Tag: Likud

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

Watching Netanyahu in Tehran: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2018— The same day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel seized Iran’s archive of its military nuclear program in Tehran and spirited it to Israel, a video was posted of IDF soldiers singing Soltane Ghalbha, a traditional Persian love song – in Persian.

Lieberman Offers Strong Words, but Little Action on Palestinian Salaries for Terrorists: Maurice Hirsch, JNS, May 7, 2018— One of the pressing legislative issues that the Knesset will address in its summer session is penalizing the Palestinian Authority (PA) for its nefarious practice of paying salaries to terrorists and their families.

Restoring Balance Between the Knesset and the Court: Vic Rosenthal, Jewish Press, May 1, 2018— A hot potato today in Israel’s Knesset is the so-called chok hahitgabrut (literally, “the overriding law”) which would provide a way for the Knesset to pass a law over the objections of the Supreme Court.

Democracy Depends on its Citizens: Dr. Max Singer, BESA, Apr. 5, 2018— Winston Churchill was right when he said in 1947 that “democracy is the worst form of government ever invented – except for all those other forms that have been tried.”

On Topic Links

The Speech of the Century that Everyone is Listening To: Avi Abelow, Israel Unwired, Apr. 29, 2018

Anti-Semitism ‘Becoming Mainstream’ in Canada: Jewish Advocacy Group: Josh K. Elliott, CTV News, Apr. 11, 2018

McGill Anti-Semitism Report ‘Pathetic’: Prof: Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban, Apr. 11, 2018

Open Letter to Natalie Portman From an Israeli Progressive: Hen Mazzig, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 22, 2018

 

WATCHING NETANYAHU IN TEHRAN

Caroline Glick

Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2018

The same day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel seized Iran’s archive of its military nuclear program in Tehran and spirited it to Israel, a video was posted of IDF soldiers singing Soltane Ghalbha, a traditional Persian love song – in Persian. Taken together, the two events demonstrate the purpose of Netanyahu’s presentation.

Netanyahu’s detractors in the US and Israel called his presentation as a dog and pony show. “He didn’t tell us anything we haven’t known for years,” they sniffed. Moreover, they insisted, Netanyahu’s presentation was actually counterproductive because he couldn’t show evidence that Iran is in breach of the nuclear deal it concluded in 2015 and so did nothing to persuade the Europeans to abandon the deal.

None of these claims is correct. Mossad agents who seized a half ton of documents and computer discs from a secret warehouse in Tehran brought proof that Iran has been lying about its nuclear ambitions since 1999. The information was never more than surmised by nuclear experts. As for the nuclear deal, the archive itself is a material breach of the nuclear deal. Paragraph T.82 of the deal bars Iran from conducting “activities which could contribute to the design and development of a nuclear explosive device.” Since the only possible purpose of the archive was to enable Iran to build on the progress it already made toward designing and developing a nuclear explosive device, its existence was a breach of Paragraph T.82.

As for who was impressed, and who wasn’t, this too misses the point. The Trump administration wasn’t simply impressed with Netanyahu’s presentation. The Trump administration was a full partner in Israel’s decision to make the presentation. Netanyahu reportedly briefed President Donald Trump and his top advisers about the operation and its initial findings during his White House visit on March 5. The same day, the Mossad gave the CIA a copy of the entire archive. Netanyahu coordinated his presentation with Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last Saturday and Sunday. As for the Europeans, they aren’t key players. If Trump abandons the nuclear deal, Congress will reinstate sanctions suspended in January 2016 when the deal went into effect. And then the Europeans will have an easy choice to make. Trade with the US or trade with Iran.

Which brings us to the soldiers singing a love song in Persian the day of Netanyahu’s speech. Netanyahu had two main target audiences on Monday evening: The Iranian regime and the Iranian people. The power of his presentation rested on two key observations. First, the Iranian regime believes its antisemitic rhetoric.   At its base, Jew-hatred is a neurotic condition. Antisemites fear Jews. They perceive them as all powerful. This neurotic worldview makes rational analysis impossible for antisemites. Everything is a Jewish plot for them. Through circular reasoning, antisemites see Jewish fingers in everything bad that happens to them.

Netanyahu’s presentation pushed all of Iran’s leaders’ neurotic antisemitic buttons. Netanyahu opened by revealing the existence of Iran’s secret archive of its military nuclear program. “Few Iranians knew where it was, very few,” he began. And without missing a beat, as if stating the obvious, he added, nonchalantly, “And also a few Israelis.” In other words, Netanyahu told the Iranians that just as they fear, the Jews know everything about them. The Jews know their deepest secrets. It doesn’t matter how closely guarded a secret is. The Jews know it.

That would have been enough to send the likes of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Gen. Kassem Suleimani into a fetal position. But Netanyahu was just getting warmed up. Netanyahu then showed photographs of the nuclear archive – first from the outside, and then from the inside. It was as if he just wrote, “Kilroy was here,” on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s bedroom door. And then came the coup de grace. Netanyahu pulled down two black curtains and revealed the files themselves. Two hundred or so binders filled three bookcases. Two panels contained row after row of CDs – all taken from Iran.

Many spectators scratched their heads at the seemingly archaic find. Why did the Mossad officers go to the trouble of removing the actual notebooks? Why didn’t they just scan them into a flip drive and carry them out of Iran in their pockets? That way, they could have gotten access to the archive without tipping the Iranians off. The files could have remained in place. This line of questioning misses a key purpose of the operation. Israel wanted the Iranians to know its agents seized the files. For years, Israel’s enemies and allies alike have recognized its technological prowess. But ironically, rather even as it raised the fears of its enemies, Israel’s technological superiority also fed their contempt.

Israel’s enemies insisted that Israel resorts to cyber warfare and other indirect assaults because it is too afraid to have its soldiers face the enemy on a physical battlefield. The very existence of the nuclear archive indicates that the Iranian regime bought into this line. Khamenei and Suleimani wouldn’t have risked placing the physical archive of Iran’s illicit military nuclear work under one roof if it had feared that Israel would send its forces to seize it. Under the circumstances, if the Mossad had simply scanned the documents onto a hard drive and not taken the trouble to physically seize the files themselves, the effect of the raid would have been significantly diminished.

When Netanyahu pulled back the curtains, he exposed not only the regime’s perfidy, but its weakness. The Jews breached its vaunted defenses and made off with a half ton of incriminating documents without being discovered. There can be no greater humiliation…

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

 

Contents

LIEBERMAN OFFERS STRONG WORDS, BUT LITTLE

ACTION ON PALESTINIAN SALARIES FOR TERRORISTS

Maurice Hirsch

JNS, May 7, 2018

One of the pressing legislative issues that the Knesset will address in its summer session is penalizing the Palestinian Authority (PA) for its nefarious practice of paying salaries to terrorists and their families. The leading proponent of the first Israeli legislation on this subject, submitted in March 2017, was MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) who was joined by 11 other MK’s from both the opposition and the governing coalition.

The underlying principle of the bill is simple. Every month, Israel collects and transfers money, predominantly import taxes, to the PA. The taxes amount to 600-700 million shekels a month. Any sum that the PA spends to pay the salaries to terrorists and stipends to the families of dead terrorists will be permanently deducted from the taxes collected. According to the 2017 PA budget, these sums were in excess of one billion shekels.

Five months after the first hearing in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the representatives of Israel’s Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman updated the committee that the government was going to submit its own legislation on the subject. But to the dismay of the head of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, MK Avi Dichter (Likud), the Minister of Defense’s representatives refused to commit to a timeframe for its draft legislation.

In January of this year, on the eve of an additional hearing in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the government published its first preliminary draft of the legislation that it intended to introduce on the subject. Its guiding principle was identical to MK Stern’s bill. However, alongside the essential amendments that had to be made to MK Stern’s suggested law, the government added an extremely dangerous provision that would allow the cabinet to waive the deduction and transfer all funds to the PA for reasons of “national security or foreign relations.” In other words, after funds are deducted, and the Europeans shout “gevalt!” or the Palestinians threaten a return to terrorism, the government will be pressured to transfer those funds.

