Enlisting support against delisting terrorists

By Jonathan Feldstein

[Ed note: At the time of publication of this article, Politico  media reports that President Biden has “finalized his decision to keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on U.S. notorious terrorist blacklist.”]

There have been recent reports that the Biden administration is planning to remove five groups from the US’ foreign terrorist blacklist. Each of these groups is now considered defunct. But it’s strange that if they are defunct anyway, why anyone would worry about delisting them. It’s better to let dead terror groups lie.

The groups include Basque Fatherland and Liberty, Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese cult; Kach, an Israeli/nationalist Jewish group, and two Islamic groups: the Mujahideen Shura Council in the environs of Jerusalem, and Gama’a al-Islamiyya.

When I read the reports, I asked myself why, and why now?  A Christian friend reached out to me to get an understanding from an Israeli perspective, and whether it was something for which she needs to pray. I explained to my friend that it seems the delisting of these groups is connected with ongoing reports that the Biden administration is considering removing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the US terror blacklist as part of wooing Iran to renew the Obama-era nuclear deal.

Just to be clear, the IRGC is directly responsible for the killing of some 600 U.S. military and is far from defunct. A group of 46 retired U.S. generals and a growing number of Democrats and Republicans are on record urging the Biden administration not to remove the IRGC from the terrorist blacklist.

In this context, I explained to my friend that not only does it not make sense to delist defunct terror groups but doing so is deliberately dangerous. Typically, when members of a board, alumni of an institution, or other notables pass away, they are not removed but are identified by a note that they are now deceased. Why not just leave the list of terror groups as is, and make a note that they are defunct? Listing those that are no longer active actually shows success in the war on terror.

To Delist or not to Delist? Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei meeting with leaders of the IRGC last January. Will the Biden administration remove Iran’s IRGC from terror blacklist? (Photo: Handout via Getty)

I told my friend that delisting the defunct organizations is a smoke screen for plans to delist the very active IRGC. Anyone who cares about the threats of Islamic terror in general, and to Israel in particular, will be uncomfortable with the delisting of two Islamic terror groups.  However, the Biden administration’s machinations appears expedient – like the tossing a bone to placate some in Congress – by the inclusion of the Jewish/nationalist group Kach, creating the pseudo impression that the administration is being equitable.  There’s no reason to delist any of these – including Kach. It’s also offensive to those who were the victims of these and other terror groups.

My friend is a Hispanic pastor. She revealed how the removal at the end of 2021 of Columbia’s FARC off the US list of terrorist organizations proved traumatic for Hispanics who had suffered under the ruthless terrorist and drug trafficking group that raped and destroyed and kidnapped poor Colombians for decades.

FARC Fiends. On May 15, 2000 the Colombian FARC put an explosive collar around the neck of a woman, killing her and a man who tried to neutralize the device. (Photo of FARC soldiers: Pablo de Tarso Luz Meneghel Sparco)

The similarities are astounding. It was reported that the Biden administration’s delisting of the ‘now defunct’ Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group as a “foreign terrorist” organization was to support a tenuous peace agreement in Colombia. As a rule, wooing terrorists with promises of turning a blind eye rather than confronting and defeating them is not good policy.

This applies to FARC in Colombia, and IRGC in Iran.

Clearly what’s behind this is to bring Iran to sign a new or revised nuclear agreement which has become a pilar of US foreign policy.  Seeing the Biden administration’s eagerness to renew an agreement at any cost, the Iranians have used this as a make-or-break negotiating tactic.

The IRGC is on the terrorist list as a central part of Iran’s military. However, it operates far beyond a typical military unit simply preparing for combat. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, the IRGC has become a quasi-governmental institution, with vast independent power and actual oversight and control over key elements of Iran’s economy, industry, and energy sectors. It regularly calls for Israel’s destruction, and materially supports other terrorist groups around the world with money, training, and equipment.

Bad Boys. There is overwhelming evidence that the IRGC is the largest and most powerful sponsor of global terrorism, writes Navid Mohebbi in Al Arabiya News. (Stock photo)

While Biden has made a new Iran deal a key pillar of his foreign policy even before coming into office, reports to mitigate the looming disaster of delisting the IRGC, suggest Biden is personally resistant to such delisting. These conflicting agendas suggest a combination of schizophrenia, deliberate disinformation and possible incompetence which I discuss in the interview . Delisting the IRGC might help achieve his key foreign policy goal of an Iranian agreement, but looks weak regarding international terrorism, something that he and other Democrats don’t need as another foreign policy failure.  With the mid-term election in just six months, that’s part of the reason that even some moderate Democrats – already resistant to rejoining a nuclear deal that goes too easy on Iran – are urging Biden to stand firm on keeping the IRGC on the terrorist list.

Right is Might. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) that in his personal opinion, he does not support the delisting of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.

These issues will no doubt be top on the agenda when Biden is expected to visit Israel at the end of June, particularly in light of recent reports that Iran may be days away from enough material for one nuclear bomb. With his coalition shaky at best, Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett cannot afford to appear weak or allow anything to undermine his leadership in protecting Israel from the Iranian threat.

Towering Rage. The IRGC was found liable in 2018 for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 Americans and injured 260. (© AFP/Getty Images)

Is this a good cop, bad cop quasi negotiating tactic with Iran, or just a dress rehearsal for another Biden administration foreign policy failure? The implications of delisting these terror groups now, along with FARC, opens old wounds of their victims, brings Jews, Hispanics and all people of conscience closer together, and makes us all less safe.

About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall, NorthJersey.com, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


From bicycle saddle to hospital bed – some existential thoughts about self and country

By David E. Kaplan

On Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) on the 5th May, I went for a ride on my bicycle. Turned out – a regrettable mistake. In a quiet side road, I had a serious accident and ended up in Meir Hospital, Kfar Saba. I am recovering well but I ask the question:

What at the last corner before the accident I turned right instead of left?”

Lying in my ward later that night following a general anesthetic stitch-up, I reflected on the poem of Robert FrostThe Road Not Taken’ and pondered literally and figuratively if, in the words of the poet:

I took the one less traveled by

Clearly then – inter alia –  I would not be penning this prose!

But then I pondered beyond my bodily bruising and thought instead of the anatomy of the world whose condition too throughout history has either sored or soured dependent at critical moments when  fractured futures or favourable fortunes could have gone either way and the destinies of people would have been quite different.

As I was reflecting in an Israeli hospital, I thought back to those past pivotal – some even existential – moments in Israel’s modern history, when disaster or salvation hung in the balance:

WHAT IF on November 2, 1917, Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour had not written a letter to Britain’s most illustrious Jewish citizen, Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, expressing the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine – a letter that would eventually become known as the Balfour Declaration.  In all likelihood, I would then not be lying in a ward of the seventh largest hospital in the Jewish state of Israel after 2000 years of exile.

Weighty Words. Lord Arthur Balfour and the letter that moved a dream towards reality.

WHAT IF Rommel’s African Corp had not lost the Battle of El Alamein in 1942, leaving the German Wehrmacht free to steamroll northwards to Palestine? Again, possibly no Meir Hospital would have been established in 1956.

WHAT IF Prime Minister David Ben Gurion had not demanded the unification of ideologically diverse Jewish armed forces during the War of Independence to forge a national army – the IDF?

WHAT IF? A British army recruitment drive in Tel Aviv during World War II. The big fear for the Jews before the Battle of El- Alamein was that Rommel would overrun Palestine.

WHAT IF Israel had not taken out the Egyptian Air Force in the opening round of the 1967 Six Day War?

WHAT IF Israel had not mounted Operation Thunderbolt in 1976 to rescue the Jewish hostages held in Entebbe airport following the hijacking of an Air France airbus A300 jet airliner? No Jew or Israeli plane would be safe anywhere. The message – don’t mess with us and expect  you will get way with it. Jews will “NEVER AGAIN” be slaughtered with impunity.

‘Plane’ Truth. What if Israel had not rescued the Jewish captives held by Palestinian and German terrorists in Entebbe in 1976?

WHAT IF there was not a young IDF commander of a tank battalion Avigdor Kahalani, like a biblical David that blocked a Goliath Syrian army from conquering the Golan Heights in 1973.

WHAT IF Prime Minister Menachem Begin had not embraced the peace process with Anwar Sadat of Egypt or authorized the surprise bombing of Iraq’s nuclear facility in 1982?

WHAT IF Israel had not mounted highly secretive operations to rescue the threatened Jews from Yemen and Ethiopia and absorbed one million Russian immigrants. In 1948, Israel had a Jewish population of 716,700; today over seven million, the largest concentration of Jews anywhere in the world! If the quest before had been for the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in their ancestral homeland, the quest today is to secure it for eternity.

Reaching a Crescendo. What if Israel had not neutralised Iraq’s nuclear ambitions in 1981 with Operation Opera.


And then as I lay in the hospital bed digesting the distressing news of the Arab disturbances playing out at the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif, the compound housing both mosques, Al- Aqsa and Jerusalem’s most iconic Dome of the Rock, I reflected on exactly a year earlier when Hamas and its cohorts had unleashed over 4,300 rockets at Israel’s civilian population centers and pondered WHAT IF we did not have our IRON DOME?

Not designed to attack or retaliate, this “life saver” defence missile system developed by Israeli companies and financially supported by the US, proved some 90% effective in intercepting enemy rockets, greatly reducing the death toll. No less significant, this remarkable instrument of Israeli ingenuity also reduced the need for IDF ground operations in and around the civilian areas that terrorists use for launching missiles and rockets at Israeli civilians. Invariably ground offenses result in greater loss of lives. All this was avoided or averted because of the IRON DOME!

Special Relationship. Israeli Iron Dome anti-rocket system (right) and an American Patriot missile defense system are shown during a joint U.S.-Israel military exercise on March 8, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)


And then finally before retiring to sleep at Meir, the need for the bathroom reminded me of one final WHAT IF, which at the time of its happening was lavatorialy inconsequential but decades later proved monumentally existential.

