Tag: Israel Politics

Waiting in the Wings: Gideon Sa’ar and the Challenges to Netanyahu’s Dominance. By: CIJR Editorial Board (December 30,2019)

CIJR Editorial Board

Reuven Rivlin vote in Israeli legislative election (Source: Wikipedia)















As Israel heads to elections for the third time in less than a year, the spotlight is centred squarely on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the pending indictments against him in three separate criminal cases.

In Case 1000, as it is known in Israel, Netanyahu is accused of accepting expensive gifts (primarily cigars and champagne) in return for providing favors to benefactors. In Case 2000 he allegedly sought to trade positive newspaper coverage for benefits to Arnon Moses, owner of the Yediot Ahronot daily. In Case 4000, Netanyahu is charged with orchestrating positive media coverage for himself from the owner of the Walla news site, Shaul Elovitch, who is the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq communications giant. In return, the prime minister allegedly helped Bezeq buy an Israeli satellite cable provider while overriding any anti-trust issues.

Despite his repeated insistence that he is innocent and the subject of a witch hunt, Netanyahu’s political status could be resolved soon, as Israel’s High Court has called on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to draft an opinion on whether Netanyahu can be tasked with forming a coalition should he win the March 2 national vote. Legal precedent requires Israeli cabinet ministers to resign if indicted for a crime, while a prime minister must resign only if he is convicted of a crime and out of avenues of appeal. There is no law pertaining to the issue of whether an indicted prime minister can form an entirely new government.

But perhaps the most acute and, ironically, least discussed, concern for Netanyahu is that he may not even be perched atop the Likud come the March election. In this respect, the party will on December 26 hold a leadership primary – and waiting in the wings is Netanyahu’s fiercest rival, Gideon Sa’ar, who only this year returned to the political fray following a half-decade hiatus from the Knesset, which he attributed to a desire to spend more time with his family.

A trained lawyer and journalist, while Sa’ar’s is not a household name outside of Israel, he is a formidable politician and maintains enthusiastic grassroots support. A former Education and Interior minister, he has twice been voted Likud’s No. 2 behind Netanyahu, and made an impressive comeback by placing fifth on the party’s list of candidates for the April election (the same list was used for the September vote).

Buoyed by this immediate success, coupled with a widespread view that he is Netanyahu’s heir apparent, Sa’ar was the only senior Likud lawmaker to break ranks and speak out against the prime minister during the latest failed coalition negotiations. Since then, he has received public endorsements from many Likud mayors and heads of regional councils, as well as from at least four parliamentarians, including Haim Katz, the head of the Likud central committee, from the short-lived 22nd Knesset.

Sa’ar’s right-wing “credentials” have also endeared him to many Likud voters. A staunch opponent of Palestinian statehood – the defining issue for many on the Right – Sa’ar on Sunday denounced the gospel-like “two-state solution” to ending the conflict as an “illusion.” He slammed Netanyahu for normalizing the paradigm and making “endless” concessions to Ramallah, which he claimed “is not a position that helps anyone.”

Instead, Sa’ar advocated for the creation of a federation between a self-governing Palestinian “entity” and Jordan. “Between the Jordan River and the [Mediterranean] Sea there cannot be another state,” he asserted.

Despite his ideological rigidity on the Palestinian issue – a position that some analysts argue Netanyahu still shares due his repeated campaign calls to annex parts of the Palestinian-administered West Bank – Sa’ar is considered a pragmatist, maintaining good relations with lawmakers across the political spectrum. When launching his bid for the Likud leadership, he suggested that he was best suited to form a government as he could unite the political arena by being less divisive.

Given his experience and growing appeal among – this, in light of the prime minister’s legal problems and perhaps due to “Netanyahu fatigue” – a window of opportunity is opening for Sa’ar, a reality reinforced by two recent opinion polls showing that more than 40 percent of the Israeli electorate blames Netanyahu for the political deadlock. This is compared to less than 10% for Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White list, a center-left alliance that won more seats than the Likud in the September election.

Most striking is that a separate poll published on Friday by the Israel Hayom daily – which is widely viewed as “pro-Netanyahu” – showed that prevailing public sentiment could have tangible effects, with Blue and White predicted to win 37 out of the Knesset’s 120 seats in March – a gain of four over the previous vote – versus 31 for the Likud, a loss of one mandate. Notably, once again neither Likud nor Blue and White is expected to be in a clear position to head a minimum 61-member coalition, as the country’s Right and Center-Left blocs are projected to receive about the same overall representation as they did in both April and September.

The prospect of another political stalemate could lead to the defection of additional Netanyahu allies, a potentiality strengthened by the Israel Hayom poll’s prediction that the country’s right-wing and ultra-Orthodox bloc would receive more mandates (56, as opposed to 51) in the next national election if Likud were led by Sa’ar instead of sNetanyahu.

Nevertheless, most agree that it is premature, if not foolish, to write off the prime minister – a political wizard seemingly with nine lives who this year became Israel’s longest-ever serving leader. During his tenure – which, in addition to being in power from 2009 to the present, also includes a stint as prime minister from 1996-1999 –  Netanyahu has repeatedly outwitted and outmaneuvered Likud up-and-comers and, subsequently, weathered criticism and storms created by former allies-cum-opponents. These include, among a slew of others, Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Liberman and New Right party head Naftali Bennet, who both started out as close Netanyahu confidantes.

Moreover, a recent Likud-commissioned poll showed that Netanyahu would beat Sa’ar in the upcoming primary by a margin of 53-40 percent, although some analysts believe that the survey was biased in favor of the prime minister. Even so, Netanyahu continues to maintain a fervent base within the Likud, as well as the support of a large segment of the electorate, with some members of both cohorts sharing the prime minister’s belief that he has been unfairly targeted and backing his call for “the investigators to be investigated.”

That said, Netanyahu’s legal issues, in addition to mounting evidence that Israelis will punish the Likud at the ballot box in March, are among the factors that ultimately portend the possible end of the reign of “King Bibi.” While Netanyahu has done wonders for Israel’s economy and diplomatic standing, in democracies there is no forever in politics.

As the challenges Netanyahu faces intensify, many Israelis for the first time in over are thinking beyond him. Indeed, few would be surprised if the people, as opposed to the courts, were primarily responsible for Sa’ar’s ascent to the highest office in the Land.


Political Dysfunctionality and Electoral Chaos: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 9, 2019— Setting aside the Gaza confrontations, 2018 was one of Israel’s best years since the establishment of the state.

The ‘New Bibi’ Lashes Out As Israel’s AG Continues to Dilly-Dally: Vivian Bercovici, National Post, Jan. 9, 2019— It was all very suspenseful.

Why are There so Many Parties, and is There Anything Wrong with That?: Israel Democracy Institute, Times of Israel, Jan. 27, 2019 — Why does Israel have so many political parties — and what’s wrong with that?

Heads of State vs. Ministers of Defense: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, Jan. 17, 2019— The recent resignations of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis shed light on the age-old professional tension between heads of state…

On Topic Links

Your Guide to the Obscenely Complicated World of Israeli Elections: Tristin Hopper, National Post, Jan. 23, 2019

Key Document on Bezeq Could Clear Netanyahu in Case 4,000: Israel Hayom, Jan. 25, 2019

Israeli Arabs Seek to Turn Netanyahu’s Controversial ‘in Droves’ Comment From 2015 Election Against Him in Next Vote: Algemeiner, Jan. 22, 2019

Remembering Moshe Arens: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 10, 2019



Isi Leibler                                                                                 

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 9, 2019

Setting aside the Gaza confrontations, 2018 was one of Israel’s best years since the establishment of the state. President Donald Trump’s administration has become the most Israel-friendly US government in history, appointing pro-Israeli officials in the administration, reinstating sanctions on Iran, championing Israel’s cause at the UN by stating the truth for the first time, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, terminating funding for fictitious UNESCO refugees, demanding an end to payment of Palestinian Authority-sponsored financial incentives to terrorists and their families, and rejecting the Palestinian demand for the right of return of five million “refugees.” In short, a stark reversal from Obama, who appeased the Iranians while treating Israel almost like a rogue state.

But now storm clouds are gathering and we face serious new and intensified threats. We are at a loss to anticipate where Trump is heading after his precipitous and totally unexpected decision to withdraw US forces from Syria. Although the precise scope of the withdrawal has been qualified in recent days, Trump’s allies now fear that with the Russians effectively controlling the region, it will be a boon for the Iranians.

The IDF is probably at its highest level of preparedness and claims it would ably defeat an attack from all its adversaries, but concedes we would face heavy civilian casualties from missiles. We cannot become complacent and should remind ourselves of the disastrous events preceding the Yom Kippur War exacerbated by our hubris and note that the IDF Ombudsman warned of weaknesses on the ground and the need for additional supplies.

Notwithstanding deployment of Russian anti-aircraft missiles, the Israel Air Force is continuing its sorties in Syria while the Iranians remain engaged in preparing for a war to destroy us. In addition, Israel continues to face intensified terror from Hamas on the Gaza border. Israel is also concerned at the recent signs indicating that Russia has downgraded the warm relationship hitherto displayed by Putin. While there is military coordination of sorts still prevailing with the Russians, it is a highly fragile relationship which could easily break down.

In the context of these new threats, the burden of leadership falls primarily on our prime minister, who, aside from holding four ministerial portfolios, is diverted virtually every day by police interrogations and the imminent announcement by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit poised to indict him for corruption. Yet, despite the immense pressure, he remains in control and is effectively the only person capable of making the necessary decisions that could determine war.

At times like this, the focus of the government should be to concentrate on the current security threats. Alas, in lieu of this we have been thrust into an election season where most politicians are bent on seeking votes rather than serving the national interest. What a contrast today to the personalities of yesteryear, like that of recently deceased Moshe Arens, a man of unquestioned integrity and political stature, a diplomat and leader who was utterly dedicated to the national interest.

Despite being more powerful militarily than we have ever been, it is the height of irresponsibility to be engaged in self-seeking electoral issues at a critical time when we should be uniting. We remain saddled with a proportional preference system, which may be the most democratic, but gives disproportionate power to smaller parties, enabling them to hold the balance of power and extort the majority for its own sectoral objectives.

We are in a period of political chaos. With the total collapse of Labor following Avi Gabbay’s ousting of his partner Tzipi Livni, there is no coherent mainstream opposition party. Ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked defected from Bayit Yehudi to form a new party, and individuals like Benny Gantz decided to join the political fray and create yet another new party (Israel Resilience), but as of now have disclosed no policy beyond claiming to be centrist.

However, on the crucial issue of security and foreign affairs, if in government the centrist parties would undoubtedly promote the path supported by the vast majority of Israelis who believe that the goal should be to separate ourselves from the Palestinians – if we could achieve this and still retain security. They would emphatically oppose the creation of another terrorist state on our borders which would serve as a launching pad for the Iranians against us. Until that happens, the consensus is that the status quo must be maintained until the emergence of a Palestinian leadership willing to accept our existence and co-exist peacefully.

This approach, given minor nuances, is that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The current prediction is that, despite his bitter personal adversaries and the demonizing media, Netanyahu will be reelected prime minister. Of course, with the present confusing proliferation of small parties and the impending indictment there is always the risk that opposition parties will merge and form a non-Likud government. There is also a genuine chance that many mandates of the Right shall be lost by votes cast for parties not passing the minimal electoral threshold.

However, on the assumption that Netanyahu does form the next government, it will likely be his final term. If he were to publicly announce this, it would be admired by the entire nation. He should then appoint ministers capable of fulfilling the vital jobs to enable him to concentrate exclusively on his role as prime minister.

Then he should approach the opposition and invite those willing to join a national unity government to deal with security issues and relations with the Palestinians. It should be noted that Menachem Begin despite his perpetual venomous relationship with the Labor Party, managed such a move before the Six Day War. Today, one could only dream that most opposition leaders – aside from the Arab Joint List and probably Meretz – could set aside their short-term personal and political ambitions and come to a consensus in supporting the government in relation to security issues and foreign affairs. Whatever his failings, few could deny that for the immediate future there is nobody who would be remotely as effective as Netanyahu in leading the nation at these levels.