Despite the committee’s harsh criticism of this addition, on March 12 the government published its final draft legislation, which still included the provision in question. The provision, which creates a clear revolving door, completely undermines both the fundamental principle of the legislation — penalizing the PA for incentivizing terrorism — and the supposedly tough approach of Lieberman himself on the subject.

When Palestinian Media Watch exposed on March 28 that the PA’s 2018 annual budget had once again allocated hundreds of millions of shekels to terrorist payments, the Defense Minister was quick to tweet, “Mahmoud Abbas the terror supporter has removed the mask and taken the gloves off. We will act for a quick decision on deducting the salary money that Mahmoud Abbas is transferring to terrorists and we will stop this absurdity.”

Indeed, the time has come to penalize the PA for rewarding and incentivizing terrorism. However, what is truly absurd is that the person making the tough comments against the PA policy is the same person who, despite the criticism of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and others, is responsible for a provision that would invite external pressure and completely undermine the very same law he is proposing.

Even given the questionable assumption that the new law should provide the government with some degree of discretion regarding the confiscation of the funds, complete and total discretion should not be given and certainly not based on amorphous “national security or foreign relations” considerations. Ideally, the discretion given to the government should be limited to transferring only a limited and defined portion of the funds confiscated. During a recent Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, I suggested setting this limit at 50 percent.

At the same time, the discretion given to the government should be conditional on receiving a signed commitment from the PA to abolish its terrorist salary policy within a short and limited time (no more than three months). In the absence of concrete steps by the PA within the prescribed amount of time, the government would no longer have any discretion.

Since the introduction of MK Stern’s law, more than a year has passed. In that time the PA has used at least part of the money that Israel has transferred to pay more than a billion shekels in rewards for terrorism. Now is the time for action, not just words. The PA’s more than 20-year practice of rewarding terror, funded in part by monies provided courtesy of the Israeli government, must end. As the concerned parties have already promised, hearings should be held and the legislation finalized.

 

Contents

   

RESTORING BALANCE BETWEEN THE KNESSET AND THE COURT

Vic Rosenthal

Jewish Press, May 1, 2018

A hot potato today in Israel’s Knesset is the so-called chok hahitgabrut (literally, “the overriding law”) which would provide a way for the Knesset to pass a law over the objections of the Supreme Court. Various versions of such a law have been considered, which require larger or smaller majorities in the Knesset to override a Court decision to throw out a law. Another approach would be to require more than a simple majority of justices of the Court in order to reject a law passed by the Knesset. The precise form the law might take is still up in the air.

The issue that is presently driving the controversy is a series of Court decisions that have made it impossible for the government to deport any of the 38,000 African migrants that entered the country illegally since the early 2000s. Those who want such a law say that the unelected Court rides roughshod over the views of the majority of the citizens, which are expressed by the votes of their representatives in the Knesset. That’s undemocratic, they say. Opponents argue that in a liberal democracy it is necessary to protect minority rights, which is what the Court has done.

Critics of the Court have been complaining for a long time that it is biased leftward, and that it sticks its nose where it shouldn’t, like the proposed deal regulating the concession for the natural gas recently discovered off Israel’s shores; or the ownership of property in Judea and Samaria, decisions that forced the demolition of communities and the removal of people from their homes.

But the intricacies of the gas deal were understood by only a small percentage of Israelis, and the inhabitants of the razed settlement of Amona did not find a lot of empathy in the general population, many of whom thought of them as extremists. The migrant question, on the other hand, resonates more broadly. It pits the residents of South Tel Aviv – who say that the migrants who are concentrated in their neighborhoods have brought crime, dirt and fear to them – against a coalition of organizations that claim to be defending the human rights of the migrants. In fact, many of these groups are funded by unfriendly foreign governments, or groups with a political motive to embarrass our government (e.g., the Israel Religious Action Center).

A balance between the powers of the various branches of government is important to protect minority and majority rights. A comparison with the Supreme Court in the US will be helpful in understanding just how unbalanced the situation in Israel is. The American court only has appellate jurisdiction, which means that it can only rule on cases that have been appealed from lower courts. It can decline to hear a case, but it does not have original jurisdiction in which it can take up a case that has not already been heard by a lower court, except in special circumstances (such as one state suing another). The Israeli court is the highest appellate court, but it also acts as the High Court of Justice – bagatz – which can rule on anything done by any branch of government, including the army, municipalities, and – importantly – laws passed by the Knesset, whether or not they have been ruled on by a lower court.

The American legal system includes a doctrine of standing, which means in particular that a person can’t challenge a law or government action unless they can convince a judge that they could be directly injured by it, or that they would be prevented from exercising their legitimate rights by threat of legal sanction. But in Israel, anyone can petition the Supreme Court if he believes a law or government action is illegal or not in the public interest. As a result, anyone can paralyze the government by paying a couple of thousand shekels to file a petition. For example, several foreign-funded NGOs have recently petitioned the Supreme Court to force the IDF to stop using snipers to defend the border fence with Gaza.

In America, some matters are considered political and not legal, and are therefore not taken up by the courts (they are considered not justiciable). Two such areas are foreign policy and impeachment. In Israel, the limitations on justiciability are much weaker. American Supreme Court justices, including the Chief Justice, are appointed by the President and then confirmed by the Senate, after which they serve for life unless they are impeached, resign or retire. Interestingly, there are no constitutional requirements for a justice to have judicial experience, or even a law degree!..

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

 

Contents

             

DEMOCRACY DEPENDS ON ITS CITIZENS

Dr. Max Singer

BESA, Apr. 5, 2018

Winston Churchill was right when he said in 1947 that “democracy is the worst form of government ever invented – except for all those other forms that have been tried.”  One of the reasons is that sometimes a democracy will fail unless its citizens act maturely despite inclinations tempting them in another direction.  “Democracy” here means all the processes and behavior that determine what happens in the governance of a liberal democratic country such as Israel.

Israel’s democracy is now undergoing such a test.  Our region is in a time of bloody turmoil and instability. Israel, despite its great strength, faces dangers that require it to act prudently, wisely, and perhaps forcefully to protect itself from rapidly changing security developments. Fortunately we have a prime minister who is widely recognized as one of the most eloquent and capable statesmen in the world today. With that said, no one would claim that he makes no mistakes or that Israel’s policy cannot be improved.

Partly because of Netanyahu’s unique experience at the center of affairs for many years, and the opportunities he has had to build relationships with leaders such as Putin, Trump, Modi, and Abe (of Japan), it is clear that no other Israeli today is anywhere near as capable of running Israel’s foreign and security policy as is Bibi. On the other hand, a great many Israelis scorn and disapprove of the prime minister. Even many of his admirers see him as a man of poor character – small-minded, selfish, miserly, and disloyal, unable to create and maintain close relationships with strong people and political allies (with the striking exception of Ron Dermer). Perhaps most of all, Bibi’s hedonistic lifestyle – apart from his strong work ethic — offends many Israelis who contrast it with that of Begin, Rabin, and other Israeli political leaders of the past.

If it turns out that Bibi is guilty of real criminal conduct, as distinguished from technical violations of law, Israel would of course have to do without his foreign policy talent and experience. Perhaps there is still a possibility that the extraordinary efforts to bring Bibi down, by his long-time enemies in the media and the police, will prove that he genuinely is a criminal whom Israelis cannot in good conscience leave as head of government. But so far what is apparent is that a very small fire can be used to make a lot of smoke. Much of Israel’s establishment uses double standards to pursue partisan goals at the cost of weakening their prime minister’s ability to do his job. Israel’s democracy – its voters, politicians, media, and police – must decide whether the prime minister shall continue to be the man by far most capable of protecting the country in particularly dangerous times, or will be replaced by someone whose personal character is felt to be less objectionable – especially to leftists troubled by having to face a man of the right who is obviously smart and sophisticated. Experience suggests that if Bibi is replaced as PM we cannot assume that his successor will necessarily be a person of better character.