What do I mean?

For many years, U.S.-Israel military ties  – so vital to Israel – were non-existent. From Israel’s creation in 1948 until the mid-1960s, US State Department and Pentagon officials argued against even providing American arms to Israel lest it provoke the Arabs to ask the Soviets and Chinese for more weapons, which in turn would stimulate a Middle East arms race.

U.S. policy fundamentally changed only after the 1967 Six Day War when France – Israel’s main supplier –  abandoned the Jewish state and the US stepped in to give Israel a qualitative military edge over its enemies. This was all due to a successful meeting between Israeli PM Levi Eshkol and US President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 leading to an agreement to sell Phantom jets to Israel marking the change in relationship between the two countries and establishing the US as Israel’s principal arms supplier.

Meeting of Minds. One of the most important meetings in Israeli history was Prime Minister Levi Eshkol (left) meeting here with President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 as the President’s Texas ranch, which established a warm relationship between the two countries which has stood the test of time.

Since then, Israel has never looked back.

All this however would not have happened, had LBJ not decided at a precise moment in 1942 to relieve himself at an airbase toilet.

A 33-year-old Representative from Texas, lieutenant commander Johnson on the 9th June 1942, boarded a plane called the Wabash Cannonball for a mission in the South Pacific. While the Wabash Cannonball was on a bombing mission, Johnson’s participation was as an observer to inspect and report back to President Roosevelt of Japanese troop movements over New Guinea. However, no sooner had the future US president boarded the B-26, nature called!

Toying with the decision to “hold it in” or go to the toilet and catch the next bomber, he chose the latter and alighted from the plane.

It was a history-altering decision.

After relieving himself, he then joined the crew of another bomber, the Heckling Hare

LBJ was lucky.

The  Wabash Cannonball  was hit by enemy fire and crashed with a total loss of life, while a crippled “hare” made it back to base.

So to my list of Israel’s “What Ifs?”, I add:

Where would Israel’s relationship be today with regard to the US, had not a young Lyndon B. Johnson not had the desperate need to at the right moment to take a leak?

And so while Israel never looked back, my final thought was if only  the driver of the car in Kfar Saba had ‘looked back’ – in her rear view mirror – before opening her door into which I rode!

The writer on a ride in northen Israel.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


From a pandemic to an ‘outbreak’ of mass murder on Israel’s streets

By Jonathan Feldstein

Since the outbreak of COVID, my youngest son has had a particularly hard time in school. He is not unique. Millions of other children have had their education and socializing significantly interrupted. As parents, we have always attempted to do our best to help him to navigate through the past two years’ challenges, admittedly for which nobody could have prepared. However, as quickly as the pandemic fell upon us closing down so much of our lives, conversely, its lingering consequences  – like the cough I still can’t shake weeks after my own recovery – remain and continue to impact us adversely. 

Masking more than Faces. Israel’s parents and teachers attempt to handle the Covid pandemic. Seen here are first graders at the Inbalim school in Modi’in Maccabim Reut, Israel, on the first day of the new academic year, September 1, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Like many schools and many teachers, despite the best intentions, there have been a multitude of failures, and many things have slipped through the cracks. This week, my wife and I participated in a Zoom meeting with many other parents in his 11th grade class, concerned that the school has not done its job sufficiently. As bad as it is for any children to have lost so much academically, for my son and his classmates, this year is a particularly critical year not just for their education, but regarding their upcoming compulsory military service which is a cornerstone of their futures in Israel. The school’s failings have not served their students well.

While under the circumstances of Covid, this was not abnormal and our experiences hardly unique, there was however an element of our discourse that was entirely unique to Israel.

About halfway through the meeting with each parent expressing his or her concerns, one mother suddenly interjected to excuse

herself, revealing that her nearby community was under lockdown – not because of corona but because of a terrorist infiltration. Whatever our concerns, hers was more immediate and everyone shared in her anxiety. We all expressed our concern as she hurriedly left the meeting to return to her family.

Worrying about corona is one thing; worrying about terrorists looking to kill you and your family is quite another!

Bullets, Blood and Shattered Glass. Aftermath of horrific terrorist attack  April 7, 2022 at a pub Tel Aviv pub in Dizengoff Street , Tel Aviv leaving three dead and ten injured. Moti Milrod/Reuters)

And then, in typically resolute Israeli fashion, we proceeded with the meeting. We’ve learned that as bad as things get – and recently it’s been pretty bad – life must go on. There’s an element of determination and resilience in Israel that’s unique, and connects to the fact that our sons and daughters proudly serve in an army to defend us in everyday life-threatening situations exactly like what interrupted our school Zoom meeting.

Shortly thereafter, my son entered the room not to spy or listen in on what people were saying about his fellow students and teachers, but to report that terrorists did indeed infiltrate his friend’s community.  After being seen climbing a security fence and being reported to the community’s rapid response team and the IDF, one of the terrorists was discovered outside a house where he was threatening one of the civilian security team who had just retrieved his M16.  Wielding a knife to attack, the civilian shot and killed the terrorist.

With the element of surprise then lost, the other infiltrators fled and escaped. The community nevertheless remained under lockdown as the IDF conducted a thorough search of the area.

This happened in our neighbourhood only a few years ago so we could relate to the frightening drama playing out. While there was naturally panic and anxiety, thankfully the terrorist attack ended without any Israeli casualties.


Israel has been undergoing what’s been called a “wave of terror” which has now become more than a wave but a constant flow, with 20 Israelis and foreign civilians killed in the last several weeks, and dozens injured.

We’ve become accustomed to this frightening situation and adjusted accordingly by staying personally on high alert.

The fact that this local terrorist infiltration came the same week exactly a year ago that terrorists from Gaza began an 11-day bombardment of Israel firing over 4000 rockets at Israel’s civilian population was all the more jarring. I remember exactly where I was on May 21, 2021, as the first rockets landed just a few miles to the north, hearing the explosion and seeing the plume of smoke. We were at a family wedding for which my son was released from the army for the day.  Following the ceremony, my daughters drove him back to his military base along with my son-in-law who was among the first 5000 reservists called up. So much for a family simcha (celebration) as the four of us drove directly into a war zone that became known as Operation Guardian of the Walls, resulting in 13 Israelis killed and dozens injured.

Raining Rockets. This was Israel a year ago in 2021. Will there be a recurrence this year?

Some pundits had written hopefully about passing the spring season (Ramadan, Passover, Israeli Independence Day) without an “escalation” but with the current “wave of terror” this “hope” was not to be. We may well ask whether in this turbulent neighbourhood if terror and evil are seasonal?

The start of Hamas firing rockets a year ago took place as we celebrated Jerusalem Day rejoicing in the reunification of Jerusalem under Israel’s sovereignty and with Jerusalem Day 2022 coming up on May 29, what can we expect?

Another cycle of violence on the ground and terror from the air?

Are these destructive cycles so predictable and inevitable?

Barring peace breaking out, we will still be focused on our children’s military service as we realize security incidents and anniversaries like that of this week are not likely to end so fast.

We look forward to a day when peace is a permanent fixture to celebrate on our national calendar.

About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall, NorthJersey.com, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


The crime did not end with a brutal mass murder of Jews in central Israel but continued with the warped news coverage. The media must stop deliberately using misleading headlines when it comes to Israel.

By David E. Kaplan

It began as a day to celebrate; it ended as a day to mourn.

At the end of Israel’s 44th Independence Day following a wave of terror attacks across the country and repeated threats by Palestinian terror groups over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, two axe-wielding terrorists went on a rampage at a central park in the largely ultra-Orthodox city of Elad in central Israel.

Adding a knife to their ‘cutting-edge’ arsenal, the two ideologically-charged terrorists, hacked three fathers to death leaving sixteen orphans  as well as injuring a further seven, three seriously. A man calling the United Hatzalah emergency service could be heard screaming into his phone:

 “There is so much blood… these are wounds from an ax.”

 The local Israeli police had no difficulty  confirming the incident as “a terror attack”.

No such ease came to the international media who did everything to initially blur the Palestinian identity of the assailants as well as to try implicate Israel for the mass murder of its own citizens.

Quick off the proverbial grid was FRANCE 24 with a neutral news flash  at the bottom of my TV screen:


No suggestion as to the clear identities of the  perpetrators or the victims, leaving it open for viewers to surmise that it could be a ‘criminal act’!

After all, the headline report concluded:


Motive unclear?

No less infuriated was my wife, who reflexibly exclaimed in an outburst:

 “It’s like saying 6 million were killed in the holocaust. They weren’t killed; they were MURDERED.”

The motive for the Elad rampage was clear to every Israeli, Jew and Arab, but for the French journalists covering the Palestinian terror attack, the perpetrators and motive appeared a mystery.

The French Disconnection. FRANCE 24 news reports that the motive of the axe killers of Jews in Elad was “UNCLEAR”.

More likely – they did not want to spoil the network’s preferred narrative!

Not wanting to be outdone, Al Jazeera went fiendishly further. Content not to identify the perpetrators in its reportage, nor even to suggest that it was either terror or mass murder, the Qatar-based broadcaster, while reporting that 3 Israelis were “hacked to death”, prefaced its headline with the chilling:


What a cold, callous and calculating account by a news network; as if these families whose lives were ripped away by mass murderers had it coming to them; well-deserved.  Al Jazeera describes these killers not as ‘murderers’ or ‘terrorists’ but “attackers”  whose actions should be understood or forgiven as the real villain is ISRAEL who in the remainder of the headline is depicted as a predatory “hunter” for trying to apprehend the “attackers”.

The next channel I switched to was the BBC that neutrally characterised the murderious rampage with axes on civilians as an “attack”. Enlisting no adjectives to describe the horror of the attack, the headline report failed to draw any attention to the identitiy of the killers, other than describing them as “attackers”.

