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June 8, 2016: Spirits Lifted


Credit: Arutz7
There is nothing like being there: Hearing the music.  Watching the young people dancing with enormous sprit. And seeing the flags – oh so many flags! – waving in the air.  This picture was taken in the late afternoon on Sunday, on King George Street in front of the Great Synagogue, as participants gathered in preparation for the Dance of the Flags – the parade that led down to the Kotel (Western Wall).

I was there.  At this very spot, feeling my heart lift, as the energy on the street soared. It was later reported that some like 30,000 people, mostly young, Dati Leumi – religious nationalist, participated.  More than ever before. This, I understood, was Israel’s future. 


Sunday night was the start of Ramadan, the month-long Muslim holiday that requires fasting during day-light hours.  There were protests that large numbers of Jews would be streaming into Sha’ar Shechem (the Damascus Gate – the largest and most imposing of the gates) and through a Muslim part of the Old City on the way to the Kotel just as the holiday was about to begin. 



Credit: bu

The attempt to stop it went all the way to the High Court, which denied the petition.  Some 2,000 police officers were stationed along the route, to ensure quiet. And, thank Heaven, there was quiet so that the parade – which is a celebration of a re-united Jerusalem in Jewish hands – could go on. 

In deference to the onset of the Muslim holiday, Sha’ar Shechem was closed to the parade at roughly 6:15, so there would not be Jews streaming through the area as Ramadan began at 8:00.

Ramadan or not, this parade really does not sit well with the Arabs in the Muslim Quarter, who consider the Six Day War a time of loss, a setback in attempts to destroy Israel. They actually call it “Naksa,” the setback. When they make their peace with the reality of our presence here is when it will be possible to have peace in the larger sense.



Credit: AFP/Ahmad Gharabli

For me, there was a sense of poetic justice in our young people entering via this gate. For in the past several months, the area right in front of the gate had been a prime location for one terror attack after another.  Among the songs they sang on Sunday was “Am Yisrael Chai,” the Nation of Israel lives.


The very next day, Monday, marked the moment in 1967 when the Ma’arat Hamachpela – Tomb of the Patriarchs – in Hevron, the second holiest city for Jews after Jerusalem, was liberated. 


Credit: David Ravkin

Rabbi Shlomo Goren, IDF Chief Rabbi and a general in the IDF, actually liberated it himself.  Here he is putting an Israeli flag up on the Machpela.


Credit: Hebron Fund

Why don’t we know this incredible story of what happened that day, as we know other stories?  I had never heard it before.  It was told by Rabbi Goren himself, and was heard by many, including veteran spokesman of the Hevron Jewish community, David Wilder.  You might want to take the time to read this.  It is a story of the hand of God.

Jews had not been permitted inside the Machpela for 700 years, barred first by the Mamelukes and then the Ottomans.  They prayed from the infamous “seventh step.”


Credit: Hebron fund

Today, the Machpela – in the small enclave of Hevron that remains Jewish - is under Israeli control, and is shared between Jews and Muslims. There are some Jewish holy days when only Jews enter, and other Muslim holy days when only Muslims enter, and many days when both religions have access.  

This is how we do it, you see – sharing.  This same sort of arrangement has been suggested for Har Habayit (the Temple Mount), but the Muslims, wishing to claim it all for themselves, will have no part of it.

There are lessons here that we Jews have yet to fully absorb.


There had been quite a bit of anxiety about the French-initiated “peace summit,” held in Paris last Friday. But in the end, it fizzled.  A communiqué was issued by the participants that reaffirmed “their support for a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

Of course, unsurprisingly, the summit also reaffirmed that “a negotiated two-state solution is the only way to achieve an enduring peace, with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.”



What was perhaps surprising was this:
“US Secretary of State John Kerry prevented France from successfully launching a strong new peace initiative last week that could have impacted the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi said on Monday.

Credit: Ahram

“Kerry was ‘definitely not enthusiastic’ about the June 3 Paris summit, he said and added that the American administration did not play a proactive role in the summit...

“When the summit convened it had hoped to have in its hand a much touted Quartet report about about the conflict. But disagreement over the language in the report, including US objectives, delayed its publication and it has yet to be issued.

“Delegates at the summit had hoped to use the report to create a blue-print for creating a two-state solution...”


So, we have been provided with a reprieve, but by no means should we consider the matter closed.  Suffice it to say that it would be unwise to place full trust in Kerry and his boss with regard to this matter (or any other). 

Credit: wsj

It could well be that Obama - not pleased at the prospect of the French stealing his thunder - undercut this summit to make way for his own initiative. There are rumors regarding what the president may yet opt for, including support for some sort of UN resolution. Rumors. We do not yet know, but must continue to stay vigilant. 


As to Netanyahu’s suggestion, on the night Lieberman was sworn in, that a revised Arab peace initiative might be workable – that appears to be going nowhere quickly. The same al-Arabi cited above, of the Arab League, says he wants to see “action” from Israel with regard to ending the “occupation,” as the first order of business.

Al-Arabi says that Israel wants to “utterly change” the peace initiative for the sake of financial gain in Arab markets.

He also says that he knows Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold, and he is “one of the most extreme people I know.”  Dore Gold?  That would be fairly amusing, except that it tells us how intransigent the Arabs remain, Netanyahu’s hopes on the matter not withstanding.  Haval, as we say – it’s too bad.


As to politics here at home, the situation is so contentious and fluid that I prefer to say little.  There are times – many times, actually - when it simply does not pay to give much credence to the assortment of declarations floating in the air.

Minister Naftali Bennett (Chair, Habayit Hayehudi) continues to deride Prime Minister Netanyahu for his conflicting statements. As I’ve pointed out before, Bennett is often correct. But his motivation in making much of various matters is, of course, also political. 

Netanyahu - rather than saying he wishes there could be a peace agreement, but recognizes that the parties are simply too far apart for this to happen – continues to declare himself in favor of a “two state solution.” 

Yet, on Yom Yerushalayim, he proclaimed, 

“The love of Jerusalem unites all of us as one man with one heart. I remember the divided city of Jerusalem with the Jordanians on the fence. That will not come back. Jerusalem will remain whole,”

Great.  Then tell Abbas, who insists the PA must have eastern Jerusalem, to forget it, there is no deal.

Meanwhile, Yehuda Glick, new MK with Likud, claimed in a speech last Friday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "in his heart is with the settlers."

Wish I could know that for sure.  I continue to struggle with ambivalence, believing without full certainty that he is likely embracing the “two states” for reasons of diplomatic “pragmatism.” (Please, do not write to tell me what you think. None of us, the good Yehuda Glick included, can be certain.)


As to the opposition, head of the Zionist Camp Buji Herzog is still making noises about joining the coalition – if Bennett leaves.  Other members of his party are quite opposed.


