+61 3 9272 5644

Latest News in Israel – 12th February

Netanyahu: Situation not ripe for two-state solution

Israel has no choice in the current political reality but to continue its control of the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, asserting that the Palestinians have yet to meet the basic requirements outlined by the government for a final peace agreement between the two nations.

Netanyahu told a special Knesset debate on the two-state solution that he was in favor of the idea, but in practice did not see it being possible unless the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and agree to a demilitarized state.

He also rejected the claim that Israel’s policies in the West Bank were driving the current round of violence, as asserted by some officials in the international community.

Netanyahu has held fast to both demands of recognition and demilitarization since accepting the idea of a two-state solution in 2009, but they have never been formally accepted by the Palestinian Authority.

“It’s only natural that they give us what they are asking for themselves,” the prime minister said of his requirement for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

He added that experience has taught Israel that only the IDF can guarantee a full disarmament of the West Bank, not the UN or any other international force.

“There is no security separation. None. It doesn’t exist,” Netanyahu said. “Israel must be responsible for its security,” he continued, adding that without mutual recognition and disarmament, the Jewish state could not afford to sign a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

The prime minister also appeared to mock opposition leader Isaac Herzog over his recent acknowledgment that a negotiated two-state solution was not currently possible and his call for Israel to take unilateral action.

“Good morning, Bougie,” he called out, using Herzog’s nickname. “It seems you are the last to realize the reality.”

Netanyahu said that in light of the string of protests which flared across the Arab world in 2011, he began doubting the feasibility of achieving a two-state solution. He characterized the Arab Spring uprisings as “anti-West, anti-liberal, anti-Israel,” and said he faced “serious criticism” for his assessment.

“My responsibility as prime minister is not to dig my head in the sand,” he said. “We are fighting the enemy inside our borders and outside them.” The prime minister referred to the upgraded security fence at the border with Egypt, without which he claimed Israel would have been “overrun” with migrants and subject to infiltration by jihadist terrorists.

“In the face of the incredible changes around us… in the current circumstances, we can’t implement two states for two nations,” he said.

Netanyahu said that while he had no desire of creating a binational state, if the West Bank were to be evacuated by Israel the region would be overrun by Islamist extremists who strive to destroy Israel.

The prime minister added that Palestinian children in the West Bank were being taught to “liberate” Israel in its entirety — including Haifa, Acre, Jaffa. “No one is talking about ’67,” he said of the Palestinians. “They’re talking about ’48.”

Netanyahu rejected statements that Palestinian terrorism stems from “desperation.”

“Terror is not a result of occupation,” he said, in an apparent reference to comments along these lines by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “The terror stems from a culture of death. Its goal is not to free a state, it is to destroy a state.”

“Terror is the result of a totalitarian ideology” and a desire to kill Jews, the prime minister said.

Herzog, for his part, said Netanyahu’s words were “hollow,” adding that he believed it was possible to achieve security for Israeli citizens by ensuring a separation between the Jewish state and the Palestinians, but that the prime minister was uninterested in such a solution.

“You do not really intend to separate from the Palestinians, we may surround the state with fences, but the Palestinians will remain among us,” the Zionist Union leader said. Herzog warned that “without separating from the Palestinians, Israel will turn into an Israel-Arab state,” and Jerusalem will have “an Arab mayor.”

The opposition head further blamed the prime minister for ignoring other difficulties facing Israeli society, such as the price of housing and cost of living.

“You have even failed at guaranteeing ‘life itself’,” Herzog said, referring to a 2015 tweet by Netanyahu regarding the Iranian nuclear threat in which the prime minister stated that “when we talk about the price of housing, about the cost of living, I don’t forget life itself for a single moment.”

Earlier in the week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the actions of Israeli extremists were driving a nearly five-month long wave of attacks.

UN chief Ban and others have blamed the violence on Palestinian desperation over the lack of a political horizon after years of stalled peace efforts.

