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
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.]
LIEBERMAN OFFERS STRONG WORDS, BUT LITTLE
ACTION ON PALESTINIAN SALARIES FOR TERRORISTS
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.
RESTORING BALANCE BETWEEN THE KNESSET AND THE COURT
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.]
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.
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.