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 US Treasury added three top Hezbollah figures to its list of sanctioned individuals on Tuesday, including two members of the Lebanese Parliament and a security official responsible for coordinating between Hezbollah and Lebanon’s security agencies.
It was the first time the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control had designated a member of Lebanon’s Parliament under a sanctions list that targets those accused by Washington of providing support to terrorist organizations. Washington has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
South African fans in Cairo celebrating their team’s win over Egypt at the African Cup of Nations. Photo: Reuters / Sumaya Hisham.
Three days after South Africa stunned the world of international soccer by knocking hosts Egypt out of the 2019 African Cup of Nations, the sound of elation remains clearly detectable in the voice of the team’s Jewish midfielder, Dean Furman.
“It was a fantastic victory, just fantastic,” Furman told The Algemeiner during a break in training on Tuesday, as South Africa prepared for its crucial quarterfinal game against Nigeria, another of the continent’s toughest sides, tomorrow.
Pieter van Oordt, left, with his brother, Roger, at the Israel
For the second time in recent history, a Dutch Christian organization dedicated to supporting Israel has gone head-to-head with the government. With their family tradition of belief in Israel that preceded the state of Israel by almost one hundred years, it seems unlikely that the van Oordts are about to back down, no matter what the odds.
Last month, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy made a request from the management of the Israel Products Center (IPC) to ensure they were in compliance with regulations adopted in 2015 by the European Commission requiring products made by Jewish owned companies in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights, and sections of Jerusalem to be labeled in a manner indicating their origins.
Studies have shown that dairy cows contribute large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, caused by the organisms living in their microbiomes.
Genetically modifying cows may help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and feed world populations, a new study led by Prof. Itzhak Mizrahi of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev suggests.
“Our findings are both a major breakthrough for basic science and will have a positive impact on two major challenges facing the international community for the foreseeable future: climate change and food security,” Mizrahi said.
The decision by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi to promote Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter reflects his future political aspirations.
Incoming Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi walks out at the end of a handover ceremony where he replaces Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, Jan. 15, 2019.
Israel has its own version of Napoleon’s famous saying, “Every soldier carries a marshal’s baton in his pack.” In these parts, every general carries a prime minister’s baton — or at least that of a defense minister — in his pack
As Islamist Watch has pointed out many times before, Islam is enormously diverse – containing many competing schools of theology, schools of jurisprudence, sects, ethnicities, cultures and mysticisms. Islamism is also not a single force; it comprises dozens of (both) competing and collaborating radical ideologies.
One of the most intriguing divisions, then, within both American Islam and Islamism of late has been growing dissent over the question of liberalism.
Right after Trump’s inauguration, I ran an article about how incredibly fake the news coverage was about his inauguration. (Those reading my site know I’m not a big Trump fan, but credit where credit is due and calling fake where calling fake is due.) The media was nothing short of spectacularly fake in the news it contrived that week on CNN, the New York Times and the other major fake media, and they mostly got away with it.
It wasn’t condescension or contempt. Recent remarks by former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit reek of racism. That is the proper way to frame them, calling them anything else is letting him off easy. In its classic, formal sense, racism is when a certain social sector perceives itself as superior because of clear racial criteria. Shavit represents an updated version of racism that doesn’t require ethnicity or religion as proof of a defect – you can call it “essential racism.”
Little Napoleon Barak is going to save Israeli Democracy? What a bunch of claptrap Orwellian doublespeak.
Well let’s check out history. How well did the original Napoleon save France’s democratic revolution against the monarchy?
Hmm, if I recall he crowned himself emperor!
For years, the pundits have been telling us that Israeli democracy is in danger because of the Arab birthrate, or because of the Jewish nation-state law, or because of the debates over the powers of Israel’s High Court.
I wonder if they will recognize the danger posed by the 10 left-wing American Jewish organizations that have formed a new umbrella organization, the essential purpose of which is to undermine Israeli democracy.