UNDER BIBI ISRAEL HAS SEEN PERIOD OF “STRENGTH & STABILITY” Posted on October 10, 2017October 10, 2017 Printer Friendly After Netanyahu: Neil Rogachevsky, Weekly Standard, Oct., 2017— With police intensifying their long-running corruption probes, Israel is awash with speculation that Benjamin Netanyahu’s days as prime minister may be numbered. Stepping Forward, or Backward, in Jerusalem?: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Oct. 6, 2017 — As Jews and Christians from around the world flock to downtown Jerusalem and its Old City for this joyous holiday week, the city’s demographic, economic and security problems fester in the background, and particularly on the periphery of the city. The Ongoing Kulturkampf with the Ultra-Orthodox: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 27, 2017— The Chief Rabbinate, backed by its haredi (ultra-Orthodox) political factions, has imposed additional extreme and even bizarre rulings that impact on the nation. Surprise us, Ayelet Shaked: Vic Rosenthal, Abu Yehuda, Sept. 3, 2017— Last Tuesday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked spoke at an Israeli Bar Association conference. On Topic Links Political Appointments Will Not Solve Israel’s Governability Problems: Susan Hattis Rolef, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 9, 2017 Back in the Frying Pan: Joshua Davidovich, Times of Israel, Oct. 4, 2017 Israel Bets Against Palestinian Unity: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Oct. 4, 2017 Breaking Israel’s Imperial Court: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 28, 2017 AFTER NETANYAHU Neil Rogachevsky Weekly Standard, Oct., 2017 With police intensifying their long-running corruption probes, Israel is awash with speculation that Benjamin Netanyahu’s days as prime minister may be numbered. Opponents—both within the Likud party and without—have been organizing. Sensing the danger, Netanyahu and his allies have fought back, organizing pro-Netanyahu rallies and events. Gleeful critics have taken to gaming the possibilities for a successor if the man known simply as Bibi is forced from office. Could scandal really take down Netanyahu? The outcome is impossible to predict. There are multiple police investigations. One centers on a recorded conversation in which Netanyahu is alleged to have asked a prominent newspaper publisher for favorable coverage. Perhaps the recent American experience should have taught him it would be better to simply do this every day on Twitter. Another focuses on alleged “gifts” received, such as cigars and free services performed for his private residence, allegedly at his wife’s behest. More remote but possibly more dangerous is an investigation involving the state purchase of German submarines. At this stage, it is worth bearing in mind that Netanyahu has been considered finished very often over the years: in 1999, ousted after a difficult first term at the hands of a Labor party led by Ehud Barak; in 2006, as the Likud party nearly crumbled after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon left it to form Kadima; most recently, in the days before the 2015 elections when his party badly trailed the center-left coalition Zionist Union. Time and again, Netanyahu has bounced back and more, managing to gain the upper hand in the brutal trials of Israeli politics, said to have been compared by George W. Bush to a “den of sharks.” Even if he does not achieve the feat of being the longest-serving Israeli prime minister—he is currently second on the list—Netanyahu already holds a pile of electoral records. He is the only prime minister to have led his party to four election victories (1996, 2009, 2013, and 2015) and to three in a row. In his ability to remain on top, Netanyahu most closely resembles Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who led the pre-state Yishuv and then Israel proper through its foundation in 1948 until 1963, with only a short interregnum. At home and abroad, Netanyahu inspires no small amount of strong passions. To his critics, he is an obstructionist cynic, a roadblock to peace and progress. To his greatest supporters, he has been seen as Israel’s first American-style conservative leader, a proponent of free markets and a strong national defense. After so many years, there is a sense that Israelis simply tolerate him as the safest and most acceptable choice among the plausible alternatives. Whatever one thinks of him, however, Netanyahu’s premiership has been one of the most consequential in Israeli history—and for a reason one might not expect. Compared with the tenures of almost of all his predecessors, Netanyahu’s premiership has seemed remarkably uneventful. The hallmarks of Israel under Netanyahu have been strength and stability. A poorly made film about the history of Israel that tormented Jewish