Vivian Bercovici: All That’s Clear in Israel Is That Nothing Is
National Post, Mar. 3, 2020Late Monday night, a jubilant crowd of Likud supporters in a Tel Aviv hall waited for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to declare victory. But, given the inconclusive results, their bullishness was perhaps mystifying.
On the one hand, the man revered by his base as the “magician” had worked his tail off during the campaign in this, the third Israeli election in less than a year. And he did so in the shadow of criminal charges for which he stands trial this month.On the other hand, early returns showed Netanyahu’s Likud party having picked up several seats — but still two seats shy of the barest majority of 61 — with the backing of his right-wing and ultra-orthodox allies.Not even the most accomplished magician can turn 59 into 61. Perhaps, not even Bibi. Not even the most accomplished magician can turn 59 into 61. Perhaps, not even Bibi.
The central issue in this election — and the past two — was Bibi. He leads a right-wing bloc consisting of his Likud party, Yamina and the two main ultra-orthodox parties. Based on last-minute polling over the weekend, this cluster was expected to command 58 of the 120 Knesset mandates (compared with 55 in the September election).
Leading the centrist-left bloc is former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, titular head of the Blue and White party. Likud has made great efforts to portray this group as leftists, which has gone over like a lead balloon. At the top of the roster are three former IDF chiefs of staff (one who also served as minister of defence under Netanyahu), hardly leftists by any measure. Blue and White is an opportunistic coalition of a diverse group of politicians from the soft left to the pretty hard right, among them two former senior advisers to Bibi. Blue and White is the “anybody but Bibi” party.
Also in this centre-left bloc is a coalition of the decimated traditional left in Israel; shards of the socialist parties that founded and built the state in its earlier iteration. Until Monday, these parties controlled 57 seats and in the final polls were on track to take a similar number in yesterday’s vote. As of midnight Monday, however, they were down to 54 seats. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
The Democrats’ Israel Problem
WSJ, Mar. 2, 2020
Bernie Sanders would be the first Jewish president. He would also be the president most hostile to Israel. Two big events this week are bringing this curious dynamic into focus. The first is that the Vermont senator heads into the Super Tuesday primaries leading in the most delegate-rich states. The second is the Israeli election.
In the run-up to these votes, Mr. Sanders has treated us to the full Bernie. At the last Democratic debate, he was asked about a tweet accusing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee of providing a platform for leaders “who express bigotry.” Mr. Sanders responded by calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “reactionary racist.”
But for all the fretting about Mr. Sanders, pro-Israel Democrats have a much larger problem. At home, their wing of the party is aging out. Abroad, the Israeli people have reached a post-Oslo consensus about their security that puts them increasingly in conflict with the more dovish preferences of American Democrats.
Let’s start with age. Of the most pro-Israel Democratic leaders, Joe Biden is 77. Rep. Nita Lowey is 82 and retiring. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is 79; Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is 80; Rep. Eliot Engel is 73. At 69, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is the baby of the group.
Now look at the alternatives to Mr. Sanders. Plainly Mr. Biden is more pro-Israel. But he also has a history of shedding principles when they become inconvenient.
In this run for president, he’s already apologized for his own crime bill and his previous votes to ban federal funding of abortion. He even apologized for calling Vice President Mike Pence a “decent guy” after actress Cynthia Nixon complained. The question is whether such a man is someone the Israelis could count on in a pinch.
There’s also his role as Barack Obama’s loyal vice president. Mr. Biden invokes this loyalty often, but it raises its own questions. For though Mr. Obama shunned the incendiary language employed by Mr. Sanders, his White House bristled with disdain for Israel. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
What AIPAC Needs Is an Effective Democratic Champion
Jonathan S. Tobin
Algemeiner, Feb. 28, 2020
Michael Bloomberg had his chance. During the Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina this week, he had the perfect opportunity to directly answer Bernie Sanders’ smears of Israel and AIPAC. Sanders had been challenged by one of the moderators to account for his outrageous attack on the pro-Israel lobby as a platform for “bigotry” and asked whether he would move the US embassy to the Jewish state back to Tel Aviv from the country’s capital of Jerusalem, where President Donald Trump had moved it in May 2018.
Sanders ignored the chance to substantiate his fallacious attack on AIPAC, but then doubled down on the canard that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a “reactionary racist,” a line that earned him applause from an audience that was otherwise not very friendly to him. The Vermont senator then hinted that keeping the embassy in place would be a card he would play in order to get Israeli concessions in some theoretical negotiation with the Palestinians.