It has been revealed that another member of Hamas involved with digging tunnels was apprehended recently when he crossed the border from Gaza.  Once again, we are being told that a wealth of information was secured.  That we are acquiring this information is good news, what we are learning is most definitely not - although this helps us to prepare and plan properly:

“The suspect admitted that the tunnels were to be used by the Hamas Special Forces Nakhba unit to kidnap IDF soldiers, commit suicide attacks, and commit other large scale attacks on Israeli towns.
“Hamas, the prisoner said, is working to create a warren of tunnels under Gaza for its fighters to enable them to traverse the length and breadth of the strip completely underground. The tunnels contain rooms and structures to be used for the benefit of Hamas Special Forces fighters.

“The majority of tunnel entrances are located in and around schools, mosques, and private homes, built with the knowledge that Israel is less likely to attack these structures.”,7340,L-4812155,00.html

Apparently Hamas has an elaborate communication system within the warren of interconnected tunnels, which even have recreation areas, so that the terrorists would be able to conduct a war from a base that is entirely underground. 

This makes it clear how the huge quantities of cement Hamas confiscates is being utilized.


Prime Minister Netanyahu is returning home from Russia today, after meeting with President Putin for the fourth time in a year – the third meeting in Moscow.  Goals included marking the 25th anniversary of relations between the two nations, and deepening ties.

While there are, certainly, points of disagreement – with Russia’s provision of weaponry to Iran being key, reports are of very cordial interaction.  As seen here from an earlier meeting:

Credit: veteranstoday

Netanyahu at one point said, “Israel’s doors are open to Russia and Russia’s doors are open to Israel,” while Putin, for his part, observed that in the war against terror, Russia and Israel were ‘unconditional allies.”  The point was made, additionally, that there is a bond between the nations because of more than one million Russian-speaking Israeli citizens who had come from the former USSR.  There are now three such Israelis who are ministers in Netanyahu’s government Avigdor Lieberman, Ze’ev Elkin (who was, once again, with Netanyahu as translator) and Sofa Landver.

Yesterday, Netanyahu helped to inaugurate an exhibit “Open a door to Israel,” on innovation and technology.  Participating was a delegation organized by the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria, which finds Russia more receptive to their products than the EU states.

A variety of subjects was discussed; key among them was the refining of coordination between the two air forces, to avoid inadvertent conflict over Syria. But there was also talk about the Palestinian Arabs, and Turkey.

This is one of the situations I believe Netanyahu is handling very well.  The connection to Russia provides an important counterbalance to our troubled interaction with the US and his security coordination is truly important; Russia, for its part is seeking influence in the Middle East, and so is happy to foster this relationship. 


I found it of interest that the two leaders also signed a bilateral pensions agreement, which seeks to “correct a historic injustice regarding émigrés from the former USSR up to 1992 who lost their eligibility for a Russian pension.”

You may remember that this issue, from the Israeli side, held up negotiations regarding Lieberman joining the coalition.  He sought additional Israeli pensions for those who had lost Russian pensions. The resolution was an equitable increase in pensions across the board. But here we see a correction of the problem from the other side.  I read nothing about this specifically, but must assume that this was done in response to a request made by Lieberman.


As a good will gesture, Putin agreed even before this meeting to return to Israel a Magach-3 tank tank captured in the 1982 Battle of Sultan Yacoub during the first Lebanon war; it has been in Russia’s possession – in a museum, actually.

Credit: GPO


I wrote recently about an extraordinary program the IDF has, utilized adults with autism as volunteers in the army.  In closing, I want to return to this subject.  Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, yesterday posted movingly on Facebook about his special-needs daughter, who just completed her army service:

At her graduation ceremony, Yaeli saluted her commanding officer. She wore a uniform and an orange beret, and her father wiped his eyes and hoped nobody could see.

Her class – a class of young people with special needs – volunteered for the entire year on a base of the IDF National Search and Rescue Unit. They contributed as much as they could.

The soldiers and commanders were charming and attentive and treated them with respect and affection. “I don’t know who learned more from whom this year,” a 19-year-old sergeant told me, with a huge smile.

“So you’re now a soldier like Lior?” I asked Yaeli, and my non-speaking daughter nodded forcefully.

The next time someone tells you that the only role of the army is to fight, send him the photo I attached here. Maybe it’s true of other armies, but the IDF is much more than that. (Emphasis added)

Yesh Atid Party chairman Yair Lapid, with his daughter, Yael, at her IDF graduation ceremony. Photo: Facebook.



Shlomo Carlebach, “Am Yisrael Chai”

Credit: shlomocarlebachmusic


© 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, June 8, 2016 at 06:41AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 5, 2016: Rejoice Yerushalayim!


Today marks the 49th anniversary of the re-unification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War.
Here you see IDF Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, at the Kotel (Western Wall), which Jews had not been permitted to approach for almost 20 years prior to the liberation. 

Credit: BreakingIsraelNews
For a mere 19 years, of the more than 3,000 years since King David first established the city as his capital, has the city been divided.  Nineteen years, following our War of Independence, during which Jordan occupied the eastern half of the city – which encompasses Har Habayit (the Temple Mount) and the Kotel (the Western Wall) - desecrating Jewish religious sites, and making it “Arab” by banishing all Jews who had lived there.
We have restored Jerusalem as the Jewish capital and built up the Jewish Quarter. 

Old City Jerusalem - Jewish Quarter 

Credit: atozkidstuff

Credit: Pacificbliss

Credit: rabbisinigoga
We have also provided free – and protected - access to the holy sites for all religions.  Only under Jewish control of the city has this been a reality.
And yet, the cry persists in many places that Jerusalem should be divided, with eastern Jerusalem to serve as the capital for a “Palestinian state.”
But this will not happen.  We will not permit it.
Today the fight focuses on Har Habayit, as the Palestinian Arabs and their supporters attempt to lay claim to this site that is the holiest in the world for Jews.  They attempt to squeeze us out, and to libel us and to make it theirs alone.
I will be writing more about this.  But wish to say here only that we must be strong and determined in securing our rights on Har Habayit. It is not that the Arabs venerate this site so highly, so much as that they know how they would weaken our national spirit were they – Heaven forbid! - to drive us away.
We have made many mistakes (chief among them, granting day-to-day administration of Har Habayit to the Muslim Wakf), but the future lies before us.  If we will be resolute and understand deeper meanings.
Today I will be with family and friends. And I want to go out and watch the flag parade through the city.   

Credit: Israellycool
And so I make this brief.  As celebration and as reminder. 
If you have never been to Jerusalem – come!  I promise you, this golden city will touch your heart and you will go away changed.  


Credit: Jerusalem Shots
And please, pray for Jerusalem.
Psalm 137, “If I forget you, Yerushalayim.”
© 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, June 5, 2016 at 07:13AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 3, 2016: Situation Unfolding

There is certainly nothing static about the current political situation, and an update seems in order.

Actually, some of what is happening is good – better than might be expected.

