Political Dysfunctionality and Electoral Chaos: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 9, 2019— Setting aside the Gaza confrontations, 2018 was one of Israel’s best years since the establishment of the state.
The ‘New Bibi’ Lashes Out As Israel’s AG Continues to Dilly-Dally: Vivian Bercovici, National Post, Jan. 9, 2019— It was all very suspenseful.
Why are There so Many Parties, and is There Anything Wrong with That?: Israel Democracy Institute, Times of Israel, Jan. 27, 2019 — Why does Israel have so many political parties — and what’s wrong with that?
Heads of State vs. Ministers of Defense: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, Jan. 17, 2019— The recent resignations of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis shed light on the age-old professional tension between heads of state…
On Topic Links
Your Guide to the Obscenely Complicated World of Israeli Elections: Tristin Hopper, National Post, Jan. 23, 2019
Key Document on Bezeq Could Clear Netanyahu in Case 4,000: Israel Hayom, Jan. 25, 2019
Israeli Arabs Seek to Turn Netanyahu’s Controversial ‘in Droves’ Comment From 2015 Election Against Him in Next Vote: Algemeiner, Jan. 22, 2019
Remembering Moshe Arens: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 10, 2019
POLITICAL DYSFUNCTIONALITY AND ELECTORAL CHAOS
Jerusalem Post, Jan. 9, 2019
Setting aside the Gaza confrontations, 2018 was one of Israel’s best years since the establishment of the state. President Donald Trump’s administration has become the most Israel-friendly US government in history, appointing pro-Israeli officials in the administration, reinstating sanctions on Iran, championing Israel’s cause at the UN by stating the truth for the first time, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, terminating funding for fictitious UNESCO refugees, demanding an end to payment of Palestinian Authority-sponsored financial incentives to terrorists and their families, and rejecting the Palestinian demand for the right of return of five million “refugees.” In short, a stark reversal from Obama, who appeased the Iranians while treating Israel almost like a rogue state.
But now storm clouds are gathering and we face serious new and intensified threats. We are at a loss to anticipate where Trump is heading after his precipitous and totally unexpected decision to withdraw US forces from Syria. Although the precise scope of the withdrawal has been qualified in recent days, Trump’s allies now fear that with the Russians effectively controlling the region, it will be a boon for the Iranians.
The IDF is probably at its highest level of preparedness and claims it would ably defeat an attack from all its adversaries, but concedes we would face heavy civilian casualties from missiles. We cannot become complacent and should remind ourselves of the disastrous events preceding the Yom Kippur War exacerbated by our hubris and note that the IDF Ombudsman warned of weaknesses on the ground and the need for additional supplies.
Notwithstanding deployment of Russian anti-aircraft missiles, the Israel Air Force is continuing its sorties in Syria while the Iranians remain engaged in preparing for a war to destroy us. In addition, Israel continues to face intensified terror from Hamas on the Gaza border. Israel is also concerned at the recent signs indicating that Russia has downgraded the warm relationship hitherto displayed by Putin. While there is military coordination of sorts still prevailing with the Russians, it is a highly fragile relationship which could easily break down.
In the context of these new threats, the burden of leadership falls primarily on our prime minister, who, aside from holding four ministerial portfolios, is diverted virtually every day by police interrogations and the imminent announcement by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit poised to indict him for corruption. Yet, despite the immense pressure, he remains in control and is effectively the only person capable of making the necessary decisions that could determine war.
At times like this, the focus of the government should be to concentrate on the current security threats. Alas, in lieu of this we have been thrust into an election season where most politicians are bent on seeking votes rather than serving the national interest. What a contrast today to the personalities of yesteryear, like that of recently deceased Moshe Arens, a man of unquestioned integrity and political stature, a diplomat and leader who was utterly dedicated to the national interest.
Despite being more powerful militarily than we have ever been, it is the height of irresponsibility to be engaged in self-seeking electoral issues at a critical time when we should be uniting. We remain saddled with a proportional preference system, which may be the most democratic, but gives disproportionate power to smaller parties, enabling them to hold the balance of power and extort the majority for its own sectoral objectives.
We are in a period of political chaos. With the total collapse of Labor following Avi Gabbay’s ousting of his partner Tzipi Livni, there is no coherent mainstream opposition party. Ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked defected from Bayit Yehudi to form a new party, and individuals like Benny Gantz decided to join the political fray and create yet another new party (Israel Resilience), but as of now have disclosed no policy beyond claiming to be centrist.
However, on the crucial issue of security and foreign affairs, if in government the centrist parties would undoubtedly promote the path supported by the vast majority of Israelis who believe that the goal should be to separate ourselves from the Palestinians – if we could achieve this and still retain security. They would emphatically oppose the creation of another terrorist state on our borders which would serve as a launching pad for the Iranians against us. Until that happens, the consensus is that the status quo must be maintained until the emergence of a Palestinian leadership willing to accept our existence and co-exist peacefully.
This approach, given minor nuances, is that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The current prediction is that, despite his bitter personal adversaries and the demonizing media, Netanyahu will be reelected prime minister. Of course, with the present confusing proliferation of small parties and the impending indictment there is always the risk that opposition parties will merge and form a non-Likud government. There is also a genuine chance that many mandates of the Right shall be lost by votes cast for parties not passing the minimal electoral threshold.
However, on the assumption that Netanyahu does form the next government, it will likely be his final term. If he were to publicly announce this, it would be admired by the entire nation. He should then appoint ministers capable of fulfilling the vital jobs to enable him to concentrate exclusively on his role as prime minister.
Then he should approach the opposition and invite those willing to join a national unity government to deal with security issues and relations with the Palestinians. It should be noted that Menachem Begin despite his perpetual venomous relationship with the Labor Party, managed such a move before the Six Day War. Today, one could only dream that most opposition leaders – aside from the Arab Joint List and probably Meretz – could set aside their short-term personal and political ambitions and come to a consensus in supporting the government in relation to security issues and foreign affairs. Whatever his failings, few could deny that for the immediate future there is nobody who would be remotely as effective as Netanyahu in leading the nation at these levels.
In the highly unlikely event that such an arrangement could be achieved with the leading opposition parties, Israelis may begin to respect their political leaders, contrary to what is currently the case when most of them are despised as selfish opportunists rather than lawmakers concerned with the national interest. Aside from creating a sense of real unity in the nation, it will also have a major positive impact on Diaspora Jews who would be incentivized to support the State of Israel rather than identifying with partisan political groups.
It could also have a constructive influence on the many nations which currently distance themselves or oppose us. Alas, the probability of this becoming a reality is slim because most politicians are more concerned with their short-term personal ambitions. The likely outcome is that Netanyahu will be reelected, but there are many unpredictable factors that could deny voters their preference. Sadly, the next government is likely, once more, to be dominated by small parties led by egotistical individuals pursuing their own partisan self-serving interests, often at the expense of the national interest.
THE ‘NEW BIBI’ LASHES OUT AS ISRAEL’S
AG CONTINUES TO DILLY-DALLY
National Post, Jan. 9, 2019
It was all very suspenseful. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu let it be known…that he would be making a “dramatic” statement. Live. From his official residence in Jerusalem. The hour of the main nightly newscast in Israel.
As anticipated and choreographed, the television stations beamed up Bibi to allow the public to hear the urgent statement directly. Just over a month ago, Netanyahu resorted to the same high-tension tactic to announce the destruction of Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. A serious matter, to be sure, but. Commandeering the airwaves on an urgent basis for anything other than the most serious circumstances — like the outbreak of war — is problematic and ill-advised.
This is the new Bibi. Some say the “panicked” Bibi. For almost three years now the PM has soldiered on as the police have investigated multiple corruption allegations involving him and other close associates. Among those who have turned state witness, presumably proffering evidence against Netanyahu, are three former senior aides who worked in his office.
Several months ago, the police handed the investigation files over to the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, with a recommendation that the prime minister be indicted. And there the matter sits, as Mandelblit ponders: “To indict or not to indict?” The process requires that the police investigate and recommend to the AG whether or not to indict. The most senior prosecutors then review the evidence and recommendation to determine whether to further the process and hold a hearing, which must conclude before a final criminal charge is laid.
Last week Netanyahu lashed out, questioning the integrity of the most senior law-enforcement institutions in Israel. “For years now, left-wing protesters and media have levelled thuggish, inhumane pressure at the attorney general to get him to file an indictment against me at any cost,” he said, ”even when there’s nothing there. This pressure is now reaching a climax. They’re trying to force the attorney general to brazenly intervene in the elections by ordering me to a hearing, despite knowing that it won’t be possible to conclude the hearing process by election day. It’s unconscionable to start a hearing process before elections that can’t be concluded by the elections.”
These comments and others by fellow Likudniks have earned public rebukes from Mandelblit and the chief prosecutor for questioning the integrity of the justice system and irresponsibly undermining public trust in the professionalism of senior public officers. “Such utterances seek to harm the deepest foundations of the rule of law,” Mandelblit warned, adding: “They are irresponsible.” Wildly so. As is this unseemly and ongoing public brawl engaging such high office holders.
Netanyahu has become an increasingly polarizing leader in Israel, enjoying unwavering loyalty from his political base — comprised largely of Israeli Jews from North Africa and Middle Eastern countries. They are hardline on security and resentful of the historical control of all aspects of national and cultural life, including the media, by Jews of Eastern European descent, who tend to be more liberal.
As the polls bear out, the Likud base believes Netanyahu, whom they revere as “King Bibi.” The resolute, tough Bibi who came out swinging on TV Monday night is their guy. Under Israeli law, in circumstances where there is doubt regarding the credibility of certain evidence, the accuser and accused may meet in the presence of police, before indictment, in order to facilitate discussion and allow law enforcement to more carefully assess the evidence.
In his prime time Monday-night statement, Netanyahu blasted the police for refusing his requests that they exercise this discretion and arrange such meetings. “During the investigations, I demanded a confrontation with the state’s witnesses,” Netanyahu stated. “I wanted to look them in the eyes and show them the truth. I asked twice and was rejected.”
At the outset of his remarks, Netanyahu was careful to acknowledge the critical importance of an independent judiciary and law-enforcement function in a democracy, but also reminded the public that no branch of government is immune from criticism. And he pulled no punches in directly attacking the competence of the police and other law-enforcement personnel. “What do they have to be afraid of? What are they hiding? I am not afraid. I do not have anything to hide. Therefore, tonight, I repeat my demand for a confrontation with state’s witnesses. I am certain that I am right.”
It’s a bizarre spectacle. The prime minister at once taunting and deriding the law-enforcement establishment while professing respect for this independent function of democracy.
Whether Netanyahu is guilty or innocent, a central issue that is deeply disturbing is why Mandelblit continues to sit on his brief and indulge his Hamlet-like tendencies. Once he received the police recommendations it was his duty to act swiftly and decisively and either dismiss the matter for lack of sufficient evidence or indict the prime minister. His indecision has been grossly unfair to the prime minister and the nation. Indeed, his review must be done painstakingly, but he’s been waiting for those files for years now, and has been sitting on them for several months. If the matter is so egregious and urgent, one wonders, why the dilly-dallying?
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PARTIES,
AND IS THERE ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT?
Israel Democracy Institute
Times of Israel, Jan. 27, 2019
Why does Israel have so many political parties — and what’s wrong with that? Israeli society is extremely diverse, with multiple political divisions that run along ideological, ethnic and religious fault lines. Israel also has an extreme proportional system of government, which grants representation in the Knesset to any party that clears a 3.25% threshold in general elections that take place in a single, nationwide district.
The result of these two factors is political fragmentation. On the one hand, this is a good thing because minorities in Israel are adequately represented in parliament. However, representation comes at a price in terms of political stability and good governance. In order to form a coalition in Israel, the prospective ruling party has to attain a majority of at least 61 seats out of the 120 seats in the Knesset. Because of the proliferation of political parties, this task is impossible without cobbling together an alliance of several smaller parties.
In the last elections, held in 2015, ten electoral slates (representing 16 political parties) passed the electoral threshold and made it into the Knesset. The largest party (Likud) won a mere 30 seats — a quarter of the seats in the parliament and less than half the majority needed to form a coalition. It took Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seven weeks to form a coalition — made up of 21 ministers coming from six parties, each of which has its own worldview, constituency and demands. This fragmentation has been typical of election results of the last several decades. As a consequence, Israeli prime ministers worry constantly about political stability, and sometimes cater more to the demands of small sectoral parties than to the national interest.
“The current system grants small parties disproportionate power, leads to excessive preoccupation with coalition management, does not provide strong incentives for creating an effective opposition, and leads to the allocation of over-sized budgets to sectoral interests,” says Prof. Gideon Rahat, Senior Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. His solution? “We need to create a system of incentives which will solidify the political system into two main blocs. The task of forming the next government should be given to the head of the largest faction. This will encourage politicians to forge alliances before the elections, and will encourage citizens to cast their vote for the largest electoral list.”
HEADS OF STATE VS. MINISTERS OF DEFENSE
Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen
BESA, Jan. 17, 2019
The recent resignations of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis shed light on the age-old professional tension between heads of state, who are charged with running a country’s national affairs, and their defense ministers, who are tasked with overseeing national security.
From time immemorial, the successful conduct of wars has been considered the ultimate test of kings and kingdoms. The tribes of Israel, when demanding a monarchy, asked the prophet Samuel for “a king like all other nations, who will lead us to battle and enable us to fight our wars.” It is true that even warlike monarchs, like King David, were assisted by able military commanders. But from the point of view of ordinary people, it was always the monarch to whom they looked for deliverance from wars and their horrendous consequences. This primordial yearning for heroic leadership to save the day in stark moments remains as abiding as ever in the modern nation state.
The recent British movie Darkest Hour, which articulated Winston Churchill’s heroic leadership at the gravest moment in Britain’s modern history, aroused tacit yearnings for leadership of similar stature. As long as security affairs run their normal course, entrusting them to an appointed minister does not cause complications. But in times of grave national crisis that require fateful decisions, public hopes and expectations are pinned on the head of state. At such critical junctures, when prime ministers and presidents take matters into their own hands, defense ministers often find themselves steamrolled, their views ignored.
In the US, the issue is less problematic given the president’s position as Commander-in-Chief, operating directly vis-à-vis arena commanders within a well-defined chain of command. But in Israel it is the government, not the prime minister, which is Commander-in-Chief. This not only constrains the PM’s ability to conduct wars but also raises questions about the true role of the minister of defense, who enjoys no superiority over fellow ministers in the war cabinet (or security cabinet, as it is known in Israel). Are ministers of defense guardians of security affairs during routine times alone, only to surrender their powers and responsibilities at critical moments?
To be sure, this dilemma exists even in the well-regulated US system, where at key moments secretaries of defense may find themselves stripped of the influence they would have expected to wield. There have, of course, been influential defense secretaries, such as Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld, who had a huge impact on the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars. But this was due to the deep mutual trust they enjoyed with their respective presidents. The moment these factors weaken and the president sees matters in different light, the secretary’s resignation is often a foregone conclusion.
Aware as they are of this inherent tension, Israeli prime ministers, from David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol to Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, have preferred to serve concurrently as defense ministers. Indeed, the separation of the two functions can become highly problematic, not only at times of war but also in situations where the prime minister is trying to uphold a strategic outlook on key issues that is best kept undisclosed. Were the PM forced to act in full coordination with a defense minister of a fundamentally different outlook or political agenda, this hidden strategic logic might be exposed, to the detriment of the national interest.
This was probably the dilemma confronting PM Netanyahu when he decided to avoid an all-out confrontation with Hamas in the summer and autumn of 2018 against the view of his seemingly more belligerent minister of defense. Some seventy years ago, at the height of Israel’s War of Independence, PM and defense minister Ben-Gurion found himself in a similar situation when deciding to forego the capture of East Jerusalem. In such circumstances, it is preferable for the national leader to serve concurrently as minister of defense.
Your Guide to the Obscenely Complicated World of Israeli Elections: Tristin Hopper, National Post, Jan. 23, 2019—In 2015, Canadians complained about having to endure a two-month federal election. Right now, Israelis are in the midst of an election campaign that will last more than three months and feature the usual dizzying array of new parties, new splinter factions and new alliances.
Key Document on Bezeq Could Clear Netanyahu in Case 4,000: Israel Hayom, Jan. 25, 2019—A newly unearthed document could undermine a key premise in Case 4,000, a corruption case in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considered a suspect.
Israeli Arabs Seek to Turn Netanyahu’s Controversial ‘in Droves’ Comment From 2015 Election Against Him in Next Vote: Algemeiner, Jan. 22, 2019—Israel’s Arab lawmakers plan to commandeer Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim in the last election that Arabs were heading to the polls “in droves” to encourage their own voters in April’s election.
Remembering Moshe Arens: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 10, 2019—In the course of working on my master’s thesis in 1999, I had opportunity to interview Yitzhak Shamir and Moshe Arens regarding Israel’s decision not to retaliate against Iraq during the First Gulf War. I also had the privilege of knowing Arens, who passed away this week, through the security think tank I ran for 25 years at Bar-Ilan University. (Arens served on the institute’s board and spoke at many of our conferences).
No Palestinian-Israel Peace in 2019 — But Here Are Some Developments We Can Expect: Abraham Cooper, Algemeiner, Dec. 31, 2018— For Israel, 2019 will likely bring great achievements but also great disappointments.
Thank Heaven We’re Done With UNESCO: Nadav Shragai, Israel Hayom, Jan. 2, 2019 — Thank God, it’s over.
The UN’s Obsession With Israel Makes Peace Harder to Achieve: Nikki Haley, New York Post, Dec. 18, 2018— When I first came to the United Nations two years ago, I was taken aback a bit by this monthly meeting.
The Late Moshe Arens: A Noble Spirit, a Truthful Man: Benjamin Netanyahu, JNS, Jan. 9, 2019— The life story of my faithful teacher and close friend, the late Moshe (“Misha”) Arens, ended after he had the privilege of seeing Israel celebrate 70 years of independence.
First Ethiopian Jewry Research Hub Aims to Preserve Community’s Traditions: Melanie Lidman, Times of Israel, Jan. 8, 2019
UN Elects Yemen, Worst on Gender Equality, as VP at UN’s Gender Equality Agency: UNWatch, Jan. 9, 2019
Maybe UNESCO Will ‘Learn a Lesson’ From US and Israeli Withdrawals, Ex-Envoy Says: Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, Jan. 1, 2019
French Resistance Hero Who Saved Hundreds of Jewish Children Dies Aged 108: Alexandra Topping, Guardian, Dec. 30, 2018
NO PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL PEACE IN 2019 —
BUT HERE ARE SOME DEVELOPMENTS WE CAN EXPECT
Algemeiner, Dec. 31, 2018
For Israel, 2019 will likely bring great achievements but also great disappointments. The achievements will include: continued growth of Israel’s innovation economy; increased tourism; and development of a broad range of new inventions, along with drugs and devices to help people deal with many severe health issues.
The disappointments will include: continued Iranian-induced terrorist attacks and looming threats of war; endless hostility from the halls of the United Nations and the European Parliament; and the continued Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement — waging asymmetrical economic and cultural warfare – seeking to demonize, isolate, and ultimately eliminate the Jewish state.
Despite the best efforts of President Trump, his senior advisers and son-in-law Jared Kushner to come up with a peace plan acceptable to the Palestinians and Israelis, they are taking on an impossible task at a time of new elections and political upheaval in Jerusalem, and an aging, corrupt, and unrepresentative Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.
Make no mistake: Israelis yearn for the day when their 18-year-olds no longer have to devote two years of their young lives to put themselves in harm’s way. They want to live in peace with their Arab neighbors. Israel today provides its Arab citizens, who comprise nearly one-fifth of the population, with more rights and a higher living standard than are enjoyed in Arab nations. But continuing Palestinian terrorism at its southern and northern borders — and in the West Bank — forces Israel to take significant security precautions, as any nation would when faced with similar threats.
Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) is holding out for impossible demands in any peace treaty, including the “right of return” for any Palestinian who left Israel when the Jewish state was created in 1948 – plus all their millions of descendants. No Israeli government will ever accept the “right of return” poison pill that would create an Arab majority overnight and spell the end of the lone, democratic Jewish state.
