Cartoon by Muhammad Sabaana (Middle East Monitor Twitter account, March 5, 2023).
Cartoon by Palestinian cartoonist Hashem Shamali. The Arabic reads, "Israel is burning" (Hashem Shamali's Twitter account, March 5, 2023).
Cartoon by Alaa' al-Laqta. The Arabic reads, " Demonstrations and divisions in the Israeli street" (Shehab Twitter account, March 7, 2023).
Cartoon by Muhammad Sabaana from his Twitter account, March 4, 2023.
The protest in Israel (Ma'an and Amad, March 9, 2023).
The protest in Israel (Ma'an and Amad, March 9, 2023).
The Palestinian media are systematically covering the demonstrations held in Israel to protest the legal reforms advanced by the Israeli government. Their reports are generally informative and provide straight reporting, and for the most part are based on translations of the Israeli media. Among the news reports quoted, prominent were those regarding the refusal of Israel’s reserve soldiers. For example, on March 2, 2023, the Gaza-based, Hamas-affiliated Shehab news agency devoted eight reports to the refusal of IDF reserve soldiers to appear for military duty and the rift in Israeli society. The Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership and Hamas, which regularly criticize the activities of the government of Israel, have almost not related to the protests almost at all.Several Palestinian political commentators related to the issue. Some analyzed Israel society and stressed that its unity was being eroded. Others claimed that the protests would have an influence on the soldiers’ future compliance with orders and on Israel’s deterrent capabilities. Still others claimed the broadening of the political disagreements in Israel could prevent Israel from dealing with external threats which necessitated a consensus. And there were some who called on the Palestinians to unite and exploit the crisis in Israel to advance the “liberation” and to continue the “resistance.” An exception was a former Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine member, who related positively to the fact that in Israel the demonstrations were permitted by the authorities and contained, as opposed to the custom in the Arab states in general and the PA in particular.The Palestinians are not alone in following the protests. The Iranian and Arab channels devote a large part of their airtime to events in Israel and encourage the division in Israeli society. They follow and cover Israeli reporting, adding their own commentaries and interpretations. High-ranking Hezbollah figures also relate to the protests and push their own narrative, which stresses the “temporary nature of the Zionist entity” and quote Hassan Nasrallah’s speech about the “spider web.”
Protests of the reserve soldiers
The Hamas-affiliated Shehab website posted an article entitled, “Will the Israeli army disintegrate after ‘Netanyahu’s reforms’?” It discussed reports of units of reserve soldiers, among them special ops units, the 8200 intelligence unit, air force officers, etc., who announced they would not report for duty if the legal reforms became law. Observers were of the opinion that the entrance of the political dispute into the reserves, which make up 70% of the IDF’s fighting force, indicated there was a good chance the army, which was “the backbone of the country’s existence,” would fall apart; if the disputes continued, Israel would lead collapse. Two Palestinian commentators on Israeli affairs were quoted. One, Salah al-Na’ami, called on the Palestinians to unite and exploit the crisis in Israel to advance the “liberation” [the establishment of a Palestinian state] and to continue the “resistance” [anti-Israeli terrorist attacks]. The other, Sayid Basharat, said the protests in the army were a great danger to Israel’s continued existence because the army was its backbone. He added that the protests would influence Israel’s future concept of war against its enemies regarding soldiers’ obedience to orders during combat. He claimed the protests within the army could gradually develop into rebellion and outright refusal to follow orders, which would lead it its collapse (Shehab, March 2, 2023).‘
Adel Yassin, a Shehab commentator who deals with Israel, claimed Israeli security was in the midst of a “nightmare situation of a collapse,” after dozens of reserves soldiers, especially in the air force, expressed their refusal to continue their reserve service following the passage of the legal reforms. He added that refusal to appear for reserve duty, especially of pilots, threatened Israel’s existence, because a weak air force, which was the backbone of the army and Israel, would damage Israel’s military superiority, which supported its national security and was at the core of its military doctrine. He added that the current situation in Israel would cause it to lose much of its prestige and deterrent capability vis-à-vis the world in general and its enemies in particular, especially because would be unable to wage war or any military confrontation without a fully prepared air force. For decades, he said, the air force had been the strategic arm Israel used most often to lower risks and prevent the loss of soldiers’ lives. He also claimed the importance of the air force had grown in the estimation of the political leadership because it lacked faith in the capabilities of the ground forces after the unsuccessful attempts to rehabilitate carried out since the Second Lebanon War. He was of the opinion that the spread of refusal among Israeli reserve forces, especially in the air force, reflected the concern among pilots who had been “involved in the murder of thousands of innocent victims [sic]” that a change in the Israeli legal system, which was their armor against prosecution in international courts, would leave them open to prosecution for crimes against humanity (Shehab website, March 6, 2023).