In the highly unlikely event that such an arrangement could be achieved with the leading opposition parties, Israelis may begin to respect their political leaders, contrary to what is currently the case when most of them are despised as selfish opportunists rather than lawmakers concerned with the national interest. Aside from creating a sense of real unity in the nation, it will also have a major positive impact on Diaspora Jews who would be incentivized to support the State of Israel rather than identifying with partisan political groups.

It could also have a constructive influence on the many nations which currently distance themselves or oppose us. Alas, the probability of this becoming a reality is slim because most politicians are more concerned with their short-term personal ambitions. The likely outcome is that Netanyahu will be reelected, but there are many unpredictable factors that could deny voters their preference. Sadly, the next government is likely, once more, to be dominated by small parties led by egotistical individuals pursuing their own partisan self-serving interests, often at the expense of the national interest.





Vivian Bercovici

National Post, Jan. 9, 2019

It was all very suspenseful. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu let it be known…that he would be making a “dramatic” statement. Live. From his official residence in Jerusalem. The hour of the main nightly newscast in Israel.

As anticipated and choreographed, the television stations beamed up Bibi to allow the public to hear the urgent statement directly. Just over a month ago, Netanyahu resorted to the same high-tension tactic to announce the destruction of Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. A serious matter, to be sure, but. Commandeering the airwaves on an urgent basis for anything other than the most serious circumstances — like the outbreak of war — is problematic and ill-advised.

This is the new Bibi. Some say the “panicked” Bibi. For almost three years now the PM has soldiered on as the police have investigated multiple corruption allegations involving him and other close associates. Among those who have turned state witness, presumably proffering evidence against Netanyahu, are three former senior aides who worked in his office.

Several months ago, the police handed the investigation files over to the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, with a recommendation that the prime minister be indicted. And there the matter sits, as Mandelblit ponders: “To indict or not to indict?” The process requires that the police investigate and recommend to the AG whether or not to indict. The most senior prosecutors then review the evidence and recommendation to determine whether to further the process and hold a hearing, which must conclude before a final criminal charge is laid.

Last week Netanyahu lashed out, questioning the integrity of the most senior law-enforcement institutions in Israel. “For years now, left-wing protesters and media have levelled thuggish, inhumane pressure at the attorney general to get him to file an indictment against me at any cost,” he said, ”even when there’s nothing there. This pressure is now reaching a climax. They’re trying to force the attorney general to brazenly intervene in the elections by ordering me to a hearing, despite knowing that it won’t be possible to conclude the hearing process by election day. It’s unconscionable to start a hearing process before elections that can’t be concluded by the elections.”

These comments and others by fellow Likudniks have earned public rebukes from Mandelblit and the chief prosecutor for questioning the integrity of the justice system and irresponsibly undermining public trust in the professionalism of senior public officers. “Such utterances seek to harm the deepest foundations of the rule of law,” Mandelblit warned, adding: “They are irresponsible.” Wildly so. As is this unseemly and ongoing public brawl engaging such high office holders.

Netanyahu has become an increasingly polarizing leader in Israel, enjoying unwavering loyalty from his political base — comprised largely of Israeli Jews from North Africa and Middle Eastern countries. They are hardline on security and resentful of the historical control of all aspects of national and cultural life, including the media, by Jews of Eastern European descent, who tend to be more liberal.

As the polls bear out, the Likud base believes Netanyahu, whom they revere as “King Bibi.” The resolute, tough Bibi who came out swinging on TV Monday night is their guy. Under Israeli law, in circumstances where there is doubt regarding the credibility of certain evidence, the accuser and accused may meet in the presence of police, before indictment, in order to facilitate discussion and allow law enforcement to more carefully assess the evidence.

In his prime time Monday-night statement, Netanyahu blasted the police for refusing his requests that they exercise this discretion and arrange such meetings. “During the investigations, I demanded a confrontation with the state’s witnesses,” Netanyahu stated. “I wanted to look them in the eyes and show them the truth. I asked twice and was rejected.”

At the outset of his remarks, Netanyahu was careful to acknowledge the critical importance of an independent judiciary and law-enforcement function in a democracy, but also reminded the public that no branch of government is immune from criticism. And he pulled no punches in directly attacking the competence of the police and other law-enforcement personnel. “What do they have to be afraid of? What are they hiding? I am not afraid. I do not have anything to hide. Therefore, tonight, I repeat my demand for a confrontation with state’s witnesses. I am certain that I am right.”

It’s a bizarre spectacle. The prime minister at once taunting and deriding the law-enforcement establishment while professing respect for this independent function of democracy.

Whether Netanyahu is guilty or innocent, a central issue that is deeply disturbing is why Mandelblit continues to sit on his brief and indulge his Hamlet-like tendencies. Once he received the police recommendations it was his duty to act swiftly and decisively and either dismiss the matter for lack of sufficient evidence or indict the prime minister. His indecision has been grossly unfair to the prime minister and the nation. Indeed, his review must be done painstakingly, but he’s been waiting for those files for years now, and has been sitting on them for several months. If the matter is so egregious and urgent, one wonders, why the dilly-dallying?





Israel Democracy Institute

Times of Israel, Jan. 27, 2019

Why does Israel have so many political parties — and what’s wrong with that? Israeli society is extremely diverse, with multiple political divisions that run along ideological, ethnic and religious fault lines. Israel also has an extreme proportional system of government, which grants representation in the Knesset to any party that clears a 3.25% threshold in general elections that take place in a single, nationwide district.

The result of these two factors is political fragmentation. On the one hand, this is a good thing because minorities in Israel are adequately represented in parliament. However, representation comes at a price in terms of political stability and good governance. In order to form a coalition in Israel, the prospective ruling party has to attain a majority of at least 61 seats out of the 120 seats in the Knesset. Because of the proliferation of political parties, this task is impossible without cobbling together an alliance of several smaller parties.

In the last elections, held in 2015, ten electoral slates (representing 16 political parties) passed the electoral threshold and made it into the Knesset. The largest party (Likud) won a mere 30 seats — a quarter of the seats in the parliament and less than half the majority needed to form a coalition. It took Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seven weeks to form a coalition — made up of 21 ministers coming from six parties, each of which has its own worldview, constituency and demands. This fragmentation has been typical of election results of the last several decades. As a consequence, Israeli prime ministers worry constantly about political stability, and sometimes cater more to the demands of small sectoral parties than to the national interest.

“The current system grants small parties disproportionate power, leads to excessive preoccupation with coalition management, does not provide strong incentives for creating an effective opposition, and leads to the allocation of over-sized budgets to sectoral interests,” says Prof. Gideon Rahat, Senior Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. His solution? “We need to create a system of incentives which will solidify the political system into two main blocs. The task of forming the next government should be given to the head of the largest faction. This will encourage politicians to forge alliances before the elections, and will encourage citizens to cast their vote for the largest electoral list.”




Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen

BESA, Jan. 17, 2019

The recent resignations of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis shed light on the age-old professional tension between heads of state, who are charged with running a country’s national affairs, and their defense ministers, who are tasked with overseeing national security.

From time immemorial, the successful conduct of wars has been considered the ultimate test of kings and kingdoms. The tribes of Israel, when demanding a monarchy, asked the prophet Samuel for “a king like all other nations, who will lead us to battle and enable us to fight our wars.” It is true that even warlike monarchs, like King David, were assisted by able military commanders. But from the point of view of ordinary people, it was always the monarch to whom they looked for deliverance from wars and their horrendous consequences. This primordial yearning for heroic leadership to save the day in stark moments remains as abiding as ever in the modern nation state.

The recent British movie Darkest Hour, which articulated Winston Churchill’s heroic leadership at the gravest moment in Britain’s modern history, aroused tacit yearnings for leadership of similar stature. As long as security affairs run their normal course, entrusting them to an appointed minister does not cause complications. But in times of grave national crisis that require fateful decisions, public hopes and expectations are pinned on the head of state. At such critical junctures, when prime ministers and presidents take matters into their own hands, defense ministers often find themselves steamrolled, their views ignored.

In the US, the issue is less problematic given the president’s position as Commander-in-Chief, operating directly vis-à-vis arena commanders within a well-defined chain of command. But in Israel it is the government, not the prime minister, which is Commander-in-Chief. This not only constrains the PM’s ability to conduct wars but also raises questions about the true role of the minister of defense, who enjoys no superiority over fellow ministers in the war cabinet (or security cabinet, as it is known in Israel). Are ministers of defense guardians of security affairs during routine times alone, only to surrender their powers and responsibilities at critical moments?

To be sure, this dilemma exists even in the well-regulated US system, where at key moments secretaries of defense may find themselves stripped of the influence they would have expected to wield. There have, of course, been influential defense secretaries, such as Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld, who had a huge impact on the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars. But this was due to the deep mutual trust they enjoyed with their respective presidents. The moment these factors weaken and the president sees matters in different light, the secretary’s resignation is often a foregone conclusion.

Aware as they are of this inherent tension, Israeli prime ministers, from David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol to Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, have preferred to serve concurrently as defense ministers. Indeed, the separation of the two functions can become highly problematic, not only at times of war but also in situations where the prime minister is trying to uphold a strategic outlook on key issues that is best kept undisclosed. Were the PM forced to act in full coordination with a defense minister of a fundamentally different outlook or political agenda, this hidden strategic logic might be exposed, to the detriment of the national interest.

This was probably the dilemma confronting PM Netanyahu when he decided to avoid an all-out confrontation with Hamas in the summer and autumn of 2018 against the view of his seemingly more belligerent minister of defense. Some seventy years ago, at the height of Israel’s War of Independence, PM and defense minister Ben-Gurion found himself in a similar situation when deciding to forego the capture of East Jerusalem. In such circumstances, it is preferable for the national leader to serve concurrently as minister of defense.



On Topic Links

Your Guide to the Obscenely Complicated World of Israeli Elections: Tristin Hopper, National Post, Jan. 23, 2019—In 2015, Canadians complained about having to endure a two-month federal election. Right now, Israelis are in the midst of an election campaign that will last more than three months and feature the usual dizzying array of new parties, new splinter factions and new alliances.

Key Document on Bezeq Could Clear Netanyahu in Case 4,000: Israel Hayom, Jan. 25, 2019—A newly unearthed document could undermine a key premise in Case 4,000, a corruption case in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considered a suspect.

Israeli Arabs Seek to Turn Netanyahu’s Controversial ‘in Droves’ Comment From 2015 Election Against Him in Next Vote: Algemeiner, Jan. 22, 2019—Israel’s Arab lawmakers plan to commandeer Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim in the last election that Arabs were heading to the polls “in droves” to encourage their own voters in April’s election.

Remembering Moshe Arens: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 10, 2019—In the course of working on my master’s thesis in 1999, I had opportunity to interview Yitzhak Shamir and Moshe Arens regarding Israel’s decision not to retaliate against Iraq during the First Gulf War. I also had the privilege of knowing Arens, who passed away this week, through the security think tank I ran for 25 years at Bar-Ilan University. (Arens served on the institute’s board and spoke at many of our conferences).



Announcement of Early Israeli Elections Leads to Political Frenzy: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Tundra Tabloids, Jan. 3, 2019— On December 24, 2018, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and the parties in his coalition decided to disperse the Knesset.

Five Questions About Israel’s Political Musical Chairs: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Jan. 4, 2018— The old expression is that for every two Jews, there are three political opinions.

Why Should Israelis Vote if their Vote is Meaningless?: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 27, 2018— In a recent conversation with a European ambassador, I asked about the possible consequences of the elections to the European parliament, which are scheduled to take place in May 2019.

A Crystal Ball on 2019: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Jan. 4, 2018 — The peril of predicting political and diplomatic developments has been made crystal clear over the past topsy-turvy week.

On Topic Links

Legendary Defender of Israel Passes Away: Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, Jerusalem Online, Jan. 7, 2019

Labor’s Demise is Bad for Israeli Democracy: Amnon Lord, Israel Hayom, Jan. 3, 2019

Bibi’s Formidable Challenger: Jerusalem Online, Dec. 28, 2018

Why I am Running for Knesset with Shaked, Bennett: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2019




Manfred Gerstenfeld

Tundra Tabloids, Jan. 3, 2018

On December 24, 2018, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and the parties in his coalition decided to disperse the Knesset. They announced that elections for the 21st Knesset would be advanced from November 2019 to April 9, 2019. Two days later the Knesset approved this. It had been increasingly impossible for Netanyahu’s 61 MK coalition to function properly after the five member faction of the Israel is Our Home (Yisrael Beiteinu) party decided to leave the coalition on 14 November 2018 preceded by the resignation of its leader Avigdor Lieberman as Minister of Defense.