The PA also demands the return of every square inch of territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, leaving Israel with what Abba Eban, the late Israeli foreign minister, called indefensible “Auschwitz borders” — and without much of its historic capital and its holiest sites in the eastern part of Jerusalem. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad Palestinian terrorist groups and their patron state Iran go even further, calling for Israel’s destruction through violence and terrorism.
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas both use a school curriculum that denies Israel’s existence, and teaches children to venerate terrorists. As a result, there will be no peace breakthrough with the Palestinians in 2019, no matter how innovative President Trump’s peace plan may be — or how much Israel wants peace. It’s not about money, it’s not even so much about borders. It’s about psychology.
Many Palestinians — even those who claim to want to live in peace side by side with Israel — are opposed to the very concept of a Jewish state. But Jews, inspired by a vision of a return to Zion, founded Israel specifically to be a Jewish state, a refuge for Jews fleeing antisemitism and genocide; Israel was envisioned as a modern democracy — protecting the rights of all — in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people.
Still, in the year ahead, we can expect continuous Iranian threats to drive greater cooperation between Gulf States and Israel. This could lead that one or more of them finally recognizing Israel 70 years after its creation. Having personally met Bahrain’s King Hamad and hosted two dozen Bahrain interfaith leaders in Jerusalem, my best hope and prayer is that the king will lead the way in normalizing relations with Israel. Other Arab states will follow and so eventually will a new generation of Palestinian leaders — but don’t look for that to happen anytime soon.
Not only does peace seem to be a distant dream, but Israel’s raucous political battles have yielded a December surprise and not a happy one: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his coalition government was dissolving and that snap elections would be held in April. So is the Jewish state, a failing state? Quite the contrary. Indeed, there must be other aspects of Israel’s 2018 that help explain why 89 percent of its 8.9 million citizens have reported that they are happy with their lives…
Here’s some good news about Israel you rarely hear in the US and international media: First, Israel actually experienced a huge increase in global tourism this year, led by Asia. Whatever tourists may have been hearing from biased media, there is nothing like experiencing the only Middle Eastern democracy and its holy sites firsthand to debunk the Big Lie that Israel is an “apartheid state.”
Nowhere was the tourist boom more in evidence than in Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital. An estimated four million tourists have visited the Holy City this year. This came as President Trump was true to his word and announced that the United States was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The actual move of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem took place in business-like (not diplomatic) speed, and I was honored to witness the opening of the embassy on May 14.
Secondly, the “I” in Israel really does stand for innovation. Despite the fact that young Israelis have to serve in the IDF and can be called up to the reserves for decades – and despite the barbs, hatred, and violence flung their way — Israelis are committed to making a difference in ways that are impacting the lives of friends and enemies the world over.
Here’s a tiny sample of the world-changing innovations that emerged from Israel this year: The world’s first 3D- printed vegan steak — which will help address how the planet can feed its exploding population; Research to create tissue implants of any kind by using patients’ own cells; A new tool to better assess pain that patients experience in the intensive care unit; A new device to detect problems in lesions before cancer develops; and promising research on the inner ear that could help address hearing loss. And this spring, Israel is expected to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon in April. Furthermore, we can all expect to see more spectacular innovation from Israel that will improve our economies, our lives, our health, and our iPhones in the near future.
We can only hope and pray that someday a new generation of Palestinian leaders will realize their people are better off cooperating with their neighbors and living in peace than entrusting their children to corrupt leaders who reward young people not for innovation and education, but for murdering Jews — thus ensuring a never-ending conflict.
It’s unfortunate that this will not happen in 2019 — unless the Messiah himself intervenes. To hasten real change on the ground in the New Year, nations like Germany, France, and Japan should follow President Trump’s lead by snapping shut their checkbooks to the Palestinians unless and until they can prove that “humanitarian aid” doesn’t go to build terror tunnels or financially reward families whose sons murder and main Jews.
THANK HEAVEN WE’RE DONE WITH UNESCO
Israel Hayom, Jan. 2, 2019
Thank God, it’s over. When 2018 ended, Israel’s withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization took effect. Don’t feel bad. Under existing conditions, there was no reason to keep our place at the table with the gang of hypocritical liars that every few months rewrote another chapter of the history of the land of Israel and the Jewish people, and coopted it for the Palestinians. Rather than thrilling at the glorious cultural, religious, historic, and archaeological legacy of the Jewish people in the land of Israel, the organization chose time and again to adopt “fake history” and give its seal of approval to more fabrications from the Palestinian pack of lies.
UNESCO questioned Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. It treated us as if we were occupiers in our own capital, even though Jerusalem in all its holiness was never a capital – in terms of either politics or conscience – for any Arab or Muslim ruling entity. Even the Jordanians, who together with the Palestinians prompted UNESCO to pass resolutions hostile to Israel – never used Jerusalem as their capital in the years in which they occupied the city. They desecrated the places that are holy to Jews, and in violation of agreements we signed with them, even denied us access to those places. Back then, the Jordanians and the Palestinians – before they invented themselves as a “people” – cited the Temple Mount as the location of Solomon’s Temple on their maps and in their writings. Today, they boldly deny ever doing so and UNESCO is helping them by partly adopting their denial.
But UNESCO has more than Jerusalem in its sights. Rachel’s Tomb, which UNESCO decided to call, as the Palestinians term it, Bilal Ibn Rabah mosque, was never traditionally called that. Ibn Rabah, of Ethiopian descent, was one of the first muezzins who served the Prophet Muhammad. He was killed in Syria and buried in Aleppo or Damascus. Only when the Palestinian Authority realized it had failed to capture the site from Israel during the Second Intifada did they link Ibn Rabah to “Kubat Rachel,” the Arabic name for the site that had been used for generations. In the case of Rachel’s Tomb, UNESCO supported an attempt to take over people’s minds in place of a physical occupation of the site which failed.
The Palestinians also biased UNESCO on everything having to do with the Cave of the Patriarchs. The cave, which Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite, was long ago stolen from us by Muslims. The fact that the two religions co-own it today is a generous compromise we forced the Muslims to accept about 50 years ago. Israel, with help from the forces of history, rectified a few colossal absurdities that the Muslims thought would remain in place forever. The Palestinians appealed to UNESCO so that at least as far as people’s thinking went, they could regain full ownership of the Cave of the Patriarchs, and UNESCO helped them with that, as well.
With each delusional resolution, UNESCO made itself more ridiculous and less relevant. But every cloud has a silver lining. Despite the total absurdity of the organization’s decisions, they carried one main advantage for Israel – they held up a mirror. They forced us to go back to our roots, to study them, to delve into them and understand that we are not passersby in this land. We weren’t just born here and we didn’t just move here. The UNESCO resolutions helped us reach the vital recognition that the land of Israel is not just a haven, it’s also a destination; that its many holy sites are the cradle of our people’s birth and still correspond to our present and our future here, which rests on more than “security needs.” Now, without UNESCO, we’ll need to remind ourselves of that from time to time.
THE UN’S OBSESSION WITH ISRAEL MAKES PEACE HARDER TO ACHIEVE
New York Post, Dec. 18, 2018
When I first came to the United Nations two years ago, I was taken aback a bit by this monthly meeting. The fact that the UN would consider the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not striking. It is, after all, a matter of international peace and security. What was striking was the frequency of the discussion and the one-sidedness of it. Members of the Security Council have heard me say this many times. The problems of the Middle East are numerous, and yet we spend a vastly disproportionate amount of time on just one of them. And the UN has shown itself to be hopelessly biased, as we witnessed again just two weeks ago when the General Assembly failed to condemn Hamas’ terrorist activity against Israel.
Over the past two years, I have attempted to provide more value in this monthly meeting by using my time to speak about other pressing problems in the Middle East. I have spoken about Iran’s illegal weapons transfers and destabilizing support for terrorism throughout the region. I have spoken about the barbarism of the Assad regime in Syria. I have spoken about Hamas’ illegal and diabolical use of human shields. I have done this for two reasons. I’ve done it to illustrate that most of the region’s problems have absolutely nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And I’ve done it to encourage the UN to move away from its obsession with Israel.
This UN obsession has sent a loud and false message to the Palestinians that they just might be able to achieve their goals by relying on the UN, rather than through direct negotiations. And it has sent a loud and accurate message to the Israelis that they can never trust the UN. This biased obsession is not the path to peace. It is the path to an endless stalemate.
Today is my last time addressing this monthly session as the United States ambassador. Because it is, I’m going to deviate from my practice of the last two years. Today, I will directly address the Israel-Palestinian issue. Given my record, some may mistakenly conclude that I am unsympathetic to the Palestinian people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s how I see it. Israel is a thriving, strong, prosperous country. It has always wanted peace with its neighbors. It has clearly demonstrated its willingness to make big sacrifices for peace, including giving up large areas of land.
But Israel will not make a peace agreement at just any price, and it shouldn’t. No UN resolutions, anti-Semitic boycotts or terrorist threats will ever change that. Throughout its existence, and even today, Israel has been surrounded by threats to its security. It would be foolish for it to make a deal that weakened its security. And yet, even in the face of constant threats, Israel has become one of the leading nations in the world. Israel wants a peace agreement, but it doesn’t need one.
And then there are the Palestinian people. Like the Israelis, they are a deservedly proud people. They, too, do not need to accept a peace agreement at any price. But the condition of the Palestinian people is very different. Economic opportunity, health care, even electricity are all scarce in the Palestinian territories. Terrorists rule much of the territory, undermining the safety of all civilians. The Palestinian people are suffering terribly while their leadership clings to 50-year-old demands that have only become less and less realistic.
It is time we faced a hard truth: Both sides would benefit greatly from a peace agreement, but the Palestinians would benefit more, and the Israelis would risk more. Ultimately, as always, the final decisions can only be made by the parties themselves. Israelis and Palestinians will decide their own futures. They will decide what sacrifices they are willing to make. And they will need leaders with real vision to do it.
As for the American people, we have demonstrated time and again our commitment to peace in the Middle East. We will continue to offer our hand in friendship to the Palestinian people, whom we have financially supported by far more than any other country has done. The Palestinians have everything to gain by engaging in peace negotiations. But whatever it is that others decide, the world must know that America will remain steadfast in our support of Israel, its people and its security. That is an unshakeable bond between our two peoples. And it is that bond — more than anything else — that makes peace possible.
THE LATE MOSHE ARENS: A NOBLE SPIRIT, A TRUTHFUL MAN
JNS, Jan. 9, 2019
The life story of my faithful teacher and close friend, the late Moshe (“Misha”) Arens, ended after he had the privilege of seeing Israel celebrate 70 years of independence. That national peak filled Misha’s heart with great satisfaction. As one who followed our struggle for freedom, and even wrote glowing pages about our founding as a state, he was always astounded at the country’s achievements, which proved the justice of the Zionist vision. Misha was a vital leg in the Zionist relay race. He was raised on the theories of Revisionist thinker Ze’ev Jabotinsky and wanted to implement them.
I was happy to accept his invitation to join the Israeli Embassy delegation in Washington in 1982. Even before that, our two families had formed deep ties because of the help Misha gave my father, Professor Benzion Netanyahu, in his Zionist activity — and at the time, I was aware of how privileged I was to continue that work. As Israel’s ambassador to the United States and as foreign minister, Misha was eloquent in representing our diplomatic positions. In accordance with Jabotinsky’s theory on pressure, he waged an unflagging diplomatic battle for our vital interests. As defense minister, Misha strengthened the iron wall that defends us. His contribution to the development of Israel’s air defenses, as well as the steps he took to bolster its ground forces and homefront, stemmed from his correct appraisal of the dangers in the Middle East.
Misha also encountered struggles and disappointment. That is natural in a career of public service that spanned more than four decades. He felt that the cancellation of the decision to develop the Lavi aircraft in Israel was a missed opportunity. In our in-depth discussions, I tried to convince him that when it came down to it, he had been very successful — our military might in the air, at sea, and on land; military intelligence; and cyber capabilities are the equivalent of an iron fist. Our enemies know that they will pay a heavy price for any attempt to attack us.
Misha was a great gentleman, a noble spirit, and, no less important, a truthful man. In the name of the truth, he devoted himself to retelling the story of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. He could not rest at the fighters from the right-wing Betar movement being left out of the tale of the heroic stand against the Nazis. His exciting book Flags over the Warsaw Ghetto rights that wrong. Misha gave Pavel Frenkel and his Betar comrades the honor they deserved. They led the uprising, along with Mordechai Anielewicz and his people, and set a path towards the future — a strong stance against those who seek to kill us and ensuring our ability to defend ourselves.
Moshe Arens, the beloved Misha, was part of some of the decisive moments in the history of the new State of Israel. The personal, unique stamp he put on building sovereignty in the homeland will stay with us for generations to come. May his memory be a blessing.
CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporter: Shabbat Shalom!
First Ethiopian Jewry Research Hub Aims to Preserve Community’s Traditions: Melanie Lidman, Times of Israel, Jan. 8, 2019—Ethiopian Israeli religious leaders are hoping a new academic center will “create a new language” to talk about the richness of Ethiopian culture and traditions, after decades of discrimination dismissing the contribution of Ethiopian Judaism.
UN Elects Yemen, Worst on Gender Equality, as VP at UN’s Gender Equality Agency: UNWatch, Jan. 9, 2019— A human rights watchdog organization today condemned the UN’s election of Yemen, the worst-ranking country in the world on gender equality, to be vice-president of the Executive Board of UN Women, which is the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Maybe UNESCO Will ‘Learn a Lesson’ From US and Israeli Withdrawals, Ex-Envoy Says: Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, Jan. 1, 2019—“Maybe they will learn a lesson,” a former Israeli ambassador to UNESCO told The Algemeiner on Tuesday as the Jewish state officially left the global cultural institution.
French Resistance Hero Who Saved Hundreds of Jewish Children Dies Aged 108: Alexandra Topping, Guardian, Dec. 30, 2018—Georges Loinger used all his skill and cunning – and a large dash of chutzpah – to rescue Jewish children from deportation and near-certain death during the second world war.
Announcement of Early Israeli Elections Leads to Political Frenzy: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Tundra Tabloids, Jan. 3, 2019— On December 24, 2018, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and the parties in his coalition decided to disperse the Knesset.
Five Questions About Israel’s Political Musical Chairs: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Jan. 4, 2018— The old expression is that for every two Jews, there are three political opinions.
Why Should Israelis Vote if their Vote is Meaningless?: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 27, 2018— In a recent conversation with a European ambassador, I asked about the possible consequences of the elections to the European parliament, which are scheduled to take place in May 2019.
A Crystal Ball on 2019: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Jan. 4, 2018 — The peril of predicting political and diplomatic developments has been made crystal clear over the past topsy-turvy week.
Legendary Defender of Israel Passes Away: Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, Jerusalem Online, Jan. 7, 2019
Labor’s Demise is Bad for Israeli Democracy: Amnon Lord, Israel Hayom, Jan. 3, 2019
Bibi’s Formidable Challenger: Jerusalem Online, Dec. 28, 2018
Why I am Running for Knesset with Shaked, Bennett: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2019
ANNOUNCEMENT OF EARLY ISRAELI
ELECTIONS LEADS TO POLITICAL FRENZY
Tundra Tabloids, Jan. 3, 2018
On December 24, 2018, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and the parties in his coalition decided to disperse the Knesset. They announced that elections for the 21st Knesset would be advanced from November 2019 to April 9, 2019. Two days later the Knesset approved this. It had been increasingly impossible for Netanyahu’s 61 MK coalition to function properly after the five member faction of the Israel is Our Home (Yisrael Beiteinu) party decided to leave the coalition on 14 November 2018 preceded by the resignation of its leader Avigdor Lieberman as Minister of Defense.
Within a few days, a pandemonium of announcements and rumors followed. Former IDF chief of staff, Benny Gantz has founded a new party named Israel Resilience (Chosen L’Israel). Gantz’ detailed political views are unclear. He has said that he could be “right-wing on security issues, left-wing on socioeconomic issues and liberal on economic goals.” Recent polls give his new party between 13-15 seats.
It remains also unclear who the candidates of his party will be. A few names have been mentioned in the media. One of these, Brig. General Professor Yitshak Kreiss, a former IDF chief medical officer, now a senior director of the Sheba Medical Center, has denied that he will run for the Knesset. There are rumors that former Chief of Staff and former Likud Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon will join Gantz’ list. Ya’alon who left the Likud and the Knesset has a clear right of center position on security issues. At this point it seems that Gantz’ list will run alone in the elections, though he is being courted by other parties to join forces.
One of the many rumors is that Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay had offered Gantz the top spot of his list in the upcoming elections and that he had turned this down. Gantz running with his own list alone will heavily affect the prospects of the There is a Future party (Yesh Atid), led by Yair Lapid. In earlier polls this party was considered the main opponent to Netanyahu’s Likud. Recent polls give it around the same 11 seats as it holds in the current Knesset.
When advanced elections were announced Gabbay declared that the choice for Prime Minister would be between Netanyahu and himself. Yet, all polls at the time indicated that if Gabbay were to head the Zionist Union list it would lose at least half of the 24 seats it received in the 2015 elections under the leadership of his predecessor, Yitzchak Herzog. On January 1, 2019, Gabbay suddenly announced that the Labor party would run alone in the elections. He thus disbanded the Zionist Union, a coalition with Tzipi Livni’s The Movement (Hatnua). He did so in an extremely humiliating way in Livni’s presence without consulting other Labor MKs.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett leader of the Jewish Home (Habayit HaYehudi) and its popular Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, decided to leave their party. They have called their new party the New Right, (Hayemin Hehadash). This party intends to be represented in the Knesset by both religious and non-religious members. Polls vary greatly on how many seats it will receive. The remaining Jewish Home party — now exclusively religious — may be at risk of not passing the 3.25% election threshold to enter the Knesset.
In the previous Knesset, the Kulanu party was the successful newcomer. It is led by Finance Minister Mosher Kahlon who split off from the Likud. Of Kulanu’s 10 current MK’s, four have announced that they have left it. One of these, retired General Yoav Galant, resigned as Minister of Housing and Construction. Netanyahu then named him as acting Aliyah and Integration Minister. Galant has announced that he will join the Likud. He may well be its only former general running in the next election. Another MK leaving the Kulanu party is the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s office, Michael Oren. He was formerly ambassador to the United States. Kulanu is doing poorly in the polls and is expected to receive four to five seats.
Orly Levy-Abekasis, a long term Knesset member of the Israel is Our Home party was expelled from it in the outgoing Knesset. She has created her own party, called Bridge (Gesher). She has said that she intends to focus on socioeconomic issues. Polls indicate that this new party has a good chance to pass the election threshold. The splintering of parties on the right has led to a concern that some of the parties may not pass the election threshold and thus create a situation where many votes for the right may be lost. There are thus rumors that efforts will be made to lower the election threshold.
Due to this landscape of ongoing movement, polling results change from one day to the next, and have lost much of their meaning. As far as voters’ preference for the position of Prime Minister is concerned Netanyahu still leads the field, closely followed by Gantz.
All this is taking place against a background in which Attorney General Avichay Mandelblit is expected to announce his decision as to whether indict Netanyahu for corruption before the elections. A possible indictment before April 9 would bring with it accusations that the Attorney General is interfering in the elections. From now on attention on the structures of parties are likely to decrease and information as well as rumors about possible candidate MKs will become more frequent. Matters will clarify partly at the beginning of February 2019 when several parties will hold primaries to determine their candidates for the elections.
FIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT ISRAEL’S POLITICAL MUSICAL CHAIRS Jonathan S. Tobin
JNS, Jan. 4, 2018
The old expression is that for every two Jews, there are three political opinions. In Israel, that cliché can be extended to also include four or five political parties. That’s never been truer than now as preparations for the Jewish state’s next Knesset elections in April have gotten underway. Israel’s proportional system for electing its parliament is responsible for the plethora of political parties. Based on pre-state ideas about the need for consensus and inclusion, the system has never produced a clear majority for any single party in Israel’s relatively short history.
That trend has been exacerbated in recent decades as each of the two major parties that have led most of the governing coalitions since Israel’s birth — Labor and Likud — have splintered with more ideological factions sprouting on the left and the right. In addition to that are sectarian parties representing the various religious sectors and Israeli Arabs. Centrist parties as an alternative to the left and right have been a regular feature of Israeli politics since 1977, when the desire for a non-ideological alternative to Labor resulted in the first Likud-led government headed by Menachem Begin. The centrists have followed a pattern of initial success, followed by collapse within one or two election cycles as these factions — often led by non-ideological former generals with little political experience — crashed and burned once they proved incapable of governing.