On present evidence, if Netanyahu has to step down now it will be a failure of democracy. It would be a profligate decision to prefer a more appealing national leader over a determination to put the country’s safety in the best hands available. ne possibility is that the police, media, and elite attacks on Bibi will force him to have an early election which returns him to office, perhaps with an increased majority. That would be a case of democracy succeeding through the wisdom of the voters defeating media and legal system leadership. Still, despite their defeat by the citizenry under those circumstances, that elite would have inflicted great costs on the country by an unnecessary election and the diversion of much of Netanyahu’s time and energy from his job.

Of course Bibi will not live forever, and no person is indispensable. Sooner or later Israel will have to find a new prime minister.  If necessary, Israel will get through the present and future dangers without Netanyahu. But a maturely prudent democracy will take advantage of Bibi’s special talents and experience as long as it can, even if it dislikes him.

Contents

On Topic Links

Netanyahu’s Bombshell Should Finish Off the Iran Nuclear Deal: Editorial, New York Post, Apr. 30, 2018— Winston Churchill was right when he said in 1947 that “democracy is the worst form of government ever invented – except for all those other forms that have been tried.”

Can Israel Thread The Diplomatic Needle On Syria?: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 10, 2018—Incidents of anti-Semitism were on the rise for a fifth straight year in Canada, despite an overall decline in the number of incidents worldwide, according to a Jewish advocacy group.

Making Sense of Israel’s Political Upheaval: Two Perspectives (Podcast): Shmuel Sandler and Gregg Roman, Middle East Forum, Apr. 11, 2018—Last month’s crisis over the contentious Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conscription bill that threatened to bring down the Netanyahu government was swiftly defused as none of the coalition partners wished to risk early elections given Likud’s persistent surge in the polls despite the ongoing investigations into Binyamin Netanyahu’s actions.

IDF Civil Administration Claims Equal Numbers of Jews and Arabs, But Many Beg to Differ: Jewish Press, Mar. 27, 2018—Ynet on Tuesday morning added a bit of hype to a statement made by the deputy head of the Civil Administration, Colonel Uri Mendes, at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, suggesting there are about 5 million Arabs registered in Judea and Samaria and Gaza, not including eastern Jerusalem.

 

 

WHILE BIBI LEADS ISRAEL IN UNPRECEDENTED GLOBAL OUTREACH, HE FACES CRITICS AT HOME AND ABROAD

Netanyahu’s Meeting With the EU Foreign Ministers: Susan Hattis Rolef, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 10, 2017— I admit that I would love to be a fly on the wall when our prime minister meets EU foreign ministers in Brussels today.

Israel's Mythical "Isolation": Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations, Nov. 30, 2017— This week Kenya inaugurated a president (Uhuru Kenyatta, for his second term).

If Netanyahu is So Corrupt and Dangerous, Why Don’t Rivals Unite to Defeat Him?: David Horovitz, Times of Israel, Dec. 4, 2017— One after another, the would-be leaders of Israel compete to excoriate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

More on Bibi and Friends: Ira Sharkansky, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 7, 2017— Compared to selected other national leaders here and there, Bibi's done well from public office.

 

On Topic Links

 

Thousands Protest Against Netanyahu for Second Week in Tel Aviv: Moshe Cohen and Maariv Hashavua, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 9, 2017

Israel’s “Teflon” Prime Minister: Naomi Ragen, Breaking Israel News, Nov. 14, 2017

Israeli Prime Ministerial Hopeful Avi Gabbay: We Should Scare Our Enemies, Instead of Letting Them Scare Us: Barney Breen-Portnoy, Algemeiner, Dec. 5, 2017

Israel’s Ruinous Right: Dr. Martin Sherman, Jewish Press, Nov. 19, 2017

                                               

 

 

NETANYAHU’S MEETING WITH THE EU FOREIGN MINISTERS

Susan Hattis Rolef

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 10, 2017

 

I admit that I would love to be a fly on the wall when our prime minister meets EU foreign ministers in Brussels today. There is no doubt the event will be highly charged, and I suspect Netanyahu will not have an easy time getting his messages across to the Europeans. And what is that message? Primarily that an Iranian presence in Syria as part of long-term arrangements in that miserable, battered country poses a threat not only to Israel’s security but to that of the rest of the democratic world; that US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem is a positive and promising development; and that EU meddling with human rights issues in the West Bank, and its support of and engagement with Israeli human rights organizations, is something the current Israeli government cannot tolerate.

 

There are many reasons why the relations between Israel and the EU have become charged and uncordial, and why this particular meeting is liable to be especially explosive. The EU has long expressed its disapproval of Israel’s policy in the West Bank, the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem, which it views as occupied territories to which the Fourth Geneva Convention applies. Within the framework of this policy the EU has published guidelines regarding the marking of Israeli products produced in the “occupied territories” and of Israeli companies that are engaged in business activities in them. This is not a direct call for the boycott of products and companies, but rather more of an irksome recommendation.

 

About a third of EU members have recognized a Palestinian state; all the former Communist member states recognized Palestine in 1988 and did not cancel their recognition after becoming democracies, and two West European members, Iceland and Sweden, recognized Palestine in 2011 and 2014, respectively. The parliaments of several other EU states voted in favor of recognition of Palestine toward the end of 2014, including the UK and France.

 

Quite a few EU members financially support Israeli human rights organizations (as they do organizations in other countries that regularly breach the human rights of citizens and non-citizens under their rule) and collaborate with them. Most recently representatives of the EU, headed by the newly selected EU ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, participated in a celebration to mark International Human Rights Day with NGO B’Tselem at a photo exhibition titled “Fifty years of occupation,” which presented the images of 50 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, from all walks of life, who were born in 1967 and have lived their whole life under the abnormal reality of the last 50 years.

 

As to President Trump’s formal recognition last week of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (without defining its boundaries), and his repetition of the promise made by three previous presidents that in future the US embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, neither the EU nor any of its member states is likely to follow suit. The maximum that can be expected are statements, such as that made by the Czech Republic, recognizing west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and a promise to move embassies to Jerusalem after a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians is attained. In truth, recognition of west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should have occurred already in 1948, and the reason why it didn’t – the fact that the 1947 UN partition plan called for the internalization of Jerusalem – was a feeble excuse given the political and military reality at the time.

 

All of this is viewed with disapproval and disdain by official Israel. Typically, the Foreign Ministry referred to the official EU attendance at the photo exhibition last week “a spit in the face.” The EU, of course, sees things differently, and most of its members have full sympathy with the EU’s positions, while feeling despair regarding Israel’s reactions. For example, one of the protests that will be greeting Netanyahu upon his arrival in Brussels will be by a group of members of the European Parliament demanding that Israel pay the 1.2 million euros in compensation for its destruction of various construction projects financed by the EU in Area C of the West Bank, which Israel considered to be illegal, including houses for expelled Beduin, structures that served as schools and kindergartens for Beduin children, pipes, water cisterns and electricity generators.

 

The EU and its members also remember Netanyahu’s embarrassing statement to the premiers of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia last July in Budapest in which he urged them to try to change the EU’s attitude toward Israel. An open microphone he was not aware of recorded him saying, “The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel – that produces technology and every area [sic] – on political conditions. The only one! Nobody does it. It’s crazy… there is no logic here. The EU is undermining its security by undermining Israel… I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive, or if it wants to shrivel and disappear.”…

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

 

 

Contents

ISRAEL'S MYTHICAL "ISOLATION"

Elliott Abrams

Council on Foreign Relations, Nov. 30, 2017

 

This week Kenya inaugurated a president (Uhuru Kenyatta, for his second term). One and only one Western head of government was present, joining ten African presidents. One and only one foreign leader was asked to speak at the celebratory lunch, while being seated next to Kenyatta. Who was that? Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And while in Nairobi for one day, Netanyahu met with the presidents of Rwanda, Gabon, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, South Sudan, Botswana, and Namibia, and the prime minister of Ethiopia. The prominence of Israel’s leader during this occasion would be worth mention even if he were one of a dozen Western leaders who were present—but he was alone. The British sent a second level minister handling foreign aid, for example, not even a Cabinet member.