Within a few days, a pandemonium of announcements and rumors followed. Former IDF chief of staff, Benny Gantz has founded a new party named Israel Resilience (Chosen L’Israel). Gantz’ detailed political views are unclear. He has said that he could be “right-wing on security issues, left-wing on socioeconomic issues and liberal on economic goals.” Recent polls give his new party between 13-15 seats.

It remains also unclear who the candidates of his party will be. A few names have been mentioned in the media. One of these, Brig. General Professor Yitshak Kreiss, a former IDF chief medical officer, now a senior director of the Sheba Medical Center, has denied that he will run for the Knesset. There are rumors that former Chief of Staff and former Likud Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon will join Gantz’ list. Ya’alon who left the Likud and the Knesset has a clear right of center position on security issues. At this point it seems that Gantz’ list will run alone in the elections, though he is being courted by other parties to join forces.

One of the many rumors is that Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay had offered Gantz the top spot of his list in the upcoming elections and that he had turned this down. Gantz running with his own list alone will heavily affect the prospects of the There is a Future party (Yesh Atid), led by Yair Lapid. In earlier polls this party was considered the main opponent to Netanyahu’s Likud. Recent polls give it around the same 11 seats as it holds in the current Knesset.

When advanced elections were announced Gabbay declared that the choice for Prime Minister would be between Netanyahu and himself. Yet, all polls at the time indicated that if Gabbay were to head the Zionist Union list it would lose at least half of the 24 seats it received in the 2015 elections under the leadership of his predecessor, Yitzchak Herzog. On January 1, 2019, Gabbay suddenly announced that the Labor party would run alone in the elections. He thus disbanded the Zionist Union, a coalition with Tzipi Livni’s The Movement (Hatnua). He did so in an extremely humiliating way in Livni’s presence without consulting other Labor MKs.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett leader of the Jewish Home (Habayit HaYehudi) and its popular Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, decided to leave their party. They have called their new party the New Right, (Hayemin Hehadash). This party intends to be represented in the Knesset by both religious and non-religious members. Polls vary greatly on how many seats it will receive. The remaining Jewish Home party — now exclusively religious — may be at risk of not passing the 3.25% election threshold to enter the Knesset.

In the previous Knesset, the Kulanu party was the successful newcomer. It is led by Finance Minister Mosher Kahlon who split off from the Likud. Of Kulanu’s 10 current MK’s, four have announced that they have left it. One of these, retired General Yoav Galant, resigned as Minister of Housing and Construction. Netanyahu then named him as acting Aliyah and Integration Minister. Galant has announced that he will join the Likud. He may well be its only former general running in the next election. Another MK leaving the Kulanu party is the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s office, Michael Oren. He was formerly ambassador to the United States. Kulanu is doing poorly in the polls and is expected to receive four to five seats.

Orly Levy-Abekasis, a long term Knesset member of the Israel is Our Home party was expelled from it in the outgoing Knesset. She has created her own party, called Bridge (Gesher). She has said that she intends to focus on socioeconomic issues. Polls indicate that this new party has a good chance to pass the election threshold. The splintering of parties on the right has led to a concern that some of the parties may not pass the election threshold and thus create a situation where many votes for the right may be lost. There are thus rumors that efforts will be made to lower the election threshold.

Due to this landscape of ongoing movement, polling results change from one day to the next, and have lost much of their meaning. As far as voters’ preference for the position of Prime Minister is concerned Netanyahu still leads the field, closely followed by Gantz.

All this is taking place against a background in which Attorney General Avichay Mandelblit is expected to announce his decision as to whether indict Netanyahu for corruption before the elections. A possible indictment before April 9 would bring with it accusations that the Attorney General is interfering in the elections.  From now on attention on the structures of parties are likely to decrease and information as well as rumors about possible candidate MKs will become more frequent. Matters will clarify partly at the beginning of February 2019 when several parties will hold primaries to determine their candidates for the elections.



FIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT ISRAEL’S POLITICAL MUSICAL CHAIRS                                                   Jonathan S. Tobin

JNS, Jan. 4, 2018

The old expression is that for every two Jews, there are three political opinions. In Israel, that cliché can be extended to also include four or five political parties. That’s never been truer than now as preparations for the Jewish state’s next Knesset elections in April have gotten underway. Israel’s proportional system for electing its parliament is responsible for the plethora of political parties. Based on pre-state ideas about the need for consensus and inclusion, the system has never produced a clear majority for any single party in Israel’s relatively short history.

That trend has been exacerbated in recent decades as each of the two major parties that have led most of the governing coalitions since Israel’s birth — Labor and Likud — have splintered with more ideological factions sprouting on the left and the right. In addition to that are sectarian parties representing the various religious sectors and Israeli Arabs. Centrist parties as an alternative to the left and right have been a regular feature of Israeli politics since 1977, when the desire for a non-ideological alternative to Labor resulted in the first Likud-led government headed by Menachem Begin. The centrists have followed a pattern of initial success, followed by collapse within one or two election cycles as these factions — often led by non-ideological former generals with little political experience — crashed and burned once they proved incapable of governing.

But the process of splintering has accelerated with parties on both ends of the spectrum imploding. On the left, the Zionist Union, which matched the remnants of Labor with supporters of veteran party-switcher Tzipi Livni, has broken up after Labor leader Avi Gabbay ditched Livni in a humiliating public smackdown. Meanwhile, ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, who had grown tired of being chained to their more far-right religious and settler supporters, blew up their HaBayit HaYehudi party. Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party is also coming apart. In the center, former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz is poised to be the bright new star of 2019. Keeping track of all of these competing egos isn’t easy, even for Israeli political junkies, let alone Americans. So for the sake of clarifying what’s at stake, I’ve come up with five key questions about what’s happening right now with Israeli politics. First, why are the parties on the right splitting?

The implosion of HaBayit HaYehudi, which had been the strongest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition partners, is a function of its leaders. The pair were forced out of the Likud by personal antagonism with Netanyahu, and profited from an awkward alliance with the rump of the old National Religious Party and other even more extreme personalities. But if Bennett is to ever achieve his ambition to succeed Netanyahu, he’s got to get back to the Likud. His goal is for his new party, which will attempt to bring together religious and secular voters, to do well enough to be part of the next government and then merge with Likud whenever Netanyahu falls.

Kahlon’s party is suffering the usual downturn new parties’ experience in their second go round. It will likely be diminished this time, as will Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, which represents the interests of voters from the former Soviet Union. Even if some voters cast ballots for the smaller parties to keep Netanyahu honest, most voters on the right don’t want to diminish the Likud’s chances of winning the most seats and forming the next government.

Second, why are the parties of the left splitting? The problem on the left is that as long as Israeli politics is still dominated by security concerns, advocates for more concessions to the Palestinians will remain in the minority. That puts pragmatists like Livni, who wants to join forces with Gantz or Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid to defeat Netanyahu, at a distinct disadvantage. The left sees no reason to water down its message in pursuit of an illusory chance of power. Third, can the centrist and left-wing factions unite in order to stop Netanyahu? As things currently stand, the answer is no. In every poll, the parties currently in Netanyahu’s coalition are shown winning a majority in the next Knesset. And that’s ignoring the fact that some of the centrists like Gantz may wish to join the next government, rather than sulking in opposition with the left.

Fourth, is there a real alternative to Netanyahu? Not a chance. Lapid is currently the runner-up in the polls, but he trails Netanyahu by a huge margin. Yet even after more than five years in the Knesset, few consider the former television personality to have the gravitas to run the country or deal with security threats on multiple regional and global levels. Gantz is viewed positively because he is fresh out of the army, though like other generals before him, the shine on his reputation will quickly evaporate. No one takes Livni, Gabbay or anyone on the left seriously when they talk about replacing Netanyahu.

Fifth, who is Netanyahu’s real foe? The only person who can stop Netanyahu from continuing in office is Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. If Mandelblit goes ahead with hearings to consider the recommendations of the police and the state prosecutor’s office to indict the prime minister on one or all three corruption charges currently pending against Netanyahu, it might lead to political chaos even if Netanyahu runs and wins the election. Armed with the public’s endorsement at the polls, the prime minister might stay in office while he fights the charges, but he will be severely diminished and would be unlikely to survive for long.

At that point, the lack of a natural successor in the Likud (Netanyahu chased away all potential successors like Bennett and Kahlon) will lead to another reshuffling of the political deck. But unless and until that happens, what American observers really need to know about Israeli politics is that Netanyahu is almost certainly going to win a fifth term as prime minister in April.




Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 27, 2018

In a recent conversation with a European ambassador, I asked about the possible consequences of the elections to the European parliament, which are scheduled to take place in May 2019. According to current polls, rightist, pro-Israel parties from a host of EU member nations are projected to win the vote in May. I was curious about the impact the projected results may have on European Union policies towards Israel.

His answer was straightforward. “European parliamentary election results aren’t particularly significant,” he said with a shrug. “It’s true that pro-Israel rightist parties are expected to do very well. But their victories won’t impact the EU’s foreign policies or any of its substantive policies. All the substantive policy decisions are made by the European Commission in Brussels.”

“The European parliament doesn’t have influence over what happens in Brussels. Its decisions are basically declarative resolutions and opinions. They have no force of law,” he explained. Formally, the situation in Israel is quite different from the situation in the EU. Unlike the European parliament, the Knesset has the power to legislate laws. And the government, which is comprised mainly of members of Knesset, implements policies it was empowered to adopt by the mandate it received from the voters at the polls. But in practice, with each passing day, the situation in Israel is becoming more and more similar to the situation in the EU. Every day, Israel’s bureaucracy, led by the legal system, seizes more and more powers from the country’s elected leaders.

THIS WEEK, we received a glimpse of how this seizure of powers takes place behind closed doors, far from the eyes of the public. On Sunday, Jerusalem District Police commander Maj.-Gen. Yoram Halevy abruptly submitted his resignation to Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan. Halevy was the likeliest candidate to serve as the next inspector general, after Erdan’s first choice, Police Maj.-Gen. Moshe Edri’s candidacy was rejected by the Appointments Committee run by former Supreme Court justice Eliezer Goldberg.

On Monday, Hadashot news reported that Halevy resigned following a meeting last week with attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit. Also in attendance at the fateful encounter were Erdan, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and Deputy Attorney-General Dina Zilber. Halevy had been under the impression that Mandelblit would defend his appointment before the Goldberg Committee, and if necessary, before the Supreme Court. In his legal opinion regarding Halevy’s suitability for the job, Mandelblit concluded that there is no legal basis for preventing Halevy from serving as Police inspector general.

At the meeting, Mandelblit explained to Halevy that law was not the issue. Despite the absence of legal justification for rejecting his appointment, Mandelblit said he would not defend Halevy both before the Goldberg Committee and before the Supreme Court. What do you mean? Erdan and Halevy asked. How can you reject Halevy’s nomination when there are no legal grounds for doing so? Mandelblit’s reasoning should distress all Israelis who care about democracy.

MANY YEARS ago, Halevy committed a serious disciplinary infraction. An inspector general, Mandelblit argued, needs to be “as pure as the driven snow.” Halevy’s past infraction made him impure. So no dice. There is a legitimate debate to be had about the sort of character you would want in a police chief. On the one hand, you could argue that it is better to have a chief of police with a checkered past. The chief law enforcement officer is well served with some bad behavior in his rearview mirror. It makes him more likely to treat accused lawbreakers with humility.

An equally legitimate argument can be made for having a straight-as-an-arrow lawman fill the top spot in the police. If you want the law enforced without prejudice, hire a chief with unstinting respect for the law who cuts no corners with crooks. However you come down on the question of the suitable character for a police chief, the question itself has nothing to do with the law. Israeli law is devoid of any mention that the inspector general of police must be as “pure as the driven snow.” The issue of character is a normative matter, not a legal one…

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




David M. Weinberg                                

Israel Hayom, Jan. 4, 2018

The peril of predicting political and diplomatic developments has been made crystal clear over the past topsy-turvy week. Nevertheless, my forecasts of one year ago were accurate: that there would be no elections and no big wars in 2018. Can’t say the same for 2019.

