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Netanyahu has found the enemy and it is us

While the PM was handing out fake news awards (and also paying protection money to Hamas), guess what Gaza's leaders were doing
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in screenshot from the video "Watch: Who got this week's fake news prize?"
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in screenshot from the video "Watch: Who got this week's fake news prize?"

Early Friday afternoon, it was already clear on the Israeli side that Hamas would likely respond to the previous day’s killing of an member of the organization’s “restraint force.” The army was on heightened alert, deploying Iron Dome defense batteries in the area and closing zones abutting the border.

One would expect that during those hours the Defense Minister and Prime Minister would maybe be out in the field with the forces, or perhaps at the Kirya, IDF headquarters, monitoring the scene from the secure bunker, or possibly just sitting in his office receiving updates on the situation. Intead, Benjamin Netanyahu apparently spent the afternoon absorbed in completely different matters. While Hamas was busy with threats to open fire and Hassan Nasrallah was marking out his targets for the next war with Israel, Netanyahu was dealing with the real enemy, us, the media. The Prime Minister and Defense Minister spent hours filming a video intended for his base in which he distributed awards for the week’s fake news story.

And what an honor this week for my employer, Walla News: second place, right after Guy Peleg, the legal affairs reporter for Channel 12 News. If it weren’t so sad it would be funny. Why sad? Because this prime minister, who is so quick to call out the media for supposedly spreading “fake news,” is the same prime minister who authorized the funneling of tens of millions of dollars into the Gaza Strip each month, turning Israel into a state that gives in to blackmail, a state that lives according to the amount of protection money Hamas demands.

A few hours after Netanyahu’s video, Fathi Hamad, a Hamas leader who is apparently preoccupied with the real enemy (from his point of view), said he was giving the “Occupation” an ultimatum of one week to meet its commitments under the ceasefire arrangement. In other words, Hamas was threatening Netanyahu’s Israel: Pay the regular protection money, and if not, expect a major escalation.

But threats are one thing and actions another. While Hamas smells Netanyahu’s weakness in the face of upcoming elections, it also knows that an escalation will exact a heavy price. So on Friday evening, as expected, two rockets were fired at southern Israel, but both fell in open areas and caused no injuries. In other words, Hamas may be threatening but in practice it does not want war. Like Netanyahu, the organization makes do with the “catch me if you can” trick, and isn’t rushing to cross the Rubicon and go to war. For the time being, Hamas is content with threats, and in practice Hamas sought to signal mainly to its own base and launched (or permitted the launch) of rockets at Israel knowing they weren’t likely to fall on built-up areas or endanger human lives.

Meanwhile, a parade of visitors continues to flow into the Gaza Strip. Egyptian intelligence chiefs met with the Hamas leadership in order to calm the situation. Later this week, UN representatives are expected to visit the organization’s offices in the Gaza Strip to convince them not to initiate offensive moves and even intervene to contain events such as the killing of that “Restraint Force” operative. In the current reality, in which Israel and Hamas share the idea of ​​”managing the conflict,” a Hamas decision to let Israeli actions slide, once unimaginable, no longer seems impossible.

About the Author
Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.
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