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It’s war between Netanyahu and the generals (and the PM may just have lost the corporal)

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The trial in Israel of Sergeant Elor Azaria for the killing of a Palestinian lying incapacitated on the street in Hebron last March may not be news in the United States, but it is causing huge divisions inside Israel, with one former security official warning of an impending civil war in Israel between Jewish factions.

The August 30 warning by Tamir Pardo, former head of the Mossad, was first picked up by al-Monitor.

When asked if Israel faces an external existential threat, Pardo joined the ranks with other heads of Israeli security branches when he said, “Today, the internal threat must worry us more than the external threat.” He argued that the most palpable danger faced by the state today is an internal rupture that could lead to civil war.

The same article also quoted former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon privately questioning Benjamin Netanyahu’s sanity: “A political source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that Ya’alon also talks privately about Netanyahu’s ‘dangerous state of mind.’”

“Civil War” was the headline of Uri Avnery’s latest column at the Gush Shalom site, a piece published by the London Review of Books. Avnery:

This statement means that the recent chief of the Mossad sees no military threat to Israel – neither from Iran nor Daesh nor anybody else. This is a direct challenge to the main plank of Netanyahu’s policy: that Israel is surrounded by dangerous enemies and deadly threats.

But Pardo sees a menace that is far more dangerous: the split inside Israel’s Jewish society. We don’t have a civil war – yet. But “we are rapidly approaching it”.

The split is being driven by the divisive manslaughter trial of Sgt. Elor Azaria, the army medic who killed an incapacitated Palestinian on the street in Hebron, captured on video  on March 24. Avnery understands the drama:

The military trial of [Elor] Azariya continues to tear Israel apart, several months after it started and months before it will end in a verdict…
Day after day, this affair excites the country. The army command is menaced by what already comes close to a general mutiny. The new defense minister, the settler Avigdor Lieberman, quite openly supports the soldier against his Chief of Staff, while Binyamin Netanyahu, a political coward as usual, supports both sides.
This trial has long ago ceased to concern a moral or disciplinary issue, and has become a part of the deep fissure rending Israeli society. The picture of the childish-looking killer, with his mother sitting behind him in court and stroking his head, has become the symbol of the threatening civil war Pardo speaks about.

The idea that the army leadership is now the bulwark of liberalism in Israeli society, and that the brass made the decision to bring Azaria to trial in order to restore order to the country, is also a theme of this Kobi Niv article in Haaretz two days ago. It’s Benjamin Netanyahu and the right against the generals.

Avigdor Lieberman… was not brought to the Defense Ministry to eliminate Ismail Haniyeh or the Iranian threat. This was not on the agenda. What was on the agenda, and what brought about the replacement of Moshe Ya’alon with Lieberman, were Ya’alon’s support for deputy chief of staff Yair Golan’s remarks about signs of fascism, and the IDF’s decision to try for manslaughter the soldier who shot the subdued Palestinian assailant in Hebron.

What is going on here?

The trial is an attempt by the high command of the Israeli army to regain control of their army. By making the unpopular decision to prosecute Azaria, they were actually looking for the spectacle of this trial that everyone else wanted to avoid with a plea deal. They saw this trial as an opportunity to take a very public stand against the recent epidemic of Israeli Defense Forces killings of Palestinian attackers, that they feel were encouraged by politicians, rabbis, and advocates of the “Jewish people.”

Elor Azaria is going to prison if the IDF has the final say.

No matter the verdict this trial will soon become a rallying cry for Generals Ehud Barak, Moshe Ya’alon, Yair Golan, and others who see Israel under Netanyahu heading toward the abyss. You can’t claim to be part of the Western world and have an army that acts like a tribal militia. Recall how Golan ended his Holocaust speech that announced the crisis last May:

[We must] ….ask ourselves what is the purpose of our return to our land; What we should sanctify and what not; What is right to praise what is not; And most importantly – how we should fulfill our role as a light unto the nations and as a model-society. Only this kind of memory has the power to serve as a living, breathing monument for our people, a worthy monument, a monument of truth.

All these people who worry what Israel is “sanctifying,” identify Netanyahu as the culprit. In their own way they each have said Netanyahu is the greatest threat to the state of Israel. They are going to go public with an unprecedented call, for the sake of the country and a sane future, that Netanyahu must go.

The picture Ronen Bergman painted in his Times op-ed months ago, of a possible “coup” because former security officials “detest ” Netanyahu, and regard him as “belligerent” and dangerous, just keeps on getting reinforced. It gets reinforced because it’s true.