But the process of splintering has accelerated with parties on both ends of the spectrum imploding. On the left, the Zionist Union, which matched the remnants of Labor with supporters of veteran party-switcher Tzipi Livni, has broken up after Labor leader Avi Gabbay ditched Livni in a humiliating public smackdown. Meanwhile, ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, who had grown tired of being chained to their more far-right religious and settler supporters, blew up their HaBayit HaYehudi party. Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party is also coming apart. In the center, former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz is poised to be the bright new star of 2019. Keeping track of all of these competing egos isn’t easy, even for Israeli political junkies, let alone Americans. So for the sake of clarifying what’s at stake, I’ve come up with five key questions about what’s happening right now with Israeli politics. First, why are the parties on the right splitting?
The implosion of HaBayit HaYehudi, which had been the strongest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition partners, is a function of its leaders. The pair were forced out of the Likud by personal antagonism with Netanyahu, and profited from an awkward alliance with the rump of the old National Religious Party and other even more extreme personalities. But if Bennett is to ever achieve his ambition to succeed Netanyahu, he’s got to get back to the Likud. His goal is for his new party, which will attempt to bring together religious and secular voters, to do well enough to be part of the next government and then merge with Likud whenever Netanyahu falls.
Kahlon’s party is suffering the usual downturn new parties’ experience in their second go round. It will likely be diminished this time, as will Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, which represents the interests of voters from the former Soviet Union. Even if some voters cast ballots for the smaller parties to keep Netanyahu honest, most voters on the right don’t want to diminish the Likud’s chances of winning the most seats and forming the next government.
Second, why are the parties of the left splitting? The problem on the left is that as long as Israeli politics is still dominated by security concerns, advocates for more concessions to the Palestinians will remain in the minority. That puts pragmatists like Livni, who wants to join forces with Gantz or Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid to defeat Netanyahu, at a distinct disadvantage. The left sees no reason to water down its message in pursuit of an illusory chance of power. Third, can the centrist and left-wing factions unite in order to stop Netanyahu? As things currently stand, the answer is no. In every poll, the parties currently in Netanyahu’s coalition are shown winning a majority in the next Knesset. And that’s ignoring the fact that some of the centrists like Gantz may wish to join the next government, rather than sulking in opposition with the left.
Fourth, is there a real alternative to Netanyahu? Not a chance. Lapid is currently the runner-up in the polls, but he trails Netanyahu by a huge margin. Yet even after more than five years in the Knesset, few consider the former television personality to have the gravitas to run the country or deal with security threats on multiple regional and global levels. Gantz is viewed positively because he is fresh out of the army, though like other generals before him, the shine on his reputation will quickly evaporate. No one takes Livni, Gabbay or anyone on the left seriously when they talk about replacing Netanyahu.
Fifth, who is Netanyahu’s real foe? The only person who can stop Netanyahu from continuing in office is Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. If Mandelblit goes ahead with hearings to consider the recommendations of the police and the state prosecutor’s office to indict the prime minister on one or all three corruption charges currently pending against Netanyahu, it might lead to political chaos even if Netanyahu runs and wins the election. Armed with the public’s endorsement at the polls, the prime minister might stay in office while he fights the charges, but he will be severely diminished and would be unlikely to survive for long.
At that point, the lack of a natural successor in the Likud (Netanyahu chased away all potential successors like Bennett and Kahlon) will lead to another reshuffling of the political deck. But unless and until that happens, what American observers really need to know about Israeli politics is that Netanyahu is almost certainly going to win a fifth term as prime minister in April.
WHY SHOULD ISRAELIS VOTE IF THEIR VOTE IS MEANINGLESS?
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, Dec. 27, 2018
In a recent conversation with a European ambassador, I asked about the possible consequences of the elections to the European parliament, which are scheduled to take place in May 2019. According to current polls, rightist, pro-Israel parties from a host of EU member nations are projected to win the vote in May. I was curious about the impact the projected results may have on European Union policies towards Israel.
His answer was straightforward. “European parliamentary election results aren’t particularly significant,” he said with a shrug. “It’s true that pro-Israel rightist parties are expected to do very well. But their victories won’t impact the EU’s foreign policies or any of its substantive policies. All the substantive policy decisions are made by the European Commission in Brussels.”
“The European parliament doesn’t have influence over what happens in Brussels. Its decisions are basically declarative resolutions and opinions. They have no force of law,” he explained. Formally, the situation in Israel is quite different from the situation in the EU. Unlike the European parliament, the Knesset has the power to legislate laws. And the government, which is comprised mainly of members of Knesset, implements policies it was empowered to adopt by the mandate it received from the voters at the polls. But in practice, with each passing day, the situation in Israel is becoming more and more similar to the situation in the EU. Every day, Israel’s bureaucracy, led by the legal system, seizes more and more powers from the country’s elected leaders.
THIS WEEK, we received a glimpse of how this seizure of powers takes place behind closed doors, far from the eyes of the public. On Sunday, Jerusalem District Police commander Maj.-Gen. Yoram Halevy abruptly submitted his resignation to Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan. Halevy was the likeliest candidate to serve as the next inspector general, after Erdan’s first choice, Police Maj.-Gen. Moshe Edri’s candidacy was rejected by the Appointments Committee run by former Supreme Court justice Eliezer Goldberg.
On Monday, Hadashot news reported that Halevy resigned following a meeting last week with attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit. Also in attendance at the fateful encounter were Erdan, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and Deputy Attorney-General Dina Zilber. Halevy had been under the impression that Mandelblit would defend his appointment before the Goldberg Committee, and if necessary, before the Supreme Court. In his legal opinion regarding Halevy’s suitability for the job, Mandelblit concluded that there is no legal basis for preventing Halevy from serving as Police inspector general.
At the meeting, Mandelblit explained to Halevy that law was not the issue. Despite the absence of legal justification for rejecting his appointment, Mandelblit said he would not defend Halevy both before the Goldberg Committee and before the Supreme Court. What do you mean? Erdan and Halevy asked. How can you reject Halevy’s nomination when there are no legal grounds for doing so? Mandelblit’s reasoning should distress all Israelis who care about democracy.
MANY YEARS ago, Halevy committed a serious disciplinary infraction. An inspector general, Mandelblit argued, needs to be “as pure as the driven snow.” Halevy’s past infraction made him impure. So no dice. There is a legitimate debate to be had about the sort of character you would want in a police chief. On the one hand, you could argue that it is better to have a chief of police with a checkered past. The chief law enforcement officer is well served with some bad behavior in his rearview mirror. It makes him more likely to treat accused lawbreakers with humility.
An equally legitimate argument can be made for having a straight-as-an-arrow lawman fill the top spot in the police. If you want the law enforced without prejudice, hire a chief with unstinting respect for the law who cuts no corners with crooks. However you come down on the question of the suitable character for a police chief, the question itself has nothing to do with the law. Israeli law is devoid of any mention that the inspector general of police must be as “pure as the driven snow.” The issue of character is a normative matter, not a legal one…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
A CRYSTAL BALL ON 2019
David M. Weinberg
Israel Hayom, Jan. 4, 2018
The peril of predicting political and diplomatic developments has been made crystal clear over the past topsy-turvy week. Nevertheless, my forecasts of one year ago were accurate: that there would be no elections and no big wars in 2018. Can’t say the same for 2019.
Fate of Prime Minister Netanyahu: He will form his fifth coalition government after the April elections, with Benny Gantz as defense minister and Yaacov Litzman (again) as health minister. But the expected indictments against Netanyahu will sooner or later force him into a plea deal to leave politics and avoid jail. Which makes the current election somewhat of a temporary, counterfeit campaign. Everybody in the arena smells the big shakeup in Israeli politics coming just around the bend – a post-Netanyahu era. They are maneuvering for pole position for the next campaign, perhaps in 2020. That is why so many political parties are splintering and clustering in the search for the holy grail: something “new” for the ravenous Israeli voting public.
Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett: Their “New Right” political party is merely a springboard to Likud leadership, say, in 2020. I believe that when Shaked runs in post-Netanyahu Likud primaries she will win the party leadership hands down – roundly defeating all likely contenders including Gideon Saar and Yisrael Katz.
The vaunted Israeli center: Expect more new political parties to pop-up over the next month, all promising “renaissance,” “togetherness,” “brotherhood,” “resilience,” “strength,” and fealty to “Jewish, Zionist and democratic values” along with commitment to fight “corruption” – but with no clear policies relating to economy, diplomacy and defense. These parties will boast carefully calibrated lists with candidates who supposedly bridge all divides: Ashkenazi and Sephardi, secular and religious, men and women, center and periphery, young and experienced (– with “experienced” being a code-word for vapid politicians with flip-flop multi-party records like Tzipi Livni); plus Arab, Bedouin, Circassian, Druze, Ethiopian, LGBTQ and even Haredi talent. This mode of synthetic and cynical politics reminds me of James Watt’s notorious quip that forced his resignation in 1983 from Ronald Reagan’s cabinet. Mocking affirmative action in composition of a government panel, Watt said: “I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent.”
Supreme Court over-interventionism: Court President Esther Hayut is getting ready to declare the Jewish Nation State Law “unconstitutional,” even though the law itself is meant to be a constitutional anchor and thus the court has no real jurisdiction. That is the meaning of her recent decision to hear petitions against the law before an expanded 11-justice panel. This is outrageous buttinsky behavior, making it even more necessary that the next Knesset pass a law allowing for override of out-of-bounds court decisions. The court also has been domineering and unhelpful about haredi draft exemptions, striking-down the Tal, Plesner and Shaked plans successively – which were intelligent political-societal compromises that could have worked. Unfortunately, there are no better arrangements in the offing, given the rigidity in haredi society and Israel’s convoluted coalition politics.
War in the north: Israel has conducted over 200 known strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, and acted against Iranian-Shiite targets in Iraq, yet the Iranians seem to be digging-in for the long term and are further weaponizing Hezbollah with precision arms too. Therefore, a full-scale Israeli military operation to degrade enemy capabilities is just a question of time; perhaps this summer. “Operation Northern Shield” against Hezbollah’s attack tunnels was the warm-up act…
Legendary Defender of Israel Passes Away: Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, Jerusalem Online, Jan. 7, 2019—Another of the fast-dwindling number of Israel’s “old guard” passed away today. Moshe Arens was 93-years-old when he died at his home on Savyon in central Israel.
Labor’s Demise is Bad for Israeli Democracy: Amnon Lord, Israel Hayom, Jan. 3, 2019—There are those who are filled with joy at the Labor party’s demise and the humiliation of Hatnuah Hatnuah party chief Tzipi Livni. I am not one of those people
Bibi’s Formidable Challenger: Jerusalem Online, Dec. 28, 2018— Benny Gantz, a former Israeli armed forces chief who according to recent polls is the runner-up to current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, formally established a political party on Thursday to join the 2019 election race.
Why I am Running for Knesset with Shaked, Bennett: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2019— When I was 12 years old, my family took our first trip outside the United States. We came to Israel on a two-week family tour. It was July 1982. The Lebanon War had just begun. In retrospect, it was the first step on what has become my lifelong Zionist journey.
Will History Repeat Itself if the Right Brings Down a Likud Government?: Jeff Barak, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 18, 2018— Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu knows his history: Whenever a Likud-run government has been brought down by its erstwhile allies on the Right, the Left has returned to power.
Why Israel Doesn’t Want a War With Gaza: Mudar Zahran, American Thinker, Nov. 16, 2018 — The Israeli people are rarely as angry with their political leadership as they are today – and the reason for their anger is clear: they believe that their leadership has failed to take decisive military action against the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.
What is Hamas’s End-Game? Escalation Control: Dan Feferman, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 15, 2018— I almost entitled this piece “Hamas, What the Hell?!” but I thought better of it.
Palestinians Arresting Women; Where are the Media?: Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 19, 2018 — Last August, the Palestinian Authority (PA) protested because Israel arrested a Palestinian woman from Hebron on charges of incitement and affiliation with Hamas.
Let Me Get On With My Job: How Netanyahu Dwarfed his Political Rivals Within: David Horovitz, Times of Israel, Nov. 19, 2018
How Hamas Brought Israel to the Brink of Election Chaos: Seth J. Frantzman, National Interest, Nov. 16, 2018
Liberman: Bennett Flip-Flop Shows Why Hamas is Emboldened: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, Nov. 19, 2018
The Israeli Security Concept: Wandering Through a Maze: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, Nov. 15, 2018
WILL HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF IF THE
RIGHT BRINGS DOWN A LIKUD GOVERNMENT? Jeff Barak
Jerusalem Post, Nov. 18, 2018
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu knows his history: Whenever a Likud-run government has been brought down by its erstwhile allies on the Right, the Left has returned to power. Hence his determination to recapture control of his coalition and not be seen as having been forced into elections in March.
If there are to be early elections, it is crucial for the prime minister’s positioning that he is the person pulling the plug on his government, at a time of his own choosing, as opposed to losing a no-confidence vote in the Knesset and being kicked out of office.
In 1992, the hardline Yitzhak Shamir had to bring forward the date of the elections after two small right-wing parties left his coalition to protest against a plan to grant autonomy to the Palestinian population in West Bank and Gaza Strip. Fought against a background of a poorly performing economy, no progress in the peace process, and public protests against institutional corruption (unlike our present prime minister, Shamir himself was famed for his frugal lifestyle and disinterest in money), Yitzhak Rabin succeeded in forming the first Labor-led coalition for 15 years.
Seven years later, Netanyahu shared a similar fate to Shamir. Unable to win the right wing’s support for the Wye Agreement, which promised further Israeli withdrawals from populated areas in the West Bank, Netanyahu lost a vote of no confidence in the Knesset, forcing his government to disband. In the resultant elections, Netanyahu was decisively beaten by Labor’s Ehud Barak and turned out of office.
Avigdor Liberman’s resignation as defense minister threatens Netanyahu with a repeat performance of 1992 and 1999. Yet again, a Likud prime minister is being undermined by a political ally to the right of him. Liberman’s charge that Israel capitulated to terrorism in agreeing to a ceasefire with Hamas after the Palestinians fired almost 500 rockets into Israel is a deadly missile attack on Netanyahu’s credentials as Israel’s Mr. Security.
Netanyahu has always promised his supporters a vigorous response to Palestinian terrorism, but his current premiership has been marked by a surprising and welcome pragmatism. On the eve of the most recent round of fighting in Gaza, Netanyahu was busy telling reporters he was doing everything in his power “to prevent an unnecessary war.” On a national level, his decision to follow through on this by seeking a ceasefire and not stepping up Israel’s reaction to Hamas’ rocket attacks was the correct one to make, although it will cost him politically.
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi gave the game away as to Netanyahu’s thinking, with his unscripted remarks that Hamas’ rocket attacks were “minor” in the sense they were not targeted at Tel Aviv. Unpalatable as this truth is, there is a huge difference in terms of the country’s national interest between rockets disturbing Israeli life in Gaza Strip periphery communities and one blowing up a plane on the runway at Ben Gurion Airport. Opposition politicians sanctimoniously declaring otherwise are guilty of shameless political cynicism.
Nevertheless, a prime minister cannot afford to be seen as weak on countering terrorism. Liberman’s resignation, combined with Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett’s constant attacks on the IDF’s weak response to events in Gaza, will inevitably erode Netanyahu’s standing among his base. The demonstrations against the ceasefire in the Likud-supporting heartland of Sderot will definitely have set off the political warning bells in the prime minister’s Balfour Street residence.
On top of this, Netanyahu also risks fighting early elections at exactly the time when Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is liable to make his decision regarding an indictment in the various corruption cases surrounding the prime minister. Despite the prime minister’s insistent denials there is nothing to these charges, he certainly does not want to be going to the polls under the cloud of a criminal indictment.
But unlike 1992 or 1999, Netanyahu is not facing a serious opponent with real leadership credentials. As former IDF chiefs of staff, both Rabin and Barak could outperform Netanyahu in the security arena. Both men also offered the country a chance of real change, which Rabin delivered with the breakthrough Oslo Agreements with the PLO and Barak with his courageous unilateral withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon.
Unfortunately, there is no one in today’s opposition with a similar profile to either Rabin or Barak, nor is there one dominant party able to challenge the Likud’s standing as Israel’s largest party.
Now that Liberman has fired the first bullet in the 2019 election campaign, Israel’s center and center-left parties have a short window of opportunity to rally behind one leader – a returning Ehud Barak? Tzipi Livni? (Yair Lapid is too lightweight for the role and Avi Gabbai is a political nonentity) – and form one party to rival the Likud and bring down Binyamin Netanyahu. If they fail to do so, then Netanyahu will most likely break the pattern of 1992 and 1999 and re-emerge as the country’s next prime minister, despite having lost the support of his right-wing allies.
WHY ISRAEL DOESN’T WANT A WAR WITH GAZA
American Thinker, Nov. 16, 2018
The Israeli people are rarely as angry with their political leadership as they are today – and the reason for their anger is clear: they believe that their leadership has failed to take decisive military action against the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.
As witnessed by the world a few days ago, Hamas began shooting rockets at southern Israeli towns and villages. In total, more than 500 rockets were launched, and in response, Israel undertook very precise, decisive and surgical military air strikes, hitting some of Hamas’s most significant facilities and military installations. This brought about a very quick cease-fire, a cease-fire that has come as a disappointment for many Israelis – especially those who bore the brunt of the attacks. Apparently, the Israeli public wanted military actions that would either annihilate Hamas, or, at least, serve as a deterrent that would force it to stop shooting rockets into Israel.
The call for tough military action against Hamas is so strong that Netanyahu’s Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, resigned in protest after the Prime Minister settled for a quick cease-fire despite Hamas’s defiance, millions of dollars in damage, and more financial support from Iran. Apparently, the Israeli public was further provoked when they saw Hamas celebrating the ceasefire, jubilantly declaring it a “victory” against Israel specifically, and Jews, generally. While militant Hamas operatives celebrated, many Israeli politicians, writers, and commentators are fed up and spitting bullets over what they perceive as the Prime Minister’s inherent weakness in combating terrorism. As a result, hundreds of Israelis from the targeted southern villages protested publicly against the ceasefire.
While the anger of many Israelis is understandable, the facts on the ground clearly explain Netanyahu’s decision to agree to a quick ceasefire – a ceasefire that saved lives on both sides. Simply put, Hamas wants war. It is my experience that when an enemy is so determined to get into an armed conflict, one must be very careful not to give the enemy what they want. Additionally, we have to realize this: those pushing the Hamas buttons are heavily financed by Iran, through the mother group, the Muslim Brotherhood, who is also deeply in bed with Iran. Therefore, it is no stretch of the imagination as to why Hamas started provoking Israel: The military actions started shortly after US sanctions on Iran took effect. In fact, unprovoked, Hamas did not have any apparent reason to start fighting; to the contrary, things were going well for Hamas. On the very day Hamas began firing rockets, they received $15 Million from Saudi Arabia and $60 Million from Qatar to pay its public servants who have not received pay checks. As a result, a joyous atmosphere was dominant in Gaza.
At this point, evidence shows that it is safe to say that Hamas operates upon orders from its Iranian mentors. Iran is already feeling the pain caused by the US-imposed sanctions, and with more sanctions likely to come in the future, they are lashing out – and Israel is their best bet to rally support for them. In other words, Iran needs a war as a diversion from its predicaments, and to tell the US that it could cause trouble and must be left alone, otherwise full scale war will break out.
That said, Netanyahu clearly could have launched a war that would have brought him tremendous public support and strengthened his political position with the Israeli public. Nonetheless he did not give in to public pressure, and did what he felt was right based on military intelligence, because he knew the outcome would hurt Israel’s interest in the long run. The world has to recognize that if Iran got the war it wanted, it would have been the best thing that could happen for them. To make matters worse, their puppets in Hamas really don’t care how many of my people are killed in the process. That is because their terrorist leaders are millionaires hiding in bunkers. In other words, Hamas didn’t have much to lose, while Iran had a lot to gain – and Netanyahu understands this.