 

There are two points worth making. The first is that Israel is succeeding in an extraordinary campaign of outreach across the globe, to India and China, to Africa, and recently to Latin America. The second is that this is no automatic development, but a tribute to the energy, dedication, and perspicacity of Prime Minister Netanyahu. They aren’t just welcoming Israel; they are welcoming him. They are interested in his extraordinary country, obviously, but also in his personal understanding of economic change, of the role of military strength, and of world affairs. Similarly, in September 2016 Netanyahu was a hotter ticket at the UN General Assembly than even Barack Obama: more African leaders sought meetings with Netanyahu than with the President of the United States.

 

Netanyahu’s critics are legion in Israel, but even they ought to be honest enough to acknowledge what he has achieved for his country in countering isolation, BDS, and anti-Semitism and greatly widening and deepening Israel’s global ties. And it has just been announced that Netanyahu has been invited to address all 28 EU foreign ministers at their December meeting. QED.  

 

 

 

Contents

IF NETANYAHU IS SO CORRUPT AND DANGEROUS,

WHY DON’T RIVALS UNITE TO DEFEAT HIM?

David Horovitz

Times of Israel, Dec. 4, 2017

 

One after another, the would-be leaders of Israel compete to excoriate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Many of them have served under him — as defense ministers, finance ministers, ministers of environmental protection — and have concluded that he is unfit for office, that he is, variously, a criminal, the head of a dishonest government, leading Israel to disaster with his diplomatic and security policies, inciting sectors of the Israeli populace against each other, undermining the courts and the police, capitulating to the ultra-Orthodox, alienating world Jewry, and plenty more.

 

Yair Lapid, whose centrist Yesh Atid is generally polling as the main competition to Netanyahu’s Likud, has long asserted that the prime minister is both personally corrupt and running a corrupt coalition. Lapid, a former finance minister under Netanyahu, has most recently been at the forefront of critics of the so-called police recommendations bill (latterly suspended amid an escalating public outcry), which he alleges was personally “tailored” to help shield Netanyahu from the corruption cases in which he is embroiled.

 

For Avi Gabbay, the new Labor leader, whose Zionist Union alliance is not too far behind in some of the polls, Israel under Netanyahu is “really getting close to becoming Turkey” in its corrupt, one-man rule. Gabbay is demanding “elections as soon as possible.” As a member of the Kulanu party, he too served as a minister in Netanyahu’s coalition, quitting in May 2016 when Avigdor Liberman was appointed as defense minister in place of the “temperate” Moshe Ya’alon. At his farewell press conference, Gabbay protested against what he said was becoming an “extremist” government and, full of biblical foreboding, warned: “The Jewish people already destroyed the Second Temple with their civil wars, we must stop these processes that will lead to the destruction of the Third Temple.”

 

“Temperate” ex-defense minister Ya’alon himself, a former IDF chief of staff and Netanyahu’s right-hand man through several rounds of conflict with Hamas and innumerable other security challenges, declares most weeks that Netanyahu is a crook and that he must resign over an allegedly corruption-riddled deal to purchase German submarines, for which Netanyahu’s two chief legal lieutenants, David Shimron and Yitzhak Molcho, are under investigation. “It can’t be that the prime minister is not involved, Ya’alon says. And if the truth doesn’t come out, he vows, “I will go on a speaking tour to tell all.”

 

One of Ya’alon’s distinguished predecessors as both chief of staff and defense minister, Ehud Barak, who also long served together with Netanyahu, let rip just days ago to catalog Netanyahu’s failings. In a New York Times op-ed, Barak accused the Netanyahu-led government of showing a general disrespect for the rule of law, and claimed that it had “declared war” on the courts, the media, civil society and the ethical code of the IDF.

 

“For all of Israel’s great achievements in its seven decades of statehood, our country now finds its very future, identity and security severely threatened by the whims and illusions of the ultra-nationalist government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Barak declared. “In its more than three years in power, this government has been irrational, bordering on messianic,” Barak wrote. “It is now increasingly clear where it is headed: creeping annexation of the West Bank.” Netanyahu had also capitulated to the ultra-Orthodox members of his coalition, Barak charged, and damaged Israel’s “crucial relationship with American Jews.”

 

Other resonant figures have weighed in, too, some of them a little more gently. Netanyahu’s former education minister Gideon Saar, who took a break from politics to spend more time with his family, has said he feels “ill at ease” over one of the Netanyahu corruption cases — involving an alleged deal with the Yedioth Ahronoth daily for more favorable coverage — and that he ultimately intends to become prime minister, but so far has refrained from directly challenging his Likud party leader. Another former Likud highflier, Moshe Kahlon, chose to bolt and set up his own party, rather than directly challenge Israel’s second-longest serving prime minister, and now exalts in the position of Netanyahu’s finance minister.

 

Two other former chiefs of staff, Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, have been the most restrained of all, steering clear of party politics thus far and instead establishing a “social movement” aimed at bringing “an end to the divisions, an end to the incitement, an end to the baseless hatred.” At their launch, partnered by yet another former Netanyahu education minister Shai Piron, they didn’t so much as mention the name Netanyahu. They really didn’t need to.

 

What’s quite staggering is not merely the avalanche of criticism and doomsaying by the prime minister’s would-be successors, however. It is, rather, the disconnect between the insistence that Netanyahu has to urgently go — for the sake of Israel, no less — and the critics’ abiding unwillingness to take the one step that would most effectively advance this ostensible national imperative. No matter how grave the purported danger, they simply refuse to get together to defeat it.

 

Few of Isaac Herzog’s greatest admirers would claim that he was the most potent opposition leader ever to face off in an election campaign against Netanyahu. Yet the Zionist Union chairman, mild-mannered, limited in his appeal, outmaneuvered in the campaign by the experienced Netanyahu, undermined by some in his own party, and also battling the country’s most widely read newspaper, raised his party’s share of Knesset seats in 2015 to 24 (in partnership with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua), while Netanyahu’s Likud fell back a little to 30. It would be false to claim that Herzog came within a whisker of winning the elections, but this fairly unchallenging challenger did give Netanyahu a run for his money. And we will never know how those elections would have been affected had Kahlon and Lapid put their egos aside and agreed on their parties running together.

 

More than two years later, some of Netanyahu’s critics would have us believe that the very fate of our country is at stake, that we are deeply threatened both internally and externally. And yet, still, the egos hold sway. Gabbay and Lapid snipe at each other. While asserting that there is nobody better qualified than he is to lead us to salvation, Barak merely snipes from the sidelines. Poll after poll shows the uncharismatic Ya’alon failing to so much as clear the threshold to win any Knesset seats at all, and yet he insists on heading his own new political movement rather than bolstering somebody else’s.

 

Tens of thousands of Israelis protested on Saturday night due to their sense that corruption is taking an ever greater hold on Israel under Netanyahu (and that was before his coalition chief, David Bitan, was called in for a full day’s police questioning in an escalating graft investigation). A far greater number of Israelis, needless to say, wish we had a different prime minister. Netanyahu, in poll after poll after poll, remains by far the public’s most popular choice — but at about 26-31%. That leaves well over two-thirds for whom Netanyahu is not the favored premier. This, in turn, would suggest that many Israelis are searching around, thus far in vain, for credible alternatives. It would surely give the long list of Netanyahu’s would-be successors considerably more credibility if, when complaining about the damage the prime minister has done, is doing, and will do if he is not stopped, they also declared that, given the gravity of the hour, they were putting aside their relatively marginal ideological differences and unifying to protect the country.

 

The Israeli public proved in 1999, after three relatively terror-free years, that it was prepared to oust Netanyahu, in part because of a sense that he was missing opportunities for peace. Almost two decades later, the critics would have us believe that the dangers posed by Netanyahu are far more acute. But their egotistical approach, as all their own surveys must be telling them, continues to leave much of the public unpersuaded.                                                                       

                                                                       

 

Contents

MORE ON BIBI AND FRIENDS

Ira Sharkansky

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 7, 2017

 

Compared to selected other national leaders here and there, Bibi's done well from public office. He and Sara have gotten used to demanding expensive gifts from individuals wanting his help. With respect to the two most prominent exchanges we know about, they weren't all that serious. He helped an Israeli billionaire get an American visa that allowed him to continuing making his pile there; and he helped an Australian billionaire get a residence permit for Israel that has allowed him to avoid taxes.

