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March 18, 2015: With Gratitude and Gladness!

The Israeli election campaign just ended has been one hell of a dismal and ominous ride.  I knew that well enough, but it was only when near-final results were released, and I began to cry, that I realized how very frightened I had been.  For this nation that I love, and for the free world.



Credit: Reuters/Amir Cohen
And so I am grateful.  First to the Almighty.  And then to the people of Israel, who saw their way past the nonsense, and saved the day.
The campaign was one that I found shameful on several counts, something I have written about in recent days: 
It was personalized – an attack directly on Binyamin Netanyahu (with ridiculous accusations against his wife), rather than primarily a debate on the issues. This was ugly, and unbecoming. 
What is more, there is solid reason to believe that the campaign incorporated outside American interference, which is unacceptable by all measures of diplomatic conduct.  Such was the desire and determination of the Obama administration to take down Netanyahu.  (More on this below.)  The campaign advice provided to “the Zionist Camp” was slick – starting, I strongly suspect, with the fact that the merged Labor-Hatenua faction renamed themselves “Zionist Camp,” thereby creating the possibility of confusion in people’s minds.  And, I just as strongly suspect, including an announcement by Livni, just hours before the voting was to start, that she was pulling out of the shared premiereship deal with Herzog (clearly because internal polls indicated he would do better without her).           
That in the end the people of Israel did not buy the rhetoric of the campaign on the left is a source of great gladness. 
For – and this is the heart of the matter!! - it is difficult to exaggerate the damage that Buji and Livni might have done, had they gained the reins of the government.  They would have created a threatening situation for us at home with their “two state” negotiations nonsense, would have invited attack by Hamas and Hezbollah with their appeasement, and would have left Obama in the White House and the mullahs in Tehran laughing their heads off. 
But we are not in that place.  Thank God, thank God.
Coming into the election, Bibi was trailing Buji by some four mandates, and it was a scary time. A concerned Bibi let it be known that if the electorate was interested in a nationalist government, they would have to center their votes on Likud, and not spread them out amongst the nationalist parties. For if the nationalist vote was divided, and Herzog came in with more mandates, President Rivlin might select Herzog to first try to form a coalition.
The people heard.
When the polls closed at 10 PM yesterday, the nation was provided with the results of several media exit polls that had been done in the course of the day.  These polls were supposed to be a reasonably solid predictor of the actual results.
What we were told was that Bibi and Buji were just about neck and neck, at 27 mandates each by most accounts.  This was reassuring – a far cry from the information we had via the final polls five days before the election. There was now solid hope for Likud, as it was being predicted that Bibi had a better chance to form a coalition. But it was still too close for real comfort.  Netanyahu claimed victory; Herzog declined to congratulate him, assuming a “wait and see” stance instead.
But as the night wore on, the picture changed to one increasingly positive, until it was at last clear that Bibi Netanyahu and Likud had secured an amazing win, with 30 mandates to 24 for Buji and the Zionist Camp. 

Buji then congratulated Bibi on his win.  And now it is a sure thing that Rivlin will ask Bibi to form the government.
Prior to the election, the far left Hadash had joined with the Arab parties for a united list, and they came in third at 14 mandates.  It is expected that they will now break apart again.
Then: Yesh Atid (Lapid) 11, Kulanu (Kahlon) 10, Habayit Hayehudi (Bennett) 8, Shas (Deri) 7, United Torah Judaism (Litzman/Gafni) 6, Yisrael Beitenu (Lieberman) 6, Meretz 4. 
Just as Habayit Hayehudi lost mandates (some 12 had been anticipated), because of the call for votes to Likud, so, too, did Eli Yishai’s new party Yahad fail to make the electoral cut-off.  I am sorry about that.  A break off from Shas, and solidly Orthodox/ultra-Orthodox, it was also shaping up as a nationalist party.  I believe Yishai is a good man, and hope he finds his way.
The numbers I cite here represent 99% of the vote, there are still votes from soldiers and others to be counted.  That last 1% is unlikely to change matters – but it could cause a shift, as has happened before. 
I want to mention Naftali Bennett here, because he has conducted himself as a true mensch – a person who behaves with integrity and decency.  He and other members of the party (notably Ayelet Shaked) were able to rejoice at a right wing win, even though it was at the cost of some Habayit Hayehudi mandates.  Said Bennett to his gathered supporters (emphasis added):
“Netanyahu called me. I praised him for the great victory of the national camp. We concluded that we will begin negotiations to establish the government. I tell you, my friends, in these negotiations we will not focus on cabinet positions, rather on values.

“We will take care to ensure a government … that will safeguard the Land of Israel in its entirety. A government that will ensure the Jewish character of the State of Israel. A government that will protect IDF soldiers from outside [legal] persecution.

“We will secure a government that will safeguard a united Jerusalem under the sovereignty of Israel, and Israel only. And a government that will not give a centimeter of Israeli land to the Arabs.

We’re running long distance. We are not afraid, and we don’t lower our heads. We raise our heads higher and higher. We love the people of Israel, the land of Israel. We, all of us, love the Torah of Israel and the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces.”
Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett waves to onlookers following elections, March 17, 2015. (photo credit: Avi Lewis/ Times of Israel, Jon Weidberg)

Credit: Avi Lewis/Times of Israel
Bennett’s day will come.  So often politicians are concerned only with the success of their own party, and this is refreshing.
In terms of how Bibi conducted himself here, we are also seeing integrity.  Bennett was the first one he called, and – undoubtedly appreciating the hit Bennett had taken - he let him know that they would work together to form a nationalist government.  Another cause for gratitude. A new day. There has been all together too much tension between these men, and they should be partners in important work now.
Bibi has said he will form a nationalist religious coalition.  Its exact nature has yet to unfold. There is, of course, much speculation – with many parameters being examined.  In the formation of a coalition government, various factions make demands. Now it is a question of how much Netanyahu needs any given faction, and what the head of that faction is demanding.  The fact that Likud has 30 mandates and not 27 somewhat reduces the bargaining power of the various other parties.
Kahlon is focused on social issues and wants the Finance Ministry (and perhaps housing).  Bibi is prepared to give him Finance, certainly.  Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the US, and now a prominent member of Kulanu, is a two-state man, and makes me nervous.  Lieberman, who has gone way down in the number of mandates his party has, is talking big in terms of wanting Defense.  I would be shocked if he got it.  Lapid is talking about sitting out the coalition and acting in the opposition.  (Suffice it to say here that the ultra-Orthodox parties and Lapid are on opposite sides of a huge divide.)
Bibi does not need all of these parties.  He would be able to pass over at least one if not two of them and still end up with 61 or more mandates.  We’ll watch, and see how it plays over the next couple of weeks.
When I speak of a “new day,” I believe it may be coming in a couple of contexts.  Please note that last time around he gave Livni the Justice Ministry.  Now he speaks of a nationalist religious government.  I believe that Bibi has been pushed hard enough by Obama so that he is in no mood for conciliatory gestures.  Sometimes it has to get worse before it can get better.
Just a few final thoughts here now. 
What is most important is that the world see that a right-leaning nationalist government is where the Israeli electorate stands. This does not make us radicals, even though a left-leaning media will paint us so.  A democratic election was held and the people have spoken.  We will, we must, move on from here.
To the extent that the left focused on issues during the campaign, they were social/economic issues, such as the need for more housing.  The problem with their perspective is that they represent these issues as the primary and most critical ones.
These issues are very real, but security is and must be treated as more urgent. I read a comment by someone (sorry I cannot quote, as I do not remember who) that: It’s wonderful if the government will build us new apartment complexes, but what good will it do us if Iran nukes them.  Crudely put, but absolutely true.  The right is not mistaken, to be concerned first with Iran, and what would happen if we gave the Palestinian Arabs a state, and what Hezbollah intends to do. 
But it would be prudent if Bibi now gave a more serious nod to those economic/social issues.
For your information: Zahava Gal-On has resigned as head of Meretz because she takes responsibility for the fact that her party only pulled four mandates (at one point it was thought they might not make the cut-off).
As to the meddling from the US, I would not want to see this issue dropped.  It must be pursued to its end, and it falls to those who are American citizens to demand that this be done.
Please see the article below which appeared a couple of months ago in no less than Haaretz:
“...With the help of American money and a former campaign adviser to President Barack Obama, V15 is trying to replace Israel’s government. The money and organization comes from V15’s partnership with OneVoice...
Their secret campaign weapon is Jeremy Bird, a 36-year-old American political strategist who worked for Obama. Bird has come with a team of four consultants that will try to channel the energies of V15 into an organized methodology.”
And this (emphasis added):
“...the [Senate] probe is looking into funding of the OneVoice Movement, a Washington-based group that has received $350,000 in recent State Department grants. A subsidiary of OneVoice is the Israel-based Victory 15 campaign, guided by top operatives of the White House, which openly seeks to ‘replace the government’ of Israel.”
There is going to be a great deal to track, as we move forward now. And I am eager to look at a variety of news items, regarding a very defiant Iran, a belligerent Palestinian Authority, and more. 
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 05:16PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

March 16. 2015: It's Up to Us!

The chances of a right wing victory in tomorrow’s election suddenly seemed far greater after last night’s rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.  After a very frustratingly lackadaisical campaign – with an incredibly negative tone, and with polls showing the left ahead - a bubble of hope welled up.  Some estimated that there were 100,000 people there.  Whether there were 100,000 or 70,000, it was possible so say, “Ah!”