- Fayiz Abu Shamala, a Hamas-affiliated commentator from Khan Yunis, wrote an article called “What’s happening in the ranks of the occupation army?” He reported that the objections to the legal reforms had spread to the Israeli air force and all branches of the army, and the commanders of certain units had announced their retirement or their refusal continue training or service. They included 37 pilots from the 69th Air Force wing, which specializes in long-range attacks, who announced they would not participate in training exercises. One hundred and thirty officers from the Yahalom engineering unit told Defense Minister Yoav Galant they opposed the legal reforms and found it hard to serve. Hundreds of reserve soldiers from the intelligence Unit 8200 signed a letter warning they would not volunteer for service if the legal reforms became law. In addition, about a hundred special ops officers, among them a general, threatened they would not continue serving if the reforms became law. All the reports indicated that the Israeli army, which was once called invincible, had become part of Israel’s divided society, which was marching towards the unknown. So why had the air force and ground force officers acted as they had? It was because they argued that the legal reforms raised concerns among the pilots and would leave them vulnerable to prosecution as war criminals in international courts of law. Today the Israeli Supreme Court provided them with legal protection for “acts of aggression” against civilians, the refugee camps in the Gaza Strip and even in Damascus … The division within Israeli society was developing rapidly, and any rightist bloc retreat from the legal reforms meant defeat for the government. That was equally true for the leftist block, which was fighting for its own interests and future, and the battle between the sides had reached a showdown because of the lack of compromise around which the “warring brothers” could meet (Palestine Online, March 7, 2023).
Cartoon by Muhammad Sabaana (Middle East Monitor Twitter account, March 5, 2023).
Commentary on the protest
Ikram Atallah, a political commentator from the Gaza Strip, wrote that Palestinians who followed what happens on the other side of the border knew what happens when religious forces receive an electoral mandate. They believe it gives them the power to put their hands on history and on society’s foundations, structure, legacy and traditions, and that they alone possess the truth and the correct course of action, which is based on their ideology and relies on religious texts. That led to a division in Israeli society which cannot be mended quickly, if at all … No option for compromise exists among the Israelis, because the government is ruled by the leader of the Jewish Zionist Party, Smotrich, who never, in his entire life, backed down from any position or commitment to his voters, and bases his ideology on the Torah. He doesn’t care in the least about any demonstrations of a public he considers “secular and heretic” … [and] thus ideologists destroy their societies. Societies ruled by religious forces shattered and collapsed … Apparently the Israelis have to tighten their seat belts, because at this point the plane is going to crash (al-Ayam, March 5, 2023).
Cartoon by Alaa’ al-Laqta. The Arabic reads, ” Demonstrations and divisions in the Israeli street” (Shehab Twitter account, March 7, 2023).
Hani al-Aqad, a political commentator, wrote an article entitled, “The country of the occupation may be only a short distance from a civil war.” He wrote that in his opinion Israel was approaching more confrontations and a situation where a million people went into the streets, blocked roads, “stormed” the Knesset, Netanyahu’s house, the offices of the coalition leaders, and paralyzed transportation and bridges to exert pressure on the coalition to reach of compromise through dialogue. The crisis means Israel is coming closer to either a civil war or confrontations that will result in bloodshed, because Ben Gvir has begun implementing his plans to oppress the demonstrations, and does not hesitate to order the army and police to draw their weapons and use shock grenades and teargas, and they are likely to use live ammunition, because for Ben Gvir, Netanyahu, Smotrich and Gallant to back down or compromise would mean they had lost everything, and that the masses stand between them and their right-wing plans to take control of the country and turn it into a Jewish religious state (al-Quds, March 6, 2023).
