ISRAEL’S DEMOCRACY THRIVES, DESPITE BIBI-BENNETT ROW; MEANWHILE, NYT UNFAIRLY CRITICAL OF ISRAELI PRESS

Stop Bickering, Boys: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Aug. 5, 2016— It's good the Knesset went into summer recess this week, and it would be great if the cabinet did so too.

Sorry, ‘New York Times,’ But Israel’s Press Is Doing Just Fine: Liel Leibovitz, Tabler, Aug. 1, 2016— Did you hear the one about the Middle Eastern country that really cracked down on its freedom of the press?

Israel Emerges As A Player On The World Stage: Jonathan Adelman, Huffington Post, Aug. 8, 2016— The emergence of Israel as a small but significant player on the world stage is one of the remarkable developments at the end of the post-Cold War era.

Tisha b’Av: A Guide for the Perplexed: Yoram Ettinger, United With Israel, Aug. 11, 2016— Tisha b’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, is the most calamitous day in Jewish history, first mentioned in the Book of Zechariah 7:3.

 

On Topic Links

 

Can Open Primaries Heal Israeli Politics?: Mazal Mualem, Al-Monitor, Aug. 10, 2016

Israel’s Economy – an Island of Stability: Yoram Ettinger, Ettinger Report, July 28, 2016

Kahlon’s Budget: Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9, 2016

Tisha B’Av and the Nature of Evil: Pini Dunner, Algemeiner, Aug. 12, 2016

 

STOP BICKERING, BOYS

David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, Aug. 5, 2016

 

It's good the Knesset went into summer recess this week, and it would be great if the cabinet did so too. That might be the only way to prevent the coalition partners, especially Prime Minister and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister and Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, from gouging out each other's eyes. The pair have been at each other's throats for years, but it seems their squabbling is becoming nastier and more personal every month. It has gone way beyond the bounds of expected political rivalry, especially between two leaders who supposedly belong to the same nationalist camp.

 

You would think that there were no bigger issues for them to worry about together, such as keeping U.S. President Barack Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at bay, or thwarting the radical liberal cultural coup that is being attempted in this country. It's not that the two leaders don't have serious issues to disagree about. They do, including the (re)deployment of the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank, (the lack of) settlement construction and the legalization of outposts, the continuing religious-national disgrace on the Temple Mount, IDF readiness for war with Hamas and the government's (insufficient?) attention to the tunnel threat, real-time and comprehensive intelligence briefings for security cabinet members, the regulation of public broadcasting and prosecution of the soldier who shot a wounded terrorist in Hebron.

 

Netanyahu and Bennett have legitimate, differing opinions on these issues, and these differences will likely find political expression the next time Israelis go to the polls. But in the meantime, there is a government to run, and a nationalist camp to keep in power. Does the vicious name-calling and mutual demonization really help? In recent months, Bennett has wildly and wrongly accused the government (that is, Netanyahu) of "dancing to the tune of" left-wing human rights group B'Tselem and of "ethical befuddlement."

 

He infuriated Netanyahu last month by harshly and unfairly indicting the prime minister of "voting for the Gaza disengagement and destruction of Gush Katif, releasing more terrorists than anyone in the history of the state, freezing construction in Judea and Samaria, surrendering to Hamas and declaring a Palestinian state at Bar-Ilan University." Bennett consistently accuses Netanyahu of hiding relevant intelligence from the cabinet and information about diplomacy from the public. And he has voted against Netanyahu in several critical cabinet decisions.

 

For his part, Netanyahu has nonsensically called Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (also of Habayit Hayehudi) "darlings of the Left," while he begs Opposition Leader MK Isaac Herzog to bring his hard-left Zionist Union party into the government to replace Bennett. Netanyahu has spuriously accused Bennett of "teaching the poems of [controversial] Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish" to Israeli schoolchildren. Netanyahu slams Bennett whenever the Habayit Hayehudi leader tries to raise a serious matter in the cabinet. He lords it over Bennett in public with the refrain "I have led more soldiers into battle than you. You will not preach to me." And he has threatened to fire Bennett half a dozen times, calling him "cheeky" and "irresponsible."