These men are sure to get more specific about how he sacrificed the interests of the country for his own electoral and political concerns. That he opposed his security experts at every turn on almost every issue. They will say his war with Obama had nothing to do with what was good for Israel. That it was a personal vendetta. They will try to make it as clear as possible that Netanyahu is a dangerous, cynical, psychopath, on top of his toxic Jewish narrative and Messiah complex.

More than the formidable forces arrayed against him, what should indicate to Netanyahu that he really might be in trouble is one sentence that Jeffrey Goldberg, surely the most influential Jewish journalist in America, slipped into his Atlantic article a couple of days ago. In suggesting that Bill Clinton would make a good envoy to Israel/Palestine should Hillary Clinton be elected president, he added something else in Bill Clinton’s favor:

“Benjamin Netanyahu’s manipulations won’t work as easily on him [Clinton] as they did on Obama.”

The gratuitous attack is bad news for Netanyahu. That Goldberg used the words “Netanyahu’s manipulations” is not an accident and shows Netanyahu is clearly vulnerable. As I pointed out earlier this summer, Goldberg has not written a word about the execution in Hebron and the social and political crisis it engendered. Until now. The situation was too uncertain and unpredictable for someone as calculating as Jeffrey Goldberg to do anything but stay mum. So if Goldberg, a former IDF corporal, is kicking Netanyahu now, it means he must be down. Goldberg has his finger in the air and Goldberg thinks Netanyahu’s future is behind him.

As for the American press, Americans and even American Jews are oblivious to the turmoil in Israel set off by Azaria with his killing of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, 21. And as for those who do know something is amiss in Israel, it is likely they have read and been deceived by the Likudnik hasbarats Bret Stephens, Eli Lake and Max Boot, who have all dismissed the implications of the murdering medic.

The New York Times has not been any better. Aside from the surprisingly forthcoming Bergman op-ed that used the word “coup,” they have totally ignored the Kulturkampf that this trial has ignited in Israel. Maybe the issue is too delicate for the Times to write about. Whatever the explanation is, the NY Times will not have the luxury of ignoring this story too much longer

Yakov Hirsch

Yakov Hirsch is a professional poker player and a writer. His twitter handle is @Yakovhirsch and his articles are posted at

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26 Responses

  1. wondering jew on September 8, 2016, 1:18 pm

    The dynamics of the tensions between the generals versus the “right” is clear enough in avnery’s piece. But it is the mechanics of this coming coup that eludes my imagination. Will the generals surround the knesset with their tanks, will they assassinate bibi and replace him with Gideon saar? Although scenarios might seem frivolous, without such a scenario, I am left with the impression that bibi will be in power for at least a while longer and he will not be removed by a coup.

    (If the generals had already started secret negotiations with fatah or hamas, and thus could seize power temporarily, impose a peace treaty on the state of israel and then give back the power to the knesset after a fait accomplis, this would be a scenario. I do not believe that peace is so close that a 365 day coup d’etat can reach peace with fatah or hamas, so this scenario seems unlikely.)

  2. mcohen. on September 8, 2016, 1:51 pm

    what a story.the murdering medic.the generals have spoken.
    if there is one thing that unites an army it is an external threat and a seen as part of a larger picture point to a xyz

  3. annie on September 8, 2016, 2:49 pm

    great coverage and analysis yakov!

    • Yakov Hirsch on September 8, 2016, 8:47 pm

      Thanks Annie!
      Poor Jeffrey Goldberg, he knows I’m looking over his shoulder and reading his mind.

      • annie on September 9, 2016, 1:58 am

        you really hit the nail and drove it home on this one yakov. pitch tone volume etc.

  4. John Douglas on September 8, 2016, 3:59 pm

    Someone asks,

    “Name the middle eastern country with a government that’s not trustworthy, appealing to a mob that needs watching and with an army that monitors it all to assure some brand of moderation.”

    Historically one thinks of Turkey, Egypt, etc., but not the USA’s 51st State, the “only democracy in the Middle East.” Irony rules the day. Then again, if the US elections go one of the two ways, it could describe the USA itself.

  5. echinococcus on September 8, 2016, 4:00 pm

    Avnery is all wet again:

    And here is the paradox: once the chiefs of the service leave their jobs, they become spokesmen for peace. How come?

    Typical. As a Zionist, of course he will try to pass off the normalization of military rule for the conquered as “peace”. What the army (and the so-called liberal Zionists/Labor Zionists) wants is the peace of cemeteries within a “Western”-approved slave-holding normal nation, requiring a “rule of law”, i.e. that every theft and genocidal action be done according to the book.