Credit: MATE
I have learned that apparently – for reasons that are not clear to me – leftists vote more consistently than right wing people do.  And so I write this final posting before the election to call upon every right wing Israeli citizen of voting age to go out and vote tomorrow.  There is always a solemn responsibility to vote.  But tomorrow it is particularly important.  Especially as there is the possibility of seizing victory at the 11th hour: We cannot win unless we vote, guys.
I am sending this to my regular list, and taking the liberty, as well, of sending it to others who might spread the word.
To those outside of Israel, I ask that you share with all your friends and relatives in Israel.  To those in Israel, I ask that you take note, and then share my message with all of your friends and relatives as well.
At the end of this message, I am going to repeat the core of my last posting, which explains how the system works.
Just as I said the last time, I repeat here:  In the end, it is not my place to tell anyone how to vote. Each of you must decide.  But what I can do is explain that a right wing victory is most likely if Likud garners more mandates than the “Zionist Camp.”  Bibi must have the first opportunity to form a coalition or we risk Herzog’s being able to do it.  To ensure that Likud has those mandates means voting Likud.
The situation would be very different if Likud were showing a strong lead in the polls.  Then voting to the right of Likud, to ensure a strong right flank for Likud, would be almost a reflexive decision for some.  But as it is, Likud, which has not been showing a lead in the polls (strong or otherwise), needs a boost now. Something to be considered as you decide how to vote – Likud or to the right of Likud.
One of the things that has been most upsetting about this vile campaign is that a major theme of it, on the left, has been “anyone but Bibi.”  No grappling with issues, no positive frame.  It has been rather disgusting, and should not be permitted to win the day.
Let’s look at why it MUST be Bibi:
[] The reason it is “anyone but Bibi” is because Bibi is the one who represents the threat to the left.  No one else in the current set-up can carry the day on the right except him.  And since the thought of a left-wing government headed by Buji Herzog is terrifying, it indeed must be Bibi who is provided with the opportunity to defeat Buji.
Herzog is running on a “two-state” platform.  He is eager to start negotiations with the PA – an exercise in insanity - and looks forward to being able to give half of our country away. 
Even more distressing is his readiness to bow to Obama on issues of Iran: He expresses “confidence” that Obama can handle matters. Heaven help us.
Stopping him means a strong Bibi.
It is not necessary to think that Bibi is the perfect leader.  One can feel discontent with him in one regard or another and still understand that he stands head and shoulders above Buji in terms of doing what’s best for the country.
Providing security for our nation means standing strong.  Herzog’s positions would immediately weaken Israel, for Herzog is going for appeasement instead of strength.  Our enemies would smell this immediately.
Channel 2’s Middle East expert has already predicted that Iran’s proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, would be likely to test Herzog’s strength very quickly after a Herzog win;
Stopping Buji means a strong Bibi. There is no one else who can fill this role.
[] With regard to Iran, the most significant existential issue of all, there is also the matter of Netanyahu’s stunningly successful talk in Congress earlier this month.  
He was hailed incredibly in Congress with one rousing ovation after another; commentators later referred to him as the leader of the free world – the only one ready to stand up and tell the truth about Iran.  A time of great pride for Israel, when we are so often the object of delegitimization campaigns. 
Does the nation then reject Netanyahu?  It would be a huge disservice to him.  And the message it would send to the world would be shameful:  Yes, our prime minister stood up to Iran as no one else, but we are prepared to dump him now for someone who can appease Obama.
This would not only be a terrible message to deliver, it would mean that the single voice speaking out against Iran, amongst national leaders, would have been silenced.  A disservice to the free world. 
[] Then we come to the matter of reports that American funds have been invested in the campaign here in order to bring Bibi down.  The matter is serious enough so that the Senate is now going to look into it, according to Fox News:
”An investigatory bi-partisan panel has been convened in order to probe allegations that the US State Department gave a political group that opposes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu taxpayer-funded grants, a source with knowledge of the proceedings told Fox News on Saturday.”
Do we sit still for this?  Is this how we want our elections determined? It is imperative to stand strong, with ballots, against a US administration that wants our prime minister out.
As to what I wrote last about our electoral system:

People vote for parties, not for individuals, and the president of Israel plays a key role in what follows after the votes are cast and counted: It is the president who invites the head of one party to attempt to form a governing coalition.  As there are 120 seats in the Knesset, the coalition must represent at least 61 of those seats (referred to as mandates).

After the election is completed, it is determined which party received the most mandates.  (It has never happened that any one party had at least 61 mandates.  A coalition has always been required.)  Very often, the president then invites the head of that faction to try to form a coalition.  The scuttlebutt now is that this is what President Ruby Rivlin intends to so.  It is not necessarily required of him to do this – but it is what we expect to happen, what usually does happen.

(There is yet another step, before he formally selects the person who will attempt to form the coalition: The head of each party comes to visit the president, and indicates which party head he/she prefers to put together the coalition.)


There are only two choices, in terms of whom Rivlin might select – it is either going to be the head of Likud (Netanyahu) or the head of the Zionist Camp (Herzog). 


There are those who make the case that what matters is a strong right wing bloc so that you are helping defeat Herzog by voting for Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) or Eli Yeshai’s Yahad party.  This would be the case if Likud were solidly ahead of the Zionist Camp in the polls: then there would be a strong case for voting to the right of Likud, to prevent pull in the opposite direction.

And it is certainly the case once a coalition is being formed.  Bayit Yehudi and Yahad are natural allies of Likud, and if they are strong, then the right wing bloc is stronger.  (This is good because then fewer other parties have to be brought in to make the coalition. When there are more parties, the coalition tends to be weakened because each party has different demands.)

However, there is a “but” here.  If Likud does not bring in more mandates than the Zionist Camp in the election, then Netanyahu might not ever have the chance to form a coalition. This is the reality right now.

I say this not because I am opposed to Bayit Yehudi or Yahad.  Not at all. But because the Zionist Camp must be defeated.


What must be understood is how complicated the coalition building process is. There are parties that are definitely on the right, such as Bayit Yehudi and Yahad. They are not going with Herzog no matter what.  And there are others that are clearly left, such as Meretz (if it even gets enough mandates to get into the Knesset). But there are other parties that will swing either way.  Such parties as Shas, or Yesh Atid or Kulanu. Calling themselves “centrist” (I would call them something else), they will go with the coalition that will do the most for them.  It’s a sort of political horse-trading: I’ll support your coalition and vote with you, but I want this ministry, or that law passed.

Thus is it the case that the party who has the first opportunity to attempt to form a coalition, has the best chance of bringing in these swing parties.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.

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Posted on Monday, March 16, 2015 at 09:54AM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

March 11, 2015: THE ELECTION

This is a posting of utmost seriousness, my friends, about a subject that is both weighty and complex.  I will do my best to clarify.
We’re not looking at an election that is “simply” a contest between two candidates with somewhat different opinions and styles: We are talking about radical differences.
And we are not looking at a campaign process that has been measured – sort of an extended civil debate on the issues.  Quite the contrary! What has been going on has been ugly and distressful.   
At the core of the campaign, we have the Likud, headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. 


Credit: Politico

And the “Zionist Camp,” a merger of Labor and Hatenua, which are headed respectively by Yitzhak “Buji” Herzog and Tzipi Livni.  It sometimes refers to itself as the “Zionist Union,” although “Camp” is the direct translation from the Hebrew.


Credit: The Guardian


For the moment, we will put the other parties aside, although I will come back them.


For those alarmed by the prospect of a Herzog-Livni government, the question is how to vote to prevent this disaster from occurring.  There is huge concern right now because the current polls put the Zionist camp ahead of Likud.  It’s no comfort that traditionally these polls are often wrong: the prospect remains truly terrifying.


Why is the prospect of a Herzog-Livni government a disaster?  Because we live in very dangerous times, within an exceedingly dangerous neighborhood, and nothing about the former policies of Herzog and Livni or the goals that they are promoting now remotely suggest that they would have either the wisdom or the strength needed to stand for Israel.

This is a very serious matter.  In my book, a matter that trumps the other issues.  There is, for example, a housing problem here in Israel.  No question.  Responsibility for this problem falls on many shoulders going back over time.  It must be debated and solutions must be found. But – Heaven forbid – if we are overrun by radical Islamists/terrorists because of a weak government, the housing issue becomes moot.  Does it not?


Back when Tzipi Livni was foreign minister, I was present at a talk she gave at a conference.  She was explaining why Israel had to relinquish Judea and Samaria: Because this would make the world like us better, and we need international support.  Dear Heaven!  How I deplore this attitude.  I walked out.

Livni was foreign minister in 2006, at the time of the Second Lebanon War, and served as a sort of Israeli diplomatic nursemaid to Security Council Resolution 1701, which provided the structure for Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the formation of UNIFIL – UN forces charged with working with the Lebanese army to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon. 

Originally 1701 was supposed to have been established under Chapter 7 of the Security Council, which would have meant it had enforceability.  But it was scaled back to a Chapter 6, which means there was no enforceability. What Livni said was “so we got [Chapter] 7 minus” – a breathtakingly stupid and meaningless statement.  There is, of course, no such thing.  And yet she did not protest and said that this resolution was good for Israel: she took enormous credit for this “diplomatic” achievement.

Resolution 1701 had no clause to prevent the transfer of arms into Lebanon for use by Hezbollah.  In fact, UNIFIL was not authorized to use armed force. And UNIFIL includes recruits from countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, countries that support terrorism and destruction of the Jewish state, and countries that are in an official state of war with Israel.

This is what Livni, without protest, called “good for Israel.”

The theoretical goal of 1701, aside from moving Israel out of Lebanon, was to keep Hezbollah out of the south of the country and to prevent it from re-arming. Today Hezbollah, along with its 100,000 rockets, is in south Lebanon.

For most of the campaign, neither Livni nor Herzog enunciated a clear platform.  The campaign consisted mostly of a series of “anyone but Bibi” innuendoes. It has been a depressingly ugly and unserious campaign.
This past Sunday, the Zionist Camp brought its platform to the public. It addresses housing issues, and economic problems, which is quite fine.
But, within the first 100 days after the election, the Zionist Camp would also “make every effort to present our (peace) initiative to the Arab League." (Emphasis here and following is added.)
What?  A “peace initiative”?  Now? And involving the Arab League, yet.  “We present a vision and a leadership that is able to pay a political price when we believe it's justified.”  This “vision” is couched in very vague language, but what is being said here is that they would relinquish Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem. 
Beware, I tell you.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has said repeatedly in recent days that there will be no territory relinquished under current circumstances: it would be dangerous because in no time at all we’d have jihadist terrorists at our border.  He is 100% correct, and the fact that Herzog and Livni do not get it is serious indeed.
I will not belabor all of the planks of the Zionist Camp platform, but want to mention this:
“A government headed by the Zionist Union will act to prevent Iran from developing military nuclear capabilities through a final-status agreement between Tehran and the international community, which includes dismantling the existing nuclear infrastructure, and a strict and effective regime of supervision and inspection."
I think most of my readers can understand what babble, devoid of reality, this is.
And lastly:

"The strategic allegiance (sic) between the United States and the State of Israel is a basic component of Israel's national strength, and an asset that must be safeguarded and nurtured. Hurting this allegiance (sic), much like the deterioration in Israel's international status, leads to unimaginable damage to Israel's diplomatic and security strength.

"A government led by the Zionist Union will mend the special relationship with the United States, which was seriously damaged during the tenure of the outgoing government.”,7340,L-4634652,00.html

Translation: We are going to go kissy-kiss with Obama.  Netanyahu made a huge mistake in crossing him, as this damaged Israel’s relationship with the US, but we aim to fix it.

Not so, of course. What was “damaged” was our relationship with a US president who works against us in any event.  The enormous esteem in which the US Congress holds Netanyahu was clear for all to see.

