WHILE BIBI LEADS ISRAEL IN UNPRECEDENTED GLOBAL OUTREACH, HE FACES CRITICS AT HOME AND ABROAD Posted on December 11, 2017 Printer Friendly Netanyahu’s Meeting With the EU Foreign Ministers: Susan Hattis Rolef, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 10, 2017— I admit that I would love to be a fly on the wall when our prime minister meets EU foreign ministers in Brussels today. Israel's Mythical "Isolation": Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations, Nov. 30, 2017— This week Kenya inaugurated a president (Uhuru Kenyatta, for his second term). If Netanyahu is So Corrupt and Dangerous, Why Don’t Rivals Unite to Defeat Him?: David Horovitz, Times of Israel, Dec. 4, 2017— One after another, the would-be leaders of Israel compete to excoriate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. More on Bibi and Friends: Ira Sharkansky, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 7, 2017— Compared to selected other national leaders here and there, Bibi's done well from public office. On Topic Links Thousands Protest Against Netanyahu for Second Week in Tel Aviv: Moshe Cohen and Maariv Hashavua, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 9, 2017 Israel’s “Teflon” Prime Minister: Naomi Ragen, Breaking Israel News, Nov. 14, 2017 Israeli Prime Ministerial Hopeful Avi Gabbay: We Should Scare Our Enemies, Instead of Letting Them Scare Us: Barney Breen-Portnoy, Algemeiner, Dec. 5, 2017 Israel’s Ruinous Right: Dr. Martin Sherman, Jewish Press, Nov. 19, 2017 NETANYAHU’S MEETING WITH THE EU FOREIGN MINISTERS Susan Hattis Rolef Jerusalem Post, Dec. 10, 2017 I admit that I would love to be a fly on the wall when our prime minister meets EU foreign ministers in Brussels today. There is no doubt the event will be highly charged, and I suspect Netanyahu will not have an easy time getting his messages across to the Europeans. And what is that message? Primarily that an Iranian presence in Syria as part of long-term arrangements in that miserable, battered country poses a threat not only to Israel’s security but to that of the rest of the democratic world; that US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem is a positive and promising development; and that EU meddling with human rights issues in the West Bank, and its support of and engagement with Israeli human rights organizations, is something the current Israeli government cannot tolerate. There are many reasons why the relations between Israel and the EU have become charged and uncordial, and why this particular meeting is liable to be especially explosive. The EU has long expressed its disapproval of Israel’s policy in the West Bank, the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem, which it views as occupied territories to which the Fourth Geneva Convention applies. Within the framework of this policy the EU has published guidelines regarding the marking of Israeli products produced in the “occupied territories” and of Israeli companies that are engaged in business activities in them. This is not a direct call for the boycott of products and companies, but rather more of an irksome recommendation. About a third of EU members have recognized a Palestinian state; all the former Communist member states recognized Palestine in 1988 and did not cancel their recognition after becoming democracies, and two West European members, Iceland and Sweden, recognized Palestine in 2011 and 2014, respectively. The parliaments of several other EU states voted in favor of recognition of Palestine toward the end of 2014, including the UK and France. Quite a few EU members financially support Israeli human rights organizations (as they do organizations in other countries that regularly breach the human rights of citizens and non-citizens under their rule) and collaborate with them. Most recently representatives of the EU, headed by the newly selected EU ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, participated in a celebration to mark International Human Rights Day with NGO B’Tselem at a photo exhibition titled “Fifty years of occupation,” which presented the images of 50 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, from all walks of life, who were born in 1967 and have lived their whole life under the abnormal reality of the last 50 years. As to President Trump’s formal recognition last week of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (without defining its boundaries), and his repetition of the promise made by three previous presidents that in future the US embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, neither the EU nor any of its member states is likely to follow suit. The maximum that can be expected are statements, such as that made by the Czech Republic, recognizing west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and a promise to move embassies to Jerusalem after a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians is attained. In truth, recognition of west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should have occurred already in 1948, and the reason why it didn’t – the fact that the 1947 UN partition plan called for the internalization of Jerusalem – was a feeble excuse given the political and military reality at the time. All of this is viewed with disapproval and disdain by official Israel. Typically, the Foreign Ministry referred to the official EU attendance at the photo exhibition last week “a spit in the face.” The EU, of course, sees things differently, and most of its members have full sympathy with the EU’s positions, while