 

Alas, both leaders are guilty of "firing inside the armored personnel carrier" by undermining the nationalist camp with unrestrained acrimony from within. This is unwise and intolerable, and must end. If not, the government will collapse. Would Netanyahu and Bennett and their voters prefer that Herzog, his fellow party member MK Tzipi Livni and former Justice Minister Haim Ramon lead Israel toward an Oslo III agreement or a unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria and a division of Jerusalem? Would they prefer to see MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) return absurdly as defense minister, or Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Union) disastrously lead a socialist revolution as finance minister? The answer, obviously, is of course not. So stop squabbling, boys, and get on with the business of efficiently running the government with a minimum of mutual respect.

 

In the past, ardent political rivals have worked civilly together at the helm of the country despite inherent tensions. This was the case with Prime Ministers David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett, or Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, or Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres, or even Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu. Not smooth, and without much love. But in each case, their governments racked up real achievements. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman clawed at each other mercilessly over the past two years, while Lieberman was a member of the opposition. But now that they're in the government together, a certain decorum exists.

 

In the end, Netanyahu and Bennett have a lot in common. They are gifted, intelligent, outspoken, well-rooted in security discourse, conversant about the U.S., and ideologically committed to conservatism. Bennett needs to be patient and earn more political experience. Netanyahu must learn to groom successors. The Talmud (Shabbat 63a) comments that even the most vociferous and bitter disagreements can lead to good results if the dueling scholars actually listen to each other attentively. If they do so, says Rabbi Shimon Ben-Lakish, the heavens will listen to the Jewish people, too, and vanquish enemies. Is it too much to ask Netanyahu and Bennett to make a similar scholarly effort? It might even help us win some important diplomatic battles.

                                                           

 

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                 SORRY, ‘NEW YORK TIMES,’ BUT ISRAEL’S

PRESS IS DOING JUST FINE               

                                      Liel Leibovitz                                    

Tablet, Aug. 1, 2016

 

Did you hear the one about the Middle Eastern country that really cracked down on its freedom of the press? Not Turkey, where 42 journalists were arrested last week in the latest assault on the tenets of democracy; I’m talking, of course, about Israel, the subject of yet another grim opinion piece this weekend in The New York Times. In case you’re the sort who doesn’t read much past the headline, the Times made sure you would not walk away confused: The lengthy dirge, written by New York-based Israeli reporter Ruth Margalit, was titled “How Benjamin Netanyahu is Crushing Israel’s Free Press.”

 

How indeed? You would hardly believe the depraved things Jerusalem’s demonic despot would do to solidify his grasp on power. Bibi, Margalit solemnly informs us, appoints people who agree with him politically to key positions in government. Shocked yet? Get this: He also has his office call newspapers and websites and try to spin the news in his favor. If such benighted moves fail to shake you to the core, if you still don’t feel the chill of fascism’s shadow, Margalit has one last bit of damning evidence for you. Take a deep breath: To crush the precious freedom flower that is Israel’s press, Bibi, that monster, is opening up the media market to more competition.

 

“All three of Israel’s main television news channels—Channel 2, Channel 10, and the Israel Broadcasting Authority—are now in danger of being fragmented, shut down, or overhauled, respectively,” Margalit wrote. “The government’s official reason behind these moves is to open up the communications industry to more competition. But there seems to be a double standard: On other issues, like natural gas, the prime minister has been loath to take a stand against monopolies. As Ilana Dayan, a leading investigative journalist for Channel 2, told me: ‘Sometimes competition is the refuge of the antidemocrat.’”

 

Because I know Margalit a little bit and respect her more than that, I’ll say little about the glaring inanity of comparing a scarce and finite natural resource like gas to the media market, which, in the age of the internet, is a superabundant field. I’ll similarly resist the urge to inquire just what sort of worldview one ought to have to see the proliferation of diverse voices as somehow antithetical to democracy. Nor will I ask why, if indeed the tyrant is unleashing his own version of Game of Thrones, coming at his competitors with swords and bloodlust, do so many senior Israeli journalists feel so giddy to share their jeremiads with Margalit; you infrequently see Erdogan’s foes so loose-tongued, which, to all but the reporters and editors of the Times, should have served as yet another indication that headlines warning of the free press being crushed are perhaps a tad immature.