Appeasement, bending over to keep Obama happy, can only hurt Israel.


So the case against the Zionist Camp has been made.  And now we look at what to do to keep Herzog and Livni out of power. Our electoral system is more than a bit complex:

People vote for parties, not for individuals, and the president of Israel plays a key role in what follows after the votes are cast and counted: It is the president who invites the head of one party to attempt to form a governing coalition.  As there are 120 seats in the Knesset, the coalition must represent at least 61 of those seats (referred to as mandates).

After the election is completed, it is determined which party received the most mandates.  (It has never happened that any one party had at least 61 mandates.  A coalition has always been required.)  Very often, the president then invites the head of that faction to try to form a coalition.  The scuttlebutt now is that this is what President Ruby Rivlin intends to so.  It is not necessarily required of him to do this – but it is what we expect to happen, what usually does happen.

(There is yet another step, before he formally selects the person who will attempt to form the coalition: The head of each party comes to visit the president, and indicates which party head he/she prefers to put together the coalition.)


There are only two choices, in terms of whom Rivlin might select – it is either going to be the head of Likud (Netanyahu) or the head of the Zionist Camp (Herzog). 


There are those who make the case that what matters is a strong right wing bloc so that you are helping defeat Herzog by voting for Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) or Eli Yeshai’s Yahad party.  This would be the case if Likud were solidly ahead of the Zionist Camp in the polls: then there would be a strong case for voting to the right of Likud, to prevent pull in the opposite direction.

And it is certainly the case once a coalition is being formed.  Bayit Yehudi and Yahad are natural allies of Likud, and if they are strong, then the right wing bloc is stronger.  (This is good because then fewer other parties have to be brought in to make the coalition. When there are more parties, the coalition tends to be weakened because each party has different demands.)

However, there is a “but” here.  If Likud does not bring in more mandates than the Zionist Camp in the election, then Netanyahu might not ever have the chance to form a coalition. This is the reality right now.

I say this not because I am opposed to Bayit Yehudi or Yahad.  Not at all. But because the Zionist Camp must be defeated.


It is not necessarily the case, by the way, that the person who is given the first opportunity to form the coalition will be successful.  A few years ago, Livni had the first opportunity, and failed.

What must be understood is how complicated the coalition building process is. There are parties that are definitely on the right, such as Bayit Yehudi and Yahad. They are not going with Herzog no matter what.  And there are others that are clearly left, such as Meretz (if it even gets enough mandates to get into the Knesset). But there are other “centrist” parties that will swing either way.  Such parties as Shas, or Yesh Atid or Kulanu. Calling themselves “centrist,” they will go with the coalition that will do the most for them.  It’s a sort of political horse-trading: I’ll support your coalition and vote with you, but I want this ministry, or that law passed.

Thus is it the case that the party who has the first opportunity to attempt to form a coalition, has the best chance of bringing in these swing parties.


And there are two other points I would make here:

Our prime minister did us very proud in Washington – making the case for blocking Iran’s intentions in a manner that may have positive implications for our security.  At the same time, he enhanced our reputation.  At a time when Israel is routinely delegitimized, he accrued honor for us, holding his head high and demonstrating the need for strength.

Thus does it seem right that his nation should now support him. Is he perfect? Far from it.  But he is the best leader we have at present, and merits serious attention from us.

What is more, there is reason to believe that the White House has been behind the scenes in terms of some of the manipulations going on in the campaign – the game playing, engendered by American advisors.  The picture of Obama getting the last laugh, knowing he “fixed” his enemy Netanyahu, even if he couldn’t block him from Congress, is a rather intolerable one.


I cannot tell anyone how to vote. What I have done here is lay out a scenario that I believe has significant validity in terms of the current electoral situation.  What I do ask, if you are in Israel, is that you take what I have written here seriously, and then make sure you go out and VOTE.  What is more, I ask that you share this information with others and encourage them to vote as well.

If you are in the US or elsewhere, and have friends and relatives in Israel, I ask that you share this with them and encourage them to vote, as well.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.

See my website at  Contact Arlene at
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Posted on Monday, March 16, 2015 at 09:46AM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

March 8, 2015: Nauseating

Before we get to the events that are stomach-turning, I want to circle back just briefly to Netanyahu’s talk in Congress.  I cannot consider every commentary (and there are so many!), but what Charles Krauthammer wrote seems worthy of note here.  He refers to “the libel being perpetrated by some that Netanyahu is trying to get America to go to war with Iran,” which he says is a “malicious calumny.”
This is a point that I had not touched upon, and so I am glad to have the opportunity to do so here.  Krauthammer’s response (emphasis added):
In its near-70 year history, Israel has never once asked America to fight for it. Not in 1948 when 650,000 Jews faced 40 million Arabs. Not in 1967 when Israel was being encircled and strangled by three Arab armies. Not in 1973 when Israel was on the brink of destruction. Not in the three Gaza wars or the two Lebanon wars.

“Compare that to a very partial list of nations for which America has fought and for which so many Americans have fallen: Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Vietnam, Korea, and every West European country beginning with France (twice).

“Change the deal, strengthen the sanctions, give Israel a free hand.”

Credit: Free Beacon

As to that free hand, I would add that the US possesses 15-ton bunker busters and the B2 stealth bombers that can carry them, the use of which would complete the job in Iran, but will not give them to Israel.

Krauthammer makes yet another point, however:
“Netanyahu offered a different path in his clear, bold and often moving address, Churchillian in its appeal to resist appeasement.”
It is appeasement that leads to war, not tough stances.  Thus, in fact, what Netanyahu proposes would reduce the threat of war with Iran, for it would render the mullahs weak instead of emboldening them.
There are reports of the deal with Iran drawing close.  This article from yesterday, for example, refers to the fact that “Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a week of diplomacy in Europe and the Middle East within what many experts say is striking distance of an initial accord with Iran over its nuclear program.”
But the very same article reports that French foreign minister Laurent Fabius “complained that the emerging accord did not yet go far enough to constrain Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
“’There has been progress but as far as the volume, checks and duration of the envisaged commitments are concerned, the situation is still insufficient,’ Mr. Fabius said Friday. ‘So there is more work to be done.’”

Kerry then rushed to give the appearance of unity with France and declared that they were chasing after the same thing.


With regard to this matter, what we need to watch for are indications that Netanyahu’s speech may have affected the negotiating dynamic.  The prime minister is now saying that:
"After my speech to Congress, we heard from several foreign ministers who don't see a need to reach a deal as soon as possible, and who said they would wait for a good agreement to be reached. (emphasis added)

"I hope these things will be translated into action.",7340,L-4634562,00.html
On the homefront in the US, according to the WSJ (all emphasis added):
“the Senate’s effort to require a vote of Congress on the Obama Administration’s impending nuclear-arms deal with Iran is back on track. With support for the Iran bill now approaching a veto-proof majority, the Administration’s negotiators must now factor in Senate approval for the terms of any deal.
“Last Friday Tennessee’s Senator Bob Corker , Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. The bill says President Obama must submit the text of any final Iran arms deal to Congress within 60 days to allow time for hearings and a vote.

“In addition to New Jersey’s Robert Menendez , the committee’s ranking minority member, Democrats co-sponsoring the bill included Tim Kaine (Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), plus Maine Independent Angus King.

After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ’s speech to Congress Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would bring the Corker-Menendez bill directly to the floor next week for a vote, bypassing the normal committee markup procedures. An outcry erupted among Democrats...

“On Thursday afternoon Senator McConnell withdrew his intention to move the Iran bill directly to the floor. The result was remarkable: Four more Democrats now support the Iran-vote bill: Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Chris Coons (Del.) and Ben Cardin (Md.).

“Add this group to the Senate’s Republicans and there currently are 64 Senators, three short of a veto-proof majority, who want to vote on the Obama Iran deal.”
Not surprisingly, Obama is responding to all this pushback: Now he says that the US will “walk away” if the deal is not acceptable.
I am guessing that he sees it as preferable to give the appearance of having exhibited necessary caution, than to attempt to push through a deal and be defeated – humiliatingly for him - by a veto over-ride in Congress or have other members of P5 + 1 refuse to go along.  You will notice that his tone is decidedly less belligerent and more tentative. 
And so, on this, stay tuned.
Now as to what is “nauseating.”  Actually, I’m seeing a lot that is, and I bet many readers would agree. But what I have in mind is the election campaign here in Israel.  It has demoralized me, along with a host of others.
I imagine that at my core I am naïve  I actually believe that the good of the nation must come first, and not the opportunity to advance oneself in an election.  And so, what I have been seeing has been unbearable for me.
For a good part of the campaign, the thrust of what is being called the “Zionist Camp” – aka the Labor Party, headed by Buji Herzog and Tzipi Livni – has focused on the goal of “anyone but Bibi” rather than a positive agenda.  In the course of promoting that goal, charges emanated from the left that were vile for their petty and insipid focus.  The “biggie” was the charge that Sara Netanyahu returned bottles from drinks that had been purchased with State funds (for some official entertaining, presumably) and pocketed the refund monies.  Shock.  Horrors.  THIS is what there was to talk about when the world is on fire?  Turns out that the charges weren’t true, but this seems almost beside the point.
Because of my naiveté - or, better perhaps, my idealism – I also think there are times when it is essential to support the head of the government, even if it means that your own chances of replacing him are thus diminished.  I absolutely believe it was Buji’s place – criticize as he might such other things as housing policy - to state that he stands with Bibi with regard to his talk in Congress, stands with him as one on the issue of Iran, and is proud that the prime minister of Israel would be received as he was.
But no, Buji was big on criticizing Bibi for his “rift” with Obama, and suggested that it was wrong for him to leave the country when there is so much here to tend to (just as he, Buji, was busy attending to “things”).
Heaven forbid that either Buji or Livni should suggest that Prime Minister. Netanyahu did a good thing in Washington, and just perhaps made Israel a bit safer.  Never mind that he enhanced Israel’s prestige internationally.
Tiresome... Sad...
Yesterday, there was a left wing rally in Tel Aviv – officially run by a “two-state” group, and not any party - that was solidly “anyone but Bibi.”  Likud has charged that it was funded by foreign money.  Key speaker was former head of the Mossad Meir Dagan, who has tilted quite left.  According to a JPost report, he said that ‘Our leadership is scarier than our enemies.” While Iran is very scary, the way Netanyahu has handled matters has hurt efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear armament program.
Excuse me?
A couple from Tel Aviv who attended the rally is quoted as saying that among the things Netanyahu failed at was “diplomacy.”
Now really.  Is the relationship with Obama the key? Did they not see how Congress responded to him?  Have they not heard that Arab Sunni states support our prime minister? Arab states.
The charge, also made at this rally, that Bibi has failed because he has not negotiated a “two state solution,” thereby ushering in “peace,” is a huge red herring.  Even many of those who would prefer to see a Palestinian state admit that it is not a possibility now and would cause great security damage to Israel.
But why bother with the truth, when it’s possible to attack Netanyahu?
On Friday, the left-leaning newspaper Yediot Aharonot published a document that it said was a list of “drastic concessions” that Netanyahu had been willing to make in August of 2013, in the course of negotiations with the PA. These concessions allegedly included such things as a deal on Jerusalem and full “restitution” to the Palestinian Arabs of land secured in 1967.
Prime Minister Netanyahu countered that this was a draft, floated by the US: In an attempt to jumpstart negotiations, the Americans had floated a document to which each side could then respond. Netanyahu never agreed to withdrawal to the pre-1967 line nor to dividing Jerusalem, nor to some concession on Palestinian Arab “right of return.”
Dennis Ross, who served as an American negotiator at the time in question, says exactly the same thing: Netanyahu never agreed to any of these terms.
Yesterday, Defense Minister Bogie Ya’alon said that since neither side agreed to the terms of that document that had been floated by the US, the document was “not relevant.”
What then, asked Ya’alon, was Yediot’s intention in publishing this document now?  The answer is obvious: to create an impression that Netanyahu was prepared to make huge concessions, thus discrediting him with the very voters upon whom he depends.
Likud has charged that Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Noni Mozes has orchestrated a campaign to mislead the public.
So here we have a newspaper – if that is what we call it – more interested in the “Bibi must go” campaign than in reporting facts.
This too, my friends, I find nauseating.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.