 

Bibi's life style isn't all that different from what was acquired by originally poor folk like Americans Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, and the Israeli Ariel Sharon. Israelis are fond of comparing him to predecessors who were models of modesty. David ben Gurion lived with his wife in a desert shack. Yitzhak Shamir flew tourist class to the US when he traveled on official business. Ehud Olmert began his career on the path of getting rich and living well, but encountered a change in the media and officials charged with law enforcement. His prison term was not severe, but according to recent pictures was enough to change his appearance.

 

Netanyahu's involvement in a deal with a German shipyard and manipulations by the major shareholder in Israel's prime communication firm may have been indirect, but weightier than gifts of cigars and champagne, or free lodging at luxurious sites for the younger Netanyahu. It's Bibi's friends, relatives, and appointees who have gotten rich, and it seems doubtful if it could happen without his knowledge and help.

Signs are that Israeli media, police, and prosecutors are operating in the mode that ended Olmert's career, and it doesn't look good for Bibi and the Missus. Son Yair may get off with a bad name.

 

If Donald Trump is the best that Americans can put in the White House, his record doesn't make Bibi or Israel look out of step. Trump's boorish behavior may not be anything more than embarrassing, providing it doesn't start a war that destroys parts of South Korea, Japan, and maybe the US. His string of corporate bankruptcies and callous treatment of what was promised to students at Trump University look as bad as anything we're seeing in Jerusalem. American individualism going back to colonial history makes us wonder what should have been expected. US history hasn't produced the pride in modesty along the models of ben Gurion or Shamir.

 

Trump is getting high marks for his proclamation about Jerusalem, but we're concerned about the downside of Palestinians' response, whatever it'll be. The US is seeing the embarrassment and dismissal of one overprivileged male after another on account of sexual misconduct. Watchers are wondering when that shoe is going to drop in Trump's bedroom. Israelis who knew our own elite equivalents of John Kennedy and Bill Clinton changed their norms during the era of Moshe Katsav. Commentators on these notes have accused me of going overboard in my criticism of Bibi. I'll repeat the assessment that he is better as a policymaker and politician than as an individual, husband and father with respect to personal behavior. He seems far less dangerous than his current American counterpart. No surprise that Bibi has adopted Donald as patron. The act may gain Israel support from the world's most powerful country. It may even be true that the support from the Trump administration will be greater than that received from most if not all of his predecessors…

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

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Thousands Protest Against Netanyahu for Second Week in Tel Aviv: Moshe Cohen and Maariv Hashavua, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 9, 2017—Approximately 25,000 protestors took to Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard on Saturday evening to oppose alleged corruption at the highest echelons of Israeli government and called for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign.

Israel’s “Teflon” Prime Minister: Naomi Ragen, Breaking Israel News, Nov. 14, 2017—While the Donald Trump era has brought a new level of hysteria to U.S. political discourse, the attempts to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the seemingly weekly revelation of yet another corruption scandal have only slightly dented his popularity.

Israeli Prime Ministerial Hopeful Avi Gabbay: We Should Scare Our Enemies, Instead of Letting Them Scare Us: Barney Breen-Portnoy, Algemeiner, Dec. 5, 2017—Turmoil is the new status quo in the halls of the Knesset, amid a number of deepening police investigations into corruption allegations against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel’s Ruinous Right: Dr. Martin Sherman, Jewish Press, Nov. 19, 2017—It is neither an easy nor an enviable undertaking today for anyone trying to alert the public as to the perilous vulnerability in which the nation currently finds itself.

 

 

UNDER BIBI ISRAEL HAS SEEN PERIOD OF “STRENGTH & STABILITY”

After Netanyahu: Neil Rogachevsky, Weekly Standard, Oct., 2017— With police intensifying their long-running corruption probes, Israel is awash with speculation that Benjamin Netanyahu’s days as prime minister may be numbered.

Stepping Forward, or Backward, in Jerusalem?: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Oct. 6, 2017 — As Jews and Christians from around the world flock to downtown Jerusalem and its Old City for this joyous holiday week, the city’s demographic, economic and security problems fester in the background, and particularly on the periphery of the city.

The Ongoing Kulturkampf with the Ultra-Orthodox: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 27, 2017— The Chief Rabbinate, backed by its haredi (ultra-Orthodox) political factions, has imposed additional extreme and even bizarre rulings that impact on the nation.

Surprise us, Ayelet Shaked: Vic Rosenthal, Abu Yehuda, Sept. 3, 2017— Last Tuesday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked spoke at an Israeli Bar Association conference.

 

On Topic Links

 

Political Appointments Will Not Solve Israel’s Governability Problems: Susan Hattis Rolef, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 9, 2017

Back in the Frying Pan: Joshua Davidovich, Times of Israel, Oct. 4, 2017

Israel Bets Against Palestinian Unity: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Oct. 4, 2017

Breaking Israel’s Imperial Court: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 28, 2017

 

                                                           

AFTER NETANYAHU

Neil Rogachevsky

Weekly Standard, Oct., 2017

 

With police intensifying their long-running corruption probes, Israel is awash with speculation that Benjamin Netanyahu’s days as prime minister may be numbered. Opponents—both within the Likud party and without—have been organizing. Sensing the danger, Netanyahu and his allies have fought back, organizing pro-Netanyahu rallies and events. Gleeful critics have taken to gaming the possibilities for a successor if the man known simply as Bibi is forced from office.

 

Could scandal really take down Netanyahu? The outcome is impossible to predict. There are multiple police investigations. One centers on a recorded conversation in which Netanyahu is alleged to have asked a prominent newspaper publisher for favorable coverage. Perhaps the recent American experience should have taught him it would be better to simply do this every day on Twitter. Another focuses on alleged “gifts” received, such as cigars and free services performed for his private residence, allegedly at his wife’s behest. More remote but possibly more dangerous is an investigation involving the state purchase of German submarines.

 

At this stage, it is worth bearing in mind that Netanyahu has been considered finished very often over the years: in 1999, ousted after a difficult first term at the hands of a Labor party led by Ehud Barak; in 2006, as the Likud party nearly crumbled after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon left it to form Kadima; most recently, in the days before the 2015 elections when his party badly trailed the center-left coalition Zionist Union. Time and again, Netanyahu has bounced back and more, managing to gain the upper hand in the brutal trials of Israeli politics, said to have been compared by George W. Bush to a “den of sharks.” Even if he does not achieve the feat of being the longest-serving Israeli prime minister—he is currently second on the list—Netanyahu already holds a pile of electoral records. He is the only prime minister to have led his party to four election victories (1996, 2009, 2013, and 2015) and to three in a row. In his ability to remain on top, Netanyahu most closely resembles Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who led the pre-state Yishuv and then Israel proper through its foundation in 1948 until 1963, with only a short interregnum.

 

At home and abroad, Netanyahu inspires no small amount of strong passions. To his critics, he is an obstructionist cynic, a roadblock to peace and progress. To his greatest supporters, he has been seen as Israel’s first American-style conservative leader, a proponent of free markets and a strong national defense. After so many years, there is a sense that Israelis simply tolerate him as the safest and most acceptable choice among the plausible alternatives. Whatever one thinks of him, however, Netanyahu’s premiership has been one of the most consequential in Israeli history—and for a reason one might not expect. Compared with the tenures of almost of all his predecessors, Netanyahu’s premiership has seemed remarkably uneventful. The hallmarks of Israel under Netanyahu have been strength and stability. A poorly made film about the history of Israel that tormented Jewish day-school students throughout the 1990s was called Never a Dull Moment. Netanyahu’s premiership since the late 2000s has, uniquely in Israeli history, featured some dull moments.

