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Israel News – 8th February

Knesset passes historic law legalizing 4,000 settler homes

The Knesset late Monday night passed historic legislation hailed by the Right for legalizing some 4,000 settler homes and attacked by the Left as the first step toward de facto annexation.

Its passage by a vote of 60-52 marks the first time that the Knesset has sought to impose Israeli law in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli military and civilian rule. That territory is considered to be outside the Knesset’s purview and such an action could be viewed as an initial application of sovereignty.

“This is a historic step toward the completion of a process that we plan to lead; the application of full Israeli sovereignty on all the cities and communities in Judea and Samaria,” said MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi). Smotrich and Likud MK Yoav Kisch both are co-chairs of the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus, that helped sponsor the bill.

Bayit Yehudi party Naftali Bennett tweeted one word. “Revolution.”

“Our determination paid off,” a jubilant Bennett said, as he thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud Party for supporting the vote.

“To our friends in the opposition who are surprised that a nationalist government would pass a bill in favor of the settlements – that’s democracy,” he added.

Left-wing Israeli non-governmental groups Peace Now, Yesh Din and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel immediately promised to petition the High Court of Justice against the legislation.

Ahead of the voting, opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog called on the coalition to halt the vote, claiming that its consequences will harm Israel.

“This vote is not about whether we are with or against the settlers, it’s about what the State of Israel needs,” he said. “This government is passing a bill that is an acute danger to the State of Israel,” he continued. “Never in the history of Israel has the Knesset passed a bill against state laws and against the senior legal advisers of the government.

“This legislation is de facto annexation,” he continued. “Our opposition to the law stems from our opposition to annexation… We have just a few more minutes to stop this terrible train before it leaves here and stops at The Hague.”

Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis dismissed claims that the bill advances a bi-national state.

“We will not annex territories with Palestinians. They have their own Palestinian rule and they can vote for the Palestinian parliament,” he said. “We heard all the claims about the bill contradicting international law, and that the Supreme Court will overrule it. It is all nonsense.”

Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin blamed the opposition for mentioning the international community and the ICC as reason to object the bill.

“It’s about time that you’ll understand that this is our country. It transcends politics and you and should be ashamed of yourselves,” he said.

 

The vote took place without Netanyahu, who was still on his way back from London after meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May. Likud MK Bennie Begin voted against the legislation, the only coalition MK to do so.

The bill’s passage ends months of bitter debate over the legislation, both within the right-wing parties and between the coalition and the opposition.

Netanyahu had initially appeared to oppose the legislation, and there was much speculation that he had changed his position due to pressure from Bayit Yehudi.

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu told reporters in London that he would be in the Knesset for the vote, as he dismissed speculation that he wanted to torpedo the legislation.

Just one day earlier, Netanyahu had said he wanted to coordinate the bill’s passage with US President Donald Trump and his new administration, which led to speculation that he would not authorize the legislation until after his February 15 meeting with the president in Washington.

In London, where he met with British Prime Minister Theresa May, the premier said he merely wanted to make sure that there would be no surprises between friends, a problem that plagued his relationship with former US president Barack Obama. “I said I would act according to our national interests and it is in our best interest not to surprise our friends, certainly not our very good friends. Friends do not surprise each other,” Netanyahu said.

In a veiled reference to reports that Bayit Yehudi had pressured him to support the legislation, which had begun as a private members bill, Netanyahu said, “I am acting responsibly and not according to any kind of dictates.”

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov urged Israel to refrain from approving the legislation.

“If adopted into law, it will have far-reaching legal consequences for Israel and greatly diminish the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace. The bill has been deemed unconstitutional by the attorney-general of Israel and is in contravention of international law. I urge Israeli legislators to reconsider this move,” he stressed.

MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) noted that most factions in the coalition opposed the bill and called upon them to have the courage to resist pressure from Bayit Yehudi to pass it.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said the only reason the bill was being advanced was that coalition MKs realized that Netanyahu has been weakened as a result of the ongoing criminal investigations against him, and so they see that now would be a good time to pressure him.