 

Instead of raising these obvious objections, I’ll do something Margalit and her editors didn’t bother doing and offer both facts and analysis. Rather than dignify the assertion that Israel’s press is under assault—an uproarious proposition to anyone who actually consumes the Israeli press and knows it to be largely dedicated to fierce criticism of the prime minister, his cabinet, his worldview, and anything associated therewith—I’ll try and consider why so many of Israel’s reporters, enjoying robust liberties as they do, still nonetheless imagine themselves under attack.

 

First, the figures: In a seminal study released in 2010, Israeli communications scholar Avi Gur researched the publicly expressed opinions of 38,887 people over 124,879 minutes of broadcast and in 8,324 opinion pieces in the print media during the years 1996 to 1999—then, as now, Netanyahu was prime minister—in order to ascertain whether or not the Israeli press was indeed ideologically left-leaning. His conclusion is stark: Yediot Aharonot, for example, the nation’s most widely read and influential media organ, favored left-wing positions an overwhelming 83.5 percent of the time, and others weren’t too far behind. Not that any senior of the media was contesting Gur’s findings: Raviv Drucker, for example, one of Israel’s leading investigative reporters and a man who has made a fine career dogging Netanyahu with the tenacity of a blue tick coonhound smelling a critter stirring in the distance, wrote a piece some years ago and admitted that 80 percent or more of his colleagues across the board were committed lefties.

 

This, in part, helps explain why blatant ideological impositions on the free press are just dandy when they come from the left, like when Amos Schocken, the publisher of the radically liberal Haaretz admitted to strongly and enthusiastically supporting the Obama administration’s position on the Iran deal against the stated policy of the Israeli government. When the smart and sensible folks take a stand, it’s time to applaud their courage; when the primates on the right attempt to express their views, it’s time to alert the Times that democracy is dying.

 

This myopic and morally corrupt approach would be maddening if it weren’t so comical, and if it didn’t cost the Israeli left more or less everything, electorally speaking. Out of ideas, out of time, and out of touch with reality, the small cabal that huddles in Tel Aviv’s newsrooms can hardly believe that the unwashed masses could be so impudent as to demand media that faithfully reflect reality, or that at least offer more the singular and approved and rigid point of view. With no one left to listen in Israel, they turn to the Times, which, to paraphrase Margalit’s piece, is quickly becoming the refuge of the blame-Israel-only crowd. It’s sad to see a reporter who should’ve known better abandon any attempt at insight or nuance and turn instead to the Times for the most banal sort of affirmation, and it’s sad to see the Times continue to publish such drivel without attempting any real depth or understanding. Nevermind, and godspeed: Keep your opinion pages, which, like your opinions, are but sound and fury, signifying absolutely nothing.         

 

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ISRAEL EMERGES AS A PLAYER ON THE WORLD STAGE       

Jonathan Adelman                                   

Huffington Post, Aug. 8, 2016

 

The emergence of Israel as a small but significant player on the world stage is one of the remarkable developments at the end of the post-Cold War era. The slow economic growth of the United States and Europe has shown the weakness of the status quo powers. The American semi-withdrawal from the Middle East and the British withdrawal from the European Union have opened the door to new powers. The chaos in the Middle East and the rise of revisionist authoritarian states such as Russia, China and Iran and democratic states like India raise the possibility of a new world order. This would be partly dominated by hardline conservative nationalism, charismatic leadership, slow economic growth, and hostility to the old globalist order.

 

With eight million people Israel can only play on the fringes of a new global order. But, it has a flourishing economy of $300 billion and nearly $40,000 GDP/capita. Its democratic, liberal politics and growing economy make it able to play both sides of the street. Its military was rated by the Institute for the Study of War as “pilot to pilot and airframe to airframe” having “the best air force in the world“ and the best army in the Middle East. Israel’s extensive work on air defenses (Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and soon Arrow 3), carried out with the United States, makes it a serious military power. Its 80-100 atomic bombs put it in a rarified club of nine states in the world. Its intelligence capabilities (Shin Beth and Mossad) are formidable.