feeling despair regarding Israel’s reactions. For example, one of the protests that will be greeting Netanyahu upon his arrival in Brussels will be by a group of members of the European Parliament demanding that Israel pay the 1.2 million euros in compensation for its destruction of various construction projects financed by the EU in Area C of the West Bank, which Israel considered to be illegal, including houses for expelled Beduin, structures that served as schools and kindergartens for Beduin children, pipes, water cisterns and electricity generators. The EU and its members also remember Netanyahu’s embarrassing statement to the premiers of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia last July in Budapest in which he urged them to try to change the EU’s attitude toward Israel. An open microphone he was not aware of recorded him saying, “The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel – that produces technology and every area [sic] – on political conditions. The only one! Nobody does it. It’s crazy… there is no logic here. The EU is undermining its security by undermining Israel… I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive, or if it wants to shrivel and disappear.”… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents ISRAEL'S MYTHICAL "ISOLATION" Elliott Abrams Council on Foreign Relations, Nov. 30, 2017 This week Kenya inaugurated a president (Uhuru Kenyatta, for his second term). One and only one Western head of government was present, joining ten African presidents. One and only one foreign leader was asked to speak at the celebratory lunch, while being seated next to Kenyatta. Who was that? Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And while in Nairobi for one day, Netanyahu met with the presidents of Rwanda, Gabon, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, South Sudan, Botswana, and Namibia, and the prime minister of Ethiopia. The prominence of Israel’s leader during this occasion would be worth mention even if he were one of a dozen Western leaders who were present—but he was alone. The British sent a second level minister handling foreign aid, for example, not even a Cabinet member. There are two points worth making. The first is that Israel is succeeding in an extraordinary campaign of outreach across the globe, to India and China, to Africa, and recently to Latin America. The second is that this is no automatic development, but a tribute to the energy, dedication, and perspicacity of Prime Minister Netanyahu. They aren’t just welcoming Israel; they are welcoming him. They are interested in his extraordinary country, obviously, but also in his personal understanding of economic change, of the role of military strength, and of world affairs. Similarly, in September 2016 Netanyahu was a hotter ticket at the UN General Assembly than even Barack Obama: more African leaders sought meetings with Netanyahu than with the President of the United States. Netanyahu’s critics are legion in Israel, but even they ought to be honest enough to acknowledge what he has achieved for his country in countering isolation, BDS, and anti-Semitism and greatly widening and deepening Israel’s global ties. And it has just been announced that Netanyahu has been invited to address all 28 EU foreign ministers at their December meeting. QED. Contents IF NETANYAHU IS SO CORRUPT AND DANGEROUS, WHY DON’T RIVALS UNITE TO DEFEAT HIM? David Horovitz Times of Israel, Dec. 4, 2017 One after another, the would-be leaders of Israel compete to excoriate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Many of them have served under him — as defense ministers, finance ministers, ministers of environmental protection — and have concluded that he is unfit for office, that he is, variously, a criminal, the head of a dishonest government, leading Israel to disaster with his diplomatic and security policies, inciting sectors of the Israeli populace against each other, undermining the courts and the police, capitulating to the ultra-Orthodox, alienating world Jewry, and plenty more. Yair Lapid, whose centrist Yesh Atid is generally polling as the main competition to Netanyahu’s Likud, has long asserted that the prime minister is both personally corrupt and running a corrupt coalition. Lapid, a former finance minister under Netanyahu, has most recently been at the forefront of critics of the so-called police recommendations bill (latterly suspended amid an escalating public outcry), which he alleges was personally “tailored” to help shield Netanyahu from the corruption cases in which he is embroiled. For Avi Gabbay, the new Labor leader, whose Zionist Union alliance is not too far behind in some of the polls, Israel under Netanyahu is “really getting close to becoming Turkey” in its corrupt, one-man rule. Gabbay is demanding “elections as soon as possible.” As a member of the Kulanu party, he too served as a minister in Netanyahu’s coalition, quitting in May 2016 when Avigdor Liberman was appointed as defense minister in place of the “temperate” Moshe Ya’alon. At his farewell press conference, Gabbay protested against what he said was becoming an “extremist” government and, full of biblical foreboding, warned: “The Jewish people already destroyed the Second Temple with their civil wars, we must stop these processes that will lead to the destruction of the Third Temple.” “Temperate” ex-defense minister Ya’alon himself, a former IDF chief of staff and Netanyahu’s right-hand man through several rounds of conflict with Hamas and innumerable other security challenges, declares