Posted on Monday, March 9, 2015 at 01:58PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

March 7, 2015: Catching Up

Motzei Shabbat (after Shabbat)

A very splendid Purim – a healing Purim that brought laughter and a sense of hope – is over, as is Shabbat.  I want now to pick up on posting again by looking at some thoughts regarding PM Netanyahu’s speech in Congress last week.  So many of my readers sent op-eds and articles on the subject, that I acknowledge you here, collectively, but with special appreciation to Barbara O.
When I wrote about the speech last week, I described the incredible standing ovation Bibi received on entering the Congressional Chambers.  I provided a link to a video of the talk, but commented that it left out those first stunning moments.  Well, an alert reader found a version of the video that includes it.  Some of you might want to see it, even if you have already viewed the speech, because it truly is a moving sight:
There is one commentator I encountered – J.E. Dyer - who opined that the “robust” support exhibited by Congress was perhaps Netanyahu’s key victory: The cheers, the sustained applause and roughly 27 standing ovations. The affirmation from Congress, which was not simply ritual, is what the prime minister came for, “and what he had to take home.”
Far more accurately than anything Obama says, the Congress represents the people of the United States.  The people are with Israel.
Bibi’s grand slam: Boxing in Obama on Iran’s nukes
Credit: Getty


There are those who were eager to attack the prime minister’s speech and attempted to do so with a nonsensical approach.  They claimed he had given the speech only for campaign purposes.  Or that he didn’t say anything. 
One of the most ludicrous arguments I have read maintains that it is essential to strike a successful deal with Iran, because that is the only way the West can have any control over what happens.  If negotiators walk away with no deal in hand, Iran will just go ahead and make a bomb. (This is essentially a “bad deal is better than no deal” argument, which is the reverse of what Kerry has been saying consistently.)
All of those who suggest this are advised to get real.  If there were no deal struck, then it would be imperative to levy strangling sanctions against Iran. 
And then there are those who claim Netanyahu criticized without suggesting a better approach. This is simply not the case.  I outlined Bibi’s parameters in my last posting: tough sanctions that bring pressure on Iran as long as it is fostering terrorism world-wide, exhibiting aggression and takeovers aimed at hegemony in the Middle East, and threatening to destroy Israel.  Roll back Iran’s infrastructure (which means dismantling of centrifuges).
The fact that we are seeing shallow thinking in response to the speech in certain quarters is most discouraging, but not terribly surprising. There is no desire to grapple with the true issues. 

Credit: Yisrael Medad


John Podhoretz, writing in the NY Post, delivered some sharp observations about the situation (emphasis added):
Obama, he wrote, with his constant harping about the speech generated a result quite the reverse of what he had intended:
“For six weeks, the president and his team have been letting it be known just how angry they are that the leader of the House of Representatives invited the Israeli prime minister to speak about the threat from Iran.

“The enraged leaks and overt hostility toward the head of state of an ally have been unprecedented.

“The White House even tried to engineer a mass Democratic boycott of the speech...

“What did all of this do? It made the Netanyahu speech the most important political event of 2015 by far.

“It elevated Netanyahu’s powerful case against a nuclear deal with Iran to the highest level possible — so that the leader of a country of 8 million people roughly the size of New Jersey now possesses as much authority to discuss the issue as the leader of the free world.

“Netanyahu yesterday laid out, calmly and comprehensively, the reasons the deal is likely to be a bad one — and he had not only an audience of Americans vastly larger than he would’ve had if the president hadn’t had his hissy fit, but also the ear of the audience that matters most in this regard.

That audience is the United States Senate.

And his audience heard him.

Tuesday afternoon, after Netanyahu scored his success, Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mc­Connell announced he’ll bring up a piece of legislation requiring Senate consideration of any Iran deal for 60 days...”

Podhoretz believes Bibi’s speech may have provided the impetus for a veto override, with sufficient number of Democrats joining the Republicans.

“Almost from the outset, I thought the speech was a bad political idea...

“Well, I was wrong.

“I forgot I was talking about Barack Obama here, whose own political smarts extend as far as his own brilliance in getting himself elected and no further.

“The president thought (and I thought) he could use the coming speech to set up a confrontation with Bibi that would make his job of selling the Iran deal easier.

“It might have worked if the speech had been a dud. You know, like Obama’s own State of the Union, delivered on the very same spot six weeks ago.

“But it wasn’t. It was a triumph — because, unlike Obama, Netanyahu had something of surpassing importance to say, and he said it with force, with strength, with conviction and with grace.”


Jennifer Rubin, writing in the Washington Post, concurred with Podhoretz, that:

“ is evident that had the president not thrown a fit, Netanyahu’s speech might not have garnered quite so much attention....

The speech was not aimed at the president, who is immune to reason, nor to the negotiators who suffer from a variation of Stockholm Syndrome, whereby they come to identify with their bargaining opponents more than the country they represent. It was aimed at American public opinion and uncertain Democrats on whose good judgment Netanyahu must rely to derail a disastrous deal. By flattering the president and Democrats, Netanyahu gave them an out to agree with him without crossing the president or appearing to give in to Republicans.”  (emphasis added)


A day later, taking Netanyahu very seriously, the Washington Post released an editorial, “Obama needs to provide real answers to Netanyahu’s arguments.”
Of course, he won’t.  He cannot.
The most startling echo of this Washington Post call came from Faisel J. Abbas, editor in chief of Al-Arabiya in English, who wrote: “President Obama, Listen to Netanyahu on Iran”:
”It is extremely rare for any reasonable person to ever agree with anything Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says or does.

“However, one must admit, Bibi did get it right, at least when it came to dealing with Iran.

“The Israeli PM managed to hit the nail right on the head when he said that Middle Eastern countries are collapsing and that ‘terror organizations, mostly backed by Iran, are filling in the vacuum’...

“What is absurd, however, is that despite this being perhaps the only thing that brings together Arabs and Israelis (as it threatens them all), the only stakeholder that seems not to realize the danger of the situation is President Obama, who is now infamous for being the latest pen-pal of the Supreme Leader of the World’s biggest terrorist regime: Ayottallah Ali Khamenei. Although, the latter never seems to write back!.
As Netanyahu frequently tells us, times are indeed changing.
Even as I am eager to share thoughts here, I would say that the dust has not yet settled: that the full impact of what was said by Bibi cannot yet be measured.
What I wait for, with some considerable unease, is a resounding response from the Israeli electorate.  That Netanyahu must be returned to the office of prime minister is a given, with the notion of a Herzog-Livni win the stuff of nightmares.  Netanyahu’s resolute position, his brilliance in making his case, his leadership – these should translate into a strong majority of Israelis voting him back into office.  But the polls, which are infamously unreliable, are not yet reflecting this – at least with regard to their intention to vote Likud.  We are in the midst of an election that I am finding very ugly indeed.
More to come, on internal matters, the PA, and more, in posts later this week.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.



Posted on Sunday, March 8, 2015 at 03:40AM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

March 3, 2015: HOW PROUD WE ARE!