 

With over 250 foreign companies creating research facilities in Israel, its strong high-tech capability has been rated by the University of Lausanne as one of the top five world powers in this key area. While foreigners in 2015 invested $4 billion in Israel, Apple alone has invested over a billion dollars in creating a hardware development center with 800 Israeli employees. The Israelis, who created drip agriculture, are exporting $2 billion a year in water technology and recently hosted the leading international water conference

 

Three of the world’s most powerful countries have invited Israeli companies to work with them in high-tech. The Americans have paired Technion with Cornell University in the new high-tech university in Roosevelt Island in Manhattan. The Russians have asked Israeli high-tech to help develop their new Silicon Valley in Skolkovo in the suburbs of Moscow. The Chinese have asked Technion to work with them to create a Shantou-Technion School of Technology in Guangdong Province.

 

Israel has, despite its poor past relationship, developed excellent relations with Russia. There are over one million Russian immigrants in Israel and all seven of Israel’s early long serving Prime Ministers before 2005 were either from Russia or spoke Russian. Israel’s kibbutzim, moshavim and Histadrut owe their creation to Russian socialist ideas. Bibi Netanyahu has visited Moscow four times in the last year; Putin has visited Israel twice. While the two countries differ over Moscow’s support for Iran and selling them the S-300 anti-missile defense system, Israel has sold $1 billion of drones to Russia over the years. It has $3 billion in trade and shares a desire for peace in the region.

 

The Israelis, who also did not have diplomatic relations with China until 1992, have seen their relationship expand strongly. Today their trade is expanding to $10 billion a year. Chinese investors have been looking to invest billions of dollars in Israel. Israel is looking to export their water technology to a country with 400 million people living in arid regions. Israel is also developing a strong relationship with India. It has $5 billion in trade with India which could multiply to $15 billion if the two sides decide to create a free trade zone. Israel is the second greatest exporter of arms to India, preceded only by Russia. India’s Foreign Ministry visited Israel in January and proclaimed that there was a “very high importance” to their new relationship. Prime Minister Narenda Modi is also scheduled to visit Israel.

 

For the tiny and poor 1948 Israel to be able less than 70 years later to play a role among the great powers of the world seems amazing. And, yet, in the twenty-first century, everything is possible.

 

 

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                        TISHA B’AV: A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED

Yoram Ettinger                       

          United With Israel, Aug. 11, 2016

 

Tisha b’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, is the most calamitous day in Jewish history, first mentioned in the Book of Zechariah 7:3. It is a day of fasting (one of four fast days connected to the destruction of Jerusalem), commemorating dramatic national catastrophes, in an attempt to benefit from history by learning from – rather than repeating – critical moral and strategic missteps. Forgetfulness feeds oblivion; remembrance breeds deliverance.

 

Major Jewish calamities are commemorated on the ninth day of Av: The failed “Ten Spies/tribal presidents” – contrary to Joshua & Caleb – slandered the Land of Israel, preferring immediate convenience and conventional “wisdom” over faith and long term vision, thus prolonging the wandering in the desert for 40 years, before settling the Promised Land; The destruction of the First Temple and Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (586 BCE) resulted in the massacre of 100,000 Jews and a massive national exile; The destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem by Titus of Rome (70 CE) triggered the massacre of 1 million Jews and another massive national exile, aiming to annihilate Judaism and the Jewish people; The execution of the Ten Martyrs – ten leading rabbis – by the Roman Empire;

 

The Bar Kokhba Revolt was crushed with the killing of Bar Kokhbah, the fall of his headquarters in Beitar (135 CE), south of Jerusalem in Judea and Samaria, the plowing of Jerusalem, and the killing of 600,000 Jews by the Roman Empire; The pogroms of the First Crusade (1096-1099) massacred tens of thousands of Jews in Germany, France, Italy and Britain; The Jewish expulsion from Britain (1290); The Jewish Expulsion from Spain (1492); The eruption of the First World War (1914); The beginning of the 1942 deportation of Warsaw Ghetto Jews to Treblinka extermination camp.

 

Napoleon was walking one night in the streets of Paris, hearing lamentations emanating from a synagogue.  When told that the wailing commemorated the 586 BCE destruction of the First Jewish Temple in Jerusalem he stated: “People who solemnize ancient history are destined for a glorious future!” A key message of the Ninth Day of Av, personally and collectively/nationally: Sustain faith and hope, and refrain from forgetfulness, despair, fatalism and pessimism, irrespective of the odds, which may seem – through conventional, short-term lenses – insurmountable, but could be a transition toward deliverance.  From Auschwitz to Jerusalem, from exile (estrangement, dispersal and enslavement) to the ingathering in the Land of Israel (spiritual and physical liberty).