The last round of US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian talks fell apart in 2014 amid mutual recriminations.          (The Times of Israel)

Ya’alon said seeking return of bodies from Gaza alongside Turkey détente

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has demanded that any future détente between Israel and Turkey include assurances for the return of the bodies of two IDF soldiers held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, according to a Wednesday report.

Israeli and Turkish negotiating teams met Wednesday in Switzerland, as part of ongoing efforts to reach a reconciliation agreement between the two one-time allies, Western diplomats said.

Ya’alon is currently in Switzerland on a working trip to discuss security cooperation. He was not expected to take part in the Turkey negotiations directly.

According to a high-ranking Israeli official quoted by Haaretz, most of the issues on the agenda have been resolved, but two major hurdles remain: Turkey’s demand that Israel end its military blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip — designed by Israel to prevent Hamas importing weaponry — and Israel’s demand that Turkey put an end to harboring Hamas officials in Ankara.

Ya’alon, Haaretz reported, has stated in discussions with the Israeli negotiating team that in exchange for an easing of the Gaza blockade, Israel should demand that Turkey use its influence on Hamas to assist in the return of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, both of whom were captured during the 2014 war with Gaza.

Israeli religious and medical official concluded that both were killed, but Hamas has refused to specifically acknowledge anything about them, while stating it holds bargaining chips.

Israeli soldiers, dead or alive, have in the past proved valuable bargaining chips to Hamas, Hezbollah and other terror groups.

Shaul was with six other soldiers in an armored personal carrier in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya when they came under attack in July 20, 2014. All seven soldiers were declared dead, including Shaul, whose body was captured by Hamas fighters.

On August 1, Hadar Goldin was captured during a surprise attack by Hamas fighters, breaking a truce called earlier that day. His body was taken through a tunnel and he was later declared dead.

Israel is being represented at the Geneva talks with Turkey by Joseph Ciechanover, a former head of the Foreign Ministry appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Ciechanover also represented Israel at the UN probe into the IDF raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010, which led to the deaths of 10 Turkish nationals and exacerbated a diplomatic freeze between the two countries.

His Turkish counterpart at Wednesday’s talks was Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu.

The current talks continue attempts to re-normalize Jerusalem-Ankara relations after Netanyahu, prompted by US President Barack Obama at the end of his visit to the region in 2013, apologized for the flotilla deaths in a call toTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“We strive for peace with all our neighbors, but it has to be mutual,” Netanyahu said Tuesday during a tour of the Arava in southern Israel.

Erdogan, who last month signaled his readiness to mend ties with Israel, on Tuesday hosted a delegation of US Jewish leaders at his official Ankara residence, including a Netanyahu confidant who had met with the prime minister in Jerusalem ahead of the Ankara trip.      (the Times of Israel)

‘IDF must be prepared for possible war with Hamas’

Senior officers in the IDF’s Southern Command have begun to express concerns that the security situation along Israel’s border with Gaza is nearing the same levels of strain as during Operation Protective Edge.

However, according to one officer, unlike the 2014 campaign, there is now a possibility of the Israeli army taking offensive action against Hamas’ terrorist tunnels – from across the border.

“The various units should prepare for the possibility that the political echelon will lose patience or that the threat of tunnels in the Gaza Strip will not allow for restraint, and they will try to initiate treatment of the tunnels in Palestinian territory,” the officer told Walla! News.

He added that all military units should maintain a high level of readiness for the possibility of deployment, and that exercises be conducted for entering Gaza, including the scenario of rockets being launched at IDF bases.

Indeed, members of Security Cabinet have already suggested that Israel initiate action against the Hamas tunnels leading into Israel.

According to a Channel 2 report on Monday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) recently made such a demand only to be rejected by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

The two later publicly said that “on this matter we must exercise judgment and responsibility” and equated such action to attacking Hezbollah missiles or Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The topic of Hamas’s terror tunnels has come back in the spotlight in recent weeks, after four tunnels collapsed in the last two weeks killing 11 Hamas terrorists.