Credit: Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave the speech of his life today.  His speech was not merely good, it was, as one commentator here put it, perfect.
His pacing and his delivery were masterful; he managed to take the high road and deliver a powerful message at the same time.
But let me back up just a moment: before he spoke a word, he entered the chamber to a packed house and received a standing ovation that was overwhelming. It brought me and many others to tears, I will say.  Wow!
So much for the talk of boycotting the speech. Every seat was taken, and during that opening ovation, which went on and on, members of Congress cheered him, and reached out to shake his hand.  As I said (lacking a better term): Wow!
I will include below both a full text of his talk and a full video. (If you haven’t seen the speech, I encourage you to watch – even though the video begins after that first standing ovation).
And so here I will simply touch upon his major points.
First, as to that high road.  He began by assuring everyone that he had no partisan intentions in coming to speak and said he understood that both Democrats and Republicans stand with Israel (which brought great applause). He thanked President Obama for all of the ways in which he has helped Israel: and he enumerated several ways.  Very gracious and non-confrontational.
Then too he refrained from revealing any secrets.  This was one of the major “concerns” voiced by Obama prior to the speech: we fear he will ruin negotiations by speaking of matters that should not be public.  Actually, what Bibi said was that the information he was sharing is available to anyone who Googles the Internet.  Took the wind right out of Obama’s sail, there.
Bibi said he had a profound obligation to speak about Israel’s future, and Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. He referred to the Book of Esther, and the upcoming holiday of Purim – which refers to an ancient threat to the Jewish people by Haman, in Persia.  Today, he said, another potentate in Persia (Iran is ancient Persia) is threatening to destroy the Jewish people.
Iran, however, is not just a threat to Israel, but to the entire world, which point is of considerable significance. He then proceeded to describe the nature of the regime in Iran, the zealots who seek to fulfill an ideological mission of jihad, exporting revolution around the world. In the Middle East, states are collapsing and Iran is rushing in. In addition, Iran is promoting terrorism worldwide. We must stop this march of conquest, subjugation and terror.
These are exceedingly important points: It’s not “just” about Iran nuclear, Iran is a problem and source of unrest in the world now.  What is more, in spite of the sweet words of Iranian leaders two years ago, there has been no moderation of Iran –it is as radical as ever.
Then Bibi delivered a warning: Do not make the mistake of imagining that in the battle between Iran and ISIS, Iran can become a friend. (Obama has promoted this ludicrous scenario.) Iran and ISIS are simply competing for the crown of the militant Islamic empire. 
The greatest danger to the world is Iran with nuclear weapons.  And, said Bibi, it could happen if the deal currently on the table is signed. 
There are two major concessions that are of greatest concern:
1) Iran will be permitted to retain a vast nuclear infrastructure, which will allow a short breakout time.  Not a single facility would be demolished, and thousands of centrifuges would keep spinning.  The breakout time might be a year, but might be much less.
2) Apparently restrictions are to expire in about ten years.  The Iranians have declared intention to have 190,000 centrifuges – which would permit a whole arsenal to be put together in a matter of weeks.
The deal, as structured, paves the way for Iran to get the bomb.
As to inspections, the major problem is that inspectors inspect, but do not stop anything from happening. In 2005,  2006, and 2010, Iran defied inspectors, sending them packing.
Iran can also play “hide and cheat.”  Just yesterday, the IAEA said Iran won’t come clean.  They could get to a bomb by violating the deal.
The question of development of ballistic missiles is not even on the table; in time they will reach the US.
Bibi does not believe Iran will change, but will actually become more aggressive with a deal.  They will be aggressive abroad and have prosperity at home.  A nuclear tinderbox will be created, as Iran’s neighbors rush to get the bomb too.
But there is another way to handle the situation:
Restrictions on Iran must be kept in place as long as it continues its aggression in the region, fosters terrorism around the world, and threatens to annihilate Israel.
It is argued that the clock cannot be rolled back, as Iran has the know-how. But know-how without infrastructure goes nowhere. Roll back Iran’s infrastructure.
And keep the pressure on. (That is, sanctions.)  If Iran threatens to walk, call their bluff.
This is a very bad deal. No deal is better.
It is not true that the only alternative to this deal is war, the alternative is a better deal.
This is a fateful crossroad in history: Do not sacrifice the future for the present
NEVER AGAIN.  This, said Bibi, is the first time in 100 generations that the Jewish people are not powerless. We can defend ourselves.  Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand. (The implication here is clear, and welcome on several levels.)
However, he knows that America stands with Israel. (This met with great applause.)
The story of Israel, he said, is the story of the human spirit that refuses to succumb to the world’s horrors.
Bibi ended by citing Moses: “Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them...”  This is Deuteronomy (D’varim) 31:6.  The completion of that phrase is, “for the Lord your God goes with you” - unspoken in Congress today, but, I am certain, clearly understood by our prime minister.
This is the third time that Prime Minster Netanyahu has spoken before the Congress of the United States.  The only head of state to be similarly honored was Winston Churchill.  During the speech, there were some 24 standing ovations.
Here you can find both video highlights of the speech, and, if you scroll down a bit more, the entire speech:
And here you have the complete transcript:
There has been enormous critical praise for this speech, beginning from the moment it was over.  Except on the left, of course.  Obama is perhaps the biggest clown with his comments on the speech which he only read in transcript form, he said, and which he referred to as “theater.”  (“theater”? and he wasn’t watching?) There was “nothing new,” he said, “no viable alternative” was offered.”

Barack Obama

Credit: Reuters
What nonsense.  Bibi was quite clear: do not allow the infrastructure for enriching uranium to stand, and keep the sanctions on in order to apply maximum pressure as long as Iran continues to display hegemonic intentions, export terrorism, and threaten Israel. (Because the price of oil is down, sanctions will do even more damage, and bring Iran to its knees if applied stringently.) Do not ally with Iran, reducing sanctions in the mistaken belief that a US-Iranian partnership against ISIS is possible.
I am certain that the Senators and Congresspersons present understood this quite well.  It now remains to be seen how much they will take this to heart.  There is betting that they will.
Some Democrats are saying that this speech was just for political purposes, which is also nonsense.  Iran is a topic that has been of deep concern to Binyamin Netanyahu for many years.
Of course, there are mindless comments coming from the left here in Israel as well. Take Zahava Gal-On, head of Meretz, for example. She called the speech “chutzpah” because Bibi told the US how to handle the negotiations with Iran. Oh, better he should have kept quiet and just watched Iran move towards the bomb?  This is called grasping at straws in an election season.
In the end, it is still possible that negotiations will fall apart on their own.  Just today, Iran declared that the US demand for a ten-year freeze on certain nuclear activities was “unacceptable.”  They smell weakness, and push back against all restrictions.  Precisely how many backward steps will Obama take, especially now, with Congress watching ever so carefully?
I would like to call your attention to a piece by Khaled abu Toameh – “Arab Joint Force”: A Vote of No Confidence in the West.” 
Egyptian President al-Sisi has proposed a joint Arab force to confront Iran and radical Islam, and has gone to Saudi Arabia to discuss it.  This indicates a lack of faith in the West, and abu Toameh suggests that it may be the start of a move towards the Arab states taking the lead in fighting the radicals.
When Bibi spoke today about Iranian aggression in the area, it was against these states that he was referring.  There is reason to believe these states would likely provide backup for us, should it be necessary.
Tomorrow night is Purim (Thursday night in Jerusalem, which was a walled city and celebrates Shushan Purim).  It is a joyous time, and I, for one, am eager for the celebrations.  Time with grandchildren, a family dinner (seuda) and more. I even have my costume. 
There will not be another posting, I suspect, until after Shabbat.  I will pick up then on responses from Congress and other pertinent issues.
Now I wish all who are celebrating a Purim Sameach! 


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 06:04PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

March 1, 2015: Zahor and Bibi's Mission

Yesterday was Shabbat Zahor – the Shabbat before Purim, which comes this week. Zahor means remember. After the regular Torah reading there is an additional reading – Deuteronomy (D’vorim) 25:17-19 - that all are obligated to listen to:
“Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt — 18 how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. 19 Therefore, when the Lord your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!” 
“Amalek” was a people (the Amalekites), seen as singularly evil because of the way they behaved. 
Much discussion by Jewish thinkers is devoted to the paradox of how we wipe out Amalek’s memory and also do not forget. 
Sam Shore, one of the rabbis in my shul, addressed this with a powerful relevancy yesterday, which I want to share:
More than Amalek was a people, it was an ideology of evil. At one and the same time, we must work to defeat – wipe out - that ideology wherever we find it and we must remember what Amalek did so that we stay alert to what evil is possible in this world.
What is more, we Jews, having been commanded to remember, are charged with alerting others in the world about evil when we see it.
Netanyahu’s speech, he told me after his talk, is holy work.
This is a very powerful reading of our current situation. The world does not want to remember.  People prefer to gloss over evil and pretend it is something else. They would rather believe that evil is too “judgmental” a term, and that it is more appropriate to think in terms of “understanding” the position of the other, and generating opportunities for inclusion and dialogue.  You know the routine.  This is Obama’s route to dealing with Iran. 
Of course, then, Bibi’s plan to speak is like a thorn in the sides of those who would deny evil – a provocation, as they see it.  And of course the response to him would be heated.  
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the UK, wrote a compelling article about this very issue – “The Face of Evil” - about a month ago, which I share here (emphasis added):
Rabbi Sacks alludes to the question asked after 9/11 – “Why do they hate us?” – and to books written by American thinker Lee Harris, who provided thought-provoking answers:
“...we in the West had forgotten the concept of an enemy. Liberal democratic politics and market economics create a certain kind of society, a specific way of thinking and a characteristic type of personality. At their heart is the concept of the rational actor, the person who judges acts by their consequences and chooses the maximal option. He or she believes that for every problem there is a solution, for every conflict a resolution. The way to achieve it is to sit down, negotiate, and do on balance what is best for all.

“In such a world there are no enemies, merely conflicts of interest. An enemy, says Harris, is simply ‘a friend we haven't done enough for yet.’ In the real world, however, not everyone is a liberal democrat. An enemy is ‘someone who is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is true that the enemy always hates us for a reason, it is his reason, not ours.’ He sees a different world from ours, and in that world we are the enemy. Why do they hate us? Answers Harris: ‘They hate us because we are their enemy.’

“...We can become mind-blind, thinking that the way we - our society, our culture, our civilization - see things is the only way, or at least that it is the way everyone would choose if given the chance. Only a complete failure to understand the history of ideas can explain this error, and it is a dangerous one...Not everyone sees the world the way we do, and, as Richard Weaver once said: ‘The trouble with humanity is that it forgets to read the minutes of the last meeting.’”
Circling back to a discussion of the Amalekites, Rabbi Sacks cites Exodus (Shemot) 17:14-16 (emphasis added):
“Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.' Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, 'The hand is on the Lord's throne. The Lord will be at war with Amalek for all generations.'”
Rabbi Sacks then compares the Egyptians – who did the Israelites, our ancestors, enormous harm over time - and the Amalekites, who attacked us just once, and asks why the Lord is not at war with Egypt for all time. The answer: the Egyptians were rational actors, trying to eliminate us because they feared they would be overpowered by the Israelites. While the Amalekites attacked us when we were “weary and worn out,” because we were weak.  “Causeless, baseless hate lasts forever.”

Writes Rabbi Sacks, “There comes a point at which rational actors understand that the pursuit of self-interest has become self-destructive, and they learn to co-operate.

“It is not so, however, with non-rational actors. Emil Fackenheim, one of the great post-Holocaust theologians, noted that towards the end of the Second World War the Germans diverted trains carrying supplies to their own army, in order to transport Jews to the extermination camps. So driven were they by hate that they were prepared to put their own victory at risk in order to carry out the systematic murder of the Jews of Europe. This was, he said, evil for evil's sake.

“The Amalekites function in Jewish memory as "the enemy" in Lee Harris's sense.”


Rabbi Sacks explains that the Amalekites as a people can no longer be identified.  We are not bidden to try to destroy them physically.

However, “Amalek has become a symbol rather than a reality.

“...Judaism marks a clear distinction between an ancient enemy who no longer exists, and the evil that enemy embodied, which can break out again at any time in any place. It is easy at times of peace to forget the evil that lies just beneath the surface of the human heart. Never was this truer than in the past three centuries. The birth of Enlightenment, toleration, emancipation, liberalism and human rights persuaded many, Jews among them, that collective evil was as extinct as the Amalekites. Evil was then, not now. That age eventually begat... some of the [most] brutal tyrannies ever known, and the worst crime of man against man.