Suspected Terror Attack. BBC  news report of hunting “attackers” not killers, murderers or terrorists.


Change of cities; change of positions!

Compare Al Jazeera’s coverage of the deliberate attack on Jews in Elad with the  tragic death of its Middle East correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh who was caught in a crossfire conflict situation. Fatally shot by a bullet, the source of which remains undetermined.

Given the non-stop media coverage of this unfortunate death of a single journalist, one could be excused for asking where has been the coverage of some 20 journalists killed and 13 injured since Feb. 24, the beginning of Russia’s war on Ukraine. During this unwarranted invasion, three journalists went missing, and eight journalists, including four women, have been kidnapped. Can any of the protestors for Shireen Abu Akleh demanding Israel be brought before the ICC  even name any of the journalists killed or kidnapped in Ukraine? It is less about the Al jazeera journalist and more about defaming Israel.

Now compare the actual wording in a few of Al Jazeera’s   headline reports of the death of its journalist in Jenin:


– Al Jazeera assumes with no proof that Israel shot the journalist and because she was identified as ‘Press’, Israel deliberately killed her – in other words, murdered her!

– A follow-up Al-Jazeera report read:


Murder it was Not. Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was tragically killed by a bullet during a gunfight between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin. (credit: REUTERS/IMAD CREIDI)

No explanation that Israeli forces were in Jenin during a dangerous operation to restore calm during a period when Israeli civilians have been losing their lives to terror attacks across Israel, many of them planned and orchestrated in Jenin, Al-Jazeera saw fit to characterise the Israeli military as “ISRAELI TERRORISM

If there was any doubt as to the  transparent bias of Al-Jazeera, note its following headline report where it unabashedly lays out the narrative it wants presented to its global viewership:


Al-Jazeera was now acting as judge and jury. While following  the initial autopsy of Shireen’s body by Palestinian coroners, Dr. Ryan al-Ali of the Pathological Institute at the a-Najah University in Nablus, was quoted by al-Jarmak TV channel as saying that “it cannot be determined whether [Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli fire or by a Palestinian bullet,] Al Jazeera blamed Israel for her death, saying that she was “deliberately” targeted by troops.

We condemn this heinous crime, intended to prevent the media from carrying out its message, and we hold the Israeli government and the occupation forces responsible for her death,” the channel wrote on Twitter, adding:

 “We call on the international community to condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for the deliberate killing of our colleague Shireen Abu Akleh.”

Judge, jury and now executioner – that is Al-Jazeera.

Neglected in the media coverage is the highly disturbing Palestinian Authority (PA) position that is refusing to allow the bullet that hit the journalist to be examined by Israel in order to conduct a ballistics analysis. It has emphatically rejected a request to do a joint probe. 


Because it is not about discovering the truth but rather in besmirching Israel internationally. This was revealed today by PA head Mahmoud Abbas at Abu Akleh’s funeral, where he said:

We will take Israel to ICC, we don’t trust them.”

The killers who butchered three Israelis to death in Elad were referred to by Al-Jazeera as “attackers”, while Israel is automatically, without any proof, not only blamed for the journalist’s death, but stands accused of “murdering” her. Complicit in this ‘murder’ according to Al-Jazeera, is the USA because of its “UNCONDITIONAL FUNDING” of the Jewish state.

Undisputed Terror Attack. Family and friends grieve at the funeral of Boaz Gol who was killed in the terror attack in Elad in central Israel. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

All this boils down to is the explicit antisemitism in the media with Al-Jazeera leading the venomous pack.

While some news networks thought the motives of the killers of Jews in Elad was “UNCLEAR”, it is becoming increasingly CLEAR that one of the most important aspects of the media-saturated conflict between Jews and Arabs is also the least covered:

The Press itself

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

From Reason to Reckoning

By Samuel Hyde

In part one of this article series titled ‘From Dreams to Fears’ , I articulated the two dreams birthed within Israel post its sweeping victory in the 1967 Six Day War and how the visions of these two camps of dreamers has led to a paralysis within Israeli society and its approach to the conflict. In part two titled ‘From Paralysis to Pragmatism’, I developed a concept called ‘conflict reduction’ which aims to replace this paralysis by providing actionable steps to develop renewed strategies when dealing with the obstacles to peace. These pragmatic steps are aimed at producing economic enrichment and independence for the Palestinians while simultaneously resulting in necessary political separation for Israel. Conflict reduction is an approach that will not solve the conflict but can be undertaken with immediate effect to alter the current reality. To even begin to approach the conversation around solving the conflict, one would need to reckon with its cause. As long as Israel attempts to deal solely with the obstacles to peace without reckoning with the cause of the conflict, new obstacles will continue to arise. In this piece I’ll attempt to articulate why. Arriving at the point of reckoning begins with one question:

What do the Palestinians want? A question which has swindled the minds of Israeli society for decades, one that remains an ongoing debate in a search for nuance; and a desire to understand the narrative and demands of those across ‘the green line’.

The Israeli peace camp concluded in the 1990s that they had arrived at a definitive answer to this question. It came to a head in 2000 when Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, traveled to Camp David to meet with the head of the PLO, Yasser Arafat. Barak, who was elected on a campaign of establishing peace based on the “land for peace” model, offered the Palestinians an unprecedented proposal which addressed all the obstacles to peace that Israelis had been told would see an end to the conflict.

Shook Hands and Walked Away. Yasser Arafat shakes the hand of Ehud Barak at Camp David in July 2000 but walked away from any deal.  (Photo: Getty Images)

Israel was told that the obstacle to peace was the occupation: Palestinians wanted Israel’s military presence in the West Bank and Gaza to cease. The proposal offered the Palestinians a fully sovereign independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, thereby ending the occupation.

What was the other obstacle to peace? Settlements. The proposal stated there would be no settlements in the State of Palestine. Settlements were to be removed or exchanged for land of equivalent value. As a result of this proposal, two obstacles have been eliminated.

Then, Israel was told that Jerusalem was the obstacle to peace. The Palestinians want a capital in Jerusalem. Jerusalem would need to be divided. The proposal included:

The Jewish neighborhoods to Israel.

The Arab neighborhoods to Palestine.

A split of the Old City with concessions of the holy sites and a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.

Therefore, the sovereign independent state of Palestine would see an end to the occupation, have no settlements, and a capital in Jerusalem. Check, check, check!

But Arafat walked away.

It’s possible to explain that walking away was a negotiating strategy, that’s how politics works. Unfortunately for those that arrived at such a conclusion, eight years later, in 2008, Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s heir, declined yet another far-reaching proposal from Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Arafat and Abbas walked away from two proposals that would have created a sovereign independent Palestinian State with no occupation, no settlements and a capital in East Jerusalem.

Not Enough! Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declined peace proposal from former PM Ehud Olmert in 2008, which included near-total withdrawal from West Bank and relinquishing Israeli control of Jerusalem’s Old City. Olmert later described his offer to give up Israeli control of the Old City as “the hardest day of my life.” (photo credit: Moshe Milner GPO/Flash90)

If this is genuinely the Palestinian aspiration, one would imagine someone would publish an op-ed. Perhaps an NGO would be created, where just one individual would remark, “We could have everything we want, return to the negotiating table and secure our state”. But there were no such voices among the Palestinians. There were no objections about Arafat walking away and no objections about Abbas walking away. However, they walked away to celebrations, indicating that by walking away, they delivered what their people wanted. I know some attempt to “reason” with this by stating: “It’s because you cannot criticize in this society. Palestinian society is not democratic”. Look at Russia today, people are holding signs and protesting, and the stakes there are much higher.

To add to this point, two months after Arafat walked away, the Second Intifada (28 September 2000 – 8 February 2005) erupted, resulting in the deaths of over 1,100 Israelis. Buses were engulfed in flames, entire families were killed, and restaurants were blown to pieces. “The cause  of terrorism and no peace is the occupation”, a canard still accepted by people who portray themselves as “reasonable”. However, here in Israel, the Israeli-peace camp was forced to abandon its notion that the conflict was about restoring the 1967 borders and recognized that when Palestinians spoke of “freeing the land”, they referred to 1948. The claim that the occupation caused the violence of the Second Intifada could no longer be accepted, since it began only a few weeks after Israel had offered an end to the occupation.

After Shaking Hands, Shaking Israeli Society. Israeli paramedics and police at the scene of a suicide bombing that killed 19 and injuring 74 on a bus in Jerusalem. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, June 18, 2002. (Photo by Flash90)

Other “reasonable” people might say “well Israel proposed this accord but would it have followed through?” Regardless of Arafat walking away, five years later, in 2005, Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip. As a result of the disengagement, Gaza was left with no settlements and no occupation. Instead of the Palestinians using the disengagement as an opportunity to build upon sovereignty and independence, they voted into power an Iranian terror proxy, Hamas, with a founding charter that calls for the genocide of Jews and destruction of the Jewish State.

What do the Palestinians really want? They do not want a Palestinian state that ends the occupation, has no settlements, and has its capital in East Jerusalem. Or, you could say that they want that, but there is something that they want more.

For those who chose to see it, the answer was there all along. The Palestinians told the world what they wanted. The world continues not to listen. Or, in Israel, if we did listen, we explained it away. Ask a Palestinian today if they view Tel Aviv as occupied, and you will more often than not receive a resounding “yes”. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”. The establishment of a Palestinian state with no state for the Jewish people within any borders has always remained the absolute top priority for the Palestinians.

They have consistently pursued this for almost a century.

In the late 1950’s, the British Foreign Minister, Ernest Bevin, reached a poignant conclusion. He said the following:

There were two people on the ground, Jews and Arabs. Two nations exist in the land, and they are not religions. Jews and Arabs are two distinct collectives”.

He details what the top priority is for each of these collectives. He calls this top priority a point of principle. He says:

 “for the Jews, the point of principle is establishing a State. For the Arabs, the point of principle is to prevent the Jews from establishing a state in any part of the land.”