On the other hand, Hamas fulfilled its ‘handshake agreement’ with their bosses, and eventually agreed to a ceasefire, against their wishes. In support of this, an Egyptian military intelligence source confided in me yesterday, saying that Egypt conveyed a stern message to Hamas. He told me that the message said the following: “Unless you stop, President Trump will allow Israel to annihilate you”. This scared Hamas to the core, and forced them to agree to the ceasefire.
As for Netanyahu, he has risked his public approval ratings and political career for the sake of his nation’s interest. This is true diplomacy and should be supported around the world. As an Arab, Palestinian, Jordanian and a Muslim, I could not help but think how Arab leaders regularly sacrifice their people for political gain while an Israeli leader is risking his entire political career to save his people. This…is the difference between a politician, and a statesman.
WHAT IS HAMAS’S END-GAME? ESCALATION CONTROL
Jerusalem Post, Nov. 15, 2018
I almost entitled this piece “Hamas, What the Hell?!” but I thought better of it. So, I’ll ask in another way: What is Hamas’s end-game? The answer is: escalation control. In recent months, Hamas has encouraged tens of thousands of miserable and frustrated Gazans to vent their domestic anger not at them, but rather at the Gaza-Israel border. Protesters cut through the fence, torched thousands of tires, threw rocks, shot at soldiers and then realized they can terrorize Israel, Iron Dome and all, with kites and children’s balloons hooked up to flaming Molotov cocktails.
Why? To pressure Israel to relax the blockade it currently maintains on Gaza, together with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The ruthless and crafty terrorist-group-turned-government of the coastal enclave well understands that Israel will not commit mass killing of mostly unarmed Palestinians on its border and that despite its technological and military superiority, it has not yet found an answer to floating fire bombs and favorable winds. Hamas is also well aware that Israel – despite the bluster of its far-right politicians – has no interest in another war in Gaza, and certainly has no interest in reconquering the strip and establishing military control. Hamas well understands that for Israel, it is the lesser evil of many bad options in Gaza.
According to press reports and official comments from Israeli officials, the sides finally reached an agreement recently (through third-party mediators, of course) for a long-term cease-fire in which the protests, balloons and rockets would stop in exchange for Hamas gaining access to a port of its own (possibly in Cyprus), work permits for Gazans to enter Israel, and a relaxation on the embargo. The last piece of the puzzle included Egyptian pressure on the Palestinian Authority to allow such a dynamic, despite that it would grant Hamas the legitimacy it so craves while sidelining Ramallah, pushing it further away from its illusory control over what happens in Gaza. Just to make sure, Hamas also demanded last week, in full mafia form (and got) Israel to accept and even help facilitate the transfer of $15 million in cash (literally, three suitcases in a car) each month from Qatar to help pay Hamas salaries, after Ramallah stopped paying those. Electricity in the Strip is already up from four to eight hours a day since Qatari cash and fuel began entering the impoverished territory through Israel.
So, if Hamas got what it wanted, what does it get from such an unprecedented escalation (Hamas fired more rockets in one day than ever before)? And why now? What the hell, Hamas?! The short answer is: Escalation control, and because it can. While Hamas’s leadership has begrudgingly accepted that they will not be able to defeat and destroy Israel in the conceivable future, they are also acutely aware that Israel will do almost anything to avoid a full-on invasion of Gaza that would result in toppling Hamas’s rule. Such an operation would be extremely costly in Israeli lives, could take many months if not longer to restore order, and would draw significant international criticism as it would most likely result in thousands of Palestinian casualties. While many Israelis say they are in favor of such an operation now, it would become increasingly politically unpopular as the months go by and the casualty count inevitably climbs.
Since Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007, it has instigated three extended conflicts against Israel, characterized by rocket and mortar fire and the digging and utilization of terror tunnels. Having largely neutralized these threats through technological innovation, Israel retaliated each time through aerial and artillery strikes, carefully choosing targets either for their symbolic or military value. The aim in each round of fighting has been to limit Hamas’s war-making ability, reestablish deterrence, and gain escalation control. In other words, Israel has aimed to set the rules of the game; Hamas sought to challenge those rules and establish rules of its own. The two sides, despite a total asymmetry of capabilities, have stumbled, more or less, onto the same playing field. Rockets beget air strikes – that is agreed. But as it turns out, rockets and mortars fired on Israeli border communities beget symbolic air strikes against pinpoint targets replete with advanced warnings (“knock on the roof”) to minimize civilian casualties, or only against the launch-team. Rockets at Ashkelon equal more significant air strikes against high-value targets (as happened last night – Israel struck 160 targets). Hamas already warned the next phase will be to extend rockets to Beersheba and Ashdod, which would invite targeting even higher value targets. Rockets on Tel Aviv will force the ground invasion neither side wants. Apparently, attempts to breach the border fence or incendiary balloons do not pass the threshold for a serious Israeli retaliation. Hamas already succeeded in establishing those rules and Israel has, more or less, accepted them.
According to the IDF Spokesperson, a covert Israeli military unit on a routine mission over the weekend deep in Gaza stumbled upon a Hamas force, resulting in a fire fight in which a senior Israeli officer and seven Hamas members, including a senior military figure were killed. So why risk a major escalation now that could cancel all the significant gains Hamas made? Simple. The 460 rockets fired into Israel, including an anti-tank missile that hit a bus (that just minutes before was full of young soldiers) are Hamas trying to gain an upper hand in the game for escalation control. An Israeli military operation deep in Gaza that ends up killing a senior Hamas leader equals hundreds of rockets, and Hamas wants to make sure Israel thinks twice before trying that again. As the sides reportedly reach a fragile cease-fire to end this two-day exchange, it seems that so far, and at least this time, Hamas has succeeded in controlling the escalation scale, and thus further weakening Israeli deterrence. Until next time.
PALESTINIANS ARRESTING WOMEN; WHERE ARE THE MEDIA? Bassam Tawil
Gatestone Institute, Nov. 19, 2018
Last August, the Palestinian Authority (PA) protested because Israel arrested a Palestinian woman from Hebron on charges of incitement and affiliation with Hamas. The 42-year-old woman, Lama Khater, is also known as a strong critic of the President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority. Khater’s scathing attacks on Abbas and his government, however, did not stop the Palestinian Authority from condemning Israel and demanding her immediate release.
This was not the first time that the Palestinian Authority has condemned Israel for arresting a Palestinian woman who voiced criticism of Abbas and his policies. Last year, the Palestinian Authority condemned Israel for arresting Khaleda Jarrar, a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, one of several PLO terrorist groups. Jarrar was arrested by Israel for membership in a terrorist group and incitement.
The incidents concerning Khater and Jarrar came to mind this week as Palestinian sources revealed that Mahmoud Abbas’s security forces in the West Bank arrested two Palestinian women. The first woman, Majdoleen Marab’eh, was arrested in the West Bank city of Qalqilya after she criticized the Palestinian Authority’s controversial social security law. The law, which has sparked a wave of protests among Palestinians, calls for deducting 7% of private sector employees’ monthly salaries for a social-security fund and setting the retirement age for men and women at 60 years.
The second woman recently arrested by the Palestinian security forces is Suha Jbara, a mother of three from a village near Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians in the West Bank. According to Palestinian sources, the 31-year-old Jbara was arrested on November 2, when more than 25 Palestinian security officers raided her home and arrested her in front of her three children. The sources said she was suspected of transferring donations collected from Palestinians in the West Bank to the families of Palestinians killed and wounded by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip.
Her father, Badran, said she was first taken to a Palestinian Authority detention center in Ramallah where, after a brief interrogation, she was transferred to the PA’s notorious Jericho Prison. He said that although his daughter suffers from a heart disease, she has been denied medical treatment and was being held in harsh conditions. A lawyer appointed by her family has since been banned from seeing her. Jbara’s family has expressed deep concern about her health. “We’re very concerned about her condition because she’s being held in harsh conditions,” the family complained. “Her three children, aged 12, 9 and 8, have since been crying, and are refusing to eat and go to school.”
“In the past few days, there is widespread outrage on social media over the arrest of Suha Jbara,” said Obada Subeih in a blog in the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera network. “Undoubtedly, the Palestinian Authority has become a heavy burden on the Palestinian people. The charges attributed to her are a moral scandal for the Palestinian security forces and the Palestinian political leadership in Ramallah.” Several Palestinians took to social media to express extreme consternation over the arrest of Jbara, and described her imprisonment as “disgraceful.” They also launched several hashtags demanding her release and calling on the International community to exert pressure on the Palestinian Authority to stop targeting women. These appeals, however, have thus far fallen on deaf ears. The Palestinian media in the West Bank, which is directly and indirectly controlled by Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, has ignored the arrest of the two women…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Let Me Get On With My Job: How Netanyahu Dwarfed his Political Rivals Within: David Horovitz, Times of Israel, Nov. 19, 2018 —It was over for Benjamin Netanyahu. He’d agreed on an informal truce with Hamas after 500 rockets had been fired at Israel, and his defense minister, the volatile Avigdor Liberman, had resigned in a seething firestorm of anger and recrimination.
How Hamas Brought Israel to the Brink of Election Chaos: Seth J. Frantzman, National Interest, Nov. 16, 2018—Hamas didn’t achieve a military victory. But toppling the defense minister is a kind of victory because it shows that Hamas can shake Jerusalem’s politics at the very top.
Liberman: Bennett Flip-Flop Shows Why Hamas is Emboldened: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, Nov. 19, 2018 —Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman said Monday that the decision by leaders of the Jewish Home party to drop their ultimatum and remain in the coalition was emblematic of Israel’s inability to follow through on its military threat against terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli Security Concept: Wandering Through a Maze: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, Nov. 15, 2018—The discourse that tends to swirl in the wake of events like this week’s sharp Gaza escalation generally revolves around a clichéd discussion about “the loss of deterrence.”
Israel Rolls Out Election Campaigns, Scenting Early Vote: Mazal Mualem, Al-Monitor, Aug. 1, 2018— On July 27, Defense Minister Avigdor Libe
rman brought the members of his Knesset faction on a visit to the kibbutzim surrounding the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s Opposition Took the Bait of Bibi’s New Law: Zev Chafets, Bloomberg, Aug. 3, 2018— The controversy over the nation-state law passed by Israel’s Knesset on July 19th continues to percolate. At first glance, it is hard to understand why.
Can Israel Be Both Jewish and Democratic?: Alex Grobman, Jewish Press, Aug. 2, 2018— There seems to be no end to the myths surrounding the Jewish state.
Which Foreign Leaders Should Israel Welcome?: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 5, 2018— There were several negative reactions in Israel to the welcome Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban received during his recent visit to the country.
Dangerously Disloyal Opposition?: Dr. Martin Sherman, Arutz Sheva, Aug. 3, 2018
Hypocrisy and Hysteria Regarding the Jewish Nation-State Law: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, July 13, 2018
Livni Returns as Israeli Opposition Leader: Mazal Mualem, Al-Monitor, July 24, 2018
Israel Is Losing the Social Media War: David Patrikarakos, Tablet, June 25, 2018
ISRAEL ROLLS OUT ELECTION CAMPAIGNS, SCENTING EARLY VOTE
Al-Monitor, Aug. 1, 2018
On July 27, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman brought the members of his Knesset faction on a visit to the kibbutzim surrounding the Gaza Strip. At Kibbutz Or HaNer, the Yisrael Beitenu chairman met with local residents who are frustrated after many long weeks of flaming kites destroying their fields and ruining their children’s summer vacations. Liberman sent the message that he is not afraid of taking the conflict with Hamas up a notch, making statements like, “If we get Code Red sirens here, it’ll get deep red in Gaza.”
Liberman and his staff have been making many such comments online and to journalists. During their visit to the south, the faction also held a private meeting in the restaurant on Kibbutz Bror Hayil. That evening, the News Company reported on a clash between Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Cabinet meeting a few days earlier. Liberman wanted to deal a harsh military blow to Gaza, but Netanyahu blocked it.
According to the report, Liberman used the faction meeting to give his own account of the tension between himself and Netanyahu. He has a reputation for creating crises for his own political ends, so it is certainly safe to assume that the current one is another example. Liberman wants to present himself as taking a much more aggressive stance against Hamas than Netanyahu is, particularly since voters currently give the government low marks on this issue. According to a July 24 poll by the News Company, 70% of the public is unhappy with the way the flaming kites from Gaza are being handled by the government.
Liberman may sit in the Defense Ministry, but most people still do not consider him an authority on security matters. He is therefore trying to use the Gaza crisis to boost his standing. He will continue fighting with Netanyahu on this issue as long as it serves his interests.
Meanwhile, all signs on the ground seem to indicate that Liberman is preparing for early Knesset elections, as are all the other key players. His highly publicized clash with Netanyahu — the first of its kind since he became defense minister in May 2016 — is further evidence. Officially, the prime minister’s office denies any dispute, but a source close to Netanyahu has been quoted in the Israeli press as saying, “Liberman is a big talker but his actions are very much the opposite.”
All this happened one week after the Knesset began its summer recess July 22. While the coalition is still intact, there are still a lot of unresolved tension and conflicts that could come to a head when the Knesset begins its winter session Oct. 15. Then, many believe, some excuse will be found to dissolve the Knesset and the country will head to early elections. Since none of the major players want to be caught off guard, they launched their 2019 campaigns last week, even if unofficially.
Kulanu’s chairman, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, was the quickest and also the most direct. Last week he hosted a festive inauguration of his election headquarters in Tel Aviv and plastered the streets with campaign posters.
But that was just the beginning. On July 29, hundreds of thousands of readers of Yisrael HaYom, the free newspaper owned by Sheldon Adelson and usually identified with Netanyahu, came across a very unusual headline. It was actually a huge ad in disguise that took up the entire front page. It contained a long list of achievements attributed to Kahlon, drawn from every imaginable field: security, healthy and education. Kahlon’s boasting about achievements far beyond his own finance domain infuriated the other ministers, who claimed that he was taking credit for things that he did not do. “He always complains that Netanyahu does that to him, but now that he is facing election pressure, he is doing the exact same thing,” one Likud minister told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.
Kahlon isn’t too worried. In talks with his associates he expressed his belief that sometime in October, Netanyahu will find an excuse to hold an election before any recommendation to indict him is made. What will be the excuse for dissolving the government? Netanyahu has several options. In any case, he is acting as though he is preparing for early elections. He refuses to change the controversial recently adopted nationality law despite growing protests among the Druze community, because the new law is popular with Likud voters and Netanyahu believes that it will be a banner issue in his upcoming campaign. As he prepares to face off against HaBayit HaYehudi leader Naftali Bennett, with whom he will be competing for the right-wing vote, Netanyahu will try to resolve the problem with the Druze protests through dialogue, economic incentives and point-specific legislation, but he will not back down from the law. On the contrary, the Likud leader is already marketing the new law aggressively. A new video he posted online goes so far as to accuse the left of disseminating lies about it.
Then there are the LGBT protests over the last few weeks over the amended surrogacy law, which discriminates against gay men. Here, too, Netanyahu is not expected to surprise anyone with an about-face on policy. With elections in the offing, Netanyahu will not risk his alliance with the ultra-Orthodox parties, which he will need to put together his next government. Netanyahu will need to be fully confident that the ultra-Orthodox parties will continue be his partners if he forms his fifth government…
ISRAEL’S OPPOSITION TOOK THE BAIT OF BIBI’S NEW LAW
Bloomberg, Aug. 3, 2018
The controversy over the nation-state law passed by Israel’s Knesset on July 19th continues to percolate. At first glance, it is hard to understand why. The bill seems superfluous. It starts by asserting three principles that have been the essence of Jewish nationalism for more than a century: The land of Israel is “the historical homeland of the Jewish people.” The State of Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people.” And, in that state, the Jewish people are uniquely entitled to “national self-determination.”
From there the law reiterates long-established facts of Israeli law. The flag, which it describes, is the same old Star of David. The national anthem remains the same. Saturday is the day of rest (with alternatives for non-Jewish citizens). Hebrew is the official language (Arabic enjoys the same special status it has always had). Israel encourages free Jewish immigration with the goal of gathering “exiled” diaspora communities. And so on.
This is Zionism 101. Since the founding of the state, it has gone without saying. So why did it need to be said now? The answer is a national election is on the horizon. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an ex-special forces officer, always lays a few traps in the political battlefield beforehand. And his opponents consistently fall into them. That has happened again with the law. Bibi’s two main rival parties joined with the anti-Zionist Arab List and a hard-left fringe party, Meretz, in voting against the law. The final count was 62-55 in favor, with two abstentions and one absence.
A who’s who of Israeli writers and artists denounced the legislation as “a sin” and demanded it be rescinded forthwith. Yuval Noah Harari, the author of the international best-seller, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind,” publicly refused an invitation to appear with Bill Gates at an event sponsored by the Israeli consulate in LA. Meanwhile, Israel’s airwaves and social media were dominated by commentators calling Bibi a fascist and the law a disgrace. The climate was hot enough that one or two of his centrist colleagues seemed to waver.
Then, at the weekly Sunday cabinet meeting, Bibi launched a counter-offensive. “Do not apologize” he ordered his ministers. “Attacks from the Israeli left, which calls itself Zionist, reveal how low it has sunk, how a basic tenet of Zionism — a Jewish nation-state for the Israeli people in its country — has become, for [the left] a rude and dirty term, a shameful principle. We are not ashamed of Zionism.”
Cabinet ministers heard the message and stood firm. The wisdom of Bibi’s approach was confirmed when the first post-legislation poll was published, showing 58 percent of the public favors the law, while just 34 percent (including 100 percent of Israeli Arabs) are opposed. Even more important, slightly more than half of Yesh Atid’s voters and a substantial number of Zionist Union supporters — the two main opposition parties who voted against the law — agree with the law.
These numbers will grow as Netanyahu relentlessly charges his opponents with abandoning the symbols and principles of the founding fathers. I don’t want to suggest that this is merely a cynical campaign strategy. Netanyahu, like every one of his predecessors (and the great majority of Israelis) believes that Israel is sui generis, a country founded with a specific purpose for a particular people. The law reflects that.
Israel is a democracy, but it’s not egalitarian. It is a Jewish democracy. All its citizens have civil rights (to vote, hold office, get a fair trial, speak freely and worship in their own way) but the Law of Return gives Jews anywhere in the world the right to automatic immigration. This is discrimination, plain and simple.
Members of the progressive intelligentsia and their Jewish counterparts abroad, want to see Israel drop its Zionist mission and become, like other modern democracies, simply a state of all its citizens. They argue that an officially Jewish state is both undemocratic and unattractive. In the long run, critics say, it could cost Israel its reputation and its American support.
Perhaps they are right about this. But the long run isn’t really the issue. Prime ministers stay in power one election at a time, and Bibi intends to win re-election to a fourth consecutive term. His right wing coalition partners will be with him because they have nowhere else to go. But if he makes inroads in the center, he can have the kind of broad government he has dreamed of. If that comes to pass, he will look back on the 19th of July, 2018 as the day his opponents walked into the trap by voting against a bill that happens to enshrine the most cherished values of the Israeli mainstream.
CAN ISRAEL BE BOTH JEWISH AND DEMOCRATIC?
Jewish Press, Aug. 2, 2018
There seems to be no end to the myths surrounding the Jewish state. Israel is accused of being an apartheid state, an occupier of Palestinian Arab lands, and an international war criminal. On December 28, 2016, US Secretary of State John Kerry added another canard to this litany when he warned that if Israel rejects a two-state solution, “it can be Jewish or it can be democratic-it cannot be both.”
Mr. Kerry, thereby, demonstrates his limited understanding of how Israel is governed as well as how against incredible odds the country remains both Jewish and democratic. Nor did the Obama administration even attempt to draw such a distinction in its outright support of the Muslim Brotherhood-based government of Mohammed Morsi in Egypt.
Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the US, observed that the U.S. Britain and Canada are among the few countries in the world that have had continual democratic governments. Although from inception Israel has been threatened with extinction, she has never yielded to the wartime demands of instituting onerous restrictive laws that often destroy other democracies.