According to some estimates Hamas has succeeded in again digging tunnels into Israeli sovereign territory, and Israeli officials have sought to play down fears from residents in southern Israel who say they have heard Hamas diggers underneath their homes.

The IDF however has not ruled out the possibility that Hamas tunnels may succeed in reaching Israeli territory; all forces on the ground are being trained on how to deal with such an infiltration.        (Arutz Sheva)

Israel, EU conducting secret talks over settlement labeling plan

Israel has started to engage in low key diplomatic talks with the European Union to hash out strained relations stemming from the bloc’s settlement labeling plan, Israel Radio reported on Wednesday.

The EU stands firm in its decision to label products made over the Green Line, however it is reportedly willing to provide Israel compensation in order to resume suspended EU involvement in diplomatic dialogue on peace efforts with the Palestinians.

According to a report initially published by Ha’aretz, officials in Jerusalem said the Israeli and EU sides were jointly discussing moves to work toward restoring relations.

In November, Jerusalem suspended diplomatic dialogue with the EU for a few weeks to strongly protest Brussel’s decision to publish the legislation guidelines that allow member states to place consumer labels “Not made in Israel” on products produced over the Green Line.

The European Union in January reinforced its position that products made in Israeli settlements must be clearly labelled in Europe, despite growing tensions with Israel over the issue, but stressed that the bloc opposes any boycott of the Jewish state.

EU foreign ministers said the guidelines on labels for farm and other products, which were unveiled in November and branded discriminatory by Israel, were there to explain EU law and did not mark a change in the European Union’s long-held opposition to Israeli settlements.

“The EU and its member States are committed to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlements products,” ministers said in a statement.

The Foreign Ministry responded to the statement by saying that the EU continues to hold Israel to double standard, while ignoring the Palestinian role in stalled peace talks and about 200 other conflicts over territory in the world.

The Palestine Liberation Organization welcomed the EU statement and called for greater European involvement.           (Jerusalem Post)

ALP’s  ‘backdoor ban’ on Israel

West Australian Labor senator Glenn Sterle has accused the party’s NSW branch of trying to introduce an indefensible “backdoor ban” on MP visits to Israel by mandating a “ludicrous and deeply insulting” condition that half the trip be spent in the Palestinian territories.

Senator Sterle said the push was really an attempt to render sponsored trips to Israel unviable by increasing travel costs, and amounted to an admission that Israel­ was seen only within the context of the ongoing Middle East conflict.

“The idea is to learn about the country, not merely the conflicts in which it is involved,” he said. “To saddle participants with an arbitrary requirement that they cut their time in half would make it almost impossible to learn anything worthwhile … it is a backdoor attempt at a ban.

“A ban would be tantamount to censorship, and they know that that would be indefensible.”

This weekend’s NSW Labor conference is poised to consider a compromise plan for MPs to spend equal time in Palestinian territories when travelling to Israel­ amid concern over a push for an outright ban if trips were funded by Jewish organisations.

The push has been condemned by former Queensland premier Peter Beattie, who likened it to a “Stalinist-type approach”, as well as former national president Warren­ Mundine, who said a push to ban trips was “verging on anti-Semitic’’.

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman and deputy leader Tanya Plibersek told the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday that she did not support a ban, but said trips to the region were a “wonderful opportunity” for MPs to visit both Israel and the Palestinian territories.

“I think actually this is a bit of a storm in a teacup,” she said. “I support­ people travelling to inform­ themselves and … I don’t anticipate it’s going to be quite the issue on the weekend.”

Former Labor foreign minister and NSW premier Bob Carr has backed a system under which MPs would be “obliged to spend an equivalent time” inspecting the conditions of Palestinians on trips to Israel.

Mr Carr said opponents of this plan did not want MPs to see the “conditions that apply to Arab resident­s of the West Bank” who were “living under an Israeli occupation that has lasted 49 years”.