The legislation is set to retroactively legalize some 4,000 settler homes on private Palestinian land and offers to compensate its owners. The intention is to prevent future demolitions, like the one that occurred last week in the Amona outpost.

Approval of the legislation runs counter to almost 40 years of Israeli judicial rulings against the construction of homes on private Palestinian property.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has warned that the legislation is unconstitutional and would not withstand any legal challenges.

Culture Minister Miri Regev had warned that if the High Court of Justice overruled the law, the government would be justified in taking immediate steps to annex Judea and Samaria. She went on to warn that if the court took that step, it would further inflame tensions.

Left-wing opponents also raised concerns that it would sway the International Criminal Court to rule on the issue of West Bank settlements.

Last week, the Knesset House Committee voted in favor of limiting the discussion on the bill in order to prevent filibusters by the opposition.

“We, the opposition factions’ members, said again and again that we object to the way the discussions are made and that they are not according to the Knesset regulations,” said MK Dov Henin (Joint List).

“Never in the Knesset history [did it] happen that such a fundamental debate takes place as if it is something minor, and MKs can decide whether to show up or not. Therefore, all opposition factions decided not to cooperate with this anti-parliamentary move, especially in a bill whose lawfulness is in doubt,” he added.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement late Monday expressing concerns over the legislation.

This law “will be harmful to Israel’s image internationally and could undermine future efforts to achieving a two-state solution,” the statement said. “The bill may also trigger severe international legal repercussions.” (Jerusalem Post)

US keeps mum on Israeli law legalizing West Bank outposts

The United States on Monday refused to comment directly on a controversial bill passed in the Israeli Knesset that retroactively legalizes thousands of settler homes, a number of them built on private Palestinian land, indicating that the Trump administration needed to “have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward.”

The White House’s immediate response to the so-called Regulation Law was to refer to its statement last week that said the construction of new settlements “may not be helpful” in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The vote on the bill passed 60-52 in a late-night session in the Knesset following a raucous debate in which opposition lawmakers shouted from their seats at governing coalition lawmakers speaking in favor of the vote from the dais. Some legislators supportive of the law took pictures of the plenum during the vote while some spectators in visitors’ seats raised black cloth in apparent protest.

The law has been condemned by the previous US administration of Barack Obama, the European Union, the United Nations and Israel’s own attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, who has warned that it marks the first time Israeli legislation explicitly affirms government support for the settlements, and would openly curtail property rights of Palestinians in the West Bank in a way that contravenes the protections granted to occupied populations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Mandelblit has said he would not defend the law before the Supreme Court, which could still trash it.

Among the law’s problematic elements is that the West Bank is not sovereign Israeli territory and that Palestinians who live there are not citizens and do not have the right to vote for the government that imposed the law on them.

The State Department said Monday that “at this point, indications are that this legislation is likely to be reviewed by the relevant Israeli courts, and the Trump administration will withhold comment on the legislation until the relevant court ruling.”

A State Department official also told AFP on condition of anonymity that the Trump administration needed “to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward.”

The State Department official added that Washington was still hoping for a peace deal but understands that the Israeli law will face challenges in the country’s own judicial system.

“Among other reasons, this is the first time since 1967 that Israeli civil law is being applied directly to the West Bank, and that Israel’s attorney general has stated publicly that he will not defend it in court,” he said.

The Palestinians condemned the law, calling it an attempt to “legalize theft” of Palestinian land.

“This is an escalation that would only lead to more instability and chaos. It is unacceptable. It is denounced and the international community should act immediately,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

But the US official tried to dissuade the Palestinians or their supporters from challenging the law themselves before the international community.

“We are concerned that other actors have said they may seek to challenge this measure in multilateral fora, including at the International Criminal Court,” he said.

“We continue to strongly oppose actions against Israel at the ICC as counterproductive to the cause of peace,” the official said.

The explosive law is the latest in a series of steps that advance Israeli settlement activity since the election of Donald Trump as US president. Trump has signaled a far more accepting approach to settlements, raising hopes in Netanyahu’s government that it will be able to step up construction. The White House said little as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans during Trump’s first two weeks in office to build some 6,000 housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But after Netanyahu announced his plan to establish a new settlement for the first time in two decades, following the evacuation last week of the illegal outpost of Amona, Trump indicated that he, too, might have his limits.