Fate of Prime Minister Netanyahu: He will form his fifth coalition government after the April elections, with Benny Gantz as defense minister and Yaacov Litzman (again) as health minister. But the expected indictments against Netanyahu will sooner or later force him into a plea deal to leave politics and avoid jail. Which makes the current election somewhat of a temporary, counterfeit campaign. Everybody in the arena smells the big shakeup in Israeli politics coming just around the bend – a post-Netanyahu era. They are maneuvering for pole position for the next campaign, perhaps in 2020. That is why so many political parties are splintering and clustering in the search for the holy grail: something “new” for the ravenous Israeli voting public.

Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett: Their “New Right” political party is merely a springboard to Likud leadership, say, in 2020. I believe that when Shaked runs in post-Netanyahu Likud primaries she will win the party leadership hands down – roundly defeating all likely contenders including Gideon Saar and Yisrael Katz.

The vaunted Israeli center: Expect more new political parties to pop-up over the next month, all promising “renaissance,” “togetherness,” “brotherhood,” “resilience,” “strength,” and fealty to “Jewish, Zionist and democratic values” along with commitment to fight “corruption” – but with no clear policies relating to economy, diplomacy and defense. These parties will boast carefully calibrated lists with candidates who supposedly bridge all divides: Ashkenazi and Sephardi, secular and religious, men and women, center and periphery, young and experienced (– with “experienced” being a code-word for vapid politicians with flip-flop multi-party records like Tzipi Livni); plus Arab, Bedouin, Circassian, Druze, Ethiopian, LGBTQ and even Haredi talent. This mode of synthetic and cynical politics reminds me of James Watt’s notorious quip that forced his resignation in 1983 from Ronald Reagan’s cabinet. Mocking affirmative action in composition of a government panel, Watt said: “I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent.”

Supreme Court over-interventionism: Court President Esther Hayut is getting ready to declare the Jewish Nation State Law “unconstitutional,” even though the law itself is meant to be a constitutional anchor and thus the court has no real jurisdiction. That is the meaning of her recent decision to hear petitions against the law before an expanded 11-justice panel. This is outrageous buttinsky behavior, making it even more necessary that the next Knesset pass a law allowing for override of out-of-bounds court decisions. The court also has been domineering and unhelpful about haredi draft exemptions, striking-down the Tal, Plesner and Shaked plans successively – which were intelligent political-societal compromises that could have worked. Unfortunately, there are no better arrangements in the offing, given the rigidity in haredi society and Israel’s convoluted coalition politics.

War in the north: Israel has conducted over 200 known strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, and acted against Iranian-Shiite targets in Iraq, yet the Iranians seem to be digging-in for the long term and are further weaponizing Hezbollah with precision arms too. Therefore, a full-scale Israeli military operation to degrade enemy capabilities is just a question of time; perhaps this summer. “Operation Northern Shield” against Hezbollah’s attack tunnels was the warm-up act…

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



On Topic Links

Legendary Defender of Israel Passes Away: Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, Jerusalem Online, Jan. 7, 2019—Another of the fast-dwindling number of Israel’s “old guard” passed away today. Moshe Arens was 93-years-old when he died at his home on Savyon in central Israel.

Labor’s Demise is Bad for Israeli Democracy: Amnon Lord, Israel Hayom, Jan. 3, 2019—There are those who are filled with joy at the Labor party’s demise and the humiliation of Hatnuah Hatnuah party chief Tzipi Livni. I am not one of those people

Bibi’s Formidable Challenger: Jerusalem Online, Dec. 28, 2018— Benny Gantz, a former Israeli armed forces chief who according to recent polls is the runner-up to current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, formally established a political party on Thursday to join the 2019 election race.

Why I am Running for Knesset with Shaked, Bennett: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2019— When I was 12 years old, my family took our first trip outside the United States. We came to Israel on a two-week family tour. It was July 1982. The Lebanon War had just begun. In retrospect, it was the first step on what has become my lifelong Zionist journey.


Will History Repeat Itself if the Right Brings Down a Likud Government?: Jeff Barak, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 18, 2018— Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu knows his history: Whenever a Likud-run government has been brought down by its erstwhile allies on the Right, the Left has returned to power.

Why Israel Doesn’t Want a War With Gaza: Mudar Zahran, American Thinker, Nov. 16, 2018 — The Israeli people are rarely as angry with their political leadership as they are today – and the reason for their anger is clear: they believe that their leadership has failed to take decisive military action against the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

What is Hamas’s End-Game? Escalation Control: Dan Feferman, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 15, 2018— I almost entitled this piece “Hamas, What the Hell?!” but I thought better of it.

Palestinians Arresting Women; Where are the Media?: Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 19, 2018 — Last August, the Palestinian Authority (PA) protested because Israel arrested a Palestinian woman from Hebron on charges of incitement and affiliation with Hamas.

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



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.         




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.




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.



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.] 


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.”



The Next War in the Middle East: Vivian Bercovici, Commentary, Oct. 5, 2018— Everyone says they don’t want war, but the fourth armed conflict since 2006 between Hamas and Israel may be imminent.

How to Deal with Hamas: Make Concessions or Fight?: Hillel Frisch, Algemeiner, Sept. 28, 2018— Israel’s leading politicians, Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have been engaged in a fierce debate with Minister of Education Naftali Bennett over how to react to Hamas’ attempt since the March of Return began to change the status quo.

Terrorism and Civil Society: Elliott Abrams, Israel Hayom, Oct. 9, 2018— On October 4, the White House issued its new National Strategy for Counterterrorism.

Interview: Stabilizing an Unstable Region: Noa Amouyal, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 22, 2018— During the Cold War, the United States and Russia fiercely competed for spaceflight capability dominance.

On Topic Links 

In Surprise Move, Nikki Haley Resigns as US Ambassador to UN: Times of Israel, Oct. 9, 2018

13 Times Nikki Haley Stood Up for Israel at the UN (And AIPAC): Adrian Hennigan, Ha’aretz, Oct. 9, 2018

Letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Maj.Gen.Gershon Hacohen, Jewish Press, Sept. 28, 2018

Will the West Cede the Golan Heights to a Psychopath?: Moshe Ya’alon and Yair Lapid, Times of Israel, July 1, 2018


                              THE NEXT WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Vivian Bercovici

Commentary, Oct. 5, 2018

Everyone says they don’t want war, but the fourth armed conflict since 2006 between Hamas and Israel may be imminent. As Israeli Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, warned Hamas on Thursday: “The holidays are over.” Throughout September and early October, Israel pretty much shut down to celebrate the annual succession of Jewish high holidays. The party is now, officially, over. In the last few days, there has been a buildup of troops and munitions on the Gaza border, partly in anticipation of a sharp increase in hostilities on Friday evening. For almost seven months now, Hamas has organized weekly demonstrations at multiple locations along the Gaza-Israel border.

It has become somewhat routine: The overwhelmingly male, youngish crowd at the border promises to enter Israel and murder civilians, after which they will storm Jerusalem and liberate all of “occupied Palestine” from the Zionists. Often, several violent demonstrators will attempt to cross into Israel with knives, Molotov cocktails, and other crude weapons to attempt murder and sow mayhem. In spite of all this, the foreign press dutifully reports Hamas propaganda as fact, declaring the protests to be “peaceful.”

The loss of life that ebbs and flows on these Fridays following afternoon prayers is unfortunate but inevitable. Though these Hamas hoodlums do not pose an existential threat to the state of Israel, they absolutely do to the tens of thousands of Israelis living in communities along the border. And then, there are the arson kites, a Hamas innovation that has burned approximately 10,000 acres of agricultural land and nature preserves in Israel in the last six months. In relative terms to America, the charred Israeli land mass is roughly the size of Connecticut. It’s no joke.

Yet, in an unprecedented and extraordinary interview with Italian journalist Francesca Borri and published today in an Israeli newspaper, Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s political leader in Gaza, dismissed the arson attacks as mere “messages” causing no real harm. But Sinwar and his crew have been ramping things up along the border recently, sending boys to toss grenades, Molotov cocktails, and other crude incendiary devices at the IDF soldiers. They’ve also been active at night and early morning, causing the IDF to go on high alert. This is textbook Hamas. They are being squeezed on multiple fronts and the only way to take control, in their playbook, is to invite war. During his interviews with Borri, which took place at various locations in Gaza over a five-day period. Sinwar was adamant that Hamas wants peace, but that outcome is only possible on his terms. Those terms–that Hamas should retain a military force and all borders must be opened unconditionally—are absurd.

Sinwar refused to utter the word “Israel” or even the phrase “Zionist entity,” resorting to euphemisms such as “Netanyahu” and the “Occupation” instead. He also dismissed the fact that the Hamas Charter continues call for the annihilation of Israel as being, somehow, an irrelevant historical detail. He wants peace, he says. If there is to be war, it is because Israel has not agreed to his terms. It’s such ham-handed propaganda that it almost hurts to read this clumsy attempt to influence Israeli and world public opinion. Sinwar wants war because it’s the only option he has. Much as the global MSM loves to berate Israel for turning Gaza into an open-air prison with its ongoing “blockade,” there is media silence regarding the much harsher border closures and restrictions that prevail at the Gaza-Egypt border.

And then there’s the recent monkey-business of PA president Mahmoud Abbas. Desperate to bring Hamas to heel so that he may assume power over the Gaza Strip in addition to the West Bank, Abbas has cut off all funds and supplies–like fuel—it typically funnels to Gaza. In conjunction with the recent American announcement that it would cut off, immediately, all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency—a major employer in the Gaza Strip–Abbas’s move is a death knell for the beleaguered theocratic enclave.

Hamas is cornered. Israeli technology has neutralized their underground terror tunnels; the United States, among other countries, is fed up with Hamas’s promotion and celebration of terror and refusal to moderate their extremist agenda that is pledged to annihilate Jews and Israel; and the Arab world–including their Palestinian brother, Abbas–is turning the screws. War is quickly presenting as Hamas’s only option. It’s the last, most reliable way to distract the miserable masses from their failure to govern.



                                    HOW TO DEAL WITH HAMAS: MAKE CONCESSIONS OR FIGHT?    

                                                          Hillel Frisch

Algemeiner, Sept. 28, 2018

Israel’s leading politicians, Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have been engaged in a fierce debate with Minister of Education Naftali Bennett over how to react to Hamas’ attempt since the March of Return began to change the status quo.

Netanyahu and Lieberman want to reach understandings with Hamas to restore the relative calm that prevailed for nearly four years after the 2014 conflict with the terror group in Gaza. They are willing to make humanitarian concessions and probably acquiesce to a sizable prisoner release of hard-core terrorists in order to restore the calm, even temporarily. Bennett, by contrast, is bitterly opposed to making concessions, and seeks a fourth round of confrontation that will considerably weaken Hamas.

The merits of the debate are difficult to assess because of the wisdom of both approaches on political and military grounds. The question, of course, is which of these strategies would be better for Israel at this particular point in time. Netanyahu and Lieberman have a strong case in calling for restraint and even concessions towards Hamas. They see Israel’s strategic concerns in hierarchical terms. By far the most important threat to Israel is Iran’s nuclear program. Immediately following that is Iran’s attempts to set up a permanent military infrastructure in Syria, which would include a sizable pro-Iranian militia presence on the Golan front.

The two men believe that nothing should detract from the focus on Iran or the renewal of sanctions against the Islamic Republic, and the Trump administration supports them in this. In fact, according to both Netanyahu and Lieberman, the decision by Hamas to heat up the Gaza front in late March was initiated by Iran, and designed to shift the Israeli focus away from Iran to the Palestinians. Such a change of focus, Iran hoped, would embolden key European states such as France and Germany to take countermeasures against US sanctions on Iran.

Netanyahu and Lieberman reason that time is of the essence in confronting Iran, not only because Trump’s pro-Israel administration has only two more years until its fate is decided by the next presidential election, but because there is a fear, given the legal challenges the president faces at home, that that time might be even shorter.