Senator Sterle — who has been on six sponsored visits to Israel — slammed Mr Carr’s comments, accusing­ him of implying that MPs lacked the “intelligence and integrity” to make a “proper assessm­ent” of what they were shown and told. “I suspect most MPs would find such a propos­ition ludicrous and deeply insulting. I certainly do,” he said.

“Bob Carr has been on sponsored trips to China but I doubt that he spent, or would be permitted to spend, ‘equivalent time’ inspecting the conditions of China’s persecuted Uighur community, displaced Tibetans or political ­dissidents.”

ALP sources confirmed yesterday the motion was likely to be watered down, amid uncertainty on how to ensure “equivalent time” in the Palestinian territories.             (The Australian)

Israel makes history with first Muslim police commissioner

Israeli history is about to be made once again, and this time by Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud).

Erdan intends to establish an executive administration that will be tasked with enforcing law within the Arab sector and to do that the executive will need to enlist Arab police officers into the Israeli police force.

At the head of the executive will be Assistant Commissioner Jamal Hakroush, who will be promoted to the rank of Deputy Commissioner for the appointment.

Hakroush’s appointment, which has been agreed upon by Erdan as well as Police Commisioner Roni Alsheikh, will send a message to the Arab population as well as endowing the new executive with the authority he will need to gather new officers and establish the new police stations and branches needed to fulfill the task he has been given, one of which is to get more Muslims to enlist in the Israeli police force.

The initiative is currently awaiting approval by the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office. Erdan recently submitted a proposal which requires the enlistment of an additional 1,300 police officers for the establishment of this new branch, which will take approximately three years to be established.

Hakroush currently serves as the Deputy Chief Officer of the Coastal police district. He is the first Arab-Muslim to receive the rank of Assistant Commissioner, and also the first to serve as a deputy chief officer. He joined the Israeli police force in 1978 and served in numerous roles throughout his time on the force, among which were commander of the Afula and Nahariya police stations. Hakroush served as the deputy commander of the Coastal District from 2010, and was in that position during the Carmel forest fire.

During a special committee meeting in the Knesset which took place on February 9th as part of “Salute the Police Day” Alsheikh presented the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee with statistics on Arab crime in Israel.

According to the statistics, 21 percent of the population is Arab, however 59% of the murders carried out in the country are perpetrated by Arabs, while 58 percent of Arson is perpetrated by Arabs and attempted murder ranks in at 55 percent. Other troubling statistics for the sector in include 47 percent of burglary’s are perpetrated by Arabs and 32 percent of drug related infractions are carried out by Arabs.

Alsheikh told the committee that the situation is “unprecedented and cannot continue. Those who suffer the most are the Arab citizens of Israel. There is a deep desire among the Arab population to increase the amount of police activity and protection.”

Zionist icon Sharansky marks 30 years of freedom from Soviet prison

Thursday marks 30 years since Jewish Agency chairman and world famous Soviet refusenik Natan “Anatoly” Sharansky won his freedom from a Soviet prison as part of an East-West spy swap and made his way to Israel, after years of international efforts to secure his release.

Sharansky, 68, has most recently been active in helping to bridge gaps between Diaspora and Israeli Jews, such as a compromise he helped broker last month to resolve disputes over Women of the Wall and non-Orthodox prayers held at the Western Wall.

He made aliya in 1986 and following the subsequent mass immigration of Soviet Jews, founded the Yisrael B’Aliya party (which later merged with the Likud) to represent his countrymen in a new land. He also served in several ministerial positions, including Diaspora affairs.

Sharansky’s intellectual influence both within Israel and abroad has spread further thanks to the publication of his book “The Case for Democracy,” which he co-wrote with the current ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, and won endorsement by former US president George W. Bush.

The book called for a foreign policy based on the promotion of democracy, and his “3Ds” definition of anti-Semitism has become the standard test among Jews for determining appropriateness for critiques of their state.