For those feeling unease that we might give away our country because of what Netanyahu and Lieberman said the other day, I start with these items:

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), while on a tour of the Binyamin region of the Shomron Tuesday, said (emphasis added here and below):

“I will say the obvious: As long as we are in the government, there will be no Palestinian state, there will be no settlement evacuations and we will not give any land to our enemies.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads Habayit Hayehudi, added:

everyone who is opposed to dividing Jerusalem and building a Palestinian state… don’t worry: we’re here.”

MK Ayelet Shaked (left), seen with Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett during a party meeting at the Knesset. (photo credit: Flash90)

Credit: Flash90


Earlier, another member of Habayit Hayehudi, Shuli Mualem, in responding to Lieberman’s statement after he was sworn in, observed:

“At this point I still do not see a reason to be concerned by these kinds of declarations...

“...[Lieberman] wants to appease the international community with meaningless declarations during the government’s transition.

We’ll be keeping an eye on him to make sure that no such process gains traction.”


Credit: Miriam Aster


The day after he was sworn in, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had his first meeting with military general staff at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.

Avigdor Lieberman shakes hands with the military general staff during a welcoming ceremony at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, on May 31, 2016. (Flash90)

Credit: Flash90

He said a number of things in his statement to the military that day, but there was one thing that caught my eye, and which I believe has real significance (emphasis added):

“In a democratic society, matters of war and peace must express the will of the people and enjoy the support of the majority. We don’t have the option to fight an unnecessary war. As Israeli society, we can only engage in necessary wars, and in those, we must win...We don’t have the luxury of conducting drawn-out wars of attrition.”

As you may have noticed, we’ve been conducting a drawn-out war of attrition with Hamas for years. And two years ago when we were in battle in Gaza, then Defense Minister Ya’alon did not fight to win, but settled for a period of temporary quiet with the knowledge that it would inevitably be followed by another round of fighting.

It appears that Ya’alon’s successor may play it another way the next time around. And judging from the last time – when the public expressed frustration with what was seen as a premature end to the war - Lieberman will indeed have the support of the people if he fights to win.

(Ya’alon, by the way, has graciously offered to brief Lieberman on the job of Defense Minister.)


Speaking of the will of the people: According to a poll conducted by the Midgam polling firm, 78% of Israeli Jews, both to the left and the right, are in favor of extending Israeli sovereignty to Ma’aleh Adumim, which is just outside Jerusalem to the east. And 70% say that Israel should do this regardless of the consequences.  This is a powerful statement.

The Land of Israel Lobby in the Knesset – which has 20 members and is co-chaired by Yoav Kish (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Heyehudi) - has announced that in response to this, they will introduce a bill in the Knesset this summer calling for Israeli sovereignty to be applied to Ma’aleh Adumim.


I do not imagine that there is much chance of this legislation passing (unless the prime minister decides to stand tall), but this is a statement of no small significance.  It is a response to those who demand that we return behind the 1949 armistice line for the sake of “peace.”

I do wonder how the highly contested E1 will be handled in the proposed legislation.  This is an area between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim on which Israel has had plans to build for some time – those plans have repeatedly been put on hold because of Arab protests that building there would interfere with the contiguity of the “Palestinian state.”  On a regular basis, Arabs squatters put up temporary buildings, or even tents, there, which are quickly taken down.


The Land of Israel Lobby declared in their statement on this issue that, “The consensus view in the public is that Ma’aleh Adumim is an inseparable part of Israel...” 

This is undoubtedly true.  But it is likely true of other areas as well.  I think first of Gush Etzion, which is a bloc immediately adjacent to Jerusalem to the south, which serves as the southern entry point into Jerusalem.

Gush Etzion encompasses 20 dynamic Jewish communities with a population of 20,000 collectively.  (See here: )

Some of those communities (notably Kfar Etzion) pre-dated the founding of modern Israel, but were destroyed in 1948.  Israelis – including in some instances the children of the earlier inhabitants – have returned to the area since 1967, to re-build those original communities and establish others.

It seems very likely to me that there would be a public consensus that these communities are part of Israel.


And how about this:

North of Jerusalem in the Shomron (Samaria) is the city of Ariel, with a population of 20,000, it is the forth largest community in Judea-Samaria; it is home to a university.

President Ruby Rivlin recently said:

“It’s obvious to everyone that Ariel would be an inseparable part of Israel in any future accord.”


I want to return, just briefly, to look at some of the issues surrounding the declarations regarding receptivity to a revised Saudi peace plan, made by Netanyahu and Lieberman at the time of Lieberman’s swearing in, on Monday evening.

What was mentioned specifically was appreciation for the recent efforts of Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to promote negotiations. And so I have gone back to find al-Sisi’s words. 

Credit: egyptianembassy

If Reuters provided a proper translation of his words, he “promised Israel...warmer ties if it accepts efforts to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.”

Now that’s a bit vague, but what I note is that it does not say ties with Israel will be warmer if a peace agreement is achieved. And so – this is my not altogether unfounded speculation – Netanyahu might reason (or hope) that showing readiness will improve ties with Egypt and other Arab nations, even if in the end the PA is obstructionist and nothing concrete happens. 

The proviso here is that Israel absolutely must not demonstrate a readiness that entails such things as freezing building (which is minimal as it is), or dismantling any communities. 


Saudi Arabia, at this point, has been cool to the Netanyahu-Lieberman declaration.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that:
“It's a little early for one to assess the seriousness of the Israeli side to begin talks based on the Arab peace initiative.

"When the Israeli prime minister spoke about it, he spoke about some clauses that he considers positive, not about accepting the initiative as the basis of talks.”

This is absolutely true. Netanyahu made it clear that there would need to be “adjustments” in the plan. And they would have to be major adjustments.

There were exceedingly solid reasons why this plan was rejected by Israel when it was first introduced by the Saudis in 2002 and then re-introduced by the Arab League in 2007.  It called for: “normalizing relations between the Arab region and Israel, in exchange for a complete withdrawal by Israel from the occupied territories (including East Jerusalem) and a ‘just settlement’ of the Palestinian refugee problem based on UN Resolution 194.” 

In their dreams.

Of course, the political situation now is different from what it was even nine years ago – with regard to Iran and more. The Arab League just might be a bit more flexible.  A bit. 


As to the Palestinian Arabs...

Saeb Erekat, who is now secretary general of the PLO, at first dismissed the statement by Netanyahu as “public relations.”  He said if Netanyahu is serious, then Israel must demonstrate this:

“...first and foremost by ending the manufacture of facts on the ground, the cessation of settlement, ending the Judaization of Jerusalem, stopping extrajudicial executions, halting all demolition of homes, releasing the detention of bodies, lifting the siege, recognition of the 1967 borders...”

This merely demonstrates the point that nothing is going to happen because the maximalist demands of the Palestinian Arabs are a total non-starter.  Always, my favorite, when I read a list like this is the “Judaization of Jerusalem.”

