This Week Today - Current Events from Israel

Ben Packer,

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Ben Packer
Originally from Petersburg, Virginia, Ben Packer moved to Israel in 1999, where he served in the IDF's Givati Brigade in the Gaza Strip. Ben served as a Rabbi on campus at Univ. of North Carolina and at Duke Univ. Ben now serves as Director of the Jerusalem Heritage House (www.heritagehouse.org.il) and Co-Director of Young Jewish Conservatives (www.youngjewishconservatives.org). He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and 6 children....

This Week Today

Current Events from Israel

The Rockets, 400 of Them

Let's get right into it. I'm only going to try to give over essential info so that y'all can best understand what is going on and how's its different than past conflicts. 

Did you think Hamas were the only bad guys in Gaza? Not even close! 

Two days ago, Israeli Air Force planes fired rockets that killed the head of the Islamic Jihad forces in Gaza. And his wife. Surprisingly, no donkeys or sheep were killed. What is Islamic Jihad? Islamic Jihad is a terror group, primarily located in Gaza that is separate and sometimes in open conflict with Hamas. Although the Islamic Jihad terrorists are Sunni Muslims, they are tightly connected to Shiite Iran. And that's where the drama starts.

Over the last few years, periodically Islamic Jihad would start up with Israel, usually on command from Iran.  Mostly their attacks consisted of rockets and sniping along the border, but also included tunnels and various attempts at infiltrations into Israel. When this would happen, Israel would blame Hamas and retaliate against Hamas. Israel argued that since Hamas is in charge of Gaza, its their responsibility to stop the attacks, regardless of who is actually doing them.  Sometimes this would spiral out of control and threaten to become a protracted military conflict. But like many Hollywood marriages that begin with a bang, it was often over in a few days. 

But this time was different. First of all, Israel technically started it with the assassination. Normally its Israel responding. More importantly is that Israel only struck Islamic Jihad and not Hamas targets, like they usually do. As Islamic Jihad responded with hundreds of rockets (about 400 so far), Israel continued to strike exclusively Islamic Jihad targets, while avoiding Hamas and minimalizing civilians casualties (as always). 

So far, at least 19 Islamic Jihad operatives have been reported killed. Thankfully, no serious injuries on the Israeli side. The Iron Dome system has worked quite well (90% accurate) and the Home Front Command's very cautious guidelines to the Israeli public have greatly reduced the chances of casualties. However, the most important factor is that Islamic Jihad ain't all that they have claimed to be. They have been taking pot shots at Israel and then running to hide behind Hamas (not a bunch of tzadikim either) for years. This time, both Israel and Hamas decided not play that game. Now Islamic Jihad needs to find a way out of this current conflagration before they are all dead. 

Ceasefire talks are being facilitated, as always, by Egypt. Islamic Jihad is desperately trying to assert that they were victorious and avenged the death of their Gazan leader. Ain't no one buying it. Most recently, they have switched to shooting mortar shells in hopes of getting through the Iron Dome and being able to show some kind of success. G-d forbid. 

So basically, if both Israel can avoid hitting Hamas and/or too many civilians/farm animals and Islamic Jihad continues to fail at everything, then the current situation will likely calm down. If not, watch out! Avigdor Liberman is already criticizing Israel for "surrendering" and no doubt brand-new Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, just appointed by Prime Minister Netanyahu hours before the assassination, is itching to take on Hamas as well. In addition to the regular threats, Israel has communicated a threat, through a UN official, that if the rockets continue, they will assassinate the overall head of Islamic Jihad, who normally lives in Damascus, but is currently in Cairo for the negotiations. Could get rid of Islamic Jihad forever. Would be great for Israel, but ironically, even better for their Hamas rivals. 

Right before all this happened, there were reports of progress in negotiations between in Israel and Hamas or a variety of subjects, but most notably on that of the possible return of soldiers' bodies currently held hostage by Hamas - from the last major conflict in Gaza. Islamic Jihad is trying to play the spoiler role. 

Israeli Coalition Government Negotiations

Of course the ongoing attempts to form a coalition government have been affected by the current violence. How so? I'm glad you asked! Benny Gantz, of the Blue and White party, has one week left to try and form a government. Until now one of the options theoretically available to him was to convince Avigdor Lieberman to join his coalition and depend on the arab parties to support the arrangement, despite not being officially a part of it. Together this would provide Gantz with enough support to become the Prime Minister. But like their friends in Islamic Jihad, the arab Knesset members had to go and screw it all up. By loudly and obnoxiously criticizing the ongoing Israeli military efforts in Gaza, the arabs parties have made themselves totally irrelevant. Of course, former Chief of Staff Gantz has vigorously supported the military, but even the outright leftists in Blue and White don't want anything to do with these folks right now. So that's out. 

If that's out, then only 3 real possibilities remain:

1) a unity government between Likud and Blue and White, that includes Netanyahu staying as Prime Minister for now

2) Blue and White party members breaking away and joining with Likud or the opposite - Likud members breaking away and joining with Blue and White

3) Another election!!!

The Arab Demonstrations

Now turning to non-democratic states in the region, protests are continuing in Iraq and Lebanon. The first protester death was just reported in Lebanon. The world couldn't care less. 

Labeling Israeli Products

What does the world actually care about? Where Israeli products are produced. Because if they are produced in areas captured/liberated by Israel in 1967 (Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem, Golan Heights), then that needs to be clearly labeled as such according to a ruling this week by the European Court of "Justice". This is similar to the required labeling on.....NOTHING ELSE!!! No other international conflict is reflected at all by labeling of products in the EU. Its only the Jews. In Europe, it always has been.