day-school students throughout the 1990s was called Never a Dull Moment. Netanyahu’s premiership since the late 2000s has, uniquely in Israeli history, featured some dull moments. Quietude in Israel cannot be measured by the standards of, say, Switzerland. There have been plenty of bumps: bursts of violent conflict with the Palestinians, tensions stemming from unresolved issues of religion and state such as the one currently bubbling about prayer at the Western Wall, difficult strategic questions about an expansionist Iran, and differing challenges with the United States, Europe, Russia, Turkey, and the Arab countries. Yet some historical perspective is in order. The biggest military engagement of Netanyahu’s time—the 2014 Gaza war—was small compared with previous wars and battles, including with Gaza. The reason it was small was that Netanyahu and the defense minister at the time, Moshe Ya’alon, did everything in their power to limit the war by setting modest strategic objectives. The still-ongoing spate of knife and car-ramming attacks—sometimes referred to as the “social media” Intifada—cannot compare in intensity or scale to the Second Intifada (2000-2005), in which over 1,100 Israelis were killed and more than 8,000 wounded. Meanwhile, over the course of Netanyahu’s rule, the country has enjoyed either very strong or better than average economic growth. When other Western countries sputtered in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Israel grew at 4 to 5 percent a year. A left-wing economic populist movement in the summer of 2011, motivated by high housing and food costs, has if not been diffused at least been limited. In the realm of diplomacy, Israel seems to have weathered a particularly rough period in its relations with Washington. The Europe-Israel relationship continues to decline, though most Israelis have concluded there’s little that might be done on that front and that relations with the East are more significant. And Netanyahu’s “pivot to Asia” has been extremely well executed, the most recent sign of which was the visit of Narendra Modi to Israel this past July, the first by an Indian prime minister. Netanyahu’s mastery of the political scene has made it difficult for friends—and detractors—to think concretely about a post-Bibi Israel. “It’s very hard to imagine Israel after Netanyahu,” a pro-Netanyahu state prosecutor recently told me. “He sees three steps ahead, and others don’t.” At 67, Netanyahu is still a spring chicken by Israeli political standards. The parliamentary system has no built-in term limits. If he beats the current corruption charges, it’s not impossible he could win a fourth straight term when the next election comes. Yet there are signs everywhere that he will be fighting an uphill battle. After electing the purported centrist Avi Gabbay in its July primaries, the long-moribund Labor party appears to have picked up some steam, and recent polls that include a Gabbay-led Labor imply that any election would be close. Meanwhile, there are rumors that some prominent figures in Likud have concluded that it’s time for Netanyahu to step aside… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents STEPPING FORWARD, OR BACKWARD, IN JERUSALEM? David M. Weinberg Israel Hayom, Oct. 6, 2017 As Jews and Christians from around the world flock to downtown Jerusalem and its Old City for this joyous holiday week, the city’s demographic, economic and security problems fester in the background, and particularly on the periphery of the city. Few know that there is a plan percolating its way up the Israeli decision-making ladder to bring about a significant change in the status of several Arab neighborhoods in the east and north; essentially to decouple them from Jerusalem; to remove them from Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction and to create for them a separate local authority. The main rationale for doing so: to improve the demographic balance of the city by reducing the Arab population of Jerusalem from 40 to 30 percent. I have serious doubts as to the wisdom of this plan, given its diplomatic and defense implications. I doubt that it will work, and fear that it will prove a slippery slope towards a full-scale political division of the city. In order to understand the dilemma, one must know the numbers. There are some 320,000 Arab residents in Jerusalem, plus at least 50,000 residents of Judea and Samaria who reside in the city illegally or by virtue of family reunification. These Arabs have the legal status of permanent residents, which grants them the right to live and work in Israel without the need for special permits (unlike Palestinians in Judea and Samaria). It also entitles them to full Israeli social, health and educational benefits. Many Jerusalemite Arabs have responded enthusiastically to the municipality’s recent efforts to reduce the disparities and improve the level of services and infrastructure in Arab neighborhoods. Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat has placed an emphasis on educational programs such as intensive Hebrew and pre-university preparatory programs for Jerusalemite Arabs. And in fact, the number of eastern Jerusalem students who opted for the Israeli matriculation curriculum jumped by 20% this year; up from 300 to 5,800 students over seven years. So a positive path forward is open to greater integration of Arab Jerusalemites with Jewish Jerusalemites in one united Israeli capital city. But anywhere from 90,000 to 140,000 of Jerusalem’s Arabs live in chaotic neighborhoods that lie within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem but are on the other side of the security fence, particularly in Kafr Aqab and the Shuafat refugee camp in the north of the city. This is no-man’s-land, where no real government exists, not Israeli and not Palestinian. Terrorism, crime, poverty, and drugs are rampant in these neighborhoods. Massive construction of illegal and unsafe high-rise buildings is underway. For years, the Israeli government has neglected this situation. One radical response to this problem is being advanced by former Labor and Kadima politician Haim Ramon along with a group of inveterate peace processers that have been proven wrong over and over. They want to wall 200,000 Jerusalem Arabs in 28 neighborhoods out of the capital; to strip them of their Israeli resident status and social benefits; and transfer them to the weak and unreliable Palestinian Authority. Neighborhoods like Shuafat, Jabel Mukaber, Sur Baher and Walaja would be locked out of Jerusalem. Ramon’s belligerent plan to partition Jerusalem is dreadful. The shearing of the city into Arab and Jewish sovereignties would turn Jerusalem into Belfast at its worst. Any section of the city that falls under Palestinian sovereignty will become Ground Zero for the fierce wars being waged within the Arab world over Islamic lifestyle, ideology and legitimacy, and will become a base of attack on Israel. The government of Prime Minister Netanyahu is not going to allow this. But Minister of Jerusalem and Heritage Zeev Elkin has thrown his support behind the so-called “Jerusalem Shield” plan to exclude Kafr Aqab and Shuafat from Jerusalem’s jurisdiction while still keeping them under Israeli sovereignty. The plan (developed by a group of activists headed by Chaim Silberstein) and Elkin’s views were revealed by Nadav Shragai in this newspaper two months ago. Unlike Ramon’s madcap plan, this does not entail ceding Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinian Authority or revoking the inhabitants’ Israeli residency status and social benefits. But the neighborhoods would become independent local authorities, like Mevasseret Zion and Abu Gosh outside of Jerusalem, and subsequently perhaps part of a greater Jerusalem metropolitan structure that includes Gush Etzion, Givat Zeev and Maale Adumim. Elkin wants the government to allocate 2 billion shekels ($550 million) to development, infrastructure and policing of these proposed new local councils “outside” of Jerusalem. The idea reportedly is viewed favorably by Gideon Saar of Likud and Naftali Bennett of Bayit Yehudi. In fact, Bennett’s “United Jerusalem” bill, which passed first reading in the Knesset in July, has a hidden clause that would make it possible to detach Arab neighborhoods from the city as long as they remain under Israeli sovereignty. And it’s possible that Kafr Aqab and Shuafat could be subtracted from Jerusalem’s jurisdiction without legislation. The Interior Ministry has a simple procedure for unilaterally changing municipal boundaries… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents THE ONGOING KULTURKAMPF WITH THE ULTRA-ORTHODOX Isi Leibler Jerusalem Post, Sept. 27, 2017 The Chief Rabbinate, backed by its haredi (ultra-Orthodox) political factions, has imposed additional extreme and even bizarre rulings that impact on the nation. In previous generations we were blessed with chief rabbis who were worldly, spiritual giants who sought to harmonize Halacha with the modern requirements of a Jewish state. The current Chief Rabbinate is dominated by obscurantist and extreme elements that engage in vulgar, boorish and vile curses against the non-Orthodox, has no standing as an institution in Halacha and is even derided by the haredim whose political factions, holding the balance of power in the Knesset, have hijacked the institution. It was haredi extortion that caused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to revoke the compromise – initially approved by the haredi representatives – whereby non-Orthodox Jews were enabled to worship according to their own traditions at a separate location at the Western