Notice how he defines the cause of the conflict. He is not saying the conflict is one where the Jews want a State, the Arabs want a State, and they cannot agree on the borders. No. He zeroes in on why the conflict exists: the Jews want a State, and the Arabs want the Jews not to have a State.

This by definition is irreconcilable. Everything else you can divide. You can divide the land, divide the resources, and have all kinds of economic and security arrangements. But the one thing that you cannot divide, the one difference that you cannot split, is between the idea that the Jews want a sovereign independent State and the Arabs want the Jews not to have that state.

It is as simple as that.

Shifting from “reasoning” with the conflict to “reckoning” with its cause, allows one to understand why the conflict exists and remains. What would see an end to the Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state within any borders? Strategies and policies which expand normalization and peace with the wider Arab world. Why? Because for the Palestinians this conflict has never been viewed as Israel vs Palestine, but rather the Jewish state vs the Arab world. The Palestinians open a map. They see seven million Jews existing among half a billion Arabs, near one and a half billion Muslims, most of them still hostile to a Jewish State within any borders, and conclude that time is on their side.

Israel’s peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan did not fundamentally alter the Arab narrative regarding the Jewish state. They still referred to Israel as a foreign, colonial, Western outpost in the region that would one day disappear. The so-called peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are better understood as non-aggression pacts. For decades, Israelis were told this is what peace looks like in the Arab world. As long as the conflict with the Palestinians continues, this is the best that Israelis could hope for.

But then came the Abraham Accords, an enlightenment in the Arab world’s engagement with the Jewish State. The Gulf states and later Morocco went all in. New agreements are signed daily between Gulf countries, Morocco, and Israel in education, space, and agriculture. The warm diplomatic relations have resulted in unprecedented and noteworthy societal normalization between Jews and Arabs. Moroccan leaders and Israel are collaborating on a project to rebuild destroyed synagogues and Jewish structures in Morocco. The UAE is hosting Holocaust remembrance ceremonies and Bahrain is welcoming Israel’s ministers to the sounds of Hatikvah.  Which tells you that peace doesn’t occur as a result of societal normalization, but rather societal normalization occurs as a result of peace agreements and recognition.

In clear contrast to the agreements with Jordan and Egypt, the accords between the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, shifted the narrative. Israel is no longer viewed by these states as a foreign outpost but an integral and natural part of the region and everything is in one word: Abraham.

When you say “Abraham”, you acknowledge the Jews as kin. You accept the Jews as people with a history in the region, not as foreigners, but as a people who belong.

New Hands. In the wake of the Abrahams Accords,  new hands shakes on deals that are reshaping the Middle East. Seen here is the CEO of Start-Up Nation Central Prof. Eugene Kandel, (right), shaking hands with UAE Ambassador Mohamed al Khaja. (Photo by Eyal Marilus)

Having spent the past few months working and engaging with Moroccan, Emirati, Bahraini and now Saudi analysts, researchers and columnists on what Israel’s next rules of engagement should be for an end to the conflict, we have collectively concluded that the conflict comes to an end in one of two ways: Either those who want a Jewish State will forgo that top priority, or those who believe that there should not be a Jewish state within any borders will forgo their top priority. That’s it. That is how we get to lasting peace. In the absence of one of these two outcomes, the conflict continues. In other words, you could say the conflict has its origin in Jewish Zionism vs Arab anti-Zionism.

Far too often peace-seekers are paralyzed by the idea that “there is no partner for peace“. As such, some still continue to advocate the notion that an end to the occupation would produce peace, while others argue that the removal of all borders between the “river to the sea” under Israeli sovereignty will produce peace. Both these ideas, the first which pursues a two-state solution through the same implementation of the past and the other that pursues a one-state solution by ignoring key political, ethical and legal determiners are destined to produce no greater outcome, because both fail to reckon with the cause of the conflict. 

By reckoning with the cause of the conflict, we open up a path of renewed strategies which allows Israel to finally tackle the true obstacle to peace. Israel’s ‘end-goal’ policy of a peace accord with the Palestinians remains clear and very little has changed when it comes to what is on the negotiating table. When wider Arab acceptance occurs, it will be a relatively straightforward process. The negotiation with the Palestinians won’t require some end of times salvation because – as seen in the relations with the Gulf states and Morocco – when the Arabs forgo their war against Zionism they simultaneously forgo their support for the Palestinian cause, and it is Arab support which has always ignited the fuel that burns Palestinian ‘rejection’. When Arab acceptance occurs and Israel is predominantly viewed as an integral part of the Middle East, the Palestinian cause is drained of what grants it foundational staying power.

In order to bring about that eventuality, sooner rather than later, we must make it clear to the Palestinians and the Arab world at large that if their goal is “from the River to the Sea”, if their goal is no Jewish State within any borders, they will not have our sympathy and support. But, as in the cases of the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco if they finally adopt a path of having a Palestinian state next to Israel rather than instead of Israel, they will find a majority of Israeli society rushing to support them in that constructive cause. It is at that point, and only that point where we would have a Palestinian state living side by side a Jewish state as equal claimers to the land.

About the writer:

Samuel Hyde is a is a writer and research fellow at ‘The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance’. He is a South African born columnist and political researcher based in Tel Aviv, Israel, focussing on topics that range across Israel’s political climate, antisemitism, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the Jewish world. He is a contributing writer/ editor of two books with former Israeli Knesset member Dr. Einat Wilf titled “We Should All Be Zionists” and “Political Intelligence”. He has also worked in field related organizations and political research institutes investigating creative ways to deal with public policy, conflict resolution and education.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Antisemitism ‘for show’  – from South Africa to Jordan.

Are we living in a post-truth world?

By David E. Kaplan

Seething at the recent false and inflammatory accusations  emanating from the leaders of Israel’s neighbour – the Kingdom of Jordan – reminded me of my late father’s cautionary account of a chilling conversation he had at a government-sponsored businessmen’s luncheon in Cape Town, South Africa during the 1950s with the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eric Louw, who had a reputation as an outspoken antisemite.

All Time ‘Louw’. Eric Louw, the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs who expected understanding from the Jewish community for his antisemitism.

Standing and sipping wine with a group of Jewish businessman, Louw, who had previously been his country’s Minister of Finance, appealed in a contrived conciliatory tone to:

 “please understand – despite what you hear – that I am not really an antisemite. It’s only for show!”

The government minister went to great pains, recalled Solly Kaplan, to assure that his offensive public statements relating to Jews, “were not his true beliefs but was popular with his voters”. In today’s political parlance, Louw was “playing to his base” but what was particularly galling was his expectation from the people he so despicably maligned – South Africa’s Jews – to show him “understanding”!

Just so that there is no MISunderstanding, before and during WWII – like many within his Nationalist Party – Louw was pro-Nazi and these sentiments persisted. In 1945, when members of the Jewish community in Johannesburg offered to sponsor a delegation of South African MPs to inspect the recently liberated concentration camps of Buchenwald and Dachau, Louw was vehemently opposed to such a tour claiming the “newsreels and photographs” of starving concentration camp survivors were “fake” propaganda designed to discredit Nazi Germany.

He suggested that instead of sponsoring such a tour, the ‘Jewish money’ would be better spent republishing Emily Hobhouse‘s 1927 book War Without Glamour, which covered the British treatment of Afrikaners during the Boer War, which he argued was the “real” holocaust.

No, my father and the Jews listening to Louw were not fooled by his glib talk and neither should anyone be fooled by the devious lies of Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the kingdom’s Prime Minister Bishar Al-Khasawneh relating to the recent unrest in the Old City in Jerusalem.

Hemmed In. King Abdullah II of Jordan possibly feels constrained by political forces in play that falsely lying about Israel proves conveniently self-serving.

Couched behind the façade of public position and religious pretention,  their words were venom.

These influential leaders know only to too well the combustible danger of words in a volatile region during the highly sensitive religious period – Ramadan for Muslims, Passover for Jews.  Nevertheless, instead of trying to lower the temperature, the Jordanians responded by pouring oil on the fire.

The facts were well known that tens of thousands of boulders and rocks had been stockpiled inside the al-Aqsa Mosque for pre-meditated attacks against Jews, which would predicably necessitate Israeli forces being brought in to restore security.

Despite this, the Jordanian leadership falsely blamed Israel.

Worse, they encouraged it!

During the height of the contrived unrest at the site holy to both Jews (Temple Mount) and Arabs  (al-Aqsa Mosque), Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh saluted the Palestinian rioters who he said:

 “proudly stand like minarets, hurling their stones in a volley of clay at the Zionist sympathizers defiling al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the Israeli occupation government.”

Prime Mover. Amidst the unrest in Jerusalem, Jordan’s Prime Minister, Bisher al-Khasawneh egged on the rioters who he saw as “proudly standing like minarets,” hurling their stones at any Jews, “defiling al-Aqsa”.  (Photo: AFP)

A Prime Minister of a country at peace with Israel that can refer to its citizens as “defilers” when the Jewish state has gone far and beyond to maintain the political status quo and respect for the sanctity of this Muslim holy site that Jews no less hold holy is reminiscent of the malady that inflicted South Africa’s late Foreign Minister, Eric Louw.

Al-Khasawneh’s outburst undoubtedly found resonance to a fired up Palestinian community. After all, their own leader had back in September 2015, given the ‘blessing’ to perpetrate violence when Mahmoud Abbas bellowed:

Al-Aqsa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. They (the Jews) have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet. We won’t allow them to do so, and we will do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem.”

In the ensuing years of repeated false and inflammatory rhetoric about Jews “storming” Al-Aqsa and “slaughtering” Muslims at prayer, one would expect responsible leaders to try tone down the toxic atmosphere

It was not to be.

Enter the King of Jordan in a role of inciter-in-chief who rather than call Al-Khasawneh to task for openly inciting violence, Abdullah II complained to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Israel was committing:

 “provocative acts that violated the legal and historic status quo”  of the compound.

