Israel’s Liberal Opposition Backing Netanyahu in Action at Nablus

A country divided politically agrees on the hard line against terrorism being levied by the Likud-led government.

AP/Majdi Mohammed
Smoke from tire fires fills the air as Palestinians clash with Israeli forces at the West Bank city of Nablus, February 22, 2023. AP/Majdi Mohammed

Israel, facing an internal rebellion and increased pressure from outside detractors, finds itself at war against terrorists and powerful militaries seeking its annihilation. Will its deadly operation at the heart of a major West Bank city intensify these pressures and embolden enemies?

At least 10 people were killed Wednesday in a clash between a large Israeli force and armed terrorists at Nablus, in the northern West Bank. Among the dead were a 72-year-old man and a 16-year-old. The three terrorists that the operation was designed to arrest were also killed. 

The headline-grabbing fight followed a diplomatic battle at the United Nations Security Council, in which Washington averted vetoing a Palestinian-led anti-Israel resolution but condemned Israeli policies nevertheless. In a deal brokered by the Department of State, the Palestinian Authority agreed to defer further action at the UN for a few months.

Jerusalem, in return, agreed to temporarily halt issuing new housing permits in West Bank settlements, as well as several other actions. Those, reportedly, include a promise to “decrease the number of Israeli military raids in Palestinian cities.” 

Despite the large number of casualties at Nablus Wednesday, Israeli officials hope the raid will not trigger a new round of diplomatic recrimination. Washington is “extremely concerned by a large number of injuries and loss of civilian lives,” the state department’s spokesman, Ned Price, said Wednesday. 

Despite such caviling, Israeli activities in the northern West Bank may serve the Palestinian Authority rather than undermine it, as the Nablus raid targeted groups that rival the PA’s president, Mahmoud Abbas.  

Meanwhile, even as Israel undergoes the most divisive political struggle since its independence and fights internally over a wide array of issues, anti-terrorist action is widely applauded. Prime Minister Netayahu’s immediate predecessor and a current leader of the anti-Bibi protest movement, Yair Lapid, was among those doing so. 

“The fight against terrorism requires determination, perseverance and a hard hand,” Mr. Lapid tweeted Wednesday. “The terrorist squads and their senders know that our security forces will catch them anywhere and will do everything to protect the citizens of the country.” 

The Nablus operation was carried out at dawn by a large team from various security arms. The three men targeted in the raid were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Lion Den. These Iranian-backed groups dominate the northern West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority long ago lost control.

In a video posted by a Nablus-based blogger who calls himself Younis, a young man claiming to be an eyewitness said that members of the undercover Israeli unit were disguised as Arab sheikhs. They hid in the bathroom of a mosque, the man said, and launched the operation with guns wrapped up in carpets from the mosque. 

“We never had a script that good,” a co-creator of the international hit series “Fauda,” Avi Issacharoff, tweeted in response to the video clip. A veteran of an Israeli Defense Force unit similar to the one his series depicts, Mr. Issacharoff is a vocal opponent of Mr. Netanyahu’s government, including its attempt at sweeping judicial reforms, which has passed a first Knesset reading this week. 

In a separate tweet, Mr. Issacharoff wrote that the Wednesday event represented “an escalation we haven’t experienced in a long time.” He added, “I hope the Israeli government has time to deal with the deteriorating situation in the territories, and not only screw up the justice system.”

Such laments are widespread among former Israeli security officials worried about an eruption of violence during the upcoming Passover holiday, which coincides with the month-long Ramadan. In addition, veteran Israeli diplomats are concerned about deteriorating relations with Washington and European capitals. Tel Aviv economists are spooked by the shekel’s devaluation and fear foreign flight from investing in Israeli firms.

For now, though, the Israeli security apparatus seems to operate on all cylinders. In addition to the Nablus raid, the Israeli Air Force is widely suspected to be behind a successful attack Sunday at Damascus, where several top Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps leaders were killed. They were there to advance manufacturing of missiles and drones that could be used against Israel and that Tehran sells to Russia for use in Ukraine. 

Yet, Jerusalem’s enemies interpret Israel’s internal divisions as a sign of weakness. “They talk about a civil war coming,” the Hezbollah chief, Hassan Nasrallah, said in a recent speech. “They talk about the fact that there is no solution to the new challenges posed by the Netanyahu government except through bloodshed.”

In May, Israel will mark the 75th anniversary of its independence. Yet, Mr. Nasrallah said that “with Allah’s help, it will not reach its 80th birthday.” His boast is suspect: Mr. Nasrallah, in hiding for decades, well knows his own demise will precede Israel’s.

Yet, Israeli opponents of the government are worried. “As our diplomatic and security challenges mount, crucial government policies seem to be hijacked by shortsighted internal politics — and that’s a luxury we can’t afford,” a former Israeli ambassador to India and the UN, Daniel Carmon, told the Sun. 

The New York Sun

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