If anything, the Palestinian Arab/Israeli conflict has “tempered” Israeli democracy, providing equal rights even to Arabs and Jews who refute her right to exist. “Is there another democracy,” Oren asks, “that would uphold the immunity of legislators who praise the terrorists sworn to destroy it? Where else could more than 5 percent of the population — the equivalent of 15 million Americans — rally in protest without incident and be protected by the police. And which country could rival the commitment to the rule of law…whose former president was convicted and jailed for sexual offenses by three Supreme Court justices — two women and an Arab? Israeli democracy, according to pollster Khalil Shikaki, topped the US as the most admired government in the world — by the Palestinians.”
What is equally remarkable Oren opines, is that Israel was founded by Jews from autocratic societies who were forced to grapple with issues of identity and security that would have overwhelmed even the most seasoned democracies. These discussions occurred at a time when they were occupied in absorbing almost two million Jewish immigrants from the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.
While Israel’s institutions and principles of governing are democratic, the Jewish state is nevertheless different. Like Bulgaria, Greece, and Ireland, Israel is a nation-state, but with a large Arab minority, whose national character and language are officially recognized. Though Judaism plays a preeminent role in the country’s public and political life, Judaism is not Israel’s national religion, unlike Denmark, Great Britain, and Cambodia, which have a national religion. And in contrast to the other democracies in the world, Israel has never lived in peace with her neighbors. Israel continually struggles with balancing the responsibilities of preserving liberty, while safeguarding her national existence.
Israeli historian Alexander Yacobson and Amnon Rubinstein, a former Israeli Minister of Education, point out that except for Lebanon, the constitutions of the Arab countries acknowledge Islam as the state religion, and confer official status to Sharia law, albeit in different formulations. Syria’s constitution states that Islam is the religion of the head of state, while declaring Sharia is the primary source of legislation. Though some Western democracies have “official, established,” or state churches, this does not preclude freedom of religion for those practicing other religions.
Israel’s refusal to compromise democratic principles even during times of extreme national emergency has not gone unnoticed. “Congress should have spent more time learning from the Israeli experience,” wrote Harvard Law School dean Martha Minow and Professor Gabriella Blum in 2006, noting that Israel provides broader rights to security detainees than the United States. In spite of the unrelenting and often existential nature of the threats confronting Israel, the country has maintained the standards established on the day of her independence. As Arab armies joined with local Arab forces in attempting to destroy the nascent state, Ben-Gurion determined that Israel “must not begin with national discrimination.’” Israeli Arabs vote and run for political office.
Contrary to a popular myth, Israel is not a theocracy. More accurately, Israel is “a nation-state of the Jewish people,” including many who would not be considered Jewish according to Jewish law. In many areas, Israel is exceptionally liberal, with progressive legislation on gay rights, support for single-parent families, and abortion. Israel never had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for her military. Restrictions on gay enlistments were removed in 1993. Same-sex couples are granted the same rights as heterosexual couples, and Israel offers refuge to Palestinian Arab homosexuals fleeing from Islamists in Palestinian Arab controlled areas.
Aharon Barak, a former President of Israel’s Supreme Court, claims the emphasis on human rights is a direct result of the Holocaust from which Israel has learned “that human rights are the core of substantive democracy…without protection for human rights, there can be no democracy and no justification for democracy.” Religious parties participate in elections, and although the Chief Rabbinate wields broad influence regarding lifecycle events (marriage, burial), Israel’s secular legislative and judicial branches and security services have the definitive authority. In other words, “Israel has no official state religion, and Judaism does not enjoy any legally privileged status (other than that which derives, as a matter of course, from its being the religion of the majority)” asserts Amnon Rubenstein, a former dean of the Tel Aviv Law School…
WHICH FOREIGN LEADERS SHOULD ISRAEL WELCOME?
Jerusalem Post, Aug. 5, 2018
There were several negative reactions in Israel to the welcome Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban received during his recent visit to the country. The arguments brought forward included Orban’s rehabilitation of Hungary’s antisemitic leader and ally of Hitler, Admiral Miklós Horthy. There were also complaints about Orban’s illiberalism and the antisemitism in Hungary. It was 80 years ago in July that the Evian conference took place to discuss the fate of the Jewish refugees, who had nowhere to flee. Except for the Dominican Republic, no country was willing to accept them. The democracies at that time were unsavory nations, the others were usually worse.
Democracies and other states are still partly unsavory, be it in a mutated way. The big difference in the world is the arrival of biased supranational bodies. For instance, the voting pattern at the UN General Assembly concerning Israel, according to the prime definition of antisemitism – that of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – leads to the conclusion that the UN is a frequently antisemitic institution.
In view of the superficial comments against Orban’s visit, it is worthwhile to try to establish more rational political criteria – in addition to business considerations – for welcoming visiting state leaders. These could include issues such as: 1) Does the government of the visiting leader financially support the Palestinian Authority, which enables it to free other monies to incentivize and pay murderers of Israelis and their families? 2) Does that country vote against Israel in the UN, and where relevant, in the EU? 3) Does that country’s government interfere in Israel’s internal affairs? 4) Has the country let in a massive number of Muslims without barring the antisemites among them? 5) Are Jews in the visiting leader’s country subject to violence? 6) Do the country’s leaders distort the Holocaust?
Other criteria could include: When country leaders visit Israel, do they also visit the Palestinian Authority, thereby placing it at the same level as Israel? Does their government support BDS-promoting organizations? As the level of sophistication in this investigating process increases, different weights can also be given to the various categories listed.
The reproach that Orban has rehabilitated Horthy, the antisemitic leader of his country from 1920 to 1944 is justified. Horthy applied antisemitic measures already before the Second World War. However, Hungary does not finance the Palestinian Authority, it usually does not vote against Israel in supranational institutions, it has not let in Muslim refugees and thus avoided the import of extreme antisemites among them. There is sizable verbal incitement against Jews in Hungary, but little or no violence against them. Orban’s government does not interfere in Israel’s internal politics. The Hungarian Prime Minister did not visit the Palestinian Authority. As far as I recall, the synagogues in Budapest I went to did not need security guards. The Hungarian government does not give money to BDS-supporting institutions.
Israel would gladly welcome French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. The Israeli opposition politicians who came out against Orban would most likely remain silent. On most of the other above criteria – except for the distortion of the Holocaust – France’s reality is far more negative than that of Hungary. France is the West European country where the majority of murders of Jews for ideological reasons in this century have taken place. No Western European country has such a significant percentage of Jews emigrating as France…
Dangerously Disloyal Opposition?: Dr. Martin Sherman, Arutz Sheva, Aug. 3, 2018—The last week was one of immense sadness for me. It was a week in which I watched—incredulously—as a savage, mindless and hugely hypocritical attack was launched against a noble ideal to which I have devoted almost my entire adult life: The idea of a sovereign nation-state for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland.
Hypocrisy and Hysteria Regarding the Jewish Nation-State Law: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, July 13, 2018—Heaps of hypocritical and hysterical bombast are being hurled at the government’s plans to constitutionalize Israel’s status as the Jewish nation-state, so it is important to explain why this law is necessary and must be passed into law next week. In short: The delicate balance between Israel’s Jewish and democratic characters has been upset over the past 25 years by the Israeli Supreme Court. Former Chief Justice Aharon Barak and his ultra-liberal successors have dramatically diluted the Jewish dimension of the Jewish-and-democratic equilibrium. Time for a reset.
Livni Returns as Israeli Opposition Leader: Mazal Mualem, Al-Monitor, July 24, 2018—When Avi Gabbay defeated Isaac Herzog last year and was elected head of the Zionist Camp, he could not take over the position of Knesset opposition head, a post reserved for incumbent Knesset members. When the Jewish Agency approved Herzog as its chief in June, the issue of opposition head came up once again. A few weeks later, Gabbay decided that Tzipi Livni would replace Herzog in the post.
Israel Is Losing the Social Media War: David Patrikarakos, Tablet, June 25, 2018—Global outrage over last month’s peak to the so-called Great March of Return on the Gaza-Israel border was instant and understandable. Over 50 people died and hundreds more were injured on a single day. What happened was as viscerally unpleasant as civil strife gets. It was brutal.
Likud, Israel’s Natural Party of Government: Micah Levinson, Jerusalem Post, June 16, 2018— P olls suggest that Likud is a shoo-in to win the next Knesset election, which will occur no later than November 2019.
Israel’s Battle of the Ex-Generals: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, June 11, 2018 — Israel’s political establishment is expecting the next elections to take place between March and June 2019…
Cyprus, Greece, and Israel Chart a Common Path: George N. Tzogopoulos, Algemeiner, June 12, 2018 — Cyprus, Greece, and Israel are steadily building a democratic geopolitical bloc in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Who Leads Israel?: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, June 1, 2018— Israel has a problem with its security brass.
Israel Needs ‘Iron Dome for Diplomacy,’ Deputy Minister Says: Shoshanna Solomon, Times of Israel, June 17, 2018
New Strategic Dimensions of the Eastern Mediterranean: Dr. Spyridon N. Litsas, BESA, June 11, 2018
The Positive History of Israeli-African Relations: Benji Shulman, Algemeiner, June 6, 2018
Silicon Wadi: Israel’s Arab Tech Boom: Simone Somekh, Tablet, June 3, 2018
LIKUD, ISRAEL’S NATURAL PARTY OF GOVERNMENT
Jerusalem Post, June 16, 2018
Polls suggest that Likud is a shoo-in to win the next Knesset election, which will occur no later than November 2019. Although a week is an eternity in politics, Likud today boasts twice as much support as the runner-up, Yesh Atid, and enjoys systemic advantages that will prevent other parties from forming governments in the foreseeable future. The four factors likely to keep Likud in power include: (1) the Israeli political center-left’s fragmentation, (2) the decline of Shas, (3) the center-left’s alienation of religious Jews, and (4) the center-left’s reliance on the Arab parties to form a government.
After Knesset elections, the Israeli president invites the leader of the party most likely to be able to assemble a coalition representing a parliamentary majority to form a government. Because Israel uses a proportional voting system that guarantees a proliferation of parties across the ideological spectrum, the president, except for a unique case, simply invites the leader of the largest party to form a government.
Between 1973 and 1996, the Knesset contained only two large parties that could feasibly form a government. On the right was the religion and settlement friendly Likud while the Alignment (renamed Labor when its constituent parties merged in 1991), secular and more invested in the “land-forpeace” concept, dominated the left.
In recent years, however, the centrist Yesh Atid has joined the rank of first tier parties, finishing second in the 2013 election and polling second now. Militantly secular, but more nationalistic than Labor, Yesh Atid poaches more votes from Labor than Likud. Simultaneously, Yesh Atid loses many centrist votes to the medium-sized Kulanu party and some strident secularists to Yisrael Beiteinu.
Conversely, Likud’s competition on the right is declining. Traditional Jews originating from Muslim countries are an integral part of the Likud’s base. Consequently, former Sephardic chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef launching the Shas party in 1984 to represent the interests of religious Jews of Middle Eastern descent impaired Likud’s electoral performance. In 1999, Shas won 17 out of the Knesset’s 120 seats, only two less than Likud. However, since Yosef’s passing in 2013, Shas has been hemorrhaging voters to Likud, falling from 11 seats in the 2013 election to seven in 2015 and presently polling between four or five.
Although Shas’ influence is waning, the religious parties remain a potent bloc. To maintain majority support in the Knesset, Labor has always required the support of either Orthodox Jewish or Arab parties. Today, that poses an insuperable obstacle to the left gaining power. Any government excluding Likud would require Yesh Atid, whose uncompromising opposition to draft exemptions for yeshiva students makes a coalition with Shas or United Torah Judaism impossible.
Up until the 1970s, the Alignment included affiliated Arab parties, such as Progress and Development and the Arab List for Beduin and Villagers, in their governments. However, today’s Arab parties are explicitly anti-Zionist. Rabin’s 1992-1995 government was the only one to depend on such parties to remain in power and it compromised his government’s legitimacy in many Israelis’ eyes. The centrist Kulanu and probably even Yesh Atid would refuse to join a government reliant on these Arab parties, again making a coalition government excluding Likud impossible.
Theoretically, future breakaway parties from Likud could cancel out the effect of Shas’s demise. After Ariel Sharon created Kadima in 2005 to promote disengagement from the West Bank, Likud was reduced to just 12 seats in the subsequent election, the party’s worst performance in history. Likud also lost a few seats in the 1980s and 1990s to far-right splinter groups, such as Tehiyah and Herut, and centrist ones, like the Center Party. Such fragmentation, however, is much less likely now for two reasons: (1) A higher electoral threshold makes small splinter groups unfeasible. (2) Kadima’s establishment purged Likud of its moderates, making it nearly ideologically homogenous and immune from large splits.
Kulanu represents not so much a medium-sized centrist breakaway party from Likud than a case of a disgruntled ex-Likudnik founding a faction that includes no other Likudniks on its list and appeals to a different group of voters, namely lower-working class centrists who feel unrepresented by Lapid’s middle class centrist politics.
While Likud’s prospects look bright, some might assume that their continued success depends on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership. For years, Netanyahu has topped polls asking voters which party leader they would prefer as prime minister. Yet, some surveys show Likud winning even more seats with another leader at the helm. A Testnet poll released in April 2017 found Likud winning two more seats lead by Gideon Sa’ar than by Netanyahu and the margin increased to five seats in a November 2017 Maariv poll. It appears that, whether Netanyahu retires or is felled by the current corruption investigations, Likud will remain Israel’s ruling party for the foreseeable future.
ISRAEL’S BATTLE OF THE EX-GENERALS
Al-Monitor, June 11, 2018
Israel’s political establishment is expecting the next elections to take place between March and June 2019, about half a year before the original date in early November. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon talks about the earlier election dates, as does Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The most dramatic question of all is whether Netanyahu will still head the Likud list in the next elections. The answer to this question lies mainly with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. Netanyahu will do everything possible to act before Mandelblit makes his decision of whether or not to indict him, and rush into the elections. The prime minister believes that he will emerge from early elections stronger than ever. For the moment, Mandelblit is taking his time and the chances are low that in the coming months he will come to a decision in regard to the investigations into the prime minister.
Behind the scenes, a real political battle is being waged: the battle of the generals. On the political stage stand former chiefs of staff, generals, defense ministers and Mossad higher-ups, all of whom want to jump into the political waters. What unites them is their bitter grudges against Netanyahu and their strong desire to bring about his replacement. What separates them is one thing: their egos.
The list includes former Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (Res.) Benny Gantz; his predecessor, former Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi; Moshe Ya’alon, a former defense minister who also served as chief of staff; Deputy Director of Mossad Ram Ben-Barak; other former Mossad and Shin Bet personages and several junior has-beens. Even the name of Shaul Mofaz, a former chief of staff and defense minister who took a break from the political system in 2015, is still bandied about in this context.
Each party apart from the Likud dances around this company of generals in the hope that one of them will give the party an edge in the battle for second place (Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid is currently Netanyahu’s strongest rival in the polls) or help them publicly challenge Netanyahu’s position and status. Netanyahu doesn’t seem to be very worried. He has long since fortified his position as “Mr. Security.” This time, for a change, he is not dependent on external strengthening. The burden of proof is on the other side now.
To the electorate, the most interesting and attractive figure is Gantz. In recent months, Zionist Camp Chair Avi Gabbay has been pressuring Gantz to join the party. Gabbay’s position in the polls appears hopeless; he has completely lost the momentum he had created after conquering the Labor Party. To get back into the fray against Lapid, Gabbay needs Gantz. During advanced negotiations between them, an option was raised that Gantz be floated “above Gabbay’s head” and serve as the party’s candidate for prime minister while Gabbay retains the role of party chairman. Gabbay also floated this idea in a poll he recently ordered. It turns out that while Gabbay only brings about 15 Knesset seats or less to the party, Gantz would bring 25 to the 120-seat legislature. Party seniors are convinced that Gabbay and Gantz will close this deal soon. Gabbay denies this but does verify that Gantz is “becoming close” to the party.
The next in line, Ashkenazi, is playing hard to get. He has been in civvies for seven years already, enjoying his life, but the scars of the 2010 Harpaz affair have not yet healed. Ashkenazi, who is viewed as one of Netanyahu’s more stinging critics, will only roll up his sleeves to join a winning platform. He dreams that Lapid and Kahlon unite into one political entity, which he would be willing to join without any preconditions. Ashkenazi told Al-Monitor that such a unification would constitute a real alternative to the rulership that could bring about change and create new hope. Lapid was a predecessor to Kahlon as finance minister, and while they are friendly they lack mutual respect; it is mainly Kahlon who respects Lapid less. Thus, under the current circumstances, the chances are that Ashkenazi will prefer to remain a bystander.
A tragic figure is that of Ya’alon. After he was ousted from his position in 2016 by Netanyahu for the benefit of Avigdor Liberman, Ya’alon chose to quit the Likud altogether and become Netanyahu’s No. 1 nemesis. Ya’alon founded an association and spends his days and nights ploughing through the country and appearing almost every day before different audiences. But he still hasn’t seen positive results in the polls. Should Ya’alon’s takeoff continue to stall, there is a good chance that he will join one of the other existing forces on the ground, such as Yesh Atid. Lapid lacks a military background and thus is searching for an attractive general figure to retain his party’s electoral edge over Gabbay and create a springboard for himself in the battle for the premiership. He dreams about Ashkenazi, prefers Gantz, but will be happy to take Ya’alon with both hands.
The problem is really psychological in nature. Lt. Gen. (Res.) Ya’alon is the man who headed the commando unit that penetrated the villa of Khalil al-Wazir, also known as Abu Jihad, and eliminated him 30 years ago in Tunis. A military senior of Ya’alon’s stature would have a hard time taking orders from someone like Lapid, a former military newspaper correspondent who is about 20 years younger and with far less experience. Nonetheless, Lapid hopes that Ya’alon will get used to the idea…
CYPRUS, GREECE, AND ISRAEL CHART A COMMON PATH
George N. Tzogopoulos
Algemeiner, June 12, 2018
Cyprus, Greece, and Israel are steadily building a democratic geopolitical bloc in the Eastern Mediterranean. They are exploring ways to collaborate in fields ranging from energy to communication technology and defense. Greek- and Jewish-American communities are exploiting the momentum to further boost the developing “triangle” and encourage US support. However, despite progress among the governments and the generally positive climate, warning signs of antisemitism in Greece underline the need for grassroots action to combine political achievements with wide public support.
The fourth Cyprus-Greece-Israel tripartite summit, which took place in Nicosia on May 8, 2018, made plain the determination of the three countries to deepen their cooperation. Nicos Anastasiades, Alexis Tsipras, and Benjamin Netanyahu discussed new fields of interest, including public security, cinema co-production, maritime pollution, telecommunications, and the reduction of data roaming costs. They agreed that the fifth trilateral summit will take place within a year in Beersheba, a place described by Netanyahu as “cyber city.” At that event, the parties plan to advance their dialogue on communication technologies.
At present, the countries are emphasizing their collaboration at the military level. Symbolically, Greek fighter planes participated in an Israeli Air Force aerial show to celebrate Israel and the IDF’s 70th Independence Day. Also, the Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff, Lt. Gen. Alkiviadis Stefanis, visited Israel at the invitation of Maj. Gen. Yaacov Barak, the IDF’s Ground Forces Commander, who had already visited Greece in January. According to media reports, the two sides are discussing potential joint actions against new threats, as well as exchange programs. Staff talks involving representatives of the armed forces of Cyprus, Greece, and Israel took place in the Jewish state on May 9.
Energy remains at the center of attention. Cyprus and Israel currently disagree on the division of the Aphrodite reservoir and this disagreement could lead to international arbitration. Το avoid such a scenario, Nicosia and Jerusalem are engaging in a “transparent and productive dialogue,” as Israeli Ambassador to Cyprus Shmuel Revel put it to the Cyprus News Agency. Cypriot Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said that companies should first attempt to reach settlements on gas quantities on their own, but this process has not yet begun.
This issue is not expected to be easily solved. Lakkotrypis sees it as “one of the most important differences” between Cyprus and Israel. His Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz declares, “Israel cannot give up, not even as a gesture of friendship, on its territories or its natural resources.” The lack of a sharing formula on the Aphrodite gas field does not prevent Cyprus, Israel, and Greece from examining the construction of an EastMed pipeline. Following the tripartite Nicosia summit, the Israeli ambassador to Greece, Irit Ben-Abba, spoke about a fast rhythm for the potential realization of this “adventurous project.”
