Israel Rolls Out Election Campaigns, Scenting Early Vote: Mazal Mualem, Al-Monitor, Aug. 1, 2018— On July 27, Defense Minister Avigdor Libe
rman brought the members of his Knesset faction on a visit to the kibbutzim surrounding the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s Opposition Took the Bait of Bibi’s New Law: Zev Chafets, Bloomberg, Aug. 3, 2018— The controversy over the nation-state law passed by Israel’s Knesset on July 19th continues to percolate. At first glance, it is hard to understand why.
Can Israel Be Both Jewish and Democratic?: Alex Grobman, Jewish Press, Aug. 2, 2018— There seems to be no end to the myths surrounding the Jewish state.
Which Foreign Leaders Should Israel Welcome?: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 5, 2018— There were several negative reactions in Israel to the welcome Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban received during his recent visit to the country.
On Topic Links
Dangerously Disloyal Opposition?: Dr. Martin Sherman, Arutz Sheva, Aug. 3, 2018
Hypocrisy and Hysteria Regarding the Jewish Nation-State Law: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, July 13, 2018
Livni Returns as Israeli Opposition Leader: Mazal Mualem, Al-Monitor, July 24, 2018
Israel Is Losing the Social Media War: David Patrikarakos, Tablet, June 25, 2018
ISRAEL ROLLS OUT ELECTION CAMPAIGNS, SCENTING EARLY VOTE
Al-Monitor, Aug. 1, 2018
On July 27, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman brought the members of his Knesset faction on a visit to the kibbutzim surrounding the Gaza Strip. At Kibbutz Or HaNer, the Yisrael Beitenu chairman met with local residents who are frustrated after many long weeks of flaming kites destroying their fields and ruining their children’s summer vacations. Liberman sent the message that he is not afraid of taking the conflict with Hamas up a notch, making statements like, “If we get Code Red sirens here, it’ll get deep red in Gaza.”
Liberman and his staff have been making many such comments online and to journalists. During their visit to the south, the faction also held a private meeting in the restaurant on Kibbutz Bror Hayil. That evening, the News Company reported on a clash between Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Cabinet meeting a few days earlier. Liberman wanted to deal a harsh military blow to Gaza, but Netanyahu blocked it.
According to the report, Liberman used the faction meeting to give his own account of the tension between himself and Netanyahu. He has a reputation for creating crises for his own political ends, so it is certainly safe to assume that the current one is another example. Liberman wants to present himself as taking a much more aggressive stance against Hamas than Netanyahu is, particularly since voters currently give the government low marks on this issue. According to a July 24 poll by the News Company, 70% of the public is unhappy with the way the flaming kites from Gaza are being handled by the government.
Liberman may sit in the Defense Ministry, but most people still do not consider him an authority on security matters. He is therefore trying to use the Gaza crisis to boost his standing. He will continue fighting with Netanyahu on this issue as long as it serves his interests.
Meanwhile, all signs on the ground seem to indicate that Liberman is preparing for early Knesset elections, as are all the other key players. His highly publicized clash with Netanyahu — the first of its kind since he became defense minister in May 2016 — is further evidence. Officially, the prime minister’s office denies any dispute, but a source close to Netanyahu has been quoted in the Israeli press as saying, “Liberman is a big talker but his actions are very much the opposite.”
All this happened one week after the Knesset began its summer recess July 22. While the coalition is still intact, there are still a lot of unresolved tension and conflicts that could come to a head when the Knesset begins its winter session Oct. 15. Then, many believe, some excuse will be found to dissolve the Knesset and the country will head to early elections. Since none of the major players want to be caught off guard, they launched their 2019 campaigns last week, even if unofficially.
Kulanu’s chairman, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, was the quickest and also the most direct. Last week he hosted a festive inauguration of his election headquarters in Tel Aviv and plastered the streets with campaign posters.
But that was just the beginning. On July 29, hundreds of thousands of readers of Yisrael HaYom, the free newspaper owned by Sheldon Adelson and usually identified with Netanyahu, came across a very unusual headline. It was actually a huge ad in disguise that took up the entire front page. It contained a long list of achievements attributed to Kahlon, drawn from every imaginable field: security, healthy and education. Kahlon’s boasting about achievements far beyond his own finance domain infuriated the other ministers, who claimed that he was taking credit for things that he did not do. “He always complains that Netanyahu does that to him, but now that he is facing election pressure, he is doing the exact same thing,” one Likud minister told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.
Kahlon isn’t too worried. In talks with his associates he expressed his belief that sometime in October, Netanyahu will find an excuse to hold an election before any recommendation to indict him is made. What will be the excuse for dissolving the government? Netanyahu has several options. In any case, he is acting as though he is preparing for early elections. He refuses to change the controversial recently adopted nationality law despite growing protests among the Druze community, because the new law is popular with Likud voters and Netanyahu believes that it will be a banner issue in his upcoming campaign. As he prepares to face off against HaBayit HaYehudi leader Naftali Bennett, with whom he will be competing for the right-wing vote, Netanyahu will try to resolve the problem with the Druze protests through dialogue, economic incentives and point-specific legislation, but he will not back down from the law. On the contrary, the Likud leader is already marketing the new law aggressively. A new video he posted online goes so far as to accuse the left of disseminating lies about it.
Then there are the LGBT protests over the last few weeks over the amended surrogacy law, which discriminates against gay men. Here, too, Netanyahu is not expected to surprise anyone with an about-face on policy. With elections in the offing, Netanyahu will not risk his alliance with the ultra-Orthodox parties, which he will need to put together his next government. Netanyahu will need to be fully confident that the ultra-Orthodox parties will continue be his partners if he forms his fifth government…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
ISRAEL’S OPPOSITION TOOK THE BAIT OF BIBI’S NEW LAW
Bloomberg, Aug. 3, 2018
The controversy over the nation-state law passed by Israel’s Knesset on July 19th continues to percolate. At first glance, it is hard to understand why. The bill seems superfluous. It starts by asserting three principles that have been the essence of Jewish nationalism for more than a century: The land of Israel is “the historical homeland of the Jewish people.” The State of Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people.” And, in that state, the Jewish people are uniquely entitled to “national self-determination.”
From there the law reiterates long-established facts of Israeli law. The flag, which it describes, is the same old Star of David. The national anthem remains the same. Saturday is the day of rest (with alternatives for non-Jewish citizens). Hebrew is the official language (Arabic enjoys the same special status it has always had). Israel encourages free Jewish immigration with the goal of gathering “exiled” diaspora communities. And so on.
This is Zionism 101. Since the founding of the state, it has gone without saying. So why did it need to be said now? The answer is a national election is on the horizon. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an ex-special forces officer, always lays a few traps in the political battlefield beforehand. And his opponents consistently fall into them. That has happened again with the law. Bibi’s two main rival parties joined with the anti-Zionist Arab List and a hard-left fringe party, Meretz, in voting against the law. The final count was 62-55 in favor, with two abstentions and one absence.
A who’s who of Israeli writers and artists denounced the legislation as “a sin” and demanded it be rescinded forthwith. Yuval Noah Harari, the author of the international best-seller, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind,” publicly refused an invitation to appear with Bill Gates at an event sponsored by the Israeli consulate in LA. Meanwhile, Israel’s airwaves and social media were dominated by commentators calling Bibi a fascist and the law a disgrace. The climate was hot enough that one or two of his centrist colleagues seemed to waver.
Then, at the weekly Sunday cabinet meeting, Bibi launched a counter-offensive. “Do not apologize” he ordered his ministers. “Attacks from the Israeli left, which calls itself Zionist, reveal how low it has sunk, how a basic tenet of Zionism — a Jewish nation-state for the Israeli people in its country — has become, for [the left] a rude and dirty term, a shameful principle. We are not ashamed of Zionism.”
Cabinet ministers heard the message and stood firm. The wisdom of Bibi’s approach was confirmed when the first post-legislation poll was published, showing 58 percent of the public favors the law, while just 34 percent (including 100 percent of Israeli Arabs) are opposed. Even more important, slightly more than half of Yesh Atid’s voters and a substantial number of Zionist Union supporters — the two main opposition parties who voted against the law — agree with the law.
These numbers will grow as Netanyahu relentlessly charges his opponents with abandoning the symbols and principles of the founding fathers. I don’t want to suggest that this is merely a cynical campaign strategy. Netanyahu, like every one of his predecessors (and the great majority of Israelis) believes that Israel is sui generis, a country founded with a specific purpose for a particular people. The law reflects that.
Israel is a democracy, but it’s not egalitarian. It is a Jewish democracy. All its citizens have civil rights (to vote, hold office, get a fair trial, speak freely and worship in their own way) but the Law of Return gives Jews anywhere in the world the right to automatic immigration. This is discrimination, plain and simple.
Members of the progressive intelligentsia and their Jewish counterparts abroad, want to see Israel drop its Zionist mission and become, like other modern democracies, simply a state of all its citizens. They argue that an officially Jewish state is both undemocratic and unattractive. In the long run, critics say, it could cost Israel its reputation and its American support.
Perhaps they are right about this. But the long run isn’t really the issue. Prime ministers stay in power one election at a time, and Bibi intends to win re-election to a fourth consecutive term. His right wing coalition partners will be with him because they have nowhere else to go. But if he makes inroads in the center, he can have the kind of broad government he has dreamed of. If that comes to pass, he will look back on the 19th of July, 2018 as the day his opponents walked into the trap by voting against a bill that happens to enshrine the most cherished values of the Israeli mainstream.
CAN ISRAEL BE BOTH JEWISH AND DEMOCRATIC?
Jewish Press, Aug. 2, 2018
There seems to be no end to the myths surrounding the Jewish state. Israel is accused of being an apartheid state, an occupier of Palestinian Arab lands, and an international war criminal. On December 28, 2016, US Secretary of State John Kerry added another canard to this litany when he warned that if Israel rejects a two-state solution, “it can be Jewish or it can be democratic-it cannot be both.”
Mr. Kerry, thereby, demonstrates his limited understanding of how Israel is governed as well as how against incredible odds the country remains both Jewish and democratic. Nor did the Obama administration even attempt to draw such a distinction in its outright support of the Muslim Brotherhood-based government of Mohammed Morsi in Egypt.
Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the US, observed that the U.S. Britain and Canada are among the few countries in the world that have had continual democratic governments. Although from inception Israel has been threatened with extinction, she has never yielded to the wartime demands of instituting onerous restrictive laws that often destroy other democracies.
If anything, the Palestinian Arab/Israeli conflict has “tempered” Israeli democracy, providing equal rights even to Arabs and Jews who refute her right to exist. “Is there another democracy,” Oren asks, “that would uphold the immunity of legislators who praise the terrorists sworn to destroy it? Where else could more than 5 percent of the population — the equivalent of 15 million Americans — rally in protest without incident and be protected by the police. And which country could rival the commitment to the rule of law…whose former president was convicted and jailed for sexual offenses by three Supreme Court justices — two women and an Arab? Israeli democracy, according to pollster Khalil Shikaki, topped the US as the most admired government in the world — by the Palestinians.”
What is equally remarkable Oren opines, is that Israel was founded by Jews from autocratic societies who were forced to grapple with issues of identity and security that would have overwhelmed even the most seasoned democracies. These discussions occurred at a time when they were occupied in absorbing almost two million Jewish immigrants from the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.
While Israel’s institutions and principles of governing are democratic, the Jewish state is nevertheless different. Like Bulgaria, Greece, and Ireland, Israel is a nation-state, but with a large Arab minority, whose national character and language are officially recognized. Though Judaism plays a preeminent role in the country’s public and political life, Judaism is not Israel’s national religion, unlike Denmark, Great Britain, and Cambodia, which have a national religion. And in contrast to the other democracies in the world, Israel has never lived in peace with her neighbors. Israel continually struggles with balancing the responsibilities of preserving liberty, while safeguarding her national existence.
Israeli historian Alexander Yacobson and Amnon Rubinstein, a former Israeli Minister of Education, point out that except for Lebanon, the constitutions of the Arab countries acknowledge Islam as the state religion, and confer official status to Sharia law, albeit in different formulations. Syria’s constitution states that Islam is the religion of the head of state, while declaring Sharia is the primary source of legislation. Though some Western democracies have “official, established,” or state churches, this does not preclude freedom of religion for those practicing other religions.
Israel’s refusal to compromise democratic principles even during times of extreme national emergency has not gone unnoticed. “Congress should have spent more time learning from the Israeli experience,” wrote Harvard Law School dean Martha Minow and Professor Gabriella Blum in 2006, noting that Israel provides broader rights to security detainees than the United States. In spite of the unrelenting and often existential nature of the threats confronting Israel, the country has maintained the standards established on the day of her independence. As Arab armies joined with local Arab forces in attempting to destroy the nascent state, Ben-Gurion determined that Israel “must not begin with national discrimination.’” Israeli Arabs vote and run for political office.
Contrary to a popular myth, Israel is not a theocracy. More accurately, Israel is “a nation-state of the Jewish people,” including many who would not be considered Jewish according to Jewish law. In many areas, Israel is exceptionally liberal, with progressive legislation on gay rights, support for single-parent families, and abortion. Israel never had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for her military. Restrictions on gay enlistments were removed in 1993. Same-sex couples are granted the same rights as heterosexual couples, and Israel offers refuge to Palestinian Arab homosexuals fleeing from Islamists in Palestinian Arab controlled areas.
Aharon Barak, a former President of Israel’s Supreme Court, claims the emphasis on human rights is a direct result of the Holocaust from which Israel has learned “that human rights are the core of substantive democracy…without protection for human rights, there can be no democracy and no justification for democracy.” Religious parties participate in elections, and although the Chief Rabbinate wields broad influence regarding lifecycle events (marriage, burial), Israel’s secular legislative and judicial branches and security services have the definitive authority. In other words, “Israel has no official state religion, and Judaism does not enjoy any legally privileged status (other than that which derives, as a matter of course, from its being the religion of the majority)” asserts Amnon Rubenstein, a former dean of the Tel Aviv Law School…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
WHICH FOREIGN LEADERS SHOULD ISRAEL WELCOME?