Wall. This created enormous tensions with American Jewry, dominated by the Conservative and Reform movements, which felt betrayed. That was augmented by efforts – currently suspended – to prevent unaffiliated Israeli Orthodox rabbis from officiating at weddings. It was also revealed that thousands of converts and their entire families had been placed on a rabbinical blacklist and informed that their conversions were invalid. Some had already married under the aegis of the Chief Rabbinate but were subsequently reexamined and found to lack adequate documentation. Most former Soviet Jews are unable to provide any form of documentation whatsoever. To “un-Jew” individuals is utterly unprecedented. The Chief Rabbinate also has a blacklist of Diaspora Orthodox rabbis whose conversions or letters certifying the Jewishness of a person are deemed unacceptable. The principal concern of the haredi rabbis is to ensure that their students devote their entire lives to learning Torah (even if many do not actually devote their time to genuine Torah study), rely on social welfare to subsist and above all, be denied secular education and contact with Israeli society. This is unprecedented in Jewish history. This approach represents the principal cause for the grinding poverty in the ultra-Orthodox ranks. Most haredi wives work – around the same percentage as women in the general population – and while some men work illegally, less than 50% of haredi men earn a livelihood in a recognized workplace. The situation has dramatically escalated because of the demographic impact of the high birth rates of haredim, whose annual growth rate is 4%, compared to 1% in the non-haredi population. If current trends are sustained, their growth as a percentage of Israel’s total population is expected to be 14% in 2024 and 27% in 2050, when haredim will account for 35% of the total Jewish population. If the current situation does not change, this growth rate and the increasing drain on the economy will lead to an implosion as the state will not be able to sustain an ever-increasing proportion of its citizens reliant on social welfare. The issue of legislation regarding the drafting of the ultra-Orthodox made news headlines following the recent Supreme Court ruling that there are no grounds for exemption in sharing the national burden. The court provided the government a one-year grace period to rectify the situation. Conscription of haredim is undoubtedly one of the most emotional and divisive issues that has ever faced the nation. It originated with founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion acceding to pleas from Agudat Yisrael leaders to give a dispensation from army service to approximately 400 yeshiva students – not for religious reasons, but to compensate for their peers who perished in the Shoah. To their everlasting shame, the ultra-Orthodox rabbis in later generations exploited this to obtain blanket exemption for all haredi yeshiva students. Because the haredi political parties held the balance of power in the Knesset, except for a brief interregnum when they were excluded from the government and Yair Lapid introduced legislation to conscript them, haredi yeshiva students were enabled to evade conscription and remained isolated from mainstream Israeli society. Their justification was that their contribution to the defense of the nation was based on prayer and study of Torah. These arguments outraged the bulk of the nation, whose children are obliged to serve their nation for a period of two to three years. It is particularly resented by religious Zionists, who regard their IDF service as a mitzva – a religious obligation. If a poll were held, it would no doubt show that the overwhelming majority of Israelis applaud the High Court’s judgment. Retiring Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, himself an observant Jew who defends the haredi lifestyle, summed up the issue: “The blood of one man is no redder than the blood of another.” The onus rests on the Knesset. The coalition and the opposition could finally break the exasperating stranglehold of the extremist rabbinate and reinstate a moderate rabbinical leadership that will pursue national objectives. This should be encouraged by the recent polls suggesting that, since the death of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and with the unpopularity of Shas leader Arye Deri, traditional Shas voters are abandoning the party. Shas may well struggle to maintain a presence in the next Knesset… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents SURPRISE US, AYELET SHAKED Vic Rosenthal Abu Yehuda, Sept. 3, 2017 Last Tuesday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked spoke at an Israeli Bar Association conference. What she said constituted an ideological manifesto of great importance, much more so than