Dr. Wa’el Manama, a political commentator and head of the journalism department of the Islamic University in Gaza, wrote an article called “The beginning of the end” after the demonstrations in Israel on March 4, 2023, in which a quarter of a million people participated. He claimed Israel was living its last days, carried within it the seeds of its own destruction, and suffered from a decay and degeneration unknown since its establishment in 1948. Its years of survival had become numbered by its oppression and the illegality of its existence. On the other hand, he said, the Palestinians held onto their land and sacrificed what was dearest to them to liberate it from the occupation and defend it. Israel, he wrote, was like a parasite without roots, and existed at the expense of others. The rise of the extremist right came now only to speed up Israel’s disappearance and the return of the right [to the land] to its owners (Palestine Online, March 6, 2023).
Dr. Yusuf Rizqa, a high-ranking Hamas figure and former minister of media information and Muslim endowments in the Haniyeh government, who has a column in the daily news paper Felesteen, wrote an article entitled, “A society eroded from within.” He wrote that Amos Yadlin, relating to Israel’s judicial legislation, the division with Israeli society between supporters and the opposition, the increase in the forms of opposition to the point of negative influence on the reserve forces, said that “Israeli is being eroded from within.” His expectation is that the legislation will be passed despite internal opposition, but the problem will not have been solved, it will have caused interaction at various levels. According to Rizqa, Yadlin’s remarks diagnosed perfectly the condition of Israeli society under the Netanyahu government. The erosion of Israeli society from within is obvious because the society is heterogenic and rife with religious, ideological and cultural contradictions. It is based on the ingathering of the Jewish diaspora with its many different cultures, which are unwilling to enter one melting pot. There is a contradiction between secular and religious, and disputes between the religious political parties, which are not the result of judicial legislation but preceded it: they are the result of a heterogeneous society and of racial superiority [sic] which has many levels, and therefore it is natural that their society erode from within, and the legal legislation only worsens it. Israel’s military and financial strength, he claimed, cannot prevent internal erosion, but only delay the fall (Palestine Online, March 6, 2023).
Cartoon by Palestinian cartoonist Hashem Shamali. The Arabic reads, “Israel is burning” (Hashem Shamali’s Twitter account, March 5, 2023).
Adnan Abu Amer, a political commentator from the Gaza Strip and researcher of Israeli affairs, published a series of articles about the protests in Israel.
- On March 1, 2023, he wrote that two months after the establishment of the 37th Israeli government, and the sixth Netanyahu government, in light of the rising disagreements over many issues, there was a growing feeling among Israelis that “the country was on its way to collapse,” the result of events unprecedented in the 75 years since its founding. That helped create an environment of massive protests, concerns of economic dangers and worries of an enormous rent in the fabric of society. Perhaps there had never been a government that destroyed Israeli society as quickly and efficiently as the current one (Palestine Online, March 1, 2023).
- On March 6, 2023, he wrote Israelis understood that the regional forces hostile to Israel wanted to make as much political capital as possible from the lack of cohesion among them, which was of course their legitimate right because the greater the political disputes in Israel, the more difficult it would be for the country to deal with the external threats which demanded an internal consensus. It is certainly known that those forces are aware of the public discourse concerning the establishment of Israel’s government and the legal reforms it is promoting. It is therefore only natural that those developments and their accompanying protests would be objects of great attention, including considerable monitoring of media reports about Israel’s internal situation, and Palestinian reporting of detailed information about its financial condition, the divisions and protests of opposition groups, and the possibility of sending messages to Israeli readers, insofar as was possible, to represent Israel as internally weak and whose various parts were disconnected, despite its military might. The forces hostile to Israel had the right [sic] to represent it to its supporters as weak, a country torn by internal disputes, and to hint it was vanishing, and thereby represent it as a failure. Its might and invulnerability could not be ignored, as its ability to survive for more than 70 years in the heart of a roiling Arab sea with continuous threats had shown. While the current protests were different from previous ones, it did not seem that a worsening of internal tension would weaken its threats of aggression to the regional forces lurking in the background, countries and organizations, as could be seen from its continued attacks on arms facilities in more than one local capital, even while it was in the throes of a serious internal crisis with growing disputes, but that was not enough to reduce its capability to defend its vital interests, in cooperation with its allies in the region and abroad, or by itself (Palestine Online, March 6, 2023).
