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Hamas Tunnel uncovered by the IDF (photo credit: IDF)

Israel is now engaged in an active low-intensity war on three fronts: Gaza, the West Bank and the Iranian-Hezbollah forces in Syria. In the past week or so, there has been a noticeable escalation in hostile activity in these three arenas. However, the IDF has things well in hand, so much so that Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu was able to fly off on an official visit to India. However, his prodigal son Yair, after his latest escapade, was left behind. More on Yair's caper later.

More terrorist tunnels from Gaza...

The IDF has demolished another big terror tunnel from Gaza - the third in recent weeks. Once again, the Hamas government has invested millions of its foreign aid into digging another deep, sophisticated tunnel under the Israeli border with the goal of infiltrating terrorists to kill and kidnap Israeli civilians. The concrete and other material supplied to Gaza for building homes and schools were diverted to the tunnel by over one thousand truckloads cross the Israeli-Gaza daily. Look for the Israeli government to halt this ludicrous situation.

Once again, new and unique Israeli high-tech combined with exact intelligence to detect the latest tunnel, and then aircraft and special forces blasted it to smithereens. Hamas was given fifteen minutes advance warning to allow workers inside the tunnel to get out. It is unknown at this time if any were still inside when the proverbial dung hit the fan.

Hamas also added a new twist to their latest tunnel project - they added an additional fork under the Gaza - Egyptian border in order to link up with their Daesh buddies in Sinai, where Daesh has been attacking Egyptian targets. Daesh could use this tunnel to smuggle weapons to Hamas in Gaza and as an escape route. Cairo can be expected to hit the roof.

Night of Jan. 9th: Road Junction near the Israeli settlement of Gilad Farm on West Bank:

Raziel Shevach, a thirty-five-year-old father of six children was driving alone at a junction just a few moments from home. Suddenly a vehicle came speeding out of nowhere - a terrorist inside armed with an automatic rifle sprays the Israeli's car with twenty-two bullets. A fatally wounded Shevach manages to telephone his wife: 'They've shot me!' He is also able to call Magen David Adom (first response service) where he served as a volunteer, to give his location. Within a very short time, help arrives and an emergency ambulance rushes him to hospital. But after being riddled by a machine gun, Shevach dies of his wounds.

Later at the site, twenty-two bullet casings were found. IDF forces rushed to the area and began searching for the attackers who were believed to have fled to the nearby Palestinian town of Nablus.

This was the climax of increased Palestinian violence both in the West Bank and along the Gaza border ever since President Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital on December 6th. In Gaza, the Hamas government is known to be instigating a new wave of terrorism not on its home turf but primarily on the West Bank where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in charge. Hamas does not want Israel to retaliate further against Gaza, from where there has been the sporadic launching of rockets by other terrorist organizations at Israeli communities across the border. The IDF has responded by carefully calibrated return fire designed not to escalate the delicate situation. Meanwhile, the IDF has detected and destroyed another Hamas attack tunnel being built under the border into Israel.

But the drive-by killing on the West Bank was a new flash-point. Actually, it was a Catch-22 quandary for Israel. While Palestinian rioting has tripled since Trump's announcement, the IDF has managed to contain the violence by not imposing a curfew or other drastic steps that could further escalate the situation. For example, Palestinian workers from the West Bank have been allowed to keep going to their jobs inside Israel. The Israeli solution has been to impose restrictions only in the immediate area of the deadly attack and conduct a search of nearby Nablus.

Israeli reaction...

Some of the enraged settlers are calling for 'revenge' and a government decision to react by announcing the building of new Jewish homes in the area. That remains to be seen - Bibi will be super careful of not arousing Trump's ire these days. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Lieberman have already supported a bill to impose the death penalty on terrorist killers. This despite the fact that the Shabak Security service, which has chief responsibility for combating terrorism, is categorically against the death penalty contending it would be counter-productive. The Shabak has a point - how do you deter Palestinian suicide killers by threatening to execute them?

The fact is that Israel has never executed killers of any stripe, with the exception of Adolph Eichmann. Under Israeli law, capital punishment can be handed out to perpetrators of genocide or treason in time of war. Even if the bill passes all three Knesset readings, it would probably be turned down by Israel's High Court.

Israel again hits Iranian-Hezbollah build-up in Syria...

Iran is pressing on with its current campaign to convert post-civil war Syria into its own forward base on Israel's border. In the same manner, it has turned southern Lebanon, under the noses of the hapless UN peace-monitors, into a huge underground arsenal for its proxy, Hezbollah. But Israel isn't having it. Syria announced that Israel launched a three-stage missile attack on Hezbollah-Iranian positions and arsenals, some not far from Damascus. The main power in Syria is Russia, and so far President Vladimir Putin has remained mum on this ongoing tussle between Israel and Iran-Hezbollah. Come to think of it, why would Putin want to come to the aid of Iran? As for President Assad, he has his hands full trying to put paid to the civil war and trying to get the country back on its feet.

