community’s political power in Israel is borne of the fact that the overwhelming majority of governments in Israel’s history have relied on...

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