most weeks that Netanyahu is a crook and that he must resign over an allegedly corruption-riddled deal to purchase German submarines, for which Netanyahu’s two chief legal lieutenants, David Shimron and Yitzhak Molcho, are under investigation. “It can’t be that the prime minister is not involved, Ya’alon says. And if the truth doesn’t come out, he vows, “I will go on a speaking tour to tell all.” One of Ya’alon’s distinguished predecessors as both chief of staff and defense minister, Ehud Barak, who also long served together with Netanyahu, let rip just days ago to catalog Netanyahu’s failings. In a New York Times op-ed, Barak accused the Netanyahu-led government of showing a general disrespect for the rule of law, and claimed that it had “declared war” on the courts, the media, civil society and the ethical code of the IDF. “For all of Israel’s great achievements in its seven decades of statehood, our country now finds its very future, identity and security severely threatened by the whims and illusions of the ultra-nationalist government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Barak declared. “In its more than three years in power, this government has been irrational, bordering on messianic,” Barak wrote. “It is now increasingly clear where it is headed: creeping annexation of the West Bank.” Netanyahu had also capitulated to the ultra-Orthodox members of his coalition, Barak charged, and damaged Israel’s “crucial relationship with American Jews.” Other resonant figures have weighed in, too, some of them a little more gently. Netanyahu’s former education minister Gideon Saar, who took a break from politics to spend more time with his family, has said he feels “ill at ease” over one of the Netanyahu corruption cases — involving an alleged deal with the Yedioth Ahronoth daily for more favorable coverage — and that he ultimately intends to become prime minister, but so far has refrained from directly challenging his Likud party leader. Another former Likud highflier, Moshe Kahlon, chose to bolt and set up his own party, rather than directly challenge Israel’s second-longest serving prime minister, and now exalts in the position of Netanyahu’s finance minister. Two other former chiefs of staff, Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, have been the most restrained of all, steering clear of party politics thus far and instead establishing a “social movement” aimed at bringing “an end to the divisions, an end to the incitement, an end to the baseless hatred.” At their launch, partnered by yet another former Netanyahu education minister Shai Piron, they didn’t so much as mention the name Netanyahu. They really didn’t need to. What’s quite staggering is not merely the avalanche of criticism and doomsaying by the prime minister’s would-be successors, however. It is, rather, the disconnect between the insistence that Netanyahu has to urgently go — for the sake of Israel, no less — and the critics’ abiding unwillingness to take the one step that would most effectively advance this ostensible national imperative. No matter how grave the purported danger, they simply refuse to get together to defeat it. Few of Isaac Herzog’s greatest admirers would claim that he was the most potent opposition leader ever to face off in an election campaign against Netanyahu. Yet the Zionist Union chairman, mild-mannered, limited in his appeal, outmaneuvered in the campaign by the experienced Netanyahu, undermined by some in his own party, and also battling the country’s most widely read newspaper, raised his party’s share of Knesset seats in 2015 to 24 (in partnership with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua), while Netanyahu’s Likud fell back a little to 30. It would be false to claim that Herzog came within a whisker of winning the elections, but this fairly unchallenging challenger did give Netanyahu a run for his money. And we will never know how those elections would have been affected had Kahlon and Lapid put their egos aside and agreed on their parties running together. More than two years later, some of Netanyahu’s critics would have us believe that the very fate of our country is at stake, that we are deeply threatened both internally and externally. And yet, still, the egos hold sway. Gabbay and Lapid snipe at each other. While asserting that there is nobody better qualified than he is to lead us to salvation, Barak merely snipes from the sidelines. Poll after poll shows the uncharismatic Ya’alon failing to so much as clear the threshold to win any Knesset seats at all, and yet he insists on heading his own new political movement rather than bolstering somebody else’s. Tens of thousands of Israelis protested on Saturday night due to their sense that corruption is taking an ever greater hold on Israel under Netanyahu (and that was before his coalition chief, David Bitan, was called in for a full day’s police questioning in an escalating graft investigation). A far greater number of Israelis, needless to say, wish we had a different prime minister. Netanyahu, in poll after poll after poll, remains by far the public’s most popular choice — but at about 26-31%. That leaves well over two-thirds for whom Netanyahu is not the favored premier. This, in turn, would suggest that many Israelis are searching around, thus far in vain, for credible alternatives. It would surely give the long list of Netanyahu’s would-be successors considerably more credibility if, when complaining about the damage the prime minister has done, is doing, and will do if he is not stopped, they