“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal,” the White House said last week.

Netanyahu said he had updated the US administration on the bill so as not to surprise “friends.”

Netanyahu and Trump are set to meet in Washington next week.              (the Times of Israel)

‘Hamas cell planned terror attacks at synagogue, train station in Israel’

Israeli security authorities have uncovered a Hamas cell that planned to carry out terrorist attacks in the West Bank and within Israel, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced Monday after the details of the case were cleared for publication.

The three terrorists, Mamduach Yunis, 24, of Arara, and brothers Hassan, 23, and Muhammad Zida’at, 25, from Bnei Naim near Hebron, were all indicted for the plot in the Haifa District Court on Monday.

The indictment filed by the Haifa District Attorney’s Office charged them with conspiracy to commit a felony, participation in and membership in a terrorist organization, contact with a foreign agent, illegally crossing into Israel and various weapons offenses. Yunis was also charged with aiding an enemy in time of war.

The cell, which received instructions from Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip through Facebook, planned shooting attacks, the planting of explosive devices and kidnappings in the Hebron area.

In addition, the cell gathered intelligence on a number of sites for potential attacks within Israel, including an Afula bus station, a military base near Kafr Kara, the Binyamina Train Station and a synagogue in Zichron Ya’akov. The members of the cell were familiar with the locations from their time working in Israeli illegally, the Shin Bet stated.

According to the indictment, Hassan and Muhammad both illegally crossed into Israel to Arara over the course of 2014 and 2015, with Muhammad getting a job with a carpenter who is related to Yunis, which was how the three met. The Shin Bet said that Hassan had crossed into Israel after being accused of murder by the Palestinian Authority, and that Muhammad had purchased weapons and gathered intelligence on targets for the cell.

The indictment stated that Hassan also used Internet platforms to make contact with Hamas operatives in Gaza to help plan attacks.

In order to carry out the attacks, cell members started putting away NIS 1,000 per month and eventually purchased weapons and manufactured explosives at the carpentry store and recruited other Palestinians.

Numerous attacks have been thwarted in and around Hebron, a stronghold of the Islamist movement Hamas, since the start of the latest wave of violence to hit Israel and the West Bank.

According to Shin Bet: “The uncovering of the infrastructure and activities it planned demonstrates the high threat level posed by Hamas militants, especially those who enter Israel and remain their illegally.”  (Jerusalem Post)

British PM May: ‘We’re committed to a two-state solution’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his British counterpart, Theresa May, discussed Iran, the Palestinians and closer bilateral cooperation in the post-Brexit era during their first meeting in London on Monday.

Shortly after welcoming Netanyahu to No. 10 Downing Street, May stressed that “We remain committed to a two-state solution as the best way to build stability and peace in the future.”

Bibi & May

Netanyahu assured her that, “We share with you the desire for peace,” though he did not mention two states.

“This is our dream from day one: We will never give up on our quest for peace with all of our neighbors,” he said. “I think there are challenges there, but there are some new and interesting opportunities because of the regional and global changes.”

 

Following their meeting, Netanyahu told reporters that he made clear to May that a two-state solution will necessitate Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.

“Even with that recognition,” he said, “there is no way in the foreseeable future that Israel will not be the only force with security control west of the Jordan River.”

(Netanyahu meets Britain’s PM Theresa May)

Netanyahu stressed that this was not walking back his commitment to a two-state solution, which he articulated in his Bar-Ilan University speech in 2009, and that during that speech he stressed the fulfillment of these two conditions before there would be a Palestinian state.

“I don’t have any conditions on entering into negotiations,” he said. “These are conditions for concluding the negotiations, and are essential components.”

Netanyahu, who will meet with US President Donald Trump next week in Washington, said that he informed the new administration in advance of the building plans in the settlements announced over the last two weeks.

“I told her [May] that the settlements were not an obstacle to peace,” Netanyahu said, and that any areas Israel would leave now would turn either into an Iranian outpost, or an Islamic state, “or both.”

