Only three days passed between the political storm triggered by the verdict against Elon Azaria and the terror by heavy truck that killed four IDF officer cadets and wounded others.

Immediately after the attack some of the cadets found themselves criticized for seeking cover rather than opening fire against the driver of the truck, even while others did what they were trained to do and killed the Palestinian.

The Interior Minister announced that he would rescind the residence permits of 12 family members of the truck driver. They could be sent from East Jerusalem to the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, or Jordan. Arab activists began screaming bloody murder, and it is likely that a court will have the final say. 
Israelis will be struggling with themselves as well as with the Palestinians.

Around the fringes of the continuing discussion about how to act with respect to Palestinians were new reports about police investigations into the Prime Minister. We've heard about gifts amounting to ₪ 400,000 (about $105,000) in value from one friend, supporter, or businessman seeking favors, and two conversations between Netanyahu and the publisher of Yedioth Aharonoth who has been publishing criticism of him. The two men spoke about limiting the publisher's problem with his rival, Sheldon Adelson's Israel Hayom, in exchange for some better treatment from Yedioth.

All told, there is no end of excitement in quarrels about how we should behave with our neighbors, and whether the revelations to date and speculations about more to come will end the Bibi-Sara duo.

Israel has never been free of concern about how to deal with our neighbors. 

On the positive side are reliable reports that substantial numbers of Israeli Arabs recognize the advantages of their situation. Even with a sense of not being treated equally with Jews, the comparison of their security, economic status, health benefits, and political freedom show a living standard beyond what is available to most of the residents in any Muslim country. Yet tensions within the community limit what individuals can publish about sentiments within their community.

In contrast with moderate opinions held by the average Israeli Arab are the extremism of Arab Knesset Members. One has been sanctioned by her Knesset colleagues, and another may be on his way to prison for smuggling cell phones to security prisoners.

A disproportionate incidence of the violence comes from Palestinians of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The truck driver who ran over the cadets came from one of the problematic neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Yet along with a wave of violence that has claimed about 40 Israeli and 250 Palestinian lives since September, 2015, there are more than 100,000 Palestinians from the West Bank who enter Israel daily for work, while some 300,000 Arabs of Jerusalem are free to travel and work throughout Israel.

We can argue if the incitement heard from Arab extremists matches or exceeds the racism expressed by Jewish extremists in the context of the Azaria trial, backed up by demands from the top of Israeli politics  to pardon the soldier judged to have killed an Arab without justification. 

Several commentators have written that the attorneys, politicians, right-wing activists and family members championing Azaria are exploiting him for their own purposes, and putting him in danger of a long prison sentence. The soldier has done little more than appear in court with a goofy looking smile plastered on his face, and presents the image of a kid from a poor background in a marginal town, finding himself at the center of a storm only partly of his own making. 

The cartoonist of Yedioth Aharonoth showed Azaria carrying on his shoulders four of Israel's most prominent right wing politicians, as well as "La Familia," a group of football hooligans noted for racist violence.

Azaria would be a lot better off if he was led to admit his error or poor judgement, with more helpful advisers to lead him through a plea bargain that would let both him and the IDF out of a political brawl.

One can guess that not too many Israelis feel sorry for the Palestinian who had attacked soldiers, and was all but dead when Azaria administered an unnecessary final shot to his head. 

What is more troubling are the signs of hatred that go beyond what is needed to protect ourselves from Palestinians inclined to violence.

Comments from the summit of the IDF represent the cool voice of professionalism against the populism of the politicians featured in the Yedioth Aharonoth cartoon. 

It's tempting to conclude that self-serving politicians of the Palestinians (West Bank) and Israel are responsible for us being stuck where we are, with the Palestinians of Gaza on the outs with both Israel and Egypt, and isolated except for occasional self-defeating forays of missiles sent toward Israel or fighters going against Egypt in the Sinai., .

However, the issue is more complex. It involves Islam in its various manifestations, with violent extremists currently expressing themselves across the Middle East. There are moderate Muslims who fear and ridicule outspoken preachers and fighters, but the moderates shy away from trying to influence others. 

There are reasons of international or domestic politics for most governments of the world to accuse Israel of occupying Palestinian land in the West Bank, even though there never was a country of Palestine capable of staking such a claim.

Commentators are arguing about what is currently available in public about the Prime Minister, and if it's enough to unseat him via a criminal indictment. Cigars and champagne in exchange for help in getting a visa to the US, or conversations about a political give and take with a publisher may not be weighty enough. More of the same, however, may tip the balance of support for Bibi versus the ambitions of others to take his place. And insiders are hinting at more serious charges wending their way through the offices of the police and prosecutor. 

Then there is the scheduled arrival to power of Donald Trump and whoever of his controversial appointees make it through the committees of Senators who have publicly announced their suspicions or opposition. 

Hopes are that American policy toward the Middle East won't be as clearly supportive of Palestinian terror and rejectionism as we've gotten from the team of Barack Obama and John Kerry.

The President's farewell was, as expected, delivered with his usual flair and claims of accomplishment, some of which are justified. However, it lacked acceptance of at least some responsibility for Trump's election.

Stay tuned. This place ain't likely to become less exciting anytime soon.

Comments welcome

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem 
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

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