 

Quietude in Israel cannot be measured by the standards of, say, Switzerland. There have been plenty of bumps: bursts of violent conflict with the Palestinians, tensions stemming from unresolved issues of religion and state such as the one currently bubbling about prayer at the Western Wall, difficult strategic questions about an expansionist Iran, and differing challenges with the United States, Europe, Russia, Turkey, and the Arab countries. Yet some historical perspective is in order. The biggest military engagement of Netanyahu’s time—the 2014 Gaza war—was small compared with previous wars and battles, including with Gaza. The reason it was small was that Netanyahu and the defense minister at the time, Moshe Ya’alon, did everything in their power to limit the war by setting modest strategic objectives. The still-ongoing spate of knife and car-ramming attacks—sometimes referred to as the “social media” Intifada—cannot compare in intensity or scale to the Second Intifada (2000-2005), in which over 1,100 Israelis were killed and more than 8,000 wounded.

 

Meanwhile, over the course of Netanyahu’s rule, the country has enjoyed either very strong or better than average economic growth. When other Western countries sputtered in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Israel grew at 4 to 5 percent a year. A left-wing economic populist movement in the summer of 2011, motivated by high housing and food costs, has if not been diffused at least been limited. In the realm of diplomacy, Israel seems to have weathered a particularly rough period in its relations with Washington. The Europe-Israel relationship continues to decline, though most Israelis have concluded there’s little that might be done on that front and that relations with the East are more significant. And Netanyahu’s “pivot to Asia” has been extremely well executed, the most recent sign of which was the visit of Narendra Modi to Israel this past July, the first by an Indian prime minister.

 

Netanyahu’s mastery of the political scene has made it difficult for friends—and detractors—to think concretely about a post-Bibi Israel. “It’s very hard to imagine Israel after Netanyahu,” a pro-Netanyahu state prosecutor recently told me. “He sees three steps ahead, and others don’t.” At 67, Netanyahu is still a spring chicken by Israeli political standards. The parliamentary system has no built-in term limits. If he beats the current corruption charges, it’s not impossible he could win a fourth straight term when the next election comes. Yet there are signs everywhere that he will be fighting an uphill battle. After electing the purported centrist Avi Gabbay in its July primaries, the long-moribund Labor party appears to have picked up some steam, and recent polls that include a Gabbay-led Labor imply that any election would be close. Meanwhile, there are rumors that some prominent figures in Likud have concluded that it’s time for Netanyahu to step aside…

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

                                                                       

 

Contents

STEPPING FORWARD, OR BACKWARD, IN JERUSALEM?                                                           

David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, Oct. 6, 2017

 

As Jews and Christians from around the world flock to downtown Jerusalem and its Old City for this joyous holiday week, the city’s demographic, economic and security problems fester in the background, and particularly on the periphery of the city. Few know that there is a plan percolating its way up the Israeli decision-making ladder to bring about a significant change in the status of several Arab neighborhoods in the east and north; essentially to decouple them from Jerusalem; to remove them from Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction and to create for them a separate local authority. The main rationale for doing so: to improve the demographic balance of the city by reducing the Arab population of Jerusalem from 40 to 30 percent.

 

I have serious doubts as to the wisdom of this plan, given its diplomatic and defense implications. I doubt that it will work, and fear that it will prove a slippery slope towards a full-scale political division of the city. In order to understand the dilemma, one must know the numbers. There are some 320,000 Arab residents in Jerusalem, plus at least 50,000 residents of Judea and Samaria who reside in the city illegally or by virtue of family reunification. These Arabs have the legal status of permanent residents, which grants them the right to live and work in Israel without the need for special permits (unlike Palestinians in Judea and Samaria). It also entitles them to full Israeli social, health and educational benefits.

 

Many Jerusalemite Arabs have responded enthusiastically to the municipality’s recent efforts to reduce the disparities and improve the level of services and infrastructure in Arab neighborhoods. Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat has placed an emphasis on educational programs such as intensive Hebrew and pre-university preparatory programs for Jerusalemite Arabs. And in fact, the number of eastern Jerusalem students who opted for the Israeli matriculation curriculum jumped by 20% this year; up from 300 to 5,800 students over seven years. So a positive path forward is open to greater integration of Arab Jerusalemites with Jewish Jerusalemites in one united Israeli capital city.

 

But anywhere from 90,000 to 140,000 of Jerusalem’s Arabs live in chaotic neighborhoods that lie within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem but are on the other side of the security fence, particularly in Kafr Aqab and the Shuafat refugee camp in the north of the city. This is no-man’s-land, where no real government exists, not Israeli and not Palestinian. Terrorism, crime, poverty, and drugs are rampant in these neighborhoods. Massive construction of illegal and unsafe high-rise buildings is underway. For years, the Israeli government has neglected this situation.

 

One radical response to this problem is being advanced by former Labor and Kadima politician Haim Ramon along with a group of inveterate peace processers that have been proven wrong over and over. They want to wall 200,000 Jerusalem Arabs in 28 neighborhoods out of the capital; to strip them of their Israeli resident status and social benefits; and transfer them to the weak and unreliable Palestinian Authority. Neighborhoods like Shuafat, Jabel Mukaber, Sur Baher and Walaja would be locked out of Jerusalem.

 

Ramon’s belligerent plan to partition Jerusalem is dreadful. The shearing of the city into Arab and Jewish sovereignties would turn Jerusalem into Belfast at its worst. Any section of the city that falls under Palestinian sovereignty will become Ground Zero for the fierce wars being waged within the Arab world over Islamic lifestyle, ideology and legitimacy, and will become a base of attack on Israel.

 

The government of Prime Minister Netanyahu is not going to allow this. But Minister of Jerusalem and Heritage Zeev Elkin has thrown his support behind the so-called “Jerusalem Shield” plan to exclude Kafr Aqab and Shuafat from Jerusalem’s jurisdiction while still keeping them under Israeli sovereignty. The plan (developed by a group of activists headed by Chaim Silberstein) and Elkin’s views were revealed by Nadav Shragai in this newspaper two months ago.

 

Unlike Ramon’s madcap plan, this does not entail ceding Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinian Authority or revoking the inhabitants’ Israeli residency status and social benefits. But the neighborhoods would become independent local authorities, like Mevasseret Zion and Abu Gosh outside of Jerusalem, and subsequently perhaps part of a greater Jerusalem metropolitan structure that includes Gush Etzion, Givat Zeev and Maale Adumim. Elkin wants the government to allocate 2 billion shekels ($550 million) to development, infrastructure and policing of these proposed new local councils “outside” of Jerusalem.

 

The idea reportedly is viewed favorably by Gideon Saar of Likud and Naftali Bennett of Bayit Yehudi. In fact, Bennett’s “United Jerusalem” bill, which passed first reading in the Knesset in July, has a hidden clause that would make it possible to detach Arab neighborhoods from the city as long as they remain under Israeli sovereignty. And it’s possible that Kafr Aqab and Shuafat could be subtracted from Jerusalem’s jurisdiction without legislation. The Interior Ministry has a simple procedure for unilaterally changing municipal boundaries…

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

 

Contents

THE ONGOING KULTURKAMPF WITH THE ULTRA-ORTHODOX                                                               

Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, Sept. 27, 2017

 

The Chief Rabbinate, backed by its haredi (ultra-Orthodox) political factions, has imposed additional extreme and even bizarre rulings that impact on the nation. In previous generations we were blessed with chief rabbis who were worldly, spiritual giants who sought to harmonize Halacha with the modern requirements of a Jewish state. The current Chief Rabbinate is dominated by obscurantist and extreme elements that engage in vulgar, boorish and vile curses against the non-Orthodox, has no standing as an institution in Halacha and is even derided by the haredim whose political factions, holding the balance of power in the Knesset, have hijacked the institution.

 

It was haredi extortion that caused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to revoke the compromise – initially approved by the haredi representatives – whereby non-Orthodox Jews were enabled to worship according to their own traditions at a separate location at the Western Wall. This created enormous tensions with American Jewry, dominated by the Conservative and Reform movements, which felt betrayed.