The Ukrainian native was a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki dissident group in Moscow and a leading figures in the fight to allow Soviet Jews to make aliya. His own application was denied for “security reasons” and in 1977 he was accused by state papers of working for American intelligence, leading to his arrest and imprisonment.

In a statement after his sentencing, Sharansky famously stated that “to the court I have nothing to say – to my wife and the Jewish people I say “Next Year in Jerusalem.”

He was sentenced to 13 years but was freed after nine as part of a wider swap deal involving Soviet bloc countries and the United States, after a worldwide campaign on his behalf led by his wife, Avital Sharansky. He was flown right away to a hero’s welcome in Israel.

Sharansky was regarded at the time as a symbol by everyone — the political left and right, religious and secular.

He later recalled that for days and weeks after his arrival he was not able to sleep at night, fearing his newfound freedom was only a dream.

“I was afraid I would fall asleep and then wake up and be back in my cell,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2006.

Sharansky later came to advocate more right-wing politics, and resigned from the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government over a 2005 Gaza withdrawal.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom winner has also been involved in the promotion of aliya, and has served as JA chairman since 2009, overseeing a reorganization there. Under his leadership, the agency’s aliya department ceased to exist as a standalone unit and merged with other departments.

The agency has also shifted much of its focus to promoting Jewish identity abroad – a prerequisite for aliya from the West, Sharansky believes.

His high standing among Jews of various political and religious streams, both in Israel and abroad, led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to appoint him as mediator of a dispute over non-Orthodox prayer at the Western Wall. In 2013, Sharansky suggested building an additional egalitarian section at the site, a proposal which the sides have lately agreed to pursue.

In his endeavors to bring Diaspora and Israeli Jews closer together he has held talks with the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish Federations of North America to establish a government-funded initiative to promote Jewish identity abroad.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post in 2014, Sharansky decried the mutual “paternalism” he believes both sides have shown toward each other. He thought it was “very important and in the interests of Israel to have a strong Jewish identity in the Diaspora.”

Bar Ilan University history professor Dr. Anna Geifman, a specialist on Soviet Jews, said Sharansky served as an example to both Jews within the communist empire and around the world due to the way in which he stood up for his beliefs.

Because of him people “knew that it was possible to beat the system,” Geifman said.

“He remained who he was and free even under the most non-free of circumstances- he remained himself. The way he did it was that he was not prepared to compromise on anything,” she said, recalling how he went on a hunger strike when his jailers took away Book of Psalms.

“What people learned from this was that physical freedom is a great thing and important but its not all. [A person] can be free in so many different ways and long as he or she remains him or herself.”                   (Jerusalem Post)

Elbit unveils upgraded drone designed to send visual intelligence to ground forces

Elbit Systems announced on Wednesday the arrival of an upgraded tactical drone, which belongs to the same family of UA Vs that currently serve IDF ground units on a daily basis.

Neither Elbit nor the Defense Ministry would comment on whether Israel plans to acquire the latest platform, but Elbit said the new system has “already been selected by an undisclosed customer.”

The Skylark 3 is designed to supply ground commanders with visual intelligence, and assist in the surveillance and reconnaissance of areas near the units in operation.

The autonomous mini-UA V is “best suited for brigades and divisions, and delivers over-the-nexthill visual intelligence that enables ground units to protect themselves.

The IDF uses Syklarks 1 and 2 for daily security missions along borders, as well as for counter-terrorism missions in the West Bank.

Skylark 3 has a much larger range of 100 kilometers, and a flight endurance of up to six hours, Elbit said.

While its predecessors are launched by soldiers with the help of a mobile catapult, Skylark 3 uses a pneumatic launcher to become airborne, which is mounted on the ground or on a vehicle.

Elbit said the new platform has better target detection and classification payloads, via electo-optical and infrared cameras and photos. It can fly to up to 15,000 feet.

Drone[1] (1)

“Through a shared ground control station, two Skylark 3 vehicles can be assigned to the same mission simultaneously, meaning a consistent target acquisition is maintained from two aspects,” the defense company said.