At that point, CBS correspondent Major Garrett turned to Bloomberg, the one candidate on stage who has made the greatest effort to put himself forward as a pro-Israel alternative to Sanders. What should have followed was an evisceration of Sanders’ stands on Israel. It was the moment pro-Israel Democrats — many of whom would be heading to Washington in a few days to attend the AIPAC conference that Sanders had spurned and which Bloomberg, alone of the presidential candidates, would address — had been waiting for.
Instead, what they got was a bumbling, stumbling, confused, and somewhat inaccurate and inarticulate response that failed to establish why Sanders was wrong about AIPAC, Jerusalem or the peace process: “Well, the battle has been going on for a long time in the Middle East, whether it’s the Arabs versus the Persians, the Shias versus the Sunnis, the Jews in Israel and the Palestinians, it’s only gone on for 40 or 50 years.”
Number one, you can’t move the embassy back. We should not have done it without getting something from the Israeli government. But it was done, and you’re going to have to leave it there.
Number two, only solution here is a two-state solution. The Palestinians have to be accommodated. The real problem here is you have two groups of people, both who think God gave them the same piece of land. And the answer is to obviously split it up, leave the Israeli borders where they are, try to push them to pull back some of those extra over the — on the other side of the wall, where they’ve built these new communities, which they should not have done that, pull it back.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
The Rot Inside American Jewish Organizations
Commentary, March 2020
Something unusual happened in the world of Arab–Israeli negotiations early this year: The Palestinians were given a reason to come to the negotiating table. On January 28, the president unveiled “Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People,” to great fanfare at the White House. The plan leaves open a path to a Palestinian state without holding Israeli security needs and political legitimacy hostage. It calls for a settlement freeze in most of the West Bank and offers amnesty for illegal Palestinian construction, thus giving a boost to Palestinian sovereignty, while allowing Israel to retain control over the areas of the Jordan Valley it deems necessary.
Attending the White House ceremonial release of the plan were envoys from Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. In a statement, the Saudi foreign ministry said it “appreciates the efforts of President Trump’s administration to develop a comprehensive peace plan between the Palestinian and the Israeli sides” and encouraged further talks using the Trump plan as the basis for negotiations. Similar statements came from Morocco and Qatar. Even Egypt chimed in with praise.
The plan is extraordinarily favorable to the Jewish state’s security without condemning a Palestinian state to the dustbin of history, and the Arab world—including Saudi Arabia, the authors of a competing peace plan—are comfortable with it. American Jewry must be over the moon, right?
Well, not exactly.
J Street called it “the logical culmination of repeated bad-faith steps this administration has taken to validate the agenda of the Israeli right, prevent the achievement of a viable, negotiated two-state solution and ensure that Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank becomes permanent.” A group called National Security Action penned an angry open letter from former administration officials, featuring past U.S. ambassadors to Israel Daniel Kurtzer, Martin Indyk, and Daniel Shapiro, denouncing the peace plan as “a recipe for perpetual conflict” meant to “help re-elect Benjamin Netanyahu.” (This even though Netanyahu’s opponent, Benny Gantz, also backed the plan and enjoyed a smiling Oval Office photo op with Trump the day before.) … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
For Further Reference:
Israeli Election Results in Real Time – 97% Of Regular Votes Counted: Gill Hoffman, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 3, 2020 — The Central Election Committee has completed counting 4,156,479 votes from 10,305 of the 10,615 regular polling stations, some 97% of all polling stations, CEC director-general Orly Ades said on Tuesday afternoon.
Analysis Israel Election: From a Netanyahu Victory to Another Stalemate — Five Scenarios: Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz, Mar. 2, 2020 — The definition of insanity is asking the same question three times in less than a year and expecting a different answer. Or, in other words, welcome to Israeli democracy.
Meet the Generation That Holds the Key to Israel’s Future: Judy Maltz, Haaretz, Mar. 3, 2020 — They grew up in an Israel where, aside from a few isolated years, the right-wing Likud party has always been in power.
Jesse Kline: Bernie’s Problems with Israel Are Now a Problem For Democrats: Jesse Kline, National Post, Feb. 20, 2020 –– With Sen. Bernie Sanders coming out strong in Iowa and New Hampshire, and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg surging in national polls, there’s a real chance that America could elect its first Jewish president.