Mob violence grows in Israel
All the UK media continues to be dominated by coverage of tensions between Israel and Hamas. BBC News, The Telegraph, The Independent, and The Guardian report that Israel has intensified attacks on the Gaza Strip as the conflict enters its fifth day. The papers report that Israeli air and ground forces were involved in the latest attacks, while noting that ground forces have not entered Gaza. The Times reports that Israel destroyed a major tunnel network used by Hamas militants overnight.
The Telegraph examines the causes for the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas. The paper notes that “For weeks, Palestinian protesters and Israeli police have clashed daily in Jerusalem, with a series of incidents during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan contributing to the mounting hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians.”
The Telegraph features a series of photographs, showing the scale of the ongoing war and damage between Israel and Hamas.
Frank Gardner writes for BBC News about how recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas have stalled Arab-Israel rapprochement. He writes “The worsening conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is causing considerable embarrassment for those Arab governments that recently normalised relations with Israel… Most Arab governments in the Gulf have little love for Hamas, but the sympathies of those countries’ Arab populations lie firmly with the Palestinians. If there was some reluctance amongst them to accept the newfound friendship with Israel after so many decades of antipathy then recent events will have only deepened their scepticism.”
The Independent, The Times and The Economist report that Israel is fighting a war on ‘two fronts’ as it battles ongoing escalations in Gaza and alongside mob violence within the country. Several mixed Arab-Jewish cities have seen intense clashing, beatings, shootings and stabbings over recent days. While Lod, a town in central Israel has seen the worst of the violence, several other cities in the Galilee and Negev also saw mob violence.
Dimi Reider writes for The New Statesman about why Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu and Hamas risk losing control the ongoing hostilities. Reider notes “Total war is probably out of the question: Hamas can’t militarily defeat Israel, and Israel doesn’t want to wipe out Hamas, which has proven a reliable interlocutor and controller of smaller, more extreme paramilitary groups. But both leaderships are gaining something from the current conflict. Hamas is burnishing its credentials as an authentic Palestinian resistance movement, while Netanyahu knows that so long as the country is at war, there is no way for the only government that can supplant him – the magic coalition of his far-right Zionist opponents, centrist Zionist parties and the Islamic movement – to come together.”
Limor Simhony Philpott writes for The Spectator about “the battle the Israeli Defense Forces can’t win.” She argues “But there is one thing the IDF has been unable to deal with: widespread rioting in Israeli towns. Rioters tend to be young Arabs and far-right Jewish men. They leave a trail of destruction, including burnt out synagogues, schools, and businesses, blocked roads and railways, torched cars, and damage from hurled rocks.”
The Economist reports on Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s role as a diplomat, and asks how long it will last. The paper writes “Six years after his father, Salman bin Abdelaziz, became king, the prince, now in his mid-30s, may be changing, switching tactics from maximum pressure to maximum diplomacy, cutting his losses and trying to defuse conflicts. Facing resistance in the region and disapproval from President Joe Biden, he may have decided that the cost of his foreign ventures is unsustainable. Saudi foreign policy has begun to look much less aggressive.”
BBC News reports that the killing of a gay Iranian man has sparked outcry across the world. Ali Fazeli Monfared was reportedly kidnapped and beheaded in Iran last week, with some speculating he may have been killed by relatives after they discovered he was gay.
The Israel media continues to focus on the escalation between Israel and Hamas as well as the inter-city violence inside Israel. Although Israel is ramping up its airstrikes on Gaza, both Alex Fishman in Yediot Ahronot and Yoav Limor in Israel Hayom believe that the Israeli government and IDF will have to decide soon on how to end the fighting. Fishman points out that because the fuel will run out in a day or two, Gaza will have no electricity, meaning no lights, as well as no water and no sewage. He writes: “Hamas will also face a dilemma starting early next week: should it use the last of the electricity to prosecute the war and fire rockets, or to keep the ventilators working as the hospitals fill up with people? … This situation is rapidly driving the Hamas leadership to reach a cease-fire. It will presumably focus therefore on conducting a top military effort over the weekend in order to achieve a significant military accomplishment… Israel, in contrast, has an interest in Gaza staying in the dark for a few days so that Hamas will have been humiliated more clearly by the end of the fighting… Israel will have to decide today whether to end the fighting by the middle of next week.”