    • Doubtom on September 9, 2016, 8:51 pm

      Well said, echinococcus! And let it ALL be conducted according to law. Our law.

  6. Mooser on September 8, 2016, 4:59 pm

    “official warning of an impending civil war in Israel between Jewish factions.”

    “Jewish factions”? There is no such thing. Tribal Unity forbids it. Besides, there’s not enough Jews to have factions, we all have to hang together.

  7. Tchoupitoulas on September 9, 2016, 12:07 am

    I read Goldberg’s piece and was struck by what an obsequious suck-up the man is. After the long, pandering description of how BC toiled away in the ’95 peace negotiations and came so close, there are little brown-nosing nuggets like these:

    …the only living person the antagonists would find, to their chagrin, impossible to ignore is Bill Clinton, a figure of singular stature in the Middle East.

    Bill Clinton, however, is the sui generis president who left office widely popular on both sides of the divide.

    A man of Clinton’s persuasive powers could conceivably organize such a complicated process. A man of his political gifts could also do the indispensable work of creating the conditions on the ground that would allow for an actual negotiation.

    It is a cliché in Israel to say that if Bill Clinton ran for prime minister, he would win easily.

    I was surprised at the swipes Goldberg took at Obama, but I suppose he feels Obama will understand that it’s just business.

    Anyway, Goldberg’s pitching here, the whole thing reads like he’s auditioning for the role of “Court Jew” (didn’t someone get in trouble for using that term recently?) I think if Bill Clinton bites, Goldberg will claim credit for coming up with the idea. Certainly he’ll try to ingratiate himself into the process as some kind of advisor/consultant.

    I don’t know Yakov. You vowed to keep Goldberg out of the White House but it looks like he’s expending a lot of energy to weasel his way in. And I can’t imagine he’d resort to such a shameless appeal to the Clintons’ vanity unless he knew they were susceptible to it.

    • Keith on September 9, 2016, 1:28 pm

      TCHOUPITOULAS- “Anyway, Goldberg’s pitching here, the whole thing reads like he’s auditioning for the role of “Court Jew”

      Help me out here. I am having difficulty imagining what role a “Court Jew” would play in a neocon Hillary Clinton administration. The image which comes to mind would be analogous to a “Court Catholic” at the Vatican.

    • Yakov Hirsch on September 9, 2016, 3:18 pm

      TchoupitoulasSeptember 9, 2016, 12:07 am
      “I don’t know Yakov. You vowed to keep Goldberg out of the White House but it looks like he’s expending a lot of energy to weasel his way in. ”
      Goldberg’s scheming won’t help him. He is not getting anywhere near the White House.
      Also, I think more accurate to think of Jeffrey Goldberg as a “Holocaust affirmative action journalist,” than a “Court Jew.”

    • CigarGod on September 10, 2016, 10:36 am

      Just one, “Court Jew”?
      Surely we need one more as a counter-balance.

      Seriously, we already have more than ample representation, currently holding about two dozen top positions in the administration.

  8. amigo on September 9, 2016, 7:26 am

    There is another war heating up in the only democracy in the ME.

    “In response to a report in Haaretz that Interior Minister Arye Dery wants to close businesses that operate on Shabbat in Tel Aviv, the grassroots religious-freedom movement Be Free Israel posted on Facebook: “For every supermarket that closes on Shabbat you’ll get more war against the corrupt world of Torah. For every ‘desecration of the Sabbath’ you try to stop, you’ll get an even bigger desecration, and intentionally.”

    The post was in a response to a report that Dery, who is also chairman of Shas faction, will try to torpedo recommendations of a committee formed to study the Tel Aviv bylaws that allow businesses to stay open on Shabbat.

    In the Be Free Israel post, which received 20,000 likes and 250 shares, its language on the issue reached a significant new level. “We’re taking off our gloves. If you close Tel Aviv, you’ll get war,” the post continued.

    Be Free Israel (Israel Hofsheet) was the organizer of Saturday night’s protests against the stoppage of work on the railway over the weekend (which meant that many had to be closed to continue working after the Sabbath ended).

    A number of Knesset members from Zionist Union and Meretz subsequently joined the protest. The organization describes itself as nonpartisan and says it is working to change the relationship between religion and state in Israel.

    Be Free Israel’s executive director, Mickey Gitzin, said he wrote the post because “secular people are being restricted.”

    read more:

    No paywall.

    Fighting words, hmmmm.

  9. Marnie on September 9, 2016, 10:37 am

    All the people on the right ginning up war after war against the Palestinians maybe in part has been to distract the palpable discontent present here for quite some time and rage against the stranglehold the self-proclaimed religious and their partners in crime, the rabbinute (a hate-filled racist group of perverts if there ever was) versus secular Jews. About time.