Says Erekat, the realization of the two-state solution requires an explicit and clear recognition of the 1967 borders (sic) by Israel.  I’ve already covered that subject above.


What we face now is the French-initiated conference in Paris, called to begin today.  Israel has been in intensive communication with the US government – seen to be the primary player here – on how the conference will proceed.

I will be tracking this in forthcoming posts.  This, and a great deal more.


Aaron David Miller, writing in the Wall Street Journal about this conference, says:

“After 20-plus years of planning mostly failed Middle East peace conferences for Republican and Democratic administrations, I know a fatally flawed one when I see it.”

He offers five reasons why the French initiative “can’t deliver a serious and sustained negotiating process, let alone a breakthrough.”  Among these reasons (emphasis added):
[] “We are in a period of political maneuver, not serious decision-making.” That a new American administration is just months away is relevant here.
[] “Peace conferences and summits are usually good for one of two things: launching a credible negotiating process or reaching an agreement to finalize one. The French approach is not poised to do either. Neither of the parties to the conflict will be at Friday’s gathering. As with the Geneva process to end Syria’s civil war, there are limits on what outside parties can do to ameliorate or end regional conflict

[] Israel has already rejected the French plan. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unwilling to accept Palestinian terms for a settlement and sees little reason to participate in an international forum that might pressure him to do so...The prime minister and defense minister have a stake in sounding reasonable. Both are making positive statements about two states and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. But once details are discussed, the yawning gaps between the Israelis, Arabs, and Palestinians will become apparent.


I end with a good news piece:

An anti-BDS conference – called the “Building Bridges Not Boycotts, International Summit - was held in the UN General Assembly hall in New York on Tuesday. Over 2,000 people, students, activists and legal professionals, were in attendance; Christians joined with Jews in participating. The event focused on fighting BDS on college campuses, in courts of law, and in the UN itself. 

Speaking at the event, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, who served as the event’s host, said;

“BDS has already infected the UN.

“Can you imagine, 70 years after the Holocaust, the UN [Human Rights Council] is creating lists to encourage the boycott of Jewish companies? 

“This is exactly the kind of hatred which the UN was founded to eradicate.  When the UN is opening the door to BDS we have to respond.  When Jewish students are afraid to visibly support Israel on a college campus, we have to take a stand.

“The truth is the best weapon in the battle against the lies and distortions of BDS.  BDS is modern-day anti-Semitism and we must unite to reveal its true face and put an end to an ideology of hatred and lies...we are here to win.”

Danny Danon has become quite the fighter at the UN, and to him I say Kol Hakavod – with all honor due you. 


Credit: Kobi Kalmanovitz

The event was co-sponsored by the Israeli Mission to the UN and a number of American Jewish organizations,  World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder also spoke.  The goal of the event was to lift morale, so Jewish students could know they were not alone, and to teach practical methods for combatting BDS.


André Rieu, “When you walk through a storm.”

© 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 Saturday, June 4, 2016 at 07:24PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 31, 2016: Choppy Waters

There is much to report at this time of political and diplomatic turmoil, but I will follow what has become my custom and start with some brief good news items. 
Midway between the Dead Sea and Eilat, in a place called Sapir, in the harsh Arava desert, we find the International Center for Agricultural Training (AICAT).  There, undergraduates from across Asia and Africa - from Nepal, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Ethiopia, South Sudan, East Timor, Thailand and Indonesia - come for a 10-month hands-on agriculture work-study program.
Says Hanni Arnon, AICAT director, “Here, where there are very harsh conditions, with geographic isolation, extreme weather, arid soil and a shortage of water — they learn the importance of human capacity. If you want it, you can make a change. We teach that a difficulty is a challenge and you need to find a solution.”

Students come from many countries to learn Israeli agricultural techniques at AICAT. Photo: courtesy

This is a very Israeli attitude, and is what has enabled us to thrive and grow.  And how good, that we share this perspective with others.
WoundClot gauze is a flexible and easy-to-handle material made of highly absorbent regenerated cellulose (plant cells). It absorbs about 2,500 percent of its own weight in fluids and forms a coagulating gel membrane with platelets from the blood on the open wound.

“By absorbing blood and enhancing the natural clotting process, this unique gauze stops hemorrhaging within minutes and naturally dissolves – no need for painful removal – within 24 hours...

“The technology was developed at Ben-Gurion University by nanomaterials chemist Shani Eliyahu-Gross and commercialized by Core Scientific Creations, founded in 2012 in Kfar Saba by private angel investors...

“’What is unique about WoundClot is its bio-absorbability and its ability to withhold severe bleeding,’ Core Scientific Creations CEO Yuval Yaskil tells ISRAEL21c.

“’We managed to create a “DNA clock” that breaks down the product when we want it to and not because of saturation. Also, it is the only product of its kind we know of in the world today that doesn’t use compression.’”

The product was developed with the battlefield in mind, but has a host of other uses in trauma situations.  It is predicted that someday this product may be in everyone’s medicine chest.

Photo via wiseGEEK



If you have not yet read the piece entitled ”The Palestinian Hoax” by Daniel Greenfield, writing as Sultan Knish, I encourage you to do so. 

“...the Palestinian Museum...opened with much fanfare and one slight problem. While admission is free, there’s nothing inside for any of the visitors to see except the bare walls.

“The Palestinian Museum had been in the works since 1998, but has no exhibits. The museum cost $24 million...The Palestinian Museum is open, but there’s nothing inside.”

The museum, says Greenfield, is a metaphor for “Palestine.”
“Over the Palestinian Museum flies the proud flag of Palestine, which was originally the flag of the Iraqi-Jordanian Federation before the PLO ‘borrowed’ it, and visitors might be greeted by the Palestinian anthem composed by Greek Communist Mikis Theodorakis. If it sounds anything like the soundtrack from Zorba the Greek, that’s because they both share the same composer. All of Palestine is so authentically Palestinian that it might as well be made in China. At least that’s where the stained Keffiyahs worn by the stone throwers hurling rocks at passing Jewish families while posing heroically for Norwegian, Canadian and Chilean photojournalists are made. Palestine is an empty building with nothing in it...There’s a flag, an anthem, a museum and all the trappings of a country. But if you look closer, there’s nothing inside. The Palestinian Museum’s chairman, Omar al-Qattan, who was born in Beirut and lives in the UK, said that the ‘Palestinians’ needed positive energy so badly that opening an empty museum made sense. Just think how much positive energy can come from realizing that you have no culture, heritage or history to put in your museum...”

After you’ve read it, you might like to share it.  This satirical piece looks at some very stark realities.


Just days ago, there was a rough spot in the coalition negotiations between Likud and Yisrael Beitenu, with dire predictions being made about how it was all going to fall apart.  But it was ironed out.