For his part, Bennett makes a plausible argument against acquiescing to Hamas’ exploitation of Israel’s complicated geo-strategic environment. As far as Bennett is concerned, the focus on Iran is guaranteed by a president resolved to roll back Iran on its nuclear program and aggressive behavior towards its neighbors. A supportive US Congress and the legal framework within which the sanctions operate, which gives them a life of their own, cannot be sidelined by other crises, Bennett says — including a fourth round of fighting between Israel and Gaza.

Based on these assumptions, Bennett argues that buying periods of quiet through concessions comes at considerable cost, especially if this means an increase in imports into Gaza, which would give Hamas the wherewithal to improve its military capabilities. Any form of ceasefire, whatever it is called, gives the organization time to train for the next round, he asserts. This means greater and more lethal firepower.

Bennett is correct that Hamas uses its time wisely to increase its capabilities. For example, in 22 days of Operation Cast Lead in winter 2008-09, the organization, along with others, launched 925 rockets that hit Israel. This increased to 3,852 during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 — an almost 200 percent increase, even taking into account the much longer duration of fighting in 2014 compared to six years earlier (55 days compared to 24). Casualties were also significantly higher: 72 versus 13 Israeli deaths in 2014, as opposed to 2008-2009. The increase was mainly due to effective attacks from tunnels within Gaza and greater use of mortars against Israeli troops encamped in areas adjacent to Gaza.

Though Israel has developed technology to deal with both these problems, Hamas has proved to be an innovative enemy that might come up with further surprises in the next round. The longer the respite, one might safely assume, the greater the probability that it will do so.

Looking at how Israel secured deterrence on the Gaza front lends support to Bennett’s line of thinking. “Understandings” between Israel and Hamas have always been short-lived, if acted upon at all. The 2005 “lull,” marketed as an informal understanding between the Palestinian factions and Israel, translated into a 345 percent increase in missile and mortar attacks compared to 2004. After the 2012 round, the “understandings” brokered by the ousted Egyptian Morsi government lasted little more than a year, until the deadly trickle of missile and mortar launches began anew.

Still less did “humanitarian” gestures buy quiet. From the point of view of Hamas, the greatest humanitarian move was the release of over 1,000 hard-core terrorists in 2011 in return for the release of one Israeli soldier. This did not prevent a second round in October 2012. Over time, only the three large-scale rounds of violence created accumulated deterrence between rounds, in which missile launches after each round appreciably decreased.

The best option, then, is for Israel is to prolong negotiations as long as possible, concede as little as possible, and wait until the sanctions against Iran come into full force — and then prepare for the next big round, not to defeat Hamas, but to tame it and keep the Palestinians divided.



                             TERRORISM AND CIVIL SOCIETY        

                                                          Elliott Abrams

                                                Israel Hayom, Oct. 9, 2018

On October 4, the White House issued its new National Strategy for Counterterrorism. This is a long and welcome document and I want to discuss only one element of the strategy: the role of civil society. The White House strategy correctly states that fighting terrorism includes “prioritiz[ing] a broader range of nonmilitary capabilities, such as our ability to prevent and intervene in terrorist recruitment, minimize the appeal of terrorist propaganda online, and build societal resilience to terrorism.” It adds that “to defeat radical Islamist terrorism, we must also speak out forcefully against a hateful ideology that provides the breeding ground for violence and terrorism.”

The view that terrorists have an ideology and that we need to combat it rightly permeates the document. At one point it says, “We will undermine the ability of terrorist ideologies, particularly radical Islamist terrorist ideologies, to create a common identity and sense of purpose among potential recruits. We must combat the resilience of terrorist narratives by acknowledging that their ideologies contain elements that have enduring appeal among their audiences.” This is an important statement because it shows that the administration views the fight against terror as going far beyond kinetic or military action.

Here is the paragraph on civil society: “INCREASE CIVIL SOCIETY’S ROLE IN TERRORISM PREVENTION: Through engagement, public communications, and diplomacy, we will strengthen and connect our partners in civil society who are eager to expand their limited terrorism prevention efforts. We will raise awareness of radicalization and recruitment dynamics, highlight successful prevention and intervention approaches domestically and overseas, and empower local partners through outreach, training, and international exchanges. We will also promote grassroots efforts to identify and address radicalization to insulate civilian populations from terrorist influence.”

All this strikes me as quite right but it points to a problem the document does not acknowledge: Some of our putative allies in the struggle against terror view civil society not as a partner but as an enemy. They simply seek to crush it in ways that can only assist people trying to sell terrorist ideology.

The best (or rather, worst) example is Egypt. The regime there has underway a broad effort to destroy civil society. This began in 2011 with the closing of several American nongovernmental organizations, including the International Republican Institute, National Democratic Institute, and Freedom House. Their offices and personnel were accused of receiving foreign money, and in fact, because Egypt is a very poor country most NGOs depend on foreign money. Those now-infamous “NGO trials” continue to this day. While U.S. officials often refer to Egypt as a close ally, the United States government has not yet succeeded in getting the government of Egypt to drop charges even against the American citizens who were working for those semiofficial U.S. NGOs.

The repression of civil society goes much further. President Donald Trump himself intervened in 2017 to get Egypt to release Aya Hegazy, an Egyptian-American who with her husband ran an NGO dedicated to helping street children. Most recently, Egypt jailed a woman who complained about sexual harassment in Egypt, for the crime of “spreading false news.” As a Carnegie report stated, “In February 2015, [Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah] Sisi issued a law for ‘organizing lists of terrorist entities and terrorists’ that conflates any ‘breaches of the public order’ as defined by the state with terrorist activities. Once again, the use of vague legal concepts opens the door for civil society organizations, activists, and political parties to be included on the list of terrorists and terrorist entities.”

Here we get to the heart of the problem: There is an important contradiction between the White House strategy, which rightly says civil society must be a key ally in fighting terrorist ideology, and a policy of destroying civil society. One more example: In Egypt today, there are between 40,000 and 60,000 political prisoners. They languish in overcrowded prisons where they have years to contemplate the injustices done to them while jihadis offer ideologies that explain why this happened and try to recruit them. Egypt’s prisons are jihadi factories. How does this fit with anyone’s counterterrorism strategy?

The new administration strategy is absolutely right to prioritize actions that fight terrorist ideology “to prevent and intervene in terrorist recruitment, minimize the appeal of terrorist propaganda online, and build societal resilience to terrorism.” Countries that crush civil society cannot achieve this, so defending civil society should be a serious element in our national counterterrorism strategy – even if some of our allies think otherwise.                                     Contents



Noa Amouyal

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 22, 2018

During the Cold War, the United States and Russia fiercely competed for spaceflight capability dominance. Today, a more sinister race for hegemony is brewing and its ultimate conclusion will not only have ripple effects for the Middle East, but the world. So says former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, who now serves as a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies. Ya’alon outlines three specific threats to the Middle East that all comprise of an overarching desire to control the region and impose its own absolutist worldview.

The current situation in the Middle East generated by three Islamic movements vying for hegemony and influence in the region and beyond,” Ya’alon tells The Jerusalem Report. “The most dangerous element is Iran,” he begins, echoing a sentiment that is felt throughout much of Israel’s security community. Iran’s use of proxy forces like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen should not be taken lightly, he warns. “This is a very significant challenge, not just for Israel, but the entire region,” he says.

The second threat, according to Ya’alon, is ISIS and its desired mission to create an Islamic caliphate. While ISIS has lost major territory in the Levant, Ya’alon cautions against ruling out their potential for executing terror attacks throughout the Middle East, North America and other parts of the world. The third, and perhaps most complicated, is the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood, which today is primarily associated with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ya’alon’s carefully outlined view of how he sees the Middle East today was crafted during his time at the INSS, which he joined a year ago. He believes this is a critical time for the region, where leaders are faced with nearly unprecedented challenges. “The only stabilized element in the Middle East is instability. I believe that the Middle East is going through the most significant crisis since the time of Mohammad in the 7th century,” he says bluntly. “It’s not the Arab Spring or the Islamic Winter, we need to look at it from a wider perspective.”

And looking at the situation from a wider perspective is exactly what he’s doing at the INSS. “Watching the developing situation from the INSS and analyzing it, is a very good opportunity to discuss issues and look at them from different angles – ‘out of the box.’ At INSS we meet people from abroad, experts as well as practitioners, share our ideas and worries and try to find out how to meet the challenges ahead,” he says. “I don’t have to spend energy trying to create coalitions, compromising my ideals, or maneuver politically. I have time available for professional work.” Content with the pace of his work at the institute, Ya’alon says that joining it was a natural fit for both him and the think tank, “The INSS as a unique platform. It’s a meeting point of experts from academia, young people and practitioners like myself,” he adds.

His perspective on the Middle East is delineated in his research paper called “United States Policy in the Middle East: The Need for a Grand Strategy” and is an example of the symbiotic relationship he enjoys with the think tank. In the paper, he not only offers his unique assessment of the situation, but also provides a platform where his ideas are read by the best of the best in the security field both in Israel and abroad. The paper, and his conversation with us, offers recommendations for President Trump as he concludes the first year of a topsy-turvy presidency. “There is a change in the US rhetoric,” Ya’alon says of the new administration, which has distanced itself as much as possible from President Barack Obama’s belief that working with and containing Iran was a path to peace in the region.

Ya’alon doesn’t seem entirely convinced that the Trump Administration has formulated a clear policy in the Middle East, which is why he believes papers like his can help guide an administration that seems to be feeling its way. “I hear there are certain reactions to the article, but this is a way that we [at the INSS] deal with the situation. We have ideas, we publish articles, we talk about it in the media in Hebrew and English and try to propose ideas of our own. Of course, we don’t have the responsibility, but we have the knowledge about the Middle East and I’m not sure that this kind of knowledge is everywhere,” he says…

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



On Topic Links

In Surprise Move, Nikki Haley Resigns as US Ambassador to UN: Times of Israel, Oct. 9, 2018—UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is tendering her resignation, marking the latest shake-up in the turbulent Trump administration just weeks before the midterm election.

13 Times Nikki Haley Stood Up for Israel at the UN (And AIPAC): Adrian Hennigan, Ha’aretz, Oct. 9, 2018—While U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations invariably offered their backing to Israel at the UN, Nikki Haley seemingly made the Israeli cause a personal obsession.

Letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Maj.Gen.Gershon Hacohen, Jewish Press, Sept. 28, 2018—The state of Israel and its citizens have been fortunate to have you at the helm for the past nine years. One can readily envisage the nightmare scenarios had your ideological and political opponents been leading the country. Your steadfast opposition to the “peace plan” that President Barack Obama tried to dictate has been particularly significant.

Will the West Cede the Golan Heights to a Psychopath?: Moshe Ya’alon and Yair Lapid, Times of Israel, July 1, 2018—We live in a world full of complex diplomatic dilemmas, but for once here is a simple one: Would you take an area that is flourishing in a western democratic state, where fifty thousand people of different religions and ethnicities live in harmony, and hand it over to a violent dictatorship ruled by the worst mass murderer of our time so that he can destroy the area and murder most of the residents?




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




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.



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.]





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.]




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.]



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.”


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.]






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. 






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.]                





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.




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.



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




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.                                             




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.]



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.]   





                                       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.]                




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.







Trump’s Vision of Peace: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2017 — Maybe US President Donald Trump really believes that, given recent developments in the region, peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible.

Can Trump’s Outside-In Formula Work?: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, May 22, 2017— Much of the attention being given to President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East has focused on whether his first foreign trip will provide much of a distraction from his growing domestic troubles.

Re-Liberating Jerusalem: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, May 15, 2015 — It's been almost 50 years since Israel unified Jerusalem and turned it from a dusty and depressed backwater into a truly radiant international capital city sparkling with energy and creativity.

Preparing For War: Jerusalem, 1967: Abraham Rabinovich, Jewish Press, May 19, 2017— As tensions mounted in late May, 1967, Jerusalem was pervaded by a feeling that if war came it would be a bloody block-by-block battle in which no quarter would be given.