Exploiting the volatile situation, the King was sending a royal message rejecting ancient Jewish ties to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.

Mount’ing Attack. Palestinians clash with Israeli police at the Temple Mount or al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 22, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

He was also obfuscating the fact that Israeli security forces were dispatched to the area solely to prevent the very deadly activities that Jordan’s premier was unabashedly encouraging and most of all, was fanning Muslim flames within and beyond Israel’s borders trying to undermine genuine peace efforts in the region that has embraced the Abraham Accords.

Playing fast and loose with the truth, it had just that effect.

Although it was Palestinians and radical Arab Israelis who spent three days desecrating the mosque trampling on the carpets of the hallowed house of worship with their shoes and playing soccer amid the rubble  – all recorded in widely circulated video footage – the Jordanian Prime Minister chose to champion these young men – making out they were doing:

“God’s work”!

Is it any wonder then when on Wednesday night, while Holocaust survivors lit memorial candles at Yad Vashem, commemorating the six million Jews murdered in the Shoah, thousands of Arab men shouted “Khaybar, Khaybar ya Yahood” – a call to massacre the Jews – outside al-Aqsa Mosque!

These calls to kill Jews coupled with the earlier stockpiling of rocks and firebombs inside al-Aqsa all took place under the watchful eye of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf! This made it all the more galling for Jordan to demand that Israel relinquish more control of the mosque to the Wakf when it knew where the responsibly for the violence lay.

‘Hard Rock’ Mosque. Social media websites were awash with videos and images showing Palestinian protesters collecting stones before the clashes erupted between them and Israeli forces inside the al-Aqsa mosque compound.


Jordan played two sides of the same coin. Following Jerusalem’s policy of bolstering ties with Jordan in tandem with the Abraham Accords countries as demonstrated over the past year with visits to Amman by Prime Minister Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz – the latter two trying to work with King Abdullah to maintain calm in Jerusalem ahead of Ramadan, which this year overlapped with Passover – Jordan did everything to undermine all that sought for calm. Instead of being helpful, Jordan turned out to be, in the words of Senior Contributing Editor of The Jerusalem Post, Lahav Harkov:

 “two-faced; lobbying all the Arab countries with Israeli ties to speak out against Israel.”

Some did, notably the UAE. Not only did the Gulf state summon its first-ever Israeli ambassador, Amir Hayek, for a dressing-down, but the two Emirati airlines  – Etihad Airways and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi – that were slated to participate in Israel’s Independence Day civil flyover, canceled.

Reflecting on the lies that fueled the unrest in Jerusalem, coupled with my recollections of those my father was subjected to from the antisemite Eric Louw, there was a ray of personal light earlier this month when I watched my two grandchildren, Ariel, aged four and Yali, aged 3 – both perched on my swivel chair watching on my computer, Israel’s second astronaut in history, Eytan Stibbe  read from space in Hebrew from Paul Kor‘s ‘What a Beautiful World’.

Yes, despite the lies, deceit and unrelenting hate against Jews –  despite the protestations from some that “Its only for show” – Israel is reaching out to the stars so that its astronaut can speak with Israeli children and reminding us all before Israel’s 74th birthday on Wednesday night, May 4:

What a beautiful world

That’s the message the world should be sending to its children.

Spaced Out Kids. The writer’s grandchildren, (l-r) Ariel Dvir and Yali Kaplan seconds away from listening to Israeli astronaut, Eytan Stibbe read from space in Hebrew from Paul Kor’s ‘What a Beautiful World’.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


By Adv. Craig Snoyman

The first article that I ever wrote for Lay of the land was on Judge David Unterhalter. Little did I realise at the time that this would be the first of a series of articles on the judge. So without further ado here is article number 3 in the series and no doubt there will be further articles to follow. Each episode gets a little more intricate.

The first time Judge David Unterhalter appeared before the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) applying for a post as constitutional judge,  the interview process was so viciously and irregularly conducted that it was subject to a review and JSC conceded that it had to be redone.  The antisemitism displayed towards Unterhalter by several of the commissioners was both palpable and shocking.  The second time he appeared; the antisemitism was still there, but it was not quite as blatant.  All of which leads to this, his third appearance before the JSC.

The ongoing judicial journey of ConCourt candidate Judge David Unterhalter as he faces grilling at JSC interviews.

In the light of the debacles concerning the process of election of judges in the recent past,  the  JSC passed regulations concerning the manner in which the interview process should be conducted. Nominees  for the post of judges are interviewed in order to determine whether they are fit and proper persons to be appointed to the specific judicial  posts.

Our Constitution has a provision  that  requires the JSC to  submit to the President three names  more than required to fill a vacancy in the Constitutional Court. If there is only one vacancy, then the JSC must submit a minimum of four names. For two vacancies, five names are needed, and so forth.

On this occasion there were two vacant positions in the Constitutional Court,  with interviews to be held in April 2022.  Five people applied for these posts.  There were three white males and two African females. There were two vacant positions in the Constitutional Court.  Thus, in terms of the provisions of the South African Constitution,  the JSC would have had to submit all five names to the President, stating their preference, but the final decision for the appointments  would be left to the President.

Unterhalter overlooked by the JSC for a third time. (WIPO/ Pierre Albouy)

Our Constitutional Court presently has no white judges on its bench.  While there is no requirement that there be white judges on the Constitutional Court, the general opinion of jurists is that the court  should “reflect broadly the racial and gender composition of South Africa” suggesting that one of the white men would be appointed.

One of the white males was Judge Unterhalter,  presently an acting judge in the Constitutional Court.  He has been acting for the present court term (about three months) He had applied for the position of permanent Constitutional Court Judge twice previously, and was unsuccessful of both occasions.

There were two other white men as candidates. Advocate Alan Dodson, who is not a  judge, was seen as an outsider. Judge  Owen Rogers – a first-time candidate-  was viewed as having his age count against him. He is 64. Unterhalter, a sitting Acting Constitutional Judge,  was the hot favourite for the post.

When being interviewed for the position, the commissioners will be provided with the case judgements (at least the reported ones) handed down by the candidates. Some of my colleagues had been given the task of  researching the reported cases of the candidates and providing opinions as to the merits and demerits of each case. These opinions were then forwarded to the Commission together with the cases. The volume of  Unterhalter’s reported cases, in excess of over 300, would no doubt have resulted in  a couple of sleepless nights for the researchers.

Unterhalter was the last candidate to be interviewed for the post. Until that stage, the interview process had been very “parev” with nothing out of the ordinary.

This all changed with the Unterhalter inquisition!

The first attack came from commissioner Mvuzo Notyesi, who raised an issue  that Constitutional Court Judge Unterhalter had ruled on the same judgments that he, as Supreme Court of Appeal Judge had ruled on, when he should have recused himself.  This attack caught Unterhalter wrong-footed, and he was totally surprised by the ambush question. Chief Justice Zondo, presiding over the interview, stated that it had been previously been agreed that this issue would not be raised, as it had not been timeously brought to the Commission’s attention.  At that stage, the voice of Commissioner Julius Malema was heard, insisting that the matter be addressed so that the matter could be discussed when the panel deliberated over the suitability of the candidates for the position. Malema made  it clear that he was going to ensure Unterhalter did not receive the nomination. It seemed that it was Malema who had found copies of both rulings and forwarded them to Notyesi. The discovery of these Appeal  judgments  and  even Concourt judgments did not form part of normal  background research. It would have required single-minded dedication  and an extraordinary amount of time and effort to locate  these unreported one-page judgments. 

Commissioner Mvuzo Notyesi.

Malema had his way, and notwithstanding the previous agreement, these judgements now became part of the record. It should not be forgotten that Malema had previously bullied Zondo, when Zondo had applied for the position of  Chief Justice, in a previous judicial appointment hearing. This conduct was again noticeably in evidence.  It was after Malema had his say, Zondo discarded his ruling of not using the undisclosed issue.

Unterhalter, after having been given the opportunity to examine  the issue, explained that these matters were applications where the High Court has dismissed and  had already refused leave to appeal. Then there had been a further application made to the Supreme Court of Appeal to reconsider the issue. Only the papers presented to  the Court were read. These were read privately in chambers with no further legal input from the parties. On this basis, he and another judge had confirmed the lack of merit and a decision to dismiss the application was made.  The Supreme Court of Appeal having dismissed the application, the party had persisted in further seeking that the Concourt reconsider the application and  the refusal of both  the High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal to allow the matter to be appealed. The Concourt judges individually as well as in their own chambers considered the matter based purely on the papers before them  and each independently decided to dismiss the application.

Unterhalter conceded that he had in fact dismissed an application for leave to appeal in the Concourt, after he had been one of the two judges who denied the same applicants leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal. He had not noticed that he had dismissed the application as his name only appeared on a single page  at the back of the  annexures  and did not appear in the main application. He also pointed out that none of the other judges in the Concourt or their clerks had picked up this issue either. He apologized and said he should have recused himself as he had done in other matters.  It was a human error, he claimed. Malema argued that errors like this lead to a lack of respect for the courts.  Notyesi expressed his concern that Unterhalter had not read the papers, which  allowed  for the error to arise. Zondo seemed to suggest that it was the Concourt procedure that was at fault and  said  that he would introduce a procedure to ensure this would not happen again. Malema then again verbally attacked Zondo and made it clear that Unterhalter’s  conduct was relevant and had to be taken into  consideration, but it was unacceptable. It was mistakes like this that destroy the image of the court, opined Malema.

A fiery typically fiery posture from Commissioner Julius Malema.

Then it was the chance of Commissioner and Member of Parliament Singh, to indulge in a little  Unterhalter bashing. He gratuitously reintroduced a subject from a previous JSC interview that had previously been  strongly and vocally protested  as antisemitic – asking for further comment on Unterhalter’s membership of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies  executive committee which obviously included the Board’s  nature and function.  This question not only fell foul of the new regulations but had no place in the examination procedure. The question  was irregularly permitted by Zondo, although it bore no relevance to Unterhalter’s  legal capacity or his fitness as a judge.

