Volume X1, No. 4,252 • Mar. 6, 2018 • March 6, 2018

Israel Politics | More About: Benjamin Netanyahu, AIPAC, Trump

The AIPAC Comfort Zone: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Mar. 5, 2018 — Pro-Israel activists gather this week in Washington, DC, for the annual AIPAC policy conference.

Don’t Count Bibi Out — Yet: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Feb. 23, 2018— If you follow the news from Israel, you might surmise that Benjamin Netanyahu’s days as prime minister are numbered.

Dysfunctional Politics and Disgraceful Behavior: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 20, 2018 — The criminal charges recommended by the Israel Police against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the politicians’ and media’s reactions amount to perhaps the most scandalous political imbroglio in Israel’s history.

Israelis Get No Credit for Their Free Press and Rule of Law: John Robson, National Post, Feb. 15, 2018— How proud Israelis must be to see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the front page facing career-ending corruption charges.


On Topic Links


U.S. Amb. to the U.N. Nikki Haley Delivers Remarks at the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference (Video): AIPAC, Mar. 5, 2018

Netanyahu at AIPAC: We Must Stop Iran. We Will Stop Iran: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 6, 2018

There is No There Here: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 1, 2018

In the Netanyahu Affair, Political Questions May Outweigh Criminal Process: Shany Mor, Algemeiner, Feb. 21, 2018





Jonathan S. Tobin

JNS, Mar. 5, 2018


Pro-Israel activists gather this week in Washington, DC, for the annual AIPAC policy conference. As usual, there is much speculation about the future of US policy and complaints about the pro-Israel lobby. If the Trump administration proposes a new Middle East peace plan that resembles those put forward by previous administrations — in terms of concessions demanded of Israel and fantasies about the Palestinians wanting peace — that might change the temperature of the relationship between AIPAC and the White House from warm to cool. But until anything like that happens, the love fest between most AIPAC activists and the administration will continue. And that is exactly what’s behind most of the complaints about AIPAC.


For a generation, the lobby has been accused of tilting to the right and serving the interests of Israel’s Likud Party and its allies, as well as the agenda of the Republicans. Those complaints have grown louder in the last year as eight years of conflict between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration were ended by Trump’s election victory in 2016.


President Trump is a stern critic of Obama’s attempt to create a rapprochement with Iran via his nuclear deal that AIPAC did everything it could to oppose. He also discarded Obama’s policy of trying to create more “daylight” between the United States and Israel as part of a vain effort to entice the Palestinians to make peace that ran counter to the lobby’s efforts to keep the two allies as close as possible. Just as important, Trump kept his promise about recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.


If you think that Trump was cheered when he spoke to AIPAC in 2016 — roars that forced the group’s leader to apologize, lest anyone in the Obama administration be offended — it may be nothing compared to the applause administration representatives like US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley get when they address the group. And that’s why many liberals and Democrats are so upset.


The vast majority of American Jews vote Democrat. They aren’t fond of Netanyahu because, in contrast to the broad consensus of voters in Israel that support his policies, they think he isn’t doing enough to make peace possible and dislike his indifference to religious pluralism. An even larger number of Jews despise Trump. The minority of Jews who are politically conservative and most of the Orthodox community generally support the president. But his pro-Israel policies do nothing to lessen the antagonism of the majority that is rooted in antipathy to his temperament and his conservative policies.


That creates a dilemma for AIPAC. Unlike most other national Jewish groups that take stands on both domestic and foreign policy, their brief is simple. The point of its existence is twofold: It supports the policies of Israel’s government, no matter which party is in power in Jerusalem; and it seeks to influence the US government to be more pro-Israel, no matter which party is in charge in Washington. This bipartisanship is on display at AIPAC functions, where the group has always bent over backwards to show that it welcomes both Democrats and Republicans. But it’s getting harder to pretend that the pro-Israel community is fully bipartisan.


If Democrats are no longer as comfortable with the group as they used to be, it’s not because AIPAC has put itself in the pocket of the Republicans. Rather, it’s due to the fact that the two parties have changed. More than a half-century ago, it was the GOP that was divided on Israel and the Democrats generally united behind it. Now, it’s just the reverse — with Republicans acting like a lockstep pro-Israel party, and the Democrats being the ones who remain deeply divided.