Elad Aharonson, general manager of Elbit Systems’ ISTAR Division, said Skylark 3 “provides ground force commanders unrivaled situational awareness and enhanced force protection capabilities, ultimately allowing them to make faster, smarter and more cost-effective decisions.”

Currently, the IDF Ground Forces can deploy the Skylark drones and the Hermes 450 platform, also made by Elbit. Both are deployed by the Artillery Corps.                  (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli artist Eyal Gever collaborates with NASA on first space art

Laughter[1]

Israeli concept artist Eyal Gever has created this digital representation of human laughter to be beamed up to space as part of a joint project with NASA called #Laugh..

In space, nobody can hear you scream, but in 2016 they will be able to see you laugh.

Israeli concept artist Eyal Gever is working with NASA on a project called #Laugh, which will be the first art piece created in space.

The project will take a digital representation of human laughter and beam it up to space, where it will be created on a specially designed 3D printer that works in zero gravity, made by US-based firm Made in Space. The company was created in 2010 “with the idea that people should be living in space now,” according to its CTO Jason Dunn.

The project, Gever said at the IMTM tourist conference on Wednesday, is part of a wider effort by NASA to use 3D printing to help create a more self-sustaining environment for astronauts in space.

Instead of launching hardware or parts from earth, they would be able to simply upload and 3D print them.

“One of the areas that we are excited a lot about is art and how we can design new types of art that maybe we can’t even bring back to earth, because we’re building a sculpture that wouldn’t even survive in gravity,” said Dunn in a video promoting the project.

The concept of creating a sculpture representing laughter, Gever said, was an attempt to showcase something fundamentally human that is absent in space, where sound cannot travel.

“I realized, you know, maybe I shouldn’t even think about using a person or a certain language that has a political connotation or culture or time or race, and then a friend of mine said, ‘Why don’t you do a human laughter?’” he said.

The project will also have a crowdsourcing element. People around the world will be invited to record and submit their laughter online, and then vote on which clip should be represented in the sculpture.

The project is somewhat reminiscent of the NASA voyager Golden Records in 1977, cultural artifacts sent into space that included sounds and scenes from earth, which other advanced societies could potentially interpret. The spectrograph of the laugh, says Gever, could be read and recreated into sound in the future.

Gever’s other work revolves around realistic digital representations, some of which he prints in 3D for effect. Among them: a video of a watery dancer with a constant stream shimmying off its body, a square of uber-realistic ocean surface, and a waterfall 3D printed in a surreal shiny plastic.

According to Gever, the project, which will be featured in a VICE documentary, will come to fruition at some point in 2016.          (Jerusalem Post)

Israel’s Arabs: A Tale of Betrayal

by Khaled Abu Toameh           The Gatestone Institute

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7417/israeli-arabs-betrayal

During the past two decades, some of the Israeli Arab community’s elected representatives and leaders have worked harder for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip than for their own Israeli constituents.

These parliamentarians ran in elections on the promise of working to improve the living conditions of Israeli Arabs and achieving full equality in all fields. However, they devote precious time and energy on Palestinians who are not citizens of Israel. They vie for the distinction of being the most vitriolic provocateur against their country.

Such provocations make it more difficult for Arab university graduates to find jobs in both the Israeli private and public sectors.

The big losers are the Arab citizens of Israel, who have once again been reminded that their elected representatives care far more about non-Israeli Palestinians than they care about them.

The uproar surrounding a recent meeting held by three Israeli Arab Members of Knesset (parliament) with families of Palestinians who carried out attacks against Israelis is not only about the betrayal of their country, Israel. It is also about the betrayal of their own constituents: the 1.5 million Arab citizens of Israel.

Knesset members Haneen Zoabi, Basel Ghattas and Jamal Zahalka managed to accomplish several things at once with this controversial meeting. They certainly seem to have provoked the ire of many Jewish Israelis. Perhaps they violated the oath they made when they were sworn into parliament: “I pledge to bear allegiance to the State of Israel and faithfully to discharge my mandate in the Knesset.”