the particular issue she spoke about, the Supreme Court decision on the rights of the state versus those of illegal immigrants: “Israel of 2017 is a country that’s constitutionally made up of crisscrossing individual rights, without its Basic Laws referencing Israel being the nation state of the Jewish people,” Shaked lamented. “Zionism has become a blind spot for the judiciary,” she continued. “Questions concerning it have become irrelevant. National challenges are a judicial blind spot, not at all to be considered in today’s climate, and certainly not to be ruled in favor of when faced with individual rights issues. “The question of demographics and preserving the Jewish majority are classic examples,” she explained. “Israeli [jurisprudence] doesn’t even deem them values worthy of consideration.”…“The court’s response [to illegal immigrants] was striking down—and then striking down again—the law attempting to deal with this phenomenon,” she continued. … At the same time Shaked sought to make clear that she doesn’t make light of those individual rights, saying she considers the system maintaining them to be “almost sacred.” “But not devoid of context,” she clarified. “Not detached from Israeli uniqueness, our national tasks and our very identity, history and Zionist challenges. Zionism should not—and will not—bow before a system of individual rights interpreted universally in a manner detaching it from the chronicles of the Knesset and the history of legislation we’re all familiar with.” During the 1990s, under the leadership of its president Aharon Barak, Israel’s Supreme Court took the position in various decisions (like this one) that individual rights – equality, democracy – always override the collective rights of the state as the state of the Jewish people. Barak stipulated that Jewish values are identical to the liberal humanistic ones that underlie the secular Western morality that characterizes the most progressive elements in Europe and the US. The only sense in which Israel can be a “Jewish state” from this point of view is that it has a Jewish majority and a Law of Return for Jews. The problem with Barak’s position is that if individual rights are interpreted in the broadest sense (i.e., no distinction is made between civil and national rights) and if these rights always override the rights of the state, then the state may not be able to preserve its Jewishness. Even its continued existence could be in question. Zionism came into being because Herzl and others understood that a necessary condition for the survival of the Jewish people was the ownership of a specifically Jewish nation-state. If the state is to be based on democratic principles, then a Jewish majority is a necessity for it to retain its Jewish nature. Protecting this majority, maintaining Jewish symbols like the flag and national anthem, and encouraging Jewish immigration are all legitimate responsibilities of the state. The majority of citizens and Knesset members disagree with Barak. They believe that the state has a right to protect its Jewish character even if this means that non-Jews will be treated differently from Jews in some respects. I call this the “Zionist imperative.” But the legal, media, educational, cultural and artistic elite, along with left-wing and Arab members of the Knesset, are no longer (if they ever were) Zionists. This is the source of much of the political tension in Israel today… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents On Topic Links Political Appointments Will Not Solve Israel’s Governability Problems: Susan Hattis Rolef, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 9, 2017—The explanation we have received for the current efforts to increase the number of political appointments in the ministries at the expense of professional civil servants, is that it is a necessary move in order to resolve Israel’s governability problems. Back in the Frying Pan: Joshua Davidovich, Times of Israel, Oct. 4, 2017 —It’s been a few weeks since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family have really come in for a beating from the press, with killings, mother nature, and other scandals taking precedence. Israel Bets Against Palestinian Unity: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Oct. 4, 2017—Israel's intelligence community has consistently maintained over the years that a viable reconciliation between the Gaza Strip and West Bank leaderships is unrealistic. Even if such an occurrence were suggested by an intelligence agency model, the relationship would be fragile and not last over time. Breaking Israel’s Imperial Court: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 28, 2017—The Chief Rabbinate, backed by its haredi (ultra-Orthodox) political factions, has imposed additional extreme and even bizarre rulings that impact on the nation.