There are still plenty of pro-Israel Democrats involved, and the party’s congressional caucus is still largely supportive. But there are more congressional Democrats who are critics of the Jewish state these days, with former Louis Farrakhan supporter and current Democratic National Committee vice chair Keith Ellison being just the most well-known. The decline of support for Israel among party activists remains even more drastic. This trend has been in the works for decades, but it became more pronounced under President Obama, when distancing oneself from Israel on peace and on Iran became a matter of party loyalty for many Democrats. There are many Democrats, especially in “resistance” groups like the Women’s March movement, who are hardcore anti-Israel activists. Others are so angry at Trump that they see any policy he embraces, even the tilt towards Israel, as inherently illegitimate.


So while liberals want Jewish groups to distance themselves from Trump, AIPAC’s job is to do just the opposite. Just as it was their obligation to oppose Obama’s efforts to pressure Israel and appease Iran, they have to support pro-Israel policies when they are put in place. Despite the grousing from the left, AIPAC has always been true to these principles. It faithfully backed the Rabin government’s stand after Oslo (though never enthusiastically enough for Rabin’s taste, even though US right-wingers were furious about it), and it cheered when President Bill Clinton embraced the Jewish state.


That’s why it is neither reasonable nor right to expect AIPAC to jeer Trump when he keeps his promises. There are many Americans Jews who regard opposing Trump as more important than backing Israel. Others think they help Israel best when they cheer US presidents who try to force it to make concessions that Israeli voters have rejected. For such people, AIPAC isn’t a comfortable fit. But for those who, regardless of their party and ideology, believe supporting the democratically elected government of Israel and helping foster better relations with Washington are sacred obligations, support for AIPAC is still the only possible option.






Bret Stephens

New York Times, Feb. 23, 2018


If you follow the news from Israel, you might surmise that Benjamin Netanyahu’s days as prime minister are numbered. The police recommend that he be charged on multiple counts of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Fresh charges may yet be brought in additional investigations. A former top aide to Netanyahu agreed this week to serve as a witness against him. Press reports suggest a man clinging to power.


Don’t be so sure. If an election were held tomorrow, Bibi — as Netanyahu is universally known in Israel — and his Likud party would likely win, according to recent polls. Roughly half of Israelis think the prime minister should quit, but that’s down from 60 percent in December. Netanyahu has no intention of resigning, even if the attorney general chooses to indict him. The Likud rank-and-file remain loyal to their leader. His coalition partners may detest him, but for now they see greater political advantage in a wounded prime minister than in a fresh one. Besides, Bibi has been, for Israelis, a pretty good prime minister. Some indicators:


Economy: Since Netanyahu returned to power in 2009, the economy has grown by nearly 30 percent in constant dollars — nearly twice the growth rate of Germany or the United States. Some 3.6 million tourists visited Israel in 2017, a record for the Jewish state. On Monday, Israel announced a $15 billion dollar deal to export natural gas to Egypt from its huge offshore fields.


Diplomacy: Netanyahu’s personal ties to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are exceptionally close, as they are with Japan’s Shinzo Abe. Israel’s relations with African countries and the Arab world are the best they’ve been in decades; reaction in Riyadh and Cairo to the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem amounted to a shrug. Netanyahu’s 2015 speech to Congress opposing the Iran deal, billed as an affront to the Obama administration, turned out to be an inspiration for Israel’s neighbors. And Netanyahu’s arguments against the deal now prevail in the current White House.


Security: In 2002, at the height of the second intifada, Israelis suffered more than 400 terrorism fatalities. In 2017 there were fewer than two dozen. Two wars in and around Gaza, both initiated by Hamas, were devastating for Palestinians but resulted in relatively few Israeli casualties. The Israeli Air Force lost an F-16 after coming under heavy Syrian antiaircraft fire, but that seems to have been a fluke. For the most part, Israel has been able to strike Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah targets at will.

None of this makes much of an impression on non-Israelis. Diaspora Jews were infuriated last year by the government’s backtracking on a plan to let men and women pray together at the Western Wall. Israel’s bad decision to forcibly deport African migrants has stirred additional, and warranted, indignation.


And then there are the Palestinians. The central complaint of Netanyahu’s critics is that he has failed to make good on the promise of his 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University, where he claimed to accept the principle of a Palestinian state. Subsidiary charges include his refusal to halt settlement construction or give former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad a sufficient political boost.


It should go without saying that a Palestinian state is a terrific idea in principle — assuming, that is, that it resembles the United Arab Emirates. But Israelis have no reason to believe that it will look like anything except the way Gaza does today: militant, despotic, desperate and aggressive. Netanyahu’s foreign critics are demanding that he replicate on a large scale what has failed catastrophically on a smaller scale. It’s an absurd ask. It’s also strange that the same people who insist that Israel help create a Palestinian state in order to remain a democracy seem so indifferent to the views of that democracy. Israel’s political left was not destroyed by Netanyahu. It was obliterated one Palestinian suicide bombing, rocket salvo, tunnel attack and rejected statehood offer at a time. Bibi’s long tenure of office is the consequence, not the cause, of this.


