Canadian Institute for Jewish Research
L'institut Canadien de Recherches sur le Judaisme
Strength of Israel will not lie

Tag: Benjamin Netanyahu

HAMAS WANTED ESCALATION WITH ISRAEL DURING LATEST ROCKET BARRAGE, BUT BIBI “PREVENTED UNNECESSARY WAR”

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.

On Topic Links

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.         

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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.

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.

 

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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. 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.

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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.] 

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On Topic Links

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 PREPARES FOR 2019 ELECTIONS AMID ONGOING GAZA INCENDIARY ATTACKS AND NATION-STATE LAW CONTROVERSY

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.

On Topic Links

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

Mazal Mualem

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…

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

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            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. 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.

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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.  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…

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

 

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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. 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…

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

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 AND BIBI CONTINUE TO LEAD POLLS AHEAD OF 2019 ELECTION

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.

On Topic Links

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

Micah Levinson

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.

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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, 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…

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

 

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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…

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

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WHO LEADS ISRAEL?

Caroline B. Glick

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…

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

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.”

NETANYAHU’S PRESENTATION EXPOSED IRANIAN REGIME’S “PERFIDY & WEAKNESS”

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.”

On Topic Links

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

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. 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…

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

 

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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. 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.

 

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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. 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!..

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

 

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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.

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On Topic Links

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.

 

 

IRAN NUCLEAR ARCHIVE “BOMBSHELL” CONFIRMS OBAMA’S DEAL WAS FOUNDED ON A LIE

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.

On Topic Links

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?

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. 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.”

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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. 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…

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

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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.” 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.

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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. 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…

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

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.”

 

TRUMP, LIKE BIBI, FACES CONSTANT ATTACKS FROM MEDIA & LEFTISTS, DESPITE SOLID RECORD OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Damned If You Do… and Trump and Netanyahu Are Certainly Doing: Melanie Phillips, JNS, Feb. 9, 2018Melanie 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.

 

On Topic Links

 

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

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. 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.

                                                                       

 

Contents

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. 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.

 

                                                                       

 

Contents

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. 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.]    

                                                                                   

 

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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. 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…

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

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

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.

 

 

                                                              

 

 

Innovation Nation

Innovation Nation: Benjamin Netanyahu, Economist, Dec. 1, 2017 — The future belongs to those who innovate.

Teva’s Collapse – Israel’s Biotech Recovery: Glenn Yago, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 27, 2017 — The Teva collapse resulted in a “lost year” for Israeli equities compared to other Developed Market indexes.

After Quiet 2017, Chinese Investors Seen Resuming Israeli Tech Shopping Spree: Shoshanna Solomon, Times of Israel, Dec. 28, 2017— The sale of auto-technology firm Mobileye to Intel Corp. for a whopping $15.3 billion was by far the most significant Israeli tech moment of 2017…

The Emergency Medics Taking on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 28, 2017 — In a country where terrorism and war are endured as a consistent, yet unpredictable, byproduct of a protracted and intractable geopolitical conflict, post-traumatic stress disorder is far from rare.

 

On Topic Links

 

Fly Me To The Moon: SpaceIL Launches Funding Plea To Complete Space Race Amid Financial Troubles: No Camels, Dec. 18, 2017

Technion Becomes First Israeli University to Open Campus in China: Shiri Moshe, Algemeiner, Dec. 19, 2017

On Upcoming India Visit, Netanyahu to Gift Modi Israeli Mobile Desalinization Vehicle: Algemeiner, Dec. 19, 2017

Israel Helps Colombia Upgrade its Air Force: Yoav Zitun, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 28, 2017

 

INNOVATION NATION

Benjamin Netanyahu

Economist, Dec. 1, 2017

 

The future belongs to those who innovate. Israel is seizing the future. With 8.5m people, it has more companies on NASDAQ than almost any other country outside North America and ranks third in the World Economic Forum’s ranking of most innovative economies. Israeli startups receive nearly 20% of global private investment in cyber-security, punching 200 times above our relative weight. Israel recycles 87% of its waste water, five times more than the runner-up. Israeli cows produce more milk per animal than those of any other country.

 

People everywhere benefit from Israeli innovations in their mobile phones, car navigation systems, life-saving drugs, medical devices—even the cherry tomatoes in their salads. Equally, Israel’s intelligence services have helped stop dozens of terrorist attacks in dozens of countries. These successes are buttressed by world-class universities and research institutions like the Technion, the Weizmann Institute and the Volcani Agri­culture Institute.

 

Technology without free markets does not get you very far. All national economies are engaged in a race in which the public sector sits astride the shoulders of the private sector. In our case, the public sector got too bloated. Under a policy I called “Fat man/Thin man”, we put it on a strict diet and removed barriers to competition that hampered the private sector, enabling it to sprint forward.

 

We controlled public spending, lowered tax rates, reformed welfare and pensions, removed foreign-exchange controls, dismantled monopolies, privatised government companies and created new capital markets. The result has been 14 years of nearly continuous GDP growth of 4-5% annually, lowering the debt-to-GDP ratio from roughly 100% to 62%. We leverage government spending on military intelligence by encouraging veterans to form thousands of civilian IT and cyber-startups, which we regulate as little as possible. Government investments in roads and railways open up land for housing, which is developed by private contractors.

 

For 50 years government companies searched to no avail for offshore gas. Once we enabled private companies to search, they found gas deposits worth many billions of dollars. The government’s take of these gas revenues will help fund our future needs in education, welfare and infrastructure. Israel became an economic tiger because we chose to be a nimble mammal rather than a fossil. Benefiting from the nexus of big data, connectivity and artificial intelligence, we are rapidly developing new industries.

 

Fifty years ago, Israel failed in its effort to develop a car industry. Yet in the past decade we have had 500 startups in automotive technology which receive billions of dollars of investments each year. In 2013 Google bought Waze, a crowd-sourcing navigation system, for $1bn. In 2017 Intel paid $15bn for Jerusalem-based MobileEye, entrusting it to oversee Intel’s worldwide autonomous-vehicle businesses. Our universal digital health database holds great promise for breakthroughs in preventive and personalised medicine. Since technology alone does not guarantee our future, we must keep promoting entrepreneurship and fight excessive regulation. In the past two years I have chaired a cabinet committee that takes a machete to the weeds of overregulation, and Israel has moved from 27th to 16th in the Global Competitiveness Index.

 

What are the lessons of Israel’s economic miracle for 2018 and beyond? The first is: innovate or perish. The second is: innovate to create alliances and advance peace. Our technological prowess has brought us many new friends, alongside our irreplaceable alliance with America. We negotiated economic pacts with Japan and China. Relations with India are booming. Twice within a year I visited Africa. I am the first Israeli prime minister to visit Australia and Latin America.

 

But perhaps the most promising change is closer to home. Many Arab countries now see Israel not as an enemy but as an indispensable ally in our common battle against militant Islam. They also seek Israeli technology to help their economies. The potential normalisation with Arab states could help pave the way for peace with the Palestinians.

 

In 1968, in “The Lessons of History”, the great American writer Will Durant wrote: “The influence of geographic factors diminishes as technology grows. The character and contour of a terrain may offer opportunities for agriculture, mining or trade, but only the imagination and initiative of leaders, and the hardy industry of followers, can transform the possibilities into fact; and only a similar combination (as in Israel today) can make a culture take form over a thousand natural obstacles.” In the half-century since those prophetic words were written, Israel has indeed overcome a thousand obstacles. Its ingenuity offers hope for every nation under the sun.                                        

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TEVA’S COLLAPSE – ISRAEL’S BIOTECH RECOVERY

Glenn Yago

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 27, 2017

 

The Teva collapse resulted in a “lost year” for Israeli equities compared to other Developed Market indexes. More than any other company, Teva’s implosion accounts for the poor performance of all Israeli stock market indexes. Prior to its collapse, Teva comprised 29% of the Tel Aviv 125 Index, now down below 8%. The further planned voluntary de-listing of Mylan scheduled for February 2018 follows another life sciences de-listing, of Mellanox in 2013, creating another big hole in the local capital market and a loss for Israel’s role in this important industry.

 

Clearly, some new approach to financing medical solutions is overdue for Israel, instead of relying solely upon tax subsidies to large companies and the current limitations of our public and private equity markets. What can we learn and how can we prevent this from happening again? Already in 2014, Teva discussed separating its generic from its specialty drug business, but instead (despite unsuccessful pressure from activist investors) it doubled down on the generic side of the business through its catastrophic acquisition of Activis, Allergan’s generics business, for $40.5 billion.

 

Over the past two years, Teva lost $57b. of value, leaving it with a remaining market value of $19b. It owes about $35b. and faces a cliff of debt payments of $9.1b. by 2019 and $17.5b. by 2021. It faces these challenges with a cash flow that is projected to shrink to $3.2b. in 2018 due to heightened generic drug competition and the loss of patent protection for its sole proprietary drug, Copaxone.

 

In an important article last week, Prof. Eyal Winter argued that Teva’s failure “must not make the company that invented Copaxone into a company whose primary business is producing aspirin.” Well, it might be too late to solve that problem for Teva, but not for the Israeli scientific and technology ecosystem that can build life science solutions to global health problems. Under the Law to Encourage Capital Investments, Teva secured over $5.7b. in tax benefits, generating free cash flow and subsidies without any conditions or accountability to Israeli taxpayers. This enabled Teva to move much of its growth abroad and pay out dividends to shareholders and salaries to the executives who managed it into decline.

 

Teva just shut down its R&D facility operating from Israel and slashed its overall research and development budget. Without a creative strategy, this could threaten Israel’s future competitive strength in the biotechnology sector. Teva no longer has the firepower to fund its drug development pipeline and needs to radically restructure its debt. It cannot provide long-term, fixed rate financing to drug development. With guarantees, public and private investment and credit-enhanced, re-searchbased obligations, Israel can.