An EastMed pipeline would cost more than a pipeline connecting Israel to Turkey, but would enhance security in the Eastern Mediterranean. That is why it is anathema to Ankara. Following the Nicosia meeting, the Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said EastMed might not function as a route to peace and advocated for the transportation of gas resources from the Levantine Basin to Europe via Turkey. Comments like these show Ankara’s unease with the evolving cooperation among Cyprus, Greece, and Israel. The creation of a democratic bloc in the Eastern Mediterranean does not serve Turkish President’s Erdoğan’s neo-Ottoman aspirations — indeed, it might disrupt them.
Executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) Endy Zemenides said in an interview that his organization and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) were coordinating an advocacy campaign in Washington to strengthen the Cyprus-Greece-Israel triangle with US support. A restriction on F-35 jet sales to Turkey and the end of the Cyprus Arms Embargo Act are among the goals. In May 2018, the fifth anniversary of the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance was also celebrated in the US. The more Ankara’s tactics are exposed by Cyprus, Israel, and Greece, the more the international community becomes aware of Erdoğan’s motivations.
The fourth Cyprus-Greece-Israel tripartite summit took place on the same day that US President Donald Trump made his Iran speech. This led both Cyprus and Greece to take a public position on how they view Israel’s sensitivity towards the Iranian threat — despite their need to align their policies with that of the EU. President Anastasiades told i24NEWS that he “urged Iran to pursue good relations with all of their neighbors and to respect the principle of non-interference.” Prime Minister Tsipras underlined that he shared Prime Minister’s Netanyahu’s concern, but advocated for the preservation of the Iran nuclear deal. Greek companies like Hellenic Petroleum that are importing oil from Iran are reportedly coming up with alternative plans. Notwithstanding the strong momentum and high level of political support for the strengthening of the Cyprus-Greece-Israel geopolitical alliance in the Eastern Mediterranean, old stereotypes and prejudices are undermining wider acceptance.
Worryingly, signs of antisemitism are resurfacing, at least in Greece. Α Greek cartoonist recently compared the situation in the Gaza Strip with the Holocaust, and drew a parallel between Israeli policies and Nazi practices. Both the Central Israel Council of Greece and the Embassy of Israel criticized the comparison. However, the Greek blogosphere teems with articles calling the “targeting” of the cartoonist unfair and suggesting that he was correct in condemning Israel’s behavior towards the Palestinians…
WHO LEADS ISRAEL?
Jerusalem Post, June 1, 2018
Israel has a problem with its security brass. And this week we received several reminders that the situation needs to be dealt with. Since the Hamas regime in Gaza announced in March that it was planning to have civilians swarm the border with Israel, through this week’s Hamas-Islamic Jihad mortar and rocket assault on southern Israel, the IDF General Staff has been insisting there is only one thing Israel can do about Gaza.
According to our generals, Israel needs to shower Hamas with stuff. Food, medicine, water, electricity, medical supplies, concrete, cold hard cash, whatever Hamas needs, Israel should just hand it over in the name of humanitarian assistance. Every single time reporters ask the generals what Israel can do to end Hamas’s jihadist campaign, they give the same answer. Let’s shower them with stuff.
The fact that the Palestinian Authority is blocking humanitarian aid to Gaza makes no impression on the generals. For months now, PA chief Mahmoud Abbas has refused to pay salaries to Hamas regime employees or pay for Gaza’s electricity and fuel. Hamas, for its part, destroyed the Kerem Shalom cargo terminal two weeks ago, blocking all transfer of gas and food to Gaza. And this week it blew up its electricity lines with a misfired mortar aimed at Israel.
Hamas’s determination to use civilians as human shields for its terrorists is a pretty clear message that it does not care about the people it controls. But for whatever reason, it didn’t register with the General Staff. As residents of the South were rushing to bomb shelters every 10 minutes or so on Tuesday, generals were briefing reporters that Israel must give them medicine.
When Hamas then refused to receive medical supplies from Israel, the generals doubled down and said that the only card Israel has to play is to give Gaza humanitarian aid. And they told reporters that their job at the next security cabinet meeting will be to convince Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers that Israel needs to give the Hamas regime stuff.
Then there is the issue of terrorist bodies. Hamas holds the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, both killed in action during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Hamas also holds Israeli civilian hostages Avra Mengistu and Hisham a-Suwaid. In January 2017, the security cabinet decided that Israel will retain the bodies of terrorists rather than transfer them to Palestinian authorities for burial. The purpose of the decision was to pressure Hamas to release the Israeli hostages and remains of the IDF personnel it holds. Despite the cabinet decision, since the cabinet made its decision, Israel has transferred to Hamas the bodies of five terrorist murderers. Each time, the IDF General Staff stood behind the move.
Currently, the government is holding the body of Hamas terrorist Aziz Awisat who just died in prison. Media reports indicate the IDF is pushing for the government to appease Hamas again and transfer his body to Gaza for burial. To block the move, Goldin’s parents petitioned the High Court on Monday and demanded the government inform them 72 hours in advance of any transfer of a terrorist’s body to Hamas. The government agreed to the Goldin family’s demand on Thursday morning. It is inarguable that these bodies of terrorists are valuable bargaining chips in the government’s efforts to repatriate its hostages and the remains of its soldiers. The fact that the IDF General Staff repeatedly undercuts the government’s efforts to secure their release, by surreptitiously transferring the terrorists’ bodies to Hamas, is of a piece with its irrational belief that it is Israel’s responsibility to ensure a quality of life for denizens of Hamasland…
Israel Needs ‘Iron Dome for Diplomacy,’ Deputy Minister Says: Shoshanna Solomon, Times of Israel, June 17, 2018—Israel needs to create an “Iron Dome” for diplomacy, to help the nation protect its image on the battlefield of public relations, Michael Oren, Israel’s deputy minister for public diplomacy said on Sunday at a conference on terrorism and cybersecurity in Tel Aviv.
New Strategic Dimensions of the Eastern Mediterranean: Dr. Spyridon N. Litsas, BESA, June 11, 2018—For the first time since the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, the Eastern Mediterranean is in the midst of a tectonic shift.
The Positive History of Israeli-African Relations: Benji Shulman, Algemeiner, June 6, 2018—Just last month Israel scored another big diplomatic win in Africa, when Israeli President Reuven Rivlin successfully toured Ethiopia. He took along a massive entourage, including government officials, business people, NGOs, and even Ethiopian-Israeli singer Ester Rada.
Silicon Wadi: Israel’s Arab Tech Boom: Simone Somekh, Tablet, June 3, 2018—Paulus VI is the single, narrow artery that snakes through the old city of Nazareth, choked with a seemingly endless line of vehicles. On either side of the thoroughfare, there is dust and noise and vendors chatting at high decibel in Arabic in relentless heat. For the last two years, a sign above a modern sand-colored building spells out in English, “Microsoft.”
Watching Netanyahu in Tehran: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2018— The same day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel seized Iran’s archive of its military nuclear program in Tehran and spirited it to Israel, a video was posted of IDF soldiers singing Soltane Ghalbha, a traditional Persian love song – in Persian.
Lieberman Offers Strong Words, but Little Action on Palestinian Salaries for Terrorists: Maurice Hirsch, JNS, May 7, 2018— One of the pressing legislative issues that the Knesset will address in its summer session is penalizing the Palestinian Authority (PA) for its nefarious practice of paying salaries to terrorists and their families.
Restoring Balance Between the Knesset and the Court: Vic Rosenthal, Jewish Press, May 1, 2018— A hot potato today in Israel’s Knesset is the so-called chok hahitgabrut (literally, “the overriding law”) which would provide a way for the Knesset to pass a law over the objections of the Supreme Court.
Democracy Depends on its Citizens: Dr. Max Singer, BESA, Apr. 5, 2018— Winston Churchill was right when he said in 1947 that “democracy is the worst form of government ever invented – except for all those other forms that have been tried.”
The Speech of the Century that Everyone is Listening To: Avi Abelow, Israel Unwired, Apr. 29, 2018
Anti-Semitism ‘Becoming Mainstream’ in Canada: Jewish Advocacy Group: Josh K. Elliott, CTV News, Apr. 11, 2018
McGill Anti-Semitism Report ‘Pathetic’: Prof: Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban, Apr. 11, 2018
Open Letter to Natalie Portman From an Israeli Progressive: Hen Mazzig, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 22, 2018
WATCHING NETANYAHU IN TEHRAN
Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2018
The same day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel seized Iran’s archive of its military nuclear program in Tehran and spirited it to Israel, a video was posted of IDF soldiers singing Soltane Ghalbha, a traditional Persian love song – in Persian. Taken together, the two events demonstrate the purpose of Netanyahu’s presentation.
Netanyahu’s detractors in the US and Israel called his presentation as a dog and pony show. “He didn’t tell us anything we haven’t known for years,” they sniffed. Moreover, they insisted, Netanyahu’s presentation was actually counterproductive because he couldn’t show evidence that Iran is in breach of the nuclear deal it concluded in 2015 and so did nothing to persuade the Europeans to abandon the deal.
None of these claims is correct. Mossad agents who seized a half ton of documents and computer discs from a secret warehouse in Tehran brought proof that Iran has been lying about its nuclear ambitions since 1999. The information was never more than surmised by nuclear experts. As for the nuclear deal, the archive itself is a material breach of the nuclear deal. Paragraph T.82 of the deal bars Iran from conducting “activities which could contribute to the design and development of a nuclear explosive device.” Since the only possible purpose of the archive was to enable Iran to build on the progress it already made toward designing and developing a nuclear explosive device, its existence was a breach of Paragraph T.82.
As for who was impressed, and who wasn’t, this too misses the point. The Trump administration wasn’t simply impressed with Netanyahu’s presentation. The Trump administration was a full partner in Israel’s decision to make the presentation. Netanyahu reportedly briefed President Donald Trump and his top advisers about the operation and its initial findings during his White House visit on March 5. The same day, the Mossad gave the CIA a copy of the entire archive. Netanyahu coordinated his presentation with Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last Saturday and Sunday. As for the Europeans, they aren’t key players. If Trump abandons the nuclear deal, Congress will reinstate sanctions suspended in January 2016 when the deal went into effect. And then the Europeans will have an easy choice to make. Trade with the US or trade with Iran.
Which brings us to the soldiers singing a love song in Persian the day of Netanyahu’s speech. Netanyahu had two main target audiences on Monday evening: The Iranian regime and the Iranian people. The power of his presentation rested on two key observations. First, the Iranian regime believes its antisemitic rhetoric. At its base, Jew-hatred is a neurotic condition. Antisemites fear Jews. They perceive them as all powerful. This neurotic worldview makes rational analysis impossible for antisemites. Everything is a Jewish plot for them. Through circular reasoning, antisemites see Jewish fingers in everything bad that happens to them.
Netanyahu’s presentation pushed all of Iran’s leaders’ neurotic antisemitic buttons. Netanyahu opened by revealing the existence of Iran’s secret archive of its military nuclear program. “Few Iranians knew where it was, very few,” he began. And without missing a beat, as if stating the obvious, he added, nonchalantly, “And also a few Israelis.” In other words, Netanyahu told the Iranians that just as they fear, the Jews know everything about them. The Jews know their deepest secrets. It doesn’t matter how closely guarded a secret is. The Jews know it.
That would have been enough to send the likes of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Gen. Kassem Suleimani into a fetal position. But Netanyahu was just getting warmed up. Netanyahu then showed photographs of the nuclear archive – first from the outside, and then from the inside. It was as if he just wrote, “Kilroy was here,” on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s bedroom door. And then came the coup de grace. Netanyahu pulled down two black curtains and revealed the files themselves. Two hundred or so binders filled three bookcases. Two panels contained row after row of CDs – all taken from Iran.
Many spectators scratched their heads at the seemingly archaic find. Why did the Mossad officers go to the trouble of removing the actual notebooks? Why didn’t they just scan them into a flip drive and carry them out of Iran in their pockets? That way, they could have gotten access to the archive without tipping the Iranians off. The files could have remained in place. This line of questioning misses a key purpose of the operation. Israel wanted the Iranians to know its agents seized the files. For years, Israel’s enemies and allies alike have recognized its technological prowess. But ironically, rather even as it raised the fears of its enemies, Israel’s technological superiority also fed their contempt.
Israel’s enemies insisted that Israel resorts to cyber warfare and other indirect assaults because it is too afraid to have its soldiers face the enemy on a physical battlefield. The very existence of the nuclear archive indicates that the Iranian regime bought into this line. Khamenei and Suleimani wouldn’t have risked placing the physical archive of Iran’s illicit military nuclear work under one roof if it had feared that Israel would send its forces to seize it. Under the circumstances, if the Mossad had simply scanned the documents onto a hard drive and not taken the trouble to physically seize the files themselves, the effect of the raid would have been significantly diminished.
When Netanyahu pulled back the curtains, he exposed not only the regime’s perfidy, but its weakness. The Jews breached its vaunted defenses and made off with a half ton of incriminating documents without being discovered. There can be no greater humiliation…
LIEBERMAN OFFERS STRONG WORDS, BUT LITTLE
ACTION ON PALESTINIAN SALARIES FOR TERRORISTS
JNS, May 7, 2018
One of the pressing legislative issues that the Knesset will address in its summer session is penalizing the Palestinian Authority (PA) for its nefarious practice of paying salaries to terrorists and their families. The leading proponent of the first Israeli legislation on this subject, submitted in March 2017, was MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) who was joined by 11 other MK’s from both the opposition and the governing coalition.
The underlying principle of the bill is simple. Every month, Israel collects and transfers money, predominantly import taxes, to the PA. The taxes amount to 600-700 million shekels a month. Any sum that the PA spends to pay the salaries to terrorists and stipends to the families of dead terrorists will be permanently deducted from the taxes collected. According to the 2017 PA budget, these sums were in excess of one billion shekels.
Five months after the first hearing in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the representatives of Israel’s Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman updated the committee that the government was going to submit its own legislation on the subject. But to the dismay of the head of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, MK Avi Dichter (Likud), the Minister of Defense’s representatives refused to commit to a timeframe for its draft legislation.
In January of this year, on the eve of an additional hearing in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the government published its first preliminary draft of the legislation that it intended to introduce on the subject. Its guiding principle was identical to MK Stern’s bill. However, alongside the essential amendments that had to be made to MK Stern’s suggested law, the government added an extremely dangerous provision that would allow the cabinet to waive the deduction and transfer all funds to the PA for reasons of “national security or foreign relations.” In other words, after funds are deducted, and the Europeans shout “gevalt!” or the Palestinians threaten a return to terrorism, the government will be pressured to transfer those funds.
Despite the committee’s harsh criticism of this addition, on March 12 the government published its final draft legislation, which still included the provision in question. The provision, which creates a clear revolving door, completely undermines both the fundamental principle of the legislation — penalizing the PA for incentivizing terrorism — and the supposedly tough approach of Lieberman himself on the subject.
When Palestinian Media Watch exposed on March 28 that the PA’s 2018 annual budget had once again allocated hundreds of millions of shekels to terrorist payments, the Defense Minister was quick to tweet, “Mahmoud Abbas the terror supporter has removed the mask and taken the gloves off. We will act for a quick decision on deducting the salary money that Mahmoud Abbas is transferring to terrorists and we will stop this absurdity.”
Indeed, the time has come to penalize the PA for rewarding and incentivizing terrorism. However, what is truly absurd is that the person making the tough comments against the PA policy is the same person who, despite the criticism of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and others, is responsible for a provision that would invite external pressure and completely undermine the very same law he is proposing.
Even given the questionable assumption that the new law should provide the government with some degree of discretion regarding the confiscation of the funds, complete and total discretion should not be given and certainly not based on amorphous “national security or foreign relations” considerations. Ideally, the discretion given to the government should be limited to transferring only a limited and defined portion of the funds confiscated. During a recent Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, I suggested setting this limit at 50 percent.
At the same time, the discretion given to the government should be conditional on receiving a signed commitment from the PA to abolish its terrorist salary policy within a short and limited time (no more than three months). In the absence of concrete steps by the PA within the prescribed amount of time, the government would no longer have any discretion.
Since the introduction of MK Stern’s law, more than a year has passed. In that time the PA has used at least part of the money that Israel has transferred to pay more than a billion shekels in rewards for terrorism. Now is the time for action, not just words. The PA’s more than 20-year practice of rewarding terror, funded in part by monies provided courtesy of the Israeli government, must end. As the concerned parties have already promised, hearings should be held and the legislation finalized.
RESTORING BALANCE BETWEEN THE KNESSET AND THE COURT
Jewish Press, May 1, 2018
A hot potato today in Israel’s Knesset is the so-called chok hahitgabrut (literally, “the overriding law”) which would provide a way for the Knesset to pass a law over the objections of the Supreme Court. Various versions of such a law have been considered, which require larger or smaller majorities in the Knesset to override a Court decision to throw out a law. Another approach would be to require more than a simple majority of justices of the Court in order to reject a law passed by the Knesset. The precise form the law might take is still up in the air.
The issue that is presently driving the controversy is a series of Court decisions that have made it impossible for the government to deport any of the 38,000 African migrants that entered the country illegally since the early 2000s. Those who want such a law say that the unelected Court rides roughshod over the views of the majority of the citizens, which are expressed by the votes of their representatives in the Knesset. That’s undemocratic, they say. Opponents argue that in a liberal democracy it is necessary to protect minority rights, which is what the Court has done.
Critics of the Court have been complaining for a long time that it is biased leftward, and that it sticks its nose where it shouldn’t, like the proposed deal regulating the concession for the natural gas recently discovered off Israel’s shores; or the ownership of property in Judea and Samaria, decisions that forced the demolition of communities and the removal of people from their homes.
But the intricacies of the gas deal were understood by only a small percentage of Israelis, and the inhabitants of the razed settlement of Amona did not find a lot of empathy in the general population, many of whom thought of them as extremists. The migrant question, on the other hand, resonates more broadly. It pits the residents of South Tel Aviv – who say that the migrants who are concentrated in their neighborhoods have brought crime, dirt and fear to them – against a coalition of organizations that claim to be defending the human rights of the migrants. In fact, many of these groups are funded by unfriendly foreign governments, or groups with a political motive to embarrass our government (e.g., the Israel Religious Action Center).
A balance between the powers of the various branches of government is important to protect minority and majority rights. A comparison with the Supreme Court in the US will be helpful in understanding just how unbalanced the situation in Israel is. The American court only has appellate jurisdiction, which means that it can only rule on cases that have been appealed from lower courts. It can decline to hear a case, but it does not have original jurisdiction in which it can take up a case that has not already been heard by a lower court, except in special circumstances (such as one state suing another). The Israeli court is the highest appellate court, but it also acts as the High Court of Justice – bagatz – which can rule on anything done by any branch of government, including the army, municipalities, and – importantly – laws passed by the Knesset, whether or not they have been ruled on by a lower court.
The American legal system includes a doctrine of standing, which means in particular that a person can’t challenge a law or government action unless they can convince a judge that they could be directly injured by it, or that they would be prevented from exercising their legitimate rights by threat of legal sanction. But in Israel, anyone can petition the Supreme Court if he believes a law or government action is illegal or not in the public interest. As a result, anyone can paralyze the government by paying a couple of thousand shekels to file a petition. For example, several foreign-funded NGOs have recently petitioned the Supreme Court to force the IDF to stop using snipers to defend the border fence with Gaza.
In America, some matters are considered political and not legal, and are therefore not taken up by the courts (they are considered not justiciable). Two such areas are foreign policy and impeachment. In Israel, the limitations on justiciability are much weaker. American Supreme Court justices, including the Chief Justice, are appointed by the President and then confirmed by the Senate, after which they serve for life unless they are impeached, resign or retire. Interestingly, there are no constitutional requirements for a justice to have judicial experience, or even a law degree!..
DEMOCRACY DEPENDS ON ITS CITIZENS
Dr. Max Singer
BESA, Apr. 5, 2018
Winston Churchill was right when he said in 1947 that “democracy is the worst form of government ever invented – except for all those other forms that have been tried.” One of the reasons is that sometimes a democracy will fail unless its citizens act maturely despite inclinations tempting them in another direction. “Democracy” here means all the processes and behavior that determine what happens in the governance of a liberal democratic country such as Israel.