Specifically, it is the consequence of Israel’s internalization of the two great lessons of the past 30 years. First, that separation from the Palestinians is essential — in the long term. Second, that peace with the Palestinians is impossible — in the short term. The result is a policy that amounts to a type of indefinite holding pattern, with Israel circling a runway it knows it cannot yet land on even as it fears running out of gas.


The risks here are obvious. But it’s hard to imagine any other sort of approach, which is why any successor to Netanyahu will have to pursue essentially identical policies — policies whose chief art will consist in fending off false promises of salvation. There’s a long Jewish history of this. For all of his flaws, few have done it as well as Bibi, which is why he has endured, and will probably continue to do so.





Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, Feb. 20, 2018


The criminal charges recommended by the Israel Police against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the politicians’ and media’s reactions amount to perhaps the most scandalous political imbroglio in Israel’s history. This is not to say Netanyahu should not be criticized for insensitive and hedonistic behavior. We look back nostalgically to the late prime minister Menachem Begin, whose lifestyle was the antithesis of ostentatious.


But the current orchestrated effort by the police and media is the culmination of decades of efforts by Netanyahu’s adversaries to delegitimize and slander him and his family. It is directed against a prime minister who has proven outstanding leadership in the international diplomatic arena and is largely responsible for having transformed Israel into a financial and military superpower.


Ever since he was elected to lead the Likud and especially after he became prime minister, the mainstream media – apart from Israel Hayom – has ceaselessly sought to besmirch him and his family. No other democratic leader has been continuously vilified to such an extent. The liberal Israeli media has had more front-page coverage of Netanyahu’s alleged personal failings and vague accusations of corruption than coverage of the turbulent and bloody events in the region that threaten our very survival.


The principle that a person be deemed innocent until proven guilty was never applied to Netanyahu, who has for years been accused of bribery and corruption. Over the past two years, the police invested inordinate sums of money and employed massive manpower, both locally and overseas, in a desperate effort to find a smoking gun. Based on what was disclosed upon release of the police recommendations, it would appear that they failed. Yet in a scandalous breach of accepted practice, every shred of gossip hinting at Netanyahu’s guilt was leaked to the media.


The ultimate outrage was a TV interview with Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich in the week prior to the release of the police recommendation that Netanyahu be charged with bribery. He clearly lost the plot when he unleashed a tirade against the prime minister, predicting that he would soon be charged with two major acts of corruption. He also effectively confirmed that he had been leaking confidential police data to the media. To top it off, he implied Netanyahu had orchestrated the engagement of private investigators to monitor the police inquiries. Yet, when challenged, he refused or was unable to provide an iota of evidence to substantiate these allegations.


In any normal democracy, a police commissioner breaching his duties on any of these issues would be dismissed. In our dysfunctional system, Alsheich carries on as usual. After two years of digging under every stone, real or imagined, the police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted on two charges of bribery and corruption. The first charge was for allegedly accepting bribes in return for favors to Israeli-born billionaire Arnon Milchan and Australian tycoon James Packer. Netanyahu was accused of receiving large quantities of cigars and champagne, amounting to about a million shekels ($280,000) over the course of a decade.


What evidence did the police disclose that Milchan’s gifts amounted to a bribe with a quid pro quo? They claimed Netanyahu intervened with the US secretary of state and US ambassador to obtain a visa for Milchan. But the prime minister was entitled to do so, and this would have been an appropriate intercession on behalf of Milchan, who was involved in clandestine intelligence activity for Israel. Netanyahu pointed out that the late president Shimon Peres made a similar intervention on behalf of Milchan, yet no eyebrows were raised. The supposed smoking gun in this case was testimony by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who alleged that when he was finance minister, Netanyahu sought – unsuccessfully – to double the existing 10-year period of tax exemption on foreign income of Israeli émigrés returning to their native country, which would have immensely benefited Milchan.


The fact is that no such legislation was ever even tabled and the claim was immediately rejected by the Finance Ministry. It is not even clear whether Lapid is claiming that he was under pressure by Netanyahu to advance the legislation or whether Netanyahu merely asked him to review the proposal, for which Milchan had lobbied. But even if Lapid claims that he was under pressure, it is highly debatable whether a court could convict Netanyahu based on the testimony of Lapid, who has been frenziedly attacking Netanyahu with the objective of displacing him as prime minister.