South Africa’s Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo

Then the knife in his gut was twisted just  a little more.

The  black female commissioners took aim at Unterhalter.

He had previously been attacked for not producing a list of disadvantaged counsel that had  acted as his juniors.  Now that  such a list had been produced, he was now attacked on the basis that he had only appointed 7 or 8 black female advocates to assist him (it was never made clear how many black male counsel juniored him), Commissioner Pillay SC, whom Unterhalter acknowledged had also acted as a previously disadvantaged female  junior to him, attacked him for  paucity of his use of black female junior advocates. She then castigated him for observing the standard practice of using junior advocates rather than utilising  more senior black female practitioners.

After caucusing for discussion on the relative merits of the candidates,  the JSC  put four names  forward to the President for consideration of the post of Concourt  judge.

Unterhalter’s name was excluded from the list

The only  legally justifiable reason for Unterhalter to have been excluded from the list was that he was not a fit and proper person to be appointed.  By excluding him, either the JSC had  to have very good reasons for the exclusion, or they have disgracefully defamed him.

In South Africa, decisions are normally  made on a balance of probability. Sometimes there might be  consideration  of “the only possible inference” leading to a conclusion.  The  issues that the JSC would likely have discussed about Unterhalter’s suitability  are the following:    

(a) that he did not recuse himself when he should have  – an  error which was committed by every other  Apex Court judge and clerk;

(b)  his  lack of commitment to transformation in that he had assisted so few black female junior advocates. This should then have been raised with any other candidate. Their contribution to the transformation process was never discussed.

(c)   his past position on the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) – previously dealt with in my previous articles. Other candidates’ external activities were not discussed.

(d)  he had produced no written judgments while sitting on the Concourt bench (coupled with the oxymoronic proposition that he was too junior a judge to  assume a position on the Concourt.

(e)   a combination of some, or all of them.

Was the decision to exclude Unterhalter antisemitic? It’s unlikely that we will ever know. Can it be said that it is the only possible inference? It certainly was not made on a balance of probability. All one can say is that Unterhalter is probably one of the most brilliant jurists presently in South Africa, with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Malema’s animus was clear from the start; Notyesi raised an extraordinarily difficult-to-find issue that was never even intimated to any other candidate, also suggesting malicious intent. Singh wrongfully attacked Unterhalter’s constitutional right of freedom of association, on  an issue which has been previously viewed as antisemitic. The black female commissioners, including one of his one-time juniors,  Pillay SC, attacked him on the lack of racial transformation and the lack  of previously disadvantaged black advocates who juniored for him, disregarding his substantial history of foundational training of all types of young practitioners. The absurd proposition that an (acting) sitting judge of the Concourt is too junior to sit on that Court bench was accepted with undue legal gravitas.  The bullying of the Chief Justice causing him to admit evidence that had been agreed to be excluded, casts a concerning judicial shadow over the new Chief Justice.

That so many of the commissioners voted to exclude Judge Unterhalter from consideration seems judicially  inexplicable. That the Chief Justice allowed this to happen is even more inexplicable. Why is this generally well-liked and respected judge being denied a seat on the Concourt, a seat that even the Concourt judges want him to fill? How many other reasons can there be? That the newly introduced criteria were so openly disregarded is another iteration of the JSC’s previously unacceptable behaviour. What real reason could there be to  so summarily exclude Unterhalter from the process and thereby holding that he is not a fit and proper person to hold the position of Constitutional Court judge? This refusal to allow  the President from considering Unterhalter for appointment requires exceptional circumstances leading to his exclusion. In the absence of such circumstance, Unterhalter has been gravely vilified. From the interview, it is difficult to see what circumstances objectively existed justifying his exclusion.  The only thing that can be seen to  objectively exist was  that the standard applied to Acting Constitutional Justice Unterhalter was far more prejudicial and unfair than that applied to the other candidates.

The irregularities committed by the JSC, are little different  from  the one for which it has been called out previously in reported cases, of which they are no doubt acutely aware.  It also seems  very likely that  the JSC has violated section 174 of the Constitution and has  again  deliberately repeated its  irrational and unlawful conduct.   The JSC has again failed to apply the  standards expected of it. Unterhalter’s dignity has been seriously impugned by the removal of his name for submission to the President and his good name has been besmirched. Were he to decide to abandon any chance of a Concourt seat, he could follow the course of Judge Satchwell and litigate to enforce his rights. He is too much the gentleman and jurist to seek constitutional damages. Unfortunately, the same high legal  standards are noticeably absent in the JSC. The JSC needs to fully explain to the nation and its shocked legal fraternity just what exceptional circumstances it found to hold that this highly regarded acting Concourt judge is unfit and improper to assume a  permanent appointment.

About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Is it any Wonder?

From messaging to targeting – Jews in the firing line

By David E. Kaplan

Its hunting season – and the prey are Jews!

Hardly a day goes by that Jews around the world – and over the last month on streets across Israel – are not in the deadly ‘crosshairs’ of some raving antisemite or raging jihadist terrorist.

Last Thursday there was blood on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street with three young Israelis shot dead at a popular pub; and several days ago there was a knife attack – thankfully not fatal –  in the port city of Ashkelon.

Should we be surprised?

Sadly no when a soundtrack of hate against Jews is being played over and over by murderous messages ranging from ‘finishing Hitler’s job’ to doing ‘God’s work’.


So who are the “VOICES” sending these messages?

Crazed Cleric. Considered one of the most influential Islamic scholars of his generation, the preeminent Egyptian scholar Yusuf Al-Qaradawi  advocates for completing Hitler’s job against the Jews and supports suicide booming against Israelis.

With over 120 books under his belt and sometimes described as a “moderate Islamist”, Sunni religious authority Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi who is Chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars called  in one of his recent sermons for his flock to finish what:


Based in Doha, Qatar, this Egyptian-born spiritual leader publicly advocates for the extermination of Jews.

His defenders will point out that he is a “moderate” referring to  his cautionary dissertation on the danger of extremist groups of Islam, but then will ignore that Al-Qaradawi has condoned Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis.

One of the deadliest “voices” inspiring violence against Jews is Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Iran-backed Hezbollah, the most powerful group in Lebanon who has said that it was good that Jews congregated in Israel because:

there will be no need to chase them around the globe, and in Israel, the final solution could be implemented to the end.”

In other words – ‘easier to kill’

‘Dead’ set on Killing Jews. The fiery leader of Iran-backed Hezbollah,  Hassan Nasrallah, that has praised the recent terrorist attacks in Israel.

Nasrallah’s choice of the Nazi parlance of “Final Solution” is chilling as it is revealing and a reminder that Israel needs to be strong and resolute. His message is to expunge any Jewish presence on earth and coming from him, it is perceived by his Shia followers as doing “God’s work”.


Whatever the current crisis is in the world  – economic, pandemic or presently Ukraine –  it always provides the ‘perfect platform’ to attack Jews. Only last month, the director of the Jewish community  of the city of Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine where many refugees have fled to escape Russian attacks, Igor Perelman, was stabbed while delivering aid by an assailant yelling antisemitic obscenities. A few days later in Turkey, on April 3, leading Palestinian Muslim scholar claimed on Turkish TV that Jews started the “Ukraine-Russian war” to establish “a second Jewish state in Ukraine”.

Rid the world of Jews. Back in February 10, 2021, Palestinian Islamic Scholar, Mraweh Nassar said on Turkey’s Channel 9 that the Jews are the most dangerous enemies of the Muslims and that if Muslims really want to live in peace and security, they must get rid of this enemy. He explained that the Muslims will experience their “best days” after they kill the Jews, as described in the Hadith.

The scholar was the Secretary-General of the Jerusalem Committee of the International Union of Muslim Scholars Mraweh Nassar, who made the statements on Turkey’s Channel 9, an Arabic-language outlet affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Towards the end of his maniacal rant, the ‘scholar’ could not resist adding that the Holocaust was a Jewish hoax:

Even in the false Holocaust… There is a book written by a Jew, which asks ‘Who killed the Jews?” 

Blame the Jews. On 3 April, 2022, Palestinian Muslim scholar Mraweh Nassar denies the Holocaust on Turkish television after blaming the Jews for causing the Russian-Ukraine war. (Photo: MEMRI)


When not gracing the pages of Vogue and other fashion magazines, supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid  – with a combined 125 million Instagram followers – are quick to vilify Jews and Israel on social media. Far more plunging than her necklines, Gigi Hadid reached an all-time low in March 6, 2022, when she posted on Instagram that she was pledging to donate her earnings “to aid those suffering from the war in Ukraine, as well as continuing to support those experiencing THE SAME IN PALESTINE.” In other words, she was equating the massacres of civilians in Europe not seen since the Second World War to what the Palestinians experienced in Gaza during Israel’s defensive war in 2021. While Israel was trying to stop unprovoked rocket attacks aimed at her civilian population, supermodel Gigi saw this as the same as Putin set on destroying a country and mass-murdering its civilian population. The false comparison is not only obscene – its antisemitic. 

Hardly Model Behaviour. Having made thirty-five appearances on international Vogue  magazine covers, Gigi Hadid is well familiar with make-up. She is also a master at making-up facts as she equates the situation in Ukraine with Gaza.

Should the Hadid sisters ever parade their scantily clad bodies in Gaza as they  do on runways and magazines, they would unlikely ever again have the opportunity to ‘parade’ their warped ideas.  With Gaza patrolled by the “modesty police”, Gigi and Bella may well find themselves arrested or far worse!

And what of our local “voices” in Israel?

Cover Girls Uncovered. Critical of Israel’s justifiable defense against rockets from Gaza, supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid would hardly be welcome on the streets of Gaza, patrolled by the “modesty Police”.


