Israel teeters on edge of precipice

The regime’s army radio has said that Netanyahu has discussed punishments for army deserters. The military may start arresting, suspending and dismissing the Air Force reservists who have pledged not to report for duty as part of protests against Netanyahu’s cabinet. 
Supporters of both the cabinet and the protest movement, which is well into its seventh month, have voiced concern about Israel’s war-readiness. 
An authenticated video circulating online shows an infantryman during an unknown raid against the Palestinians making desperate radio calls for air strikes to back the infantry against the resistance. 
The footage shows the Israeli infantryman then being asked by the pilot: “Are you for or against the reforms?”
A military spokesman has denounced the regime’s so-called culture minister Miki Zohar for posting (and later removing) the video on social media, saying it was “meant to create rifts” within the Israeli military. 
The regime’s army radio has claimed that “a few hundred” reservists from the Air Force have announced they would refuse call-ups.
After ending their training, Air Force pilots and navigators are required to undergo weekly training. They make up around half of the crews sent on combat sorties.
Netanyahu has said his coalition would act against what he has called “insubordination” in the ranks that risked inviting attack by Israel’s foes.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid has said that Netanyahu has to choose between the regime’s military or his judiciary overhaul bill. 
“Netanyahu and his ministers have berated warriors and pilots who decided to stop volunteering for reserve duty. [They] make people who have dedicated their lives to protecting the (regime) into enemies of the (settlers),” Lapid pointed out. 
He further highlighted that Netanyahu’s condemnation of the reservists is hypocritical, saying, “There are two parties [in the coalition] whose official policy is refusal [to serve in the army].”
“If they hold military service in such high regard, how is it that they appointed a convicted felon who never served a day in the army, Itamar Ben-Gvir, to the (regime’s) security office? How have they placed pogrom and arson fan Bezalel Smotrich in charge of the army in the (occupied) West Bank?”
The former head of the Israeli spy agency Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, told the protesting reservists their stance was “heroic”. 
But as Netanyahu looks set to pass his judicial bill on Monday (July 24), another former intelligence chief, Nadav Argaman, has issued a stark warning saying “on Monday, a bill is expected to pass, after which … I’m fearful about Israel … I am extremely worried that we’re at the beginning of a civil war.”
Saturday saw another wave of mass protests against Netanyahu’s cabinet and his judiciary overhaul plan, including settlers flooding the streets in occupied al-Quds (Jerusalem). 
In a sign of how the internal divisions have spilt beyond the occupied Palestinian territories, Netanyahu has yet to receive an official invitation to visit Israel’s staunchest supporter, the United States. 
This is something very rare, as almost all newly inaugurated Israeli prime ministers are invited to Washington as well as a photo opp with the US president within the first few months of taking office. 
Addressing reporters, US National Security Spokesman John Kirby, said “They will meet probably before the end of this year.” 
He did not specify whether that meeting would take place at the White House, as Netanyahu has repeatedly requested.
“All the details of the ‘wheres’ and the ‘whens’ are still being worked out,” Kirby added.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, an opponent of the judiciary reforms, has been invited instead.  The president in the Israeli system is ceremonial.  Before Herzog even landed on American soil, there was controversy after Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal described Israel as a “racist state”. 
Speaking at an event in Chicago, the lawmaker said, “As somebody that’s been in the streets and has participated in a lot of demonstrations, I think I want you to know that we have been fighting to make it clear that Israel is a racist state.”
Jayapal also said, “The Palestinian people deserve self-determination and autonomy.” Following scathing criticism from the Zionist lobby in Congress and in a sign of just how influential it is on American foreign policy, the chair of the US Congressional Progressive Caucus was forced to backtrack on her remarks and apologize in a statement. 
“I do, however, believe that [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s extreme rightwing government has engaged in discriminatory and outright racist policies and that there are extreme racists driving that policy within the leadership of the current government,” Jayapal noted in her statement. 
That wasn’t enough for some Jewish lawmakers, however, who warned that they’ll “never allow anti-Zionist voices that embolden antisemitism to hijack the Democratic Party and country.”
“(The occupied Palestinian territories) is the legitimate homeland of the Jewish people, and efforts to delegitimize and demonize it are not only dangerous and antisemitic, but they also undermine America’s national security,” they claimed. 
Nevertheless, the Israeli president’s address to Congress was boycotted by a number of lawmakers, among them Bernie Sanders, who is a Jew. 
The independent senator from Vermont and ex-US Democratic presidential nominee said that he skipped the speech because he’s strongly opposed to “the policies of Israel’s right-wing, anti-Palestinian government” and that he believes Congress has “a right to demand” the Israelis “respect human rights.”
In addition to Sanders, seven Democratic House members — Ilhan Omar, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Raul Grijalva and Nydia Velazquez also boycotted Herzog’s speech.
“When Palestinian people are able to live free and whole lives…I will shut up,” said Representative Cori Bush. 
“There is no way I can go and sit and listen to a speech as we roll out the red carpet for someone who’s in a position to save the lives of Palestinian people and who can change the trajectory of history,” said Bush.
She added, “When we are in positions of power – whether we are the ones that are directly doing the harm or not – it is our job to represent all of the people and to make sure that we’re doing the work” to “end harm or at least mitigate it.”
Representative Rashida Tlaib echoed similar remarks. 
“In solidarity with the Palestinian people and all those who have been harmed by Israel’s apartheid government, I will be boycotting President Herzog’s joint address to Congress,” Tlaib said. “I urge all members of Congress who stand for human rights for all to join me.”
Following Herzog’s trip, at least two former US ambassadors to Israel called on the administration of President Joe Biden to end military assistance to Israel, arguing that the relationship between the two sides would be better without a sense of financial dependency.
Speaking to the New York Times, former ambassadors Dan Kurtzer and Martin Indyk were among the figures to state the time has come for a new approach to the US-Israel relationship not centered on foreign aid.
The widening fractures within the Israeli entity and signs of the regime’s isolation among the international community, in particular figures in the United States, all reflect the failure of the so-called US-brokered Abraham Accords.
By Ali Karbalaei
First published in Tehran Times

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