And then came another glitch, as Naftali Bennett, head of Habayit Hayehudi, said his party would not support Lieberman as Defense Minister when the required vote was taken in the Knesset, unless Netanyahu acceded to his demand for a security secretary to be appointed to inform members of the Security Cabinet about complex military issues, and to facilitate their visits to sensitive security sites.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

Credit: Gil Yohanan

As I see it, Bennett’s demand was quite legitimate.  His concern was two-fold: that sometimes the Security Cabinet is by-passed as the IDF and the prime minister make decisions, and other times the Security Cabinet is ill-equipped to make proper decisions, when they are called upon to do so.  He views this matter with utmost seriousness, as lives are at stake.

Many agreed with him, including Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council.  Eiland explained:

“...the [Security] Cabinet does constitute the most senior echelon in the country in all matters of state security.

“The relationship between the Security Cabinet and the IDF can be compared to that of a company's board of directors and the company itself, with the IDF chief of staff serving as its CEO. And though the board of directors does have a chairperson—personified by the prime minister—the most important issues are still decided by the board, and not its chairperson.

“...Cabinet members are usually senior ministers, some of them heads of their own party. These are very busy people, with most of them lacking the preferable security background. The members, however, are responsible for all the important decisions and are expected to learn and know the workings of the ‘company’—personified by the IDF—they oversee and whose actions they must approve. Appointing a military secretary to aid the Security Cabinet in these matters seems like a partial yet highly worthwhile solution to this.”,7340,L-4807817,00.html


Inevitably, there is a political aspect that colors everything, and which the Israeli media – like media all over - just love to enlarge upon in great detail.  The relationship between Netanyahu and Bennett, as many of my readers may be aware, is hardly warm.  Certainly there is reason to believe that issues of ego or power rather than simply concern for the effectiveness of the Security Cabinet may have been involved in Netanyahu’s rejection of Bennett’s demand.  The prime minister’s suggestion that a committee be appointed to look into the matter was rejected by Bennett as “spin.”  Appointment of a “committee” is sometimes a means for stalling action.

Now, again, there were dire media reports about the coalition being on the verge of collapse; members of the current government rushed to bring the two sides together and prevent disaster. In this regard I was grateful that Herzog declared that his Zionist Camp would not step in to strengthen the coalition if Bennett walked.  Had he been willing, who knows how Netanyahu would have responded.  As it was, it was necessary for him and Bennett to come to some terms.


When Health Minister Ya’akov Litzman (UTJ) proposed a compromise, Netanyahu rejected it, although Bennett had accepted it. 

Yaakov Litzman matzavcomwpcontentuploads201506yaakovlitzm

Credit: Alchetron

Then on Sunday night, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Habayit Hayehudi) encouraged the prime minister to accept it. Once Netanyahu did, the crisis disappeared.

The compromise:  A committee will be formed to find ways to facilitate transfer of information to the members of the Security Cabinet; they will have three weeks to come up with a solution.  In the interim, the head of the National Security Council will be responsible for reporting to the ministers.


So now we have a new enlarged government in place, and a new Minister of Defense.  The Cabinet unanimously approved Lieberman in his new position Monday during the day, and at night the Knesset voted approval of Lieberman as Minister of Defense, 55 to 43.  Lieberman has been sworn in.

Liberman sworn in as Defense Minister

Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Also sworn in last night were Sofa Landver, as Minister of Aliyah, and Tzachi Hanegbi, as Minister in the Prime Minister’s office.

Once he was sworn in, Lieberman resigned his Knesset seat, making way for the next on the Yisrael Beitenu list, Yulia Malinovsky, to enter the Knesset.


And so now is the time to mention - with no little disdain – that the Obama administration has already voiced discontent with our new coalition. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said last week that Washington had “seen reports from Israel describing it as the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history...we also know that many of its ministers have said they oppose a two-state solution. This raises legitimate questions about the direction it may be headed in and what kind of policies it may adopt.”


The response a day later by Minister Yariv Levin – who had headed negotiations for Likud - was entirely appropriate: 

“Our relations with the United States are extremely close and strong, but I think that the makeup of the government is an internal Israeli issue.  That is how the situation has been in [Israel’s] entire history and I think we need to insist on that.”

Credit: al-monitor


Our paramount job is to stand strong for ourselves – if only we will do so.  The world is going to say what it chooses to say, in any event.

Last Wednesday, two new members of the Knesset were sworn in: Yaakov Asher, who came in as part of a rotation deal between Agudat Yisrael and Degel Hatorah, and Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who came into the Likud coalition as a result of the resignation of Moshe Ya’alon. It is Glick I want to focus on here.

Yehuda Glick's inaugural Knesset address

Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Just as there is hysteria about Lieberman in the government (which is already something of a joke, see below), so is there with regard to Glick, who is called an “extremist.”  Why? Because, bless him, he wants to fight for Jewish rights on Har Habayit (the Temple Mount). He has declared himself committed to do what he can to secure the Jewish right to pray on this, our holiest place. 

This is what we have come to, that speaking out for Jewish rights should be seen as “extreme.”

In an effort to calm tensions these past months, the prime minister put out an order that MKs were not to go up on the Mount – it was perceived as a “provocation.”  Glick, before he was sworn in, went up one last time, which displeased Netanyahu.  But Glick said:

“I have no idea when I will be able to return here.

“Know that everything that I do stems from the peace this place represents.  I hope that it’s remembered that peace is the name of God, and everything I do for the country, the people and for Jerusalem, is driven by this city, the city of peace.”

Glick advocates not just for Jews, but for the rights of all peoples who are peaceful to pray on the Mount. He reminds his listeners that it is to be “a house of prayer for all nations.”  (From Isaiah 56)

Some radical.


As we move towards the ill-fated Paris “peace” conference scheduled for June 3, Abbas is making the most of it – with a series of specifications and demands.  If you follow what he said in a talk to the Arab League in Cairo on Saturday, it is possible to see, as clear as clear can be, that there has been no give in PA positions, no compromise. Everything is as it was last year, and the year before, and the year before that.

The “Palestinian state” should be located on all of the land beyond the 1949 armistice line, with perhaps small swaps of land of equal value, and eastern Jerusalem as the capital. There would be no recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.


There must also be, said Abbas, a “fair” resolution of the refugee issue, based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948. This is an old demand loaded with dishonesty and subterfuge that they persist in holding on to. It’s a centerpiece of plans to weaken Israel.  Resolution 194, according to Arab claims, gives Palestinian Arab “refugees” the “right of return” to areas within Israel that they fled in 1948. 

Resolution 194, however, is just a recommendation from the General Assembly, without any weight in law.  That is, there is no “right” conferred on refugees by virtue of the resolution, and no obligation levied against Israel. What is more, the reference to “return” was only one alternative mentioned in the resolution.  What the Arabs did is to focus on a portion of one phrase, rather than the entire document.  Over the last 65 + years, Arabs who fled during the war have been sustained, via UNRWA, in a refugee status, rather than being absorbed into the various Arab countries where they found themselves.  Even “refugees” who acquired citizenship elsewhere are still counted as refugees, as are their descendants.  I did a good deal of writing about this years ago, and nothing of significance has changed since I first wrote.