Cartoon by Muhammad Sabaana from his Twitter account, March 4, 2023.
- A different position was taken by Nihad Abu Ghosh, a political commentator and journalist affiliated with the Palestinian left wing who specializes in Israeli affairs. He was a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s lea until he resigned in 2021. He wrote an article supporting the protest in Israel, and praised the reaction of the Israeli regime to it, representing it as a model for the relations which have to be formed between the regime and the opposition, as compared with the response to protests in the Arab world in general and the Palestinian Authority in particular. Despite the strength of the protests, the unprecedented calls for civil disobedience, the refusal to serve in the reserves and the warnings that the protest could turn into civil war, there were no practical signs that the government was oppressing the protesters or preventing them from expressing their opinion. The most important thing was that the country and its mechanisms were not paralyzed. The army operated according to its plans, as demanded by the commanders, as did the security forces, as did the economic and business sectors and the country’s institutions, and the official and private media outlets made room for everyone, government and opposition. Throughout the Arab world, on the other hand, the relations between the ruling regimes and the those opposing them are hostile and characterized by rivalry, based on the attempts made by both sides to negate the other, to exclude and distance it, and at the very least to ignore it and reject its importance. For the Palestinians as well, all of whom live under the rule of the occupation, the regime and the opposition as one are part of the Palestinian national liberation movement. Measures of oppression, both in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, belong to the prevalent culture of dictatorship in our Arab environment, which regards opposition as a fault that has to be hidden, or demonizes it, and at the very least represents opposition as marginal and not worthy of mention (al-Quds, March 5, 2023)
The protest in Israel (Ma’an and Amad, March 9, 2023).
The Hezbollah leadership also related to the events in Israel, stressing its narrative regarding the temporary nature of the “Zionist entity:”
- On March 6, 2023, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech in which he said that what was happening in Israel was sign that the “entity” was approaching its end (al-Mayadeen, March 6, 2023). On February 16, 2023, on the anniversary of the deaths of Hezbollah commanders, he said the internal and strategic situations in Israel were unprecedented, and that for the first time in the country’s history, its entire elite, including the president, former prime ministers, former defense ministers and former chiefs of staff, were talking about an approaching civil war, and they were saying that there was “no solution for the new challenges except bloodshed” [sic]. He quoted Israeli President Isaac Herzog who said everyone was worried about the fate of the State of Israel and the lack of dialogue was tearing the country apart (al-Manar, February 16, 2023).
- Deputy Hezbollah leader Na’im Qassem said in an interview that the current Israeli government was the best for causing the Zionist entity to collapse because it was a gang of right-wing extremist forces which were not working to build the country. On the other hand, he said, there was an angry, protesting public which represented at least half of Israelis. The entity today suffered from political, cultural and moral unrest, as a result of which it was about to “explode,” and Hezbollah, even before the accumulation of crises, was convinced that the entity would fall. Nasrallah’s “spider web theory” from 2000 was proving itself every day (al-Manar, February 23, 2023).
- The Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen TV continuously reports on the protests, stating it hopes the situation in Israel will lead to a significant fissure within the country and weaken it. As to the pilots’ refusal, al-Mayadeen said the protest in the air force was important because it was considered one of the army’s most sensitive branches. Al-Mayadeen also noted that while for decades attempts had been made to leave political arguments out of the IDF, the present protest trickled in and the claim that the army was non-political was no longer true.
 On May 26, 2000, Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech in Bint Jbeil, in which he said, "... Israel has the strongest nuclear weapons in the Middle East, but in reality it is weaker than a spider web..." That led to the development of the "spider web theory," according to which Israel was a strong military force and had an affluent society which was weary of war and whose ability to stand firm was weak. ↑
 He presents a weekly program on the Shehab website called "What's the News," which deals with various Israeli political and security issues. ↑