Limor argues that the IDF has intensified its attacks overnight in the understanding it is now playing for time. “Officially, the operation in Gaza is not about to end and Israel said no to all the mediation proposals to reach a ceasefire, but in practice, it wants to increase the operation’s achievements before the whistle sounds.” Limor goes on to say that Israel’s dilemma this morning is as follows: “On the one hand, the temptation is to continue, both in order to exact a higher price and also to achieve a victory picture. On the other hand, it is concerned about a mishap or a Hamas success that could change the picture and drag Israel into acting against its best interests, or even into a ground incursion.” This dilemma, Limor says, is even harder because the military balance is turning in Israel’s favour. “With each passing day the blow to Hamas’s armament project gets worse, and it is having trouble producing effective offensive operations.”
Also in Yediot Ahronot, Nahum Barnea quotes former high-ranking security officials who told him, “The political echelon does not and never had a policy vis-à-vis Hamas”. Barnea argues that “for decades, these experienced people spent time with prime ministers and defence ministers, attended thousands of meetings, formulated and executed decisions, but all failed to realise that the thing that they had perceived to be a lack of policy was actually the policy. In 2010, Prime Minister Netanyahu chose Hamas. He was not the first to choose Hamas, but he was the one who went the farthest. We saw the results of that this week.”
The clashes between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, which continued yesterday and last night, are covered at length in today’s papers. Titled “The Victims of Hatred,” Yediot Ahronot shares the stories of those who were viciously beaten or shot in Israel’s mixed cities. Several altercations took place throughout Israel overnight, and included vandalism, torching police cars and synagogues, assaults, stone-throwing and more. Commenting in Yediot Ahronot, Sima Kadmon writes: “We will manage our fear of the missiles. We will not manage our stomachs that turn over at the sight of lynching in our city streets… after all, we knew. Why are we so shocked? Did we not see the members of La Familia savagely beating Arab soccer fans of Maccabi Haifa, or the mighty Lehava threatening Arabs? Did we not see the provocations, the destruction and the attacks on Arabs? What we didn’t know, what we didn’t foresee, is the magnitude of the dearth of leadership.”
Maariv runs on its front page an eight-point plan on what the government needs to do to restore governance inside the mixed cities:
- Allow the police to open fire on rioters and in particular on people carrying either a firearm or a cold weapon and who endanger the public.
- Restore deterrence: expand the police officers’ powers so that they can use greater force when dispersing demonstrations.
- Improve the police presence on the ground: draft 5,000 combatants into the police’s ranks.
- Inform the public about certain areas in which anyone who takes the law into their own hands does so at their peril. Those areas should include, among others, the entrances and access roads to IDF bases, police facilities and main traffic arteries.
- Change the rules of engagement when dealing with armed men who are approaching IDF bases or military areas in a threatening manner.
- Provide legal support to citizens who prove that they fired in self-defence.
- Pass legislation to allow stripping anyone involved in nationalist violence of their Israeli citizenship.
- Improve the police’s capabilities to be more on par with the military’s: allocate budgets and resources to facilitate forming advanced technological and cyber units; social media tracking capabilities and others for preventing organised crime.
In political news, Maariv reports that Yamina leader Naftali Bennett announced last night that he will no longer negotiate to form a government that will require the support from the Islamist Raam party – effectively ruling out a ‘government of change’. Upon Bennett’s announcement, the negotiations resumed between Yamina and Likud and the two negotiating teams are talking. “The government of change, in its planned composition, will not be able to cope with the emergency situation in the mixed cities,” said Bennett. “We need to use force, to bring in the army, to make arrests. Things that cannot be done when relying on Mansour Abbas.” Bennett will now seek to form a unity government that will include the Likud, Saar’s New Hope, Gantz’s Blue and White and Lapid’s Yesh Atid. That will mean putting enormous pressure on Saar, perhaps an offer that he can’t refuse. As for Lapid, he announced last night that he intends to make use of the 20 days he has left and leave no stone unturned to form a government of change and said that Bennett was making a mistake. Bennett’s statement was welcomed by the right-wing.
Ben Caspit argues in Maariv that Bennett’s political move is a sign that he has “buckled under the pressure”. Capsit writes: “He realised that the government of change was running late, and he preferred stopping the heavy bleeding that had ailed [his party] since the security situation first began to deteriorate. What does this mean? For now, not much. It worsened the chaos, it intensified the maelstrom. Netanyahu doesn’t have a government even with Bennett. Nothing about the math has changed. As long as Smotrich and Ben Gvir refuse to serve together with Abbas, things are stuck. Gideon Saar, who has a solid backbone, is not going along with the Bibi-Bennett deal, not on the present terms. If he’s offered first place in an alternating premiership and Netanyahu’s departure from politics after the current term, he might reconsider. But he hasn’t been offered anything of the sort. The thought of Netanyahu leaving politics seems more imaginary than quiet in Lod.”