Israel is worried about UNRWA’s announcement that due to cuts in US funding, it will not be able to open schools in the West Bank for the academic year scheduled to begin Sept. 1.
Palestinian children walk outside of the United Nations’ school in the Askar refugee camp, near Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on Jan. 17, 2018, after the White House froze tens of millions of dollars in contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, which operates schools in refugee camps.
One of Israel’s greatest achievements of the past few years has been preserving the distinction between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, keeping the 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank out of a circle of violence and terror. Israel managed to contain a wave of knife attacks by individual Palestinians, at least relatively; a breach occurred July 27, when a 17-year-old Palestinian murdered Yotam Ovadia in the Adam settlement. It has also managed to prevent Hamas from exporting the fire of its incendiary kites from Gaza to the West Bank.
This is all background to the issue the defense establishment calls the “UNRWA dilemma.” On the one hand, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees does not have many fans in Israel. The conventional wisdom is that the organization plays a decisive role in the perpetuation, exacerbation and expansion of the problems of Palestinian refugees. The US decision to freeze economic aid to UNRWA, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, is considered by Jerusalem to be another major success of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in enlisting the support of the Donald Trump administration. The government’s claims against UNRWA have succeeded in convincing an absolute majority of Israelis that the agency is little more than a respirator that keeps the Palestinian refugee issue alive.
There is another side to the coin, however, and it involves a single date: Sept. 1. On that day, tens of thousands of Palestinian students are scheduled to start the new school year. As of now, however, they won’t. Many Palestinian schools, especially primary schools, are financed by UNRWA, which has announced that given its dire finances due to the freezing of American aid, the schools cannot be opened. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is well aware that this poses a major problem, potentially generating the energy and critical mass to ignite the Palestinian street in the West Bank at any moment.
A senior Israeli military source tasked with dealing with the implications of what might (or might not) happen Sept. 1 tried to steer clear of the politics when discussing the issue with Al-Monitor. He is well aware that when push comes to shove, the clash between the strategic (UNRWA making its decision) and the tactical (Israel maintaining calm and preventing another intifada) could set off sparks that set the ground ablaze a month from now.
“When children in the Dheisheh refugee camp find themselves with nothing to do Sept. 1, they could head out to Highway 60 [the north-south route through the West Bank] and start making problems,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The entire situation could deteriorate from there.” He added, “We need to prepare for that possibility.”
The same source attributes the relative calm in the West Bank to two factors. The first, a military factor, involves Shin Bet and the IDF successfully preventing terrorist acts in close cooperation with the security forces of the Palestinian Authority. In 2017, they thwarted 400 attacks and made thousands of arrests. For Israel, the cost of the 54 attacks that did occur was tolerable. In fact, it was somewhat lower than in the past.
The second factor involves the quality of life in the West Bank. A top military official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “In the situation that has been created, the average Palestinian hardly sees the army. There are hardly any checkpoints, and freedom of movement is very high, at least relatively. We hardly ever see what we did in the past, with long lines and traffic jams at the checkpoints, as tens of thousands of Palestinians head to work in Israel or the settlements every day. We do not interfere with the fabric of day-to-day life, even on the toughest days, when terrorist attacks occur. The distinction we have drawn between the terrorists and the general population has proved itself effective.’’
According to the official, Israel distinguishes between three main groups of Palestinians in the West Bank. There is a small but determined group of “violent individuals, who want to conduct terrorist attacks and harm Israel. A larger group is also violent, but restrained and wary of engaging in terrorism. Then there is the vast majority of people, who are indifferent and simply want to live their lives in peace.”
The name of the game for the IDF and Shin Bet is to keep pushing people prone to violence into the “violent but restrained group,” while at the same time moving as many people as they can from the “violent but restrained” category to the “indifferent” category. So far, the success of this policy has been staggering.
As reported May 21 in Al-Monitor, the strategy for the West Bank adopted by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman is to avoid disrupting day-to-day life while dealing with terrorism, and only terrorism, on a point-specific basis. Complementing this strategy is that young Palestinians in the West Bank are able to compare their relatively better quality of life with the worsening unemployment, poverty, and dire circumstances faced by their brothers and sisters in Gaza.
This takes us back to Sept. 1. The possibility that the current, relatively quiet situation could be interrupted if the school year does not begin as scheduled has been keeping members of Israel’s defense establishment awake at night. It could happen if UNRWA’s decision turns a tactical situation into a strategic problem. Nevertheless, Israel still hopes that UNRWA’s threat is ultimately a false alarm and that schools in the refugee camps open as scheduled.
“Unemployment in the … West Bank is relatively low, standing at just 17%,” a senior Israeli defense source told Al-Monitor, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It is, however, much higher in the refugee camps, where it stands at about 50%. This makes them particularly volatile. It is there, in the refugee camps, where responsibility for the schools is left to UNRWA, which is now going bankrupt. This has resulted in a very dangerous situation, which will pose a major challenge to us over the next few months.”
Compounding the situation is the reportedly deteriorating health of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. This leaves Israel with a major headache that is rapidly becoming a migraine. The most informed Israeli assessment on Abbas’ health, based on foreign intelligence sources, is that he is suffering from a major illness and does not have long to live. What will happen when he dies is anybody’s guess.
