Tag: Labor Party

PERSISTENCE OF ANTISEMITISM AROUND THE WORLD IS CLOSELY LINKED TO ANTI-ZIONISM

On Passover, We Can’t Forget Mireille Knoll, Newly Murdered Holocaust Survivor, Victim of Anti-Semitism: Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Fox News, Mar. 30, 2018 — Much of our conversations during Passover should be focused on Israel’s upcoming 70th birthday – a remarkable (some say miraculous) milestone for the age-old “startup nation.” But we should not forget Mireille Knoll.

Why Did I Protest Against Corbyn? Look at His Long List of Evasions: Hadley Freeman, Guardian, Mar. 27, 2018— It was a politely furious protest.

When Human Rights Organizations Indulge in Antisemitism: Gerald Steinberg, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 20, 2018— The widespread increase in antisemitism around the world is closely linked to the demonization of Israel…

Accusing Putin of Antisemitism: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 14, 2018— A very significant portion of my life has been devoted to personally combating Russian antisemitism.

On Topic Links

MLK’s Passover Lesson: William Hamilton, Times of Israel, Apr. 5, 2018

Widespread Muslim Anti-Semitism in France: Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Arutz Sheva, Mar. 27, 2018

Jeremy Corbyn, Accidental Anti-Semite: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Mar. 29, 2018

Ambassador Friedman to Jerusalem Antisemitism Conference: The ‘New’ Antisemitism Worries Me More Than the Old: Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, Mar. 19, 2018

 

ON PASSOVER, WE CAN’T FORGET MIREILLE KNOLL,

NEWLY MURDERED HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, VICTIM OF ANTI-SEMITISM

Rabbi Abraham Cooper

Fox News, Mar. 30, 2018

 

…Much of our conversations during Passover should be focused on Israel’s upcoming 70th birthday – a remarkable (some say miraculous) milestone for the age-old “startup nation.” But we should not forget Mireille Knoll. In 1942, just six years before Israel gained its independence, Knoll miraculously escaped the roundup and deportation of 13,000 French Jews – among them 4,000 other Jewish children from Vichy France – to the Auschwitz concentration camp in what is now Poland. Only 100 of those children survived.

After WWII, Knoll resumed her life in France and became a wife, mother and grandmother. But just last week, the 85-year-old widow was brutally stabbed 11 times and her body burned in her modest Paris apartment. Police are investigating two men in their 20s on formal charges of murder with an anti-Semitic motive. One of them was a neighbor who had known Knoll since he was a child.

The New York Times reported: “An official close to the investigation, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case, said that the friend had told investigators that he had heard Ms. Knoll’s neighbor say ‘God is great’ in Arabic during the killing.” French authorities were quick to admit that religious-fueled (read Islamist) hatred of Jews was the likely motivation behind Knoll’s murder. French President Emmanuel Macron, who attended Knoll’s funeral Wednesday, said her killer “assassinated an innocent and vulnerable woman because she was Jewish.”

This terrible anti-Semitic murder caps off a horrific 12-year cycle of shame in the City of Lights. It started in January 2006 when Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old telephone salesman – French-born of Moroccan-Jewish ancestry – was found naked, tortured and burned south of Paris after being kidnapped and held for three weeks. Halimi died of his injuries shortly afterwards. French police arrested a dozen members of the self-proclaimed “Gang of Barbarians” Believing that all Jews were rich, the gang made repeated extortion attempts aimed at Halimi’s modest family. In 2014, a young couple in suburban Paris – targeted because they were Jews – were assaulted, beaten and robbed in their apartment. The 19-year-old Jewish woman was gang raped. At the 2017 trial however, the judge refused to treat the crime as anti-Semitic.

And amidst the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris in 2015, along with threats against synagogues and seemingly unending hate crimes against individual Jews, came the August 2017 brutal murder in Paris of a 66-year-old retired doctor and Orthodox Jew. She was beaten to death and thrown out the window by a Muslim neighbor who was screaming “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) in Arabic. Despite witnesses’ testimonies and the protests of French Jewish leaders, authorities dismissed the murder as a mere “isolated incident” and wouldn’t acknowledge the anti-Semitic nature of the crime until President Macron recently promised to establish “clarity on the death” of another Jewish victim.

The failure of France to deal forthrightly, quickly and justly against anti-Semitic hate has enraged and scared French Jews as much as these unspeakable crimes have. It also explains why thousands see no future in their native land and have left for Israel and beyond.  A few weeks ago, along with my Simon Wiesenthal Center Paris-based colleague Dr. Shimon Samuels, I spent two fruitless days of meetings at both the French Justice Ministry and Ministry of Interior, trying to learn who ordered the sudden release of an accused terrorist implicated in the deadly bombing of Paris’ Rue Copernic Synagogue and allowed him to fly to Canada. Officials were polite enough, but clearly uncomfortable with the issue at hand. They had no answers as to failure of police and intelligence agencies to take more aggressive measures against extremist imams inciting violent anti-Semitic acts, nor could they explain why French judges basically refuse to throw the book at anti-Semitic thugs when arrests are made.

At Mireille Knoll’s funeral, President Macron was joined by thousands of people – including many interfaith leaders, and even far-right and far-left figures – who marched silently against anti-Semitism.

But silence won’t stop anti-Semitism in France. Only action and accountability will. Unless and until French Jews have equal protection under the law from the police, politicians and judges in the country once known as the cradle of democracy, 21st century anti-Semites could ultimately succeed where Hitler failed and eventually make France “Jew-free.” During the Passover Seder, as we recite the story of how the Jewish people were freed from persecution and bondage in ancient times, it’s important to remember that anti-Semitism and other equally poisonous forms of religious hatred and prejudice live on in our own time. We must all dedicate ourselves to eliminating such hatred.                     

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WHY DID I PROTEST AGAINST CORBYN?

LOOK AT HIS LONG LIST OF EVASIONS

Hadley Freeman

Guardian, Mar. 27, 2018

 

It was a politely furious protest. I’ll talk about the politeness first. I arrived a few minutes late to Parliament Square for the demonstration against … well, let’s say the somewhat cavalier attitude towards antisemitism displayed by various members of the Labour party, and specifically the most senior member of the Labour party. The square was jam-packed, and despite all the people on my social media feed who had been urgently telling me for days that Jews were hysterically conniving to bring down Jeremy Corbyn, there was a notably peaceful air to the proceedings. While speakers such as Luciana Berger tried in vain to make themselves heard, the crowd made self-mocking jokes: surely there must be a buffet at a Jewish protest? I wished I’d made some signs: “Not antisemitic? Jew must be joking!” It was that kind of protest.

But there was also palpable fury beneath the politeness. I can’t speak for why all the other people at the protest felt furious – we didn’t establish a party line on this at our last general meeting because we were too busy discussing how to control the weather, as a US politician alleged last week. But I was furious after a weekend of news stories about how Corbyn had, once again, endorsed antisemitic behaviour and failed to take responsibility for it until public opinion forced him to do so. Deja vu? Groundhog Day, more like.

Let’s run through the greatest hits: there was the time Corbyn took tea with the hate preacher Raed Salah, and called him “a very honoured citizen”, even though he’d been charged in Israel with inciting anti-Jewish racism and violence; the time he hosted representatives from Hamas and Hezbollah, even though Hamas’s charter calls for the destruction of the Jews; the times he accepted a total of £20,000 for appearing on Iran’s Press TV, a channel that regularly hosts Holocaust deniers; the time he defended the Rev Stephen Sizer, who was later banned by church authorities from social media for sharing antisemitic material blaming Israel for 9/11; that he was an active member of three Facebook groups on which deeply antisemitic posts regularly appeared; and that now he has commented on Facebook in support of an absurdly antisemitic mural.

Corbyn is frequently praised by his supporters for sticking to his guns, never wavering in his opinions, and yet when you bring up any of the above instances they wave them away as being “ages ago” and say he’s apologised since. Corbyn has always cried innocent, insisting that of course he abhors antisemitism (and-all-other-forms-of-racism). How could anyone accuse him of being soft on it? Don’t they know his mother was at the Battle of Cable Street? Yeah, well, my mother worked with Jim Henson – it doesn’t make me Big Bird.

Truly, I have never known a man to find himself alongside antisemites so often and not realise until it is publicly pointed out to him. Someone ought to make a sitcom about his misadventures with the antisemites. It could be called Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!, but with a more tutting tone than the usual triumphant one. A descending horn noise could sound whenever someone has to say it: “Have you just joined another antisemitic social media group? Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!”

I was furious after a weekend of watching his supporters – members of the public, journalists I once respected, various MPs – insist that this was all nonsense, a smear, a Zionist conspiracy designed to bring down infallible Jeremy. Quite how Jews have the wherewithal to conspire against Corbyn by cunningly making him endorse antisemites without his knowledge is never explained. So let’s get something straight: if someone has actually done something, reporting that action is not “a smear”, it’s “reporting”. And suggesting Jews always have an ulterior motive, even when reacting to antisemitism, is really not the best way to prove that you’re not antisemitic.

I’m furious with people who respond to these points by huffing that criticism of Israel, by Corbyn or anyone on the left, does not make one antisemitic, even though Israel had nothing to do with any of Corbyn’s antisemitic encounters; and I’m furious with people who imply a little antisemitism is a price worth paying to achieve Corbyn’s socialist society. I’m furious with people who spent all of last week reading Russian runes into an image of Corbyn’s hat on Newsnight, and this week insist they can’t see anything antisemitic about a blatantly antisemitic mural. Most of all, I am furious with people for insisting there is nothing to see here, when we all know that if a Tory or Ukip politician had done half of the things Corbyn has done, these same people would be insisting they be put in the stocks. The hypocrisy takes the breath away.

Finally, I’m furious with people making Corbyn seem like a passive participant in all this. Sure, we can talk about how antisemitism is “baked into” the far left, and Corbyn himself has started to push this narrative with his latest apology (his third, or possibly his fourth since Friday – I’ve lost count). He says “antisemitism has resurfaced within the Labour party”, as though it were nothing to do with him, and others refer to antisemitism as a sickness that they will now root out.

But you cannot help getting sick – you can, however, help turning a blind eye to antisemitism. Corbyn made his own choices about what he clicked online and who he had tea with. What Jewish people need is for him to take some responsibility, show some backbone and honesty, explain why he was willing to ignore antisemitism for so long, and apologise. Not for “feelings hurt”, but for endorsing racists. But I’ll be honest, I’m not holding my breath. So in the meantime, going to the protest was a balm. It was a relief to be with people who weren’t gaslighting Jews by insisting that what they were seeing in front of their eyes wasn’t true, and it was nice to see the MPs who showed up – Harriet Harman, Jess Phillips, Stella Creasy, Chuka Umunna – and know that at least some Labour politicians weren’t laughing this off as a distraction.

By the time Labour MP Wes Streeting took the stand to talk about how this ongoing scandal was “a stain” on the Labour party, and that Shami Chakrabarti’s 2016 report into antisemitism in the Labour party was a laughable “whitewash”, emotions were running high. No yarmulkes fell off any scalps, but you could see the backs of necks pinking. It was a civil protest, but a passionate one, and a deeply serious and heartfelt one. And as I left I felt myself smiling a little. But I’ll be honest – I was still furious.

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WHEN HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS INDULGE IN ANTISEMITISM

Gerald Steinberg

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 20, 2018

 

The widespread increase in antisemitism around the world is closely linked to the demonization of Israel, including long-running campaigns falsely accusing the Jewish state of “war crimes,” “apartheid,” and “ethnic cleansing.” The groups leading these efforts, including some that use the facade of human rights, often draw an odious parallel between Israeli responses to terrorism and the behavior of the Nazis in the Holocaust. Many antisemitic attacks and acts of vandalism, particularly in Europe, are inspired by these noxious campaigns.

In an effort to counter this virus, the countries and governments that make up the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) adopted a “working definition of antisemitism” in May 2016. This document, like previous European and US State Department working definitions, lists a number of criteria generally associated with what is referred to as the “new antisemitism.” These include using double standards to single out Israel, “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” or comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. In addition, the IHRA working definition notes the use of symbols “associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.”

Among a growing number of states, these criteria have been adopted and endorsed, including by the European Parliament in an advisory (non-binding) resolution. But much of the self-styled human rights community has studiously ignored the IHRA framework. Groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Paris- based FIDH (the International Federation of Human Rights) and dozens of others that frequently stray into antisemitic territory remain outside this process. Given the power and influence of these groups, the challenge of expanding the radius of the IHRA process to include NGOs is imperative.

This is neither an easy nor a trivial task. NGOs that are closely linked to politicized church groups have been among the worst offenders, going back decades. The World Council of Churches runs a pseudo-human rights organization known as the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), which brings international activists to the West Bank through the abuse of Israeli tourist visas. These activists get an intense propaganda dose, spend three months immersed in the Palestinian narrative, and then return home to spread the same contents in their local communities and churches.

For instance, while speaking in London in 2016, one EAPPI activist blamed the perceived lack of American Evangelical support for Palestinians on the “Jewish lobby.” The WCC’s own general secretary, Dr. Olav Fyske Tveit, stated at a June 2017 event that “I heard about the occupation of my country during the five years of World War II as the story of my parents. Now I see and hear the stories of 50 years of occupation….” If the WCC, EAPPI and other such groups adopted the IHRA definition, such statements would be marked as antisemitic and considered out of bounds.

The problem is not confined to Europe. A number of Amnesty International’s advocates from its various national branches were members of a virulently antisemitic Facebook group, known as “Palestine Live.” Participants who posted articles “questioning” the Holocaust were told they “should be allowed to discuss this rather than being silenced,” even if not in this particular group. Unsurprisingly, in 2015, Amnesty-UK refused to take action to oppose rising antisemitism in the UK…

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

 

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ACCUSING PUTIN OF ANTISEMITISM

Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 14, 2018

 

A very significant portion of my life has been devoted to personally combating Russian antisemitism. I experienced firsthand the extent of hatred against Jews which was basically ingrained in most Soviet leaders and bureaucrats. I will never forget the day a leading KGB officer proudly told me that seeing Jews being strung up from the lampposts in leading Moscow streets would be the happiest day of his life. Russian antisemitism dates back centuries. It was encouraged by the Russian Orthodox Church and the tsars orchestrated pogroms to divert attention from other social issues. While the Communists initially condemned antisemitism, in practice they maintained it as a state policy.

Having witnessed and battled against these trends as a cornerstone of the campaign to free Soviet Jewry, it would be somewhat bizarre for anyone to accuse me of being soft on Russian antisemitism. But I believe the hysterical attacks on Russian President Vladimir Putin following his recent misplaced comments about interference in the US elections are outrageous and can lead to dire consequences. In a rambling interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, who was pressing him to respond to allegations of Russian interference in the US elections, Putin facetiously referred to the possibility of Russian Jews being involved. This was catapulted to front-page headlines, many of which accused Putin of outright antisemitism and even resurrecting Judeophobia, including the notorious tsarist Protocols of the Elders of Zion. These hysterical denunciations were echoed by the Anti-Defamation League, which called on US President Donald Trump to condemn Putin as an antisemite. Even the normally restrained American Jewish Committee joined in the fray. All these condemnations were based on taking Putin’s comments out of context and totally distorting them.

What was actually said? In the course of an interview insinuating that he had interfered in the US elections, Putin in exasperation turned on the interviewer and in Russian snapped: “Maybe they are not even Russians. Maybe they were Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they had dual citizenship. Or maybe a green card. Maybe it was the Americans who paid them for this work. How do you know? I don’t know.” Anyone with a semblance of intelligence would appreciate that this gibberish was simply a tactic to end the interview. The fact that Jews were mentioned in passing as a Russian nationality was purely coincidental. Had he mentioned Jews alone and sought to blame them that would be another matter. But that was not the case. There is an element of madness in the air. I am not entering into the issue of whether Putin did or did not interfere in the US elections. But he certainly did not engage in antisemitism.

The indoctrination of Jew-hatred among Russians over the past centuries cannot disappear overnight, and plenty of antisemitic paranoia remains in Russia. Which is why, even if one opposes Putin’s autocratic behavior and foreign policy, this former KGB agent must be recognized as one of the most positive forces combating Jew hatred and supporting the local Jewish community. There are various explanations for Putin’s apparent philo-Semitism. Some say he was influenced as a youngster in St. Petersburg, where he was looked after by a Jewish couple and deeply affected by a German Jewish teacher, Mina Yuditkaya, who later immigrated to Israel. (He met her on a visit in 2005 and purchased an apartment for her in Tel Aviv, in which she lived until she recently passed away.)

Putin has encouraged the Jewish renaissance in Russia, developed a warm relationship with Chabad Rabbi Berel Lazare and has many Jewish friends. He has made a distinct effort to attend Jewish functions such as the opening of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, to which he contributed $50 million of state funds and even personally donated a month’s salary. He attends Hanukka celebrations and conveys goodwill on the advent of the Jewish New Year – something utterly unprecedented from a nationalist Russian leader.

Despite his strategic involvement with the Syrians, Putin has determinedly kept the channels to Israel open. He has visited Israel on several occasions, in fact making it his first foreign visit after his election in 2012. He speaks warmly of the Jewish state, expressing pride that it contains the largest diaspora of Russian Jews. At the Western Wall, he donned a kippa – undoubtedly making his Bolshevik predecessors turn in their graves and enraging his Arab allies. Putin holds regular meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and other Jewish leaders who all testify to his deep respect for Israel, especially its military and intelligence capabilities…

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

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

Contents

On Topic Links

MLK’s Passover Lesson: William Hamilton, Times of Israel, Apr. 5, 2018—The Kennedy administration anxiously prepared to contain the violence they expected at the 1963 march on Washington.

Widespread Muslim Anti-Semitism in France: Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Arutz Sheva, Mar. 27, 2018 —In most European countries no quantitative data is available on Muslim anti-Semitism.

Jeremy Corbyn, Accidental Anti-Semite: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Mar. 29, 2018 —If you take Jeremy Corbyn at his word, then the leader of Britain’s Labour Party is no anti-Semite. It’s just that, like the Wild West preacher who keeps accidentally wandering into Fannie Porter’s house of ill repute, Corbyn has an odd knack for stumbling into the arms of the Hebraically disinclined.

Ambassador Friedman to Jerusalem Antisemitism Conference: The ‘New’ Antisemitism Worries Me More Than the Old: Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, Mar. 19, 2018—US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told a packed house at the opening of the 6th Global Forum on Combating Antisemitism that a “new” antisemitism, characterized by “the irrational, deceitful, and insidious vilification of Israel and its supporters under the guise of political commentary” worries him far more than the “old” antisemitism.

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

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

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

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

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

 

On Topic Links

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

NETANYAHU'S STRATEGIC ACHIEVEMENTS

David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, Aug. 11, 2017

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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NETANYAHU'S EMPATHY FOR TRUMP

Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, Aug. 24, 2017

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

                                                                       

Contents

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.]   

 

 

Contents

ISRAELI OPPOSITION BETS ON MILLIONAIRE TO TAKE IT BACK TO POWER

                                       John Reed

                              Financial Times, Aug. 21, 2017

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Contents

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

JERUSALEM RESPONDS TO LATEST ATTACK; MEANWHILE, HEBREW MEDIA INCRIMINATES BIBI OVER SCANDALS

Temple Mount Turmoil: Preventing an Explosion of Mounting Tensions: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, July 17, 2017— Last week, The Atlantic rendered a great service to those of us who contend that America is in the midst of a civil war between the right and the left.

The Media Closes in on Netanyahu: Adiv Sterman, Times of Israel, July 14, 2017— Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alleged involvement in a string of scandals is the number one topic for Israel’s major Hebrew-language papers Friday.

What the Labor Party Primary Says About Israel’s Consensus: Evelyn Gordon, Commentary, July 14, 2017— Following Monday’s leadership primary for Israel’s main moderate-left party, much has been written about the outcome and its implications for the party.

The Harm in Trying: Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard, July 3, 2017— Among Israelis and Palestin­ians, there’s little optimism about renewed American efforts to negotiate a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

 

On Topic Links

 

Israel to Reopen Jerusalem Holy Site After Terror Attack: New York Post, July 16, 2017

Herzog to Remain Opposition Head Under New Labor Leader Gabbay: Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post, July 12, 2017

Block Ehud Barak's Comeback: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, July 7, 2017

The Israelis Have Won: Daniel Pipes, Arutz Sheva, July 12, 2017

                                              

 

TEMPLE MOUNT TURMOIL:

PREVENTING AN EXPLOSION OF MOUNTING TENSIONS                                                                   

Editorial

                                                  Jerusalem Post, July 17, 2017

 

Referring to the area in and around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as “potentially explosive” would be an understatement. All the elements for a major explosion of violence exist: A plenitude of righteous Muslim anger at Israel’s security restrictions; an abundance of Arab-language media outlets well versed in fanning anti-Israel incitement; a desire on the part of Arab leaders and media outlets to shift attention away from internal Arab conflicts in Syria, Iraq or with Qatar to the “Zionist entity”; even the exceedingly hot weather in the region is conducive to bringing nerves to a breaking point.

 

Further exacerbating the situation is a general unwillingness by members of the United Arab List to denounce the attack, which was perpetrated by three Israeli citizens from Umm el-Fahm. The best they could do was iterate a general position against the use of violence in the struggle for Palestinian independence while blaming the “occupation” as the main cause for Palestinian violence. Lastly, were the calls by some Israelis on the Right for the state to use the attack to solidify its control over the holy site and to, for example, permit Jewish prayer there in response.

 

The government’s decision to swiftly close the Mount on Friday and declare publicly that it will not change the status quo appears to have worked for the time being. Further violence, as of Sunday evening, seems to have been avoided. Nevertheless, Arab and Muslim leaders need to be more responsible. While Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the attack in a rare telephone conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Friday, he did not do so in Arabic before the Palestinian people.