Bibi's 'troubles in battalions'...

As if it's not enough that the Prime Minister and his some of his senior aides are the subjects of intense police investigations involving financial malfeasance (for want of a better term to cover it all). Now his eldest son, Yair age 26, has become a huge embarrassment, and not for the first time.

First, Yair is protected by Shabak bodyguards and has a car at his disposal plus driver at the expense of the Israeli taxpayers. Channel 12 TV acquired a tape recording of Yair plus his chums discussing their visit to a notorious strip club in Tel Aviv including their romp with prostitutes who were available for a price in the establishment's back rooms. Yair was heard making some shocking comments about the prostitutes and also berating one of his chums for not giving him four hundred shekels.

It gets worse. This particular pal is the son of Israeli tycoon Kobe Madan, who reportedly made a killing in Israel's recent deal with private investors to develop the offshore Tamar gas deposits. Despite strong opposition, Netanyahu pushed through the deal, although some experts and opposition politicians called it a bad deal because Israeli consumers would end up paying high prices for their own gas than the going international price. Moreover, a leading Israeli geologist, Yossi Langotsky has contended that the gas deposits can make Israel energy-free for the next forty years. Therefore, it was in Israel's national interest to preserve this strategic asset and not sell it abroad. But Netanyahu used all his considerable clout to approve a deal with Nobel Energy and private investors to sell half of the gas output on the foreign market. This would mean that the remaining gas reserves could supply the Jewish state for only twenty years! Langotsky contends that Netanyahu caved into the investors' demands to make a quick buck at the expense of Israel's strategic interest. On this point Avi Gabbay, the new Labor Party leader has predicted that one day an official inquiry into the affair will reveal the true story.

To make a long story short, not only has Yair Netanyahu disclosed some highly unsavory details about his frequenting strip joints, accompanied by official bodyguards, but also is heard bragging to his buddy:

'My father (the PM) gave your father $20 billion dollars in the gas deal, so why are you such a cheapskate over 400 shekels!'

Obviously mortified, Netanyahu Sn. publicly chastised Yair saying that he and his Sarah had brought up their two sons to respect women. The PM contended that Yair was obviously speaking under the influence of alcohol and the media had 'crossed a red line' by broadcasting the tape recording. As a result, the PM also said it was high time that a law is passed banning tape recordings without the subject's knowledge.

In fairness to the Netanyahu family, Sarah Netanyahu has been involved in several court cases involving her treatment, or maltreatment, of employees at the official residence. However, the younger Netanyahu has always stayed out of the public eye and serves in an IDF combat unit.

Netanyahu's publicity disasters propel Likud nosedive...

It comes as no great surprise that Bibi's PR disasters are reflected in the latest opinion poll by Maariv newspaper. This is the current take by Israeli voters for the 120-member Knesset showing Yair Lapid overtaking Netanyahu.

  • 27 - Yair Lapid Future party
  • 22 - Netanyahu Likud 
  • 14 - Avi Gabbay Labor 
  • 13- Naftali Bennett Jewish Home 
  • 11- United Arab Party 
  • 9 - Moshe Kahlon Kulanu 
  • 8 - Ultra-orthodox 
  • 7 - Meretz
  • 5 - Avigdor Lieberman 
  • 4- Derri - ultra-orthodox 

As usual, a coalition of different parties would take power, that would probably still let the Likud form a new government on the basis of an election being held today.

Possible Likud Right-wing religious bloc:

  • 22-Likud 
  • 13- Bennett 
  • 9- Kahlon 
  • 8- Ultra-orthodox 
  • 5-Lieberman- 5
  • 4-Shas 
  • Total seats- 61 

Possible Centre-Left bloc

  • 27-Lapid 
  • 14-Labor 
  • 11- Arab List 
  • 7- Meretz 
  • Total seats - 59 

This would be tantamount to a dog's breakfast and would require some leap-frogging from the various parties’ present position. What are the possibilities for some crossing from one camp to another if that is the only alternative for a party being in the coalition.

  • Hardcore Right - Likud, Bennett 
  • Centre: Right - Kulanu, Lieberman 
  • Ultra-orthodox will go with whoever offers them the most of their religious demands 
  • Hardcore Left - Arab List, Meretz 
  • Centre: Left - Lapid, Labor, Kulanu 

It's still early days, and even if Bibi is indicted, he is not legally bound to resign until the very last stage of a High Court appeal, if he were found guilty. This could even last until the next scheduled election in November 2019. So far, the Likud is standing firmly behind him but might his change if the polls continue to fall for the Likud with Netanyahu their leader?

This leaves the door open to a National Unity government - each of the major parties serves as PM for two of the four-year term. This was once the case between Labor's Shimon Peres and Likud's Yitzhak Shamir.


Political Analyst David Essing


David Essing

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