Israel’s democracy is now undergoing such a test. Our region is in a time of bloody turmoil and instability. Israel, despite its great strength, faces dangers that require it to act prudently, wisely, and perhaps forcefully to protect itself from rapidly changing security developments. Fortunately we have a prime minister who is widely recognized as one of the most eloquent and capable statesmen in the world today. With that said, no one would claim that he makes no mistakes or that Israel’s policy cannot be improved.
Partly because of Netanyahu’s unique experience at the center of affairs for many years, and the opportunities he has had to build relationships with leaders such as Putin, Trump, Modi, and Abe (of Japan), it is clear that no other Israeli today is anywhere near as capable of running Israel’s foreign and security policy as is Bibi. On the other hand, a great many Israelis scorn and disapprove of the prime minister. Even many of his admirers see him as a man of poor character – small-minded, selfish, miserly, and disloyal, unable to create and maintain close relationships with strong people and political allies (with the striking exception of Ron Dermer). Perhaps most of all, Bibi’s hedonistic lifestyle – apart from his strong work ethic — offends many Israelis who contrast it with that of Begin, Rabin, and other Israeli political leaders of the past.
If it turns out that Bibi is guilty of real criminal conduct, as distinguished from technical violations of law, Israel would of course have to do without his foreign policy talent and experience. Perhaps there is still a possibility that the extraordinary efforts to bring Bibi down, by his long-time enemies in the media and the police, will prove that he genuinely is a criminal whom Israelis cannot in good conscience leave as head of government. But so far what is apparent is that a very small fire can be used to make a lot of smoke. Much of Israel’s establishment uses double standards to pursue partisan goals at the cost of weakening their prime minister’s ability to do his job. Israel’s democracy – its voters, politicians, media, and police – must decide whether the prime minister shall continue to be the man by far most capable of protecting the country in particularly dangerous times, or will be replaced by someone whose personal character is felt to be less objectionable – especially to leftists troubled by having to face a man of the right who is obviously smart and sophisticated. Experience suggests that if Bibi is replaced as PM we cannot assume that his successor will necessarily be a person of better character.
On present evidence, if Netanyahu has to step down now it will be a failure of democracy. It would be a profligate decision to prefer a more appealing national leader over a determination to put the country’s safety in the best hands available. ne possibility is that the police, media, and elite attacks on Bibi will force him to have an early election which returns him to office, perhaps with an increased majority. That would be a case of democracy succeeding through the wisdom of the voters defeating media and legal system leadership. Still, despite their defeat by the citizenry under those circumstances, that elite would have inflicted great costs on the country by an unnecessary election and the diversion of much of Netanyahu’s time and energy from his job.
Of course Bibi will not live forever, and no person is indispensable. Sooner or later Israel will have to find a new prime minister. If necessary, Israel will get through the present and future dangers without Netanyahu. But a maturely prudent democracy will take advantage of Bibi’s special talents and experience as long as it can, even if it dislikes him.
Netanyahu’s Bombshell Should Finish Off the Iran Nuclear Deal: Editorial, New York Post, Apr. 30, 2018— Winston Churchill was right when he said in 1947 that “democracy is the worst form of government ever invented – except for all those other forms that have been tried.”
Can Israel Thread The Diplomatic Needle On Syria?: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 10, 2018—Incidents of anti-Semitism were on the rise for a fifth straight year in Canada, despite an overall decline in the number of incidents worldwide, according to a Jewish advocacy group.
Making Sense of Israel’s Political Upheaval: Two Perspectives (Podcast): Shmuel Sandler and Gregg Roman, Middle East Forum, Apr. 11, 2018—Last month’s crisis over the contentious Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conscription bill that threatened to bring down the Netanyahu government was swiftly defused as none of the coalition partners wished to risk early elections given Likud’s persistent surge in the polls despite the ongoing investigations into Binyamin Netanyahu’s actions.
IDF Civil Administration Claims Equal Numbers of Jews and Arabs, But Many Beg to Differ: Jewish Press, Mar. 27, 2018—Ynet on Tuesday morning added a bit of hype to a statement made by the deputy head of the Civil Administration, Colonel Uri Mendes, at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, suggesting there are about 5 million Arabs registered in Judea and Samaria and Gaza, not including eastern Jerusalem.
Prelude to a Showdown?: Noah Rothman, Commentary, May 2, 2018— On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s revealed the results of an audacious intelligence operation that resulted in the seizure of thousands of documents related to the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
When Will the World Admit the Truth About Iran’s Nuclear Program?: Vivian Bercovici, National Post, May 2, 2018 —Even for the storied Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, the night-time raid on a top-secret underground nuclear archive in Tehran in late January is incredible.
The Iran Deal Is a Lie: Bret Stephens, New York Times, May 1, 2018 — “The sanctions lifting will only occur as Iran takes the steps agreed, including addressing possible military dimensions.”
The Short And Ugly History Of The Disastrous Iran Deal: David Harsanyi, The Federalist, May 1, 2018— On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented documents to the world that prove Iran lied for years about its peaceful intentions.
Lag Ba’Omer: Guide for the Perplexed, 2018: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, May 2, 2018
Europe Wants Unity on Iran but Undermines Trump on Jerusalem: Caroline Glick, Breaking Israel News, May 2, 2018
Mossad Agents Snuck Nuclear Files out of Iran with Authorities ‘On Their Tails’: Times of Israel, May 2, 2018
Most Iranians Couldn’t Care Less About the Palestinians or Israel: Prof. Hillel Frisch, BESA, May 2, 2018
PRELUDE TO A SHOWDOWN?
Commentary, May 2, 2018
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s revealed the results of an audacious intelligence operation that resulted in the seizure of thousands of documents related to the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Since then, the revelations about the bomb program that the Islamic Republic preserved, presumably for future use, have been met with furious spin by supporters of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), aka the nuclear deal. They’ve contended that there is nothing to see here, but they are all missing the bigger picture. And it is a sobering one.
Supporters of the 2015 nuclear agreement have alleged that information revealed by an operation involving 100 Mossad agents or assets, in which 55,000 printed pages and 183 compact discs revealing the Iranian bomb program in granular detail were spirited out of a civilian warehouse in Tehran, is no big deal. Middlebury Institute of International Studies lecturer Jeffrey Lewis called the way in which Netanyahu revealed this intelligence coup a “dog and pony show” that exposed only information already disclosed to the IAEA. NIAC chief Trita Parsi said Israel had essentially raided and plundered the IAEA, not a secret Iranian storehouse. This was all “well-known pre-Iran deal history,” according to Barack Obama’s deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes. Former spokesman for Obama’s national security council, Tommy Vietor, even accused the U.S. and Israel of “cooking up intel” to justify the abrogation of the JCPOA.
This all amounts to a strenuous exercise in missing the point. The documents, which cover a time span that ends prior to the adoption of the nuclear accords in 2015, might not reveal violations of the nuclear deal (by definition), but they are by no means old news. The specificity revealed by those documents, including the metallurgy work and kiloton yields sought by the regime were new to the West, and details of the nuclear test sites that Iran considered and prepared were news to Western observers. But the bombshell was not the information contained within these documents. The very fact that they exist was the bombshell, as was the fact that they were being housed in a facility designed to keep them secret from international inspectors (to the modest extent that a verifiable inspections regime exists as part of the JCPOA). Former Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly assured the public and lawmakers that all of Iran’s past nuclear-weapons work would have to be disclosed to an international monitoring regime as part of the nuclear accords–or there would be no deal. Now we are told that the very fact that Iran has violated the spirit if not the letter of the accords is also the very reason that they are so vital.
Again, though, to focus on the intelligence Netanyahu revealed is to lose the plot. The exposure of an exceedingly complex operation that revealed these documents to the world is by itself an alarming development. According to the Israeli officials with whom Axios reporter Barak Ravid spoke, the Iranian nuclear archive was transferred to its covert home in February of 2016 explicitly to hide the military dimensions of its nuclear program from inspectors. The Israeli operation that uncovered that warehouse, which was known only to a small circle of Iranian officials, took years to prepare and involved hundreds of agents and informants. Exposing this operation has compromised all of those irreplaceable human assets and sacrificed a lot of invaluable collection capability. No government does that without performing a cost/benefit analysis. Either Israel concluded that making this operation public was worth the concrete policy objective that would be achieved by the reveal, or Netanyahu’s government determined that the value of its assets in Tehran was going to depreciate soon anyway as a result of events. And events are becoming rather ominous.
In as many months, Israel has executed three airstrikes on Iranian targets inside Syria. In February, Israel claimed to have shot down an Iranian drone originating in Syria that penetrated its airspace. In response to that incursion, the Israeli military targeted and destroyed four Iranian positions and an Iranian-operated command-and-control center from which the drone originated. One Israeli aircraft was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire during that operation. In early April, Israel executed an airstrike on an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps post in Syria in which Iranian soldiers and Hezbollah were killed. And just days ago, Israel attacked two Iranian-linked bases inside Syria killing dozens of Iranian and Syrian fighters and igniting ammunition that resulted in several massive explosions. The tempo of Israeli operations is increasing and Americans sources say observers have every reason to fear the accelerating trend.
U.S. officials reportedly told NBC News that, within the last two weeks, Iran has stepped up deliveries of small arms and surface-to-air missiles to Syria as part of Tehran’s effort to “shore up Iranian ground forces and to strike at Israel.” The conspicuous reinforcement of Iranian soldiers, support staff, and weapons stockpiles might have led Israel to draw the gravest of conclusions. “The three U.S. officials said Israel now seems to be preparing for military action and is seeking U.S. help and support,” NBC News revealed.
The arguments among political factions within the United States regarding the Iran nuclear deal and various presidential legacies are peripheral to what may be the more immediate issue: the prospect of imminent hostilities between Israel and Iran, to say nothing of Tehran’s proxy forces in Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza. Seen in that light, Netanyahu’s decision to reveal the most eye-opening feat of spycraft in a generation is anything but a “nothing-burger.”
WHEN WILL THE WORLD ADMIT THE TRUTH
ABOUT IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM?
National Post, May 2, 2018
Even for the storied Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, the night-time raid on a top-secret underground nuclear archive in Tehran in late January is incredible. Within hours, this facility was breached and 55,000 hard-copy original files as well as an additional 183 CDs loaded with documents were removed and secreted back to Israel that same night. A half ton of material.
In an exceptional live broadcast on Israeli television Monday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the media in English, ensuring maximum global reach for what was billed in advance as a dramatic revelation about Iran. Whereas Israelis were expecting to hear that the country is on the cusp of all-out war with Iran (operating from its proxy base in neighbouring Syria), what transpired was no less grave. “Iran lied. Big time,” declared Netanyahu. For the next 15 minutes or so he delivered a careful exposé of Iranian deception, over decades, regarding its nuclear weapons aspirations, capabilities and concrete plans to achieve these goals.
In December of 2015, president Barack Obama celebrated his brilliance in — as he put it — “negotiating” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with key Western allies and Iran — putatively an agreement to monitor and contain Iran’s race to develop a devastating nuclear arsenal. The primary target for these weapons: Israel. Really, though, the JCPOA was a capitulation, writ large in neon. Not a single element of this “Agreement” reflected any meaningful negotiation, no matter how much time the parties spent in discussion. From the outset, president Obama, inexplicably, caved to Iranian demands that economic sanctions be dropped as a precondition to any negotiations.
According to a senior military source who was close to the American-Israeli tensions throughout this period, the U.S. was convinced — baselessly — that it had no leverage with which to pressure the Iranians. Certainly, after lifting the highly effective sanctions at the outset and squandering the only real leverage it had, that misguided belief became a fact. Why such a generous precondition was ever considered, never mind acceded to, is incomprehensible.
Netanyahu’s sobering presentation, complete with slides, documented Iranian duplicitousness, in detail, over a 20-year period, naming names and specifying incriminating program details unassailably proven by the captured documents. It’s interesting to note that the staunchest advocates and architects of the JCPOA — president Obama, former secretary of state John Kerry and former national security adviser Susan Rice — have been anything but silent since leaving office about their “legacy” accomplishment. But they didn’t have a word to say in the day after Israel’s report. Angela Merkel, a staunch Obama ally in this caper, has also been noticeably quiet, apparently distracted by her own domestic political challenges.
Into the breach steps French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been working overtime in recent weeks to convince President Donald Trump, and the world, that the JCPOA may be sub-optimal but it is still worth saving. May 12 is the date on which President Trump will announce America’s intention — to continue to honour the detail or withdraw — and Macron made no bones about his views on that when addressing the U.S. Congress last week. “A deal,” he intoned, “must be honoured.” To renege would not only destabilize the world order, he said, but would set a terrible precedent in international relations. Indeed. As would knowingly lying about every aspect of one’s past behaviours and intentions when entering into said deal — which was and is the Iranian modus operandi. To not see this glaringly obvious truth is inexplicable.
Europeans, of course, have a regrettable history of self-delusions on urgent matters of national security, as they proved in the years leading up to the Second World War. Israel cannot afford the luxury of self-deception and wilful blindness. Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence who is widely respected for his informed, non-partisan analysis regarding regional security matters, characterized the Israeli evidence as irrefutably establishing Iranian duplicitousness, past and present. The notion that a regime so entrenched in lies has suddenly modified its behaviour and abandoned a fundamental military goal is simply not realistic…
THE IRAN DEAL IS A LIE
New York Times, May 1, 2018
“The sanctions lifting will only occur as Iran takes the steps agreed, including addressing possible military dimensions.” That was State Department spokesman John Kirby in June 2015, speaking just as negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal were wrapping up. But Tehran did not “take the steps agreed.” The deal was founded on a lie.
Two lies, actually. The first was Iran’s declaration to the International Atomic Energy Agency, prior to the implementation of the deal, of the full extent of its past nuclear work. This was essential, both as a test of Tehran’s sincerity and as a benchmark for understanding just how close it was to being able to assemble and deliver a nuclear warhead. The second lie was the Obama administration’s promise that it was serious about getting answers from Tehran. In a moment of candor, then-Secretary of State John Kerry admitted “we are not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another” — but then he promised Congress that Iran would provide the accounting.
That was when the White House still feared that Congress might block the deal. When it failed to do so, thanks to a Democratic filibuster, the administration contented itself with a make-believe process in which Iran pretended to make a full declaration and the rest of the world pretended to believe it. “Iran’s answers and explanations for many of the I.A.E.A.’s concerns were, at best, partial, but over all, obfuscating and stonewalling,” David Albright and his colleagues at the nonpartisan Institute for Science and International Security wrote in December 2015. “Needed access to sites was either denied or tightly controlled as to preclude adequate inspections.”
So much, then, for all the palaver about the deal providing an unprecedented level of transparency for monitoring Iranian compliance. So much, also, for the notion that Iran has honored its end of the bargain. It didn’t. This should render the agreement null and void. That’s the significance of Benjamin Netanyahu’s show and tell on Monday of what appears to be a gigantic cache of pilfered Iranian documents detailing Tehran’s nuclear work. The deal’s defenders have dismissed the Israeli prime minister’s presentation as a bunch of old news — just further proof that Iran once had a robust covert program to build a bomb. They also insist Iran has complied with the terms of the agreement since it came into force in January 2016.
Yet it’s difficult to imagine that the I.A.E.A. can now square Iran’s 2015 declaration with what the Israelis have uncovered. Iran’s mendacity is no longer the informed supposition of proliferation experts such as Mr. Albright. It is — assuming the documents are authentic, as the U.S. has confirmed — a matter of fact that the I.A.E.A. chose to ignore when it gave Iran a free pass under political pressure to move to implement the deal. If the agency cares for its own credibility as a nuclear watchdog, it should decide that Iran’s past declaration was false and that Iran’s retention of the documents obtained by Israel, with all the nuclear know-how they contain, put it in likely breach of the agreement.
As for Iran’s current compliance, of course it’s complying. The deal gave Iran the best of all worlds. It weakened U.N. restrictions on its right to develop, test and field ballistic missiles — a critical component for a nuclear weapons capability that the Iranians haven’t fully mastered. It lifted restrictions on Iran’s oil exports and eased other sanctions, pumping billions of dollars into a previously moribund economy. And it allows Iran to produce all the nuclear fuel it wants come the end of the next decade.
Yes, Iran is permanently enjoined from building a nuclear weapon, even after the limitations on uranium enrichment expire. But why believe this regime will be faithful to the deal at its end when it was faithless to it at its beginning? Netanyahu’s revelations were plainly timed to influence Donald Trump’s decision, expected later this month, on whether to stay in the Iran deal. Trump is under pressure from the French, British and Germans to stay in it, on the view that, if nothing else, the agreement has kept Iran from racing toward a bomb.
But the deal now in place allows Iran to amble toward a bomb, even as it uses the financial benefits of the agreement to fund (in the face of domestic upheaval and at a steep cost to its own economy) its militancy in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and especially in Syria. And Iran’s own nuclear history suggests the country’s leaders have always been cautious in the face of credible American threats, which is one reason they shelved much of their nuclear program in 2003 after the U.S. invaded Iraq. “When the Iranians fear American power, they either back down or they stall,” says Mark Dubowitz, an expert on Iran sanctions at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “When they don’t fear American power, they push forward. With Trump, the question is: Are they going to feel American power, or American mush?”
I opposed the Iran deal, but immediately after it came into effect, I believed that we should honor it scrupulously and enforce it unsparingly. Monday’s news is that Iran didn’t honor its end of the bargain and neither need the United States now. Punitive sanctions combined with a credible threat of military force should follow.
THE SHORT AND UGLY HISTORY OF THE DISASTROUS IRAN DEAL
The Federalist, May 1, 2018
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented documents to the world that prove Iran lied for years about its peaceful intentions. Netanyahu claims that in 2017 the Iranians moved “a comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons” to a secret location, and that a few weeks ago Mossad agents procured a half ton of that material and smuggled it out of the country. The United States has reportedly confirmed the authenticity of the documents.
The Iran deal, it’s worth remembering, is likely the only international accord the United States has entered into where it offered extensive concessions to a nation that continued to destabilize its interests, kill its soldiers, and threaten its allies. In return, we asked for nothing other than a promise that Iran uphold its preexisting obligations. The Islamic state, we shouldn’t forget, was already a signee to the non-proliferation agreements when the Obama administration saved its economy and reinvigorated its military.
It’s also worth remembering what we’ve given up for this deal. From the start there was almost nothing Obama wouldn’t do to save it. To pass it, the administration created (then bragged about) a media echo chamber that smeared the opposition at home. Obama accused those who opposed the accord of being in “common cause” with Islamists, offering the ludicrous false choice: his way or war. Some of the nastiest attacks were reserved for fellow Democrats like Chuck Schumer, whose tepid pushback triggered Obama flunkies to accuse of him of harboring dual loyalty.
Then there was the constant subjugation of American interests to placate the Iranians. First, Obama made “common cause” with Russia and Syria. It seems increasingly plausible, in fact, that the president was hamstrung in Syria because he wanted to avoid upsetting the Iranians and Russians. Vladimir Putin, the man who helped Iran create its nuclear program, was a fan of the deal. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was also an admirer, confident that Iran would continue its “just causes” after the deal was wrapped up. What could he possibly mean?
The Iran deal remained Obama’s predominant concern during his second term, even as Tehran grappled with a contracting economy and inflation brought on, in part, by international sanctions that had been set up over a decade. Despite its natural resources, Iran’s economy still struggles. One can imagine what it would look like with another two years of sanctions. Later we learned that Obama’s machinations were worse than we imagined. In his January 2016 speech announcing the lifting of sanctions, Obama claimed that as a “reciprocal humanitarian gesture” the United States would release a number of Iranian-born “civilians” who “were not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses.”
Far from mere “civilians,” the administration was releasing Iranian spies whom the Justice Department had tagged as threats to national security. Of the 14 civilians, one was a top Hezbollah operative named Ali Fayad, who had not only been indicted in U.S. courts for planning to kill U.S. government employees but whom agents believed reported to Putin as a key supplier of weapons to Syria and Iraq. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for “conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware.” Another, Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, was charged with illegally conspiring to procure “thousands of parts with nuclear applications.” Now imagine Donald Trump making a similar deal with Russia. On top of that, Obama administration was “slow-walking” investigations against Iranian spies here in the United States and efforts to extradite suspects. It also, according to Josh Meyer’s source-heavy reporting that has never been factually refuted, neutralized efforts to stop Hezbollah from funding its operations through criminal enterprises in the United States.