 

That was augmented by efforts – currently suspended – to prevent unaffiliated Israeli Orthodox rabbis from officiating at weddings.

 

It was also revealed that thousands of converts and their entire families had been placed on a rabbinical blacklist and informed that their conversions were invalid. Some had already married under the aegis of the Chief Rabbinate but were subsequently reexamined and found to lack adequate documentation. Most former Soviet Jews are unable to provide any form of documentation whatsoever. To “un-Jew” individuals is utterly unprecedented. The Chief Rabbinate also has a blacklist of Diaspora Orthodox rabbis whose conversions or letters certifying the Jewishness of a person are deemed unacceptable.

 

The principal concern of the haredi rabbis is to ensure that their students devote their entire lives to learning Torah (even if many do not actually devote their time to genuine Torah study), rely on social welfare to subsist and above all, be denied secular education and contact with Israeli society. This is unprecedented in Jewish history. This approach represents the principal cause for the grinding poverty in the ultra-Orthodox ranks. Most haredi wives work – around the same percentage as women in the general population – and while some men work illegally, less than 50% of haredi men earn a livelihood in a recognized workplace.

 

The situation has dramatically escalated because of the demographic impact of the high birth rates of haredim, whose annual growth rate is 4%, compared to 1% in the non-haredi population. If current trends are sustained, their growth as a percentage of Israel’s total population is expected to be 14% in 2024 and 27% in 2050, when haredim will account for 35% of the total Jewish population. If the current situation does not change, this growth rate and the increasing drain on the economy will lead to an implosion as the state will not be able to sustain an ever-increasing proportion of its citizens reliant on social welfare.

 

The issue of legislation regarding the drafting of the ultra-Orthodox made news headlines following the recent Supreme Court ruling that there are no grounds for exemption in sharing the national burden. The court provided the government a one-year grace period to rectify the situation. Conscription of haredim is undoubtedly one of the most emotional and divisive issues that has ever faced the nation. It originated with founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion acceding to pleas from Agudat Yisrael leaders to give a dispensation from army service to approximately 400 yeshiva students – not for religious reasons, but to compensate for their peers who perished in the Shoah.

 

To their everlasting shame, the ultra-Orthodox rabbis in later generations exploited this to obtain blanket exemption for all haredi yeshiva students. Because the haredi political parties held the balance of power in the Knesset, except for a brief interregnum when they were excluded from the government and Yair Lapid introduced legislation to conscript them, haredi yeshiva students were enabled to evade conscription and remained isolated from mainstream Israeli society. Their justification was that their contribution to the defense of the nation was based on prayer and study of Torah. These arguments outraged the bulk of the nation, whose children are obliged to serve their nation for a period of two to three years. It is particularly resented by religious Zionists, who regard their IDF service as a mitzva – a religious obligation.

 

If a poll were held, it would no doubt show that the overwhelming majority of Israelis applaud the High Court’s judgment. Retiring Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, himself an observant Jew who defends the haredi lifestyle, summed up the issue: “The blood of one man is no redder than the blood of another.” The onus rests on the Knesset. The coalition and the opposition could finally break the exasperating stranglehold of the extremist rabbinate and reinstate a moderate rabbinical leadership that will pursue national objectives. This should be encouraged by the recent polls suggesting that, since the death of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and with the unpopularity of Shas leader Arye Deri, traditional Shas voters are abandoning the party. Shas may well struggle to maintain a presence in the next Knesset…

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

 

 

Contents

SURPRISE US, AYELET SHAKED

Vic Rosenthal

Abu Yehuda, Sept. 3, 2017

 

Last Tuesday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked spoke at an Israeli Bar Association conference. What she said constituted an ideological manifesto of great importance, much more so than the particular issue she spoke about, the Supreme Court decision on the rights of the state versus those of illegal immigrants:

 

“Israel of 2017 is a country that’s constitutionally made up of crisscrossing individual rights, without its Basic Laws referencing Israel being the nation state of the Jewish people,” Shaked lamented. “Zionism has become a blind spot for the judiciary,” she continued. “Questions concerning it have become irrelevant. National challenges are a judicial blind spot, not at all to be considered in today’s climate, and certainly not to be ruled in favor of when faced with individual rights issues. “The question of demographics and preserving the Jewish majority are classic examples,” she explained. “Israeli [jurisprudence] doesn’t even deem them values worthy of consideration.”…“The court’s response [to illegal immigrants] was striking down—and then striking down again—the law attempting to deal with this phenomenon,” she continued. …

 

At the same time Shaked sought to make clear that she doesn’t make light of those individual rights, saying she considers the system maintaining them to be “almost sacred.” “But not devoid of context,” she clarified. “Not detached from Israeli uniqueness, our national tasks and our very identity, history and Zionist challenges. Zionism should not—and will not—bow before a system of individual rights interpreted universally in a manner detaching it from the chronicles of the Knesset and the history of legislation we’re all familiar with.”

 

During the 1990s, under the leadership of its president Aharon Barak, Israel’s Supreme Court took the position in various decisions (like this one) that individual rights – equality, democracy – always override the collective rights of the state as the state of the Jewish people. Barak stipulated that Jewish values are identical to the liberal humanistic ones that underlie the secular Western morality that characterizes the most progressive elements in Europe and the US. The only sense in which Israel can be a “Jewish state” from this point of view is that it has a Jewish majority and a Law of Return for Jews. The problem with Barak’s position is that if individual rights are interpreted in the broadest sense (i.e., no distinction is made between civil and national rights) and if these rights always override the rights of the state, then the state may not be able to preserve its Jewishness. Even its continued existence could be in question.

 

Zionism came into being because Herzl and others understood that a necessary condition for the survival of the Jewish people was the ownership of a specifically Jewish nation-state. If the state is to be based on democratic principles, then a Jewish majority is a necessity for it to retain its Jewish nature. Protecting this majority, maintaining Jewish symbols like the flag and national anthem, and encouraging Jewish immigration are all legitimate responsibilities of the state. The majority of citizens and Knesset members disagree with Barak. They believe that the state has a right to protect its Jewish character even if this means that non-Jews will be treated differently from Jews in some respects. I call this the “Zionist imperative.” But the legal, media, educational, cultural and artistic elite, along with left-wing and Arab members of the Knesset, are no longer (if they ever were) Zionists. This is the source of much of the political tension in Israel today…

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

Political Appointments Will Not Solve Israel’s Governability Problems: Susan Hattis Rolef, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 9, 2017—The explanation we have received for the current efforts to increase the number of political appointments in the ministries at the expense of professional civil servants, is that it is a necessary move in order to resolve Israel’s governability problems.

Back in the Frying Pan: Joshua Davidovich, Times of Israel, Oct. 4, 2017 —It’s been a few weeks since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family have really come in for a beating from the press, with killings, mother nature, and other scandals taking precedence.

Israel Bets Against Palestinian Unity: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Oct. 4, 2017—Israel's intelligence community has consistently maintained over the years that a viable reconciliation between the Gaza Strip and West Bank leaderships is unrealistic. Even if such an occurrence were suggested by an intelligence agency model, the relationship would be fragile and not last over time.

Breaking Israel’s Imperial Court: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 28, 2017—The Chief Rabbinate, backed by its haredi (ultra-Orthodox) political factions, has imposed additional extreme and even bizarre rulings that impact on the nation.

 

 

 

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.                                             

 

Contents

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.

 

 

 

 

 

ISRAEL IS “GLOBALIZED, OPEN AND DEMOCRATIC”, DESPITE WARNINGS FROM THE LEFT, HA’ARETZ, & NYT

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

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

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

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

 

On Topic Links

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

ISRAELI DEMOCRACY IS NOT AT RISK

David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, Feb. 3, 2017

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Contents                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

HOW ISRAELIS SEE THE SETTLEMENTS

Yossi Klein Halevi

Wall Street Journal, Feb. 5, 2017

                       

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Contents

 

                                 A LEADER IN WAITING,

LAPID SLOWLY BUILDS A DOCTRINE FOR THE TRUMP ERA

          Avi Issacharoff

  Times of Israel, Feb. 6, 2017

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Contents

 

NETANYAHU MESSED UP BUT IT IS TIME TO MOVE FORWARD

Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 16, 2017

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Contents           

On Topic Links

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Contents                                                                                                                                                    

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.