In addition now, Abbas, clearly confident of support from the international community, has added stipulations: if negotiations are re-launched, there should be time-caps set and a monitoring committee for following whatever is agreed upon.  And he would like NATO troops in Judea and Samaria.


And what do we have? Lieberman, newly sworn in last night, immediately declared in a joint statement with Netanyahu that he supports the recent efforts to promote peace in the region that have been advanced by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. This is not an embrace of Abbas, and not endorsement of the French plan. No. 

But it is a statement that reflects Netanyahu’s penchant for showing how willing we are to “make peace.” Netanyahu is facing pressure from France and the US government, and the EU. And I haven’t even mentioned yet the maliced meddling of the so-called leaders of the Jewish Policy Forum, who are preparing a paper to submit to the next president on how to pressure Netanyahu for concessions.  So, it is, first, I suspect, a “reassurance” that we’re not obstructionist.  And a way to reduce the horrendous pressure. 

It is also, I think, a counter to Abbas’s demands regarding negotiations, and perhaps a diversion to weaken French influence – sort of a splitting of the playing field. At the time the French announced their initiative, the Arabs declared that the responsibility for pursuing an agreement rested with them.  An undermining of the plans of the haughty French might be constructive.

Broadly speaking, this approach envisions an opportunity for us to improve our relations with Arab neighbors – something that the prime minister is always talking about. It is fraught at one and the same time with possibility in terms of strengthening our ties with the relatively moderate Arab states, and with danger, lest we concede what we should not in an effort to consolidate our interactions with them.

The initiative here is obviously that of Netanyahu.  News sources called this a “surprise,” and I would say so.  A shock might be more like it.  But this was hardly a spontaneous action. According to the JPost this morning, Tzachi Hanegbi, who tilts to the left, was brought into the prime minister’s office so that he might work on this.  What does “working on it” mean?


Even as I report on possible motivation for what Netanyahu is doing – which is not to my liking - I am able to consider the possibility that there might be some method to this madness. 

Perhaps we need to also keep in mind that Netanyahu knows that a “peace deal” is beyond the realm of what is possible. He knows that Abbas is making his maximalist demands and will never come to terms.  We absolutely should not count on the Arabs to save us, but they have, many times, and he may be counting on this again. And so, he might make his (potentially dangerous) gestures, to show the world how serious and magnanimous we are, but count on it, that in the end not much will change.


This turn of events is clearly also intended as an indication that Lieberman will be a “team player,” for he speaks of “positive elements” in the Saudi plan (if re-negotiated).  What was discussed in the coalition negotiations?  Choosing the time of Lieberman’s swearing in to make this announcement was deliberate, I have no doubt.  Yariv Levin’s comments aside, with everything else, this is designed to allay fears in the world that Lieberman is a “crazy extremist.” 

I feel the unease, and can clearly hear the laments: But Lieberman was supposed to be right wing!  Let us watch... It is very early, and there are yet so many unknowns.  As I said, “Choppy waters.”  So complex. So difficult.  Hold tight.

My own position: even if Lieberman turns out to be less than we might have hoped, Ya’alon had to go.  A man who compares one of our soldiers to ISIS, as he did, and encourages military insurrection against the government, cannot be Minister of Defense.


In my last posting, I wrote about the fact that for an interval of six weeks no cement – intended for housing construction – had been permitted into Gaza because some of it was being diverted by Hamas for tunnel construction, but that now it would be permitted in again.  I scoffed at the idea that the new regulations in place – such as more PA monitors on the scene – were going to make a difference.  And that was before I had the latest information:

Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold speaking at a United Nations World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul indicated that Hamas was diverting 95% of the cement allowed into Gaza for civilian purposes, in order to utilize it for terror.

Ninety-five percent. The new stipulations will have close to no effect on this.

And so I ask: What is wrong with us? What sickness is this that we have to show how nice we are, even when there is evidence that what we are doing is damaging to our nation? 

The most important lesson we as a nation still need to learn: to stand first for ourselves. I do not believe it can be said too often.


What better to do now than pray for the welfare of the State of Israel:

Send Your light and truth to Israel’s leaders, ministers and officials.”

May we see better days ahead.


© 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, May 31, 2016 at 12:13PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 25, 2016: Sof Sof!

“Sof Sof!” means Finally!
When last I wrote two days ago, I expected Lieberman to close on a coalition agreement with Likud within hours.  Instead it has taken days.  But as of this morning at 11 AM, the agreement was signed and it was a done deal. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman shake hands after signing a coalition agreement in the Knesset on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
The holdup was caused by Lieberman’s demand that there be increased pension benefits for Russian retirees.  The concern was primarily for those who came to Israel from Russia already past working age (so that they did not have the opportunity to accrue Israeli pensions of substance) but without Russian pensions; as the Israeli pensions they do receive are inadequate, they remain below the poverty line. Most seniors below the poverty line, are, I believe, of Russian origins. The resolution came via an understanding that pensions would be increased across the board – to the tune of at least $360 million - and not just for Russians, which would be inequitable. 
Apparently Lieberman, anxious to end the negotiations and get on with it, was flexible in the end.  This was after typical negotiation hardball of the other day, with him declaring talks were at a standstill.
As part of the agreement, MK Sofa Landver of Yisrael Beitenu will become immigrant absorption minister, a position she held from 2009 to 2015.


Credit: Flash90
Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu, pictured) was involved in the negotiations in his role as Minister of Finance, while Yariv Levin served as Likud negotiator. 

Finance minister and  leader of the Kulanu party, Moshe Kahlon, at the opening meeting of the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, May 18, 2015 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Credit: Hadas Perush/Flash90
Now we must pray that Lieberman remains true to the tough right wing stance he has been embracing. 
He will not be sworn in as Defense Minister until early next week because the Knesset must first approve his appointment and the Knesset will not be in session on Thursday because it is Lag B’Omer. 
Hopefully there will not be a further hold-up, as head of Bayit Yehudi Naftali Bennett had threatened to withhold approval until his own demand was met. 
He has been seeking a military secretary whose responsibility would be to keep the various members of the Security Cabinet well informed in critical security situations and facilitate visits to military zones.  He has protested that the Security Cabinet has not been sufficiently involved in major decisions, and I believe he is quite correct in terms of how matters have transpired, especially during the Gaza War of 2014.  (We’re going to be hearing more about this.)
What is not clear is that his proposal is necessary as a corrective - other avenues may be in place, if they are utilized properly and there is awareness of the problem.  It seems to me that a good part of resolving this is a genuine commitment on the part of the prime minister and defense minister to bring in the Cabinet on security decisions.
Today, I am seeing no further mention of this issue.
As the situation requires this, I have been focusing almost exclusively of late on internal Israeli political matters.  And we are likely not yet done. 
We are all familiar with the saying that is reported apocryphally to be a Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”  Indeed we do.  Never boring here.
But I do want to turn to other issues, as well here – starting with a couple of good news items.
Unit 9900 – an extraordinary elite IDF intelligence unit – is composed of high functioning adults with autism, who serve on a volunteer basis. 
“...they must have rare powers of concentration, along with strong spatial intelligence and visual perception, to decipher what they see. Their interpretations of the images help the IDF plan combat missions, sometimes changing strategy based on newly deciphered images.
“Research has shown that the visual perception of people on the autism spectrum is often different...than those not on the spectrum...autistic individuals can excel at approaching complex visual images objectively,’ focusing only on the ‘raw data,’ without preconceived notions of how things are supposed to be.”
At the very same time that this service bolsters Israel’s security, it provides an invaluable sense of self-worth to those who participate. 