Netanyahu said May raised the issue of settlement construction, but this was not the dominant part of the conversation.

Labour Party head Jeremy Corbyn, who did not seek a meeting with Netanyahu during his 24-hour visit to London, urged May to tell Netanyahu that Britain stands “unequivocally behind the rights of the Palestinian people, along with the many who support them in Israel.”

In a Twitter post on Monday, Corbyn said the recent announcement of new “settlement homes in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem is illegal under international law and a threat to peace and international security.”

Corbyn wrote that the British government must “act in support of peace and justice” in the Middle East conflict, “50 years after the United Nations demanded an Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in the 1967 War and 70 years after the UN voted for the creation of a Palestinian state.”

Corbyn failed to mention that the 1967 War was one of self-defense, and that the Jews accepted the partition plan in 1947, while the Arabs rejected it and launched an all-out war on the nascent Jewish state.

Regarding Iran, Netanyahu said after the meeting that he and May see “eye-to-eye” on the dangers posed by Iran arming itself and its aggressive behavior in the region.

“We discussed the question of what will happen if the aggression is not checked,” Netanyahu said. “We also discussed what is happening in Syria, about Hezbollah and the Iranian army there. There is agreement about the importance of preventing that situation through different means.”

Netanyahu told May that it is important to support Trump in reinstating sanctions on Iran.

“Every responsible country needs to support those steps,” he said. “An answer needs to be found to Iran’s aggression. Even without breaching the [nuclear] agreement on their side, they are marching toward a bomb, toward industrial enrichment of uranium that will enable them to break out in a short period to a nuclear bomb.”

May greeted Netanyahu by noting that their meeting was taking place during the year in which both countries are recognizing the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, and invited the premier back to London on November 2 to mark the centenary.

“At a time when the Palestinians want to sue Britain over the Balfour Declaration, it says something that Britain’s prime minister is inviting me to this event,” he said.

Last July, the Palestinians asked the Arab League to help them prepare a legal brief suing Britain for issuing the Balfour Declaration, which supported the establishment of a Jewish national home in Mandatory Palestine.

Netanyahu said that he and May also discussed her country’s support for organizations such as Breaking the Silence, and that he asked Britain to reconsider funding them.

While the two leaders were meeting, small pro- and anti-Israel demonstrations took place outside.

Speaking on camera before the meeting, Netanyahu told May that he has two photographs in his office: one of Theodor Herzl and the second of Winston Churchill. These two leaders, he said, personify “our commitment to the values of freedom and our common civilization.” These values, he added, make possible “great opportunities” for cooperation in the fields of trade, technology and security – especially cyber security.

Trade also loomed large in the talks, with Britain keen on developing strong partnerships in the post-Brexit era.

Netanyahu said Britain is currently prevented from entering into new trade agreements, but that they agreed the two countries would eventually discuss reaching a free-trade agreement.

Following his meeting with May, Netanyahu met with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson before boarding his plane for a nighttime flight back to Israel.   (Jerusalem Post)

Files show Hezbollah targeted Israeli diplomats in Brazil

The terrorist group Hezbollah sent operatives to Brazil in order to commit attacks on diplomatic representatives of Israel, according to previously classified documents.

Latin America’s largest nation was targeted by the Lebanese terrorist group at least twice, most recently in 1989, reported the Correio Braziliense newspaper on Saturday. Hezbollah operatives planned to kidnap Israeli diplomats in both the capital city of Brasilia and in Sao Paulo. The information had been restricted to the military and top-level officials in Brazil and Israel until last month, and has now been made public.

In 1976, an alert was sent by the Israeli government to all its diplomatic missions and Brazil’s armed forces beefed up security at the Israeli Embassy.

In 1989, there is a comprehensive and detailed report, including names and photographs of suspects and original telegrams exchanged between Israel and Brazil. In the midst of the investigation, Brazilian federal police officers found that one of the alleged terrorists was in the country.

A telegram sent by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to security forces on Aug. 16, 1989, warns that a Hezbollah terrorist is “on the way to entering the country to commit an attempt against that diplomatic mission and its members.” In the same message, the ministry warns about the presence of “another terrorist” on Brazilian soil, according to the newspaper.

