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Hand in the Keys, Arabs in IDF, Discharged and Penniless


Blistering Gaza war report scorches Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Gantz over tunnel failures

Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, February 28th 2017

Recap:

The State Comptroller criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for failing to adequately prepare for the Hamas attack tunnels used during 2014’s Operation Protection Edge [1].

The Context:

  • During the 50-day conflict, the IDF responded to Hamas rocket fire originating from Gaza by destroying its rocket launch sites, weapons caches and attack tunnel entrances. By the war’s end 30 tunnels were destroyed, half of which crossed the border into Israel, 74 Israelis and over 2,000 Gazan’s were killed. Israel attributed the high Gazan civilian death toll, estimated between 50%-70%, to Hamas embedding itself in residential neighborhoods. Hamas blamed Israel for indiscriminately targeting residential neighborhoods.

  • Hamas is suspected of having restored its arsenals and rebuilt much of its infrastructure back to pre-Operation Protective Edge levels [2]. Israel has spent close to $550 million constructing underground barriers to block Hamas infiltration [3].

  • Netanyahu and Ya’alon bore the brunt of the scathing report for allegedly downplaying the tunnel threat and lacking clearly defined operational plans for how to destroy them. The report holds that these failings might have led to unnecessary Israeli deaths. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog called on Netanyahu to “hand in the keys” [4] and Palestinian leaders called for Israel to “be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court [5]."

  • Netanyahu deemed the operation a “great success” that brought “unprecedented quiet” to Israel’s south [6] and Ya’alon praised his administrations “professional, considered and responsible manner” of handling the war [7]. IDF Chief Gadi Eisenkot said the IDF aims to create improved standard operating procedures based on the reports findings [8].

  • The report will likely benefit Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, both members of Netanyahu’s coalition and likely contenders for a future Prime Minister position. Even though Lapid and Bennett were members of the security cabinet during the war, the report maintains they were left out of the decision-making process [9].

Conversation Points:

  • Will the State Comptrollers report be utilized to settle political scores?

  • Is a nation’s leadership expected to perform with perfection in times of crisis? Is anyone capable of always getting it right under pressure?

  • Will the report’s findings pose yet another challenge for Netanyahu as he tries to maintain the image as an indispensable leader?

Arab Israelis Are Joining the IDF in Growing Numbers: Officials

Paul Goldman, NBC News, February 27th 2017

Recap:

The number of Arab-Israelis volunteering for Israeli military service, once fewer than 10, has jumped to a few dozen. "This is my country and it's my duty to protect its borders," said an Arab-Israeli recruit.

The Context:

  • Israeli military service is mandatory for most Jews, Druze and Circassian communities.

  • The Minorities Unit was founded in 1948 when Druze leadership appealed to David Ben-Gurion, then Minister of Defense, to draft Druze men on the same basis as Jews. Since then, most minorities request full integration into the IDF although some Arabic-speaking units still exist today [10].

  • Most Arab-Israelis that enlist do so for economic, not political, motivations since financial and social opportunities are greater for former Israeli soldiers.

  • The conscription of Arab-Israelis is not favorably viewed upon by the majority of Arab-Israelis, who makeup 20% of Israel's population, and integration is not simple for Arab recruits who often feel mistrusted by their comrades. Israeli-Arab MK Yousef Jabareen vehemently opposes Arab conscription and says those who do so support the “oppressive regime against [the Palestinian] people."

  • This week, 25 Bedouin reservists said they would not serve until the government addresses systematic discrimination against their community. “We have shed blood and tears in safeguarding Israel’s borders and the country abandons us day by day, hour by hour [11].” Today, there are approximately 1,500 Bedouins serving in the IDF and, earlier this month, a Bedouin soldier was promoted to Colonel [12].

Conversation Points:

  • Can the army work as a platform to strengthen bonds between Israel’s various communities?

  • What difficulties might Arab-Israeli soldiers face when returning to their communities, especially after seeing active combat duty in Palestinian areas?

Some soldiers to keep missing out on money

Gad Lior, Ynet News, February 28th 2017

Recap:

Discharged IDF soldiers will continue to forfeit money owed to them due to political wrangling.

The Context:

  • Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked rejected a bill proposed by MK Mickey Levy that seeks to return millions of shekels to discharged soldiers who failed to cash out their grants in time.

  • Levy proposed that funds intended for soldiers on their discharge from active military service be paid automatically after seven years. Currently, if funds are not withdrawn within seven years they revert to the state. The ministry estimates that since 2000, nearly $25 million has been involuntarily forfeited.

  • The Ministry of Defense rejected Levy’s criticism saying that the amount of non-withdrawn funds amounts to 1/3 of 1% of overall grants and the ministry makes "repeated attempts" to locate those soldiers. Levy responded "when we need them for reserve duty, the IDF finds every soldier."

Conversation Points:

  • Why aren’t grants automatically paid to Israeli soldiers upon their discharge?

Notes:

  1. Army accuses comptroller of tunnel vision in Gaza war report, Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, February 28th 2017

  2. Ibid.

  3. Watchdog scolds Netanyahu over handling of 2014 Gaza war, Jeffrey Heller, Reuters, February 28th 2017.

  4. Army accuses comptroller of tunnel vision in Gaza war report, Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, February 28th 2017

  5. Israel's cabinet 'ignored warnings' over 2014 Gaza war, Al Jazeera, February 28th 2017

  6. Herzog: Netanyahu should resign over scathing Gaza war report, Sue Surkes, Times of Israel, February 28th 2017

  7. Ya'alon stands fast with Netanyahu against comptroller report , Yoav Zitun and Alexander J. Apfel, Ynetnews, February 28th 2017

  8. Ibid.

  9. Israeli report criticizes Netanyahu, military leadership over 2014 Gaza war, Oren Liebermann and Amir Tal, CNN, February 28th 2017

  10. First Bedouin IDF Colonel Represents Proud Israeli Minority, Tsivya Fox, Breaking Israel News, February 14th 2017

  11. 25 BEDUIN IDF RESERVISTS STEP DOWN, CITING DISCRIMINATION, Anna Ahron Heim, Jerusalem Post, February 26th 2017

  12. First Bedouin IDF Colonel Represents Proud Israeli Minority, Tsivya Fox, Breaking Israel News, February 14th 2017


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