Israel's new coalition shows kindness to enemies and cruelty to its own
The adage that one who is kind to his enemies will be cruel to his friends is being played out right before our very eyes on multiple political fronts.
The Knesset rejected a measure to compensate families who lost loved ones in Meron on Lag B’omer. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made a cameo appearance on the Knesset floor to vote no. Hoots of derision rained down on him from opposition MKs as he hastily headed for the nearest exit like a panicky driver fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run accident.
Bennett can be generous when he deems the cause to be worthy. A week earlier, he promised Jordan’s King Abdullah to boost the quantities of water Israel supplies to its arid eastern neighbor under the terms of the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty.
The Knesset’s no vote on Meron aid isn’t the last word. It will pass, eventually, in some form. And technically, Jordan isn’t Israel’s enemy, because of the treaty. However, Jordan still behaves in a two-faced fashion in its dealings with Israel. Publicly, it treats Israel as a pariah state. Privately, it acts rationally, as the Hashemite kingdom that rules Jordan wouldn’t last longer than the Six Day War without Israeli political and military backing.
Israel is not the root cause of Jordan’s chronic water shortages, nor can Israel singlehandedly provide the cure. Jordan has been flooded with almost five million refugees — more than 80 percent of them fleeing from conflicts such as the 1991 Gulf War, America’s invasion of Iraq, and the last decade of civil war in Syria. This influx has doubled Jordan’s population, further straining infrastructure already plagued with leaky pipes, water theft, and faulty water management. The government allocates some 60 percent of Jordan’s water to agriculture, which contributes a mere 3 percent to Jordan’s GDP.
Israel has largely abided by the terms of the deal with Jordan, sometimes at great sacrifice. Two consecutive winters of blessed rains have refilled the Kinneret and replenished aquifers. But before the winter of 2019, years of drought left the Kinneret dangerously close to the “black line.” Had it dropped below that point, Israel would have been forced to stop pumping water — to anyone — to avoid causing irreversible ecological damage.
Annex II of Israel’s treaty with Jordan calls for “mutual assistance in the alleviation of water shortages,” not unilateral Israeli largesse. The deal Israel and Jordan negotiated, in good faith, should be updated. We don’t know what Bennett and Abdullah discussed privately, but if Jordan wants more water, Bennett should bring demands of his own. Ask Jordan to stop cozying up to Iran. Water down Jordan’s administrative control of Har Habayis (through the Wakf), which increases tensions in the Old City and handcuffs Israeli security forces.
Israel’s policy of unilateral concessions and currying favor with hostile neighbors also manifests itself with Lebanon.
Lebanon is a failed state, controlled by Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy. Hezbollah has amassed an arsenal of an estimated 200,000 rockets and missiles that are more accurate and lethal at longer range than anything Hamas can launch.
Hezbollah has consolidated its control over Lebanon, running its economy into the ground. It now relies on drug trafficking, mainly from South America, to keep afloat.
How does Israel respond to this belligerent and criminal regime?
Defense Minister Benny Gantz offers humanitarian aid. At a July 4 ceremony in Metula, a Jewish town on the Lebanese border that Hezbollah has bombed mercilessly in the past, Gantz told the duly assembled: “As an Israeli, as a Jew, and as a human being, my heart aches to see the images of people going hungry on the streets of Lebanon.”
Secular Israeli media played this to the hilt, framing Gantz gazing wistfully across the border.
Gantz was absent from the vote on Meron, but six of seven MKs from his Blue and White party voted against it. And the Meron families wouldn’t have turned it down.
Lebanon, on the other hand, has no intention of accepting a “grush” from Israel, no matter how desperate they are. Maybe Gantz thinks he can make Israel look good at no cost to the taxpayers. But ten days after his altruistic offer, the IDF — for which Gantz is responsible as defense minister — released intelligence showing Hezbollah is storing rockets, military-grade explosives, and other weapons right across the street from a school with 300 students. This is just one of more than 1,000 similar sites that Hezbollah has hijacked for its purposes in southern Lebanon.
I have no doubts that Gantz’s heart aches even more at the threat Hezbollah poses to Israeli citizens, but before he tenders humanitarian aid to an enemy nation, how about supporting Jewish residents of southern communities who have spent countless sleepless nights in air raid shelters and whose children have grown up traumatized by Hamas? And how about aid to Jewish communities in Yehuda and Shomron, and Jerusalem neighborhoods, subjected to constant harassment by terrorists and other hostile elements?
What we’ve seen so far is a Bennett government that aims to please.
It aims to please the US, assuring that Israel won’t “surprise” the Biden administration with any pre-emptive attacks on Iranian nuclear sites, and will only politely express dismay while world powers re-enter a nuclear deal that Iran never honored and never will.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid traipses around Europe assuring the EU that Israel wants better relations. That means no more nagging as Netanyahu did about the EU funding illegal Arab construction in Area C. Lapid also tripped over his own tongue redefining anti-Semitism and conflating the world’s oldest form of hatred with other types of racism. In doing so, Lapid may have undermined Israel’s lobbying efforts of the past decade to obtain EU acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism.
The Bennett government is entitled to its own personality. If Bennett & Co. feel Bibi’s domineering personality rubbed some sensitive diplomats and elected officials the wrong way, and they believe their mild-mannered approach will be more effective, no one can stop them until the next election.
But the first thing they ought to do is show a kinder face to our people, like the Meron families, infants and toddlers in day care centers, and Jewish Israelis besieged with and victimized by terror, before offering goodwill gestures to its perpetrators.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 870)
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