 

THERE ARE plenty of examples in the world of pursuing new directions focused on biotechnology and accelerating medical solutions. In 2015, London’s mayor proposed a $15.7b. bio-pharma development fund. In 2016, UBS launched a $470 million oncology fund. Bio-Bridge raised a $135m. fund to make smaller investments for early-stage therapies that haven’t made it to human trials. The State of California funded public bonds for $3b. to fund the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and accelerate therapies through public-private partnerships.

 

The government should use current negotiations it is holding with Teva over tax assessments as a lever to help restructure some of Teva’s huge debt and transform that into a public-private partnership with the government and scientific research institutes in Israel. This could enable Israel to regain some value of the tax subsidy it lost subsidizing Teva’s disastrous buying spree. In doing so, it could reboot a value- added translational medical ecosystem in Israel to solve global chronic and infectious diseases and enable new firms to emerge from the economic and business policy failures associated with Teva.

 

A debt swap of specialty drug patents could also reduce Teva’s current debt burden. Teva could swap out current debt for the value of the remaining specialty drug patents whose development it can no longer support enabling Teva to right-size its reduced generic drug footprint. Those drug patents would become part of a long term public-private drug development partnership focused on specialty drugs, via a new Research Based Obligation (RBO) Bond that would finance the translational medical industry and other intellectual property emerging from technology transfer organizations through Israel’s globally known medical centers, incubators, and the Israel Innovation Authority.

 

This would provide new players with sufficient runway to discover cures, vaccines, and treatment modalities including but beyond pills, where Israel’s knowledge capital can be competitive. Last year, Teva received approval for three innovative drugs (Fluticasone Salmeterol MDPI, Vantrella and Fluticason Propionate MDPI). Another drug is in Phase III clinical trails for migraine headaches. Other drugs in development at various stages include ones for movement disorders and Huntington’s disease.

 

Analyst reports from Citigroup, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley reported potential sales volumes of $3-5b. annually from these drugs. Combined with patents from other technology transfer organizations in Israel, the country could yet achieve great value for the intellectual property it is so heavily invested in by fueling long-term commercialization. In some of our institute’s financial innovations labs, colleagues from MIT, UC-Berkeley, NYU and elsewhere have shown how such financial engineering can increase success in fighting cancer, diabetes, neuropsychiatric disorders, blood disease and infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases as well…

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

                                                           

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AFTER QUIET 2017, CHINESE INVESTORS SEEN

RESUMING ISRAELI TECH SHOPPING SPREE

Shoshanna Solomon

Times of Israel, Dec. 28, 2017

 

The sale of auto-technology firm Mobileye to Intel Corp. for a whopping $15.3 billion was by far the most significant Israeli tech moment of 2017, but US President Donald Trump’s tax reform, along with changes in the Chinese investment environment, will also be remembered as defining the year, as they injected uncertainty into past 12 months.

 

At the end of 2016, the Chinese government issued restrictions on outbound investments but then clarified its position in August 2017, setting out a policy that banned certain investments, for example, in the military, gambling and sex industries; restricted investments in other areas like real estate, films, sports and hotels; but encouraged investments in industries that promote China’s technological development, as well as the oil and mining industries.

 

“2017 was a transition year,” said Edouard Cukierman, managing partner of Catalyst Investments L.P., an Israel-based private equity fund that manages over $250 million in investments. “The uncertain regulatory environment in China regarding investments in the first half of the year led to a slowdown in Chinese investment activity. The clarification of the rules in August has now opened up the bottleneck and I believe that in 2018 we will see renewed activity in Israel by Chinese investors.” Catalyst’s third fund, the CEL fund, which raised $200 million in commitments from investors, was set up jointly with Hong Kong-based China Everbright Ltd. More than 50 percent of the funds raised by CEL was from Chinese investors, according to company data.

 

As the Asian giant seeks a stake in the global technology world, shifting its economy from a labor-intensive powerhouse to one driven by technology, Chinese firms have been on a shopping spree for technologies and startups. In the past five years Chinese companies have invested some $16 billion in Israeli firms, not only high-tech, including the $4.4 billion acquisition of Playtika by a Chinese consortium in 2016, the $510 million buyout of medical device firm Lumenis by China’s XIO Group in 2015, Alma Laser in 2013, and food company Tnuva in 2014.

 

The cooling of China’s relations with the US —  as Washington seems to have lost patience with China’s hesitation in making trade concessions and its stance on North Korea — along with the recently passed US tax reform, which will make it more attractive for US companies to invest in local firms and not as many international firms, will also have an impact on Chinese activity in Israel, he said. “Chinese investors will be less keen to do business in the US, where they feel the environment has turned more hostile,” he said. And US firms, which have been traditionally the most active in acquiring Israeli startups, may turn their attentions inward, to their home turf. “This will open up opportunities for Chinese firms to operate in Israel,” he said.

 

Trump’s corporate tax reforms may also lead to US investors requiring Israeli startups to register as US entities, or to move significant operations to the US, so as to make them eligible for the tax rebates. In addition, Cukierman expects 2018 to see increased interest from Latin America in Israeli technology, as seen in the acquisition of Netafim by Mexican group Mexichem. “Abundant available money in the global economy and interest rates close to zero (despite a few hikes) continued to drive the local tech market this year,” consultants PwC Israel said in their 2017 exits report. The mood, however, was overshadowed by the limits imposed by Chinese authorities on foreign investments and by the uncertainty injected into the market by the US tax reform.

 

The total value of exists in the Israeli tech market (M&As and public offerings) was $7.4 billion, up 110% year on year, compared with $3.5 billion in 2016, according to the report published on Wednesday. Seventy exits took place in 2017, up from 55 deals in 2016. This figure represents a return to the levels seen in 2014 and 2015, with 70 exits each. In addition, the Israeli market twice broke the $1 billion mark in 2017, thanks to Mobileye that was acquired by Intel for $15.3 billion and NeuroDerm that was acquired by Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma for $1.1 billion. These two deals are not included in the exits report, as they would skew the data.

 

The average value per deal in 2017 was $106 million, or a 66% increase year on year, even when deducting the two mega deals, the report said. Israeli tech companies returned to raising money via initial public offerings of shares on global and local markets: some 11 companies raised a total of $414 million in IPOs this year, the report said. The largest equity issue in 2017 was that of ForeScout, which raised $116 million on NASDAQ, reflecting a market cap of $800 million…

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

 

Contents

THE EMERGENCY MEDICS TAKING ON

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

Daniel K. Eisenbud

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 28, 2017

 

In a country where terrorism and war are endured as a consistent, yet unpredictable, byproduct of a protracted and intractable geopolitical conflict, post-traumatic stress disorder is far from rare. While there is no recent data on the number of Israelis afflicted, Avi Steinherz, clinical director of United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, said approximately 20% of those who experience or witness extreme violence will develop some form of PTSD.

 

“Statistics-wise, what we have found from 15 to 20 years of experience – including the intifadas, wars and incursions from Gaza – is that the majority of the general population has a resilience to traumatic events, and most people exposed to them do get better on their own,” he said on Tuesday. “However, there is 20% of the population that enters into what is called ‘acute stress reaction (ASR),’ in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event, and once you talk about that particular population the statistics flip around completely because among them almost 80% will develop PTSD, which is a condition which they, their families and communities can suffer from for the rest of their lives.”

 

“Unfortunately,” he continued, “our population here in Israel has a huge amount of hyper-sensitive people walking around with PTSD from the numerous, unending amount of trauma we’re exposed to from all the wars, intifadas and the danger of living under the gun and the threat of death at all times.” Steinherz said the country’s first Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit was formed in 2016, at the height of the so-called “stabbing intifada,” following years of germination.

 

“During our experience from the stabbing intifada, we had statistics from Magen David Adom indicating that there were between three and four more times the amount of people who were emotionally and psychologically traumatized than those physically wounded,” he noted. “But, the amazing thing we found, which is the driving force behind our unit, is that if the 20% of the population who enters ASR receives immediate stabilization, 75% of those people will not develop PTSD. So, time is of the essence.”

 

Today, over 600 specialists, ranging from psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and EMTs, volunteer in the unit throughout the country as psychological first-responders following all terrorist attacks, missile incursions, deadly accidents, and violent criminal activity. According to Steinherz, the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, which has been dispatched over 400 times since its inception, is divided into two segments. “Our Advanced Life Support Unit is made up of 300 mental health professionals at the advanced level,” he explained. “The second team, which also has 300 volunteers, is called the Basic Support Unit, which includes medics and first-responders who have gone through an intensive course to provide immediate psychological first aid stabilization in the field.”

 

Based on the proven efficacy of these highly-trained volunteers, Steinherz said it has since become mandatory at United Hatzalah for all new EMTs to be trained in psychological first aid stabilization. “In the EMT courses, every single new incoming EMT must undergo five hours of psychological first aid training to help the medics themselves develop resilience to be able to deal with the traumatic experiences they are exposed to in the field,” he said. Moreover, Steinherz said that EMTs are trained to rapidly identify psychologically traumatized individuals, be they witnesses or family members of those physically wounded…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Fly Me To The Moon: SpaceIL Launches Funding Plea To Complete Space Race Amid Financial Troubles: No Camels, Dec. 18, 2017—Israel’s race to the Moon may soon have to come to a screeching halt as the Israeli startup SpaceIL, one of five finalists in the prestigious Google Lunar XPRIZE competition with a mission to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon, says it’s short of the funds necessary to complete the project and may have to forfeit.

Technion Becomes First Israeli University to Open Campus in China: Shiri Moshe, Algemeiner, Dec. 19, 2017—The Technion — Israel Institute of Technology became the first Israeli university to inaugurate a campus in China on Monday. The Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT) is a result of a 2013 partnership between the leading Israeli school and Shantou University in China’s southern Guangdong province.

On Upcoming India Visit, Netanyahu to Gift Modi Israeli Mobile Desalinization Vehicle: Algemeiner, Dec. 19, 2017—When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travels to New Delhi next month, he will bring a special gift for his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi — a Gal-Mobile water desalinization and purification jeep.

Israel Helps Colombia Upgrade its Air Force: Yoav Zitun, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 28, 2017—Colombian security officials, including the chief of staff and the commander of the Air Force, took part earlier this month in a ceremony marking the completion of an upgrading process of 22 Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Kfir fighter planes belonging to the Colombian army and manufactured in Israel in the early 1970s.

                                                              

 

 

ISRAEL’S DEFENSIVE STRENGTH, DIPLOMATIC SUCCESS, AND CULTURE OF INNOVATION ADMIRED “IN MANY QUARTERS”

Fighting a Worthy Intellectual Battle: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Oct. 27, 2017 — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's now-famous (or infamous) "sour pickles" speech at the opening of the Knesset winter session this week was more than a curiosity and much more than good political theater.

Why Is Israel's Image Improving in Greece?: George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, Oct. 24, 2017— For most observers, the South Caucasus region might not appear high on Israel’s foreign policy agenda.

Israel and the South Caucasus: Building a New Approach: Emil Avdaliani, Algemeiner, Nov. 5, 2017 — Canadian governmental spokespeople have been active lately in apologizing for historical wrongs.

Remembering Rabin: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 2, 2017— Many on the Left want the annual memorial of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin to focus on the late prime minister’s political convictions and emphasize the dangers of incitement, particular of the right-wing variety.

 

On Topic Links

 

Growing Confidence in Israel's High Tech Sector: Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 30, 2017

Netanyahu: 100 Years After Balfour, Palestinians Should Accept Jewish State: Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 2, 2017

Netanyahu’s Center-Right Partners Won’t Join Labor-Led Government Despite Alarming Polls: David Israel, Jewish Press, Nov. 5, 2017

85,000 Attend Rally Marking 22nd Anniversary of Rabin’s Murder: Jacob Magid, Times of Israel, Nov. 4, 2017

                                                           

                       

 

FIGHTING A WORTHY INTELLECTUAL BATTLE                                                                  

David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, Oct. 27, 2017

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's now-famous (or infamous) "sour pickles" speech at the opening of the Knesset winter session this week was more than a curiosity and much more than good political theater. It was a substantial address that touched upon some of the central intellectual battles underway these days, in and about Israel.

 

Essentially, Netanyahu was pushing back against what he called the "industry of despondency" about Israel – the negativism about Israel's direction in all matters: social, economic, democratic and diplomatic. Netanyahu rejected doom-and-gloom depictions of Israel as isolated, divided, oppressive, frozen, and fascist. Instead, he argued, Israel is on the upswing in almost all fields, with strong showings in defense, diplomacy, business, art, science, and yes, in democratic discourse and in identity politics too.

 

I am particularly interested in intellectual currents in defense and diplomatic matters, which are undergoing an important revolution. For years, the left-liberal side of Israel's political spectrum has advanced an alarmist and defeatist narrative: that Israel is losing its global stature and support because of the continuing stalemate in relations with the Palestinians.

 

First, the Left argued that Israel needed a peace accord with the Palestinians; otherwise it would not be secure. Then, the Left argued that without at least a peace process, Israel would be demonized and deprived of international standing. Now, the Left argues that without unilateral Israeli withdrawals and a division of our capital city, Israel will be crushed demographically and go dark democratically. Netanyahu is saying no to this. He is saying that Israel can stand up for its historic rights and security interests, and still improve its global standing, while maintaining its robust universalist and nationalist identity.

 

Of course, a process of reconciliation and compromise with the Palestinians would be preferable. But Israel's importance, salience and relevance for the Jewish people and for the world are functions of much more than our difficult situation with recalcitrant Palestinians. Israel has a strategic standing, regionally and globally, that is consequential and resolute. The strength of Israel and the religious-national values embedded in its society are affectionately respected in many, many quarters.

 

This is partially the context that explains the establishment in Jerusalem this month of a new conservative security think tank, the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, of which I am the founding vice president. The institute seeks to counter debilitating currents in Israeli defense and diplomatic discourse, and recapture the mainstream in Zionist security thinking.

 

Among the principles underlying the institute's activity are the Jewish people's historic connection to the land of Israel as a central component of strategic worldview; the salience of security in diplomatic agreements; rejection of unilateral Israeli moves that strengthen adversaries; the importance of strategic cooperation with like-minded Western allies; the imperative of Israel being able to defend itself by itself in all eventualities; and, critically, the importance of united Jerusalem to Israel’s security and destiny…

 

The fact is that over the past three decades, the Israeli Left has astutely financed a multitude of public policy centers to buttress an agenda of far-reaching concessions meant to rapidly pave the way toward Palestinian statehood with a divided Jerusalem as its capital. Alas, the Israeli center-right has not created a serious intellectual infrastructure that might lead security thinking in an alternative direction. The Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies seeks to redress this situation, to push back against downcast and despairing narratives, and to reinforce the healthy, steadfast instincts of the Israeli majority.

 

Here is an example of healthy instincts. According to a new JISS public opinion poll to be released next week, a solid majority of Israelis (64%) believes that Israel must rule the entire Jerusalem envelope for security and ideological reasons. Even larger majorities believe that Israel must maintain sovereignty over the Temple Mount whatever diplomatic accords emerge (72%), and that Jews should be able to pray on the Temple Mount (68%).

 

The new institute will also seek to energize Israeli strategic discourse with a reconsideration of defense concepts that have fallen by the wayside over the past two decades, such as pre-emptive war and secure borders. Another central focus for the new institute is training the next generation of national security specialists – a younger cohort from the Israeli academic, intelligence, military and foreign policy communities – in the best traditions of both Zionist and Western grand strategic thinking.

 

The choice of Jerusalem for this new think tank is no accident. The July events surrounding the Temple Mount, as well as the decision by the Trump Administration to walk back an explicit election promise on the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem – where the embassy belongs! – are but two aspects of what is bound to be an almost existential issue for Israel and the Jewish People…

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

                                                                       

                                                                       

 

Contents

WHY IS ISRAEL'S IMAGE IMPROVING IN GREECE?

George N. Tzogopoulos

BESA, Oct. 24, 2017

 

Generally speaking, there has long been a consensus among Greek journalists on who is to be blamed for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for the failure to achieve peace: Israel. The Jewish state has been consistently portrayed as the aggressor and the Palestinians as innocent victims. The Greek coverage of the Mavi Marmara incident in June 2010 illustrates this phenomenon. “Mourning and ire for the Israeli Ressalto” was the headline used by Eleftherotypia, a leftist publication (now closed down for economic reasons). The center-left paper TA NEA was equally critical, opting for the headline: “World outcry: Goliath crushed David”. The “World outcry” phrase was also used by the conservative newspaper Hi Kathimerini.

 

Greek sympathy for the Palestinian cause is rooted in the proximity of the Arab world and the support of most Arabs on the Cyprus Question. Anti-Semitism has also played a role. But there is another reason why Israel was constantly blamed by the Greek media, at least before 2010. It served as a useful scapegoat for all the problems in the Middle East, if not all the problems in the world. This made it easy for journalists to avoid time-consuming, in-depth research on international affairs. Jerusalem’s close cooperation with Ankara only fueled the negative perception of Israel among the Greek media.

 

The turning point came in the late summer of 2010. The media tend to follow the prevailing political agenda, and the rehabilitation of Israel’s image was no exception. When Jerusalem decided to look for new allies in the Eastern Mediterranean following the setback in its relations with Ankara, it turned to Athens. In August 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Greece, opening a new chapter in a relationship that had been marked for decades by misunderstandings and suspicion.

 

George Papandreou, the Greek premier at the time, saw Israel as a critical ally in an era of economic austerity and uncertainty over Greece’s potential default and exit from the Eurozone. The Greek media followed Papandreou’s lead. The headline of TA NEA was characteristic: “From flirting to marriage: Greece and Israel are opening perspectives for golden cooperation.” Eleftherotypia talked about “Changing balances creating a ‘new axis’ in the region,” and Hi Kathimerini wrote about a “closer collaboration” between the two countries. From late 2010 onwards, covering Israel has been a job not only for foreign editors but also for diplomatic correspondents.

 

In the aftermath of the Netanyahu-Papandreou Athens meeting, most Greek journalists began to grasp that Israel is no longer an unknown, distant neighbor. Above all, it is a partner. This strategic partnership yields positives for Greece in terms of security and energy affairs, and also has a tangibly positive effect on the Greek economy. While 207,711 Israeli tourists came to Greece in 2012, expected arrivals from Israel are expected to be 530,712 in 2017. Thessaloniki (among others) is a city Israeli citizens are keen to visit due to its historic Jewish past and its mayor Yannis Boutaris, who is very friendly towards Israel.

 

Also, economic opportunities quickly became apparent. As a “start-up” nation, Israel attracted the attention of Greek entrepreneurs. The Embassy of Israel in Athens organizes events and competitions, the winners of which have the opportunity to participate in the DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival. Israel’s communications strategy on Facebook and Twitter also helps Greek journalists and ordinary citizens gain easy access to information about the country.

 

Moreover, the racist behavior of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, and its position that Israel is Greece’s “eternal enemy,” have (to an extent) associated anti-Israel voices in Greece with political extremists. The attack of a far-left terror group against the Israeli embassy in Athens in December 2014 reinforced this perception and drove some new sympathy for Israel. At the time, most Greek journalists expressed serious concern about safety and security in Greece as well as about the international implications of the event. To Ethnos, a center-left newspaper, said the attack was an international stigma for Greece as it was “the first against an Israeli Embassy for twelve years at the world level.” (For its part, Proto Thema, a weekly tabloid, reported on the involvement of Mossad in the investigation, indirectly implying that Greek authorities would not necessarily be able to locate the suspects.)…

 

After 2015, an additional barrier tarnishing Israel’s image in Greece was removed. A leftist government, Syriza, came to power, bringing with it a new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras. Though he had participated in pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the past, his tune changed when he assumed his new position. In contrast to his pre-election stance, Tsipras treats Israel as an ally, and his foreign policy is reflected in media coverage on both left and right. The Journalists’ Newspaper, for example, which replaced Eleftherotypia, praised the Trilateral Thessaloniki Meeting of June 2017 for accelerating the construction of an East Med pipeline.

 

Broadly speaking, Greek journalists are now more mature about Israel. In the aftermath of the “Arab Spring,” even the most pro-Palestinian journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict acknowledge Jerusalem’s contribution to regional stability. Also, official visits to Israeli cities have left participants impressed by the country, and this is penetrating into their work. Other Greek media representatives have turned their attention entirely to blaming Germany for the Greek drama, and see no need to construct other “enemies.” Still others are affected by rising Islamophobia, rather than anti-Semitism, as terror attacks plotted by ISIS continue to strike Europe.

 

The improving image of Israel in Greece could theoretically go hand in hand with a reduction in anti-Semitism. In 2014, the Greek parliament voted in favor of a new anti-racism law that made Holocaust denial, inter alia, a criminal act. Numbers cannot confirm this, though, as some stereotypes grounded in the thinking of older generations have deep roots. Greece has not experienced endemic violence against members of Jewish institutions, but the authorities are nevertheless in search of measures to eradicate anti-Semitism. When Speaker of the Greek Parliament Nikos Voutsis visited Israel last January, he signed a declaration to combat anti-Semitism. Politicians such as the vice president of the conservative New Democracy party, Adonis Georgiadis, have decided to publicly apologize for their anti-Semitic pasts. Those who sympathize with racist points of view find themselves politically isolated. This process will take time, of course, because it is principally related to school education. But the change in coverage of Israel by Greek journalists is a good omen. 

 

 

                                                                       

Contents

ISRAEL AND THE SOUTH CAUCASUS: BUILDING A NEW APPROACH

Emil Avdaliani

Algemeiner, Nov. 5, 2017

 

For most observers, the South Caucasus region might not appear high on Israel’s foreign policy agenda. This is a reasonable assumption, as none of the three states — Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia — borders Israel. Moreover, the region is a hotbed of ethnic fighting, with three ongoing separatist conflicts in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh further complicating political stability.

 

However, the South Caucasus’ strategic location — which lies on the one hand between Central Asia and eastern Europe, and on the other between Russia and the Middle East – has drawn regional players to seek greater influence in the territory. Those players are usually Turkey, Russia and the EU, and their interest might logically appear to overwhelm any potential influence that Israel might have in the region.

 

Yet over the past year, Israel has intensified its foreign policy moves toward each of the South Caucasian states. Each country interests Israel for its own particular reasons. For example, prior to 2008, the Georgian army was largely supplied with Israeli military technologies. However, the Russo-Georgian war that broke out in August 2008 caused Israeli exports to cease, as Russia was angry that its small neighbor was able to boast such advanced military capabilities. Beyond military ties, Georgia interests Israel from an economic standpoint: Israeli investments play an important role in Georgia’s economy. Moreover, Georgia is geopolitically important, insofar as it has several large ports on its Black Sea shoreline that can easily be used for commercial and military purposes.

 

In the case of Armenia, Israel’s relations have been somewhat distant for more than a decade. This was due primarily to Israel’s rather strong ties with Yerevan’s two biggest geopolitical rivals: Azerbaijan and Turkey. However, a shift in bilateral relations was made apparent recently when a senior Israeli official visited Yerevan. Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s minister for regional cooperation, visited Armenia on July 25-26, 2017 for talks with senior Armenian officials. Hanegbi is a key figure in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party and has held ministerial positions for two decades. He said his visit was intended as a step forward in relations to make the Armenia-Israeli “friendship mutually beneficial in many fields.” His was the first visit by a senior Israeli official to Armenia since 2012.

 

One of the major bones of contention between Armenia and Israel is Israeli arms shipments to Azerbaijan. Those supplies played an important role in last year’s “April war” between Armenia and Azerbaijan. After Azerbaijan took several frontline posts in a surprise attack on April 2, 2016, Armenian forces undertook a counteroffensive — but Israeli-supplied Harop suicide drones and Spike anti-tank missiles helped Azerbaijani forces thwart that counterattack. This brings us to Israel-Azerbaijan relations. In late 2016, reports circulated that Baku was planning to buy Israeli “Iron Dome” capabilities to better counter Armenian attacks. Beyond those military ties, Azerbaijan is important to Israel for its large oil resources. In the event of need, the country could potentially become Israel’s major oil supplier.

 

Thus Israel’s relations with each of the three South Caucasian states depends on specific economic and military interests — interests that are contained within a complex wider context. Each state has its own relations with its larger neighbors, Russia and Turkey. Israeli diplomacy must navigate difficult political terrain where a misstep could cause Israel’s ties with Turkey or Russia to deteriorate…

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

 

Contents

REMEMBERING RABIN

Editorial

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 2, 2017

 

Many on the Left want the annual memorial of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin to focus on the late prime minister’s political convictions and emphasize the dangers of incitement, particular of the right-wing variety. Others, interested in appealing to a broader audience, want the event to be based on more common denominators such as Zionism and patriotism. Clearly Darkenu and Commanders for Israel’s Security, the two groups organizing the main event at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, adhere to the second, more inclusive approach. And this has raised the rancor of the Left.

 

We believe both positions are wrongheaded. Clearly, focusing solely on Rabin’s politics will prevent the annual memorial from becoming a national event celebrated by all walks of Israeli society. Over the past 22 years since his assassination, many of the assumptions underpinning the Oslo Accords have been discredited, particularly the belief that a moderate Palestinian political leadership would emerge in response to Israeli overtures. The 2005 evacuation of Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip, which led to the rise of Hamas, has taught Israelis to be more skeptical of making territorial concessions.

 

Nor should Rabin’s assassination be used as a means of delegitimizing the entire Right or limiting free speech. A clear distinction must be made between violent actions and speech, even of the most despicable kinds. The former must be forbidden while the latter must be protected as essential to the functioning of any democracy. While it is true that incitement on the Right preceded Rabin’s murder, ultimately it was Yigal Amir who pulled the trigger. Nevertheless, people need to learn from memorials like the one planned for Saturday night that speech can incite violence. Freedom of speech is a right that should be protected but we also need to ensure that it is not abused.

 

That is why the lessons of Rabin’s assassination must not be watered down. Figures on the Left such as former Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz are right when they point out that Rabin did not die of natural causes. He was the victim of a political assassination committed by a man who sought to change national policy not at the ballot box, but with shots from a pistol. That is why it is good that Darkenu and Commanders for Israel’s Security responded to the criticism that was rightly leveled against them from the Left for failing to mention in advertisements and notices publicizing Saturday night’s event that Rabin was assassinated. Now under the title “We are One People,” advertisements announce “a mass rally commemorating 22 years since the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.”

 

In their attempt not to hurt anyone’s feelings and to appeal to everybody, Darkenu and Commanders for Israel’s Security watered down their message too much. On a day commemorating Israel’s most shocking political assassination, it is not enough to talk about “unity” and “moderation.” A clear position needs to be taken that any form of violence used to achieve a political end is illegitimate. Political decisions must be made through consensus not through bullying or intimidation. It would also help to understand that fear is often what motivates extreme rhetoric on both the Right and the Left. During the Oslo era, many on the Right were fearful that territorial concessions and providing arms to Palestinians would lead to violence. And this fear was largely vindicated. Meanwhile, the Left fears the demographic dangers to democracy resulting from maintaining control over Judea and Samaria, which could undermine Israel as we know it.

 

What makes Rabin’s memorial day unique and worthy of commemoration is not the Labor Party’s political agenda or Rabin’s own political convictions. Nor is it enough to talk vaguely of “unity” and “moderation.” Rather we must reaffirm our democratic values, which protect even the most abhorrent forms of speech while at the same time condemn any use of violence to further political ends. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, that is something we should all be able to agree on as we remember what happened on the night of November 4, 22 years ago.

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Growing Confidence in Israel's High Tech Sector: Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 30, 2017—The Israeli company Argos, which deals with information security for vehicles, is in advanced negotiations for its acquisition by Continental of Germany in the amount of a half-billion dollars, according to recent media reports.

Netanyahu: 100 Years After Balfour, Palestinians Should Accept Jewish State: Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 2, 2017—The Palestinians have yet to take the same basic step that Great Britain did 100 years ago, when it issued the Balfour Declaration recognizing the right of the Jewish people to a state in their homeland, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his British counterpart, Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday.

Netanyahu’s Center-Right Partners Won’t Join Labor-Led Government Despite Alarming Polls: David Israel, Jewish Press, Nov. 5, 2017—It’s definitely pre-elections season in Israel, as yet another new poll has come out over the weekend with devastating predictions for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

85,000 Attend Rally Marking 22nd Anniversary of Rabin’s Murder: Jacob Magid, Times of Israel, Nov. 4, 2017—Some 85,000 people turned out at the annual rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday marking the 22nd anniversary of the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, which this year tried to emphasize national unity rather than its traditional focus on peace.

 

“SOCIALIST PARADISE” VENEZUELA IS, IN REALITY, A CORRUPT, BANKRUPT DICTATORSHIP

Trump Is Right to Punish the Profiteers of Venezuela's Misery: Ana Quintana, Real Clear World, Aug. 31, 2017— It’s been a quite a turnaround for Venezuela.

The Agony of Venezuela: Pierpaolo Barbieri, National Review, Aug. 25, 2017— Closing a speech that was as emotional as it was endless, the president invoked Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Putin’s Latest Anti-American Intervention: Venezuela: Moises Naim & Andrew Weiss, Washington Post, Sept. 6, 2017— A violent crackdown on civilian protesters rallying against an autocratic president leaves scores dead.

Israel and Latin America: It’s Complicated: Emmanuel Navon, Times of Israel, Sept. 13, 2017— Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Latin America is welcome and long-overdue. 

 

On Topic Links

 

How's Socialism Doing in Venezuela? (Video): Debbie D’souza, Prager U, Aug. 28, 2017

US Sanctions to Pile Misery on Moribund Venezuelan Economy: Joshua Goodman, National Post, Aug. 29, 2017

Imperialists Invade Venezuela: Mary Anastasia O’Grady, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 14, 2017

I Am in Prison Because I Want Freedom for My Country: Yon Goicoechea, New York Times, Sept. 4, 2017

 

 

 

TRUMP IS RIGHT TO PUNISH THE PROFITEERS OF VENEZUELA'S MISERY

Ana Quintana

Real Clear World, Aug. 31, 2017

 

It’s been a quite a turnaround for Venezuela. The one-time magnet for world vacationers is now to the top source of U.S. asylum requests. Left unaddressed, the crisis in Caracas will only worsen, leaving ordinary Venezuelans even worse off and increasingly affecting the United States.

 

The regime of President Nicolas Maduro is the world’s youngest dictatorship, yet already one of the most corrupt. Criminals masquerading as politicians rule with an iron fist and have transformed Venezuela into an international drug trafficking hub. Dozens of current and former senior Venezuelan government officials have been sanctioned by the U.S. government for drug trafficking, rampant violence against anti-government demonstrators, corruption, and undermining of democracy. Those sanctioned include the president, the vice president, the former attorney general, the former secretary of homeland security, and the director of national intelligence.

 

The same group that turned the oil-rich nation into a narco-dictatorship also set the economy on a crash course. Hugo Chavez used the surplus petrodollars from last decade’s commodities boom to amass a personal fortune, pay off party loyalists, and expand the welfare state. His socialist economic policies and multibillion-dollar corruption sank Venezuela’s economic freedom rankings. In 1995, Venezuela’s score was 59.8 on a scale of 100. Today it is a paltry 27, ranking worse than Cuba and better than only one other nation: North Korea.

 

Venezuela’s on-hand cash reserves have now dipped below $10 billion and are drying out. For perspective, consider that Bill Gates is worth eight times more than the amount of money the world’s most oil-rich nation was able to save. Oil production, the economic backbone of the country, has declined to unprecedented lows. Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, the state-owned petroleum and natural gas company, theoretically has the ability to produce over 3 million barrels of oil per day. Yet it is producing barely 1.9 million bpd and is receiving payment on less than 1 million of that. The rest of production goes mostly to pay off outstanding debts to China, Russia, and other investors, although some is also given to the regime’s leftist allies in the region.

 

The regime’s mismanagement has produced one thing in vast quantities: human misery. Venezuelans are fleeing the country in droves into neighboring Colombia and Brazil. For the first time in history, Venezuelans have topped the list of U.S. asylum seekers, thanks to a 160 percent increase from 2015. Another doubling of applicants is expected this year. The government-created economic crisis has manifested itself in widespread food shortages. It is now commonplace to see Venezuelans faint as they wait in bread lines. Also heartrendingly familiar are images of children scrounging in garbage bags for their next meal.

 

Venezuela’s healthcare system, once the pride of Hugo Chavez, has now collapsed. Basic medical care is unattainable, and crucial medicines such as antibiotics are unavailable. Venezuela’s national drugstore trade group placed medicine shortages at 85 percent in 2016, and matters are not improving.   

 

Not all Venezuelans are living in misery. Earlier this year, U.S. President Donald Trump designated Vice President Tareck el Aissami as a drug trafficking kingpin and ordered U.S. authorities to seize his ill-gotten property in the United States. They uncovered illicit property and assets valued at $500 million dollars. Hugo Chavez’s daughter, a darling of her father’s socialist movement, is believed to be the richest person in Venezuela, with a fortune valued at over $4 billion.

 

Hundreds more in the Venezuelan government continue to bleed their country dry. Following U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s recent visit to Latin America, the Trump administration announced a robust series of sanctions aimed at the profiteers of misery. The U.S. is banning trade in new bonds issued by the Venezuelan government and by PDVSA. There will also be limitations on dividend payments for the Venezuelan government. Rather than a full economic or oil embargo, this strategy brilliantly protects the Venezuelan people from further economic hardship while penalizing the corrupt government officials who are holders of the bonds. It should also serve the dual purpose of peeling away Maduro’s loyalists and enablers. 

 

The socialist paradise of Chavez and Maduro, in reality a criminal-kleptocrat syndicate, is circling the drain. Unfortunately, innocent Venezuelans are paying the heaviest price for their leaders’ failures. The impacts of this debacle are being and will be felt beyond the country’s borders. The Trump administration’s sanctions are a well-calculated exercise in damage control.

 

                                                           

 

Contents

THE AGONY OF VENEZUELA

Pierpaolo Barbieri

National Review, Aug. 25, 2017

 

Closing a speech that was as emotional as it was endless, the president invoked Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In the play’s opening scene, a boatswain dares to defy the wind as the storm gathers: “Blow, till thou burst thy wind, if room enough!” The charismatic leader then paraphrased the bard: “Blow, hard wind, blow, hard tempest, I have [a constitutional] assembly to withstand you!” The crowd was enraptured.

 

The year was 1999, and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, shortly after his election victory the previous December, was asking the assembly to deliver a new, “eternal” constitution. He put himself at the “mercy” of a fresh, temporary but all-powerful assembly, conveniently created to supersede a parliament that did not answer to him. Chávez got his way; he almost always did. The resulting constitution — Venezuela’s 26th — did away with the senate, lengthened presidential terms, unshackled military appointments from congressional oversight, and weakened the checks and balances exercised by judges and legislators. It was also the beginning of the end of democracy in Venezuela.

 

As it turned out, “eternal” did not make it 20 years. The Venezuelan republic breathed its last in July, when Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, enthroned yet another constitutional assembly, to disempower the democratic but opposition-controlled parliament. The one goal that eluded Chávez in life — the establishment of “communal socialism” — might be achieved, in his name, after his death. Despite the marshaling of government cadres eager to fire against unarmed protesters, millions of Venezuelans took to the streets to stop this power grab. Dozens of dead and hundreds of political prisoners later, they endure. The world, meanwhile, looks on, with the United States engaged only peripherally and emerging global powers reluctant to disrupt business. Venezuelans are now engaged in a civil war in which, as one astute observer remarked while being deported, only one side is armed.

 

Venezuela matters. The modern, media-fueled messianic populism that so worries Western elites was born there in the 1990s. It arose during a unique period when, ever so briefly, history appeared to be over. Liberal democracy and economic neoliberalism enjoyed an intellectual hegemony following the unceremonious collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Communists of the East implemented capitalist reforms, following China’s lead. Meanwhile, the “Washington Consensus” led to privatizations and monetarism across the developing world. In Latin America, a region only recently returned to democracy after decades of military interregnums fueled by a hot Cold War, its dictums were applied with zeal. Only the Cuba of Fidel Castro held out, impoverished, isolated, and devoid of Russian cash.

 

Venezuela was once an example to follow. The country avoided the murderous military rule that befell the likes of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile in no small part because of Rómulo Betancourt, a thrice-exiled pioneering social democrat who, in the words of Ronald Reagan, “fought dictatorships of the Right and the Left.” Fossil-fuel wealth on par with that of the Persian Gulf allowed for the kind of social redistribution that was never in the cards elsewhere. Despite this affluence, or perhaps because of it, Venezuela was also the kind of “low-intensity democracy” that political scientists worry about, its republican institutions weakened by profound social inequities and rampant corruption.

 

Neoliberal economics failed to strengthen the republic. With Betancourt long gone, the ruling two-party system was in decay. In 1989, a harsh IMF-sponsored economic austerity program lit up the capital in what became known as the “Caracazo.” Protests, lootings, and riots were met with force by the government, resulting in scores of deaths at the hands of the military. Soon enough, a charismatic young colonel espousing anti-establishment ideas improvised a coup d’état while his neoliberal commander in chief traveled to the nascent World Economic Forum at Davos. The telegenic Hugo Chávez failed, but he also failed to go away. As he was taken into custody, he addressed the TV cameras: “Regrettably, for now, we did not achieve our . . . objectives.”

 

“For now” was accurate. When Chávez was released from prison by a misguided president, he organized a democratic “movement” that cut across party lines, promising Manichaean deliverance: freeing “the people” from an entitled and corrupt “oligarchy.” He was eventually elected to the presidency, in 1998 — and he never left it until he died in office in 2013. His government has deservedly been praised for its anti-poverty efforts, later emulated by like-minded governments elsewhere. When he came to power, extreme poverty hovered at around 24 percent of the population, a staggering number given Venezuela’s natural endowment; according to the World Bank, it had fallen to around 9 percent by 2011. Similarly, unemployment declined from 14.5 percent in 1999 to 7.6 percent a decade later, a figure boosted by radical growth of the public sector. Infant mortality was almost halved during Chávez’s first decade in power, from 20 per 1,000 live births to 13.

 

His televised paternalism exalted the state at a time when it was being restrained elsewhere. Like other populist governments before him, however, his preferred jobs and free housing to improved education. He never sought to heal social wounds; his Manichaean revolution, after all, depended on them. Chávez’s economic strategy was supported by a decade-long rise in commodity prices — in particular, oil prices. Nationalized oil behemoth Petróleos de Venezuela became progressively less professional and more politicized under chavismo. There was a months-long strike in 2002–03 against the government’s management of the company; Chávez eventually fired the strikers. Devoid of its best managers, the company saw its oil production steadily decline thereafter. Yet the value of Venezuela’s net crude exports boomed for a decade, rising from (in 2017 dollars) $21 billion when Chávez was inaugurated to $66 billion in 2011. These oil exports accounted for a staggering 96 percent of Venezuela’s hard currency. As historian Enrique Krauze has accurately observed, chavismo’s belief in high oil prices was as zealous as its socialism…

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

                                                                                   

 

Contents

PUTIN’S LATEST ANTI-AMERICAN INTERVENTION: VENEZUELA                                                 

Moises Naim & Andrew Weiss

Washington Post, Sept. 6, 2017

 

A violent crackdown on civilian protesters rallying against an autocratic president leaves scores dead. The repression pushes even more people into the streets, triggering a spiral of violence and an urgent humanitarian crisis. A U.S. president unequivocally states that the brutal dictator needs to go. The European Union agrees, but no major power has any stomach for direct military intervention. Suddenly, almost out of nowhere, Vladimir Putin decisively inserts Russia into the crisis, ensuring that the repressive dictator stays in power. The U.S. president is ridiculed for his fecklessness. Unfortunately for President Trump, the above scenario is playing out again, this time not in Syria but in Venezuela. For all its bellicose talk and new sanctions against Nicolás Maduro’s government, the Trump administration has been oddly silent about Russia’s role, perhaps preferring not to draw attention to the fact that Moscow is now the bankrupt nation’s lender of last resort.

 

On the surface it may seem odd that that Russia would intervene in a country so far from its borders that appears to be hurtling toward collapse. Yet friendly ties between the Russian government and Venezuela run deep, stretching back to former leader Hugo Chávez’s first trip to Moscow in May 2001. He returned 10 times before his death from cancer in 2013. Over that period Venezuela became one of the world’s top clients of the Russian arms industry. Between 2001 and 2011 it purchased $11 billion worth of Russian weapons.

 

As its economic situation worsened, the volume of Venezuela’s arms purchases dwindled and its main relationship with Russia shifted from weapons to energy. At first, most of the deals were loans guaranteed by Venezuela’s oil sales. Soon, these largely commercial deals became more complex as the Russians demanded more real assets as guarantees. Caracas obliged, and the Russian companies that were the vehicles for these deals got shares of oil companies and even the right to operate entire Venezuelan oil fields.

 

While the essence of the relationship between Russia and Venezuela has largely been economic, international and domestic politics are never far away. The Venezuelan government’s move to neuter the elected National Assembly, which triggered an escalation of street protests by the opposition in the past few months, was motivated by, of all things, the need to secure a Russian loan. The National Assembly is the only lever of power that Maduro does not control. By law, all international credits and sales of the nation’s assets have to be approved by this body. The opposition leaders who run it are strongly opposed to the deals the government was offering to foreigners – mostly to Rosneft, the Russian state-owned energy behemoth. The government, in dire need of cash, decided to bypass this step by having the Supreme Court, which it controls, issue a decision grabbing the National Assembly’s authority — including the power to approve the new asset transfers to Russian entities.

 

Today the Maduro government is scrambling to service roughly $5 billion in foreign debt due over the next 12 months. In the wake of newly announced U.S. financial sanctions on Venezuela, the national oil company PDVSA, the chief generator of hard currency, has effectively lost the ability to borrow from U.S. or European banks to pay off or refinance most of these debts. That highlights the importance of the fact that Rosneft loaned PDVSA more than $1 billion in April, bringing the total amount of Russian loans and credits to upward of $5 billion total in the past few years.

 

Moscow has also offered political support. Russia was among just a handful of foreign governments that endorsed the recent dissolution of the National Assembly, and top Russian diplomats like Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov routinely complain about the hidden hand of the United States in fostering Venezuela’s domestic crisis. But the Kremlin’s help doesn’t come cheap. PDVSA reportedly is in talks to sell to Rosneft stakes in other lucrative oil and gas projects at a deep discount. Rosneft has also taken over from PDVSA the profitable job of marketing Venezuelan crude to customers in the United States, Asia, and beyond.

 

In the wake of Putin’s successful streak of geopolitical adventurism, the big question is whether he sees another opening in Venezuela. An inveterate opportunist, he surely knows that Donald Trump’s recent bombshell statement about possible military options for the Venezuela crisis was an empty threat. On the restive streets of Caracas, it is also increasingly clear that the regime has the upper hand and is unlikely to collapse any time soon. What we don’t know is whether the financial and political costs of keeping Maduro in power will turn out to be affordable for the Kremlin. But it would surprise us if Putin passes up a chance to throw his weight around in America’s backyard — and build some healthy income streams on the side. In Syria, Putin flipped a messy civil war on its head and prevented a U.S. policy goal of regime change from becoming reality. Exposing the hollowness of the Trump administration’s bombastic brand of foreign policy in Venezuela could be a reward in and of itself.                                       

 

Contents

ISRAEL AND LATIN AMERICA: IT’S COMPLICATED                                                 

Emmanuel Navon               

Times of Israel, Sept. 13, 2017

 

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Latin America is welcome and long-overdue.  Indeed, it is astonishing that no Israeli prime minister before him ever paid an official visit there.  As Israel is trying to counter Iran’s global reach and to crack the “automatic majority” at the United Nations, investing diplomatic efforts in Latin America is the right thing to do.

 

Latin America played an important role in the birth of Israel.  Three of the eleven countries that constituted the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) were Latin American (Guatemala, Peru, and Uruguay).  The representative of Guatemala at UNSCOP was George Garcia Granados, a pro-Zionist who had met twice with Menachem Begin in secret when the British were trying to kill him.  Granados pushed hard to get UNSCOP to adopt partition and to get it approved by the General Assembly.

 

The President of the General Assembly at the time of the vote on partition was Oswaldo Aranha from Brazil.  Like Granados, Aranha also had strong Zionist sympathies.  The vote on UNSCOP’s partition proposal had been scheduled to take place on the 27th of November 1947.  As the vote was approaching, however, it became clear that there was no majority for the approval of partition.  More time was needed to gather support, especially among Latin American countries.  Aranha came up with an idea that saved the day: November 28 was Thanksgiving, he reminded delegates, and it would be unfair to keep American workers at the UN.  He therefore suggested renewing the debates and votes over the UNSCOP proposal after Thanksgiving.  His proposal was accepted, and the extra 48 hours enabled the Jewish Agency to gather more support among UN delegations.  During the vote, the support of Latin American countries was critical.  At the General Assembly, 33 countries voted “yes,” 13 voted “no,” and 10 abstained.  Of the 33 “yes” votes, 13 were from Latin America (i.e. 40%).

 

Despite this diplomatic support, however, relations were overshadowed by the shelter offered by Latin American governments to senior Nazi criminals such as Adolph Eichmann, Klaus Barbie, and Joseph Mengele.  After Israel captured Eichmann in Argentina in 1960, the Argentinian government complained that Israel had violated diplomatic étiquette, but it did not apologize for granting Eichmann a save heaven in the first place.  Other Nazis lived a happy life in Argentina and died in old age, such as Erich Priebke who died in October 2013 at age 100.  Like many other Nazis, he lived a comfortable life in the Argentinian ski resort of Bariloche, where Joseph Mengele took his driving test and where Erich Priebke ran a deli.  It was said to be the best in town, and customers used to call it “the Nazi deli.”

 

While most Latin American countries voted in favor of partition at the UN in 1947, their voting patterns at the General Assembly became unfavorable to Israel from the 1960s onward.  In 1964, a voting group of third world countries (known as “Group of 77”) was formed at the General Assembly.  Latin American countries were part of this bloc, which was very much influenced by its Arab and Muslim members.  To Israel, Latin America was “lost” diplomatically but it still mattered economically because of its oil reserves.  After the Iranian revolution of 1979 Israel lost a major oil supplier and oil exporters such as Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil and Ecuador became valuable alternatives.

 

In addition, Latin America once again became diplomatically relevant to Israel after the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  Due to the oil embargo, most African countries cut their diplomatic ties with Israel, while Western Europe and Japan kowtowed to Arab demands.   Israel tried to bypass its diplomatic isolation by leveraging common interests with unsavory regimes.  In the case of Latin America, this policy meant selling weapons to anti-Soviet and authoritarian countries. Of all Latin American states, only Cuba severed its diplomatic relations with Israel after the Yom Kippur War.  Latin America became the last bastion of Israel’s presence in the Third World after 1973: Israel was isolated from Africa, and it had no diplomatic relations with China and India.  Except for Cuba after 1959 and Nicaragua after 1979, Latin America did not become “red” during the Cold War.  The United States was eager to prevent a Communist “domino effect” in what it considered to be its backyard…

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

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

How's Socialism Doing in Venezuela? (Video): Debbie D’souza, Prager U, Aug. 28, 2017—Venezuela is falling apart. Its economy? Ruined. Its people? Hungry. Its government? Corrupt. What happened? In a word, socialism. Debbie D'Souza, a native Venezuelan and political activist, explains.

US Sanctions to Pile Misery on Moribund Venezuelan Economy: Joshua Goodman, National Post, Aug. 29, 2017—A small army of red-shirted workers mop the linoleum floors as their supervisors, sitting under a giant portrait of Hugo Chavez, look on. By the meltdown standards of Venezuela’s economy, the shelves around the workers at the state-run Bicentenario supermarket in eastern Caracas are brimming with staples like rice and pasta.

Imperialists Invade Venezuela: Mary Anastasia O’Grady, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 14, 2017—Asked on Friday about the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, President Trump said “I’m not going to rule out a military option.” But he has yet to articulate the geopolitical dimension of the Venezuelan crisis.

I Am in Prison Because I Want Freedom for My Country: Yon Goicoechea, New York Times, Sept. 4, 2017—I write this from my cell in the dungeons of the Venezuelan secret police. I’m 32 and I’ve been a democratic activist for 12 years. I have two children, 8 and 5, who are my sun and moon. I have a wife whom I love and who now has to carry the burden of being married to a political prisoner.

 

 

 

 

 

BIBI ATTACKED BY MEDIA, OPPOSITION, & LEFTISTS, DESPITE PAST DECADE OF “STABILITY & TRIUMPH” IN ISRAEL

Netanyahu's Strategic Achievements: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Aug. 11, 2017 — No one yet knows whether the current police investigations will land Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in court or bring about a change in government.

Netanyahu's Empathy for Trump: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 24, 2017— Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was attacked by the media for not jumping on the bandwagon and condemning US President Donald Trump for his response to the far-right and far-left rioters in Charlottesville earlier this month.

Will Netanyahu Stand Up to Trump on Charlottesville?: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Aug. 24, 2017— During the eight years that he was saddled with President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was bitterly criticized from the left by those who believed that he was endangering Israel’s vital alliance with the US.

Israeli Opposition Bets on Millionaire to Take it Back to Power: John Reed, Financial Times, Aug. 21, 2017 — Israel’s centre-left opposition, which was founded by eastern European socialists and once ruled the country for decades, has chosen an unlikely new leader: the son of Moroccan immigrants who rose from poverty to become a multimillionaire.

 

On Topic Links

 

Differing Scenarios for a Post-Netanyahu Government: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Aug. 9, 2017

Bouncing Bibi?: Jim Fletcher, Breaking Israel News, Aug. 15, 2017

Is Ehud Barak on his Way Back to the Knesset?: David Rosenberg, Arutz Sheva, Aug. 15, 2017

Naftali Bennett's Fine Words: Jeff Barak, Jerusalem Post, August 27, 2017

 

 

NETANYAHU'S STRATEGIC ACHIEVEMENTS

David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, Aug. 11, 2017

 

No one yet knows whether the current police investigations will land Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in court or bring about a change in government. But what is intolerable is the false narrative of diplomatic delinquency that is being hurled at Netanyahu, in complete contradiction to the historical record. Day and night, opposition critics and left-wing former security types attack Netanyahu for "doing nothing." They assail his decade-long leadership as having "achieved nothing" and especially for having "missed opportunities for peace." They claim that Netanyahu has left Israel "isolated." They say he is driven only by personal calculations, or alternatively, by messianic ideologies, and is incapable of protecting Israel's interests.

 

Such criticism stems from a misreading of Israel's strategic situation, and belies a total unwillingness to consider Netanyahu's intelligent long-term strategy for securing Israel's security and global standing. This is unfortunate, because an honest look at Netanyahu's record suggests significant strategic accomplishments. As prime minister, Netanyahu has been confronted by many questions: How does Israel steer clear of Arab civilizational chaos while defending its borders in an extremely unstable and unpredictable security environment? How does Israel prevent runaway Palestinian statehood and the emergence of a radical state that prolongs and exacerbates conflict with Israel instead of ending it? How should Israel handle an impatient world community that has gotten into the habit of punishing Israel for the absence of unrealistic diplomatic progress with the Palestinians? And how does Israel stymie the rise of Iranian regional hegemony and prevent its development of nuclear weapons?

 

Netanyahu's approach to these challenges can summarized as: Apply caution alongside creativity. Navigate warily, yet maneuver innovatively. Netanyahu has sought to ride out the Middle Eastern storms by securing Israel's borders; refraining as much as possible from bloody wars; seeking out and securing new security and diplomatic alliances; and forestalling grandiose and dicey diplomatic experiments in Israel's heartland. At the same time, he has kept all Israel's options open, while ensuring domestic government stability and the growth of Israel's economy.

 

Wise and important actors around the world have come to accept Netanyahu's central strategic platform: the assertion that the main game in the region is no longer Israel versus the Palestinians or Israel versus the Arabs. Instead, the main basis for defense and diplomatic activity in the Middle East is an unofficial alliance between Israel and most of the Arabs (together with Western powers), against the Iranians and the jihadis. The forces of stability and moderation are pitted against the forces of violent and radical Islamic revolution. The same wise and important actors have come to appreciate Netanyahu as one of the free world's finest statesmen. From China, India, Russia and Africa, in addition to North America and even Europe, they are beating a path to Netanyahu's doorstep seeking opportunities to cooperate with Israel, not to isolate it. Behind the scenes, Israel's relations with Egypt and key Gulf states have never been better, according to all reports.

 

So there is an Israeli "grand strategy" of sorts, and it has been largely successful. It involves steadfastness, patience, and looking over the horizon. It involves being both flexible and firm. It involves positioning Israel as an anchor of sanity and a source of ingenuity. For many years, it involved bobbing and weaving around then-President Barack Obama in order to keep America on Israel's side. Alas, there is a big chink in this contention and in Israel's armor, which is the growing power of Iran and its allies (Hezbollah and Hamas) on Israel's borders. Netanyahu was unable to stop Obama's terrible deal with Tehran, and as a result Iran is more belligerently adventurous than ever. Israel's account with Iran, and with those in Washington and the West that continue to pump for Iran, remains open.

 

Many in liberal circles will acknowledge Netanyahu's acumen in advancing a broad strategic vision, but find it awkward to defend his policy towards the Palestinians. They fail to understand that the Israeli public elected Netanyahu largely in order to put a brake on the failed Oslo process. Netanyahu represents a majority of Israelis who felt that the repercussions of the breakdown of a bad peace process were incalculably less worse than its continuation. It is obvious that the Palestinians have been radicalized, and suffer from chronic leadership deficit. Their cloying victimhood clogs their ability to think straight. No Palestinian truly accepts Israel's deep historical and religious rights in the Land of Israel. Gaza seems permanently locked in the jaws of Hamas, and Islamists would capture the West Bank too if the IDF halted its nightly raids into Hebron and Nablus. This makes neat territorial deals and grand treaties of reconciliation with the Palestinians nearly impossible, and adds to the long-term fragility of Israel's frontiers.

 

So Netanyahu's go-slow posture in relation to the Palestinians makes a lot of sense. Anyway, the "Palestinian problem" has been marginalized as a priority issue for Middle East Arab leaders. In relative terms, and viewed in a broader context, Palestinian nationalism is one of the more controllable problems that Israel faces. The frictions can and are being managed. Beyond this, Netanyahu is essentially making an additional argument on Israel's behalf: that Israel should be judged on its many successes (in promoting regional stability, and in immigrant absorption, education, democracy, human rights, high-tech, bio-tech and cyber-tech, etc.), rather than on its failures in peacemaking with intransigent adversaries.

 

Evelyn Gordon wrote last year in Mosaic that when Israel's left-wing politicians "encourage the world to judge Israel on its peacemaking credentials rather than on the myriad positive goods Israel provides, they invite the perverse and false conclusion that the Jewish state has been a failure rather than a resounding success. Peace is obviously desirable, but Israel doesn't exist to achieve peace. It exists to create a thriving Jewish state in the Jewish people's historic homeland." And by extension, to contribute to the world in numerous ways. Israel is doing so famously.

 

An overwhelming majority of Israelis ascribe the last decade of stability and triumph to Netanyahu's leadership. He may not be the ultimate paragon of virtue, but which politician is? However, his prudence and professionalism have best served Israel's strategic needs. Netanyahu has not been "just playing petty politics in order to survive," nor has he mainly spent his time monkeying with the media or smoking cigars and drinking champagne. He has driven Israel forward on the basis of a coherent strategic worldview and improved Israel's fortunes.                                             

 

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NETANYAHU'S EMPATHY FOR TRUMP

Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, Aug. 24, 2017

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was attacked by the media for not jumping on the bandwagon and condemning US President Donald Trump for his response to the far-right and far-left rioters in Charlottesville earlier this month. It may be that he held his tongue because he saw nothing to gain from attacking a friendly president. But it is also reasonable to assume that Netanyahu held his tongue because he empathizes with Trump. More than any leader in the world, Netanyahu understands what Trump is going through. He’s been there himself – and in many ways, is still there. Netanyahu has never enjoyed a day in office when Israel’s unelected elites weren’t at war with him.

 

From a comparative perspective, Netanyahu’s experiences in his first term in office, from 1996 until 1999, are most similar to Trump’s current position. His 1996 victory over incumbent prime minister Shimon Peres shocked the political class no less than the American political class was stunned by Trump’s victory. And this makes sense. The historical context of Israel’s 1996 election and the US elections last year were strikingly similar. In 1992, Israel’s elites, the doves who controlled all aspects of the governing apparatuses, including the security services, universities, government bureaucracies, state prosecution, Supreme Court, media and entertainment industry, were seized with collective euphoria when the Labor Party under the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres won Israel’s Left its first clear-cut political victory since 1974. Rabin and Peres proceeded to form the most dovish governing coalition in Israel’s history.

 

Then in 1993, after secret negotiations in Oslo, they shocked the public with the announcement that they had decided to cut a deal with Israel’s arch enemy, the PLO, a terrorist organization pledged to Israel’s destruction. The elites, who fancied themselves the guardians of Israel’s democracy, had no problem with the fact that the most radical policy ever adopted by any government, one fraught with dangers for the nation and the state, was embarked upon with no public debate or deliberation. To the contrary, they spent the next three years dancing around their campfire celebrating the imminent realization of their greatest dream. Israel would no longer live by its sword. It would be able to join a new, post-national world. In exchange for Jerusalem and a few other things that no one cared about, other than some fanatical religious people, Israel could join the Arab League or the European Union or both.

 

From 1993 through 1996, and particularly in the aftermath of Rabin’s assassination in November 1995, the media, the courts and every other aspect of Israel’s elite treated the fellow Israelis who reject- ed their positions as the moral and qualitative equivalent of terrorists. Like the murderers of innocents, these law-abiding Israelis were “enemies of peace.” As for terrorism, the Oslo process ushered in not an era of peace, but an era of unprecedented violence. The first time Israelis were beset by suicide bombers in their midst was in April 1994, when the euphoria over the coming peace was at its height. The 1996 election was the first opportunity the public had to vote on the Oslo process. Then, in spite of Rabin’s assassination and the beautiful ceremonies on the White House lawns with balloons and children holding flowers, the people of Israel said no thank you. We are Zionists, not post-Zionists. We don’t like to get blown to smithereens on buses, and we don’t appreciate being told that victims of terrorism are victims of peace.

 

Trump likewise replaced the most radical president the US has ever known. Throughout Barack Obama’s eight years in office, despite his failure to restore America’s economic prosperity or secure its interests abroad, Obama enjoyed the sycophantic support of the media, whose leading lights worshiped him and made no bones about it. In one memorable exchange after Obama’s June 2009 speech in Cairo, where he presented the US as the moral equivalent of its enemies, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas told MSNBC host Chris Mitchell that Obama was “kind of God.”…

 

In 1996, the Israeli elite greeted Netanyahu’s victory with shock and grief. The “good, enlightened” Israel they thought would rule forever had just been defeated by the unwashed mob. Peres summed up the results by telling reporters that “the Israelis” voted for him. And “the Jews” voted for Netanyahu. His followers shook their heads in mildly antisemitic disgust. Their mourning quickly was replaced by a spasm of hatred for Netanyahu and his supporters that hasn’t disappeared even now, 21 years later. The media’s war against Netanyahu began immediately. It was unrelenting and more often than not unhinged. So it was that two weeks after his victory, Jerusalem’s Kol Ha’ir weekly published a cover story titled, “Who are you, John Jay Sullivan?” The report alleged that Netanyahu was a CIA spy who went by the alias “John Jay Sullivan.” It took all of five minutes to take the air out of that preposterous balloon, but the media didn’t care – and it was all downhill from there…

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

                                                                       

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WILL NETANYAHU STAND UP TO TRUMP ON CHARLOTTESVILLE?                                               

Jonathan S. Tobin                                                                                                                 

JNS, Aug. 24, 2017

 

During the eight years that he was saddled with President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was bitterly criticized from the left by those who believed that he was endangering Israel’s vital alliance with the US. Netanyahu’s critics warned that his public confrontations with the US president were both inappropriate, and had the potential to turn support for the Jewish state into a partisan issue — since some Democrats interpreted these disputes as a reason to accelerate their drift away from the pro-Israel camp.

 

Today, however, the same people who spent eight years slamming Netanyahu’s willingness to publicly take on a US president are now loudly lamenting his refusal to do just that. Netanyahu was slow to respond to the antisemitic and racist march in Charlottesville, Virginia — and Netanyahu’s refusal to issue any statement that could be interpreted as criticizing Donald Trump is being blasted as a betrayal of Jewish values and his country’s best interests. Are his critics hypocrites? Of course. Are they wrong? Not entirely.

 

What these people are demanding might create a dangerous breach with a US president who has seemed to support Israel in its conflicts with both the Palestinians and Iran. But a refusal to speak out against the US president would also conflict with Netanyahu’s own definition of his responsibility, which is to be not just the head of Israel’s government, but also a defender of the interests of all Jews. Obama came into office determined to achieve more “daylight” between Israel and the US. And as Obama’s quest for a rapprochement with Iran took shape, the hostility between the two leaders reached unprecedented levels.

 

Netanyahu’s decision to accept a Republican invitation to address Congress to urge it to reject the Iran nuclear deal enraged Obama and the Democratic Party. Though most Israelis agreed with Netanyahu’s arguments, many worried that he went too far in opposing Obama, and provided an excuse for those Democrats who wished to abandon Israel. Trump’s election provided a welcome change. The Palestinians were frustrated by what they saw as strong support for Netanyahu’s positions. So it is hardly surprising that Netanyahu has sought to avoid trouble with Trump. When American Jewish liberals were lobbing largely unjustified accusations of antisemitism at the president, Netanyahu stood by Trump.

 

Even after Charlottesville, that decision to avoid criticizing Trump remains the position of many on the Israeli right and diehard Trump loyalists. Many among the prime minister’s supporters probably also agreed with Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara when he said that the “terrific relations” with Trump mean “we need to put declarations about the Nazis in proper proportion.” As Lord Palmerston said, nations “have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” That aphorism can be used to justify embracing some strange bedfellows in the defense of Israeli security. But the problem for Netanyahu is that it ill behooves a prime minister who based his challenge to Obama on the need to defend the interests of all of the Jewish people, to now lose his voice with respect to antisemitism.

 

I believe that some on the Israeli left want to instigate a spat between Netanyahu and Trump, partly because they want Trump to put pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. In my view, they also don’t expect that any of the possible alternatives to Netanyahu would have the guts to challenge Trump. But critics are correct to note that Netanyahu staying silent after Trump displayed a degree of moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and their opponents is problematic. In my view, left-wing antisemites and Israel haters currently pose a more potent threat to Jewish interests than the Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and alt-right malcontents that marched in Charlottesville. But in the wake of Charlottesville, it’s no longer possible for the Jewish right — in either Israel or the US — to ignore the threat coming from these groups, now that they’ve received some encouragement from a sitting US president…

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

 

 

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ISRAELI OPPOSITION BETS ON MILLIONAIRE TO TAKE IT BACK TO POWER

                                       John Reed

                              Financial Times, Aug. 21, 2017

 

Israel’s centre-left opposition, which was founded by eastern European socialists and once ruled the country for decades, has chosen an unlikely new leader: the son of Moroccan immigrants who rose from poverty to become a multimillionaire. But since Avi Gabbay, a former telecoms chief executive, emerged as the surprise victor of last month’s primary for the Zionist Union — formed after Labour merged with a smaller party — its sagging poll numbers have rebounded.

 

The 50-year-old is now pitching himself as a credible alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu, the rightwing prime minister, who opponents criticise for presiding over a country increasingly riven by disagreements over politics, religion and policies towards the Palestinians. “Israelis today are looking for someone who will unify them. It doesn’t matter if you are from the right side or the left side; people want to be unified again,” says Mr Gabbay in an interview with the Financial Times. “This is the opposite of what Netanyahu is doing.” He thinks his theory will be tested sooner rather than later.

 

The next election is scheduled for 2019. But with Mr Netanyahu increasingly tarnished by corruption probes, Mr Gabbay believes a vote could be held within a year, which would give him a chance of leading his party back to power. The prime minister has been named as a suspect in the probes but denies any wrongdoing Polls show the Zionist Union running either second or third behind Mr Netanyahu’s Likud, alongside Yesh Atid, a centrist party headed by former TV presenter and finance minister Yair Lapid. In Israel’s fragmented Knesset, Mr Gabbay estimates that his party would need 30 seats to win — a quarter of the total and the same number Likud holds. A victory of that scale would be a tall order for a party that has not headed a government since Ehud Barak’s stint as prime minister from 1999 to 2001. Likud and parties to its right have dominated Israeli politics since, winning over a critical mass of Israelis with hardline rhetoric on security issues. Before the last election in 2015, polls suggested the centre-left was set to win. But Mr Netanyahu turned the vote in his favour in the campaign’s final days with controversial remarks about Israeli Arabs voting “in droves” and dismissing the notion of creating a Palestinian state. These energised Likud’s political base.

 

Still, Mr Gabbay believes Israeli moderates can hold sway, adding that social media is amplifying the voices of the extremes. “The moderate people, who are the majority, don’t participate in these discussions [on social media], you don’t hear them, but they are the majority,” he says. “In Israel, more people than ever are participating less in this left-right discussion and [focusing] more on who is the leader, who will take care of us.” In a news cycle dominated by police probes into allegations that Mr Netanyahu received gifts from benefactors and sought a deal to garner favourable coverage from a leading newspaper, Mr Gabbay’s story has managed to surprise and disarm Israel’s often cynical urban elite. Mr Gabbay was raised in a family of 10 in a Jerusalem transit camp for Jewish immigrants, before being identified as a gifted child and tracked into elite schools. After working in the finance ministry he entered business, rising to head Bezeq, Israel’s biggest telecommunications group. In a party founded by Ashkenazi Jews of eastern European descent, he is only the second Labour leader of Middle Eastern Jewish background, representing a community whose members often face discrimination.

 

In his victory speech last month, Mr Gabbay coined a rhyming slogan picked up around Israel, when he promised “leadership that takes care of Dimona and not just of Amona” — referring to a working-class town in southern Israel and a West Bank settlement outpost whose fate recently monopolised political debate among the rightwing. He backs a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But also says he favours keeping Jerusalem unified “forever” and asserts that the city “cannot be capital of two states” — a view in keeping with the Israeli mainstream, but at odds with the Palestinian position.

 

Mr Gabbay entered politics before the last election, running in the centrist Kulanu party, then serving as environment minister when it joined Mr Netanyahu’s coalition in 2015. He quit last year after Mr Netanyahu installed Avigdor Lieberman, a hard right politician, as defence minister.  If elected, he says he would set an eight-year term limit for prime ministers, a dig at Mr Netanyahu who will be Israel’s longest-serving leader if he survives his current term until 2019…

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

 

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On Topic Links

 

Differing Scenarios for a Post-Netanyahu Government: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Aug. 9, 2017—The fact that Ari Harow has turned state witness against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu constitutes a strategic milestone in the investigations against Netanyahu.

Bouncing Bibi?: Jim Fletcher, Breaking Israel News, Aug. 15, 2017—Lots of fears out there that corruption charges will topple Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and even perhaps repeat the fate of former premier Ehud Olmert, who went to prison for similar things.

Is Ehud Barak on his Way Back to the Knesset?: David Rosenberg, Arutz Sheva, Aug. 15, 2017—Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak may be preparing for a return to politics, four-and-a-half years after he stepped down as Defense Minister and left the Knesset, Israel Hayom reported on Tuesday.

Naftali Bennett's Fine Words: Jeff Barak, Jerusalem Post, August 27, 2017—Just in time for the start of the new school year, Education Minister Naftali Bennett laid down an important lesson in tolerance when he came to the defense of his lesbian spokesperson Brit Galor Perets earlier this month.