Analysis from Israel

Today’s terror attack in Tel Aviv was unusual in that it originated in the West Bank, where a continuous, proactive Israel Defense Forces presence has virtually eradicated terror. In contrast, Israel suffers daily terrorism from Gaza, which the IDF left six years ago, and repeated “cease-fires” never actually cease the fire: This weekend, for instance, three rockets hit southern Israel despite the “cease-fire” announced last week by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees.

During the last six years, Gazan terrorists have fired more  than 7,000 rockets and mortars at Israel. That successive Israeli governments have allowed this terror to continue is an abdication of any government’s primary responsibility: ensuring its citizens’ security. But it has also had devastating strategic consequences.

As former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer noted, it acclimated the world to the idea rocket fire on Israel is perfectly acceptable, with the result that when Israel finally did strike back in 2008, it suffered universal condemnation, culminating in the infamous Goldstone Report. As Haaretz Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff  noted, it has convinced the terrorists Israel fears them, emboldening them to escalate their terror. As Rabbi Eric Yoffie noted, it undermines the raison d’etre of a Jewish state, which is to protect Jews. And you needn’t be “right-wing” to reach these conclusions; all of the above are outspoken liberal doves.

Now, as I’ve written elsewhere, the terrorist enclave in Gaza also threatens Israel’s peace with Egypt. This month’s terror attacks near Eilat, perpetrated by Gazans who traversed the  Sinai to attack across the Egyptian-Israeli border, sparked a major diplomatic crisis with Cairo when several Egyptian soldiers were killed in the cross-fire; this success will surely prompt the terrorists to try to repeat it. And if enough Israelis and Egyptians are killed along their mutual border, an Egyptian-Israeli war could erupt.

For all these reasons, eliminating the Gazan terrorist enclave is imperative. But this can’t be done via a short-term operation like 2008’s; only a long-term IDF presence in Gaza will do.

The claim “there’s no military solution to rocket fire” is patently absurd. During those same years when Gazan terrorists fired more than 7,000 missiles at Israel, not a single rocket was fired from the West Bank. So unless you believe that West Bank terrorists, unlike their Gazan counterparts, never wanted to launch rockets,  the obvious conclusion is the IDF’s continuous, proactive presence has thus far prevented West Bank terrorists from acquiring rocket-launching capabilities.

The diplomatic arguments against such a move are far more serious: The international outcry would be enormous. But continued delay will only further embolden the terrorists, further accustom the world to the idea terrorists are entitled to shoot rockets at Israel with impunity, and make war with Egypt more likely. Indeed, the Eilat attacks put the diplomatic consequences of inaction on stark display: Though Israel had precise intelligence about the attacks, its government rejected a Shin Bet security service recommendation to thwart them via a preventive strike on Gaza, fearing Egypt’s anger. In consequence, the attacks went ahead and several Egyptians were killed – outraging Egyptian public opinion far more than a strike on Gaza would have.

Gaza’s terrorist regime must be destroyed. Israel can no longer afford any other outcome.

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Israel’s constitutional crisis has been postponed, not resolved

After years of leftists crying wolf about democracy being endangered, Israel finally experienced a real constitutional crisis last week. That crisis was temporarily frozen by the decision to form a unity government, but it will come roaring back once the coronavirus crisis has passed.

It began with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s refusal to let the newly elected Knesset vote to replace him as speaker and culminated in two interventions by the High Court of Justice. I’m one of very few people on my side of the political spectrum who considers the court’s initial intervention justifiable. But its second was an unprecedented usurpation of the prerogatives of another branch of government, in flagrant violation of legislation that the court itself deems constitutional.

Edelstein’s refusal, despite its terrible optics, stemmed from a genuine constitutional concern, and was consequently backed even by Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon, who had opposed Edelstein many times before and would do so again later in this saga. The problem was that neither political bloc could form a government on its own, yet the proposed new speaker came from the faction of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party that adamantly opposed a unity government. Thus whether a unity government was formed or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s caretaker government continued, the new speaker would be in the opposition.

But as Yinon told the court, speakers have always come from the governing coalition because an opposition speaker can effectively stymie all government work. And once elected, he would be virtually impossible to oust, since 90 of the Knesset’s 120 members must vote to do so. An opposition speaker would thus “hurt democracy,” warned Yinon. “We’re planting a bug in the system, and this, too, undermines our constitutional fabric.” That’s why Edelstein wanted to wait, as Knesset bylaws permit, until a government was formed and could choose its own speaker.

Yet despite this genuine and serious concern, the fact remains that a newly elected majority was being barred from exercising its power. Moreover, it had no parliamentary way of solving the problem because only the speaker can convene parliament and schedule a vote. Thus if you believe majorities should be allowed to govern, the court was right to intervene by ordering Edelstein to hold the vote.

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