Today, the great danger is terror...

“...Evil never dies, and like liberty it demands constant vigilance. We are commanded to remember, not for the sake of the past but for the sake of the future, and not for revenge but the opposite: a world free of revenge and other forms of violence.

“Lee Harris began Civilization and its Enemies with the words, ‘The subject of this book is forgetfulness,’ and ends with a question: ‘Can the West overcome the forgetfulness that is the nemesis of every successful civilization?’ That is why we are commanded to remember and never forget Amalek, not because the historic people still exists, but because a society of rational actors can sometimes believe that the world is full of rational actors with whom one can negotiate peace. It is not always so.

“Rarely was a biblical message so relevant to the future of the West and of freedom itself. Peace is possible, implies Moses, even with an Egypt that enslaved and tried to destroy us. But peace is not possible with those who attack people they see as weak...Freedom depends on our ability to remember and whenever necessary confront ‘the eternal gang of ruthless men,’ the face of Amalek throughout history.”


My friends, it has been in my mind to write about so many different subjects – what is happening with Egypt and Gaza, what Abbas is doing these days, etc. But as I see it, all of this is trumped by what I write about today. 

There is a horrendous disinclination in the Western culture to confront the reality of evil and the absolute implacability of our enemies – be they the mullahs in Iran or those heading ISIS and al-Qaeda.  This disinclination can lead to the demise of the West.


What Binyamin Netanyahu is doing, then, has enormous import.  Let there be no misunderstanding about this: Speaking to the Congress is the most effective way of delivering his message so that the maximum number of people hear and attend to his words.  A speech in AIPAC would not substitute, nor would private meetings.


I, of course, am not privy to what Bibi is going to say.

In the most basic terms only, what I can tell you – keeping in mind that Iran has sworn to eliminate Israel – is that available information on the prospective deal indicates:

There are no controls in place on Iran’s development of delivery systems such as intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Neither is the entire issue of Iran’s hegemonic behavior and sponsoring of terrorism addressed. (Remember that Iran is in process of placing Iranian proxy terrorist groups on several fronts to surround Israel and is the single biggest fomenter and funder of radical terrorism in the world.) 

Iran would be permitted to retain thousands of centrifuges, which would be available for uranium enrichment to 90%+ – for weaponry purposes – when the time was right.  The Iranians are patient, and know how to “play the game” until the time is right.  Originally, the West was committed to structuring a deal that would deprive Iran of this potential capacity, and that is now very far from what is emerging.

What is more, the IAEC has already reported that responses from Iran on its current situation are fuzzy and suggest the impossibility of tracking whether Iran is adhering to required stipulations. And this, in spite of the fact that an agreement is predicated upon IAEC monitoring.  The Iranians have a consistent record of cheating on prior agreements.  Extending them any sort of trust here is akin to suicidal insanity.

And then this latest bomb-shell: a “sunset clause” or “phased deal” seems to be developing in the US-Iranian talks.  According to this, over a period of perhaps ten years, if Iran has demonstrated “good behavior,” constraints on its uranium enrichment would be lifted.  By the end of this period – which is being referred to as “an on-ramp to developing a nuclear weapon” – the time period for completing that weapon would be very short indeed.

Enough said.


On Friday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and ranking member Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), as well as Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) advanced a bill that would provide Congress with the opportunity to approve or disapprove any comprehensive deal Obama would strike with Iran.  Obama has already said he would veto any such legislation.

Corker, in response, has now slammed the president’s position, and we have not heard the end of this.


On Friday, Caroline Glick wrote a column addressing these issues and Netanyahu’s determination to confront them (emphasis added):

It is hard to get your arms around the stubborn determination of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. For most of the nine years he has served as Israel’s leader, first from 1996 to 1999 and now since 2009, Netanyahu shied away from confrontations or buckled under pressure...

“For his part, for the past six years Obama has undermined Israel’s national security. He has publicly humiliated Netanyahu repeatedly...

“He has delegitimized Israel’s very existence...
“But Netanyahu said nothing publicly in criticism of Obama’s destructive, dangerous policy.

”He held his tongue in the hopes of winning Obama over through quiet diplomacy.

”He held his tongue, because he believed that the damage Obama was causing Israel was not irreversible in most cases. And it was better to maintain the guise of good relations, in the hopes of actually achieving them, than to expose the fractures in US-Israel ties caused by Obama’s enormous hostility toward Israel and by his strategic myopia that endangered both Israel and the US’s other regional allies.

And yet, today Netanyahu, the serial accommodator, is putting everything on the line. He will not accommodate. He will not be bullied. He will not be threatened, even as all the powers that have grown used to bringing him to his knees – the Obama administration, the American Jewish Left, the Israeli media, and the Labor party -grow ever more shrill and threatening in their attacks against him.
“As he has made clear in daily statements, Netanyahu is convinced that we have reached a juncture in our relations with the Obama administration where accommodation is no longer possible.

Obama’s one policy that Netanyahu has never acquiesced to either publicly or privately is his policy of accommodating Iran.

”Since Obama’s earliest days in office, Netanyahu has warned openly and behind closed doors that Obama’s plan to forge a nuclear deal with Iran is dangerous. And as the years have passed, and the lengths Obama is willing to go to appease Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been left their marks on the region, Netanyahu’s warnings have grown stronger and more urgent.

”Netanyahu has been clear since his first tenure in office in the 1990s, that Iran’s nuclear program – as well as its ballistic missile program – constitutes a threat to Israel’s very existence. He has never wavered from his position that Israel cannot accept an Iran armed with nuclear weapons...
“But now we are seeing that far from being an opportunist, Netanyahu is a leader of historical dimensions...
“Whereas Israel can survive Obama on the Palestinian front by stalling, waiting him out and placating him where possible, and can even survive his support for Hamas by making common cause with the Egyptian military and the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the damage Obama’s intended deal with Iran will cause Israel will be irreversible.
”For his efforts to prevent irreparable harm to Israel Netanyahu is being subjected to the most brutal and vicious attacks any Israeli leader has ever been subjected to by an American administration and its political allies. They are being assisted in their efforts by a shameless Israeli opposition that is willing to endanger the future of the country in order to seize political power.

”Every day brings another serving of abuse...
Netanyahu is not coming to Washington next Tuesday to warn Congress against Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, because he seeks a fight with Obama. Netanyahu has devoted the last six years to avoiding a fight with Obama, often at great cost to Israel’s national security and to his own political position.

Netanyahu is coming to Washington next week because Obama has left him no choice. And all decent people of good will should support him, and those who do not, and those who are silent, should be called out for their treachery and cowardice.”
Last night, Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the Kotel.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touches the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, during a visit in Jerusalem's Old City February 28, 2015. REUTERS/Marc Sellem/Pool

Credit: Reuters/Marc Sellem

As I write this, he is in the air, on his way to the US.  This morning, before departing, he said:

"A few days before the Fast of Esther [immediately prior and connected to Purim], I'm going to Washington on a fateful, even historic, mission. I'm going on behalf of every citizen of Israel and the entire Jewish people, including those who do not agree with me. I feel deep and sincere concern for the security of every Israeli citizen and the fate of our country and our people. I will do everything I can to ensure our future."


What I request of each of you is that you pray for the success of this mission. 


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 01:41PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

February 24, 2015: Lies, Threats and Politics

The situation surrounding the negotiations with Iran and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress daily grows more ominous, more convoluted, and more contentious.
I would like to begin with the latest “scoop” – which is supposed to put the lie to Bibi’s charge in 2012 in the UN (complete with that famous chart) that Iran was on the cusp of becoming a nuclear power.
As Arutz Sheva described the situation yesterday:
“Al Jazeera began publishing Monday night several documents allegedly leaked from the Israeli Mossad – via the Spy Cables database shared with the British Guardian.
One of the documents alleged that, just a few weeks after the famous speech Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave in 2012 assessing Iran as being about one year away from building a nuclear weapon, the Mossad sent a confidential report to South Africa’s State Security Agency (SSA) stating that, in their estimation, ‘Iran does not engage in the necessary activities required for the production of weapons of mass destruction.’  (Emphasis added)
Ah ha! went the cries of those opposed to Bibi’s speech – See, he exaggerated, he misrepresented, he’s not to be trusted. 
No so, my friends.  And please do not take my word for this. 
Today I contacted Brig. Gen. (ret.) Yossi Kuperwasser, until recently the director-general of the Ministry of Security Affairs.  There is no contradiction between the alleged Mossad report and what Bibi said, Kuperwasser explained:
The Mossad was talking about weaponization. And it’s true that in 2012 Iran was not involved in the weaponization process – they had already done this before 2003.  (I note that by 1998 Iran was domestically producing the Shahab-1 and Shahab-2, and by 2003 the Shahab-3 – ballistic missiles being one part of the weaponization.)
What the prime minister was talking about, said Kuperwasser, was the enrichment process: Iran had stocks of uranium enriched to 20%, and were in the position of being able to follow through to do enrichment to 90+%, which is what is needed for weapons purposes.
What must be made clear, however, is that in bringing the uranium to 20%, 90% of the enrichment effort has already been expended. That is, the hard part is getting it to 20%.  To move it from 20% to 90+% – which is weapons grade uranium – is a relatively quick and simple process. This is the danger Netanyahu was warning the world about in 2012.
But there is even more, which I ask you to note as well, from Yossi Melman, intelligence correspondent, writing in the JPost (emphasis added):
“After promising to release a bombshell of leaked secret Mossad cables, Al Jazeera’s publication of documents later Monday fell short of that mark...Al Jazeera did not obtain an original and authenticated document from the Mossad...
“What they published was a South Africa Sate Security Agency (SSA document that is based on a briefing given to them by the Mossad.  The document from 2013 contains no secrets and any reader, or follower of public reports on Iran’s nuclear program, especially the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is familiar with the facts written in that document.
“The Mossad provided details in its briefing, such as the quantities of Iran’s enriched uranium at its two levels – 3.5% and 20% – about the development of Iran’s nuclear reactor at Arak, and its statement that Iran is ‘not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.’
“That assessment was correct – it isn’t possible to utilize fissile material for a bomb only with 20% enriched uranium – an enrichment of 93% is required – and Iran did not have it at the time of the document’s writing, and doesn’t have it now.  Certainly it doesn’t present any evidence of a wedge between the Mossad and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with regard to Iran’s nuclear program...
Israeli intelligence estimates are that Iran is working to be a nuclear power – a few months way from the ability to assemble the bomb – but not capable of building it now.
More than anything, Iran wants the international community to lift the economic sanctions.
Israeli intelligence researchers know that Iran is already on the verge of becoming a nuclear threshold state.  It has the know-how, technology and materials to construct the bomb in a matter of a few months or perhaps a year, if and when the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gives the order.”
And so please, my friends, do not believe everything you read and hear in the current effort to discredit Netanyahu.
Please see, as well, yet another piece – “Now we know who to believe on Iran,” by David Horovitz, editor of Time of Israel (emphasis added):
“The Obama administration claimed Israel was misrepresenting its deal with the ayatollahs.  Reports from Geneva indicate Israel’s concerns were all too accurate...
“After anonymous sources in Jerusalem leaked to Israeli reporters in recent weeks the ostensible terms of the deal being hammered out, various spokespeople for the Obama administration contended that the Netanyahu government was misrepresenting the specifics for narrow political ends. They sneered that Israel didn’t actually know what the terms were. And they made the acknowledgement — the astounding acknowledgement for a United States whose key regional ally is directly and relentlessly threatened with destruction by Iran — that the Obama administration is consequently no longer sharing with Jerusalem all sensitive details of the Iran talks.