When the Iranians released American hostages in early 2016, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry claimed it was due to “the relationships forged and the diplomatic channels unlocked over the course of the nuclear talks.” In actuality, the Obama administration secretly airlifted more than $1.7 billion worth of cash as ransom to obtain the release of four Americans so as not to derail the Iranian deal. Because all of it was above-board and absolutely not a ransom payment, it was sent on wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs, and other currencies on an unmarked cargo plane…
Lag Ba’Omer: Guide for the Perplexed, 2018: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, May 2, 2018—Lag Ba’Omer (ל”ג בעומר) is celebrated on the 33rd day following the first day of Passover (in Jewish numerology: ל=30, ג=3). It commemorates the victory of Shimon Bar-Kokhbah over the occupying military force of the Roman Empire; the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai (a key supporter of the Bar Kokhbah revolt), who commanded his disciples to rejoice on his memorial days; and the end of the plague, which took the lives of 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s disciples (who were, allegedly, engaged in bad-mouthing each other, which is one of the worst offenses according to Judaism).
Europe Wants Unity on Iran but Undermines Trump on Jerusalem: Caroline Glick, Breaking Israel News, May 2, 2018—As French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel beat a path for the White House in back-to-back visits this week, the media coverage of U.S. – European Union relations is focused on efforts to convince President Donald Trump to keep faith with his predecessor Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.
Mossad Agents Snuck Nuclear Files out of Iran with Authorities ‘On Their Tails’: Times of Israel, May 2, 2018—Agents of Israel’s spy agency Mossad smuggled hundreds of kilograms of paper and digital files on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program out of the Islamic Republic with Iranian agents “on their tails,” Hadashot television news reported Tuesday night, based on briefings by Israeli officials.
Most Iranians Couldn’t Care Less About the Palestinians or Israel: Prof. Hillel Frisch, BESA, May 2, 2018—Three years ago, the then Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, who had also served as ambassador to Iran, told members of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies something they had heard from other foreign diplomats. “You Israelis are obsessed with Iran,” he said. “For Iranians, you and the Palestinians are a marginal concern.”
Damned If You Do… and Trump and Netanyahu Are Certainly Doing: Melanie Phillips, JNS, Feb. 9, 2018— Melanie Phillips, JNS, Feb. 9, 2018— Day in and day out, two men—two crucial world leaders—remain under a constant barrage of verbal attacks.
Far From Being the Disaster his Critics Predicted, President Trump's World Strategy is to Lead From the Front: Nile Gardiner, Telegraph, Jan. 15, 2018— When Donald Trump was elected America’s 45th president in November 2016 the world took a collective deep breath.
Trump’s Strong Start on Policy: Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review, Dec. 26, 2017— Gorsuch confirmed, ISIS defeated, taxes cut: The Trump administration has compiled a solid record of accomplishment in its first year, one that compares well with the records of many of its predecessors.
The Real Fake News of 2017: Rex Murphy, National Post, Dec. 22, 2017— The antipathy to Donald Trump, which in its keenest manifestations is fierce and relentless, is a disabling set of mind, nowhere more so than in the reporting on or about him.
Democrats Flail While Trump Flounders: Clifford Orwin, Globe and Mail, Jan. 29, 2018
Donald Trump Has Turned out to be a Pragmatist Who Aims to Make America Great – at Any Cost: Tim Stanley, Telegraph, Jan. 29, 2018
The Left’s Rage and Trump’s Peril: Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 1, 2018
Davos Man Meets America First: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2018
DAMNED IF YOU DO… AND TRUMP AND
NETANYAHU ARE CERTAINLY DOING
JNS, Feb. 9, 2018
Day in and day out, two men—two crucial world leaders—remain under a constant barrage of verbal attacks. They are subjected to an obsessional, unhinged and unprecedented stream of abuse, distortion, character assassination and malicious fantasies. If you haven’t guessed, they are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump. The campaign against them signifies a cultural disorder in the West that borders on the pathological.
Netanyahu certainly has his faults. One might list arrogance, moral cowardice and his tendency to be a control freak. He doesn’t take criticism well. He has failed to organize his government to deal with the psy-ops war waged so devastatingly against Israel in the court of Western public opinion. And maybe, who knows, some of the multiple corruption charges against him will stick.
Yet his achievements are formidable. Netanyahu enabled Israel to survive the sustained attempts to weaken it by President Barack Obama, arguably the most hostile American president to date regarding Israel. Netanyahu has led the Jewish state to become a dynamo in the fields of technology and R&D in large measure because of his liberalization of the Israeli economy. He has opened up new alliances through the pivot to Asia. He has held the line against the Palestinian/European axis of attrition. And he is riding the wave of a new regional order involving alliances with Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
In Israel and among the Western intelligentsia, however, it’s hard to overestimate the loathing he provokes. His achievements are ignored or blatantly dismissed. Instead, he is blamed (ludicrously) for preventing a solution to the Middle East impasse. No less risibly, he was held responsible for Obama’s hostility for eight years running. He is said to be an incipient dictator, a racist ethno-nationalist and an “alt-Zionist.” These are not criticisms; these are ravings.
Over in the United States, Trump certainly has his faults. One might list his zero concentration span, his disregard for detail, his carelessness with accuracy, his reckless and compulsive tweeting, his coarse and bombastic talk, and his failure to take criticism. Yet his achievements after only one year in office are also formidable. He presides over a booming economy with huge job growth; he is restoring the rule of law to immigration; he’s rolling back regulation; he’s made stellar appointments to the judiciary; he’s forcing Saudi Arabia to reform; and is confronting Iran, the United Nations and the Palestinians.
It’s impossible, however, to overestimate the contempt and horror with which he is viewed. He is accused of being racist and antisemitic, of undermining the rule of law, of behaving like Mussolini. While not a shred to evidence supports the claims against him of colluding with Russia, there is mounting evidence that elements of the FBI and Justice Department under the Obama administration have acted illegally against him. The Democrats are talking wildly of impeaching him. They’ll decide on the nature of his crime later. This is not opposition; this is derangement.
So why are both men being treated like this? In Israel, it’s easier to blame Netanyahu than face up to the terrifying complexities of the existential war being waged against it and the difficult choices that need to be made. In America, Trump provokes such a frenzied reaction because he operates outside all conventions. He challenges unchallengeable liberal orthodoxies on immigration, national identity and victim culture, and he exposes the frailties on his own Republican side. Where both he and Netanyahu succeed is in speaking for the great middling center of their electorates—the ordinary people who observe with silent astonishment and fury how the cultural and political establishment not only ignores their concerns, but deems them illegitimate.
Middle Israel understands that the difficult and dangerous status quo with the Palestinians is nevertheless inevitable given their persistent rejectionism. Middle America understands that under Obama, the rule of law was eroded through illegal immigration, the weaponization of the IRS against conservative groups and the support of black-power activists against the police. That’s why they voted for Netanyahu and Trump. And that’s why the liberal establishment responsible for this onslaught on the culture not only damns Netanyahu and Trump, but also the public who voted for them.
In an article in Tablet, writer Paul Berman wrings his hands over Trump’s election. He runs through some explanations offered by fellow hand-wringer Thomas B. Edsall, who in a column in The New York Times points to the “material grievances of the white working class,” and “racist animosities toward the blacks and the latest immigrants, together with a surly hatred of the bicoastal snobs.” Berman, however, thinks the real reason for Trump’s election was nothing less than a “broad cultural collapse.” He writes: “It is a collapse, at minimum, of civic knowledge—a collapse in the ability to identify political reality, a collapse in the ability to recall the nature of democracy and the American ideal. An intellectual collapse, ultimately. And the sign of this collapse is an inability to recognize that Donald Trump has the look of a foreign object within the American presidential tradition.”
You really do have to rub your eyes at this. For eight years, America had in Barack Obama a president who subverted the constitution at home and weakened his country abroad by helping empower those who wished the country ill (consider the Iranian regime or the Muslim Brotherhood). In Trump, America now has a president who is restoring respect for the constitution and the rule of law, and is standing up for American interests at home and abroad. And who is also currently being targeted by what looks very much like an attempted establishment coup against his presidency. Berman has it backwards. Trump’s election was not evidence of cultural collapse; it was a reaction against cultural collapse.
If this wasn’t so serious, it would be comical to see some of our most stellar intellects holding their heads in their hands and wondering aloud what could possibly have caused their country to fall into an abyss. The answer is simple: them. Trump and Netanyahu lead the West on a new and more hopeful path. For sure, they aren’t perfect and much remains unaddressed. But this is the first time that the demoralization of the West has been tackled since the end of World War II. Countries hostile to this leadership, including Britain and much of Western Europe, are now fumbling the civilizational ball. The only things they will be left holding are their noses.
FAR FROM BEING THE DISASTER HIS CRITICS PREDICTED,
PRESIDENT TRUMP'S WORLD STRATEGY IS TO LEAD FROM THE FRONT
Telegraph, Jan. 15, 2018
When Donald Trump was elected America’s 45th president in November 2016 the world took a collective deep breath. This was a man derided by his critics as an isolationist, woefully out of his depth on foreign policy matters, and imbued with a supposedly dangerous and reckless nationalism. European leaders queued up to condemn the new leader of the free world in the court of international opinion. But a year into his presidency Trump’s actual record has been far more effective than his detractors predicted. “America First” has not resulted in a US withdrawal from the world. Far from it.
The White House’s new National Security Strategy (NSS), unveiled by Trump himself in December, was loudly attacked by Vladimir Putin’s regime as an aggressive statement of intent on the world stage by the US administration. The first NSS since 2015, it outlines the big-picture strategic thinking of the Trump presidency and, in marked contrast to the previous Obama-era document, places heavy emphasis upon national sovereignty, self-determination, and taking back control of borders. All of which British supporters of Brexit can relate to.
A pro-British Eurosceptic himself, Trump is a genuine believer in the value of the Anglo-American Special Relationship – and likes to stand with all America’s traditional allies. In the Middle East, partnerships between the United States and Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have all been reinvigorated. In Asia, he has bolstered alliances with Japan and Taiwan, much to the dismay of Beijing. And in Europe the administration has boosted the relationship with Poland, the rising power of Eastern Europe, and placed greater emphasis on working with national capitals than the EU.
Following pressure from Washington, defence spending among Nato allies is increasing for the first time in decades. When Trump entered the White House a year ago, Europe feared he would embark upon a pro-Russian trajectory, yielding to Moscow’s efforts to enhance its power in its “Near Abroad”. The reality has been remarkably different and the message to America’s allies living in the shadow of the Russian bear is loud and clear: the United States will fight to defend Europe against any Russian attempt to threaten Nato territory. So the Trump presidency has expanded US troop presence in the Baltics, supplied anti-missile systems to Poland and even declared its intent to send defensive weapons to Ukraine.
Of course, there is room for improvement in Trump’s foreign policy. In the face of mounting Russian aggression, the president should match his administration’s tough policy positions with a willingness personally to confront Vladimir Putin directly about his activity in Crimea and Ukraine. But if Mr Putin believed he would have a friend in the White House he was sorely misguided. The Trump administration has increased sanctions against Moscow, and challenged Russian hegemony in Syria.
And it has been in Syria and Iraq that Trump has most strikingly demonstrated decisive American leadership. A staggering 98 per cent of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) territory in those two countries has been recovered by the US-led coalition, with five million people liberated in the past 12 months alone. The sheer speed of Isil’s defeat has owed much to Trump’s decision to free the US military from combat restrictions put in place by the overly cautious Obama White House. And while there remains the need for a more coherent US strategy in dealing with North Korea, on the Iran front, Trump has rightly pushed for a strengthening of the nuclear agreement.
The president may lack the eloquence of John F Kennedy, or the ideological drive of Ronald Reagan, but he has demonstrated an uncompromising willingness to defend the interests of his country, reassure allies, aggressively confront America’s enemies and ensure the United States continues to lead as the world’s superpower. He has emphatically banished the Obama era of “leading from behind” while putting an unapologetically American stamp on the world stage.
TRUMP’S STRONG START ON POLICY
National Review, Dec. 26, 2017
Gorsuch confirmed, ISIS defeated, taxes cut: The Trump administration has compiled a solid record of accomplishment in its first year, one that compares well with the records of many of its predecessors. Two of the biggest accomplishments came late in the year. The prime minister of Iraq declared victory over ISIS on December 9. Republicans reached a deal that seemed to secure passage of a tax bill on December 15. Until then, it appeared possible that 2017 would end without an all-Republican government enacting any major legislation.
Now the Republicans’ policy record looks better, at least as most conservatives see it. The tax bill advances several longstanding conservative objectives. It cuts tax rates for most Americans, slashes the corporate-tax rate for the first time in decades, expands the tax credit for children, limits the reach of the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, and scales back the tax break for expensive homes. By scaling back the deduction for state and local taxes, it may encourage a more conservative fiscal politics in the states. And it allows drilling to proceed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The tax bill also partly makes up for the failure of Republican efforts earlier in 2017 to repeal Obamacare. The health-care law imposes fines on people who go without insurance. The tax bill sets the fines at zero. The least popular feature of Obamacare is thus effectively nullified. Some conservatives would have considered voting for Trump in November 2016 worth it just for Justice Neil Gorsuch. His appointment to the Supreme Court means that Justice Scalia’s seat will remain filled by an originalist for the next few decades. If one of the Democratic appointees or Justice Anthony Kennedy leaves the Court while Republicans hold the Senate, Trump will have the opportunity to create the first conservative majority in modern constitutional history. Trump has also nominated many well-qualified conservative jurists to the appeals courts. (The quality of his district-court nominees appears to be significantly lower.)
The administration has begun to rein in regulation. It has withdrawn and modified several of the Obama administration’s regulations, often in concert with Congress. It has stopped or slowed the progress of many others that were barreling down the tracks. The Environmental Protection Agency, now run by Trump appointee Scott Pruitt, has also taken steps to end the practice of “sue and settle,” in which activist groups get the agency to adopt new policies through lawsuits.
Trump killed President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have imposed significant economic costs while doing little to reduce the risks of global warming. He has effectively ended the Obama administration’s mandate that employers provide contraceptive coverage: Employers who object to providing that coverage, or providing forms of that coverage they consider to cause abortions, are to be exempt. If the new policy stands, the Little Sisters of the Poor will be spending less time in court. Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has withdrawn Obama-era regulations that led colleges to lower the burden of proof for sexual-misconduct allegations and to monitor professors’ speech.
Most conservatives cheered two symbolic actions by the administration: announcing that our embassy in Israel will move to the country’s capital city of Jerusalem and that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord. (I count that planned withdrawal as symbolic because the accord did not bind us to any policy commitments.) Conservatives of various types have thus seen progress on their agenda in 2017. Economic conservatives got tax cuts and some deregulation. Legal conservatives got judicial appointments and an executive branch more mindful of the limits of its policymaking authority. Social conservatives also benefited from the judicial appointments and welcomed Trump’s policy of blocking international family-planning funding from going to organizations that promote or perform abortions.
Many Republicans credit Trump for presiding over a strong economy, too. It’s a point that requires some context. Job growth has not been quite as fast as it was in Obama’s last year, but you’d expect it to slow after an expansion this long. Republican economic policies may have played a role in keeping the expansion going. Certainly the predictions of economic doom made right after the election by some Trump opponents — chiefly Paul Krugman — have not come to pass.
It’s not the only bad outcome that has been avoided. Trump has started no trade war and has not blown up the World Trade Organization. He has merely engaged in the low-grade protectionism that is routine for presidents of both parties, and withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership — which may not have been able to win congressional approval even if Trump had stayed in. NATO is still standing, too, and Trump’s complaints about allies’ burden-sharing may be arresting Western Europe’s slide into functional pacifism…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
THE REAL FAKE NEWS OF 2017
National Post, Dec. 22, 2017
The antipathy to Donald Trump, which in its keenest manifestations is fierce and relentless, is a disabling set of mind, nowhere more so than in the reporting on or about him. Contempt for Trump—the conviction that he is some sort of dangerous historical “accident” in the presidential office—serves as a warrant for abandoning all disinterested judgment and analytic neutrality. To those who oppose him, particularly those in the news media, Trump is regarded as just SO bad that standards can be virtuously abandoned, and neutrality and dispassion set aside, so long as it helps (such is the hope) to hurt Trump, and, maybe, get rid of him.
The new rule is: anything that can weaken Trump’s standing, sever his connection with the populist base, and help to bring him down is fair game. Hence the sloppiness and one-directional nature of most Trump news. In just the last few weeks, Brian Ross at ABC, the Wall Street Journal, and CNN each had to correct or deny major stories that had all been wrong in the same direction. They hurt Trump. Stories, however, that might hint at some aspects of competency or adroitness in Trump’s handling of affairs are either passed over or given the most desultory treatment. How many tins of Pepsi Trump drinks gets more coverage than the defeat of ISIS in Iraq, which has occurred under his watch. Under Obama that would have generated skyscraper headlines; under Trump you can search for it in the back pages and fine print.
When the majority of the American media failed in their coverage of the presidential election, they had to find some excuse for their massive incompetence. The New York Times, with all their resources, and after two full years of daily coverage of the campaign, was nonetheless projecting Hillary Clinton’s chances of victory at a full 92 per cent on election night itself. That was at least better than the pathologically anti-Trump HuffPost, which had Hillary’s chances set at a modest 98 per cent! Such was the state of American journalism, these companies barely allowed for the mere possibility that Trump could win. Under their professional eye, he was just a sideshow, even in the very hours before he actually won.
These two—the Times and HuffPost—can stand for a large set of the American press, both traditional and online. Their reading of the American election was the greatest journalistic failure—the largest act of group incompetence—in decades. This failure fostered the need for some excuse for how they got so much so wrong. They couldn’t just step out honestly and say: “Hey, we despised this guy so much that it really warped our thinking and twisted our coverage, blocked out what we didn’t want to see. We were so mad at him we could not see.” That would have been the truthful and honourable thing to do. So, obviously, it was not adopted. Instead, the answer they did come up with, quickly and conveniently enough, was Fake News.
Now there has always been fake news. Newspaper, TV, magazines have always, to some degree, had a slant, an overall editorial direction. But the Fake News that we heard about for most of 2017, and were warned against by journalism’s elders, and was so deplored by the monks of NPR and PBS, was something new and altogether more sinister. This Fake News was a project in itself, something crafted specifically and particularly, and deployed maliciously, by the fiends of the Trump campaign. The way the term Fake News was invoked by newscasters, panels, and journalism profs was actually kind of scary. Fake News was a threat to the republic; it enjoyed a corrupting power that effortlessly ousted the voices of the real media, and blunted the rational minds of the electorate. That Fake News was powerful stuff…
Democrats Flail While Trump Flounders: Clifford Orwin, Globe and Mail, Jan. 29, 2018—I used to love the Democrats. For all the years I was being raised and educated in the United States, I was a Democrat. I remain one today, as that is how I am registered in my home state of Illinois. I have certainly never been a Republican. Yet, today, the Dems seem as formidable as a plucked chicken, and about as ready to govern.
Donald Trump Has Turned out to be a Pragmatist Who Aims to Make America Great – at Any Cost: Tim Stanley, Telegraph, Jan. 29, 2018—In Tuesday's State of the Union, Donald Trump will tell Congress that America is doing great. Amazing. Better than ever. It’s funny how a country can go from “terrible” to “beautiful” in one year, but you don’t have to buy the hype to concede that what was once campaign rhetoric has turned into policy – even delivery. The better we know Trump, the more substance we find. His America First agenda isn’t nice, but it is rational and coherent. And it has profound implications for the very nature of the presidency.
The Left’s Rage and Trump’s Peril: Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 1, 2018—The State of the Union speech was good—spirited, pointed, with a credible warmth for the heroes in the balcony, who were well chosen. They were beautiful human beings, and their stories were rousing—the cop and his wife who adopted the baby, the hardy North Korean defector who triumphantly waved his crutches, the mourning, dignified parents of the girls killed by MS-13. My beloved Cajun Navy.
Davos Man Meets America First: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2018—Donald Trump will attend the World Economic Forum’s annual conference in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday and Friday. The New York Times has obtained a copy of the president’s remarks. Check against delivery.