Faced with such a scenario, the ministry calls for “urgent” reinforcement of security around the Israeli Embassy and the residences of the ambassador and four Israeli diplomats.

One month later, a new alert is seen bearing the names of four terrorists appointed by Israel as the executors of Hezbollah’s plan in Brasilia. According to Israel, the group intended to kidnap the country’s consul-general in Sao Paulo or any diplomat who lived in Brasilia, with an eye to negotiating for the release of Hezbollah prisoners in Israel.

The hunt for suspects and the security scheme surrounding the Israeli embassy and its senior officials lasted one more month, when the Israeli intelligence service discovered that the four alleged terrorists had left Brazil for an unknown destination.

“This is an old story that sits in the past. However, we always need to be alert since Hezbollah has dormant cells in Latin America, there are large Shiite Muslim communities and there is the recent arrival of Syrian refugees. Today, we don’t send alerts, there is no need to panic, but we are always vigilant for Israeli missions are a continuous target,” the Israeli consul in Sao Paulo, Dori Goren, told JTA.

In preparation for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games last year, the head of Rio’s Jewish federation was very guarded.

“There is always a first time, it has happened twice in Argentina and Brazil is not free of it,” Paulo Maltztold JTA, citing the Buenos Aires bombings of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the AMIA Jewish center in 1994. “We’ll be on total alert,” added Maltz, who ended his term in December.               (Jerusalem Post)

Trump won’t leak Israeli intel to Russia, but Mossad might tread lightly

by   Yonah Jeremy Bob                   The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Trump-wont-leak-Israeli-intel-to-Russia-but-Mossad-might-tread-lightly-480763

Days before Donald Trump’s inauguration as president, an Israeli journalist reported that US intelligence officials had issued a warning to their Israeli counterparts: Be wary of sharing intelligence with the incoming administration, for it is unclear what ties the new president may have with the Russian Federation and if that information might even find its way to Iran.

Similar reports came out shortly after about potential problems with England, Australia and other countries sharing intelligence with the US, and their numbers have only increased since Trump’s heated telephone call Thursday with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Might Trump leak Israeli and other allied intelligence to Russia in light of his continued unusually pro-Russia attitude? Might this concern have allies like Israel hold back from sharing intelligence with the US that they would have shared when it was business as usual?

The Jerusalem Post surveyed a number of officials on both sides of the Atlantic on the issue.

It was difficult to get Israeli officials to directly address the issue due to the sensitivity of the US-Israeli relationship. The Prime Minister’s Office, which is the only public point of reference for the Mossad, and which has no spokesperson, refused to comment.

One top former Israeli official who was willing to talk was former national security adviser Uzi Arad.

He said, “It is ridiculous to say that Trump would” purposely share Israeli secrets with Russia, and “Anyone who says that is politicized.”

Giving an overview of the background to the report he noted: “First, the president is unusually colorful; second, the US intelligence community is politicized; third, Russian intervention in the US election was unprecedented; and fourth, there were big accusations against both presidential candidates.”

He said that the report itself was most likely “disinformation by politicized players – which doesn’t mean that there aren’t wrinkles to sort out.”

Arad pointed out that “every nation considers many possibilities” when sharing intelligence with another country and that “the more people share, the more their intelligence can be misdirected.”

He added that, “just because of better relations with Russia” the idea that a Trump administration would share information with Russia that would find its way to Iran “is a long shot.”

Further, the former National Security Council chief said “Russia could penetrate US intelligence” using its own strong spying tactics, without the need for authorized leaking by Trump.

Giving the Israeli perspective on intelligence sharing, Arad said, “We also had rotten apples, others do too, and you factor that in” when deciding whether to share intelligence, even with an ally.

In other words, Arad viewed Russia gaining intelligence that Israel shared with the US, through its regular attempts at turning US spies into double-agents, as a more credible threat than authorized leaks by Trump.

Other, more current and former US officials were forthcoming on the issue.