And yet among the terms of the deal being reported by the Associated Press from Geneva on Monday are precisely those that were asserted in recent weeks by the Israeli sources, precisely those that were scoffed at by the Administration. Centrally, Iran is to be allowed to keep 6,500 centrifuges spinning, and there will be a sunset clause providing for an end to intrusive inspections in some 10-15 years. If anything, indeed, some of the terms reported by the AP are even more worrying than those that were leaked in Jerusalem: ‘The idea would be to reward Iran for good behavior over the last years of any agreement,’ the AP said, ‘gradually lifting constraints on its uranium enrichment program and slowly easing economic sanctions.’ There is also no indication of restrictions on Iran’s missile development — its potential delivery systems...

It goes without saying that this weekend’s developments in Geneva have only bolstered Netanyahu’s determination to sound the alarm before Congress next Tuesday. It’s also still clearer today why the Obama administration has been so anxious to query his motives and seek to discredit his concerns.”
“It is also still clearer today why the Obama administration has been so anxious to query [Netanyahu’s] motives and seek to discredit his concerns.”
Keep this in mind, please, as you read the hysterical accusations against Bibi. And I ask that you do something else.  Speak out with the facts.  You know the routine: do talkbacks on the Internet, letters to the editor, call-ins on talk-shows, put this information on your FB pages and websites, put it up on group discussion lists, etc. etc. Here is an opportunity to help Israel.
Yet another charge that is being leveled at Netanyahu is that the unrest he is “causing,” the tension he is generating politically in the US, will result in a reduction of American support for Israel.
The only problem with this charge is that it’s not true. A Gallup poll conducted between February 8 and February 11 indicates that seven in 10 Americans continue to view Israel favorably, and there has been no significant change in that number from a year ago.

“According to Gallup’s explanation of the results, these numbers suggest that neither the friction between Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama nor last summer’s conflict in Gaza significantly impacted on the US public’s perceptions toward Israel or the Palestinians.”
And then this piece of news:
Two Democratic Senators, Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Dianne Feinstein (D-California), have written a letter to PM Netanyahu, inviting him to meet with Democratic lawmakers while he is in Washington next week. Their intention is to “maintain Israel’s dialogue with both political parties in Congress.”
I have no more information at this point, but this seems a positive turn of events.
The negotiations in Geneva?  Terrifying. Rushing at break-neck speed to something disastrous.  News about how the deal is shaping up, and other indications that it might not come together.
I will be writing about this in up-coming posts, needless to say, but hope also to touch some other bases.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.



Posted on Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 01:32PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

February 26, 2015: Wearisome

My friends, how long can we monitor the current political situation without feeling weary to the bone – no, even more, revolted – because of what is taking place.

Here in Israel, the left is using Bibi’s upcoming speech in the Congress as a weapon with which to attack him.  For shame.  Buji Herzog declares that he is as much against a nuclear Iran as our prime minister is, but he would handle matters differently: He would cancel the talk in Congress and meet privately with Obama. 

Given this information, we must ask: Is he enormously naïve and self-deluded?  That is, does he really think he might sway the president in the slightest? Or is he a poseur – knowing the reality well enough but pretending in order to lend the impression that he could handle the relationship with the US in a manner that would reduce current tensions and still achieve our essential security goals?

Labor Party chairman MK Isaac Herzog leads a party meeting in the Knesset on February 03, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)
Credit: Flash 90

Part of what makes me crazy is that, according to the polls, there is some percentage of the Israeli electorate that actually sees him as the best candidate for running the country.  Well less than 50%, it is true. But still...

And there is something else that makes me crazy.  According to those very same polls, the percentage of the electorate that would want him to be prime minister is smaller than the percentage that says it would vote for Labor...I mean, the Zionist Camp.

But hey, guys, if Labor/the Zionist Camp gets the most mandates (Heaven forbid!) and is able to put together a coalition, Buji would BE prime minister.  Is this not clear to the people answering the polls? 

Here we have a picture of Tzipi Livni, Buji’s running mate in the Zionist Camp campaign, listening to him speak. She is definitely not one of the swiftest of the candidates, but here I begin to wonder if she’s on to something:

Livni missed out on the chance of a lifetime to become prime minister because she stayed away from deals. Herzog was not afraid to get his hands dirty and emerge with an achievement (Photo: EPA)

Credit: EPA


It was suggested in several quarters that, in order to show a united Israeli front to the world, Buji accompany Bibi to Congress.  Buji declined.  Then he announced that he had been scheduled to speak at the AIPAC convention next week, but was cancelling. He can speak out against a nuclear Iran, he declared, but can do it quite well from here in Israel.  This was supposed to convey the impression that he was more statesman-like than Bibi.  But I think he made a tactical error.  That’s fine.


The prime minister has made it crystal clear that he will not be backing down and will indeed speak in Congress on March 3rd, as scheduled.

He has turned down the offer I wrote about in my last posting, to address Democrats privately.  This, he said, would be interpreted as a partisan action, and he intends to do nothing but address the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and radical Islam – to both parties in Congress. There will be nothing partisan in his statements or his actions in Washington.

Last night, at a Likud meeting, he said:

”From the agreement that is forming, it appears that they (world powers) have given up on that commitment (to thwart Iran) and are accepting that Iran will gradually, within a few years, develop capabilities to produce material for many nuclear weapons.  They might accept this but I am not willing to accept this.” (Emphasis added)

Meanwhile, as would have been expected, Obama and his team of flunkies are doing everything in their power to tear the Israeli prime minister apart.

Let me remind one and all that it is the president who is responsible for the internal party tensions, not Bibi.  All Obama had to do was announce that he felt confident that his negotiating team was taking the correct path with Iran, but Prime Minister Netanyahu was certainly welcome to come and speak on such a significant subject.  Instead, he is sending his team, like attack dogs, to go after our prime minister.

I would further point out, again, that our prime minister was invited by the speaker of the Congress, who had a legitimate right to extend that invitation, and that Congress has a role to play in this critical matter – and thus a right to be as well-informed as possible – even if Obama wishes to circumvent the legislative branch of the government.


Former US Secretary of Defense (from 2001 to 2006) Donald Rumsfeld declared today in a statement to Israel Hayom:

"I find it stunning to see the comments out of the White House on this issue. It is more than a distraction, it is unfortunate. It plays into the hands of those people who are not in favor of the relationship [between Israel and the U.S.], who are not in favor of Israel or who are in favor of Iran, and the idea that people are saying what they are saying I find most unfortunate."


On Tuesday, we had Susan Rice, National Security Advisor, saying that Netanyahu’s intention to speak to Congress is “destructive of the fabric of the relationship” between the US and Israel.

A day later, Secretary of State Kerry was saying not only that Netanyahu was “uninformed,” he was just plain “wrong.”


Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz responded quickly (emphasis added):

Kerry, he said, “might not know everything we know.”

Love it.

Steinitz explained that, “We know all that we need to know, and we have an excellent picture of the negotiations.”

He explained that Israel is in touch with French negotiators (by choice, the US is apparently out of this loop) who are dealing directly with Iran, and are thus well-versed in the details of the negotiations.

What is more, it is the information that has reach Israeli officials so far that has generated the greatest concern.  Steinitz acknowledged that the friendship with the US is a strategic asset, but “when it comes to the security of the State, we are also ready to fight.”

Steinitz is on the right in this picture, with Yossi Kuperwasser.

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz (r) and Yossi Kuperwasser attend a session of the Security and Foreign Affairs Committee at the Knesset, October 16, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)

Credit: Flash 90


I wrote last about my conversation with Yossi Kuperwasser, and here I present an important new paper he has done for BESA, “The Struggle over the Iranian Nuclear Program”:

It is incumbent on Israel to use all the diplomatic and political tools at its disposal to halt the signing of an accord with Iran that leaves Teheran with the capability to produce nuclear weapons...

“Thus Iran: continues to develop its arsenal of missiles; avoids providing information about its weapons activity and achievements; continues to enrich uranium using around 9,000 centrifuges of a relatively low-yield model, including at the Qom facility; maintains around 10,000 additional centrifuges that have been installed but are not yet active, most of them of the same type, but some more advanced; continues to develop different types of more advanced centrifuges, which it will be able to make operational should it need to do so; and continues to hold some 7.5 tons of enriched uranium to a level of 3.5% (which represents around half the investment in enrichment required for military-grade material). Once brought up to a 90% enrichment level, this would be sufficient fissionable material to make four or five atomic bombs...

It is possible to say that the fact that Iran has not yet developed nuclear weapons, in spite of the 27 years in which it has been trying to do so, is due in no small part to Israel’s efforts...Thus the claims made that Iran’s success in proceeding towards the attainment of nuclear weapons represent an Israeli failure, are themselves worthy of ridicule. Without Israel’s actions, Iran would have obtained nuclear weapons several years ago, and moreover, it is thanks to Israel’s actions that Iran is unlikely to obtain nuclear weapons for many years to come, even if an agreement is reached that does not meet Israeli expectations... (Emphasis here and below added.)

Western leaders, with Obama at their forefront, believe in the almost exclusive use of dialogue as a means to address disagreement. They believe that Muslim perspectives in general, and Iranian perspectives in particular, of the West as a historical oppressor that has wrought great harm to the region, contain an element of truth that needs to be acknowledged. They are convinced that the burden of proof as to the good intentions of the parties to the current negotiations falls first and foremost on the West, and in accordance with their liberal outlook, believe that all people share essentially similar and equally worthy values and aspirations.