 

Arabs with Israeli citizenship smuggled guns into a holy site and desecrated a place designated for prayers and supplication to God by shedding the blood of two innocent human beings. Yet, instead of denouncing this, Palestinians and the broader Arab and Muslim world has focused on the security measures taken by Israel in response to the attack.

 

Jordan’s King Abdullah publicly criticized Israel’s decision shortly after the attack on Friday morning to block access to the Temple Mount. The king was motivated by the need to demonstrate to Jordanians, most of whom are of Palestinian origin, that he is taking a tough position against Israel. Still, out of deference to his alliance with Israel, Jordan’s leader could have delayed his criticism of what was a supremely rational move by Israel, one aimed at preventing rioting and hot tempered reactions if Muslims were allowed into the compound for prayers.

 

Just as Netanyahu was right to decide – after consulting with security officials – to close the Temple Mount in the wake of the terrorist attack, he was acting responsibly when he moved to gradually reopen the site, this time with a new security arrangement: metal detectors. Unfortunately, this modest attempt to prevent a repeat of Friday’s bloodshed was met with characteristic Palestinian and Arab intransigence as an attempt by Israel to change the status quo. In a classic “blame the victim” argument, MK Taleb Abu Arar (Joint List) told The Jerusalem Post that introducing the metal detectors would bring more bloodshed.

 

He also accused Israel of taking advantage of the situation to “impose a complete control over the compound” – as though Israel relishes investing more manpower and energy in securing the Temple Mount area for the predominantly Muslim population that visits there. Entrance to the Western Wall area is possible only after undergoing a security check and passing through a metal detector. In the wake of Friday’s attack, it has become clear that a similar arrangement must be put in place at the entrance to the Temple Mount. Legitimate Palestinian concerns about long delays should be addressed by Israel.

 

Perhaps the introduction of new security arrangements should be done gradually and in dialogue with the Palestinians. Nerves are at breaking point. So far, our prime minister has acted responsibly, ignoring calls by some on the Right to change the status quo, and instead working with Israel’s Arab neighbors to prevent additional violence. That policy should continue. Irrational fears and religious fanaticism cannot be allowed to win.

                                                                       

 

Contents

THE MEDIA CLOSES IN ON NETANYAHU

Adiv Sterman

Times of Israel, July 14, 2017

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alleged involvement in a string of scandals is the number one topic for Israel’s major Hebrew-language papers Friday. And although no evidence of actual criminal activity on the part of the Israeli leader has been produced, some papers are covering the cases as though it’s patently obvious he should be behind bars.

 

Yedioth Ahronoth shows little restraint when it comes to attacking Netanyahu, with the paper’s front page determining that the latest developments in the German submarines affair, as well as the alleged violations of transparency rules related to regulating Bezeq, “are what corruption looks like.” The daily, traditionally hostile to the prime minister, plainly believes it knows where the investigations will end up. “Black on white, in an official document handed in by the Israel Securities Authority to the courts, are revealed dramatic suspicions regarding the method by which the Communications Ministry operated under [Bezeq head Shaul] Elovitz and Netanyahu,” the paper states authoritatively.

 

Yedioth mocks the prime minister for an interview he gave on the conservative Channel 20 late Thursday, in which Netanyahu responded to, and dismissed, the allegations against him. Referring to the right wing news outlet as Netanyahu’s “home turf,” Yedioth features a series of quotes by the prime minister that, when strung together one after another without context, look rather ridiculous, even Trumpesque. Yedioth also publishes a leaked version of a document handed out by Netanyahu to ministers in his government, which includes talking points about the various corruption affairs, and accuses the media of illegitimately attempting to topple the Israeli leader. Yedioth columnist Nahum Barnea continues with the same line of criticism he had been pushing all week, arguing that while Netanyahu may have individual excuses for each different case, the accumulation of affairs involving the prime minister points to something rotten in the leadership of the state.

 

The daily’s veteran analyst Sima Kadmon claims that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who was appointed by Netanyahu, understands that the chances are slim for the prime minister to avoid indictment in one or more of the cases. On the other hand Amichai Eteli, another Yedioth writer, reminds readers that Netanyahu has so far not been charged — indeed, he is not a suspect in the submarine or Bezeq cases — and implores the citizens of Israel, and perhaps his fellow journalists as well, to allow the wheels of justice to turn uninterrupted before jumping to conclusions.

 

Israel Hayom’s coverage of the investigations into the allegations involving the prime minister is particularly interesting, given the recent reshuffling of the daily’s editorial staff and the consequent, under-the-radar break away from the paper’s previous unstintingly pro-Netanyahu leaning. The daily’s front page is rather reminiscent of Yedioth, though more restrained, as it presents the developments in the various affairs as dramatic and serious. The paper does not directly criticize Netanyahu, but now, as opposed to the past, does seem ready to entertain the possibility that the prime minister may have been involved in some shady dealings. In contrast, its columnists Akiva Bigman and Haim Shine write respectively that no real evidence has yet indicated that Netanyahu acted illegally, and that the investigations are still at a very early stage, which renders most speculation on the matters to be premature as well.

 

Haaretz’s take on Netanyahu’s numerous possible entanglements is unsurprisingly harsh and unforgiving, and the paper dedicates a significant portion of its front page to a stinging analysis by political commentator Yossi Verter titled “A danger to society.” Verter argues that the stench of corruption surrounding the prime minister has become unbearable, and that with the publication of new details on each affair the problematics of the Israeli leadership becomes more and more evident. “Adviser after adviser [to Netanyahu], associate after associate, are exposed in their disgrace, are dragged to interrogation rooms, taken to custody… and only the person who they serves [conveniently] knows nothing,” Verter writes cynically. “The notion that after the next elections, whenever they may be, he and the characters surrounding him will return to the Prime Minister’s Office and other points of power should be enough to sicken every decent Israeli, regardless of their religion, gender, political leanings, or sectoral affiliation.”

 

The paper’s editorial argues that Mandelblit must hasten the investigations into Netanyahu, since the state of doubt surrounding the prime minister is terrible for governance, and weakens the trust of Israel’s citizens in the judicial system. “The situation is such that for over eight months Netanyahu and his inner circle are heavily suspected of corruption, but continue to hold the reins of power undisturbed,” the editorial protests. “The [protracted] continuation of the investigations raises a concern in the public that the attorney general is not doing enough in order to speed up the process and reach the decision of whether to indict or not.”

 

                                                           

Contents  

             

WHAT THE LABOR PARTY PRIMARY SAYS ABOUT ISRAEL’S CONSENSUS

Evelyn Gordon

Commentary, July 14, 2017

 

Following Monday’s leadership primary for Israel’s main moderate-left party, much has been written about the outcome and its implications for the party. What I found far more interesting, however, was the campaign itself and what it said about the Israeli consensus. Since the primary electorate consisted solely of Labor Party members, one would have expected the candidates to veer left (and then move back to center in the general election). Instead, both candidates publicly disavowed several ideas popular among left-wing journalists and activists, indicating that those ideas are toxic even on the moderate left.

 

Ostensibly, winner Avi Gabbay and runner-up Amir Peretz couldn’t be more different. Peretz is a veteran hard-left activist, an early leader of the Peace Now movement, who was advocating Palestinian statehood back when most Israelis still considered the idea anathema. Gabbay is a moderate who once supported Benjamin Netanyahu’s center-right Likud party and, more recently, co-founded the centrist Kulanu party. Yet they sounded almost indistinguishable when answering five questions posed by Haaretz (in Hebrew) before Monday’s run-off…

 

Asked about the idea of unilaterally withdrawing from parts of the West Bank, for instance, both men rejected it. “I don’t believe in unilateral withdrawal,” Gabbay said bluntly. Peretz was wordier, but still quite clear. “We won’t continue to settle the territories, but at the same time, we mustn’t forget the lessons of the unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza (and also from other conflict areas around the world),” he said.

 

What makes this surprising is that several Labor-affiliated former senior-defense-officials-turned-activists have been pushing unilateral withdrawal. Among them are former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, the man slated to be Labor’s defense minister had it won the last election, and former Shin Bet security service chief Ami Ayalon, a one-time Labor Knesset member. Thus one might expect the idea to appeal to rank-and-file members.

 

But Peretz and Gabbay thought otherwise. Israel’s unilateral pullout from Gaza in 2005 resulted in three wars and 16,000 rockets on Israel (compared to zero from the Israeli-controlled West Bank), while its unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 enabled Hezbollah to grow from a terrorist nuisance into a major strategic threat. That terrorist organization’s arsenal of 150,000 rockets is larger than that of most national armies. The candidates evidently concluded that even left-of-center Israelis no longer believe the activist “experts” who persist in denying that unilateral withdrawal endangers Israel’s security.

 

Moreover, both candidates promised to freeze settlement construction, but only outside the major settlement blocs. This is a sharp rejection of the line the Obama Administration spent eight years peddling—that construction anywhere beyond the 1949 armistice lines, even in areas everyone knows will remain Israeli under any agreement, is an obstacle to peace. It turns out even left-of-center Israelis consider it ludicrous for Israel to stop building in the settlement blocs and large Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. They simply don’t buy the idea that construction in these areas, which will clearly remain Israeli, is a legitimate excuse for the Palestinians’ ongoing refusal to negotiate.

 

No less noteworthy was one glaring omission. Though both candidates promised immediate final-status negotiations with the Palestinians and deemed a peace deal essential, their only stated reason for this position was to keep Israel from becoming a binational state. Neither so much as mentioned the fear that Israel could face growing international isolation if it didn’t resolve the conflict. That claim has been a staple of left-wing advocacy for years. It was most famously expressed by former Labor chairman (and former prime minister) Ehud Barak who, in 2011, warned that Israel would face a “diplomatic tsunami” if the conflict continued.

 

This argument has been getting harder and harder to make in recent years, as Israel’s diplomatic reach has steadily expanded. But it would have sounded particularly fatuous coming just days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Israel, which caused many who had previously parroted Barak’s warning to throw in the towel. Typical headlines from center-left commentators included “Where’s the diplomatic isolation?” and “Modi visit shows Israel can improve foreign ties even without a peace process.” Judging by the fact that neither Peretz nor Gabbay mentioned this argument, they evidently think even Labor Party members will no longer buy it.

 

As an aside, it’s far from clear that diplomatic ties would continue expanding under a Labor government, because center-left governments typically view the Palestinian issue as their top priority, and therefore devote much less time and energy to expanding ties with the rest of the world. In contrast, since Netanyahu’s government believes a Palestinian deal is currently unobtainable, it has invested enormous effort in expanding Israel’s other diplomatic relationships. And that effort matters. As Kenya’s UN ambassador said last week, it’s only recently that “the lights have gone on” in Israel and it has started engaging. Previously, he spent years asking Israeli officials, “Why are you not engaged? Where is Israel?” But the possibility that Labor might choose to focus on the Palestinians instead doesn’t change the fact that Israel clearly can expand its diplomacy even without a peace process…

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

 

Contents

THE HARM IN TRYING

Elliott Abrams

Weekly Standard, July 3, 2017

 

Among Israelis and Palestinians, there’s little optimism about renewed American efforts to negotiate a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. In Ramallah and Jerusalem, officials, journalists, and policy analysts have watched as industrious U.S. activity in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations came to naught—and they expect the same outcome for the Trump administration.

 

There is a lot more optimism in the Trump White House, and of course it starts at the top. The president said this in a February press conference with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I think a deal will be made. I know that every president would like to. Most of them have not started until late because they never thought it was possible. And it wasn’t possible because they didn’t do it. But Bibi and I have known each other a long time—a smart man, great negotiator. And I think we’re going to make a deal. It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand.”

 

In April, President Trump added, “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians—none whatsoever.” And in a May press conference with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas he made his most categorical statement: “We want to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We will get it done. .  .  . It is something that I think is frankly, maybe, not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”

 

The attitude I’ve detected outside the Oval Office is more realistic about the chances of success. But arguments suggesting that there is little or no chance are met with a standard reply: “Okay, but what’s the harm in trying?” This is not a new idea; it was Bill Clinton’s. As he put it, “We always need to get caught trying—fewer people will die.” So the Trump administration wishes to get caught trying as well, and operates under the assumption Clinton made: that there is no harm in trying, and that indeed it saves lives. But that conclusion is wrong, as round after round of terrorism should attest. To put it slightly differently, there is harm in failing—and it does not save lives. What’s the harm?

 

To begin with, it is always harmful for the United States to fail—and for a president to fail. Influence in the world is hard to measure, but when a president devotes himself—as Bill Clinton, especially, did in the Camp David talks in 2000—to any project and fails to pull it off, his influence and that of the United States are diminished. Yes, he does get credit for trying, but there’s no benefit in failing. Opinions may differ as to why this happened: The United States misjudged Yasser Arafat, the White House prepared poorly, the timing was all wrong, the conditions were misunderstood. But getting an A for effort isn’t enough when other people’s security hangs in the balance.

 

Results matter. When the United States succeeds, as it did for example in the 1995 Dayton Accords on the Balkans or in the Camp David deal under Jimmy Carter, American prestige and influence grow. But that coin has two sides, and failure is never a good thing. With U.S. influence on the wane in recent years, devoting significant effort to a goal that is unlikely to be attained looks like a misplaced priority.

 

What’s more, the United States has been championing the “peace process” now for about 30 years, if we start with George H. W. Bush and the Madrid Conference of 1991. Palestinians and Israelis have seen negotiators come and go—or in many cases, never go, and instead just age and write memoirs. Round follows round, claims of progress and angry denunciations for blocking progress follow each other, and the “unsustainable occupation” continues. What this produces is cynicism about peace talks and about peace. On the Palestinian side many view the “peace process” as a formula for sustaining the occupation. Many Israelis see it as a shield protecting Palestinian malfeasance and worse: When they demand a stop to official Palestinian glorification of terrorism, they hear, “Don’t rock the boat now, negotiations may start.”

 

A further reason to be wary of another big peace effort is the opportunity cost. When each successive American administration works for a comprehensive peace deal, it tends to neglect the many opportunities to make less dramatic but still consequential real-world progress. If the goal were instead to leave things better than we found them, every incremental bit of progress would be a victory. That was the “bottom-up” approach taken by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who was fiercely dedicated to Palestinian independence but thought this required building the institutions of a viable state first. That meant concentrating on better financial controls and a reduction in corruption, better courts and police, and a more productive economy. Unfortunately, the incremental approach lacks drama and did not win the international support it deserved—including the Israeli and American support it deserved.

 

During the George W. Bush administration, those of us on the American side often demanded concessions from Israel to “set the tone for talks” or to “get things moving in the talks.” The steps often gave Abbas symbolic victories but they rarely contributed to state-building. For example, we were more concerned with getting Israel to release some Palestinian prisoners—who may have committed acts of violence—than we were about getting Israel to remove checkpoints or barriers that prevented Palestinian mobility in the West Bank and thereby made both normal life and economic activity harder. How returning convicted criminals to the streets contributed to building a Palestinian state was never explained…

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

Israel to Reopen Jerusalem Holy Site After Terror Attack: New York Post, July 16, 2017—Israel will gradually reopen a Jerusalem holy site Sunday after taking the rare step of shutting it down following a deadly assault there that sparked concerns of a fresh round of violence.

Herzog to Remain Opposition Head Under New Labor Leader Gabbay: Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post, July 12, 2017—Former Labor chairman Isaac Herzog will remain the head of the opposition, he announced on Wednesday at a ceremony at Labor Party headquarters in Tel Aviv with new party leader Avi Gabbay. At meetings on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, Gabbay persuaded Herzog to accept the post, which Gabbay could not take for himself because he is not a Knesset member.

Block Ehud Barak's Comeback: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, July 7, 2017—Desperate for a political messiah who will transform Israel's so-called "peace camp" and pose a viable alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, some on the Left are concocting a campaign to call forth the ghost of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

The Israelis Have Won: Daniel Pipes, Arutz Sheva, July 12, 2017—What does the Jewish Israeli public think about convincing Palestinians that they lost their century-long war with Zionism, that the gig is up? In other words, what do Israelis think about winning? To find out, the Middle East Forum commissioned the Smith Institute to survey 700 adult Israeli Jews. Carried out on June 27-28, the poll has a margin of error of 3.7 percent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHILE BIBI LEADS ISRAEL’S “RETURN” TO AFRICA, HERZOG SECRETLY NEGOTIATES WITH THE PA

Israel’s Strategy Shift Bears Fruit: Evelyn Gordon, Commentary, July 22, 2016— Wednesday’s announcement that Guinea is resuming ties with Israel almost half a century after severing them is a nontrivial piece of good news.

Where Israeli and African Interests Intersect: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, July 4, 2016 — When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold talk about a “confluence of interests,” they generally refer to a commonality of interests with the Arab countries in the region that is behind the unprecedented, but discreet, cooperation with them.

Herzog’s Intolerable Deceit: Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, June 29, 2016— Zionist Union Chairman MK Isaac Herzog is the scion of one of Israel’s most distinguished families.

Israel's Socialist Dreams vs. Capitalist Realities: Steven Plaut, Middle East Quarterly, Summer, 2016— A colorful legend holds that when God offered the Torah to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, they were reluctant to accept it.

 

On Topic Links

 

Turkey, Egypt, Africa: How ‘Hard-Liner’ Netanyahu Pulled Off a Diplomacy Trifecta: Ron Kampeas, Times of Israel, July 13, 2016

'Palestinians, Sudan Working to Restrain Israeli Breakthrough in Africa': Adam Rasgon, Jerusalem Post, July 21, 2016

More Positive Signs for the Israel-China Relationship: Judith Bergman, Algemeiner, May 26, 2016

End US Aid to Israel: Daniel Pipes, Israel Hayom, July 26, 2015

 

 

ISRAEL’S STRATEGY SHIFT BEARS FRUIT

Evelyn Gordon                                 

Commentary, July 22, 2016

 

Wednesday’s announcement that Guinea is resuming ties with Israel almost half a century after severing them is a nontrivial piece of good news. Granted, Guinea is a poor and relatively unimportant African country. But it’s 85 percent Muslim, and few Muslim-majority countries have yet been willing to forge open relations with Israel; consequently, its decision could encourage others to follow suit. Guinea was also the first country in Africa to sever relations with Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War. For both those reasons, its renewal of ties underscores the degree to which a new Israeli strategy aimed at improving relations with the non-Western world has begun bearing fruit.

 

The Guinea announcement comes on the heels of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s successful trip to Africa earlier this month. Highlights of that trip included announcements by both Kenya and Ethiopia–two of Israel’s closest African allies–that they would push for Israel to receive observer status at the African Union, as well as Tanzania’s announcement that it planned to open an embassy in Israel, 21 years after renewing relations.

 

Israeli media outlets have also reported that officials from three other Muslim-majority African countries that don’t have relations with Israel–Mali, Chad, and Somalia–recently paid secret visits, indicating that the prospect of other Muslim countries following Guinea’s lead is far from inconceivable. Indeed, just last week, Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold visited Chad for a meeting with its president. This prospect is made more plausible by the warming of Israel’s relations with key Arab states. As several African leaders noted during Netanyahu’s trip, there’s little point in African countries continuing to give Israel the cold shoulder when some of the very Arab countries that originally pushed them to do so now have either overt or covert relations with it.

 

There are two reasons why Israel ascribes such importance to its warming ties with Africa, and both have more to do with the long term than the short term. The first is the need to diversify its trading partners. Currently, about a third of Israel’s exports go to Europe. But the combination of Europe’s slowing economy and its growing hostility to Israel make this heavy reliance on Europe a potential threat to Israel’s economic future. Africa is the world’s poorest continent, but it’s experiencing rapid economic growth, and many of Israel’s fields of expertise fit well with Africa’s needs, including agricultural technology, water conservation, and counterterrorism. Thus by expanding and improving its diplomatic relations with African countries, Israel hopes to eventually expand its trade relations as well.

 

The second, as Netanyahu said during his Africa trip, is the hope of ending the automatic majority against Israel in international forums. As he readily acknowledged, this could well take decades; long-entrenched voting patterns don’t change overnight. Nevertheless, change is far from impossible: See, for instance, the 2014 Security Council vote on setting a deadline for Palestinian statehood, which was defeated because the Palestinians failed to muster the requisite nine votes. Two of the five crucial abstentions came from Africa (Rwanda and Nigeria).

 

Even if African countries can’t yet be flipped into the minuscule camp of pro-Israel voters, just moving them from the anti-Israel bloc to the abstention column could ease Israel’s dependence on America’s Security Council veto. Since Security Council resolutions need a minimum of nine “yes” votes to pass, an abstention has the same effect as a “no” for countries without veto power. It should also be noted that reliably abstaining would suffice to make African countries better voting allies than about half the European Union and of equal value to most of the rest: EU countries almost never vote with Israel, and some regularly vote against it.

 

Israel’s burgeoning relations with Africa obviously stem partly from something beyond its control: the rise of Islamist terror. As several African leaders openly acknowledged during Netanyahu’s trip, counterterrorism assistance is currently the thing they most want from Israel. And if reports of the visits by officials from Mali, Chad, and Somalia are true, it’s a safe bet they were also seeking counterterrorism help; all three have serious problems with Islamist terror.

 

The improvement also stems partly from Israel’s longstanding policy of proffering aid even to countries it has no relations with, which sometimes bears belated fruit. For instance, Israeli officials said one factor in Guinea’s decision to renew relations was the medical aid Israel gave it during the Ebola crisis two years ago. A salient example from Asia, another continent with which Israel’s ties have recently blossomed, is Singapore. Singapore asked Israel to train its army in the mid-1960s, before the two countries even established relations, and then concealed that fact for decades. But last month, as Elliott Abrams noted, Singapore joined forces with India and Rwanda–the third country in the club of Israel’s closest African allies–to help Israel gain the Non-Aligned votes it needed to win the chairmanship of a key UN committee.

 

The third reason for Israel’s declining isolation, however, is a deliberate decision by successive Netanyahu governments that the country could not afford, either economically or diplomatically, to keep focusing almost exclusively on the West while largely ignoring the rest of the world. Avigdor Lieberman, now the defense minister, made a major push to improve Israel’s ties with Africa and Asia during his term as foreign minister, and since his departure, the ministry has continued this drive under the de facto leadership of Gold (Netanyahu is the nominal foreign minister).

 

This constituted a major shift in Israel’s strategy, and it stemmed from a simple realization: Relations with Europe are inevitably being frayed by the fact that what the EU seems to want most from Israel is something beyond Israel’s power to provide. Namely, a peace deal with people who have consistently refused every Israeli offer and are currently refusing even to negotiate with it. Europe’s attitude could change someday, but Israel can’t count on that. Hence it must develop alternative sources of trade and diplomatic support as an insurance policy. The restoration of relations with Guinea is yet another sign that this strategy is starting to pay off. And that’s very good news for Israel.                                                    

 

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WHERE ISRAELI AND AFRICAN INTERESTS INTERSECT                                                      

Herb Keinon                                                                                                                    

Jerusalem Post, July 4, 2016

 

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold talk about a “confluence of interests,” they generally refer to a commonality of interests with the Arab countries in the region that is behind the unprecedented, but discreet, cooperation with them. That term, however, is also used when explaining why precisely now – nearly 30 years after Yitzhak Shamir was the last sitting prime minister to visit Africa – Israel, as Netanyahu puts it, is returning to Africa, and Africa is returning to Israel.

 

Interestingly, Shamir's six-day, four country tour took him to western Africa – Togo, Cameroon, Liberia and the Ivory Coast – while Netanyahu's five-day, four-country hop takes him to the east: Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. The main common interest revolves around security issues. Three of the four – Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia – are facing terrorism from Islamic extremists, and Rwanda is concerned about a spill-over effect. These countries are afraid that what has happened in Libya, Mali and the Ivory Coast could happen to them as well.

 

For this reason they are interested in forging stronger ties with Israel. It is not all about getting water, energy and agricultural know-how, but it is also very much about getting Israeli knowledge and assistance in how to combat terrorism. These countries, and other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, are more concerned with questions of homeland security than they were some 20 years ago, and they see Israel as one country with a great deal of experience – and technology – in this field .

 

One of the reasons for this enhanced concern is the break-up of Libya, and the negative forces that it unleashed on its neighbors – Mali and Chad. The break-up of Libya has had another impact as well – it removed the single biggest factor inside Africa that was working against a normalization of ties with Israel.

It was former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi who pressed to get Israel's observer status removed from the African Union, arguing in one debate that Israel was responsible for all the continent's ills. And it was Gaddafi who actively lobbied to keep countries from welcoming Israel. His fall had an impact on the willingness of a number of countries to strengthen their ties.

 

South Africa has also been an impediment to Israeli inroads into the continent, and indeed has been key in recent years to blocking an upgrade for Israel at the African Union, an upgrade that Netanyahu will raise in his meetings. There are many reasons for the South African animosity, including Israel's relations with the apartheid regime, and the ANC's close ties to the PLO. But, according to diplomatic officials, while Libya actively tried to convince African states not to strengthen their ties with Israel, South Africa is not doing the same with countries such as Rwanda, Ethiopia and Kenya. Partly, officials in those countries will say, because Pretoria realizes that they will not be able to do so.

 

Another common interest is keeping Iran and Hezbollah from gaining ground on the continent. Iran is active in east Africa, keen on getting access to the Red Sea, and Hezbollah in the west. A high-profile Israeli presence can serve as a counterweight to their efforts. Israel's close security cooperation with Jordan and Egypt is also something that is well-known in Africa, as are Israel's discreet ties with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf countries. This, diplomatic officials maintain, has led to some of the African countries asking themselves: “If they can do it, why can't we?”

 

During Shamir's visit to west Africa in 1987, The New York Times quoted from an editorial in the Nigerian Tribune: ''We can do business with Israel and keep our Arab friends – Egypt is doing exactly that,'' the editorial read. ''Our Arab friends should not be seen as choosing our enemies for us.” Israel and Africa's “return” to one another is an indication that 30 years later, this sentiment is indeed taking hold.                                                               

 

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HERZOG’S INTOLERABLE DECEIT                                                                                         

Isi Leibler                                                                                                                         

Candidly Speaking, June 29, 2016

 

Zionist Union Chairman MK Isaac Herzog is the scion of one of Israel’s most distinguished families. His late father Chaim served with distinction as president, and his grandfather, whose name he carries, was one of Israel’s most respected and beloved chief rabbis.  I have been lauding Herzog over the past year, relating to him as a Labor Zionist of the old school who had the ability to revive the party and rid it of the delusional leftists who alienated many of its former supporters and weakened it – almost to the point of destruction.

 

I bemoaned the fact that a unity government was not formed, insisting that Herzog, like the head of all Zionist parties, would basically be implementing the same policies as the current government. In this context, I believed that he would make an excellent foreign minister and enable Israel to display unity in the face of the concerted diplomatic pressures being exerted against us. In January after the elections, while as leader of the opposition, Herzog continued castigating Netanyahu, he nevertheless publicly endorsed the consensus policy toward the Palestinians adopted by Professor Shlomo Avineri, Labor Zionism’s foremost intellectual.

 

Although he emphasized that he remained committed to a separation from the Palestinians, Avineri maintained that the Oslo Accords were no longer relevant as the Palestinian leadership refused to accept Israel’s right to exist and considered Israel’s destruction a higher priority than achieving their own statehood. Avineri concluded that under such circumstances, efforts to implement a two-state solution were delusionary. Despite bitter protests and condemnations from the radical ranks of Labor, Herzog publicly identified with this approach, explicitly stating that there is “no chance of peace in this era.” Furthermore, he declared that the Israel Defense Forces must remain in the West Bank and in the Jordan Valley. He told French President François Hollande that “hatred and incitement among the Palestinians” are currently too intense to contemplate implementing a two-state solution.

 

Thus, it was a shocking revelation when it was disclosed last week that, prior to last year’s election, at the height of Palestinian incitement and frenzied calls to “save Al-Aqsa,” Herzog was secretly negotiating terms for a final settlement with the corrupt and degenerate Palestinian Authority. Through former Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, Herzog outlined the following surrealistic principles which were summarized in a secret letter of understanding with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and scheduled to be implemented following the elections:

 

Israel would withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines, i.e., from all of Judea and Samaria, with the exception of 4% territory swaps enabling Israel to retain portions of the settlement blocs. Those resident outside these areas would either be repatriated to Israel or obliged to accept Palestinian rule. Israel would retain a “symbolic” presence in the Jordan Valley in conjunction with Palestinian forces. East Jerusalem would become the capital of a Palestinian state with a single municipality acting under the jurisdiction of both Israel and the Palestinian State. The Temple Mount would be administered by an international force with an Israeli presence at the Western Wall. The Palestinian refugee issue would be resolved on the basis of U.N. Resolution 194 with a “joint decision” to accept those wishing to return or accept financial compensation. The Arabs claim that currently over 5 million people – the original refugees and their descendants – are awaiting repatriation.

 

This is simply an extension of the Olmert formula – which was not approved by the cabinet or the Knesset and rejected by Abbas. It was surely utterly naïve and politically counterproductive to extend such unilateral concessions before obtaining a single indication of reciprocity from the Palestinians. But the worst travesty was the unprecedented initiative of an opposition leader to furtively engage in foreign affairs initiatives that conflict with the policies determined by a democratically elected government. When this is applied toward hostile forces that promote and endorse terrorism, it could even be considered seditious.

 

What makes Herzog’s behavior even more reprehensible is that all opinion polls clearly demonstrated that a broad consensus of the nation was adamantly opposed to further unilateral territorial concessions. Most Israelis aspire for separation but recognize that unless the Palestinians demonstrate a willingness to accept the reality of a Jewish state and cease terror activities, there is no possibility of creating a Palestinian state.

 

To cap it, Herzog fought an election and failed to disclose to the electorate that these negotiations had taken place. Today, he admits that had he won, he had every intention of implementing these policies. Needless to say, had he disclosed his policy, he would have been decimated at the polls.

 

A year later, after this sleazy episode has been exposed, Herzog tries to justify his deceit by suggesting that the entire operation was designed to persuade Abbas to cease inciting against Jews. The late Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin would turn in his grave if he could visualize how a youngster whom he personally nurtured politically and had become leader of his party, crossed every one of the red lines he had drawn in relation to territorial concessions to the Palestinians…

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

                                                           

 

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ISRAEL'S SOCIALIST DREAMS VS. CAPITALIST REALITIES

Steven Plaut                                     

                                                  Middle East Quarterly, Summer, 2016

 

A colorful legend holds that when God offered the Torah to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, they were reluctant to accept it. God then lifted the mountain over their heads in a threatening manner, mak-ing them an offer they could not refuse. They reconsidered. The saga of economic liberalism, some-times dubbed "neoliberal-ism," and Israeli economic growth bears some similarities to that legend. Modern Israel has developed into something of an economic miracle, largely as a result of economic liberalization, driven by entrepreneurship, innovation, investment, and the accumulation of human capital. Yet Israelis have never been entirely comfortable with economic liberalism and indeed are by and large hostile to it. Like their wandering ancestors, they have benefitted in spite of their disinclinations.

 

Israelis may be the most entrepreneurial population on the planet; their capabilities in innovation being, for example, the essential message of Start-Up Nation, the New York Times business bestseller. There are supposed to be more startups in Israel than in Western Europe, not per capita, but in absolute numbers. With a population of eight million people, Israel has over 6,000 startups. In the 2015 Bloomberg Innovation Index, Israel was ranked ahead of the United States, France, and the United Kingdom. The number of Israeli patents is among the largest for any country in the world while shares of numerous Israeli companies trade on the American NASDAQ stock exchange as well as other exchanges. Acquisitions of Israeli high-tech companies by foreign investors inject many billions of dollars into the country every year. Among the reasons for the country's success are its well-educated labor force, a high household savings rate, high levels of imported capital, a strong immigration rate (which includes many highly-educated people), and especially—in recent years—an extremely creative high-tech sector, which so far operates largely outside the realm of government regulation.

 

This economic good news is all the more remarkable in light of the fact that Israel began its existence in the late 1940s as an impoverished third-world country, whose economy might have been discussed in the same breath as that of India or Egypt. Today, Israel has a gross domestic product per capita comparable to that of the middle-income countries of Western Europe, roughly the same as Italy's. Israel was one of the only countries in the world whose economy did not contract during the global financial crisis that began in 2007. Its rates of inflation and unemployment have been better than those of the United States and Western Europe in recent years. The economy has shown its resilience in the face of numerous challenges and shocks, including chronic terrorism, frequent military conflict, a huge defense burden, a dearth of physical natural resources, and the need to integrate people arriving from scores of different countries and cultures.

 

Ironically, this dramatic transition from low-development status to today's very high level took place largely despite economic policies that were, in many cases, designed to prevent growth and efficiency. Economic policy has been liberalized slowly over time, but this occurred by and large in the face of governmental reluctance. In some cases, especially regarding the reduction of import protectionism, this was forced upon the government as part of multinational trade agreements. Israeli economic policy has almost always stifled competition; protected inefficient sectors; allocated resources based on political negotiation, lobbying, and political power; and suppressed market forces in large swaths of the economy. This "reign of pork"— has included the maintenance of an enormous bloated public sector, a long series of bailouts for failed enterprises, high tax rates, and a gargantuan budget.

 

Israeli economic success is disconnected from the every-day economic philosophy of most of the Israeli public, Israelis from all parts of the political spectrum are devoted to maintaining a near-Scandinavian level of welfare state benefits. Income and wealth disparities are obsessions for a broad swath of the citizenry, and all parties promise to redress them, often by means of taxes that will "soak the rich." Most Israelis use the terms "capitalist," "privatization" and "deregulation" as pejoratives while "socialist," or at times even "communist," is something of a romantic compliment (though one that has also come to imply a certain naiveté.) Both middle- and upper-income Israelis are highly likely to vote for political parties of the Left, like the Israeli Labor Party or Meretz, which openly denounce economic liberalism and romanticize the egalitarianism of socialism. Working-class and low-income Israelis are much more likely to vote for the parties of the Right and religious parties although these parties are often really parties of the Left when it comes to economic liberalism…                                                              [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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On Topic Links

 

Turkey, Egypt, Africa: How ‘Hard-Liner’ Netanyahu Pulled Off a Diplomacy Trifecta: Ron Kampeas, Times of Israel, July 13, 2016—The conventional wisdom has it that earning the sobriquet “the most right-wing government in Israeli history” does not lead to diplomatic successes.

'Palestinians, Sudan Working to Restrain Israeli Breakthrough in Africa': Adam Rasgon, Jerusalem Post, July 21, 2016 —Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki announced on Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority and Sudan are coordinating to “restrain Israeli movements” in the African continent. 

More Positive Signs for the Israel-China Relationship: Judith Bergman, Algemeiner, May 26, 2016 —Welcome to the beauty of Chinese-Israeli cultural relations. Seen against the backdrop of solid loathing of all things Israeli that so dominates the European cultural establishment, the relations between China and Israel almost seem like something out of a dreamlike alternate reality.

End US Aid to Israel: Daniel Pipes, Israel Hayom, July 26, 2015 —Exactly 20 years ago, a newly elected Israeli prime minister — Benjamin Netanyahu — dramatically announced the following to a joint session of Congress: "We are deeply grateful for all we have received from the United States, for all that we have received from this chamber, from this body. But I believe there can be no greater tribute to America's long-standing economic aid to Israel than for us to be able to say: 'We are going to achieve economic independence…

 

 

AMID ISRAELI POLITICAL SHAKE-UP, LIEBERMAN REPLACES YA’ALON, & BIBI WANTS COALITION TO INCLUDE HERZOG

Spot the Difference: US Slams Liberman, Silent on Iran’s America-Hating Power Broker: David Horovitz, Times of Israel, May 29, 2016— According to unnamed senior politicians referenced by Israel’s Channel 10 news on Friday night…

Actually, Avigdor Lieberman Is Just What Israel Needs Right Now: Gregg Roman, Forward, May 25, 2016— Peaceniks may be up in arms about the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as Israel’s next minister of defense, but the country’s enemies are worried — and rightly so.

Herzog's Dilemma: Dan Margalit, Israel Hayom, May 31, 2016— Even before the ink on the Yisrael Beytenu-Likud coalition agreement could dry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Labor leader Isaac Herzog to join.

A Morally and Politically Dysfunctional Government: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2016— The recent shenanigans that preceded the expansion of the government sickened even those reconciled to the reality that, since the Menahem Begin era, there exists a total lack of ethics in the Israeli political arena.

 

On Topic Links

 

We Need to Put the Yizkor Back into Memorial Day: Jerry Silverman, Arutz Sheva, May 27, 2016

Israeli Watchdog Critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Past Travel Expenses: Rory Jones & Orr Hirschauge, Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2016

Leiberman’s First Challenge: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, May 27, 2016

Netanyahu Against the Generals: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2016

 

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE: US SLAMS LIBERMAN,

SILENT ON IRAN’S AMERICA-HATING POWER BROKER                                                

David Horovitz                                                                                                    

Times of Israel, May 29, 2016

 

According to unnamed senior politicians referenced by Israel’s Channel 10 news on Friday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bid to stabilize his coalition by bringing in Yisrael Beytenu, with Avigdor Liberman taking over the Defense Ministry, is likely to have the opposite effect. The government may well collapse, and we could be heading to “new elections in the next six months,” these anonymous top polls predicted.

 

This is Israeli politics, where every new hour can make a mockery of what you thought you knew the hour before, so it would be wise not to get carried away by such anonymous predictions. But, it’s easy to understand the assessment. The brutal ousting of capable, temperate and loyal Moshe Ya’alon, in favor of the inexpert, intemperate and disloyal Liberman, has caused dismay across the spectrum, and not only in opposition circles.

 

The Jewish Home coalition party has manufactured a crisis over it, demanding an overhaul of the process by which the key security cabinet is provided with information in times of war and conflict, vowing otherwise to block Liberman’s appointment.

Kulanu’s Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay has followed Ya’alon’s lead in resigning from government in protest at one cynical political maneuver too many; like Ya’alon a week before, Gabbay on Friday slammed the door on his way out with a warning that, under this increasingly extremist coalition, Israel is heading down the path to destruction. Kulanu, a party crucial to Netanyahu’s Knesset majority, is plainly discomfited by the unfolding events, and is trying to persuade Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog to enter the government — ludicrously, since Herzog was so badly burned by his last effort to negotiate terms for a unity deal with Netanyahu that his party leadership is under unprecedented threat.

 

In Netanyahu’s own Likud ranks, the wave of criticism rolls on. MK Benny Begin immediately pronounced himself horrified by the Ya’alon-for-Liberman trade. On Saturday, deputy minister Ayoub Kara declared that ex-corporal Liberman, who never served in an IDF combat role, is simply not fit to succeed ex-chief of staff Ya’alon. Herzog has claimed that he held talks with Netanyahu, at great risk to his own political career, because Israel currently has a rare opportunity to make headway toward regional peace, but that the prime minister, in jilting him for blunt, bleak, settler Liberman, “ran away” from the compromises and domestic political battles seizing such an opportunity would have entailed.

 

And even the United States has weighed in, with the State Department articulating concerns over Israel’s direction. Asked about incoming defense minister Liberman hours after the new coalition deal was signed on Wednesday, spokesman Mark Toner stressed that the administration would, of course, “work with this government as we have with every Israeli government that preceded it, with the goal of strengthening our cooperation.” But he allowed himself a little foray into what might be considered internal Israeli politics. Said Toner: “We’ve also seen reports from Israel describing it as the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history. And we also know that many of its ministers have said they opposed a two-state solution. This raises legitimate questions about the direction it may be headed in, and what kind of policies it may adopt, but ultimately we’re going to judge this government based on its actions.”

 

I have written two columns in recent days criticizing the ouster of Ya’alon and his imminent replacement by Liberman, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Netanyahu gambit does come to be regarded as a turning point when it comes to the electorate’s opinion of the prime minister. But I’m struck, nonetheless, by the criticism from Washington — issued even though Liberman pledged at the coalition signing ceremony that he was “committed to a balanced policy that will bring stability to the region and to our country”; he even switched to English to pledge his commitment to “peace and to a final status agreement, and to understanding between us and our neighbors.”

 

What’s perhaps most telling about the response from Washington is that it was so very different to the administration’s response, one day earlier, to dramatic political developments in Iran — where, coincidentally, a hard-liner was being elevated in somewhat different circumstances to a yet more powerful position. On Tuesday, a day before Netanyahu and Liberman signed their deal, Iran’s Assembly of Experts chose Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati as its new chairman. The Assembly oversees the actions of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and come the day, will select Khamenei’s successor. That makes Jannati one of the most powerful figures in Iran, arguably the most powerful.

 

Ahmad Jannati, widely described as the most radical of Iran’s senior clerics, is not a nice man. He opposes any notion of Iranian political reform. He backs the execution of political dissidents. He insists that Iran’s women cover up beneath the hijab. Needless to say, he loathes Israel. And he loathes the United States.

 

Here’s Jannati in 2007: “At the end of the day, we are an anti-American regime. America is our enemy, and we are the enemies of America. The hostility between us is not a personal matter. It is a matter of principle.” In 2008: “You cried: ‘Death to the Shah,’ and indeed, he died. You cried: ‘Death to Israel,’ and it is now on its deathbed. You cry: ‘Death to America,’ and before long, Allah willing, the prayer for the dead will be recited over it.” And in 2014: “‘Death to America’ [is] the first option on our table… This is the slogan of our entire people without exception. This is our number one slogan.”

 

Given that the United States last year led the diplomatic process that culminated in an agreement to rein in (but not dismantle) Iran’s rogue nuclear program; given that President Barack Obama has been urging Iran to “move toward a more constructive relationship with the world community”; given that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and a regional troublemaker; given that Iran continues to develop its ballistic missile program… you might be forgiven for thinking that the selection of the radically hostile Jannati would raise “legitimate questions about the direction” in which Iran may be headed, “and what kind of policies it may adopt.”

 

And indeed, a day before he was asked about Liberman, the State Department’s Mark Toner was questioned at his daily press briefing about Jannati. Did he express his dismay at the selection of an official viciously hostile to the US and Israel to so prestigious a role? Did he communicate America’s concern about the grim message that the choice of Jannati represented? He did not.

 

 

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ACTUALLY, AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN IS JUST                                                               

WHAT ISRAEL NEEDS RIGHT NOW                                                                                       

Gregg Roman                                                                                                               

Forward, May 25, 2016

 

Peaceniks may be up in arms about the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as Israel’s next minister of defense, but the country’s enemies are worried — and rightly so. Yes, as the inevitable flurry of articles accompanying his appointment are sure to point out, Lieberman once said that Israel could bomb the Aswan dam in the event of war with Egypt and he also said that captured Palestinian terrorists should be “drowned in the Dead Sea.” But Lieberman, arguably the biggest loudmouth in Israel (he recently called Netanyahu — the man he’s been angling to work for — “a liar, cheater and crook”), is also a reasonable politician.

 

Lieberman’s core beliefs are squarely rooted in principles that most Israelis accept and that make good sense. He has expressed support for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as part of a final settlement, but he also maintains , as he put it at the Saban Forum in 2006, that the negotiating process is based on three fundamentally erroneous assumptions: “that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the main fact of instability in the Middle East, that the conflict is territorial and not ideological, and that the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders will end the conflict.”

 

Although willing to trade land (including the West Bank settlement of Nokdim, where he lives) under certain conditions, Lieberman resents the Obama administration’s relentless pressure for upfront Israeli concessions, noting that two decades and more of concessions to the Palestinians “brought neither results nor solutions.” He is correct that finding more things for Israel to give up, even as the cycle of Palestinian incitement and violence continues, is not the answer.

 

Having experienced poverty first-hand while growing up in the Soviet Union, Lieberman has spoken eloquently about the need to address the deplorable socioeconomic conditions among Palestinians. This is partly why he has long called for toppling the Hamas regime in Gaza, which Netanyahu, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and the rest of Israel’s political and military establishment have come to accept as a manageable problem.

 

Not everything Lieberman believes is nestled firmly within Israeli public consensus, but even his more extreme ideas are rooted in hard-nosed realism, not ideology or ethnic particularism. His long-standing advocacy of the death penalty for convicted terrorists, for example, is premised on the simple recognition that Palestinian terrorists are today free to murder based on the correct expectation that they will later be released in prisoner exchanges.

 

Lieberman is also cognizant of the fact that the U.S.-Israel relationship is of the utmost importance. When Israeli minister Naftali Bennett attacked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt to rekindle the peace process, Lieberman quickly fired back, stating , “There can be disagreements among friends, but one [Israel] doesn’t have to attack someone [the U.S]. When the supply of ammunition ran out during Operation Protective Edge, it was the United States that supplied it. The Americans were the ones who gave the money for Iron Dome. The United States was the one that helped us at the United Nations Human Rights Council and they prevent a lot of trouble in the Security Council with vetoes.”

 

Of course, Obama administration officials hoped that Netanyahu would stabilize his coalition by drawing in the center-left, not someone like Lieberman. Just days before the announcement, it was widely expected that Netanyahu would form a coalition with Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union, which advocates greater accommodation of Palestinian demands. But the Zionist Union has been paralyzed by internal divisions, with numerous members of this bloc openly opposing Herzog’s coalition talks with Netanyahu, while Lieberman’s MKs are expected to remain loyal. A stable, right-leaning government may have more credibility with the Israeli public than a fragile “national unity” government when it comes to making compromises for peace. After all, it was the “hard-line” Likud leader Menachem Begin who signed the Camp David Accords with Egypt in 1978.

 

My esteemed colleague David Makovsky worries that Netanyahu is “closing the door” on policies that “could have blunted a string of international initiatives” targeting Israel in the months ahead. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Lieberman accepts the Middle East Quartet’s conditions for a two-state solution. Most important, he stated,  “When there is a dispute between the integrity of the nation and the integrity of the land, then integrity of the nation is more important. I support a [peace] agreement…when we insist on security arrangements, this is just to avoid the crazy reality we are in.”

 

The doom-and-gloomers are right that Lieberman’s appointment to the defense ministry will almost certainly be consequential. Word has it that he demanded and received assurances regarding the latitude he will have in office. But Lieberman may just be the man of consequence Israel needs right now.

                                                           

 

Contents                                                                                                                                                              

HERZOG'S DILEMMA                                                                                                         

Dan Margalit                                                                                                       

Israel Hayom, May 31, 2016

 

Even before the ink on the Yisrael Beytenu-Likud coalition agreement could dry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Labor leader Isaac Herzog to join. Netanyahu did it again on Monday, despite (or because of) Herzog's call for Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon to take his party out of the coalition. Kahlon has also been actively trying to bring Herzog into the fold. The Kulanu leader is becoming increasingly isolated since Moshe Ya'alon was kicked out of the Defense Ministry and Avi Gabai left the Environmental Protection Ministry.

 

Herzog's dilemma revolves around his political future. The first part of the dilemma is a paradox: On the one hand, some say he has no choice but to join the coalition, because otherwise he will be deposed as party chairman; on the other hand, others insist that he will be deposed if he doesn't stay in the opposition. The second part of the dilemma is just as important. It’s the opposition-oriented view: Is it right to have the opposition join the new coalition in order to make it better? Or should it just work from the opposition benches to shorten the government's lifespan? This dilemma should be resolved by the Labor Convention.

 

But you cannot turn back the clock to the day when Herzog realized that Likud preferred Yisrael Beytenu over his party. Herzog was offended by Netanyahu's decision not to put their verbal understanding into writing. Should Herzog sign a deal now? Is this even possible with Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman serving as the groomsmen? Herzog still has a lot to add if he agrees to the nuptials.

 

He has the ability to breathe new life into the prospects of an international peace conference, which could give Netanyahu the time he needs to make sure U.S. President Barack Obama does not support a Palestinian statehood bid at the U.N. Security Council in the remainder of his term. Herzog is a valued commodity on the world stage.

 

Ostensibly, everything is up in the air. Trust in politicians is at a low point, in light of everything that's happened over the past week between Netanyahu, Herzog, Lieberman and, most recently, with Bennett — who used lofty rhetoric to insist on appointing a special military advisor to the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet but ultimately agreed to a compromise that involves having some low-level official brief ministers. In that sense, they can feel free to do whatever they want, even if it is divorced from their previous rhetoric.

 

But if Herzog is to resume the coalition talks with Netanyahu, he would have to be in a better position than when they were called off, when he was humiliated. Perhaps he may not be able to join the coalition. What's certain is that this prospect has no chance of happening unless Netanyahu announces, up front, that Labor would get the justice portfolio. But I don't see how this happens either.                                                                                                                             

 

Contents

A MORALLY AND POLITICALLY DYSFUNCTIONAL GOVERNMENT                                                         

Isi Leibler                                                                                                          

Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2016

 

The recent shenanigans that preceded the expansion of the government sickened even those reconciled to the reality that, since the Menahem Begin era, there exists a total lack of ethics in the Israeli political arena. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has succeeded in consolidating his government and may have ensured that it will survive its full term of office – making him the longest presiding Prime Minister of Israel.

 

In this case, Netanyahu was not being Machiavellian. Like any politician, understandably his principal objective was to increase his paper thin parliamentary majority in order to retain power. But there is little doubt that his objective was also to create a government that reflected the unity of the nation in terms of security issues and which our adversaries and allies alike could not dismiss as extreme right wing. I believe that he genuinely desired to incorporate Zionist Union or the bulk of its parliamentarians into his government. But ultimately he realized – as Herzog himself subsequently conceded – that he was unable to gain the support of the Labour party. Even if Herzog delivered a number of Labour MKs, the coalition would be highly unstable and likely to break up at any time.

 

Avigdor Lieberman, realizing that his political future was at risk if he remained in an opposition headed by the Joint Arab List, signaled his arch political enemy that he was willing to join the government and in less than 24 hours, the deal was cobbled together. Netanyahu saved his government by this volte farce. But it may yet prove to be a pyrrhic victory.

 

As the global community prepares to exert more pressure – including UN Security Council Resolutions designed to coerce us into accepting indefensible borders – we will be perceived as having an even more extreme right wing government. This will undoubtedly be exploited by President Obama as justification for not employing the US veto to anti-Israeli Security Council resolutions.

 

On the domestic level, Netanyahu’s cavalier treatment of his former political allies in order to further his own ends by increasing the government – at any cost – leaves a very bitter taste. The manner in which Moshe Ya’alon was displaced as Defense Minister by Lieberman was almost surrealistic. When Lieberman served as Foreign Minister he abused his position and misrepresented Israel. To appoint him as Defense Minister, possessing no military experience whatsoever, is grossly unsuitable and reminiscent of the disasters associated with Amir Perez.

 

In contrast, Moshe Ya’alon was an exemplary Defense Minister of Israel. He was considered a man of exceptional integrity, one of the few who was renowned for promoting the national interest rather than his personal ambitions. His absence from the next Security Cabinet is a great loss for our national security. Over the past month, Ya’alon was justly criticized for making a number of ill-considered statements, creating tension when encouraging IDF personnel to speak out against political decisions they considered inappropriate.

 

However, Ya’alon’s controversial remarks had no bearing on Netanyahu’s subsequent acquiescence to Liebermann’s demand for the Defense Ministry. What is clear is that Ya’alon – one of Netanyahu’s loyal allies over many years – was not treated as a loyal partner or adequately consulted. The result was that he exploded and, despite the belated offer of Foreign Minister, resigned from the government and Knesset announcing he would return to politics at a later date and become a contestant for the leadership.

 

How has this impacted on domestic politics? The country’s biggest loss is Ya’alon whose wise advice and military knowledge is irreplaceable. The other loser is Bugie Herzog who genuinely sought to bring Zionism back into the Labour Party and marginalize the delusionary leftists who have hijacked his party. To this end, he fought his own party colleagues but failed in his effort to create a national unity government. His party will now be in shambles until it sorts itself out and elects a new leader.

 

The big winner in this new government, aside from Lieberman, will be Yair Lapid who will benefit immensely at the polls and is likely to represent an alternative leadership at the next elections. The haredim are also delighted because Lieberman, in his thirst for power, had no problem in suspending his passionate commitment to introduce reforms in the religious arena and break the stranglehold of the ultra-orthodox in relation to conversion, marriage and the draft.

 

Many Israelis are angered with their prime minister. But had he not acted as he did, his government would be on the verge of collapse. What is inexcusable is his humiliation of Ya’alon, who was not even adequately informed to the point where he refused to even remain in the current government – a great loss for the nation. There are several questions being asked. What price will Netanyahu pay for consolidating his leadership? Internationally, he may face the toughest diplomatic pressures Israel has ever encountered with a retiring US president reputed to be seeking to isolate Israel as his farewell legacy. How will he cooperate with Lieberman who, until only a few days, ago displayed outright personal animus towards him? It was serious enough when Lieberman went on his independent rampages as Foreign Minister. How will this work whilst he is Defense Minister?…

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

 

Contents           

 

On Topic Links

 

We Need to Put the Yizkor Back into Memorial Day: Jerry Silverman, Arutz Sheva, May 27, 2016—In Israel, when the two-minute siren sounds at 11 a.m. on Yom Hazikaron, the Jewish state’s Memorial Day, the nation comes to a halt.

Israeli Watchdog Critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Past Travel Expenses: Rory Jones & Orr Hirschauge, Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2016—An Israeli government watchdog on Tuesday released a highly critical report into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s travel expenses while he was finance minister more than a decade ago, and raised the possibility of a criminal investigation.

Leiberman’s First Challenge: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, May 27, 2016—Last week, a mob of 300 Muslim men in southern Egypt stripped a 70-year-old Christian woman naked and paraded her through the streets. This Islamist atrocity came a few days before an EgyptAir flight from Paris exploded in the skies near Alexandria. It was the second passenger jet bombed by jihadists in Egypt in recent months.

Netanyahu Against the Generals: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2016—In 2012 a former New York Times reporter named Patrick Tyler published an invidious book called “Fortress Israel,” the point of which was that the Jewish state is a modern-day Sparta whose “sabra military elite” is addicted to war.

 

 

                  

 

 

 

DESPITE CHALLENGES, ISRAEL’S STRONG DEMOCRACY, HIGH-TECH INNOVATION & IMPROVED SECURITY ARE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

The Optimistic Conservatism of Passover: Ruth R. Wisse, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 21, 2016— I associate conservatism with optimism and its synonyms—hopefulness, sanguinity, positivity and confidence.

Will Israel Reach Age 100?: Aaron David Miller, Real Clear World, Apr. 11, 2016— Is Israel doomed?  

The Maturing of Israeli-Russian Relations: Anna Borshchevskaya, Washington Institute, Spring, 2016— October 2016 will mark 25 years since Russia and Israel officially restored diplomatic relations after the Soviet Union severed them in 1967 following the Six Day War.

Netanyahu and Herzog – Star-Crossed Lovers: Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 11, 2016— As Romeo and Juliet proved, there can be love and wedding plans, and even a friar eager to bring the two sides together, but still no wedding.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

Netanyahu Declares: Golan Heights Ours From Biblical to Modern Times: Breaking Israel News, Apr. 17, 2016

Does Israel Need US Jewish Support?: Daniel Pipes, Israel Hayom, Apr. 18, 2016

If the Likud Does Not Adopt Bennett’s Plan, We Must Leave the Party: Ben Artiz, Israpundit, Mar. 4, 2016

Rivlin’s Regrettable Cancellation of Australian State Visit: Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, Mar. 2, 2016

 

 

 

THE OPTIMISTIC CONSERVATISM OF PASSOVER

Ruth R. Wisse

Wall Street Journal, Apr. 21, 2016

 

I associate conservatism with optimism and its synonyms—hopefulness, sanguinity, positivity and confidence. American Jews are often associated with a gutted liberalism, but that is a caricature. A more intimate understanding of the Jewish experience connects it to an optimistic conservatism that could help secure America’s future. I’m particularly reminded of that connection as Jews celebrate the eight days of Passover beginning Friday at sundown. Passover is the festival of freedom when Jews commemorate and re-experience the biblical story of their passage from slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt to freedom, first in the desert, then in the Land of Israel.

 

Emphasizing the importance of decentralized authority and individual responsibility, the escape from Egypt is celebrated not in the synagogue but in the home, among family and invited guests who join for the ceremony of the Seder, which means order. Following a ritual text called the Haggada, families retell the story as recounted in the Book of Exodus, and eat the unleavened bread that the Children of Israel took with them when they fled in the middle of the night.

 

When I took over from my mother the organization of Passover for our family what I felt most keenly was the paradox—the incongruity of it all. The cleaning and cooking preparations for Passover are so demanding that in the weeks leading up to it, obsessive-compulsive personalities come into their own. I could not get beyond these questions: If we were breaking for freedom, why these weeks of preparation? If we were recalling harsh conditions, which was it—the dry matzo and bitter herbs, or the chicken soup with matzo balls and the best meal of the year?

 

And that is how the association of conservatism with hopefulness began for me, and how it is further reinforced every year. Freedom was not decamping to Hawaii to become a surfer, not experimenting with drugs or with sexual conquests—not getting away from, but readying oneself for, the enjoyment of freedom. The Passover ritual of re-experiencing the Exodus helped me figure out the constituent elements of freedom that were crafted over many centuries:

 

First, a people is not defined by its experience of slavery, but neither does self-liberation happen once and for all. The temptation of slavery is always there, the part of us that wants to return to a stage of dependency, to the relative security of having the overseers regulating life. Those who do not reinforce the responsibilities of freedom will be returned to the house of bondage. Second, the Passover ritual calls for humility—not to reduce our self-confidence, but rather to harness our capacities to the larger civic purpose of a free society. Friedrich Nietzsche was concerned that the Judeo-Christian tradition squelched the greatness of the emergent individual. The constitutional civilization that Passover celebrates is wary of the hubris of individuals who think themselves too good to “merely” reinforce what others have achieved before us.

 

One other item of Passover consolidated my conservative hope for change—the section about the relation of optimism to evil. It’s one that makes liberals queasy. “Pour Out Thy Wrath!” is a collection of verses from Psalms and Lamentations that calls on God to punish not the Jews who obey his laws but—for a change!—the evildoers who want to destroy them.

 

Needless to say, this section about confronting the enemy was the first part of the Passover Haggada that was eliminated by self-styled Jewish progressives, by the Bernie Sanders constituency of the Jewish people. That constituency gets very angry—but it pours out its wrath on its own people instead of on its destroyers. And let’s acknowledge that when you have no incentive for aggression, it is hard even to voice aggression. Free people tend to focus inward on their self-improvement and have no need for an enemy, no need to imagine a malevolent Other. But a free, energetic, self-reliant people that creates and builds and innovates and does not want war is precisely the people that gets targeted by others. This is what Jews learned at tremendous cost over the centuries, and it is the most important lesson that they have to share with America.

 

The history of America is not the history of slavery but of slavery overcome, of having escaped from slavery into freedom. The descendants of slaves and slave-owners alike should not be trying to erase the shameful aspects of the past but to take the measure of all that has been achieved and to celebrate it with humble pride. Culture, behavior, values and the story of America are not biologically transmitted. America’s freedoms cannot be maintained free of charge, and keeping America great means rehearsing how we got that way, repeating it formally, in the family as well in the schools and in public ceremony. There are so many occasions for a Passover experience in America—Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, Presidents Day, Martin Luther King Day. All that has been earned and won cannot be maintained unless it is conserved and reinforced and transmitted and celebrated.

 

Contents

WILL ISRAEL REACH AGE 100?

Aaron David Miller

Real Clear World, Apr. 11 2016

 

 

Is Israel doomed? Will bad demography, bad neighbors, and bad Israeli behavior turn the once hopeful and idealistic notion of a thriving Jewish democratic state into a veritable Middle Eastern Sparta — isolated in the international community and struggling to survive in a hostile region even as it occupies a restless and growing Palestinian majority? Having worked the Israel issue for half a dozen secretaries of state, I certainly wouldn't want to minimize the challenges Israelis face at home and abroad. Still — and I concede up front that the view from Washington, DC isn't the same as the one from Jerusalem — I'm more convinced than ever that Israel is here to stay. I may not be around to mark Israel's 100th birthday. But Israelis will. And here's why.

 

Highly Functioning State: The region in which Israel lives is melting down at a rate no one would have anticipated. Indeed, if there are any state disappearing acts, these may be on the Arab, not the Israeli, side. States such as Libya, Yemen, and Syria are fragmenting, while dysfunctional states such as Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt are saddled with political, economic, and identity challenges they just can't overcome. In short, with the exception of the Arab monarchs, a good part of the Arab world, including many of Israel's traditional adversaries, have gone offline.

 

On the other hand, even with all of their problems, the region's three non-Arab states –Israel, Turkey, and Iran — are probably the most highly functioning polities in the region. All are domestically stable; all have tremendous economic power; and all are capable of projecting their power in the region. Of these three, Israel by far has the best balance of military, economic, and technological prowess and brain power. The state seems likely to maintain that edge for the foreseeable future. By any significant standard — GDP per capita; educational assets; share of Nobel prizes; even the global happiness index — Israel leads the region, and much of the rest of the world, by wide margins.

 

Security Environment More Favorable Than Ever: Compare the situation Israel faces in 2016 with any other period since the founding of the state, and there is little doubt the country is stronger, more secure, and holds a more pronounced qualitative military edge than it ever has. Furthermore, with the exception of Iran, its traditional adversaries are weaker, and amid their disarray they are falling further behind.

 

The situation of course is far from perfect, and there are no guarantees it will last long. After all, this is the Middle East. Israelis face a rash of individual attacks by young Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as a more substantial threat of terrorism from groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and aspiring ISIS wannabes in Sinai. But these aren't existential security threats to the state. Iran's putative quest for a nuclear weapon has been constrained for now. Functional cooperation with Jordan, improving ties with Turkey, close relations with Egypt, and an emerging alignment of interests with Saudi Arabia against Iran, all suggest a certain lessening of the Arab state allergy to Israel.

 

The U.S.-Israel Relationship: There's no arguing that the U.S.-Israel relationship has been through pretty tough times. Still, despite the highly dysfunctional relationship between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the United States and Israel maintain an extraordinarily close bond. The two sides are now negotiating another 10-year security arrangement that will increase U.S. assistance to Israel, and several Republican and Democratic candidates have all pledged they will invite Netanyahu to Washington early on in their administrations.

 

Tensions over the unresolved Palestinian issue will persist. And even on the Republican side, the next president will find Netanyahu a difficult partner. Still, in a region with not a single Arab democracy, a rising Iran, and threats from transnational jihadists, Washington will almost certainly continue to look to Israel as an ally in a turbulent and violent region. Indeed, a Middle East in meltdown will provide the best set of talking points for the continuation of the U.S.-Israel special relationship. The threat of significant terror attacks on domestic soil in the years to come will only further emphasize the commonality of the challenges that bind the two countries together, even though other issues may divide them.

 

The real question is not whether the state of Israel will exist at 100, but what kind of state it will be. Much of course will depend on how the two dimensions of the Palestinian issue that threaten Israel's stability, security, and democratic and demographic character play out. Can a national minority of 1.7 million Palestinian citizens be integrated and more readily accepted into an Israeli polity based on the concept of Jewish statehood? Secondly, can a sustainable solution be found to the national aspirations of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians living in territories that Israel either occupies or controls to varying degrees?

 

Thirty-plus years shy of the centennial, these questions are impossible to answer, and the odds of resolving them anytime soon are long indeed. Still, Israel — now well into its seventh decade — isn't some hapless piece of driftwood floating aimlessly on a turbulent sea. It is a highly functional state that has powerful agency, extraordinary human resources, a demonstrated capacity to deal with its security challenges, and neighbors who seem to be growing weaker, not stronger. Israel will reach its centenary and have many good reasons to celebrate its 100th birthday. But Israel's neighbors, and the challenges that are likely to remain, won't make it an entirely happy occasion, nor allow Israelis to completely enjoy it.

 

Contents

                  THE MATURING OF ISRAELI-RUSSIAN RELATIONS

Anna Borshchevskaya

Washington Institute, Spring 2016

 

October 2016 will mark 25 years since Russia and Israel officially restored diplomatic relations after the Soviet Union severed them in 1967 following the Six Day War. New Israeli Ambassador to Russia Zvi Heifetz said in November 2015 that Russia and Israel plan to mark this anniversary "at the highest possible level," as reported by the Interfax news agency. For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the same month, "We are satisfied with our constructive partnership with Israel. Relations between our states have reached a high level."

 

Indeed, Putin pursued improved ties with Israel since he came into office in March 2000 and the two countries have significantly improved ties on a number of fronts. Russian and Israeli officials hold meetings and telephone conversations on a regular basis and maintain multiple open channels of communication. The two countries have an agreement on visa-free tourist travel for their citizens. Israel is home to over a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union, which bolsters Russia's ties to Israel. Russian is the third most popular language in Israel after Hebrew and English. Economic relations between the two countries have especially improved, exceeding $3 billion in 2014, a figure slightly higher than Russia's trade with Egypt the same year. Military relations improved as well. Indeed, in late 2015, according to press reports, Israel sold ten search drones to Russia, despite Israel's concerns about Russia's military and political ties to Iran.

 

Yet complexities remain. Putin wants to be seen as a key player throughout the Middle East, and Israel matters in the region. Putin's regional policy, however, is primarily driven by zero-sum anti-Westernism to position Russia as a counterweight to the West in the region and, more broadly, to divide and weaken Western institutions. Israel, unlike Russia, is a pro-Western democracy. Moscow's growing aggression in the former Soviet Union, especially in Ukraine, and increasing influence in the Middle East in the context of Western retreat from the region, complicates Russia-Israeli relations.

 

Upon coming into office in March 2000, Putin sought to bring Russia back as an important actor in the Middle East and worked with everyone in the region, whether traditional friend or foe. He based this policy on his definition of Russia's interests, from a purely pragmatic standpoint. This policy included improved ties with Israel following deterioration of ties in the late 1990s under Foreign Minister and then Prime Minister Yevgeniy Primakov, who was decidedly more pro-Arab. As Professor Mark Katz wrote in Middle East Quarterly in the winter of 2005, "Putin neither seeks to please Washington nor to accommodate any domestic political imperative. Rather, Moscow's new Middle East policy results from Putin's personal calculation of Russian interests, one that does not find many other takers in his own government."

 

Several factors drove Putin's policy toward Israel, particularly in his early years in office. One was the struggle with the breakaway republic of Chechnya in the North Caucasus, a struggle which began in the early 1990s, originally as a secular separatist movement that grew increasingly radical Islamist in nature in no small part due to Moscow's heavy-handed policies and egregious human rights abuses. Putin has drawn parallels between Russia's and Israel's respective struggles against terrorism. Over the years, he has made this very comparison in meetings with many top Israeli officials. Ariel Sharon, a Russian speaker who formed a close personal bond with Putin, in November 2003 called the Russian leader "a true friend of Israel," as reported by TSG IntelBrief. Israel was among the few countries that did not criticize Putin over his actions in Chechnya.

 

Another driver in Putin's Israel policy involved his emphasis on developing economic ties in the Middle East. He has correspondingly pursued trade with Israel, such as high-tech trade in areas including nanotechnology. Overall, Russia-Israel trade grew to $1 billion annually by 2005 and more than tripled this amount by 2014, to approximately $3.5 billion. This figure is slightly higher than Russian-Egyptian trade in the same year. Over one million Russian-speakers from Russia live in Israel, which matters to the Kremlin. In terms of Russia's domestic considerations, Putin also had to balance Russia's policy toward Israel given Russia's large Muslim and small Jewish population, the persistence of anti-Semitism, and the growth of anti-Muslim sentiment and concerns about terrorism.

 

Finally, Putin has sought a Russian role in the Middle East peace process, guided by hopes of replacing the West and of simply appearing important. Indeed, under Putin, Russia has grown increasingly assertive, seeking to make its imprint on the peace process since joining the Quartet more than a decade ago. In June 2012, Putin traveled to Israel, nine months before Barak Obama made his first visit as U.S. president. Meeting with Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, Putin said, "It is in Russia's national interest to provide peace and tranquility in the Middle East, peace and tranquility to the Israeli people. It is not by accident that the Soviet Union was among the initiators and supported the creation of the state of Israel," according to a Kremlin transcript. Putin here conveniently left out Stalin's quick policy reversal after Israel had aligned with the West.

 

Despite improvements in the bilateral relationship, significant differences remain. In March 2006, Hamas leaders came to Moscow at Putin's invitation. Putin denied that Hamas was a terrorist organization. Other major difficulties for Israel have included Moscow's support for Iran's nuclear program and arms trade with Syria — arms that could fall into the possession of Hezbollah. Indeed, Moscow continued to support Iran's nuclear program despite Western and Israeli concerns that this policy will aid Iran in developing a nuclear weapon.

 

Russia's most recent involvement in Syria following the Iran deal is likely to further complicate the situation for Israel. In 2010, following pressure from the West and Israel, Moscow froze (but did not cancel) an $800 million contract with Iran for a sale of the S-300 air defense system that could help shoot down American or Israeli warplanes in the event of a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. In exchange, Israel had refrained from criticizing Russia's actions in the near abroad; for instance, publically, Israel remained neutral on the Ukraine crisis and did not sell weapons to Kyiv. Yet Moscow and Iran have now revived talks of selling these weapons. In February of this year, after sanctions against Iran had been lifted, Iranian and Russian officials announced plans for an $8 billion arms deal, which, according to the Washington Free Beacon, includes the sale of S-300s, as well as Sukhoi-30 jets, comparable to American F-15E fighter bombers. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said transferring the Sukhoi-30s requires UN Security Council authorization and that the U.S. will "raise the matter with Russia," as reported by AP.

 

Earlier, Israel expressed alarm over the P5+1 nuclear agreement reached in July of this year with Iran while Putin praised the agreement. Netanyahu had been very outspoken about it, maintaining that Israel is not bound by this deal, and Israel will always defend itself. Putin's Syria intervention further complicates the situation for Israel. Netanyahu met with Putin in Moscow on September 21, 2015. The meeting appeared to alleviate some Israeli concerns about Russia's Syria intervention. After the meeting Netanyahu said, "In Syria, I've defined my goals. They're to protect the security of my people and my country. Russia has different goals. But they shouldn't clash."…                                                                                                 

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

           

Contents

 

NETANYAHU AND HERZOG – STAR-CROSSED LOVERS                                                                   

Gil Hoffman                                                        

Jerusalem Post, Apr. 11, 2016

 

As Romeo and Juliet proved, there can be love and wedding plans, and even a friar eager to bring the two sides together, but still no wedding. The same holds true far from Verona, here in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had every reason to seek a national-unity government with Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog.  He had a crumbling, undependable coalition of 61 MKs in which every backbencher was king. He was vexed by Likud legislators with delusions of grandeur. He had months of diplomatic challenges ahead, dealing with a president of the United States who could cause Israel problems in his final 284 days in office.

 

And, he had the simple fact that he never believed in having a right-wing coalition in the first place, only forming the overly homogeneous government he did because he had to shift to the right during his campaign and it was hard walking back. Herzog also had plenty of reasons to enter a national- unity government with Netanyahu. He had polls that were predicting his party’s political demise under his leadership. He had the history of Labor Party leaders who did not last long with none winning a second term in decades. And he had his genuine desire to serve the country in the vacant Foreign Affairs portfolio, where he could use his skills to improve Israel’s future.

 

There were countless mediators. Former Prime Minister’s Office director-general Yossi Kucik’s name was revealed over the weekend, but there were many others. Some acted on Netanyahu’s behalf. Some on Herzog’s. But most were just well-meaning people who wanted the bride and groom to come together. Unlike with Romeo and Julio, however, it is not death that will keep Netanyahu and Herzog apart. The probe into alleged campaign fund-raising violations Herzog is facing will prevent a unity government from being formed. But it is not the only reason.

 

There is also simple math. Netanyahu and Herzog would face rebels in their parties who would not accept the deal. Bayit Yehudi would be forced out. The end result would be an upgrade from 61 MKs to not much more. And there is also fate. Star-crossed lovers can have the best of intentions, but still remain forever apart.

            

 

Contents

On Topic

 

 

Netanyahu Declares: Golan Heights Ours From Biblical to Modern Times: Breaking Israel News, Apr. 17, 2016—The Israeli cabinet held its first-ever meeting in the Golan Heights on Sunday amid reports that the territory is being discussed as part of Syrian civil war peace talks. “I convened this celebratory meeting in the Golan Heights to send a clear message: The Golan will always remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights,” declared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the council.

Does Israel Need US Jewish Support?: Daniel Pipes, Israel Hayom, Apr. 18, 2016—Elliott Abrams began a conversation by asking what has caused American Jews to distance themselves from Israel and finding the main cause to be the 50%-to-60% rate of Jewish intermarriage with non-Jews.

If the Likud Does Not Adopt Bennett’s Plan, We Must Leave the Party: Ben Artiz, Israpundit, Mar. 4, 2016—The prime minister’s brother-in-law calls for Minister Bennett to make the plan for the application of sovereignty in Area C the official plan of the party and states: If Netanyahu does not follow in his footsteps then people should leave Likud and support Bennett, since it would be clear that there is no other Rightist party.

Rivlin’s Regrettable Cancellation of Australian State Visit: Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, Mar. 2, 2016 —Israel today has few genuine friends willing to stand up and defend the Jewish state and counter the many nations that apply bias and double standards in ongoing harassment. Australia, an important Western middle power, has a track record of friendship dating back to the State of Israel’s birth that, with the exception of a few minor blips, would place it among the Jewish state’s most consistent and loyal friends.

 

 

 

                        

 

 

 

                  

 

 

 

LIKUD & BIBI WIN BIG AMID INCREASING SECURITY THREATS AND DESPITE A HOSTILE, ANTI-ISRAEL WHITE HOUSE

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 

 

Contents:

 

Bibi’s Win Trumps Israeli Left, and Obama, Europe—Now Comes the Hard Part: Dealing, Largely Alone, With Iran: Frederick Krantz, CIJR, Mar. 19, 2015 —In an election worthy of the American 1948 Presidential campaign, in which the media overwhelming proclaimed Thomas Dewey the victor over Harry Truman well before the vote was taken, the people of Israel have overwhelmingly given Bibi Netanyahu, Likud and the center-right  a renewed electoral mandate.

Netanyahu Wins Elections Despite Hate Campaign Against Him:  Manfred Gerstenfeld, CIJR, Mar. 19, 2015— The election results for the 20th Knesset determined both major winners and major losers.

Security Challenges of the New Israeli Government: Prof. Efraim Inbar, BESA, Mar. 19, 2015 — A new Likud-led government will take office in Jerusalem in the upcoming weeks.

The Absence of True Leadership Has Created Chaos at Home and Abroad: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, Mar. 19, 2015 — What has gone wrong with the U.S. government in the past month?

 

On Topic Links

 

Indian PM Modi Congratulates Netanyahu in Hebrew: Jerusalem Post, Mar. 18, 2015

The Role of the Palestinian Authority in Israel’s Election Results: Alan Dershowitz, Algemeiner, Mar. 18, 2015

Israel Election: What Netanyahu's Victory Means: Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Fox News, Mar. 18, 2015

After Harsh Editorial, Watchdog Group Says New York Times Has Anti-Netanyahu Obsession: Algemeiner, Mar. 18, 2014

 

                                                                                                                            

BIBI’S WIN TRUMPS ISRAELI LEFT, AND OBAMA, EUROPE—

NOW COMES THE HARD PART: DEALING, LARGELY ALONE, WITH IRAN

Frederick Krantz

CIJR, Mar. 19, 2015

 

In an election worthy of the American 1948 Presidential campaign, in which the media overwhelming proclaimed Thomas Dewey the victor over Harry Truman well before the vote was taken, the people of Israel have overwhelmingly given Bibi Netanyahu, Likud and the center-right  a renewed electoral mandate.

 

Despite immense internal and external pressures, Likud outpolled the Zionist Camp opposition by at least 30-24 (final figures aren’t yet in), and the other conservative and religious parties amassed more than enough votes to ensure a conservative governing majority. This as newspaper headlines across Europe and North America proclaimed a Herzog victory (or, at worst,  “A Tie”, or “A Vote Too Close to Call”).

 

What this means is that the serious, widespread, and growing security concerns facing Israel—from the IS terrorists in Syria and Iraq to Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon (and now Syria), to the al-Qaeda-linked anti-al-Sissi terrorists in Sinai, and above all to the Iranian Islamist regime and its nuclear drive—trumped  social and economic concerns.

 

It also means a defeat for Barack Obama and his Administration. After Netanyahu’s powerful address to the US Congress opposing Obama’s imminent nuclear pact with Iran as a “bad deal”, the people of Israel refused to be stampeded by the full-court press of an anti-Bibi campaign. Led by Administration, and European, figures and organizations, this included direct and indirect support, from left-wing NGOs to former Obama Administration political advisors micro-managing a U.S.-style Zionist Camp campaign against Likud.

 

(As of this writing, Obama—who called Netanyahu’s campaign reference to a swelling United Arab List turnout “racist”—had yet to make a congratulatory phone-call. But Stephen Harper tweeted congratulations to Netanyahu, noting that Israel “had no greater friend than Canada”; and India’s Modi sent a mazal tov, in Hebrew, to Bibi.)

 

Now, the social and economic concerns of Israelis are real enough, and should not be ignored (nor will they be, as Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party, which focused on them, will surely be part of the new coalition). But it was also unfair to represent Netanyahu—who as Finance Minister had successfully turned the Israeli economy around, insulating it from the general Western post-2008 Great Recession—as blind to the material well-being of ordinary Israelis.

 

Those issues will be addressed. But what Israel must now squarely face is what Netanyahu eloquently warned of in his Washington speech–the overwhelming threat of a genocidal and nuclear-armed Islamist Iran. To the shame of the West, the EU, UN and the “international community”, Israel must face that threat alone.

 

And it must do so in the face of what is becoming increasingly clear: not only a Obama Administration determination, for “legacy” reasons, to trumpet a diplomatic “victory”, but a conscious policy “tilt” in favor of terrorist Shiite Iran (of which the “bad [nuclear] deal” is only a part).

 

Yet, paradoxically, Obama’s policy has made Sunni Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates—who fear Iran-led Shiite expansion–de facto allies of Israel.

 

Israel’s “window” for dealing with the Iranian threat is narrow. Netanyahu will no doubt wait to assess the impact of Congressional reaction to a signed deal. But if Obama ignores Congress and signs, and the Senate then fails to marshal the two-thirds vote necessary for overcoming a veto and re-imposing severe sanctions), Netanyahu and Israel will face a stark choice: act or back down. 

 

Hence the larger significance of the Right’s victory: the people of Israel, despite increasing world pressures and a vicious “delegitimation” campaign, understand clearly what is at stake, and have elected a government which has not only the capacity, but the will, to act.  

 

Extraordinarily, and unfortunately, the election also ratifies what many have feared since the election of Obama in 2008: a growing confrontation between Israel and its only major ally, the U.S. Despite broadly negative media commentary, this has been provoked not by Israel or Netanyahu, but by a “progressive” President with a tin ear for what Israel represents. Obama has pursued a pro-Islamic vision of righting “colonialist” wrongs perpetrated by the West, including his own United States, against the Arab-Muslim world.  

 

As a consequence, American policy, and standing, in the Middle East is in a shambles, and the formerly bedrock U.S.-Israel relationship imperiled, facts clearly reflected in the Israeli electorate’s  resounding decision.                                                                    

Contents                                                                                      

   

 

NETANYAHU WINS ELECTIONS DESPITE HATE CAMPAIGN AGAINST HIM

Manfred Gerstenfeld

CIJR, Mar. 19, 2015

 

The election results for the 20th Knesset determined both major winners and major losers. Yet just a few days earlier, while looking at the polls, one could have still justifiably argued that there was not much need for the elections – the expected results of the various political blocs seemed broadly similar to those in the outgoing Knesset.

 

The main winner of these elections, even more so than his Likud party was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He had become a general target, and the attacks were not limited to those of the opposition parties. A variety of people outside the political realm, such as a group of about 200 former senior defense and intelligence officials, published advertisements and campaigned against Netanyahu.

 

The Likud had taken a huge beating back in the 2013 elections when it ran together with Avigdor Liberman’s party, Israel Beitenu. In the outgoing Knesset it only held 18 seats. It will now have 30 seats. The Zionist Union’s distorted central message was that Netanyahu had totally failed in leading the country. Its party leaders, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, claimed that the only logical consequence was that Netanyahu had to go. The Zionist Union’s claim was false. At a time of major economic problems around the world, Israel has done quite well. In the military field, Israel is far from a failure. Netanyahu has also resisted considerable foreign pressure to cede more territories to the Palestinians, most of which would probably have turned into additional areas controlled by the Islamo-Nazis of Hamas. 

 

Another big winner of these elections was Moshe Kahlon’s new Koolanu party. Kahlon is a former Likud MK whose main merit as Minister of Communications was the radical reduction of telephone and internet costs.  Although his party list did not have many nationally known candidates, it managed to get 10 seats. It will be impossible for Netanyahu to form a government without Koolanu. Kahlon will most likely become the Minister of Finance, a position for which he campaigned and which Netanyahu already promised him before Election Day. Strategically, Kahlon might be better off obtaining the Minister of Housing portfolio, as he could then reorganize the Israel Land Authority and manage to lower housing prices.  Housing costs are a strong concern for a large number of Israelis. The Housing ministry may still be held by one of Kahlon’s party members. 

 

A third clear winner was the Joint (Arab) List.  During the 19th Knesset, Israel Beitenu had managed to get majority support in favor of raising the elections threshold from 2% to 3.25% of the total vote. Liberman thought that a higher election threshold would result in the elimination of some of the smaller Arab parties. However, the various Arab parties represented in the Knesset managed to overcome their differences for the purposes of establishing a joint list, consisting of communists, Islamists and Arab Palestinian nationalists. The Joint List also succeeded in raising the Arab voter participation. The Joint List obtained 13 seats, as against 11 of the various Arab parties in the 19th Knesset combined. They might have been helped by a very ugly comment by Netanyahu on Election Day where he declared that Jewish citizens should get out and vote because the Arabs were voting in massive numbers.

 

The losses were quite pronounced as well. The Yesh Atid party, officially centrist but in practice leaning toward the Zionist Union, got 11 seats as against 19 in the previous Knesset. Its charismatic leader, Yair Lapid, seemed to have managed to shake off most criticisms of his responsibilities as Minister of Finance, yet it didn’t help him in the elections.  The religious parties all lost some of their electorate. The modern-Orthodox Habayit Hayehudi, led by Naftali Bennett, returns with 8 seats as against 12 in the present Knesset. In the last few days, many of its voters apparently deserted to the Likud. Shas, in the first election after the death of its religious patron Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, came down from 11 to 7 seats. United Torah Judaism lost one of its 7 seats, partly due to the call of extremist Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach to boycott the elections. Finally, the Yachad party, led by former Shas leader Eli Yishai, did not pass the election threshold. All in all, the religious parties obtained a combined 21 seats as against the 30 seats they held in the 19th Knesset. Two of the religious Yesh Atid MKs, Gen. (res.) Elazar Stern – formerly of Hatenuah — and Rabbi Dov Lipman, lost their seats as well.

 

Another major loser was Israel Beitenu. It ended up with 6 seats as against 13 in the outgoing Knesset. This outcome has most likely been influenced by a major corruption scandal that came to light at the beginning of the election campaign, in which a key party member MK Faina Kirschenbaum, stands accused. Another loser was the extreme left-wing party Meretz. It lost one of its 6 seats. When it looked that it stood to lose a second seat, its leader Zahava Galon announced that she would take responsibility and leave both the Knesset and party leadership so that number 5 on their list, Tamar Zandberg, could remain a Knesset member. Galon has in the meantime rescinded her resignation.

 

The Zionist Union is incorrectly perceived as another major loser of the elections. Yet Herzog, by running a joint list of his Labor Party together with Livni’s Hatnuah, managed to create the second largest political faction in the country, well ahead of all the others. The Zionist Union won 24 seats as against a combined 21 seats the two parties got in the previous elections. As no polls are allowed two days before Election Day, the general public sentiment, according to the last of the published polls, was that the Zionist Union was ahead of the Likud by several seats. In the last few days before the elections, the Likud made a furious effort to regain ground.  One major element of its campaign was its participation in the massive right-wing rally held in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv on the night of Sunday, March 15th. Netanyahu also contacted many voters with a pre-recorded telephone message, right through and including on Election Day.

 

The three exit polls held by Channel One, Channel Two and Channel Ten were massively erroneous. They gave the Likud 27 or 28 seats, as against 27 seats for the Zionist Union. These numbers were already considered a huge success for the Likud, in view of the last polls published before the elections. There is less of an excuse for those responsible for the highly inaccurate exit polls, as compared to those who published the many dozens of polls throughout the campaign. It may well have been that many voters, right up to getting to the ballot box, changed their voting intentions.  The most logical option for a coalition seems to be one backed by 67 MKs. It would include besides the Likud, Habayit Hayehudi, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Koolanu, and Israel Beitenu.

 

The challenges before the new government are great. The socioeconomic concerns of the electorate are substantial. The delegitimization campaigns against Israel will only get stronger. This the more so as Netanyahu has come out against the establishment of a Palestinian state. The relationship with the US needs major improvement. It is not only an issue of personal tensions between the leaders of the two countries. Such an improvement can only be possible to a limited extent while the White House is occupied by President Barack Obama. During his presidency, the worldwide status of the US has declined greatly. Obama has also frequently ignored or even whitewashed extreme crimes emerging from many parts of the Muslim world.

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

                                                                       

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SECURITY CHALLENGES OF THE NEW ISRAELI GOVERNMENT                                                       

Prof. Efraim Inbar                                                                                                       

BESA, Mar. 19, 2015

 

A new Likud-led government will take office in Jerusalem in the upcoming weeks. The government will have to face many security challenges emerging from the turbulent strategic environment. The most important issue is Iran. The US is racing toward an agreement that will legitimize the nuclear threshold status of Iran. Many key Mideast powers have signaled their displeasure with the nascent accord, as well as their desire to develop uranium enrichment capabilities on par with Iran. The American attempt to offer a nuclear umbrella to forestall regional nuclear proliferation – which is a strategic nightmare – is doomed to failure. No Arab leader trusts President Obama. Therefore, only a military strike to destroy the Iranian capability to produce fissionable material needed for nuclear bombs can stop nuclear proliferation in the region.

 

The only country with ‘enough guts’ to do this is Israel. This decision must be taken by the next Israeli government. The timetable for such a strike is not to be determined by additional Iranian progress on the nuclear path, but by the perceptions of regional leaders of Iranian ambitions and power. The expansion of Iranian influence to Iraq and Yemen, in addition to its grip over Syria and Lebanon, has heightened threat perceptions. American willingness to accept a greater Iranian regional role undermines American credibility and underscores the need for Israeli action in the near future. An Israeli strike is needed to prevent nuclear proliferation and to prevent imperial and Islamist Iran from acquiring hegemony in the Middle East. History indicates that such Israeli actions are not welcomed by American administrations, but are highly appreciated later on. In this case, it is Israel that will have to save the Americans from themselves. Israel’s main challenge is to maintain its freedom of action, while on a collision course with current American policy. This is not an easy endeavor, but Israel has large reservoirs of goodwill in the US which should allow Israel to act on its cardinal security interests against the will of an unpopular American president.

 

Despite the fact that some of the Arab armies that posed a threat to Israel have largely disintegrated and the power differential between Israel and its Arab neighbors grows constantly, the Jewish state still faces great hostility from Islamist sub-state armed groups. Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad cannot conquer Israel, but have acquired impressive capabilities to cause massive damage to Israel. Large armored formations are still needed to tackle those challenges. In addition, Israel’s active defense missile capabilities must be augmented. Unfortunately, the IDF is underfunded, which has led to cuts in ground forces and in training for the regular army and its reserves. Whoever will be the new defense minister has the task of securing a much larger, multi-year military budget on which the IDF can definitively plan a sustained force build-up. Israel’s strong economy can definitely sustain larger defense layouts. Another area that needs attention is the navy. Over 90 percent of Israel’s exports travel via the East Mediterranean. Moreover, this area is rich in energy resources that are vital for Israel’s future prosperity. Yet, the East Mediterranean is increasingly becoming an Islamic lake.

 

Turkey under Erdogan grows more hostile every month. Syria is an Iranian ally, and its civil war has brought about the rise of Islamist militias of all kinds. Lebanon is largely ruled by Hezbollah – a Shiite radical organization aligned with Iran. Hezbollah occasionally perpetrates attacks against Israel and has threatened to hit Israel’s gas rigs at sea. Hamas, a radical Sunni terrorist group linked to Iran, has taken over Gaza. It has launched thousands of rockets into Israel and staged attacks on Israeli gas installations in the Mediterranean. In Sinai, a plethora of Islamist armed groups are challenging the sovereignty of Egypt and even attacked targets along the Suez Canal. Libya is no longer a real state and the Islamist militias are fighting to carve out areas of influence. In short, we may soon see real piracy and terrorist attacks in the East Mediterranean…

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

 

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                      

             

THE ABSENCE OF TRUE LEADERSHIP

HAS CREATED CHAOS AT HOME AND ABROAD                                                                                    

Victor Davis Hanson

National Review, Mar. 19, 2015 

 

What has gone wrong with the U.S. government in the past month? Just about everything, from the fundamental to the ridiculous. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the United States to warn Congress about the dangers of a nuclear Iran. He spoke without the invitation of an irritated President Obama, who claimed that he did not even watch the address on television. Obama declined to even meet with the Israeli prime minister, announcing that it would have been improper for him to have such a meeting so close to Netanyahu’s re-election bid.

 

But if Obama was so concerned about not influencing the Israeli elections, why, according to some news accounts, is a Senate panel launching an investigation into whether Obama’s State Department gave grant money to a nonprofit organization, the OneVoice Movement, that sought to unseat Netanyahu with the help of several former Obama campaign operatives? Then, 47 Republican senators signed an unusual letter to the Iranian theocracy, reminding it that any agreement on Iran’s nuclear program negotiated with the Obama administration would have to first clear Congress.

 

Obama shot back that the senators’ letter was undue interference that aided the Iranians. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton agreed that the senators were either empowering Iranian hardliners or sabotaging the diplomatic efforts of their own president. Secretary of State John Kerry concurred. Nonetheless, the Senate may well pass new sanctions against Iran, if it feels Obama has been too lax in its negotiations or usurped senatorial oversight of treaties. Senator Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) bucked the Obama administration and expressed doubt about administration concessions to the Iranians. Other Democrats could join him. But almost immediately after weighing in on Iran, Menendez found himself the target of a federal investigation into purported corruption. And as far as the claim of improper interference in foreign affairs goes, the Obama administration and British prime minister David Cameron jointly lobbied U.S. senators not to pass tougher sanctions on Iran…

 

Abroad, Syria, Iran, and the Islamic State are battling for what is left of the Syrian-Iraqi borderlands after the United States abruptly pulled out all its peacekeepers from Iraq. All are enemies of the U.S. But as they fight each other, the Obama administration is negotiating with Iran over its efforts against the Islamic State. The administration has also expressed a willingness to meet with Syrian president Bashar Assad, after not long ago declaring Assad an illegitimate leader who should step down. Obama had issued red-line threats to Assad over the gassing of his own people…

 

Meanwhile, in the midst of nightly demonstrations at Ferguson, Mo., a young demonstrator on parole allegedly shot two police officers. “Whoever fired those shots shouldn’t detract from the issue,” the president editorialized. But trying to gun down a policeman should amount to something more than a “detraction.” Obama’s own Department of Justice recently issued a report indicating that the Ferguson Police Department routinely violates the rights of black citizens. But the DOJ also found Officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of a charging Michael Brown justifiable. That shooting was the incident that began the Ferguson “issue” in the first place. Was Obama worried about the wounded policemen “detracting” from the protestors’ “hands up, don’t shoot” allegations, which Attorney General Eric Holder’s investigators, along with a grand jury, had already debunked?

 

All this chaos has taken amid ongoing IRS and VA investigations, the Supreme Court’s impending decision on the constitutionality of Obamacare, and Saudi Arabia arranging to buy from South Korea nuclear expertise to counter Iran. The common thread in all this chaos? More than the usual partisanship at home and barbarism abroad. No one seems to be in charge at the White House. And that has terrified America’s supporters and emboldened its enemies — with another two years to go.                                                                       

 

Contents

                                                                                     

On Topic

 

Indian PM Modi Congratulates Netanyahu in Hebrew: Jerusalem Post, Mar. 18, 2015 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Prime Minister Netanyahu in Hebrew following the Likud party's success in the elections.

The Role of the Palestinian Authority in Israel’s Election Results: Alan Dershowitz, Algemeiner, Mar. 18, 2015—Those around the world who are upset with Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu electoral victory over labor should put much of the responsibility for Israel’s rightward turn squarely where it belongs: on the Palestinian Authority.

Israel Election: What Netanyahu's Victory Means: Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Fox News, Mar. 18, 2015—“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." That Churchillian one-liner summarizes the glorious chaos that is Israeli politics. 

After Harsh Editorial, Watchdog Group Says New York Times Has Anti-Netanyahu Obsession: Algemeiner, Mar. 18, 2014—The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) told The Algemeiner today that The New York Times has an anti-Netanyahu obsession.

 

                                                                    

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

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ISRAEL VOTES: DESPITE A POWERFUL U.S. CONGRESS SPEECH & TOUGH STANCE ON IRAN, BIBI IS UNFAIRLY BLAMED FOR ISRAEL’S WOES

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 

 

Contents:

 

Key Facts About Israel and its Election System:  Washington Post, Mar. 16, 2015— Voters will elect a 120-member parliament, or Knesset, Israel’s 20th.

It is All Netanyahu's Fault: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Mar. 13, 2015 — It is absolutely astonishing how one man can be responsible for so much misery. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: It is all his fault.

To Bibi or Not to Be: Shmuley Boteach, Algemeiner, Mar. 16, 2015 — I thought this title was clever (but feel free to roll your eyes), conveying as it does the belief of some that should Bibi lose this election, Israel cannot be.

A House Undivided: Israel's New Consensus Politics: Emanuele Ottolenghi, National Interest, Mar. 16, 2015 — Israelis go to the polls on March 17, and in a time-honored tradition, international pundits are hoping for a political earthquake.

 

On Topic Links

 

Israeli Elections: Decision Time (or Not): Natan B. Sachs, Brookings, Mar. 16, 2015

A Churchill for Our Times: Thomas Sowell, National Review, Mar. 17, 2015

Dysfunctional Likud: Gerald Steinberg, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 16, 2015

Election Day Israel 2015: Drybones Blog, Mar. 17, 2014

A Most Uninspiring Campaign: Gil Troy, Montreal Gazette, Mar. 14, 2015

                                                                                                                            

                   

KEY FACTS ABOUT ISRAEL AND ITS ELECTION SYSTEM                                                                  

Washington Post, Mar. 16, 2015

 

Voters will elect a 120-member parliament, or Knesset, Israel’s 20th. Citizens vote for party lists, not individual candidates. Seats are allocated in the Knesset according to the percentage of the national vote the parties win.

 

Who is running? There are 25 parties running. Key parties are the governing Likud Party, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who takes a hard line against the Palestinians and Iran; The Zionist Union, a joint list headed by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, which wants to resume negotiations with the Palestinians, repair ties with the White House and has emphasized economic issues; The Joint List, a union of Arab parties that is expected to drive up chronically low voter turnout among Israel’s Arab minority; Kulanu, led by Likud defector Moshe Kahlon, who has focused on the economy and set his sights on the Finance Ministry; Jewish Home, led by high-tech millionaire Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu’s chief rival for the support of West Bank settlers; Yesh Atid, led by former TV personality Yair Lapid, who is also promising relief for the struggling middle class. Two ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties could play key roles after the election. According to a 2014 law, a party must win 3.25 percent of the vote to be represented in parliament.

 

How is a government formed? In Israel’s 67-year history, no party has ever won an outright majority of 61 seats, and the country has always been governed by a coalition. After the vote, Israel’s president meets with party leaders to determine who has the best chance of forming a government. The president then taps the head of that party, usually but not necessarily parliament’s largest, to undertake that task. That person will have up to six weeks to form a coalition. If successful, he or she becomes prime minister; if not, the president chooses another party to try. The president could also ask the leaders of the two biggest parties to form a unity government.

 

What are the election-day logistics? There are 5,881,696 eligible voters. Most of the 10,119 polling stations across the country open at 7 a.m. (1 a.m. eastern) and close at 10 p.m. (4 p.m. eastern). Exit polls will be released immediately after voting ends, and official results will trickle in throughout the night. Voter turnout in the last election in 2013 was 67.8 percent. Election Day is a national holiday, and most workers have the day off.

 

What are Israel’s demographics? Population: 8.2 million, of whom 75 percent (6.2 million) are Jews, 20 percent (1.7 million) are Arabs and the rest are classified as “others,” most of them non-Jewish immigrants. Per capita GDP is $36,051.

 

                                                                       

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IT IS ALL NETANYAHU'S FAULT                                                                           

David M. Weinberg                                                                                                      

Israel Hayom, Mar. 13, 2015

 

It is absolutely astonishing how one man can be responsible for so much misery. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: It is all his fault. Netanyahu is to blame for the high cost of living in Israel. One can cavalierly hurl this accusation only by blithely ignoring Netanyahu's fundamental economic achievements.

 

The fact that Netanyahu has kept Israel's economy robustly healthy from a macro-economic perspective, despite the ravages of global economic crisis; the fact that he has kept unemployment and inflation at an unprecedented low, and GDP and foreign reserves high, despite great strains on the public purse; the fact that his governments introduced free day care and dental services and negative tax programs for the lower and middle classes, while simultaneously having to dramatically increase the military budget as the Arab world crumbled and new threats skyrocketed — these stark realities are not relevant.

 

Netanyahu is to blame for the fact that chocolate pudding desserts are more expensive in Israel than they are in Germany. Another political leader — any leader, socialist or populist — would have magically brought down the cost of chocolate pudding as well as the cost of housing for all young families in Israel while easily ensuring true economic stability and prosperity for Israel. It's so simple. Obviously, in a post-Netanyahu era no factories in Israel's south will find themselves in financial difficulty. And if they do, a different political party will be there to generously bail them out with plenty of public cash (and that won't come at the expense of the planned handouts to young middle class couples). It's so obvious and simple.

 

According to many hypocritical critics, Netanyahu is to blame for Iran's near nuclear status. He should have put his money where his mouth was and bombed Qom and Isfahan three years ago, when he had a chance, before U.S. President Barack Obama was re-elected. These are the same critics who admonished Netanyahu all along to work with the administration and not take independent military action. And these are the same critics who would accuse Netanyahu of inflaming the region and precipitating a broader conflict if he were to take military action against Iranian nuclear facilities. Either way, it's Netanyahu's fault. He is simply irresponsible and unreliable. Always has been and always will be.

 

Perhaps we should also blame Netanyahu for Obama's progressive and pro-Islamist worldview, which seeks to give Iran a role as a "very successful regional power"? (Yes, Obama actually said this recently). If only Netanyahu had been willing to concede land to the Palestinians, you know, Obama would have been tougher with the Iranians. The same goes for the (badly mislabeled) Arab Spring upheavals, and the consequent instability on Israel's southern and especially northern borders. If only Netanyahu had been more diplomatically accommodating, you know, the al-Qaida types who now inhabit Sinai and the Syrian Golan would have become sedate and satisfied neighbors.

 

But don't worry, once Netanyahu is out of office and more refined Israeli leaders take the helm, the lamb shall lie down with the lion and the radical Islamist monsters will retreat. Perhaps even Syrian President Bashar Assad will catch the "kinder, gentler" bug from Israel's new leaders and stop slaughtering his people. There is no peace with the Palestinians because of Netanyahu, right? Never mind that he froze settlements for a long time and was willing to negotiate major territorial compromises on the basis of the Obama-Kerry 1967-lines-with-land-swaps rubric. Never mind that the Palestinian Authority fled these negotiations, cut a unity deal with Hamas, and is running around the world seeking to demonize and criminalize Israel and to ram through unilateral "recognition" of Palestinian "statehood." Despite all this, Netanyahu gets the sole blame.

 

Netanyahu is to blame for tensions between Jewish and democratic principles that have come to the fore in recent years. It's not the fault of super-activist judges who have sought time and time again to sideline the Jewish underpinnings of our legal system, or of ultra-liberal attorney generals and legal advisers working to this end in lockstep with an unbalanced Supreme Court. It is Netanyahu who has unleashed dark demons of radical conservative thinking on such critical constitutional matters.

 

The fact that it was Avi Dichter and Tzipi Livni of Kadima who first introduced a Jewish nation-state bill into Knesset — a bill designed to anchor Israel's Jewish values in concrete constitutional form, worded in a way that was much more far-reaching than the version Netanyahu recently tried to advance — is conveniently ignored by the chattering classes. All's fair in the war on Netanyahu, and anything he touches is automatically retrograde or fascist.

 

The fact that the ultra-Orthodox are not serving in the Israeli army in sufficient numbers is Netanyahu's fault too. Of course, no Labor or Kadima-led government over the past 65 years did anything to arrest the mushrooming phenomenon of ultra-Orthodox non-service, nor did they ever make a serious attempt to amend the status quo in place since 1948 and to draft them. But that is not relevant. The responsibility for ultra-Orthodox draft-dodging lies solely with Netanyahu.

 

Wait! Didn't the outgoing Netanyahu government just pass a potentially-revolutionary haredi draft law? And isn't there a real danger that a new government led by opposition parties in coalition with the Ultra-Orthodox will roll back this important law? I guess that is not relevant in the overall gestalt that lays all ills at Netanyahu's doorstep.

 

My point is this: It has been a silly and nasty election season. Netanyahu's opponents have taken to ridiculously faulting him for the most far-fetched ills of this world, instead of accurately and intellectually critiquing him, in proportionate fashion, for his mistakes and weaknesses. All the hyperbolic blaming of Netanyahu ought to be taken with a grain of salt.                                         

                       

                                                           

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TO BIBI OR NOT TO BE                                                                                                    

Shmuley Boteach

Algemeiner, Mar. 16, 2015

 

I thought this title was clever (but feel free to roll your eyes), conveying as it does the belief of some that should Bibi lose this election, Israel cannot be. Of course no single person is indispensable, as Jewish history has proved repeatedly.

 

However, what concerns me most about Bibi’s opponents, should they win this election, is their opposition to Jewish communities in the West Bank. Israel can hardly survive another Gaza on its Western border. The only thing that can prevent this from happening is a robust Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria. So I regard this as an existential issue.

 

Then there’s the issue of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Bibi is condemned for being too bellicose, too argumentative, too paranoid, and too prickly in his relationship with President Obama. To all those who believe this, I remind you of the famous saying of baseball great Yogi Berra: “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” We who have fought alongside Bibi in the American media in his battle to bring an awareness of the dangers of Iran to the American people and its lawmakers have likewise been accused of fear mongering. But does one take a chance with a government like Iran?

 

The real question is whether Yitzchak Herzog and Tzipi Livni will have a better relationship with President Obama than Netanyahu has. No doubt they will. But only if they do not defy the President’s wishes, as Bibi has done. Had Netanyahu kowtowed to the President’s wishes, no doubt they too would have been best buds. So, if Herzog comes out against the President’s deal with Iran one can imagine the President will be as annoyed with him as he is with Bibi. The same is true if Herzog allows the expansion of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

 

So capitulation to President Obama’s wishes might be the price a new Israeli Prime Minister pays to be in the President’s good graces. This is a curious facet of the President’s relationship with Israel — especially in that it does not pertain to other world leaders. Last week The New York Times reported that President Obama feels close to President Erdogan of Turkey, at least he did up until recently. Now, Erdogan has certainly never listened to much of what the President has wanted. He has not closed the border to Syria. He has not joined in the fight against ISIS. He has not even allowed Turkish air bases to be used in the campaign against ISIS. Still, the President has the cordial relationship with Erdogan that he does have with Bibi and which he will presumably not have with Herzog if he does not accede to the President’s demands.

 

It seems equally curious that Israeli voters will choose a Prime Minister based on his relationship with President Obama, when our President only has about a year and a half left to his Presidency. What could President Obama accomplish in that period?

 

Well, he can sign the catastrophic deal with Iran. That would be about the worst of it. As far as getting Israel to sign a final-status treaty with the Palestinians, that seems highly unlikely. Hamas remains an unrepentant terror group committed to a genocide of the Jewish People. Mahmoud Abbas remains an unaccountable dictator, and who seems to have lost the mandate of his people now that he’s in the 10th year of a four-year term. So, who exactly is Israel going to sign the treaty with?

 

Also, will the President really convince the American people that a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians is our country’s most important Middle Eastern priority when ISIS is running around chopping people’s heads off and Syria, Libya, and Yemen continue to totally implode?

 

In the larger scheme, as well, it seems odd that any country would choose a leader based first and foremost on how they get along with the leader of another country. Shouldn’t the priority be to choose who’s best for your own country?

 

I recognize that many Israelis believe that Israel’s most important security issue is its relationship with the United States. And indeed, my country, the United States, is benevolent, loving, and supportive of Israel. But leaning too instinctively on America seems antithetical to one of Zionism’s primary values — that of Jewish independence. As Netanyahu beautifully argued at the UN, what makes Israel different for Jews is that — for the first time in 2,000 years — Jews are defending themselves. They are not dependent on a Prince, a Pope, or a President for their protection. They are not supplicants. On the contrary, they have built a world-class defense establishment, and are the ultimate guarantors of Jewish safety.

 

And besides, it’s not just the President who determines the relationship between the U.S. and Israel. There is also Congress, which, under this President, is becoming more assertive and vocal, as we’ve seen with the recent letter of 47 Senators to the leadership of Iran.

 

Tuesday’s election is being portrayed as a referendum on Netanyahu. And perhaps it is. But of much greater importance: whether Israelis vote for Bibi or for Bougie, this election will be a referendum on how Israel sees itself. The choices are stark. Israel is either a nation whose first consideration must be what will please the American president. Or, Israel is a sovereign nation whose first consideration must be what is good for the Israeli people, even as Israel pays homage to its great friend in the West.

 

To be or not to be is the ultimate existential question. And in 2015, that question for Israel is more stark than ever before.                                      

                                                                     

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A HOUSE UNDIVIDED: ISRAEL'S NEW CONSENSUS POLITICS                                                  

Emanuele Ottolenghi                            

National Interest, Mar. 16, 2015

 

Israelis go to the polls on March 17, and in a time-honored tradition, international pundits are hoping for a political earthquake. This ballot, they say, will finally and completely determine whether Israel ever makes peace with the Palestinians, whether its inter-communal tension will devolve into civil war and whether it can stop an Iranian nuclear bomb before it is too late. However, it is likely that, like most of Israel’s preceding elections, this one will bring incremental rather than apocalyptic change, and Israel’s domestic, regional and foreign situation will remain largely the same as it had been before.

 

This is not to say that Israeli elections are inconsequential. The rise of Menachem Begin and his Likud party to power in 1977 brought an end to five and a half decades of Labor-movement dominance before and after Israel’s independence. The 1977 upset—known to Israelis as the Ma’apach, or upheaval—inaugurated a 24-year period of competition between left and right, where right-of-center coalitions battled with their left-of-center counterparts, and during a six-year stalemate, had to cohabit under grand coalitions aptly named national-unity governments.

 

The coalition dynamics of that period may appear preferable to the current proliferation of personality cults, short-lived splinter parties and ad-hoc alliances, but it also reflects greater polarization within Israeli politics than at present. During that era, Israel witnessed the rise of the settlement movement and its polar opposite, Peace Now; it launched the 1982 Lebanon War, survived a financial crisis and hyperinflation; and confronted the First Palestinian Intifada, or uprising (1987-1993).

 

The 1992 elections restored Labor to power and ushered in direct negotiations between Israel’s Labor-led coalition and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The issue was so divisive, however, that it dominated elections in the 1990s to the exclusion of other issues. Israel lived through the drama of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination and, in what became known as the Second Intifada, suffered through the first wave of mass suicide terror attacks inside its population centers.

 

Ultimately, the Oslo Accords’ peace dividends were elusive. The traumatic impact of the Second Intifada still accompanies Israel’s collective psyche, and the 2001 and 2003 elections delivered a sound defeat to the pro-Oslo leadership. The collapse of negotiations and the Second Intifada undid Israel’s left but did not move Israel to the right. In fact, the dynamics of Israeli politics have since had one constant element in common—gravitation towards the political center.