On Topic Links


Full Text & Video: US President Donald Trump’s Address in Riyadh at Arab Islamic American Summit : Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, May 21, 2017

Trump Rebukes Abbas and the Palestinian Authority During Bethlehem Visit :  Jewish Press, May 23, 2017

Trump Can Break the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse: A.J. Caschetta, Gatestone Institute, May 22, 2017

Israel Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Reunification of Jerusalem: JCPA, 2017





Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2017


Maybe US President Donald Trump really believes that, given recent developments in the region, peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible. Maybe he sees a successful conclusion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a necessary preamble to economic cooperation and resurgence in the region led by the US. Maybe he sees it as a personal challenge – the ultimate deal.


Whatever the reason, US President Donald Trump is remarkably focused on the goal of bringing together Israelis and Palestinians and resolving once and for all a conflict that has received the attention of every US president in recent history. And when Trump talks of peace he is taken seriously. When Barack Obama or John Kerry invested time, energy and clout in bringing together Israelis and Palestinians they were said to be naive, messianic and dangerous to Israel’s security. Yet, when the same optimism is expressed by Trump, the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Palestinians and Israel keep an open mind.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has begun using “peace” again, a word which tends to elicit cynicism on the Right due to the bad track-record of peace initiatives. If peace is mentioned at all these days it is normally in conjunction with “security.” Yet during a meeting with Trump in Jerusalem on Monday night, Netanyahu said, “I also look forward to working closely with you to advance peace in our region… The Arab leaders who you met yesterday could help change the atmosphere and they could help create the conditions for a realistic peace.”


Trump seems to have been impressed by his meeting with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia and their willingness to engage with Israel. But unlike Netanyahu who envisions peace with the Palestinians as an extension of improved relations with the Arab nations of the region, Trump and the Arab leaders he met in Riyadh view resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian as a precursor to better ties between the Jewish state and the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan will not facilitate an atmosphere more conducive to peace between Israel and the Palestinians by improving ties with the Jewish state. Rather, open relations between Israel and “moderate” Sunni states will be conditional upon headway in peace talks with the Palestinians.


For its part, Israel has agreed to make some confidence building gestures. Trump asked for, and received, a promise from Israel that it would slow down building in Judea and Samaria. On Sunday, the security cabinet voted in favor of a package of steps that included easing travel restrictions for Palestinians on Allenby Bridge which connects the West Bank to Jordan, the development of two new job-producing industrial zones, and new allowances for Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control.


Trump has called on the Palestinian Authority to stop incitement against Israel. He also criticized Palestinian funding of imprisoned terrorists. Speaking alongside PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, Trump condemned the terrorist attack in Manchester that killed 22 and left dozens injured. Trump noted that “peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded.” This was a clear reference to Palestinian society’s glorification of terrorists who murder Israelis and the PA ’s funding of the families of “martyrs” who died carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel or prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails for terrorist activities.


As Trump takes leave of the region and heads to Italy, his major contribution to the peace process so far has been his successful resuscitation of non-cynical discourse on the prospects of peace. But the truly hard work has barely begun. Will Palestinian leaders take Trump’s advice and stop glorifying terrorists? Can Israel make additional gestures that would make Palestinians’ lives easier? If there is goodwill on both sides, perhaps Trump’s self-confidence and optimism are not so misplaced after all.






Jonathan S. Tobin

JNS, May 22, 2017


Much of the attention being given to President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East has focused on whether his first foreign trip will provide much of a distraction from his growing domestic troubles. But the real substance centers on his plan to solve a problem that has eluded all of his predecessors: the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The key to Trump’s foray is an effort to forge an “outside-in” breakthrough, in which bilateral talks will be shelved in favor of an attempt to use the leverage of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab nations over the Palestinians to forge a pact with Israel. But the problem is that, like other peace plans, it seeks to finesse the main obstacle to peace rather than to confront it. As long as Palestinian national identity is inextricably linked to their war on Zionism, this effort will fail as miserably as its predecessors.


Though Israel is often portrayed in the press as isolated, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has actually made substantial progress in its outreach efforts. The most remarkable diplomatic breakthrough involves some of Israel’s most bitter Arab foes, such as Saudi Arabia, becoming tacit allies. Netanyahu doesn’t deserve credit for this since the Saudis have been looking for a way out of the dead-end conflict with Israel for years and were pushed into the arms of the Israelis by President Barack Obama’s efforts to appease Iran. But however favorably Arab governments have come to view Israel, their populations are still being raised on antisemitic incitement against Jews. They can’t formalize their ties with Israel so long as the Palestinians still seek the Jewish state’s destruction to the cheers of the Arab street.


That’s why many serious people believe the Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians can supply the diplomatic muscle to finally push the Palestinians to take yes for an answer and end the conflict. Since it is clearly in the interests of these nations to remove the one barrier to better relations with a Jewish state that they view as a security and economic partner, they hope to convince the Palestinians that peace with Israel will be beneficial for them too. That’s a logical concept, but if common sense determined the course of Middle East history, the Arabs would have embraced the Jewish state decades ago.


Still, Trump’s effort is not based entirely on the delusions that led Obama to believe pressure on Israel would convince the Palestinians to meet him halfway. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the Saudis and other Gulf nations are putting forward a scheme in which they would make strides toward normalizing relations with Israel in exchange for Netanyahu enacting a partial settlement freeze in the West Bank and entering talks with the Palestinian Authority.


This is a far cry from the blind faith that some in the US foreign policy establishment have in the idea that the 2002 Saudi peace initiative is a game-changer. In theory, that plan called for complete Arab recognition for Israel in exchange for a complete withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. But what the Arab states are offering may actually be a way for them to sideline the Palestinians and avoid dead-end peace talks rather than to jumpstart them.


The Saudis understand that no matter how much money they give the Palestinians, any negotiation that depends on the Fatah and Hamas movements being willing to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state and ending the conflict will ultimately founder. Nor are Sunni nations thrilled with the idea of creating yet another unstable Arab state that might fall under the influence of Islamist terrorists and/or the Iranians. What they may really want is not so much the real estate deal of the century that Trump dreams about, but an effort to keep the conflict under control. That’s why the Saudis are asking for a lot less from Israel than the peace processors thought. Like Netanyahu, they may want to manage an unsolvable conflict rather than a pyrrhic quest to end it.


Israel has good reason to do what it can to work with the Saudis. But the idea that the “outside-in” concept will transform Trump into the prince of peace is a pipe dream. Let’s hope the president won’t let his ambition to achieve a deal — one that must await a sea change in Palestinian political culture that is nowhere in sight — get in the way of a less grandiose effort that makes sense.






David M. Weinberg

                                     Israel Hayom, May 15, 2015


It's been almost 50 years since Israel unified Jerusalem and turned it from a dusty and depressed backwater into a truly radiant international capital city sparkling with energy and creativity. There is more to come. The dynamic vision for Jerusalem 2020 in the transportation, cultural, recreational and business fields unveiled this week by Mayor Nir Barkat is exciting and uplifting.


Yet as we approach Jerusalem Liberation Day…hefty question marks hang over the city's future. These uncertainties stem from government hesitations in the face of international and Arab pressure for re-division of the city (Heaven forbid). Instead of acting decisively to buttress Israel's sovereignty, security, economy and social vibrancy in Jerusalem, we have a stalemate in government decision-making. In fact, the threats to Jerusalem as a living, breathing, growing, safe and open city — and to Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state and the epicenter of the global Jewish community — come mainly from neglect on Israel's part. The fourth Netanyahu government…must rebuff deleterious foreign pressures, stop dithering and act to re-establish forward motion, Zionist momentum, in Jerusalem. Here's how:


Housing: Except for luxury skyscrapers and fancy villas in central Jerusalem that are purchased by very rich (and mostly foreign) buyers, there is no significant new building underway in the city or its immediate environs for young families. For fear of international censure, the government has shrunk from critically needed expansions of peripheral, middle-class neighborhoods like Ramot, Ramat Shlomo, Pisgat Ze'ev, Gilo and Givat Hamatos (all of which are over the stale "Green Line"). No new neighborhoods have been established in the city since Netanyahu's first term in the late 1990s (Har Homa). For the same reason, successive governments going back to Yitzhak Rabin have failed to follow through on plans to build housing in the large E1 quadrant on the eastern slopes of the city (along the road toward Maaleh Adumim).


Netanyahu threatened to build in E1 if the Palestinian Authority sued Israel for war crimes in the International Criminal Court, then failed to follow through on his threat even when the PA launched an ICC assault. But this only highlights the fact that the expansion of Jerusalem eastward, so critical to the viability and livability of the city for the long term, is being held hostage to global politics. Jerusalem also has been boxed into an affordable housing stalemate by environmental lobby groups who want to protect the green mountains to the west of the city, and who have stymied all plans for significant housing projects in this area (adjacent to Tzur Hadassah, Mevasseret Zion and more). Netanyahu's new government must move to break these "settlement" logjams.


Security: Just this week, security services broke up a big terrorist cell operating out of Silwan. But cars and buses traveling to or parking near the Western Wall are regularly stoned, and almost every Jerusalem light rail streetcar has been hit with stones in the north of the city. Travel to the hallowed ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives is extraordinarily risky; Jewish mourners are sure to be assaulted. As a result, almost nobody ventures there. The few, brave bereaved families who do so travel in organized convoys with bullet- and stone-proof windows. There is also frequent Arab vandalism of the graves.


This is, of course, a shameful abdication of Israeli sovereignty and Jewish national dignity. Were such violence against Jews or vandalism against a Jewish cemetery to occur regularly abroad, it would be an international scandal. Even though he was from a "nationalist" political party, the previous public security minister took a light policing approach to the lawlessness in Jerusalem. He and his police brass wanted to avoid incidents that could become major conflagrations and international trouble for Israel. While understandable, this low-profile strategy is no longer sufficient.


Netanyahu's new government must devote much more attention to the re-securing (dare I say, re-liberation) of Jerusalem, by boosting the manpower, resources and authority of the Jerusalem police force, and by renewed enforcement of civil law in the Arab neighborhoods of the city, including building and tax codes, noise pollution bylaws and traffic rules. Some will say that another part of the answer is the devotion of more municipal services and funds to the eastern parts of the city. That's true, but let's face it: The developmental gap is not why the violence is growing. Barkat is indeed advancing Arab neighborhoods of the city, through more money for education and infrastructure.


The Temple Mount: Netanyahu's new government must also redress the gross violations of Israeli sovereignty and Jewish rights implicit in the prevailing situation on the Temple Mount. Jewish visitors to the mount — the very few who are occasionally let in — are systematically accosted by paid professional Islamic provocateurs, while the police stand aside. It goes without saying that the almost five-decade-long ban on Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount outrageously remains in place, lest the Arabs become too angry. And of course, illegal Waqf excavations continue on the Temple Mount without Israeli archaeological supervision. We know that over the past decade the burrowing out by the Waqf of the underground Solomon's Stables has wantonly destroyed thousands of years of Jewish relics and history.


Jewish prayer should be facilitated in some symbolic way on the vast Temple Mount plaza. This can be effected either through a time-sharing arrangement similar to that in place at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, or through a small synagogue tucked away on the fringes of the plaza that will not overshadow the two large Muslim structures on the Mount. Waqf violence should be dealt with compellingly.


The bottom line is that to hold on to a united Jerusalem, Israel needs to act. It must build homes extensively to keep the city alive and young. It must wield a big baton against Arab insurgents and radicals. It must restore its full and active jurisdiction and reassert Jewish national rights in all parts of the city. These initiatives will engender Palestinian (and American) resistance, but with both resoluteness and sensitivity Israel can succeed and overcome the opposition. Jerusalem is still a consensus issue in Israeli society and politics. The new Netanyahu government would enjoy widespread public backing for action to shore up Israel's stake in the holy city.                                                                




Abraham Rabinovich

                      Jewish Press, May 19, 2017


As tensions mounted in late May, 1967, Jerusalem was pervaded by a feeling that if war came it would be a bloody block-by-block battle in which no quarter would be given. Unspoken but widely envisioned was the image of the Warsaw Ghetto; buildings turned to rubble from which the battle would continue. The municipality began to bulldoze a hillside near Mount Herzl to prepare gravesites. The slope chosen was out of sight of the Jordanian lines to prevent a repetition of 1948 when, at funerals of people killed by shelling, the mourners themselves came under fire.