According to a Ministry of Absorption document that will facilitate the process, it is expected that by the end of this year hundreds of people from the Bnei Menashe community in India will be brought to Israel, where they will undergo conversion to Judaism and receive Israeli identity cards.  This process will be facilitated by the organization Shavei Yisrael, founded and headed by Michael Freund; it will over-see the community’s acclimatization, including conversion and Hebrew studies, and assist in their in absorption into local communities.
The Bnei Menashe do not qualify for aliyah under the Law of Return and are not recognized as formally Jewish according to Jewish Law, however, they “say their oral history of 2,700 years describes their escape from slavery in Assyria to Media/Persia. From there they moved to what is now Afghanistan and then to Hindu Kush, Tibet and then, in around 240 BCE, to Kaifeng – eventually settling in the Himalayas, where they tried to preserve their heritage. They practice many Jewish rituals.”
While Freund was working in the prime ministers office as (1996-97) he “received a letter from the Bnei Menashe, who told him they were descendants of the tribe of Menashe, one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, and appealed to him to help them return to their ‘Promised Land.’”
There are already 2,000 members of the community here; they have been arriving sporadically since 2006, after some years of controversy regarding their origins.


Credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90
Danny Danon, Israeli Ambassador to the UN, has done battle with the UN and won.  The Israel Mission to the UN and Stand with US, an American organization advocating for Israel, jointly mounted an exhibit on Israel – that was to provide information about Zionism, Jerusalem and Arab Israelis, that was to be shown at UN headquarters in NY.  At first the UN censored the entire exhibit, and then said that the unit on Zionism could be shown, but not the units on the historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem or Israel’s treatment of its Arab citizens. 
Danon held his ground, and now the entire exhibit is on display in an area that can be seen by diplomats and visitors. 
See here for pictures of the elements of the exhibit (scroll down):

Credit: Kobi Kalmanovitz
Laugh of the week: French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who was just here, said that Israel should have faith in France’s peace plan.
Faith?  Is he for real?

Manuel Valls

Credit: thehoopsnews
Netanyahu’s response was clear: Israel rejects France’s plan because it does not provide an incentive to the Palestinian Arabs to compromise. 
“In fact,” said Netanyahu, “the Palestinian prime minister, [Rami] Hamdallah, let slip the other day his hope for an imposed timetable, rather than a negotiated peace.”
Netanyahu subsequently proposed an alternative to the French plan:
“If you really want to help launch peace, then help us launch direct negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas.

“I’m ready to clear my schedule and fly to Paris tomorrow. Well, I think tomorrow we’re expanding the government, but the day after tomorrow.”
“Every difficult issue will be on the table,” Netanyahu told Valls, who said he would bring the proposal to President Francois Hollande.
It took no time at all for PA officials to reject this: “Netanyahu is trying to buy time… but this time he will not escape the international community,” declared  Hamdallah.
This is Netanyahu’s point precisely – that the PA is counting on coercion by the international community rather than working face-to-face for an agreement.
Is there a gain for Israel in this tactic of our prime minister?  With his eager suggestion (that includes a stomach-turning offer to put everything, which means also Jerusalem, on the table), has he at all demonstrated to the world that the PA and not Israel is obstructionist?  Or – as I suspect - does the world continue to see Israel as it wishes?  Will the world remember only that the Israeli prime minister offered to discuss the status of Jerusalem? (Rhetorical question.)
When does it become time for a different tactic?  One that relies heavily on documented information broadcast world-wide about PA support for terrorists (including their convoluted method for continuing to pay those in Israeli prison), continued incitement and all the rest?  How about saying that it’s time for the international community, if it is REALLY interested in peace in the region, to start to make serious demands of the PA to demonstrate peaceful behavior?
How many times do we have to show how “peaceful” we are?
I wrote recently about the bind of Israeli security officials who are called upon to act with compassion with regard to the needs of the populace of Gaza, and then get burned when good will gestures are utilized by Hamas. 
When I wrote last, it was with regard to Gazan fisherman who brought in weaponry as well as fish.  Now there is a similar issue concerning cement.  Cement is one of those materials that is “dual use.”  It can be utilized for building houses, badly needed by people in Gaza, and by Hamas for building tunnels.
For six weeks, no cement has been allowed into Gaza by Israel, because it was uncovered (what a surprise!) that it was being diverted.  COGAT (the Coordinator of Government Activities in the the Territories, which works under the Ministry of Defense) said at the time that some quantity of cement was being taken by Imad al-Baz, deputy director of Hamas’s Economic Ministry. 
Now with the announcement that cement will be let in again, certain stipulations – worked out in conjunction with the UN – have been put in place: Al-Baz has been dismissed and there will be more Palestinian inspectors on the Gaza side of the Keren Shalom crossing.
Now really...does anyone actually believe that this will solve the problem and that all of the cement will now go where it is supposed to? 
Israeli authorities are either shockingly naïve (which I don’t believe) or are simply trying to cover their tracks.  The pressure on Israel to allow in material for the poor civilians to have housing is strong.  Somehow the problem, once again, becomes Israel’s fault.  Not the fault of Egypt, which has closed crossings and tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai. And Hamas, well, it builds tunnels and it is just being Hamas.
There is talk about an island in the Mediterranean beyond the Gaza coast that would have a port, so that nothing would have to go into Gaza via Israel.  That, clearly, presents its own serious problems, but the talk is an indication that Israeli authorities are weary of the status quo.
I’ve put up this song before, but once again, in this time of turmoil, it feels appropriate. 
“Kol Haolam Kulo”
All of the world is a narrow bridge but the main thing is not to be afraid.
There are many versions; I’m sharing the same one I did previously, because I think the production, with children, is special.
© 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, May 25, 2016 at 03:00PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 23, 2016: Shifting Political Fortunes

Israel’s political scene is in the process of significant transition.  I’ve been waiting a bit for the dust to settle, as there has been so much flux.
Now there has been some settling, certainly – and we can see the situation with a bit more clarity.  But still the rumors swirl, there are a host of interpretations with regard to what has happened, and there are outcomes as yet unknown.
What we know is this:
Avidgdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu (“Israel is our home”) party will be joining the coalition with Likud, bringing the number of members of the coalition up to 66 from the minimal 61 it had been. 
Everyone is speaking as if it is a done-deal, but the final sign-off on the coalition agreement has yet to take place – it is being held up by details. I am going to write this with the assumption that it will finalize shortly. 