It is also not clear whether Lapid volunteered his testimony or if the police approached him, obligating him to provide full and frank testimony in response to questioning. However, aware that he is a key witness, his mistake was to lead the attack on Netanyahu by calling for his resignation even before the police recommendations were released. This has raised doubts about his credibility among the Israeli public and may ultimately scuttle his ambition to replace Netanyahu as prime minister…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                





John Robson

National Post, Feb. 15, 2018


How proud Israelis must be to see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the front page facing career-ending corruption charges. Sure, it’s tacky, politically paralyzing and disappointing to his supporters. But what a vindication of their open society. And what a contrast with their unfortunate neighbours.


I don’t know if Netanyahu, whose security policies I generally approve of, is guilty of legal or even moral wrongdoing. But it doesn’t look good when the police come calling; the maxim that all publicity is good publicity is not strictly true. What does look good, on Israel as a whole, is precisely that the police can come calling on the prime minister, the most powerful politician in a system whose presidency is largely ceremonial. In Israel, nobody is above the law. Judicial impartiality is as real there as here. And it’s the only place in the Middle East where one can imagine such a headline.


Obviously Israel is not perfect. As Kant said, “From the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.” But it is a habitual error of radicals, even a trick, to suggest that if our system is not perfect it is contemptible, while remaining wilfully blind to far worse failings in our philosophical or geopolitical enemies. During the Cold War, Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky compared North American liberals to the backward dogs of Russian folklore that bark at their own families and wag their tails at strangers. And it’s even worse, something of an achievement though not one you’d want, when the postmodern left gets onto Israel.


There is astounding hostility to Israel around the world, the way in which sordid repressive regimes focus on it at the UN, with grotesque tyrannies passing resolution after resolution condemning its human rights record with minimal or no protest from our progressive left. And it’s not just about Israel. It’s about Jews. Behind the hostility to their homeland is vicious anti-Semitism, cultural as well as official. Where’s the outrage?


If you don’t follow Middle Eastern affairs closely you might assume I am overstating the case. Surely people who preen endlessly about how tolerant they are, how sensitive to hate speech and marginalization, can’t be ignoring a torrent of abuse while denouncing Israel’s policies as the key obstacle to peace, questioning its democratic legitimacy, and trying to organize boycotts or at least winking at the sinister undertone of BDS and similar movements. But all you need do is consult an outfit like MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, which translates and publicizes the horrendous comments that are routine in Israel’s neighbours, and if you are not shocked, you should be ashamed.


Nobody would suggest the Israeli government, or its political culture, is perfect. Least of all Israelis, who vigorously debate every imaginable thing, including security policy in the shadow of annihilation. So why doesn’t it get them better credit abroad including here? Try to imagine a single one of Israel’s neighbours where citizens might pick up a newspaper and read that the effective head of government had been indicted for lawless behaviour. The Saudi king, say, or Syria’s dictator. To be sure, it could and indeed almost certainly would happen right after a coup along with a slew of more scurrilous charges, many of which might be justified. But no charges could be laid until they fell from grace.


Remember the Soviet joke about three guys in a freezing gulag cabin? The first says, “I criticized Comrade Popov when he was a rising star.” The second says, “I praised Comrade Popov as he was falling from favour.” And the third says, “I’m Comrade Popov.” And who thinks a friend of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas could be indicted without first losing a power struggle?...

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    




On Topic Links


U.S. Amb. to the U.N. Nikki Haley Delivers Remarks at the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference (Video): AIPAC, Mar. 5, 2018

Netanyahu at AIPAC: We Must Stop Iran. We Will Stop Iran: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 6, 2018—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was welcomed with a resounding ovation Tuesday morning at AIPAC, where he gave a 30 minute speech on the “good, bad and beautiful” in Israel and the region. Netanyahu steered completely clear of his legal woes piling up at home.

There is No There Here: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 1, 2018 —One of the distressing aspects of the police probes against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is that police seem to be attributing criminality to normal policy-making. To date, the Bezeq-Walla investigation, dubbed Case 4000 by the police, is being presented as the mother lode – the probe that will sink Netanyahu.

In the Netanyahu Affair, Political Questions May Outweigh Criminal Process: Shany Mor, Algemeiner, Feb. 21, 2018—The headlines surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal troubles started assuming even bigger and bolder fonts this past week.





Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)

Prof. Harold Waller Prof. Harold Waller (McGill University)

Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman (Department of Religion, Concordia University)

Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)

Rob Coles (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research) Rob Coles (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)

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