    It must be really embarrassing for HRC considering her bold statement wrt taking the relationship with netanyahoo to the ‘next level’.

  10. yourstruly on September 10, 2016, 2:14 am

    At a time when the international Palestine liberation movement is gaining momentum, up steps Israel-firster Jeffrey Goldberg, in his role as the great distractor, trying to divert our attention towards rumblings of a split inside Israeli Jewish society. Just the moment to send in Bill Clinton, he says, and never mind that Clinton failed miserably at Camp David when he was president. Perhaps Goldberg thinks that anti-Zionists, led by him into believing that Israel’s about to come apart, will call off BDS; instead waiting for the white Messiah BC to work his magic? No way! BDS is but the opening salvo in the worldwide effort to isolate the Zionist settler state Israel. Its advocates won’t be distracted by petty spats within the Zionist hierarchy.

  11. Talkback on September 10, 2016, 5:02 am

    Yakov Hirsch: “They saw this trial as an opportunity to take a very public stand against the recent epidemic of Israeli Defense Forces killings of Palestinian attackers, that they feel were encouraged by politicians, rabbis, and advocates of the “Jewish people.”

    The tribal militia suffers from another recent epidemic, because Rabin’s “Breaking the bones” disease has evolved:

    Israeli captain: “I will make you all disabled”

  12. Jackdaw on September 10, 2016, 2:55 pm

    Look up! Look up! The sky is falling.

    • Mooser on September 10, 2016, 5:55 pm

      “Look up! Look up! The sky is falling.”

      So put all your eggs in one basket, and count your chickens, Henny Penny.

    • Yakov Hirsch on September 10, 2016, 6:59 pm

      Jackdaw September 10, 2016, 2:55 pm
      “Look up! Look up! The sky is falling.”

      Indeed it might very well be.
      Netanyahu, the Energiser bunny of hasabrists, and i assume your idol, just can’t keep his mouth shut . He just can’t help himself even if its obvious that his cure is worse than the disease.
      Barak Ravid tells us one of the issues with Netanyahu’s latest video production

      “By the way, someone in Washington found that the source for large swaths of Netanyahu’s remarks and arguments were taken from a 2009 document put together by Frank Luntz, a prominent U.S. political consultant who is identified with the Republican Party and those in the American far-right. Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, who is a close associate of the prime minister, worked with Luntz in the early 1990s.”
      “Luntz developed the public diplomacy document for the Israel Project, a pro-Israel organization that in the past was bipartisan, but has in recent years shifted to the right. Page 62 of the document states in part that ethnic cleansing is the best argument in response to the settlement issue when it comes to the U.S. public. In his video, Netanyahu repeated Luntz’s text almost word-for-word.”
      read more:

    • talknic on September 10, 2016, 7:45 pm

      @ Jackdaw September 10, 2016, 2:55 pm

      Look up! Look up! The sky is falling.”

      If you say so Jackdaw. No one else is

      Meanwhile Jackdaw thinks asking Israel to adhere its commitments to International Law, the UN Charter is throwing it under a bus See more at:, as if the sky is gonna fall on the poor little rogue state if it adheres to its legal obligations

    • K Renner on September 20, 2016, 11:45 am


      Yawn. More pathetic attempts at nothing.

      What are you good for? Showing us all what pathetic jokers the self-styled “internet warriors for Israel” are.

      That’s really about it, ain’t it?

  13. johneill on September 12, 2016, 11:14 am

    “They will try to make it as clear as possible that Netanyahu is a dangerous, cynical, psychopath, on top of his toxic Jewish narrative and Messiah complex.” I’m waiting very patiently for this. I’ve been waiting patiently for this. I will continue waiting patiently for a single denunciation as thorough as yours.

  14. gingershot on September 12, 2016, 4:42 pm

    ‘Israeli Apartheid and the 3rd Israeli Generals Revolt’

    Otay Branch San Diego Public Library
    3003 Coronado Ave
    San Diego, Ca 92154
    Small Room
    Sat Oct 1st at 2:00 pm

    The Collapsing Israeli Apartheid and the Tsunami on American Politics
    The CIS/CNAS/Hillary Working Group, The Third Israeli Generals Revolt
    The Israeli Civil War: Hillary and the CIS vs the Settlers and Bibi

  15. W.Jones on January 4, 2017, 4:40 pm

    Killing of Rabin and the Altalena Affair are the only two instances of internal violent conflict between those two sides. Am I missing any?

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