On the other hand, the leaders of Iran, who are driven by a sense of mission that is both Islamic and revolutionary Iranian-nationalist, believe that it is their duty to bring about a wholesale change in the world order, using a combination of cunning, force, and daring, and making the most of the freedom of action afforded to them by the reined-in West. They are convinced that the West has no values whatsoever, and is unworthy of its current preferred status in international affairs.

As a result, the talks between the powers and Iran are not conducted in a manner reflecting the true balance of power between them, but rather the exact opposite. It is Iran that dictates the agenda, while America and the West attempt to placate the other side, and are hesitant about bringing up issues that they fear Iran will refuse to discuss, lest they be accused by Iran of lacking serious intent in the negotiations...


I end with an amazing video, showing who we are, in several different respects (with thanks to Chana G.):

(I am recommending this video only, having not reviewed what follows automatically.)


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.

Posted on Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 02:42PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

February 22, 2015: How Ugly Can It Get?

Before I get to the ugly stuff, let me begin with a lovely scene: Jerusalem in the snow. 
The snow fell this past Thursday night, accumulating to the better part of a foot and enfolding our beautiful city in a mantle of white.   It is gone now because of heavy rains over Shabbat.


The windmill you see in this picture is a Jerusalem landmark.  Built in the Mishkenot Sha'ananim neighborhood – the first Jewish neighborhood outside the walls of the Old City - in 1857, it was restored to working order a couple of years ago.
From the sublime – the beauty of Jerusalem in the snow – to the ridiculous.  Because ridiculous is how I see the current political hoopla, which, yes, is also very, very ugly.
The issue is the scheduled talk by Prime Minister Netanyahu on March 3 in the Congress, on the subject of the negotiations with Iran. Should he go?  Is he damaging Israel’s relationship with the US by doing this?  Has the focus on Iran been lost because of the politics?  Is this a partisan issue in the US, pitting Democrats against Republicans? And on and on and on... 
Now it has been announced that Obama and Biden and Kerry may boycott the AIPAC conference, which is being held at the time Netanyahu will be in Washington.
And I doubt we’ve seen the end of this yet.
I am not going to belabor every step of this on-going maneuvering.  It would be a waste of my time and yours.
For all who have eyes to see, the situation that underlies this is quite clear: Obama is seeking to throw up a political smokescreen.  He wants to make things difficult for Netanyahu – to make him look small and less competent, to seem to be a trouble maker - because he desperately does not want the Congress or the American people to give credence to what our prime minister is going to say.  For what Bibi intends to say stands a reasonable chance of undercutting the negotiations.
This is not about personal animosity between Obama and Netanyahu, it is about an existential issue
It is not really a partisan issue, dividing Democrats and Republicans, either.  A piece written in Algemeiner last week estimated that 98% of the Senate and 95% of the House of Representatives will attend.  “Despite two weeks of intense anti-Netanyahu leaks, insults, and pressure, the White House has so far succeeded in persuading only a handful of Democratic members of Congress to stay away from the speech.”
I would say it is more an issue that divides the Congress from the White House.  Which is why Congress should be given the courtesy of having Netanyahu share directly the information he has.
As to damaging our relationship with the US...  In the end, what is being damaged is our relationship with one particular president, not our relationship with the US. Both Congress and the American people are with us.  Note that just today Israel announced the purchase of 14 additional next-generation US-made F-35 fighter jets, to be delivered in 2016.
Were Israel to adhere to whatever Obama wanted of us now, it would be suicidal.  In Hebrew we say, ein breira – no choice.  Obama has to be challenged. Netanyahu has made the point repeatedly now that we have displeased American presidents several times over the years, and yet have sustained a solid relationship with the US.  It started, our prime minister reminds us, with Ben Gurion, who flouted President Truman’s wish that he not announce Israeli independence when he did.
I am one of those who believes Netanyahu absolutely must not back down now – rescheduling his talk or changing the venue. There can be no backing down at this point.  There has been so much talk about how politicized this issue has become. But for Bibi to decline to speak to Congress as scheduled would also be a political act, because of how the situation has been framed.  He would be seen as weak, and Obama as the winner. And he would be letting down those who have spoken out for him to come.
Senator Marc Rubio (R-FL) makes yet another point: it is exceedingly important for Israel’s enemies to see that the Congress stands with Israel, for if they believe Congress is not with Israel as strongly as was once the case, they will be emboldened.  He implores all members of Congress to be present, to provide the support that Israel deserves.  They must not be distracted, he says, by the minor issues such as the way Boehner extended the invitation. Israel has been the most loyal of allies, and is in trouble now – and the members of Congress must provide public backing with their presence.
Please, see and then widely share Senator Rubio’s extraordinary speech:
It has been a tough year for Florida Senator Marco Rubio. 2014 will be a big key how bright his future really is.

Credit: Newstalkflorida
The public figure who most recently voiced support for what Netanyahu is doing is former NY City mayor, Rudy Guiliani.  In an interview with Israel Hayom, he said (emphasis added):
"Netanyahu's speech is absolutely essential. If I had been in his position, and the third most important person in the U.S. [the speaker of the House of Representatives] invited me to speak before Congress to explain the danger of a nuclear Iran -- of course I'd accept the invitation and come. You have to understand that I, as an American, fear a nuclear Iran no less than the prime minister of Israel and no less than the people of Israel. Think for a moment -- a bad agreement with Iran would give a group of irrational and insane people nuclear capability. If I were Netanyahu, I would go to the ends of the earth to discuss Iran's nuclear program -- on any stage I was given and in every situation. In our case, it's the Congress....
"I met with Bibi privately on two occasions two weeks ago. I told him I would be doing the exact same thing if I were him. I told him that the American people respect him and agree with him, even if Obama and his administration are trying to paint a different picture. Netanyahu is doing exactly what he needs to do: to come and speak out against a bad agreement, even if the government doesn't like it. Most Americans agree with Netanyahu on the Iranian issue."


Credit: AP
In the course of this on-going political melodrama, we have just learned that Netanyahu has been accused of “leaking” information about the negotiations.  In fact, Obama has now admitted that he has been withholding information about the negotiations from Israel.
Obama’s claim is that Netanyahu would “cherry pick” the information he wished to leak without placing it “in context.”  He claims that Israel does not know the full context of negotiations, and thus is in no position to critique what’s going on.  But truth lies elsewhere: Obama does not want anyone to know how bad the deal is. 
As to not having full context, there are certain elements of what is going on that have been made public and are clear: that the infrastructure for enriching uranium would be left in place, that there are no restrictions on building of the missiles that would deliver a nuclear warhead, etc.
Key here is the matter of a confidential report from the IAEA, which has been obtained by AP and Reuters.  Any deal with Iran that lifted all sanctions is supposed to be predicated on the ability of the IAEA to monitor its program. But, says, the IAEA, Iran is being “evasive and ambiguous” as it tries to do a full assessment of the Iranian nuclear program. 
In the face of this evidence of the unreliability of Iran, world powers should not be wooing Iran for a deal, declared Netanyahu.
Not exactly “cherry picking,” is it?
I note with more than passing interest that Sunni Arab states have been voicing concern to the US about the impending deal with Iran.
What I wonder is whether these states would be speaking out if Netanyahu had not done so first. 
Of course, they are not saying explicitly that they agree with the Israeli prime minister.  Perish the thought.  But this is implicit in what’s happening.  And as I see it, it shifts the dynamic.  While Obama is prepared to come out swinging when the critic is Netanyahu, his tone is more deferential with the Arabs.
In fact, we’re hearing something now that we haven’t heard in a while.  For some time Obama has been saying that a deal is close, is possible.  But yesterday, Kerry declared that there were “significant gaps” and that the US was prepared to walk away if terms were not satisfactory.  Doesn’t mean they don’t still intend to push ahead (they do), but this is a different tone.,7340,L-4629230,00.html
That the US is pushing ahead was made evident as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Secretary of State John Kerry were meeting today for “intensive talks.”
I end with this piece, “Divided over that speech, not over a lousy deal with Iran,” by David Horovitz, editor of The Times of Israel (emphasis added):
“It is time to reframe the dispute. We are not witnessing what is being widely depicted as a battle between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government over the timing, content and ostensible partisan implications of the prime minister’s scheduled March 3 address to Congress over Iran. We are, rather, watching the collapse of trust between the two leaderships over the critical issue of thwarting Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.
“The looming deal is similarly inexplicable to the political rivals of Netanyahu who are campaigning to oust him in general elections on March 17...
”Where [Zionist camp head Bujie] Herzog and other Israeli party leaders differ with Netanyahu is over his handling of the crisis. Like Herzog, centrist Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid does not underestimate the Iranian threat. They just both think that Netanyahu is acting counterproductively and for domestic political reasons by preparing to lobby publicly against Obama in Congress, when they say he ought to be working to shift the administration more discreetly, behind the scenes.
“Of course, party leaders like Herzog and Lapid have to publicly criticize and castigate the prime minister; we’re less than a month from elections, and their entire domestic political goal is to undermine Israeli public confidence in his leadership so as to unseat him...”
No, no.  There is no “of course” here!  Horovitz elaborates on this point:
”In truth, it can hardly be doubted that Netanyahu has tried to impact the president’s stance in years of one-on-one conversations and in the endless top-level contacts between his officials and the Obama administration. The nature of the imminent deal — whose terms cannot be independently verified, but are profoundly troubling to such diplomatic veterans as Henry Kissinger and George Shultz — would indicate that private argument and entreaty have failed...

In these final weeks of the election campaign, the face-off with Obama has become one more issue for the challengers to use against Netanyahu...
”Three years ago at a graveside in Jerusalem, the prime minister eulogized his father, historian Benzion Netanyahu, for having ‘taught me, Father, to look at reality head-on, to understand what it holds and to come to the necessary conclusions.’

“The prime minister says it would have been unthinkable to turn down the invitation to set out his concerns in the world’s most resonant parliamentary forum. 

Israel and those who care for Israel should not be blindsided by the battling between Netanyahu and Obama, or between Netanyahu and his domestic rivals, over the Congressional speech.

They should be sounding the alarm to prevent a deal that would allow Iran to maintain an enrichment capability and other core aspects of its nuclear program.

Those who care for Israel, in short, should look at reality head-on, understand what it holds, and come to the necessary conclusions...”
This, then, is part of the picture of how ugly it can get, and writing about this embarrasses me even as it infuriates me.  The existential issues of a nuclear Iran transcend political election issues.  Or should. Yes, yes, I know about campaigning.  But it seems to me nonetheless that a maximum show of public support for the prime minister as he does battle for the sake of Israel would be in order.  I would suggest that the very fact of how self-serving these candidates – Bujie, Livni, Lapid, et al - are needs to be factored into assessments of their qualifications for office.
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Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 03:02PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint