(Banner will apear here)

Beautiful Kabbalah Jewelry Judaicawebstore.com
Font Size:

Hebron, Gaza and Israeli Primaries

Wall-To-Wall Israeli Condemnation of Settler Violence against Palestinians in Hebron

Hebron Clash & Surge In Gaza Rocketing Propel Defense Minister Barak Into Limelight

Settlers Accuse Defense Minister Of Exploiting Hebron Crisis for election purposes

Israeli policeman evicting Jewish settlers

The Israeli election primaries moved into high gear amid escalating settler violence in Hebron and Palestinian rocketing from Gaza. This sudden shift, above and beyond its security implications, may provide Labor party leader Ehud Barak with a 'make or break' opportunity in his role as defense minister. IsraCast assesses the evolving situation against the backdrop of Hebron and Gaza - further reports will also analyze the Likud and Kadima strategies for the February 10th election.

The violence by "hilltop youth" in the disputed building of Hebron has been condemned from across the Israeli political spectrum. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann went as far as to say that after being evicted forcibly by Israeli security forces from the building, the teenagers carried out "a pogrom" on Palestinians in Hebron. Likud leader Bibi Netanyahu in the right joined the center and left wings of Israeli politics in condemning the law breakers, who had even attacked IDF soldiers and Israeli policeman. Even the settler's council in Judea and Samaria (West-Bank) admitted they had lost control over the youngsters, while criticizing Barak for "recklessly" using force to expel the settlers from the building which was bought legally from its Arab owner in Hebron. They charge that Barak exploited the situation for election purposes. In 1929, Arab rioters massacred most of the Jewish children, women and men who lived Hebron, one of the most sacred sites in Judaism and the burial place of the patriarch Abraham. There is no question that Hebron is a major Israeli-Arab flashpoint. 

See IsraCast article on the Hebron Massacre of 1929

Paper tiger or roaring lion

The "hilltop youth" were originated years ago, with the encouragement of Ariel Sharon, to take control of the uninhabited hills in Judea and Samaria, to create facts on the ground (this was during Sharon's settlement phase). Since then they have become a law unto themselves. The young settlers, in violation of an Israeli high-court ruling, have vowed to return to the disputed building in Hebron. The affair may have become a test case, to sound loud and clear there will be no future evacuations in the West Bank similar to the Israeli pull-out from Gaza, conducted by non-other than former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

However, Kadima cabinet minister Haim Ramon has declared that the eviction of the settlers from the Hebron building showed they were no more than a "paper tiger". The young settlers retort that they will be back to prove they are a "roaring lion".

Ehud Barak (Photo: Amit Shabi)

In any case, Defense Minister Barak conducted a swift and effective eviction of the settlers, surprising them while he conducted negotiations for a peaceful resolution of the three-day standoff. Barak's move, intentional or not, came against the backdrop of the February 10th general election. His labor party is trailing far behind front-runner Bibi Netanyahu and Kadima's Tzipi Livni. Potential voters from the center and left had abandoned Labor in droves over what they view as Barak's failure to stem the Palestinian rocketing from the Gaza Strip as well as to quell settler violence on the West-Bank. The Labor party leader may have gained points with some of these voters by confronting the settlers. Next on his agenda could be Gaza. Palestinian terrorists from Gaza have launched over 27 Qassam rockets and mortars at Israel in less than a day and a half. Fortunately, there were no Israeli casualties. In reaction, the IDF has conducted more pin-point counter-terror operations in Gaza, but so far this has not succeeded in stemming the cascade of rocketing. In addition, the Defense Minister has closed entry terminals to Gaza allowing only basic humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinians.

Will Gaza Be Far Behind?

Will the Defense minister also up the ante against the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip? In light of the terrorist provocations, he would certainly be justifying in doing so, and both Likud and Kadima are demanding a tougher Israeli response. The current situation in both Hebron and Gaza illustrates several things about the Defense Minister standing. First of all, Barak is only the defense minister, not the prime minister. However, Prime Minister Olmert and the other Kadima ministers have deigned to accept Barak's policy of restraint in both the West Bank and in Gaza. Although they may criticize him publicly, they have not acted politically in cabinet meetings to overrule Barak's policy of restraint. Kadima's Tzipi Livni has indicated she may plan on doing so.

Secondly, as defense minister with a high credit rating, Barak serves in an executive position with the power to act and not just talk during the election campaign. This, for better or worse, will give him an advantage over Netanyahu and Livni in corralling voters.

Labor's Knesset List

The Labor party, after its initial primaries fiasco, has succeeded in selecting, what many pundits see, as an attractive list of mostly fresh and youthful candidates, fielding a string team to push the social issue. Starting with Herzog, Paz, Braverman and Yahimovitch, Labor will be able to hit the ground running on social and economic questions which have come to the fore as a result of the global crisis.

Labor Strategy

Party insiders are now hopeful of a comeback, despite labor's dismal showing in opinion polls. There is no question that for one reason or another, party leader Barak has aroused a lot of antagonism. However, when voters are asked who they want as defense minister to answer the red telephone at 3 A.M. in the morning, they will 'hold their nose' and pick Barak. Labor will play-up Barak's defense credentials when the campaign begins in earnest. Look for Barak to challenge Netanyahu and Livni to meet him in face to face TV debates, similar to Obama and McCain in the recent U.S presidential election. It will be interesting to see if they accept such a challenge.

In a new twist, Barak himself has even consented to labor's running a negative campaign against himself! Billboards are now going up reading 'Barak is not charming, but is he not the best leader?' The Defense Minister has also come down from his high perch, declaring he is ready to take Labor into the opposition to serve Israel's best interest.

David Essing

Back To The Top