“If you’re sharing intelligence, you’re doing it from one agency to another,” said Jonathan Schanzer, a former US Treasury terror finance analyst and vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “It’s sort of a rare moment when the prime minister walks into the president’s office and shares new information. The intelligence sharing is done at a working level – it’s institutionalized.

“Let me put it this way,” he said. “When intelligence is shared from one country to another, there are caveats as to how it can be used and how it can be shared. It’s an imperfect system based on trust and ongoing personal relationships. I think everyone is going to be careful in this hyper-charged environment.

“I can imagine the last thing the Mossad wants to do is endanger its relationship with the CIA,” he added, implying that a decision not to share can be a two-way street that Israel would avoid.

Likewise, Danielle Pletka, a former senior staffer for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and current vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute said, “I think that the implication that, somehow, Trump and his team’s different attitude towards Russia translates to the notion that they would violate US law and share classified information with the Russians, seems to be a little out there. At the end of the day, we have a special intelligence relationship with the Israelis. We don’t have one with the Russians.”

Importantly, she pointed out that Israel already does its own sharing with Russia, despite Russia’s relationships with Syria and Iran.

Pletka added: “Bibi Netanyahu went to Moscow to talk to the Russians about what they were up to in Syria and with the Iranians. I think it’s important we reserve judgment about the nature of the Russian reset that Trump has planned.”

But even if there was unanimity that there was no real concern of Trump leaking Israeli intelligence to Russia, there were more complex concerns about Trump which could impact Israeli and other countries’ intelligence sharing.

Former CIA and NSA Director General Michael Hayden started by saying he did not think Trump would purposely leak Israeli intelligence to Russia. “I don’t share those concerns. I saw the reporting. I don’t think even looking at the dynamics we are talking about, I don’t think the Americans would do it. It is still America’s CIA.”

However, Hayden also said that did not mean it was necessarily business as usual.

“If there is a danger, and I don’t know it to be true, it is that countries might be less enthusiastic to share with the US not because of leaks, but because the US may not act on it,” he said.

For example, if Trump’s “seeming disregard for intelligence – if that actually becomes the approach of his administration,” then there could be more general issues with intelligence sharing with the US.

In that scenario, “if you are Israel or any intelligence service,” anytime you share intelligence “you are in some ways marginally increasing the risk of the information being compromised. Why embrace the potential it could be compromised, if it is not making a difference anyway, because the president is not paying attention to the American intelligence community?”

Echoing that concern, one current US official made the point that intelligence officials are, like everyone else in civil service, nervous over Trump’s past statements, his inexperience and the instability he brings to the existing global order. “Foreign nations – including our closest allies – are taking this into account across the board in their relationships with Trump administration officials,” he said.

On the flip side, former Defense Intelligence Agency head David Shedd said that Trump’s treatment of the CIA has already changed, now that his own appointees are in place.

Overall, while few seem genuinely concerned about Trump leaking Israeli intelligence to Russia, Israel and other traditional US allies may think twice about sharing intelligence, until he further proves his support for US intelligence and shores up the overall state of those alliances.

The Choices Palestinians Make – Dexter Van Zile (Gatestone Institute)

Perhaps it is time to confront Palestinians with the choice they face: They can keep trying to deny the Jewish people their right to a sovereign state, or they can make peace and get a state of their own; they cannot do both.

If Palestinians are interested in making peace, perhaps they need to start earning the trust of the Israelis, bring an end to incitement, educate their children for peace instead of murder, and begin building a future for themselves and their children without blaming Israel for every setback they endure.

In The Drone Eats With Me: A Gaza Diary (2016), Palestinian writer Atef Abu Saif provides a powerful first-person narrative of the suffering endured by the Palestinians living in Gaza during the 2014 war. But his statement that the Israelis were the only ones responsible is simply false. A lot of bad choices were made – by Palestinians – and Saif knows it.

The reality is that Hamas bears a huge measure of responsibility for the suffering he documents. Hamas has repeatedly started wars that it cannot win against a country that cannot afford to lose.

All too often, Palestinian deaths are used to shut down the conversation about what Palestinian leaders have done wrong and about the underlying causes of the conflict.

The writer is a media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).