 

The prevalence of right-of-center politicians and coalitions is deceptive. For starters, Israelis have reached a near wall-to-wall consensus on the enormity of the Iranian nuclear threat. Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech in 2009—where he grudgingly accepted the notion of a Palestinian state—reads almost like the Labor platform that carried Rabin to victory in 1992 and formed the prelude to the Oslo process. If many voters moved to the right, in other words, it is also because right-wing politicians have met them halfway in the center.

 

A victory for the left-of-center alliance of ex-ministers Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog may change some, but not all, of the parameters of Israel’s regional and foreign policy. Some of their likely partners—the Yesh Atid party of the former celebrity newscaster Yair Lapid, Kulanu of ex-Likud minister Moshe Kahlon, and at least one religious party—are the same interlocutors that Netanyahu would court in his own efforts to form a coalition.

 

New parties have risen, triumphed, and disintegrated so quickly that it is hard to keep track of mergers and splinters. Despite the erosion of support for both Likud and Labor, Israeli politics have developed around a new national consensus that wants cautious leaders to navigate the geostrategic horizon prudently. Israelis are keen to reach a compromise with the Palestinians but despair of having one given ongoing Palestinian incitement and terror, the presence of Iranian proxies at Israel’s borders, and regional turmoil left unchecked by a retreating American superpower.

 

Increasingly, Israelis regard more ideological proponents of the settlements project with suspicion, but are loath to renounce strategic settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley to a Palestinian society increasingly dominated by Islamic extremists. Crucially, they have little faith in the Palestinian Authority’s ability to prevent a West Bank a replay of the scenario that followed the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip ten years ago—with thousands of rockets indiscriminately launched at its civilian centers. That is why, ultimately, whoever wins will have to embrace that consensus and govern from the center.

 

There’s the rub. Those who view Israel’s elections as a clash of titans on which the fate of Zionism depends fail to see how stable the Israeli political system is. The truth is less exciting and more mundane…         

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

 

Contents

                                                                                     

 

On Topic

 

Israeli Elections: Decision Time (or Not): Natan B. Sachs, Brookings, Mar. 16, 2015 —One day away from the Israeli elections, the race is too close to predict; when the polls close Tuesday night, it may still be too close to call.

A Churchill for Our Times: Thomas Sowell, National Review, Mar. 17, 2015 —When Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress on March 3rd, it was the third time he had done so.

Dysfunctional Likud: Gerald Steinberg, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 16, 2015—Regardless of the results of the elections on Tuesday and the coalition negotiations that will follow, it is clear that the Likud, as a national political party, is largely dysfunctional.

Election Day Israel 2015: Drybones Blog, Mar. 17, 2014

A Most Uninspiring Campaign: Gil Troy, Montreal Gazette, Mar. 14, 2015 —Two videos frame the March 17 Israeli elections.

 

                                                                    

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

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Contents:

 

Every Vote Counts in This Crucial Election: Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, Mar. 12, 2015 — The wretched state of Israeli politics and this unnecessary election have alienated the majority of voters.

What Israel’s Upcoming Elections Are Really About: Liel Leibovitz, Tablet, Mar. 13, 2015 — What are next week’s Israeli elections about?

Why Does the Arab World Long for Labor to Win?: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Mar. 10, 2015 — Years of research spent studying Arab discourse, media and culture – in the original Arabic – have led me to the incontrovertible conclusion that most of the Arab population hopes the day will come when Herzog is prime minister of Israel …

#IsraElex: From Ghetto Politics to the Hangover: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 15, 2015 — Israel’s elections are upon us.

 

On Topic Links

 

Israeli Elections: Drybones Blog, Mar. 13, 2015

What a Herzog Foreign Policy Would Look Like: Raphael Gellar, Realclearworld, Mar. 16, 2015

Resist the Pressure: Dore Gold, Algemeiner, Mar. 13, 2014

Obscured Achievements: Dr. Gabi Avital, Israel Hayom, Mar. 15, 2015

                                                                                                                                      

                   

EVERY VOTE COUNTS IN THIS CRUCIAL ELECTION                                                                                     

Isi Leibler                                                                                                           

Candidly Speaking, Mar. 12, 2015

 

The wretched state of Israeli politics and this unnecessary election have alienated the majority of voters. With the exception of those voting Meretz, Habayit Hayehudi, and the haredi and Arab parties, most Israelis will be holding their noses and voting unenthusiastically for the party that they feel least offends them. Opinion polls can be very misleading, especially in the absence of compulsory voting, and the results could well present major surprises. The reality is that the primitive primary system by which Likud and Labor (running on the Zionist Union ticket) choose their Knesset candidates has enabled well-organized fringe groups to promote the candidacy of radicals who do not share the mainstream view of their respective parties. Labor’s current list includes post-Zionists who condemn the national anthem as racist, call on mothers not to send their children to the army and openly declare that they are not Zionist. Similarly, in the Likud there are a number of candidates whose views would not be shared by the party’s mainstream.

 

This is the context that has led to the rise of the “centrist” parties which has impacted on the dysfunctionality and instability of the entire political system. These parties — Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu and Kulanu — are politically amorphous and lack genuine ideologies. Despite their flow of predominantly negative political babble and raucous electioneering, their principal role is to represent vehicles for their leaders to ruthlessly exploit in order to promote their own personal political aspirations. Yair Lapid, Avigdor Lieberman and Moshe Kahalon handpick their candidates and have all made it abundantly clear that the only criterion for joining a government headed by Likud or Labor will be the position that they can personally leverage for themselves.

 

The situation becomes more complex because the new united Arab party list is likely to represent a formidable voting bloc, obtaining as many as 12 to 15 Knesset seats, even possibly becoming head of the opposition if a broad government is formed. And if, as current polls suggest, Likud and the Zionist Union emerge with very close results, the Arab bloc could for the first time influence the outcome by recommending that President Reuven Rivlin give the Zionist Union the first option of forming a government. There are also concerns that whichever government is elected, the haredim could yet again hold the balance of power, enabling them to neutralize former legislative initiatives to gradually integrate them into the workforce and engage them in sharing the burdens of the nation. They would then invariably discourage their supporters to work and would revert to extorting funds and living on welfare, which would ultimately result in an economic crisis.

 

The most distressing aspect of this election has been the lack of any serious debate on the crucial issues currently facing Israel. Indeed, the only item that has dominated the media has been the “anyone but Bibi” campaign, comprising an unprecedented mudslinging and personal demonization of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. No other Western prime minister has ever been subjected to such petty and vicious scrutiny and such a vindictive campaign of defamation and slander. His wife was portrayed as a witch from Salem and his household culinary preferences, rebates on recycled bottles, excessive house cleaning and petty cash expenses have been front-page headlines. That the expenses of former President Shimon Peres were 20 times more and that none of his predecessors were subjected to such scrutiny speaks for itself. The visceral personal hatred of Netanyahu by Noni Mozes, the publisher of the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, who formerly championed Ehud Olmert, is highlighted daily on the front pages and represents a disgusting example of the depths to which the media has descended.

 

The prime minister has antagonized many people but it is difficult to fault his responsible leadership during the course of the Gaza war. The opposition has no shame when it condemns him for failing to finish off Hamas. Similarly, despite loud disapproval, his congressional address was a huge success and certainly did not undermine Israel’s relationship with the U.S. as predicted. But regrettably, it is Netanyahu ad persona who is being attacked rather than his policies. Regarding socio-economic issues such as housing and inequality, both Netanyahu and Herzog have pledged to bring about reforms. But many Israelis seem to be unaware or unconcerned about the fact that over the next three or four years, the government will undoubtedly face extraordinary security challenges and be obliged to take decisions that will have a major impact on the long-term future of the Jewish state.

 

We are a tranquil oasis in a region engulfed by the most terrible barbarism, and unfortunately there are no signs on the horizon of any easing of the carnage and upheavals. We must strive to strengthen our relations with Egypt and gird ourselves for the possibility of renewed terrorist initiatives emanating from Iran, ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas and even the Palestinian Authority, which shares the same objectives as Hamas. Beyond this, we are aware that for the remainder of President Barack Obama’s term in office, his administration will be determined to continue its pressure on Israel to withdraw to indefensible borders and make further concessions that could have profound long-term repercussions impacting on the security of our children and grandchildren.

Voters should understand that the composition of the next government will have major ramifications on these crucial issues. They should also take into account that recent precedents in Israel have demonstrated that, in the absence of cabinet responsibility, overall policies are largely determined by the prime minister with coalition partners having little influence over major decisions…                                                        

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

                                                                       

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WHAT ISRAEL’S UPCOMING ELECTIONS ARE REALLY ABOUT                                                                            

Liel Leibovitz

Tablet, Mar. 13, 2015

 

What are next week’s Israeli elections about? If they were about security and the nation’s eternal existential jitters, they would, presumably, feature candidates with a significant range of proposals and ideas. It’s hard to judge a political outfit by the spongy language it puts forward just before an election, but if you want a taste of the essential sameness of Israel’s largest parties, here’s a pop quiz: Which party vows to keep any future Palestinian state permanently disarmed, safeguard Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people, rejecting the Palestinian right of return and keeping the blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria under Israeli sovereignty? That would be the fellows on the left, sounding every bit like the fellows on the right. Is it any wonder that the Israeli voter is bummed out?

 

One could, of course, make any number of reasonable arguments about the differences between Netanyahu and the others, but none are quite as stark as anything the Anyone-But-Bibi crowd would like to believe. Netanyahu, it’s true, is an enthusiastic privatizer, and his policies have helped create a class of fantastically wealthy Israelis and land Israel the No. 5  spot in the list of countries with the widest gap between rich and poor, right behind the United States. But rumors of the Israeli economy’s demise have been greatly exaggerated: In the last quarter of 2014, it grew a robust 7.2 percent, a number that’s all the more impressive if you consider the massive blow to Israel’s economy caused by last summer’s war in Gaza. The average salary also continues to climb, and if you’re not one for economic abstractions, consider this: While the salary of the average American teacher dropped 2 percent since 2000, that of Israeli teacher’s spiked 54 percent in the same period. These are nice numbers to look at, but Netanyahu’s detractors can take comfort in knowing that, for the most part, this growth happened regardless of who was occupying the prime minister’s office.

 

So, if neither security nor the economy is at issue, what is? A glimpse at a possible answer was on display last week, when tens of thousands of Netanyahu’s detractors congregated in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square for a rally that organizers described as an apolitical expression of popular sentiment. One of the speakers at the rally, artist Yair Garbuz, had this to say: “They told us again and again that the racists and those who curse don’t represent Israeli society in its entirety, that they’re only a small group. They said that the thieves and the bribe-takers were only a small group, and those who are corrupt and decadent and piggish only a small group. And those out to destroy democracy only a small group, and those who think democracy is the tyranny of the majority—only a small group. Those who kiss good-luck charms, those idol-worshipers who pray by the graves of righteous rabbis, only a small group. Even the sexual molesters and the rapists are only a small group.”

 

The point was hardly lost on the protesters huddled in the square: Garbuz was being ironic, as the small group he was talking about wasn’t small at all and included more or less all of those who voted for Bibi. Garbuz’s listeners applauded his speech, presumably because they agreed with him that when it came to the elections, and to Israel in general, there was an us and a them, one group that sanctified reason and believed in science and progress and another resigned to more primitive stuff like prayer and faith, both of which were shameful enough to merit being spoken of in the same breath as rape and thievery.

 

The requisite media storm soon broke out, with some noting that the Israeli left had a rich tradition of making insensitive speeches on the cusp of national elections. In 1981, toward the end of a very contentious electoral campaign, Dudu Topaz, a famous Israeli entertainer, stood on the exact same stage Garbuz had occupied last week and, speaking at a rally against then Prime Minister Menachem Begin, called the Likud’s supporters chakhchakhim, a derogatory term loaded with racist connotations that translates loosely as guidos, suggesting that only inferior Mizrachim came out for Begin while the cream of the crop, the white Ashkenazi Israelis, were smart enough to vote Labor.

 

Like Topaz’s sorry expression, Garbuz’s, too, is easy to disregard. He represents no political party, and it’s unlikely that he truly believes that rapists, observant Jews, and racist thugs all occupy the same spot at the center of some demonic Venn diagram. But the sentiment at the core of his cri de coeur is hard to ignore, and it is likely the same one that animated so many on the Israeli left in 1981 and long before—the belief that the kippah-clad barbarians were at the gates and that it was the primary duty of educated, well-mannered, peaceful liberals to keep them away from the seats of power. Forcefully expressing this idea earlier this week was Yehoshua Sobol, one of Israel’s most celebrated playwrights, who took to the radio to support Garbuz’s statement. Anyone who kissed a mezuzah, he said in an interview, was stupid.

 

And here, quite possibly, is where the dark heart of next week’s political contest lies: It isn’t so much between left and right, at least not in the traditional sense of two diametrically opposed camps promoting a clearly delineated worldview. In the past decade and a half, Israelis have voted in leaders left, right, and center; all did more or less the same thing: maintain a Jewish presence in the West Bank while striving to somehow make the peace talks with the Palestinians work. When it comes to policy, then, Israeli voters may be excused if they feel a slight sense of vertigo—even a fierce Netanyahu critic like author David Grossman recently admitted that he saw no alternative to the prime minister’s Iran policy. Instead, as the outrage over Garbuz’s comments implies, Israelis seem to be aligning themselves according to a different dichotomy, one that is much harder to decipher. It’s not precisely the mostly Ashkenazi left versus the largely Mizrachi right. Nor is it exactly between the cosmopolitan secularists and the nationalistic faithful. But it’s somewhere in that zone, a fight between two principal feelings that are having a hard time hardening into coherent policies and clear guidelines.

 

Which, perhaps, is only normal for a state just three generations removed from its miraculous birth. The founders shed blood and raised the flag. Their sons united Jerusalem and kept annihilation at bay. What might the grandsons do for an encore? The question is profound, and it transcends next week’s elections and the petty calculations of pollsters. To answer it, Israelis would have to consider not only their political allegiances but their deepest ideological ones. They would have to figure out what to make of Zionism, a conviction most of them share but that—six decades after achieving the goal of establishing a national homeland for the Jews in Eretz Yisrael—is in dire need of rethinking. To extricate themselves from the morass of partisan politics, Israelis need to ask better, bolder questions, not about which pale contender they wish to place at the helm of their ship but about which stars they wish to follow as they sail on.

                                                                    

 

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WHY DOES THE ARAB WORLD LONG FOR LABOR TO WIN?                                                           

Dr. Mordechai Kedar                                                                                                                             

Arutz Sheva, Mar. 10, 2015

 

Years of research spent studying Arab discourse, media and culture – in the original Arabic – have led me to the incontrovertible conclusion that most of the Arab population hopes the day will come when Herzog is prime minister of Israel, for that day – at least according to the viewpoint of most Arabs –  is the beginning of the end of the state of Israel .The reason is simple: Herzog is seen as a person of weak character, unimpressive and spineless. He did not serve as a combat officer and was, instead, an officer in my unit, 8200, which is made up of brilliant nerds with the obligatory round-framed eyeglasses.

 

Herzog's gentle way of speaking and the unconfrontational terminology he uses, those that make him attractive to Israelis who want to think like Europeans and Americans, have convinced the Arab world that Herzog is the only way to soften Israel enough to step all over it and turn it into a dishrag that can be wrung into oblivion. The Middle East's agenda is set by stereotypes and images, and the image Herzog projects is so weak that any threats Israel might pronounce would be met with derision. The distance from that derision to all-out war is a short one. In the Middle East, anyone who proclaims non-stop that he wants peace, projects the image of someone who is afraid of war because he is weak, thereby awakening the militaristic adrenaline glands of his neighbors, who then resemble nothing so much as eagles and vultures hovering over a dying cow.

 

And the opposite is just as true: anyone who radiates power, strength, threat and danger enjoys comparative tranquillity because the bullies leave him alone. This is the reason the Arabs hated and respected Ariel Sharon and Moshe Dayan – they were afraid of them. Sadat made peace with Israel because he could not defeat the Jewish state despite the surprise factor he had in opening the Yom Kippur War and his early success in crossing the Suez Canal.  Hussein also made peace with Israel, hoping it would use its power to help him face the Baath party of Syria and Iraq. Arafat agreed to a hudabiyya peace – that is, a temporary "peace" for as long as the enemy is too strong to defeat – after the failure of the first intifada.

 

Yitzchak Herzog at the helm of the government is the sweetest dream the Arab world can imagine, because it is proof that Israeli society is tired, exhausted, lacking the motivation to protect the country and ready to pay any price for a paper  that has the word "peace" written on it.  Herzog at the helm of the government will be subject to pressures from the Arab world – and from Obama's White House – because he creates the impression that "this time it will work", or shall I say, "Yes, we can". The pressures he will undergo will be much greater than those exerted on Netanyahu, because the White House and the Arab world will sense that his days as Prime Minister are numbered and therefore, they must make every effort to squeeze as much out of him as they can for the short period that Israelis will let him function before waking up to realize the imminent catastrophe and removing him from his seat as they did to Ehud Barak when he gave in to Arafat.

 

Yitzchak Herzog may bring about harmonious relations with the White House and perhaps even with the angst-consumed leaders of Europe, but he will bring a war of blood, fire and tears to the area called the Middle East where only those who are truly powerful, threatening and determined to deter their enemies survive. Let us continue with MK Tzipi Livni, Herzog's rotation partner in what the two self-titled "The Zionist Camp": Tzipi is the other aspect of the sweet dreams of the Arab world, a woman born and raised in a courageous Revisionist family, a home filled with healthy and strong Zionist principles. She began her political career in the Likud, but became more and more spineless, deteriorating from party to party, until she joined up with the other leading invertebrate, Yitzchak Herzog.

 

To the Arab world, Livni symbolizes and represents the dispirited and weary Israeli, those who have had enough of the struggle for survival and are willing to offer their necks to the slaughterer hoping that he will butcher them gently if they speak politely. The internet tells us that in the eighties, Livni was actually a Mossad agent in Europe, and several Arab websites tell of the "special services" she did for the state of Israel.These services are understood in the West as undercover and secret, but in the Middle East the expression is interpreted in a totally different fashion. We can imagine how they will react on the web in the Arab world and what our image will be if she becomes prime minister…

 

However, the problem with Tzipi Livni is not just about her image, because in her case, our neighbors have proof that Livni hasn't the foggiest idea of how to navigate the complex, thorny paths of the Middle East: she was Foreign Minister during the Second Lebanon War, and was the Israeli architect of Security Council Resolution 1701 that allowed the Hezbollah – already clear in the phrasing she espoused – to renew and enlarge its rocket arsenal. I would expect someone with a law degree to comprehend the built-in failure in the way the resolution was phrased, but Tzipi Livni did not even reach this minimal legal test. Is there anyone in his right mind who would hire her to prepare a contract for renting out his apartment?…

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

                                                                       

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#ISRAELEX: FROM GHETTO POLITICS TO THE HANGOVER                                                                        

Seth J. Frantzman                                                          

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 15, 2015

 

Israel’s elections are upon us. Now that all the dirty tricks, campaign propaganda and other ups and downs are in the past it is worthwhile to consider what hasn’t been revealed. Here are five aspects of the Israeli elections that the pollsters, pundits and politicos missed.

More than half of the electorate is made up of zombies. It doesn’t matter what a political party does, they are attached to it. They will continue to vote, year after year, for a party that is demonstrably working against their own interests. They don’t ask questions of their elected officials. They are never outraged. The Israeli electorate faces real financial troubles and yet it does not demand answers of its politicians. Whether it is sub-standard schools or rising tuition costs, housing, or the price of everyday products, there is a collective shrug of the shoulders. This election more than most illustrated the fact that the politicians did not have to provide answers and clear policies for a laundry list of issues. Whether it was conscription to the army, civil marriage, peace with the Palestinians, there was virtually no frank discussion of the various parties’ strategies. Issues such as unrecognized Beduin villages in the Negev or the issue of African migrants were left untouched. As long as some of the parties can count on the slavish devotion of voters, they will never provide an answer or come up with a plan.

Since the 1970s Israeli voters have been on a never- ending quest for a new centrist party. It has the air of a magical quest, at the end of which is a promised “new politics” that never emerges. Over the years parties like Third War, Shinui, Kadima and Yesh Atid achieved impressive results with upwards of 20 percent of the vote. Yet their long-term achievement is marginal. The electorate likes “new politics” and is forever moving from one of these new centrist parties to another. The new Koolanu Party seemed like it would eclipse Yesh Atid, becoming the new “center” in this election. That hasn’t happened, but it still shows that around 20 percent of the voters are hungering for this new center.

But what do the centrist parties bring voters? Their lists tend to be more diverse than the old parties, usually including more minorities and women, and representing a broader cross-section of society. This is because the parties are generally undemocratic; their leaders cherry-pick interesting individuals to staff the lists. The 20 percent of the electorate who vote for these parties tend to be slightly better educated than average and more urban (as revealed by looking at the locales they come from). But they choose parties that are weak on ideology and strong on promises. These centrist parties end up being the plaything of the old Left and Right; they get some plum position in the coalition, but are frustrated in their attempts to make real changes by the Old Guard who fear that the new politics, if it were allowed to succeed, would make the old parties and their zombie voters irrelevant…

A unique element of the Israeli political system is how balkanized it is. Each ethnic and religious group has its own party. Like districts in other democracies that are controlled by one political party (so-called safe seats), the creation of these electoral ghettos is good for the parties that have a monopoly on them and bad for the voters and the country in the long run. Is it good that there are Meretz kibbutzim, Labor kibbutzim, Shas neighborhoods and United Torah Judaism neighborhoods? The positive aspect is that it guarantees some diversity in the Knesset, so that the interests of smaller minority groups are represented. But it feeds racism and stereotypes. In early March artist Yair Gerboz gave an offensive speech at a Tel Aviv anti-Netanyahu rally where he accused right-wing voters of being “amulet kissers…bowers at the graves of saints,” a reference to them being more traditional and religious…                                                            

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

           

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On Topic

 

Israeli Elections: Drybones Blog, Mar. 13, 2015

What a Herzog Foreign Policy Would Look Like: Raphael Gellar, Realclearworld, Mar. 16, 2015—Days before millions of Israelis head to the election booths, a Channel 2 poll published Friday night revealed that the Zionist Union led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livini is set to win 26 seats.