Some officials expected 2,000 dead in Jerusalem. These were the optimists who assumed the Jordanians would not attempt aerial bombardment because of the proximity of Arab neighborhoods. The pessimists, those who believed the Arabs would bomb anyway, estimated 6,000 dead and several times that number in wounded in Jerusalem alone. Events had taken on a momentum of their own beyond either side’s calculation. In the Arab world, rhetoric was whipping passions into white heat. “If you want war,” declared Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in a public challenge, “we are ready for you.”


Israel did not want war. The likely price even for victory was grim. Six thousand Israelis, one in every 100, had died in the victorious War of Independence, a conflict that had seen little air action. When Israel had next gone to war, in the 1956 Sinai campaign, it had been on only one front and in collusion with two powers, England and France. Even so, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion had insisted that France station air squadrons in Israel to protect its cities from air strikes.


Now, in 1967, Israel stood alone against what was beginning to look like a broad Arab coalition with three times as many tanks and warplanes as Israel. Moshe Dayan, on the eve of being named defense minister, estimated that there could be tens of thousands dead. “An entire generation of paratroopers and tank crews will be lost,” he told the general heading Israel’s Southern Command, “but you will win.” Despite this dire casualty estimate, the general, Yeshayahu Gavish, found solace in the remarks because Dayan at least predicted victory. Not all national leaders were sure of that. Even IDF chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin was pushed to the edge of nervous collapse by the responsibility that had fallen on him.


In search of reassurance, Rabin called on Ben-Gurion, now retired, for an informal chat. It turned out to be the most traumatic meeting of Rabin’s life. Ben-Gurion was as decisive as Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was hesitant, but his decisiveness lay in warning against going to war without the support of a foreign power. Otherwise, it would be an adventure that risked national disaster, he said, and the responsibility would be Rabin’s. The chief of staff had made a grave mistake, said Ben-Gurion, in ordering mobilization and thereby accelerating the war momentum.


Rabin was shaken by Ben-Gurion’s remarks. His air force commanders were promising dramatic results if Israel struck the first blow. The army commanders likewise expressed confidence in victory. Rabin was not sure the government would permit a first strike, but even if it did he could not be certain that the generals’ predictions would prove realistic when put to the test. Against this uncertainty, Ben-Gurion’s powerful “thou shalt not” was a warning Rabin could not shrug off. Ben-Gurion had proved prophetic in the past. If he was correct now, Rabin could be leading the nation to another Holocaust.


On May 22, Egypt announced the Straits of Tiran would be closed to Israeli shipping from the following day. The closure was a clear casus belli. To let it pass without a military response would be a devastating sign of weakness. Eshkol told a ministerial meeting the following day that Washington had asked Israel not to attempt to send a ship through the straits while the U.S. attempted to resolve the matter by diplomatic means. In the mood of indecision that prevailed, the American request offered a welcome respite. Rabin was subdued during the meeting with the ministers. He chain-smoked and his face was taut. In the evening, he asked General Ezer Weizman, head of operations on the general staff, to come to his home. Speaking candidly of the strain he was under, Rabin asked Weizman whether he believed that he, Rabin, should resign. Weizman, a former air force commander, persuaded Rabin that he needed only a brief rest.


Mrs. Rabin, concerned at her husband’s distress, called the IDF’s chief medical officer who diagnosed “acute anxiety.” The doctor sedated him and Rabin slept until the next afternoon. Word was put out that Rabin had been temporarily incapacitated by nicotine poisoning. When he returned to his headquarters, he was calm and knew what had to be done. There was no way out but war. With moblization, the largest source of manpower remaining in Jerusalem were yeshiva students exempt from the draft. Of the 2,000 volunteers who turned out each day for trench-digging in areas without shelters, 500 were yeshiva students. On the Sabbath after the closing by Egypt of the Tiran Straits passageway to Eilat, the civil defense commander in the Katamon quarter was amazed to see a group of yeshiva students being marched to a digging site by two bearded rabbis.


The prohibition against working on the Sabbath is one of the strictest injunctions of Judaism, but the rabbinate had declared the crisis one of pikuach nefesh (life or death) in which vital work is not only permissible on the Sabbath but mandatory. The two rabbis took off their jackets and joined the students in the trenches with shovels…

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




On Topic Links


Full Text & Video: US President Donald Trump’s Address in Riyadh at Arab Islamic American Summit : Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, May 21, 2017—U.S. President Donald Trump urged leaders of Arab nations in his speech to the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh on Sunday to “drive out” terrorists from their places of worship, their communities, from their “holy land,” and ultimately from “this Earth.”

Trump Rebukes Abbas and the Palestinian Authority During Bethlehem Visit :  Jewish Press, May 23, 2017—President Trump rebuked PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority at their joint statement in Bethlehem on Tuesday morning. During his talk, Abbas talked about easing the conditions for the PA’s terrorists being held in Israeli jails, some of whom are currently holding hunger strikes so they can get more cable TV channels and earn college degrees. Many of these jailed terrorists are mass murderers.

Trump Can Break the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse: A.J. Caschetta, Gatestone Institute, May 22, 2017—In Saudi Arabia on Sunday, President Trump declared unswerving American commitment to help Riyadh in "confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamist and Islamic terror of all kinds." A new coalition of American lawmakers believes he should make an equally important commitment to Israel when he lands there today.

Israel Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Reunification of Jerusalem: JCPA, 2017










Israeli Democracy is Not at Risk: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Feb. 3, 2017— The Economist last week released its annual global democracy index. Not surprisingly, Israel scored high.

How Israelis See the Settlements: Yossi Klein Halevi, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 5, 2017— A billboard near the highway entering Jerusalem proclaims in Hebrew: “The Time for Sovereignty Has Come.”

A Leader in Waiting, Lapid Slowly Builds a Doctrine for the Trump Era: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Feb. 6, 2017 — Squandering the political capital created by the arrival of US President Donald Trump at the White House on settlement building would be a historic mistake, according to former minister Yair Lapid…

Netanyahu Messed Up But it is Time to Move Forward: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 16, 2017— Enough is enough.


On Topic Links


Amid UN Warning, Israel Set to Pass Historic Settlements Bill: Gil Hoffman, Udi Shaham, Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 6, 2017

It’s Time Canada Ended its Double Standard that Considers Israeli Settlements ‘Illegal’: Jason Reiskind, National Post, Jan. 31, 2017

Could Submarine Scandal Blow up in Netanyahu’s Face?: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Feb. 1, 2017

No Victory: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 2, 2017





David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, Feb. 3, 2017


The Economist last week released its annual global democracy index. Not surprisingly, Israel scored high. The highbrow magazine ranked Israel very high for pluralism and political culture. It ranked Israel a bit lower for civil liberties, mainly because of the rabbinate's ultra-rigid control over Jewish marriage, divorce and conversion. Indeed, Israel is more globalized, open and democratic than at any time in its history. Over the past decade, Israel's "democracy" scores have risen from 7.28 to 7.85 on a scale of 1 to 10, according to The Economist.


In comparison, Belgium this year rated a score of 7.77, France 7.92, the U.S. 7.98, Britain 8.36, and Canada 9.15. Greece was downgraded to the status of a "flawed democracy" at 7.23. Turkey is no longer rated a democracy, but a "hybrid regime." And yet, there is a steady drumbeat of warning about "dangers to Israeli democracy" being propagated these days.


You read it on the front pages of the left-leaning Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz newspapers. You get it from progressive academics in Israeli political science and sociology departments, and you are confronted with it by politicians seeking to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The discourse goes like this: Israeli democracy is under attack by dark forces of ultra-nationalism, racism, fascism and religious radicalism. An ugly wave of hatred is washing across Israel, with fundamentalists leading a surging tide of extremism.


The purported evidence for this are the youths who gathered this week to prevent Amona from destruction, and hooligans who threatened army leaders and judges after Elor Azaria's conviction for killing an immobilized terrorist. Adding to the list of alleged "dangers to democracy" is a series of nationalist legislative initiatives in Knesset. These range from cultural and educational issues (spending more shekels on arts communities in the periphery, high school curriculum changes in civics and Jewish-Zionist heritage studies, and keeping the Breaking the Silence organization out of the school system) to constitutional matters (the nation state law, reform of the judicial appointments process) to political initiatives (crackdown on illegal Bedouin and Arab building, tougher prosecution of terrorist family members), and so on.


But none of the above actually proves the charges of fascism or undermining of Israeli democracy. Not at all. The noisy demonstrations and bullying of a few hundred radicals prove nothing, except that there are fringe elements in our society that need to be kept in check, on the extreme Left and Right alike. This holds equally true for radicals who threaten to upend Israel on behalf of the terrorist-abetting Israeli Arab MK Basel Ghattas, and for those who threaten military judges on behalf of Azaria. All zealots must be marginalized. But note: The right-wingers in Amona don't come close to falling into this category. They were mainly passive protesters, expressing outrage at flawed policy in legitimate fashion.


It is critically important how we approach the public policy debate. It is wrong to portray Israeli society as bisected by two enemy narratives: that of a moral, liberal, democratic, universalist Israeli Left, versus an immoral, illiberal, isolationist, nationalist Israeli Right. This is a false dichotomy, and it's an untrue picture of Israeli society. Like Britain, France, Germany and the U.S. these days, there is a real and worthy debate in Israel over important public policy matters, and there is a continuum of respectable views that defy simplistic categorization as democratic or anti-democratic.


It's important to acknowledge this, and to abjure accusations that every controversial policy innovation is motivated by hatred, moral insensitivity or authoritarianism. Taking up one side of the debate, I will argue that neither hawkish Israeli foreign policies, nor conservative Israeli socio-economic and cultural policies, automatically make this country less free, enlightened, noble, creative or exciting. Let's say, for example, that the NGO funding transparency law is passed by the Knesset, or that the judicial appointments process is altered to deny Supreme Court judges a veto over selection of their successors. Is that the "end of democratic Israel"? Of course not!


Let's say that the Knesset breaks up the Labor party's kibbutz-controlled food cartels, or that it passes a law mandating compensation for absentee Palestinian landlords for land on which Israelis have been living for 40 years (instead of expelling such Israelis from their homes). Is that the "end of democratic Israel"? Of course not! When the High Court of Justice ruled in favor of Netanyahu government policies on natural gas exploitation and on expulsion of illegal African migrant workers (while circumscribing some aspects of the attendant legislation) — policies that were strenuously opposed by the Left — was that the end of Israeli democracy? Or let's imagine that Azaria receives a light sentence for his manslaughter. Would that be fascist and undemocratic?


My point is that opposition to public policy should be debated on its merits — without semiautomatic screeching about intolerance, repression, dictatorship, thought police and the crushing of democratic norms. Over-the-top attacks make the political opposition sound just as crude and intolerant as the caricature of the government they are communicating.


Of course, no one should pooh-pooh civic challenges that do stand before Israeli society. The Israel Democracy Institute's 2016 democracy index found a significant drop in public trust of government institutions and politicians; and an increasing willingness to marginalize minorities, such as Israeli Arabs, ultra-Orthodox Jews and settlers. But we must beware of a doomsday discourse about depredations in Israel's democratic moorings. Israel is far more hale and hearty than some of its detractors would have us believe.                                                             




Yossi Klein Halevi

Wall Street Journal, Feb. 5, 2017


A billboard near the highway entering Jerusalem proclaims in Hebrew: “The Time for Sovereignty Has Come.” It is part of a new campaign for the formal incorporation into Israel of Ma’ale Adumim, one of the largest settlements in the West Bank and barely a 10-minute drive east of Israel’s capital. The campaign’s sponsors, backed by several ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ’s coalition, see annexing Ma’ale Adumim as the first step to annexing the entire West Bank and preventing the creation of a Palestinian state.


Israelis have been arguing about settlements ever since the Six Day War of June 1967, when the Israeli army captured the West Bank—the biblical regions of Judea and Samaria—and small groups of Israelis began establishing enclaves there. Annexation, long the goal of the settlement movement, has always been more aspiration than possibility, thwarted by opposition within Israel and from the international community. But with the rise of Donald Trump, settlement leaders have sensed an opening. Mr. Trump’s nominee as U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is a longtime pro-settlement activist. And in a marked break with American policy, the Trump administration refused to condemn Israel’s announcement that it intends to build some 5,000 housing units in settlements, the largest expansion project in recent years.


The collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the chaos of the Arab world in recent years have reinforced the settlers’ sense of opportunity. So too has the imminent approach of a date fraught with symbolic significance: the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War. According to Jewish tradition, 50 years—a jubilee—is the time for a reset. For those who believe that Israel needs to overcome its hesitancy and claim its rightful borders, it is a moment of high expectation.


Unlike critics abroad, including the U.N. Security Council, who denounce settlements as illegal under international law, mainstream Israeli discourse takes for granted the legitimacy of Israel’s claims to the West Bank—lands where the Jewish people find their deepest historical roots, won in a war of self-defense against the Arab world’s attempt to destroy the Jewish state. The debate, instead, is over the wisdom of implementing these claims to the “territories” (the more politically neutral term preferred by many in Israel). Permanently absorbing the West Bank would mean adding more than two million Palestinians to Israel’s population, forcing it to choose eventually between the two essential elements of its national identity as both a Jewish state and a democracy.


That is precisely the point of another new campaign, from the opposite side of the political spectrum, urging withdrawal from the territories. “We’re Not Annexing—We’re Separating,” reads one billboard near the highway in Tel Aviv. A second billboard warns of what will happen if Israel doesn’t separate from the Palestinians: “The One-State Solution. Palestine.” That warning reveals a profound shift in Israeli discourse. The mainstream Israeli left no longer promises “land for peace” but instead offers a more modest formula: withdrawal as the best way to ensure that Israel remains both Jewish and democratic. This shift recognizes that, after years of terrorism and Palestinian rejection of past Israeli peace offers (the last offer was in 2008), the Israeli public has become deeply skeptical of Palestinian intentions.


Polls consistently show that a majority of Israelis support a two-state solution, while doubting the possibility of peace. According to an October 2016 poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute’s Peace Index, nearly 65% of Israelis backed peace talks—but only 26% thought they would succeed. Israelis worry that a Palestinian state would be overtaken by the radical Islamist movement Hamas and would threaten their population centers with rocket attacks—precisely what happened in 2005 when Israel uprooted its 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and withdrew. For supporters, settlements are crucial to security—preventing Israel’s contraction to its pre-1967 borders, barely 9 miles wide at their narrowest point. For opponents, settlements are a mortal threat to the Jewish state. The Israeli dilemma: Which alternative is the greater existential danger?


Some 430,000 Israelis live in 131 officially sanctioned settlements spread throughout the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem). In addition, dozens of small settlement outposts have been established without Israeli government approval. Meanwhile, a bill is advancing in the Knesset to legalize some 4,000 housing units built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank, while offering compensation to the owners. The bill has been widely denounced abroad and by Israel’s opposition Labor Party. For their part, the Palestinians regard all settlement building, especially since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, as intended to deny them national sovereignty and basic dignity—proof that Israel has no intention of ever withdrawing.


For both sides, settlements can assume mythic symbolism. Palestinians often refer to them as “colonies,” reflecting the supposedly colonialist nature of Israel itself. Indeed, Palestinian media regularly ignore any distinction between Israel’s boundaries before and after the 1967 war, labeling coastal cities such as Tel Aviv and Ashkelon as settlements too. For Israelis, the refusal of many Palestinians to come to terms with Israel’s legitimacy is proof that the conflict isn’t about settlements but about the very existence of a Jewish state.


Although the settlements tend to be regarded by the international community as an undifferentiated entity, the discourse about them in Israel is very different. For Israelis who support a two-state solution, settlements fall into two broad categories: those within so-called settlement blocs, close to the pre-1967 border and likely to remain a part of Israel in a final agreement, and those outside the blocs, which Israel would probably evacuate as part of a peace deal. Israel’s retention of the blocs near the border would still allow territorial contiguity for a Palestinian state—though at least one settlement, Ariel, which Israel regards as a future bloc, is deep enough inside the West Bank to threaten that contiguity. Under various proposed plans, a Palestinian state would be compensated for lost land with territory from within pre-1967 Israel.


Depending on how one draws the map, more than three-quarters of the settler population lives in blocs likely to be kept by Israel under an agreement. The blocs plan gives hope to supporters of a two-state solution that settlement-building hasn’t yet reached the point of no return. Though Israel is hardly likely to evacuate 430,000 settlers, it could, with enormous strain to its social fabric, evacuate the 80,000 or so settlers living outside the blocs. (How traumatic would a forcible evacuation be? This past week, it took some 3,000 police and soldiers to remove a few dozen settlers from Amona, an illegal hilltop outpost.)…

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




                                 A LEADER IN WAITING,


          Avi Issacharoff

  Times of Israel, Feb. 6, 2017


Squandering the political capital created by the arrival of US President Donald Trump at the White House on settlement building would be a historic mistake, according to former minister Yair Lapid, a centrist politician who some see as a possible successor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In an interview, Lapid, the head of the opposition Yesh Atid party, took a less bullish view of the new president than Netanyahu, who has openly feted Trump’s election as a welcome change after years of strained ties with Obama, but expressed cautious optimism over the new United States leader.


“While it is important and good that there is a friendly president in the White House. We don’t know how this will look in the long term,” Lapid told The Times of Israel last week. In the telling of Lapid, who has called for “separation” from the Palestinians, Trump’s heavy slant toward Israel regarding the conflict with the Palestinians will help dismantle some of the international pressure on Israel to accede to Palestinian statehood demands. However, Israel must use that breathing space wisely, said Lapid, and not as Netanyahu has done, announcing some 6,000 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as plans for the first officially sanctioned new settlement in 25 years.


“The Palestinian Authority’s strategy of putting heavy international political pressure on us has collapsed. We have freedom of action,” Lapid said. “But this is also our chance to dictate, from a position of strength, what we want. If it’s squandered on building another four outposts, that will be a mistake that will be mourned for generations.” Instead, Lapid called for the convening of an international conference to try to resolve the situation with Gaza and seek progress with the Palestinian Authority, an idea he has pushed for the last year, though one which has made little headway in diplomatic circles.


Despite saying he wants to make peace with the Palestinians, Lapid drew the line at speaking to Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian terrorist serving five life sentences in Israeli prison but also a popular politician. And he said he would not negotiate directly with terror group Hamas, which rules Gaza, though he does support giving the Strip a seaport in exchange for a long-term truce, including a cessation of tunnel-digging and rocket fire. “It’s a win-win situation. You’re starting a kind of disarmament, preventing rocket fire, and preventing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” he said. He also expressed full support for moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and warned against being intimidated by threats from the Arab world opposing such a move.


For now, this is just the talk of a politician with little say on whom Israel does and doesn’t talk to. But that could change. Recent polls have shown Lapid’s party surpassing Netanyahu’s Likud, making him a potential prime minister or at least a kingmaker. Elections are theoretically years away, but with Netanyahu under investigation for a raft of scandals, some analysts believe they may be in the offing sooner than planned. A former journalist and son of late minister Tommy Lapid, Lapid rode to power in 2013 as a freshman politician on an anti-corruption platform.


On the topic of suspicions that Netanyahu took hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of gifts from wealthy businessmen, Lapid was unequivocal. “Did the prime minister say it was permissible to accept gifts? I’m telling you it is not. Absolutely not. Anyone in the political world knows that accepting gifts is not allowed, so they don’t accept them. It’s against the law,” he said. Despite his party’s initial focus on domestic concerns, Lapid has used his time as a lawmaker to fashion himself as something of a shadow foreign minister, with the role of top diplomat currently held by Netanyahu himself…

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





Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 16, 2017


Enough is enough. Since the beginning of his public life, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been subject to the most ferocious ongoing campaign of vilification endured by any politician in the democratic world. For two decades, Noni Mozes, the publisher of the daily Yediot Aharonot, which until recently had the highest circulation and was most influential newspaper in Israel, waged an ongoing campaign employing the worst form of character assassination, defamation and double standards aimed at achieving the downfall of Israel’s prime minister. There were even unsuccessful efforts to introduce Bolshevik- style legislation into the Knesset making it illegal to provide the public with a free newspaper (Israel Hayom) because of its support for Netanyahu and popularity among Israeli readers. The promoters of this reprehensible legislation – political opponents and the hostile media – had the chutzpah to initiate it in the name of democracy.


Over the past few weeks, the public was shocked to learn that in the very midst of this battle with his greatest enemy, Mozes, their prime minister had actually been indulging in crude horse trading with him. The disclosure of contents of extensive taped telephone conversations between Netanyahu and Mozes prior to the last elections stunned Israelis. Israel Hayom, the free daily newspaper whose primary shareholders are Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, had emerged as the largest Israeli daily, overtaking the giant Yediot Aharonot in circulation, and many argue it was a crucial contributor to Netanyahu’s electoral success. The tapes disclose bizarre offers from Netanyahu to Mozes to allow passage of legislation which would limit the expansion of Israel Hayom and eliminate the weekend supplement – in return for political support and a guarantee that Mozes would promote him as prime minister indefinitely.


The fact is that Netanyahu has no control whatsoever over Israel Hayom and, not surprisingly, the deal was never consummated. In his defense, Netanyahu pathetically claims that the recordings were made to protect himself from extortion by Mozes. This deplorable demonstration of amorality by both parties nauseated Israelis of all political persuasions and reflects badly on Netanyahu’s lack of trust even in those who have been his strongest allies and supporters.


Although there is no justification for Netanyahu’s behavior, he has been treated outrageously by the media. Since the 1990s and his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu has been confronted by a barrage of unsubstantiated, politically motivated allegations in unsuccessful efforts to discredit him. The most virulent defamation was the despicable personal attacks on his family. The ad hominem, front-page screaming headlines day after day attacking Netanyahu, his wife and even his children go beyond what is considered “yellow press.” They reflect a total absence of moral compass and represent a disgrace to the nation. His son was accused of being invited to fly on private jets by and receiving guest accommodation from Netanyahu admirers – hardly corruption. His wife was headlined as augmenting her income with NIS 20 weekly by “stealing” 1,000 bottle refunds for her own credit. At one stage, the prime minister’s household expenses were headlined as extravagant because of Netanyahu’s penchant for quality ice cream.


In recent weeks, there were front-page headlines about Netanyahu and his wife receiving gifts of luxurious Cuban cigars and expensive wines from well-wishers amounting to “hundreds of thousands of shekels.” The consumption of a bottle of wine per day either from “gifts” or from the household budget was considered extravagant “while poor Israelis suffered.” Ronald Lauder, a multi-billionaire and one of world Jewry’s most generous philanthropists, is reprimanded for giving gifts that go back nearly 20 years. The hint that in return he was obtaining benefits from Netanyahu in Israel where he has invested millions of dollars in projects that were valuable contributions to the state is absurd. Moreover, Lauder is a shareholder in Channel 10, which has been at the vanguard of defaming Netanyahu and his family…

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



On Topic Links


Amid UN Warning, Israel Set to Pass Historic Settlements Bill: Gil Hoffman, Udi Shaham, Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 6, 2017—The Knesset late Monday night is set to pass historic legislation hailed by the Right wing for salvaging 4,000 settler homes and attacked by the Left as the first step toward de-facto annexation.

It’s Time Canada Ended its Double Standard that Considers Israeli Settlements ‘Illegal’: Jason Reiskind, National Post, Jan. 31, 2017—Canada’s current position on Israeli “settlements” is that they are illegal because they violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, specifically Paragraph 6 which states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The time has come for Canada to change our position to align with Canadian basic values and, equally important, with international law.

Could Submarine Scandal Blow up in Netanyahu’s Face?: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Feb. 1, 2017—The media may be focused on the pricey cigars and bottles of champagne that the Netanyahu family allegedly amassed from its benefactors over the years, but the police investigation into the submarine procurement scandal is gaining momentum. The scandal, which Al-Monitor reported on at the end of October, is about to become a huge international imbroglio.

No Victory: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 2, 2017— There were no winners in the Amona evacuation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett – heads of what has been billed as the most right-wing government in the state’s history – all were hurt politically by allowing Jewish settlers in the West Bank to be evacuated from their homes on their watch.