Another senior Israeli military source said that for now, Abbas remains lucid and functioning and is in full control. One the other hand, no one will commit to this still being the situation next year or even next month. If Abbas and UNRWA end their historical roles at around the same time in the near future, the West Bank could get a resounding jolt.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — which seeks to criminalize criticism of migration — is nothing more or less than a dangerous effort to weaken national borders, to normalize mass migration, to blur the line between legal and illegal immigration, and to bolster the idea that people claiming to be refugees enjoy a panoply of rights in countries where they have never before set foot.
One thing about the agreement, in any event, is irrefutable: almost nobody in the Western world has been clamoring for this. It is, quite simply, a project of the globalist elites. It is a UN power-grab.
The waterfront in the Chilean city of Valdivia. Photo: Arvid Puschnig via Wikimedia Commons.
Top Jewish groups have welcomed a Chilean government decision made earlier this week to ban municipalities across the country from boycotting Israel.
The ruling — issued by the Comptroller General of Chile – stemmed from a complaint filed by the Chilean Jewish community over a move of the Valdivia municipality to ban the city from signing contracts with Israel-linked companies.
Spurred by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s resignation and the realization that elections will likely be moved to early 2019, the leaders of the Druze community are determined to fight against the Nationality Law.
Leaders from the Druze minority and others take part in a rally to protest the Jewish nation-state law in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 4, 2018
It certainly seems like Israel is headed toward early elections. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who resigned Nov. 14, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett were both part of the current right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, competing over which of them was its most right-wing member
Israel has started uncovering and destroying Hezbollah’s attack tunnels under the Lebanese border, but destroying the group’s ambitious precision missile project will be much more difficult.
The Israel Defense Forces placed a camera into Hezbollah’s secret cross-border attack tunnel before sunrise on Dec. 4. They pushed it into the Lebanese side, under the Blue Line that separates the two countries. At dawn, two Hezbollah operatives reached the spot on their morning rounds. In the video disseminated by the IDF on Tuesday evening, one of the operatives is seen approaching the camera with suspicion. He stuck his nose in its direction and started to sniff around until something exploded in his face and he ran back the way he’d comVisibilitye.
The timing of Operation Northern Shield, to destroy Hezbollah tunnels leading from Lebanon into Israel, suggests that considerations other than security were behind the decision to launch it.
An Israeli commando from Yahalom, an engineering unit, takes part in a tunnel-hunting drill near Tel Aviv, March 7, 2012.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech to Likud activists on Dec. 2 that was both defensive and combative toward law enforcement authorities. He complained about the supposedly suspicious timing of the police announcement recommending his indictment for taking bribes in Case 4000, coming as it did one day before Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh concluded his term in office.
This week, for the first time, Israel made public its discovery of the tunnel constructed by Hezbollah and reaching into Israel’s sovereign territory. This brought to an end a long period during which a large number of Israelis living in communities adjacent to the Lebanese border reported hearing sounds of digging as well as feeling tremors in the walls of their homes.
Attack tunnels are intended to allow for significant numbers of armed infantry bearing weapons, artillery and supplies, to traverse them within a minimal time span, avoiding Israeli lookouts and thereby gaining the element of surprise.
Last Saturday, Iran’s “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani called Israel “a cancerous tumor” in a speech at the regime’s annual Islamic Unity Conference.
Rouhani’s fellow speakers included deputy Hezbollah chief Naim Qassem and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh. Both terror bosses called for the destruction of the “cancerous tumor.”
With the predictability of a Swiss clock, the Europeans rushed to condemn Rouhani. The EU in Brussels condemned Rouhani. The German Foreign Ministry condemned Rouhani. And so on and so forth.
We could have done without their statements.
It was clear that with the onset of Operation Northern Shield—meant to neutralize terror tunnels Hezbollah has constructed along the Israel-Lebanon border—some would call it a public relations stunt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Those who believe the timing of the police’s recommendations in Case 4000—announced on the last day of Roni Alsheikh’s tenure as the police commissioner—was reasonable, somehow complain about the timing of the operation.
On Sunday evening, December 2, the people of Sderot, Israel – a town located a mere kilometer from the Gaza border – gathered to light the first candle of the town’s menorah to commemorate the first day of Hanukkah. Jews around the world celebrate this holiday, which marks the time some two millennia ago when the Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Second Temple.
What makes the candle lighting in Sderot worth mentioning is the fact that it is particularly symbolic of how the Jewish spirit looks for ways to turn tragedy into triumph.
This is obviously a short-lived honeymoon that will end the day after the UN General Assembly vote on the anti-Hamas resolution. The morning after the vote, Abbas will wake up to the realization that Hamas was a strange bedfellow indeed.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s hatred of Hamas is far from secret. But Abbas is now defending Hamas because he despises the Trump administration, which has sponsored a UN draft resolution that condemns Hamas. Pictured: Abbas (right) meets with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on May 30, 2007 in the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Abu Askar/PPO via Getty Images)