also declared that, given the gravity of the hour, they were putting aside their relatively marginal ideological differences and unifying to protect the country. The Israeli public proved in 1999, after three relatively terror-free years, that it was prepared to oust Netanyahu, in part because of a sense that he was missing opportunities for peace. Almost two decades later, the critics would have us believe that the dangers posed by Netanyahu are far more acute. But their egotistical approach, as all their own surveys must be telling them, continues to leave much of the public unpersuaded. Contents MORE ON BIBI AND FRIENDS Ira Sharkansky Jerusalem Post, Dec. 7, 2017 Compared to selected other national leaders here and there, Bibi's done well from public office. He and Sara have gotten used to demanding expensive gifts from individuals wanting his help. With respect to the two most prominent exchanges we know about, they weren't all that serious. He helped an Israeli billionaire get an American visa that allowed him to continuing making his pile there; and he helped an Australian billionaire get a residence permit for Israel that has allowed him to avoid taxes. Bibi's life style isn't all that different from what was acquired by originally poor folk like Americans Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, and the Israeli Ariel Sharon. Israelis are fond of comparing him to predecessors who were models of modesty. David ben Gurion lived with his wife in a desert shack. Yitzhak Shamir flew tourist class to the US when he traveled on official business. Ehud Olmert began his career on the path of getting rich and living well, but encountered a change in the media and officials charged with law enforcement. His prison term was not severe, but according to recent pictures was enough to change his appearance. Netanyahu's involvement in a deal with a German shipyard and manipulations by the major shareholder in Israel's prime communication firm may have been indirect, but weightier than gifts of cigars and champagne, or free lodging at luxurious sites for the younger Netanyahu. It's Bibi's friends, relatives, and appointees who have gotten rich, and it seems doubtful if it could happen without his knowledge and help. Signs are that Israeli media, police, and prosecutors are operating in the mode that ended Olmert's career, and it doesn't look good for Bibi and the Missus. Son Yair may get off with a bad name. If Donald Trump is the best that Americans can put in the White House, his record doesn't make Bibi or Israel look out of step. Trump's boorish behavior may not be anything more than embarrassing, providing it doesn't start a war that destroys parts of South Korea, Japan, and maybe the US. His string of corporate bankruptcies and callous treatment of what was promised to students at Trump University look as bad as anything we're seeing in Jerusalem. American individualism going back to colonial history makes us wonder what should have been expected. US history hasn't produced the pride in modesty along the models of ben Gurion or Shamir. Trump is getting high marks for his proclamation about Jerusalem, but we're concerned about the downside of Palestinians' response, whatever it'll be. The US is seeing the embarrassment and dismissal of one overprivileged male after another on account of sexual misconduct. Watchers are wondering when that shoe is going to drop in Trump's bedroom. Israelis who knew our own elite equivalents of John Kennedy and Bill Clinton changed their norms during the era of Moshe Katsav. Commentators on these notes have accused me of going overboard in my criticism of Bibi. I'll repeat the assessment that he is better as a policymaker and politician than as an individual, husband and father with respect to personal behavior. He seems far less dangerous than his current American counterpart. No surprise that Bibi has adopted Donald as patron. The act may gain Israel support from the world's most powerful country. It may even be true that the support from the Trump administration will be greater than that received from most if not all of his predecessors… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents On Topic Links Thousands Protest Against Netanyahu for Second Week in Tel Aviv: Moshe Cohen and Maariv Hashavua, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 9, 2017—Approximately 25,000 protestors took to Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard on Saturday evening to oppose alleged corruption at the highest echelons of Israeli government and called for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign. Israel’s “Teflon” Prime Minister: Naomi Ragen, Breaking Israel News, Nov. 14, 2017—While the Donald Trump era has brought a new level of hysteria to U.S. political discourse, the attempts to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the seemingly weekly revelation of yet another corruption scandal have only slightly dented his popularity. Israeli Prime Ministerial Hopeful Avi Gabbay: We Should Scare Our Enemies, Instead of Letting Them Scare Us: Barney Breen-Portnoy, Algemeiner, Dec. 5, 2017—Turmoil is the new status quo in the halls of the Knesset, amid a number of deepening police investigations into corruption allegations against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel’s Ruinous Right: Dr. Martin Sherman, Jewish Press, Nov. 19, 2017—It is neither an easy nor an enviable undertaking today for anyone trying to alert the public as to the perilous vulnerability in which the nation currently finds itself.