 

The centrality of Jerusalem in Jewish history is commemorated on the ninth day of Av.  It is highlighted by Psalm 137:5 – “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.” According to the Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 30: “He who laments the destruction of Jerusalem will be privileged to witness its renewal.” The Book of the five Lamentations (The Scroll of Eikhah which was composed by Jeremiah the Prophet, who prophesized destruction, exile and deliverance) is read during the first nine days of Av. The numerical value of the Hebrew letters of Eikhah (איכה) is 36, which is equal to the traditional number of righteous Jewish persons. The Hebrew meaning of Eikhah (איכה) could be interpreted as a reproaching “How Come?!”, as well as “Where are you?” or “Why have you strayed away?”  The term איכה features in the first chapter of Deuteronomy and the first chapter of Isaiah, which are studied annually in conjunction with the book of Lamentations on the 9th day of Av. Thus the 9thday of Av binds together the values of Moses, Jeremiah and Isaiah and three critical periods in the history of the Jewish People: destruction, deliverance, renewal.

 

The ninth day of Av concludes a three-week-lamentation of Jewish calamities, emphasizing two reproaches by the Prophet Jeremiah and one by the Prophet Isaiah, launching a seven-week period of consolation, renewal and the ingathering, highlighted by Isaiah prophecies. The commemoration of the ninth day of Av constitutes a critical feature of Judaism. It enhances faith, roots, identity, moral clarity, cohesion and optimism by learning from past errors, and immunizing oneself against the lethal disease of forgetfulness. The verb “to remember” (זכור) appears almost 200 times in the Bible, including the Ten Commandments. Judaism obligates parents to transfer tradition to the younger generation, thus enhancing realism, while avoiding euphoric or fatalistic mood. The custom of house-cleaning on the ninth day of Av aims at welcoming deliverance. Fasting expresses the recognition of one’s limitations and fallibility and the constant pursuit of moral enhancement and humility.

 

The four Jewish days of fasting, commemorating the destruction of the Two Temples: the 10th day of Tevet (the onset of the Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem), the 17th day of Tamuz (the day the walls of Jerusalem were breached), the 9th day of Av (the destruction of both Temples) and the 3rd day of Tishrei (The murder of Governor Gedalyah, who maintained a level of post-destruction Jewish autonomy, which led to a murderous rampage by the Babylonians and to exile). The ninth day of Av culminates the 21 days of predicament (ימי בין המצרים), which began on the 17thday of the month of Tamuz, when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by Nebuchadnezzar (1st Temple) and by Titus (2nd Temple)…

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

 

 

 

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On Topic Links

 

Can Open Primaries Heal Israeli Politics?: Mazal Mualem, Al-Monitor, Aug. 10, 2016—The Likud faced the greatest crisis in its history on the eve of the 2006 elections. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's establishment of a new party, Kadima, had left Likud in shreds. Little remained of what had once been a large ruling party. After replacing Sharon as Likud chairman, Benjamin Netanyahu convinced the party’s Central Committee to relinquish the authority to choose the party’s Knesset list and to transfer that power to the entire party membership.

Israel’s Economy – an Island of Stability: Yoram Ettinger, Ettinger Report, July 28, 2016— 1. According to a study conducted by the University of Lausanne, Israel is one of the top five world high-tech powers, as indicated by a 2015 $1bn investment, in Israel, by Apple, creating a hardware development center. The USA, China, Russia and India are, actively, soliciting high-tech cooperation with Israel. India and Israel negotiate a free trade zone, which would increase their current $5bn trade balance. Israel is second only to Russia in the exportation of military systems to India (Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2016).

Kahlon’s Budget: Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9, 2016—In many respects, Kulanu is a political party born of the socioeconomic unrest of the summer of 2011. Moshe Kahlon, who stands at the head of the party, made a name for himself when he was still with the Likud as communication minister under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was Kahlon who finally helped facilitate free market competition among cellphone operators that ended an era of price-gouging and exorbitantly high cellphone bills.

Tisha B’Av and the Nature of Evil: Pini Dunner, Algemeiner, Aug. 12, 2016—The period of mourning for the destruction of our two Jerusalem temples does not seem to fit with the idea that Judaism is underpinned by optimism and a backdrop of joy and positivity.