What message did  Knesset Member Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List send when he called on Arabs serving in security forces to give up their weapons and quit?

In a Ramadan video that he posted from Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate – a flashpoint of ongoing clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police – he said:

 “It is humiliating for our sons to join the security forces of the occupation… The young people must not join the occupation forces. Throw their weapons in their faces and tell them that our place is not with you.”

Call to Quite. Joint List party leader Ayman Odeh speaks in a video on April 10, 2022  in which he calls on Arab Israeli officers to quit the security forces, saying they ‘humiliate’ their people. (Screencapture/Facebook)

To say this during a period when. Israel is facing the deadliest wave of terror in recent years, is inflammatory.

To say this when one of the victims of the recent attack in Bnei Brak included an Arab police officer, Amir Khoury, who was fatally wounded as he shot the terrorist in a firefight, shows insensitivity and a message to fellow Arabs to not integrate into Israeli society nor join  its civil service.

To say this when there have been constant appeals from the Arab community and its leaders to the Israeli government to fight the escalating crime in Arab areas is hypocritical.

National Hero vs Toxic Politician. While the ultra-orthodox city of Bnei Brak will be naming a street after Amir Khoury, the Arab policeman who died a hero in a terror attack, Joint List party leader Ayman Odeh dismisses this bravery and calls on his fellow Arabs not to join hands with Jewish Israelis in protecting the entire population.

To say this from the same man when he once said when he served on the Haifa Council that “Arabs and Jews must work together”, shows he is not a man of his word nor of principle.

Is it any wonder that Odeh’s  calling triggered outrage.

Instead of acting as a responsible member of the opposition, Ayman Odeh’s calling joins all the other VOICES  in weaponizing their rhetoric aimed at harming Jews.

If there is to be any fighting, we need to fight hate!

*Feature picture courtesy: Avshalom Shoshoni

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

He Died so that Others may Live

Remembering Christian Arab-Israeli officer Amir Khoury who bravely gave his life to save Jews

By Jonathan Feldstein

Normally, when one goes to express condolences to a family mourning a deceased relative, you know one of the family members, if not the deceased.  At a certain age, one goes to console a friend whose parent died, but with whom you didn’t have a personal relationship, if at all.  It’s rare to show up at the home of someone you don’t know, grieving over the loss of a loved one who you also didn’t know either.  But that’s what I just did.  Here’s why.  

During my last week of nearly a month’s trip throughout the US, there were four terror attacks in Israel. Eleven people were killed, and dozens injured. There have been many more attacks in which, thank God, there were no injuries, and as many as fifteen others reportedly prevented due to good intelligence followed by swift military operations.

With too many Israeli families in mourning and many more suffering injuries and trauma, I took a full day to visit one of them.

Face of a Hero. Police officer Amir Khoury from Nof Hagalil put himself in the firing line without hesitation in Bnei Brak on March 29, 2022 (Courtesy of the family)

As of this writing, the deadliest recent terror attack took place in Bnei Brak, a city in central Israel with a large ultra-Orthodox population.  Five people were killed including two Jewish Israelis, two Ukrainians, and a Christian Arab Israeli police officer, Amir Khoury. Some may be confused by the idea of a Christian Arab Israeli being a victim, much less a hero as one of the security forces that stopped the terrorist. Amir is credited with racing to the scene of the terror attack, opening fire and neutralizing the terrorist. But he was also mortally wounded in the process.  His partner, who finally killed the gunman, would later eulogize his fallen comrade with these shining words:

My children will grow up and remember your name because you were my flak jacket, dear brother.”

This week, I visited Amir’s family. Hailed as a national hero, this Christian Arab family were receiving visitors from all over the country in tents outside their home adorned with Israeli flags.  Had Amir not acted as decisively as he did, the carnage would have been much worse. 

In Jewish tradition, mourners remain seated on low chairs and visitors approach them.  As soon as I walked into the larger of the two tents, Amir’s father rose and embraced me, speaking to me with warmth, wanting to know who I was, were I came from, and why. As we spoke, we stood together, hands clasped.  He pegged my American accented Hebrew and asked where I was born, when I immigrated to Israel, and about my family. If one didn’t know that he was mourning the murder of his son, one would never imagine that he was not just being a gracious host. As I sat down, I was served strong black coffee.

I spent considerable time speaking with Amir’s father, mother, brother, sister, and brother-in-law.  As we sat together, I couldn’t help but recall the verse from Psalm 133:

 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.”

The original Hebrew says “shevet achim gam yachad” which can be interpreted as dwelling, but also sitting.  There we sat together, mourning a victim of a hate-inspired terrorist who wanted anything but for us – Jew and Arab –  to dwell together in unity.

The terrorist failed.

Visitors came from across the country to pay tribute to this hero – Amir Khouri. There was one person who drove six hours from Eilat, visited for thirty minutes, and then drove back. There were Jews of every background, Arabs, government cabinet members, present and former ambassadors and rabbis. People emerged from the family’s distant past like a former neighbor in Tel Aviv from decades earlier when he was first married.

While I didn’t come from the furthest distance, the family was impressed that I came from Gush Etzion in the Judean mountains south of Jerusalem, because there is a stereotype about “settlers” and Arabs. That’s part of the political baggage with which we live and, like many stereotypes, is built on myths.  We didn’t talk politics at all. It was a wide-ranging visit about Amir, about them, and about our shared society.

They were moved that Bnei Brak, a mostly ultra-Orthodox Jewish city, will be naming a street after their Amir, a Christian Arab. I sensed that all the family wanted was for Amir to be remembered.

He undoubtedly will be and by you reading this, you’re contributing to Amir’s remembrance and ensuring his legacy.

Final Journey. Casket draped with the flag of Israel, Amir Khoury is carried to his burial site by his fellow police officers. (Getty Images)

I didn’t just go visit myself, but brought with me dozens of condolences and prayers from others.  The night before, I posted through my social media and chat groups that I was going to visit the Khoury family. I invited others to send notes. In just a few hours, dozens of people sent their condolences and prayers, along with donations, so we can do something meaningful in Amir’s memory. That so many people sent their condolences in writing was a comfort.  More continue to do so.

A person I spoke to wept while recounting how the family found out about Amir’s death.  They were watching the news with live reports of the terror attack.  They had a bad feeling because calls and text messages to Amir went unanswered.  Each shared how they dealt with this, but that they had each lost it when seeing the police outside their front door a little after 10:00pm, two hours after initial reports of the attack. At that moment, all their fears were realized. As they were recounting, I held back the tears seeing the dark circles under their eyes testifying to their endless tears and lack or sleep. 

Condolence Call. Khoury’s father Jereis (center) and Amir Khouri’s fiancée Shani with Police officers paying a condolence call on March 30, 2022. (Channel 12 screenshot)

While hailed a national hero, the sad tragedy is that by the enemies of peace he is not considered a hero to all! There are those extremists who look at him as a traitor. It’s hardly a public secret that Christian Arabs live under threat from Muslim extremism and another visitor confided in me that Amir’s death was being celebrated amongst some within the Palestinian Authority and among extremists in Israel. There was fear to talk too much about this because with Amir’s heroism being cast into the spotlight, there was a concern that others in the Khouri family might find themselves possible targets.

Sitting with this family of devout Christians, I couldn’t help but think that Amir, like Queen Esther, was put in a situation “for such a time as this.”(Esther 4.14)

I couldn’t bring myself to pose this thought to Amir’s family. Both saved lives and I wondered if like Esther (Esther 4:16), Amir raced to the scene of the terror attack thinking:

If I perish, I perish

One thing for sure is that Amir was an angel for a whole community.  Had it not been for Amir, it’s unthinkable how many more people would have been killed. 

In meeting and speaking with people, I avoided saying “nice to meet you” but rather “it’s an honour to meet you”. I’d have preferred that I never had the occasion to know them, or know of them for it was brought about by personal loss. However, the reality is that tragedy brough us together and in parting, an Amir  family member poignantly expressed:

We not just friends; somehow God ordained it.”

Mourning a Hero. Thousands including ultra-Orthodox residents of Bnei Brak were among the mourners at the funeral of 32-year-old Christian Arab Amir Khoury from Nof Hagalil. “He gave his life for others,” said Yaakov, an ultra-Orthodox Bnei Brak resident interviewed on Channel 13. One of the buses transporting ultra-Orthodox Israelis from Bnei Brak to the funeral. displayed the message: “Amir Khoury, hero of Israel.”

While the formal mourning period has ended, the grief and loss have not and anyone who wishes to send a note to Amir’s family can do so at https://genesis123.co/blessasoldier and send condolences, prayers, and words of comfort which will be delivered to them directly.  A donation of any size will go toward a project in Amir’s memory.  For further information, please be in touch at Gen123Fdn@gmail.com.

Please join us to be a blessing to Amir’s family, honor his memory, and pray that he will be the last victim of hate-inspired terror.


I would later learn that on the previous Sunday, Amir Khoury had sat at home with his fiancée Shani Yashar watching the news of a terror attack in Hadera, in which two police officers were killed.

He had said to her “If I see a terrorist in front of my eyes, I’m going to crush him. I’m not going to let anyone get hurt; that’s why I’m a cop.”

Shani recalled pleading with her beloved to “not be a hero”.

He could be nothing else – he lived and died a hero.

  • At the time of publishing this, another attack took place in Tel Aviv and three Israelis were killed.

“Hero of Israel”. Amir Khoury’s grieving comrades at the funeral.  

About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall, NorthJersey.com, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

From Paralysis to Pragmatism

Revising the peacemaking modality between Israel and the Palestinians from resolving to reducing

By Samuel Hyde

On one side, there are those within Israel and the International community who are still fixated on the idea that the conflict can be solved – an aspiration that many Israelis believe is currently unrealistic. On the other hand, some think the conflict must be managed, and the status quo must be sustained indefinitely – an equally problematic aspiration.

So perhaps it’s time for something new.

To move forward, I will argue that this approach must begin with breaking free from the two dreams birthed within Israel post our victory in the 1967, Six-Day War. I unpacked these two dreams in the first part of this article series, titled “Israel From Within: From Dreams to Fears and Back Again”. However, I will still provide necessary context on these two opposing dreams in this piece as we advance. From the onset, I will also clarify that this concept will not solve the conflict. It won’t help manage it. However, it has the potential to reduce it.

Any proposal for reducing the conflict must meet the following criteria:

  • occupation redirection over the Palestinians with no settlement expansion, while at the same time leaving Israel’s security firmly intact, and
  • re-directing Western funding policies which have enabled Palestinian rejection.


After the Six-Day War, Israelis were blinded by two dreams of certainty. The first dream, known as “Land for Peace” was centered around Israel’s peace-seekers who woke up after the war, looked at the country’s new borders, and saw for the first time that the Jewish people held solid bargaining chips: The idea was that these territories could be exchanged for a peace treaty. In other words, Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War presented a golden opportunity to end war.

The second dream is known as “Settlement for Redemption”. Instead of bargaining away the captured territories, the state could settle them. According to the great ideologue of the settlement movement, Rav Kook, the Hebrew Bible contains a series of prophecies that the Jewish people will return to their land, and by settling the hills of Judea and Samaria, otherwise known as the West Bank, Jews would fulfill these prophecies and provoke a chain of events leading to the messianic dream.

These camps of dreamers did not achieve their intended goals, which today has led to an oddly paralyzing consensus within Israel. Today most Israelis do not want to control the lives of the 2.6 million Palestinians living in the West Bank. At the same time, most Israelis don’t want to withdraw from this territory for fear of making their country so geographically small as to be indefensible. They agree on a paradox, and therefore the certainty behind the two dreams has only led to confusion and stagnation.

In truth, the current paralysis in Israel, if mobilized correctly, can lead to fresh thinking and a new course of action. Philosopher Karl Popper once observed that:

 “new ideas are not born in ideological spaces paralyzed by certainty, but in places where doubt fills the human mind.”

So, how do we replace paralysis with pragmatism?


The 1993 Oslo Accords birthed the Palestinian Authority (PA) and granted it control over 40% of the West Bank. The Palestinian zones are called Area A and Area B. Area A covers the main Palestinian towns, where the PA has total civilian and security control; Area B encompasses the outlying areas and villages, where the PA has only civilian control. The remaining 60%, called Area C, remains under the control of the Israeli army.

Therefore, a Palestinian resident of Ramallah does not directly experience the Israeli occupation daily. The authority that governs him is Palestinian, and the police force protecting him is Palestinian. However this is only true as long as he remains inside Ramallah and does not venture out to other areas that do not share continuity.

Al-Manarah Square in central Ramallah, the Palestinian city in the central West Bank located 10 km north of Jerusalem and which serves as the administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority.

Addressing this situation does not require a peace accord. The solution is neither strategic nor political but infrastructural. In the early 2000s, the Israeli Central Command and IDF Planning Directorate drew up a plan dubbed ‘Keep It Flowing’ to pave roads that would bypass the settlements and join the different parts of the Palestinian Authority. Over the years, civilian bodies have continued developing and upgrading this plan. It would not be cheap to implement because it involves tunnels and bridges, but it would create transportational continuity for Palestinians. Senior officials in the IDF Central Command are clear that the Israeli security apparatus already has the technological solutions to facilitate this development – without reducing Israel’s level of security. If Israel were to pave this network of roads, giving the Palestinian Authority autonomous control, freedom of movement would be completely transformed.

If this is so simple, why has it not been done yet? The hard-right opposes any territorial concessions to the Palestinians because it believes the land is holy and must not be conceded. But many members of the hard left are also against it because they think policies that make life easier for Palestinians in the territories will normalize the occupation and thereby legitimize it. The center’s emergence in today’s political scene comes at such a vital time – allowing Israelis to break free from years of left and right polarization.

Next, to facilitate no settlement expansion, Israel would have to refrain from expanding its settlements outside the major blocs and allocate land in Area C for Palestinian economic initiatives. One annex of the 1995 Oslo Accords is the Paris Protocol, making the Palestinian economy entirely dependent on the Israeli economy and the State of Israel. The Palestinian tax, customs, import, and export systems rely on and are effectively controlled by Israel. The Paris Protocol can and must be revised to end this dependence. Recent years have seen a creeping annexation in the territories. The ideas above would propel Israel in the opposite direction— necessary separation. In other words, yes to the occupation redirection, no to settlement expansion.

End Expansion. The writer advocates no Israeli expansion of settlements outside the major blocs and that land in Area C be allocated to Palestinians for economic initiatives.

Some 120,000 Palestinians work in Israel, bringing large sums of money to the Palestinian territories and providing a livelihood for 600,000 people. There is a significant pay differential between employment in the PA and Israel – for the same job. The IDF’s top brass have concluded that permits for Palestinians to work in Israel can be dramatically boosted. These employment opportunities can be opened to women and older men with clean records, with a supervised but minimal risk to Israel. If 400,000 Palestinian workers entered Israel every day, this would significantly improve the Palestinian economy. More than 1 million Palestinians would directly enjoy the fruits of working in Israel.

Note the complementary process here. Alongside political separation is economic independence. These policies would not produce a two-state solution but will create a two-state reality. These small and cumulative steps are not to end the conflict but to change its nature; paving the way with pragmatic caution.


In 2005, Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip, a unilateral move many describe as a failed experiment. As a result of the disengagement, Israel may have gained a sizeable demographic bump. Still, it also saw the birth of Hamas, an Iranian terror proxy with a founding charter that calls for the genocide of Jews and destruction of the Jewish State.

When it comes to Palestinian terrorism, Israel’s security is based on its forces’ ability to foil the formation of terror cells in the West Bank. Their great success stems from Israel’s wide-reaching intelligence network in Palestinian towns and villages. To guarantee the effectiveness of this intelligence, Israel needs to maintain free military access to every part of the Palestinian autonomous areas. Here are the five principles that will guarantee Israelis’ continued security. Note that Israel conceded three of these five points in the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

-The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) will remain in place, and Israeli intelligence will  continue to operate in all parts of the West Bank.

-The IDF will continue to conduct pursuits and arrests in all parts of the Palestinian autonomous area.

-Israel will retain a permanent military force in the Jordan Valley.

-The airspace will remain under full Israeli control.

-The electromagnetic field will remain under full Israeli control.


With western countries providing the bulk of the funds for UNRWA’s operations, it unwittingly bolstered the Palestinian idea  that it is better to struggle for a “return of refugees” rather than come to terms with the legitimacy of Israel and build a new life of prosperity in the West Bank and Gaza. UNRWA undermines peace by reinforcing to the more than 70% of Gaza inhabitants registered as refugees that Gaza is not their true home. It does so by providing the political infrastructure that grants Palestinians the status of “refugees”, which they would not otherwise merit if international standards were applied. UNRWA cannot be a meaningful partner in Gaza’s reconstruction. On the contrary, UNRWA remaining a major actor in any attempts to rebuild Gaza assures its failure.

School for Scandal. UNRWA launches probe  in 2021 into 10 staffers amid allegations of antisemitism.

Israel should insist that UNRWA’s donor countries – the United States, Australia, Britain, and the European Union – cease its support. Countries that officially support the two-state solution should not underwrite an organization such as UNRWA, whose transparent aim is that the Jewish people will not have a sovereign state. Dissolving UNRWA is essentially dissolving a structure that only further enables the root cause of this conflict – Palestinian rejection of a Jewish State in any part of the land between the river to the sea.

Walk on By. Palestinians walk past the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza City in 2021. (Photo by AFP)

By redirecting the billions of dollars from UNWRA, foreign governments could instead aid the already developed yet highly under-funded education and public health systems of the PA. Those supporting a two-state solution or those invested in creating a ‘two-state reality’ must send a clear message:

One that simultaneously enables Palestinian enrichment but erases the cause that denies Israel’s existence.

Furthermore, countless independent NGOs and research bodies have found that UNWRA’s school curricula are entrenched with antisemitic propaganda. Many of UNWRA’s teachers have been found guilty of engaging in antisemitism. When we talk about terrorism in Israel, we focus on the individual or individuals committing the attack to remain “polite” and not generalize. The truth remains that terror attacks in Israel are the product of deliberate, systemic, and ongoing incitement, often from within the UNWRA education system. It might be the time to dispense with political ettringite and replace it by holding those responsible for this incitement accountable.

Teaching Hatred. An image of a girl smiling as ‘heretics’ are burned in a Palestinian textbook. Donor counties frequently  threaten to withhold funding due to textbooks being used to promote hate and violence against Jews and Israelis..(IMPACT-SE)


I am not advocating a complete divorce between Israel and the Palestinians. These changes would not produce a two-state solution but, if handled effectively, would lead to a two-state reality that would best provide for Israel’s vital interests, notably security and dramatically improve day-to-day life for Palestinians.

If this approach to ‘reduce the conflict’ is undertaken, the future could prove more promising. History is dynamic and surprising, and so is the Middle East. We can assume that new opportunities will arise. Ten years ago, people would have shrugged, looked to the sky, and rolled their eyes at the thought of the Abraham Accords becoming part of the Middle East’s reality. A revised approach for conflict reduction, will reposition Israel to always spot arising opportunities to favourably remodel a more prosperous and peaceful future for all in the region.

About the writer:

Samuel Hyde is a political writer and commentator based in Tel Aviv, Israel. As a columnist he has been published throughout Israel, the U.S and South Africa in esteemed publications, focusing on topics such as Israel’s political climate, antisemitism, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Jewish world, and Jewish Pluralism. He also works in field related organizations.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).