Jerusalem Post, Aug. 5, 2018
There were several negative reactions in Israel to the welcome Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban received during his recent visit to the country. The arguments brought forward included Orban’s rehabilitation of Hungary’s antisemitic leader and ally of Hitler, Admiral Miklós Horthy. There were also complaints about Orban’s illiberalism and the antisemitism in Hungary. It was 80 years ago in July that the Evian conference took place to discuss the fate of the Jewish refugees, who had nowhere to flee. Except for the Dominican Republic, no country was willing to accept them. The democracies at that time were unsavory nations, the others were usually worse.
Democracies and other states are still partly unsavory, be it in a mutated way. The big difference in the world is the arrival of biased supranational bodies. For instance, the voting pattern at the UN General Assembly concerning Israel, according to the prime definition of antisemitism – that of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – leads to the conclusion that the UN is a frequently antisemitic institution.
In view of the superficial comments against Orban’s visit, it is worthwhile to try to establish more rational political criteria – in addition to business considerations – for welcoming visiting state leaders. These could include issues such as: 1) Does the government of the visiting leader financially support the Palestinian Authority, which enables it to free other monies to incentivize and pay murderers of Israelis and their families? 2) Does that country vote against Israel in the UN, and where relevant, in the EU? 3) Does that country’s government interfere in Israel’s internal affairs? 4) Has the country let in a massive number of Muslims without barring the antisemites among them? 5) Are Jews in the visiting leader’s country subject to violence? 6) Do the country’s leaders distort the Holocaust?
Other criteria could include: When country leaders visit Israel, do they also visit the Palestinian Authority, thereby placing it at the same level as Israel? Does their government support BDS-promoting organizations? As the level of sophistication in this investigating process increases, different weights can also be given to the various categories listed.
The reproach that Orban has rehabilitated Horthy, the antisemitic leader of his country from 1920 to 1944 is justified. Horthy applied antisemitic measures already before the Second World War. However, Hungary does not finance the Palestinian Authority, it usually does not vote against Israel in supranational institutions, it has not let in Muslim refugees and thus avoided the import of extreme antisemites among them. There is sizable verbal incitement against Jews in Hungary, but little or no violence against them. Orban’s government does not interfere in Israel’s internal politics. The Hungarian Prime Minister did not visit the Palestinian Authority. As far as I recall, the synagogues in Budapest I went to did not need security guards. The Hungarian government does not give money to BDS-supporting institutions.
Israel would gladly welcome French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. The Israeli opposition politicians who came out against Orban would most likely remain silent. On most of the other above criteria – except for the distortion of the Holocaust – France’s reality is far more negative than that of Hungary. France is the West European country where the majority of murders of Jews for ideological reasons in this century have taken place. No Western European country has such a significant percentage of Jews emigrating as France…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
On Topic Links
Dangerously Disloyal Opposition?: Dr. Martin Sherman, Arutz Sheva, Aug. 3, 2018—The last week was one of immense sadness for me. It was a week in which I watched—incredulously—as a savage, mindless and hugely hypocritical attack was launched against a noble ideal to which I have devoted almost my entire adult life: The idea of a sovereign nation-state for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland.
Hypocrisy and Hysteria Regarding the Jewish Nation-State Law: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, July 13, 2018—Heaps of hypocritical and hysterical bombast are being hurled at the government’s plans to constitutionalize Israel’s status as the Jewish nation-state, so it is important to explain why this law is necessary and must be passed into law next week. In short: The delicate balance between Israel’s Jewish and democratic characters has been upset over the past 25 years by the Israeli Supreme Court. Former Chief Justice Aharon Barak and his ultra-liberal successors have dramatically diluted the Jewish dimension of the Jewish-and-democratic equilibrium. Time for a reset.
Livni Returns as Israeli Opposition Leader: Mazal Mualem, Al-Monitor, July 24, 2018—When Avi Gabbay defeated Isaac Herzog last year and was elected head of the Zionist Camp, he could not take over the position of Knesset opposition head, a post reserved for incumbent Knesset members. When the Jewish Agency approved Herzog as its chief in June, the issue of opposition head came up once again. A few weeks later, Gabbay decided that Tzipi Livni would replace Herzog in the post.
Israel Is Losing the Social Media War: David Patrikarakos, Tablet, June 25, 2018—Global outrage over last month’s peak to the so-called Great March of Return on the Gaza-Israel border was instant and understandable. Over 50 people died and hundreds more were injured on a single day. What happened was as viscerally unpleasant as civil strife gets. It was brutal.