One thing, however, they have accomplished without question is acting against the interests of Israeli Arabs.

Zoabi, Ghattas and Zahalka met with Palestinian families who are not Israeli citizens and do not vote for the Knesset. As such, none of these families voted for the three Knesset members or the Arab List party to which they belong. Of course, as part of a democratic government, any member of the Knesset is free to meet with any Palestinian from the West Bank, Gaza Strip or Jerusalem.

It is worth noting that not all Arab Knesset members are involved in fiery rhetoric and provocative actions against Israel. However, there is good reason to believe that some Arab Knesset members deliberately engage in actions and rhetoric with the sole purpose of enraging not only the Israeli establishment, but also the Jewish public.

This meeting was the latest in a series of actions by Arab Knesset members that have severely damaged relations between Jews and Arabs inside Israel. Such actions have one clear result: colossal injury to Arab citizens’ efforts for full equality.

During the past two decades, some of the Arab community’s representatives and leaders have worked harder for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip than for their own Israeli constituents.

These parliamentarians ran in elections on the promise of working to improve the living conditions of Israeli Arab voters and achieving full equality in all fields. However, they devote precious time and energy on Palestinians who are not citizens of Israel. Their spare moments are spent vying for the distinction of being the most vitriolic provocateur against their country.

Instead of acting against the interests of the Palestinians — by pretending they were sitting in a Palestinian parliament and not the Knesset — there are alternative scenarios. These Arab Knesset members could be serving as a bridge between Israel and Palestinians living under the jurisdiction of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Decisions such as the one to join a flotilla “aid” ship to the Gaza Strip — which was more a poke in Israel’s eye than any attempt to help Palestinians — turn the Jewish public against the Israeli Arab public, who are then viewed as a “fifth column” and an “enemy from within.”

Such provocations make it more difficult for Arab university graduates to find jobs in both the Israeli private and public sectors. The deeds and rhetoric of these Knesset members have ensured a continuing gap between Arabs and Jews inside Israel.

Thanks to some Arab Knesset members, many Jews no longer see a difference between an Arab citizen who is loyal to Israel and a radical Palestinian from the Gaza Strip or West Bank who seeks to destroy Israel.

Of course, Arab Knesset members have the right to criticize the policies and actions of the Israeli government. But such criticism ought to be leveled from the Knesset podium and not from Ramallah, Gaza or on board a ship carrying a load of Israel-haters and activists.

Just to be clear: this is not a call for banning Arab Knesset members from meeting with their Palestinian brethren from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. Rather, this is a call for Knesset members to consider carefully their aims and the tone in which they are carried out.

The recent meeting in question began with a moment of silence for specific dead — that is, the Palestinian attackers who murdered and wounded several people. Jewish Israelis are likely to have particular feelings about this choice of opening.

Things could have been different. Arab Knesset members could have used the meeting to issue a call for an end to the current wave of stabbing, vehicular and shooting attacks, which began in October 2015. They could have demanded that Palestinian leaders, factions and media outlets cease brainwashing young men and women, and cease urging them to murder Jews — any Jews.

The Palestinian families who met with the three Arab Knesset members have nothing to lose. Nor do the other Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. For them, these Knesset members are probably doing a better job representing them than the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.

The big losers are the Arab citizens of Israel, who have once again been reminded that their elected representatives care far more about non-Israeli Palestinians than they care about them.

Thus far, only a handful of Arab Israeli voices have had the courage to criticize their representatives in the Knesset. Yet it is precisely these citizens who need to punish their failed Knesset members, not the Israeli government or any parliamentary committee or court. The power is certainly in their hands.

If the Israeli Arab majority continues to waffle, allowing its leaders free reign, Arab Knesset members will lead their people only to nothing.

The Island of Tears

This makes us proud of Israel

Alan Dershowitz Brilliantly Strikes down Anti-Israel Question at Conference