Resist the Pressure: Dore Gold, Algemeiner, Mar. 13, 2014—There are increasing indications that Western powers will seek to renew Israeli-Palestinian negotiations right after the Israeli elections.

Obscured Achievements: Dr. Gabi Avital, Israel Hayom, Mar. 15, 2015 —It is said that the truth is generally the rule of thumb for average citizens.

              

              

                

 

                                                                    

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

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ISRAELI ELECTION BUILDUP IS DOMINATED BY NETANYAHU’S CONGRESS SPEECH & ROW WITH OBAMA

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 

 

Contents:

 

Deadlock Between the Likud and the Zionist Union Continues: Manfred Gerstenfeld, CIJR, Feb. 25, 2015 — Over the past week, the political debate became heated but remained unfocused.

Netanyahu’s True Electoral Rival: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 19, 2015 — Officially, the election on March 17 is among Israelis.

No One’s Talking About the Palestinian Question: Father Raymond J. De Souza, National Post, Feb. 25, 2015— On Sunday evening, an 18-year-old Palestinian began stabbing 27-year-old Avraham Goldstein, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, near Jerusalem’s City Hall.

In Search of Israeli Leadership: Charles Bybelezer, CIJR, Feb. 23, 2014— With the election cycle in full swing, it has become apparent that Israelis are seriously limited in their choices.

 

On Topic Links

 

United Israeli Front Against Agreement With Iran: Tom Dolev, Jerusalem Online, Feb. 24, 2015

The Appalling Talk of Boycotting Netanyahu: Alan M. Dershowitz, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 23, 2014

Is Obama Stirring up Anti-Semitism?: Michael Freund, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 25, 2015

The Palestinians and Israeli Elections: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 10, 2015

Likud, Zionist Union Spar After Jerusalem Stabbing Attack: Lazar Berman, Times of Israel , Feb. 23, 2015

                                                                       

 

DEADLOCK BETWEEN THE LIKUD AND THE ZIONIST UNION CONTINUES                                                    

Manfred Gerstenfeld

CIJR, Feb. 25, 2015

 

Over the past week, the political debate became heated but remained unfocused. There was a brief moment of unity after MK Uri Orbach of Bayit Yehudi and Minister of Pensioner’s Affairs passed away at the age of 54. He was eulogized by politicians of many parties across the board. The debate over Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to the US Congress continued. To avoid having it become election propaganda, the Chairman of the Elections Committee, Supreme Court Judge Salim Joubran, decided that the speech will not be broadcast live in Israel. A delay of five minutes will enable broadcasting companies to cut out any elements they would consider to be propaganda.  The speech will be followed online in real time, thus the measure remains largely symbolic.

 

In view of the fragmented and often low-level debates, President Reuven Rivlin said at the Institute for National Security Studies conference that the candidates for prime minister should focus on the more important issues. He mentioned the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, security threats, the economic situation and the treatment of minorities. In view of Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to the US Congress, Rivlin remarked that Israelis have the right to hear what Netanyahu has to say first, and hear it in Hebrew. The Supreme Court overruled the Central Elections Committee’s disqualifications of MK Haneen Zoabi and Yahad candidate Baruch Marzel.  Eight judges voted in favor of reinstating them, and only one voted against.  Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other right-wing MKs stated that letting Zoabi run for the Knesset was akin to supporting terrorism.

 

The marginal issue of the Prime Minister’s home expenses became one of the most discussed topics of the week. The State Comptroller’s office published a report on the expenses of the Prime Minister’s residence, which, from 2009 to 2011, rose from NIS 1.8 million to 3.1 million. In 2013 they declined to 2.4 million. The report also mentioned several potentially criminal issues related to these expenses.  The Attorney General will now have to decide whether or not to have the police probe the issue.  Likud minister Yuval Steinitz said that, “in 2012, [President] Peres’ household expenditures were 20 times as much as Netanyahu’s.” Steinitz questioned the timing of the report, the more so as the State Comptroller had never investigated the residential expenses of any previous prime ministers. Steinitz added, “Perhaps the comptroller gave in to pressure from the media.” In response to the criticism, the Prime Minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu invited a well-known Israeli interior designer to visit the residence and testify that it was not without its problems. This visit was filmed and put online,  which led to further criticism of various kinds. Former domestic intelligence Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin wrote on Facebook that, "filming the Prime Minister's residence is a serious breach of security.” He added that, "every intelligence service or foreign terrorist organization would pay a fortune to get all those details."

 

The sniping between the parties continued. Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said that Israel would be in a better position to improve the upcoming agreement between Iran and the West if Prime Minister Netanyahu had not caused the deterioration of relations between Israel and the US.  It was a doubtful comment, as the US President Barack Obama has, on multiple occasions and for many years, been whitewashing extreme crimes coming out of the world’s Muslim communities. Zionist Union leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, along with their security executives, visited the periphery of Gaza. Their “security outlook would be based on defense, deterrence and changing our strategy to initiating and building a future and a horizon,” said Herzog. He added that Gaza remains a “ticking time bomb, and Netanyahu failed against Hamas.” Netanyahu responded in a speech in Ashkelon and called Livni “a danger to the state.” He said that Livni claimed that she would not negotiate with Hamas, yet she went to visit Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, only a few days before he signed a unity agreement with Hamas.

 

The Likud has been rather successful in drawing viewers for two of its videos on line. The first one was called the ‘Bibisitter”, where Netanyahu presents himself as a babysitter to a young couple who are going out for an evening. Bibi tells the couple that they can choose between him or Herzog and Livni. The couple answered that in the latter case, it would be their children that would have to babysit Herzog, rather than the reverse, while Livni would leave in the middle. The latter refers to the fact that Livni has been a candidate of four different political parties — the Likud, Kadima, Hatnuah and the Zionist Union — throughout her various election campaigns. The second Likud clip is called Pizza Buji, a play on Herzog’s nickname “Buji”. It had close to 500,000 views within 12 hours. A young man orders a pizza and finds out that it comes with a side order of Tzipi Livni, which the young man does not want. It presents Livni as a liability to the Zionist Union. Herzog wants to debate Netanyahu directly, but Netanyahu is only willing to do so if Livni also participates, as the agreement between Livni and Herzog is that she will replace him midterm should he be elected as prime minister.

 

The social media network further fragments the election campaigns and makes it increasingly difficult to keep track of developments. This the more so as individual candidates also promote messages in their own field of expertise on their Facebook sites. In the meantime, Herzog has bolstered the Zionist Union’s campaign team with Reuven Adler, an experienced advertiser, who worked closely with the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Polls keep contradicting each other. While there are shifts within various blocs, there are hardly any between them. The Likud, Israel Beiteinu and Bayit Yehudi in the Knesset currently have 43 seats, and most polls give them a combined 41-43 seats. The Zionist Union and Meretz have 27 seats in the current Knesset, and according to the polls, may perhaps gain 1 or 2 seats. Centrist party Yesh Atid currently has 19 seats. The polls say that it may have to share with the other centrist party, Kahlon-led Koolanu, to garner up to 20 seats. The three Orthodox parties may share the 18 seats that Shas and United Torah Judaism currently hold. The United Arab List may gain 1 seat over and above the 11 it holds at present.

 

Polls occasionally ask questions about the public’s favorites for particular minister posts. A Walla poll found that Kahlon was preferred as finance minister by 34% of the respondents, followed by the Zionist Union’s Manuel Trajtenberg with 17% and Lapid with 13%. Surprisingly, Livni was found to be the preferred candidate for foreign minister with 24%, followed by the Likud’s Gilad Erdan with 18%, and Liberman with 17%. Lapid came in with 14% and Koolanu’s Michael Oren at 7%.

                                                           

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NETANYAHU’S TRUE ELECTORAL RIVAL                                                                                                

Caroline Glick                                                                                                     

Jerusalem Post, Feb. 19, 2015

 

Officially, the election on March 17 is among Israelis. Depending on how we vote, either Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will remain in office and form the next government led by his Likud party, or Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni will form a government. But unofficially, a far greater electoral drama is unfolding. The choice is not between Netanyahu and Herzog/Livni. It is between Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama. As the White House sees it, if Herzog/Livni form the next government, then Jerusalem will dance to Obama’s tune. If Netanyahu is reelected, then the entire edifice of Obama’s Middle East policy may topple and fall. Secretary of State John Kerry made clear the administration’s desire to topple Netanyahu last spring during his remarks before the Trilateral Commission. It was during that memorable speech that Kerry libeled Israel, claiming that we would automatically and naturally become an apartheid state if we didn’t give Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria to the PLO, Jew free, as quickly as possible. Despite Israel’s venality, Kerry held out hope. In his words, “if there is a change of government [in Israel], or a change of heart, something will happen.”

 

Shortly after Kerry gave his Israel apartheid speech, his Middle East mediator Martin Indyk attacked Israel and the character of the Israeli people in an astounding interview to Yediot Aharonot. Among other things, Indyk hinted that to force Israel to make concessions demanded by the PLO, the Palestinians may need to launch another terror war. Indyk also threatened that the Palestinians will get their state whether Israel agrees to their terms or not. In his words, “They will get their state in the end – whether through violence or by turning to international organizations.”  Indyk made his statements as an unnamed US official. When his identity was exposed, he was forced to resign his position. Following his departure from government service he returned to his previous position as vice president of the Brookings Institution and the director of its foreign policy program. Last September, The New York Times reported that the Brookings Institute received a $14.8 million, four-year donation from Qatar, the chief financier of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

This week, Indyk was back in Israel to speak at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies. There he provided us with a picture of what we can expect from the Obama administration in its remaining two years in office if Netanyahu forms the next government. On the Palestinian front, Indyk warned that Israel shouldn’t be worried about the Palestinians getting an anti-Israel resolution passed in the UN Security Council. Rather, it can expect that the US will join with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council to pass a resolution “against Israel’s will” that will “lay out the principle of a two-state solution.” As Indyk intimated, Israel can avoid this fate if it elects a Herzog/Livni government. Such a government, he indicated, will preemptively give in to all of the Palestinians demands and so avoid a confrontation with the US and its colleagues at the Security Council. Indyk explained, “If there is a government in Israel after these elections that decides to pursue a two-state solution, then there is a way forward. It begins with coordinating an initiative with the United States. And then, together with the US, looking to Egypt and Jordan and the resurrection of the Arab Peace Initiative.”

 

As for Iran, Indyk shrugged at Israel’s concerns over the agreement that Obama is now seeking to conclude with the Iranian regime regarding its nuclear weapons program. That agreement will leave Iran as a threshold nuclear state. Indyk suggested that the US could assuage Israel’s concerns by signing a bilateral treaty with Israel that would commit the US to do something if Iran passes some nuclear threshold. There are only three problems with such a deal. First, as former ambassador to the US Itamar Rabinovich noted, such a treaty would likely render Israel unable to take independent action against Iranian nuclear sites. Second, the US has a perfect track record of missing every major nuclear advance by every country. US intelligence agencies were taken by surprise when India, Pakistan and North Korea joined the nuclear club. They have always underestimated Iranian nuclear activities and were taken by surprise, repeatedly, by Syria’s nuclear proliferation activities. In other words, it would be insane for Israel to trust that the US would act in a timely manner to prevent Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold. Third of course is the demonstrated lack of US will – particularly under the Obama administration – to take any action that could prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. So Israel has no reason whatsoever to believe that the US would honor its commitment. But then, since the Obama administration believes that Herzog and Livni will be compliant with its policies, the White House may expect the two will agree to forgo Israel’s right to self-defense and place Israel’s national security in relation to Iran in Obama’s hands.

 

And this brings us to the real contest unfolding in the lead-up to March 17. When Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner announced last month that he had invited Netanyahu to address the joint houses of Congress on the threat emanating from Iran’s nuclear program and from radical Islam, he unintentionally transformed the Israeli elections from a local affair to a contest between Obama and Netanyahu. Obama’s response to Netanyahu’s speech has been astounding. His ad hominem attacks against Netanyahu, his open moves to coerce Democratic lawmakers to boycott Netanyahu’s speech, and the administration’s aggressive attempts to damage Israel’s reputation in the US have been without precedent. More than anything, they expose a deep-seated fear that Netanyahu will be successful in exposing the grave danger that Obama’s policies toward Iran and toward the Islamic world in general pose to the global security…

 

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

                                                                       

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NO ONE’S TALKING ABOUT THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION                                                               

Father Raymond J. de Souza

National Post, Feb. 25, 2015

                                                                     

On Sunday evening, an 18-year-old Palestinian began stabbing 27-year-old Avraham Goldstein, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, near Jerusalem’s City Hall. The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Birkat, a former paratrooper, was arriving just then and saw the terror attack underway. With his bodyguards, he tackled the assailant and held him until police arrived. Goldstein was moderately injured and is expected to recover. The next day, Birkat was cracking jokes about his heroics with Natan Sharansky, head of the non-profit Jewish Agency for Israel, at a meeting of their board of governors. Sharansky knows something about heroism himself, having survived nine years behind bars in the Soviet Union as a political prisoner. It was one of those only-in-Israel moments: Could anyone imagine Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi or Montreal’s Denis Coderre leaping into action to save someone from a knife-wielding terrorist?

 

Yet what was striking was the normalcy with which it was greeted: In the midst of a national election campaign, the matter did not become an occasion for a heated discussion about the Palestinian question. Indeed, when Israeli voters go to the polls in three weeks to elect a new Knesset, the entire Palestinian issue will be in the background. There are at least three reasons for this change in discourse. First, this election, only two years after the last national election, has been unusually focused on personalities, especially that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Observers from different points on the political spectrum have expressed a frustration with the low tone of the whole campaign, which has featured negative attacks on the character of various politicians, rather than affairs of state. Netanyahu is a dominating figure and has been around a long time — his first premiership began nearly 20 years ago and his second term started in 2009.

 

Second, nobody has the faintest idea of what to do about the supposed Palestinian peace process. Gaza is a mess and only months removed from war. The Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank is in power only because it is being protected by the Israeli Defence Forces, lest Hamas take over there, too. Further east in the Hashemite Kingdom, there are serious worries about what might happen should ISIS move southward toward the Jordanian border. To the north, Israel now faces an enormous number of Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon — far more than there were during the war in 2006, and armed with much more advanced rockets — as well as ominous instability on the Syrian border. Even if Israel were to be offered a perfect deal tomorrow, it would not be possible to make an agreement, as it is not clear who would be in charge of the subsequent Palestinian state the day after tomorrow. Abbas, for his part, knows the same, and so is pursuing the Palestinian agenda elsewhere, through UN declarations and manoeuvring at the International Criminal Court. For the first time I can remember, my Palestinian friends here spontaneously speak not of Israel, but of broader regional forces.

 

Third, the entire region is exploding. For decades one has heard the claim that if the Israeli-Palestinian question is solved, everything else in the Middle East would be better. No one believes that now. Even if swords were beaten into ploughshares in Jerusalem tomorrow, it would remain secondary to the main action in the Middle East, which is, in no particular order: i) the question for an Iranian-controlled land corridor from Teheran to the Mediterranean, almost complete now save for territory controlled by ISIS; ii) the rise of ISIS itself, combining brutality with social media sophistication, the better to attract jihadists worldwide; and iii) the response to Iran and ISIS of horrified Arab powers, which explains everything from the president of Egypt visiting Christian churches to the Saudis pumping oil to impoverish the Iranians.

 

Next week, Netanyahu will travel to Washington in mid-campaign for a visit that will highlight his poor relationship with President Barack Obama. On Tuesday, Obama made the point clearly by receiving the emir of Qatar at the White House. Qatar hosts the Al-Udeid airbase, which Americans use to stage attacks against ISIS. But fighting ISIS also helps Iran’s regional ambitions, which Qatar also advances with its support of the Iranian proxy Hamas. That Obama would have him to the White House when he won’t receive Netanyahu is a pointed rebuke, especially when the Israeli prime minister will be speaking to Congress about the Iranian threat. The Israeli-Palestinian question has thus been squeezed out by local forces from below and global forces from above. National struggles have been overtaken by a regional religious war within the Islamic world. Replacing nationalism with religious fanaticism is not a step forward. It’s incredible to think that both Israelis and Palestinians may well pine for the simpler days of the first intifada, and the Oslo accords that followed after.                                                                                                

                                                                       

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IN SEARCH OF ISRAELI LEADERSHIP                                                                                     

Charles Bybelezer

CIJR, Feb. 23, 2015

 

With the election cycle in full swing, it has become apparent that Israelis are seriously limited in their choices. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has served his country admirably, he spent his latest term deflecting criticism of indecisiveness, levied against him his entire political career. Despite repeated “hawkish” declarations on security, multiple terrorist attacks in recent months, invoking memories of the second intifada, exemplify the previous government’s inability to protect its citizenry; this, on the heels of the 50-day war against Hamas, which was an abject failure by any measure. Most importantly, Netanyahu has failed to achieve his primary objective; namely, to stop Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons. While he should be commended for forcing the issue onto the international community’s agenda, the Islamic Republic has nonetheless expanded its atomic program by leaps and bounds during Netanyahu’s tenure, to the point where Tehran has effectively become a nuclear threshold state. Nevertheless, Netanyahu may still win reelection, solely on the basis of being the best of a bad lot.

 

By comparison, a Tzipi Livni-led government would undoubtedly steer the country toward the nearest iceberg. Livni is perhaps the worst high-profile politician in Israel’s history, her resume a laundry list of colossal failures. As foreign minister in the Olmert government, Livni spearheaded UN Resolution 1701, which left securing southern Lebanon to international peacekeepers after the 2006 war against Hezbollah. Nearly a decade later, Iran’s proxy has amassed some 100,000 rockets and is battle-tested after fighting on behalf of the Assad regime in the ongoing Syrian civil war. Later, as leader of Kadima (the Likud offshoot responsible for pushing through the disastrous disengagement from Gaza), Livni was unable to form a government despite winning the most mandates in the 2009 election. She was thereafter totally irrelevant as head of the opposition. Most recently, Livni failed miserably in her role as chief negotiator with the Palestinians, overseeing a futile nine-month process that, like all “peace” talks before them, culminated with a surge in Palestinian terrorism. Then there are the middle-of-the-pack candidates: Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid and Moshe Kahlon with his newly-formed Kulanu party. The reality is that time is not on Liberman’s side and, despite attempts to rebrand himself as a moderate, it appears as though diminishing popular support will preclude him from becoming prime minister. For his part, Lapid is the latest Israeli political flameout after an awful run as finance minister; at least half of his mandates will likely be scooped up by Kahlon, this election’s trendy “centrist” running a campaign premised on “social justice.”  

 

Which brings us to what were the two great hopes of the upcoming election, emanating from opposite sides of the political spectrum. But, sadly, both Labor’s Isaac Herzog and Bayit Yehudi’s Naftali Bennett have recently proven they are likewise not ready to assume the mantle of leadership. Herzog is by far the more disappointing. Steeped in Zionist tradition, he could have been the first leader of the Left in decades with mass – perhaps even crossover – appeal; but by joining forces with Livni – whose party was unlikely to pass the electoral threshold – and agreeing to a rotating premiership, Herzog effectively signaled to the nation that he is not ready for the top job. Compared to Netanyahu’s decision to merge with Liberman prior to the last election – a move that, according to polls, virtually ensured Netanyahu would be asked to form the next government – Herzog comes off looking like a serially- dependent political neophyte. Bennett’s case is more complex. While he has become the face of the “far Right,” an alleged fierce opponent of territorial compromises to the Palestinians, recent statements suggest he may not be the consummate ideologue. During his appearance at the Saban Forum in December, Bennett contradicted his previous position by saying that he would not, as prime minister, annex Area C of the West Bank, suggesting that such a process could take up to four decades. In the interim, he called for enhanced cooperation with the Palestinian leadership.

 

The bitter truth is that Israel is suffering from the absence of leadership, which has created a sense of alienation, if not dejection and even anger, among the population. While the Jewish state has faced incredible challenges in its brief history, it has overcome them only because past leaders believed in more than simply amassing power, and acted in accordance with those convictions. They understood Israel to be a living, breathing cause, and that without proper guidance that cause would begin to erode. And this is where Israel finds itself today, its legitimacy eroded. Much of this is attributable to our enemies, but successive Israeli leaders – or lack thereof – have played their part.

 

Charles Bybelezer is a correspondent for i24news, and a former CIJR Publications Manager

 

Contents                                                                                     

 

 

On Topic

 

United Israeli Front Against Agreement With Iran: Tom Dolev, Jerusalem Online, Feb. 24, 2015—Regarding the upcoming elections in Israel, candidates are usually found arguing or attacking each other. With regards to the Iranian nuclear program, however, Netanyahu, Bennett and Ya’alon were able to display a joint front.

The Appalling Talk of Boycotting Netanyahu: Alan M. Dershowitz, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 23, 2014—As a liberal Democrat who twice campaigned for President Barack Obama, I am appalled that some Democratic members of Congress are planning to boycott the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 3 to a joint session of Congress.

Is Obama Stirring up Anti-Semitism?: Michael Freund, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 25, 2015—Barack Obama is running scared. In advance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress next week about the growing threat of a nuclear Iran, the normally placid president of the United States is suddenly breaking out into a political sweat.

The Palestinians and Israeli Elections: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 10, 2015—So far, the Palestinians have shown little interest, if any at all, in the upcoming Israeli elections, slated for March 17.

Likud, Zionist Union Spar After Jerusalem Stabbing Attack: Lazar Berman, Times of Israel , Feb. 23, 2015—The ruling Likud party and the Zionist Union, its main rival in the upcoming national elections, squabbled Sunday hours after a Palestinian teenager stabbed a Jewish man in Jerusalem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                    

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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