 

 

                  

 

 

 

Manfred Gerstenfeld: ELECTION POLLS INDICATE CITIZENS’ CONCERNS, BUT WILL THE NEW GOVERNMENT RESPOND?

 

 

 

 

Polls conducted during previous elections campaigns for the most part asked respondents which party they would vote for. In the latest election campaign, however, polls also included a variety of other questions.

As much as the formation of a new government may appear to be a difficult task, the government needs to respond and provide solutions to the issues and concerns of the general public, which were rendered evident through these polls. Some polls may help us analyze past elections. More importantly, others will enable us to compare what the public wants with which new policies the new government intends to implement. A series of examples will illustrate both issues.

One poll conducted during the most recent election campaign asked whether voters were satisfied with the party for which they had voted in the previous elections of 2013. On the average, 36% of the voters were dissatisfied.  The main dissatisfaction concerned parties such as Yesh Atid, Shas, Likud-Beiteinu, and the Arab Balad party. About half of those who had voted for these parties were dissatisfied. The percentage of dissatisfied Labor voters was 26%, Habayit Hayehudi voters, 21%, while among those who had voted for United Torah Judaism only 5% were dissatisfied.

An Israel Hayom poll of December 3rd, 2014, found that 49% of the respondents believed that in view of the crises between coalition partners, elections for a new Knesset should be held, while 42% thought that this was not the case.

A Panels Research poll, also held in early December, indicated the major public disaffection with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Sixty percent of those polled said that they did not want him to continue as prime minister, 34% said they would, and 6% were unsure. In an imaginary head-to-head election between Netanyahu and Kahlon, 46% favored Kahlon and 36% preferred Netanyahu. Between Netanyahu and former Likud interior minister Gideon Saar, 43% chose Saar and 38% preferred Netanyahu.

In imaginary run-offs against other party leaders, however, Netanyahu appeared to win in each case. Against Labor party leader Isaac Herzog, Netanyahu would win by 1%, against Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett, by 12%, against Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid by 17%, and against Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu would win by 28%.

In December, several polls found that if Netanyahu were to lose the Likud leadership, the party would obtain less votes. Only if Saar were to lead the party would Likud get 20 seats as with Netanyahu as leader.

A Panels Research poll asked respondents to rate Jewish party leaders on a scale from one to ten, as far as corruption was concerned. The ultra-Orthodox Shas party leader Aryeh Deri was considered the most corrupt at 8.3, followed by Lieberman with 8, Netanyahu at 6.1, Livni at 5.7, Herzog at 5.3, and both United Torah Judaism’s Litzman and Yachad’s Yishai at 5.1. Lapid was at 4.9, Bennett at 4.4, Meretz chair Zahava Gal-on at 3.9. Kahlon was seen as the least corrupt at 3.5.

In December, 64% of those polled on behalf of The Jerusalem Post said that the socio-economic situation had worsened under the current outgoing government, and 58% considered that the security situation had deteriorated.  Respondents were also asked about the most important issue in the coming election. Thirty four percent mentioned the economy, 30% security, 14% chose social justice, 10% raised matters of religion and state, 5% answered Arab-Jewish relations, and 2% education and culture. Only 1% said Israel’s foreign relations was the most important election issue. 

More than two months later, a Times of Israel poll again found that the most important current political issue for Israelis was the economic situation, at 48%, followed by Israeli-Palestinian relations at 19%, and education at 14%. The Iranian threat was a priority for only 10% of those polled.

A poll conducted by the Rafi Smith Institute on behalf of the Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group found that 62% of the general public was in favor of a government excluding all ultra-Orthodox parties. Seventy six percent of those defining themselves as secular wanted a government without the inclusion of United Torah Judaism and Shas, as did 66% of those defining themselves as religiously traditional, and 80% of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. On the other hand, 65% of the national-religious respondents and 95% of the ultra-Orthodox respondents opposed the exclusion of the ultra-Orthodox parties from the government. The poll also found that 71% of Labor voters and 86% of Meretz and Kadima voters were opposed to the inclusion of ultra-Orthodox parties in the next coalition.

A TNS Teleseker poll published on January 9 asked respondents who was to blame for the housing crisis; 37% answered Netanyahu, 24% replied Lapid, and 14% held former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert responsible for the crisis.
A Jerusalem Post poll in mid-February also asked whether or not the American administration was interfering in the elections. The majority, 62%, said it did interfere, 31% said it did not, and 8% were unsure. On another question, 62% responded in the affirmative that Netanyahu should debate Herzog and 27% said that there should not be such a debate.

 
In mid-December, a Panels Research poll asked who was to blame for the deterioration in relations between the United States and Israel. Thirty–nine percent answered U.S President Barack Obama, 29% said Netanyahu and 25% both. A Times of Israel poll in late February found that 72% of Israelis have no faith in Obama’s capability of preventing Iran from getting the nuclear bomb, up from January’s 64%.  Only 33% of respondents polled view Obama favorably, while 59% see him unfavorably.

In January 2015, a Panels Research poll found that Moshe Ya’alon of the Likud was the most popular candidate to continue in his current position as Minister of Defense. He received 25% of the vote, as against 17% received by Bennett, 14% by the Zionist Union candidate, Major General (res.) Amos Yadlin, and 10% by Major General (res.) Yoav Galant of Koolanu.

In February 2015, a Walla poll found that Kahlon was the preferred candidate for finance minister by 34% of the respondents, followed by the Zionist Union’s Manuel Trajtenberg with 17% and Lapid with 13%. Tzipi Livni was found to be the preferred candidate for the post of foreign minister with 24%, followed by the Likud’s Gilad Erdan with 18%, and Lieberman with 17%. Lapid came in with 14% and Koolanu’s Michael Oren at 7%.

 

A poll also asked who would be more suitable to deal with the political/diplomatic situation; Netanyahu obtained 48% and Herzog 33%.  Questioned as to who would be more suitable to deal with the security situation: 55% of respondents answered Netanyahu, and 25% Herzog. Both candidates got 38% in answer to the question who would be more suitable to deal with the economic situation.

In a Jerusalem Post poll, respondents were asked whether they thought that the timing of the police investigation of Yisrael Beiteinu was of a political nature. Forty-four percent answered in the affirmative, and 40% said “no”. Asked whether they believed there would soon be another escalation in the Gaza strip, 64% said yes, and 16 % said no.

With so many indications of the general public’s mindset and concerns, the near future will allow us to assess to what extent the new government will be attentive to and meet the public’s demands.

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.]

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                      

   

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:         

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

Frederick Krantz: BIBI’S WIN TRUMPS ISRAELI LEFT, AND OBAMA, EUROPE—NOW COMES THE HARD PART: DEALING, LARGELY ALONE, WITH IRAN

 

 

 

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.

 

(Prof. Frederick Krantz is President and Director of the Canadian Institute

for Jewish Research, and Editor of its Daily Isranet Briefing and Israfax magazine)

Manfred Gerstenfeld: NETANYAHU WINS ELECTIONS DESPITE HATE CAMPAIGN AGAINST HIM

 

 

 

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.[1]

 

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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

 

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.

 



[1] Lahav Harkov, “Netanyahu warns: The Left is busing Arabs to vote, the Right is in danger,” The Jerusalem Post, 17 March 2015.

 

[2] Gil Ronen, “Galon Resigns, Won't Run for Meretz Chair Again,” Israel National News, 18 March 2015.

[3] Lahav Harkov, “Netanyahu tells TA rally: We can close gap with Herzog, The Jerusalem Post, 15 March 2015.

[4] Niv Elis, “Exit poll gaps leave pollsters in Israel scratching their heads,” The Jerusalem Post, 18 March 2015.

 

[5] Barak Ravid, “Netanyahu: If I'm elected, there will be no Palestinian state,” Haaretz, 16 March 2015.