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.
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
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.]
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.
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.]
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.
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.