Credit: Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash90
Lieberman had a number of demands for joining the coalition.  Primary was that the portfolio of the Minister of Defense be given to him.  Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed, and informed Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon that he was out as soon as the coalition agreement was finalized.  Ya’alon subsequently resigned. Reportedly, the prime minister then offered Ya’alon the position of Foreign Minister, but he turned it down. (More on Ya’alon below.) 

Moshe Yaalon - Israel News

Credit: politiscope
Another demand of Lieberman was that Netanyahu support legislation promoting the death penalty for convicted terrorists, and this has been agreed to.  This legislation, if passed, would not automatically invoke the penalty for terrorists convicted of a specific sort of crime.  Rather, it would permit it to be invoked if it was supported by two out of three judges sitting on a case (there is no jury trial in Israel), whereas under the current law it is permitted only if there is a unanimous judicial vote in favor. And this has been only theory, as it has never happened.  Such legislation has been advanced before and failed to pass, as there was no support from the prime minister.
This will be the first time Netanyahu will be supporting it.  But even this is no guarantee of success for the bill that is going to be drafted.  On the left there will be a great outcry about this. Former attorney general Yehuda Weinstein adamantly opposes it and has called on his successor, Avichai Mandelblit, to do the same.
In the Western world, capital punishment is invoked infrequently (but still exists in the US).  I do not believe anyone is advocating that every convicted terrorist receive capital punishment. The thought is that the option should exist for particularly heinous cases.
A primary concern of advocates of capital punishment is that this precludes the possibility of those who have committed those heinous crimes being traded in a deal and thus receiving freedom to commit further heinous crimes. This has happened.  It is not only a heartbreak, it constitutes a moral betrayal of the families of those who have been murdered.
As I understand it, this law would apply via the Civil Administration, in Judea and Samaria.  This area is under the authority of the Ministry of Defense.
It should be noted that Lieberman is of Russian origins and his party began as a home for Russian olim (immigrants).  There are a number of implications here.  Lieberman is seeking enhanced benefits for Russian pensioners (retirees), although budget constraints will prevent him from achieving everything he is seeking.  (This is one of the matters still under discussion.)
It has occurred to me that Lieberman’s accession to the post of Minister of Defense might resonate well with Putin, as we deal with him on military matters in Syria. 
What has become clear is that this deal with Lieberman did not come out of the blue: there were negotiations and feelers on-going for some time, even as there were coalition negotiations proceeding with Yitzhak (Buji) Herzog for his Zionist Camp (Labor) to join the coalition.  

Yitzhak Herzog

Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90
Herzog stopped negotiations as soon as he realized Lieberman was also being courted.  There was a point at which he was sure he had it sewed up, and was ready to step into the government to “make peace.” 
Now Herzog is being lambasted by his party for being used, and may yet step down – or be pushed out – from his leadership position in Labor.  Shelley Yachimovich is poised to resume that position, which she held previously.

Shelly Yachimovich

Credit: Flash90
If this happens, I say, “Bye, bye, Buji.” 
Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who was next in line on the Likud list, will move into the Knesset because of Ya’alon’s resignation.

Credit: Getty
Rabbi Glick, who miraculously survived a terror attack in October 2014, says he believes God saved him because his work on this earth is not done.  An ardent activist for Jewish rights on Har Habayit (the Temple Mount), Glick is often labeled an extremist.  But the fact of the matter is that in many respects, he is quite moderate. 
There are those saying that the new coalition will be the most right wing government Israel has ever had.
As to Ya’alon, he seems to be having a temper tantrum.  He has now made statements to the press about the government having lost its “moral compass.”
Whereas I – and many others on the right – see it quite a different way.  It was Ya’alon who lost his way.  There are solid reports from the inside that indicate he knew what was coming down the road – that it was no surprise.  Yet he prefers to behave as if he has been ambushed.
The military in a democracy – while obligated to train the best troops and develop the most effective weaponry possible, and to use those troops and weapons as required in defense of the nation - takes its order from the political echelon. It does not make political decisions.  Yet Ya’alon, who was not in sync with a number of government decisions, chose to push his own policies and ended up encouraging insurgency on the part of the IDF elite, in the name of “free speech.”  He had to go.
Netanyahu let it be known that he didn’t want terrorists’ bodies returned to families.  Ya’alon returned bodies of those terrorists taken down in Judea and Samaria.  Most recently there was a major funeral held, even though there was supposed to be a stipulation requiring a small funeral.  On another occasion, the army said they released a body “by mistake.”  Please, do not ask me to justify or explain this.
And it was the IDF brass and not the government that pushed for a cessation of IDF operations in Areas A and B.
Perhaps most distressing, however, were Ya’alon’s statements regarding Elor Azariya, the soldier who killed the immobilized terrorist in Hevron.  “We’re not ISIS here, you know,” he intoned.
The outrage.
You might find this open letter to Ya’alon from a member of Likud enlightening with regard to what has been going on:
Amos Harel, writing in Haaretz, spoke of:
“...the crisis of confidence between Netanyahu and Ya’alon and the IDF brass in recent months...
“There will now be an attempt to reeducate the General Staff, now without Ya’alon, as Bennett is doing to the Education Ministry and the civics teachers, and as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is trying to do with the state prosecution and the Supreme Court.”

Whatever Harel’s feelings in the matter, for many, this is wonderful news.  Not only is it critical that the government and the IDF brass relate in a spirit of confidence, it is reassuring that there will an attempt to bring the top brass around to a different sort of thinking.  For two long, leftists have held sway. We are moving right now, and the leftists are screaming bloody murder.


Ya’alon declares that he is not finished with politics.  He will either start his own centrist-left party, or join one already in existence.  Of course, he could have remained in the government in the position of Foreign Minister, but chose not to.  I believe this is likely so that he can have more political latitude than he would within the constraints of the current coalition.

And I think Ronn Torossian is correct, when he writes that “Ya’alon’s public trashing of Netanyahu harms Israel worldwide.”

Ya’alon, who claims the higher moral ground, has dishonored himself.


His last vindictive act before leaving was to cancel the permits for Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Habayit Hayehudi) and his staff to enter the Kirya - Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv. Netanyahu has since restored the permits.

Eli Ben-Dahan

Credit: Flash90

There was long-standing enmity between Ben-Dahan and Ya’alon. According to the coalition agreement, Habayit Hayehudi is to have control of the Civil Administration, and it was Ben-Dahan, as Deputy Defense Minister, who should have been given that role.  But Ya’alon balked, undoubtedly because Ben-Dahan’s right wing views were not to his liking.

This is one of the situations we can hope might now be adjusted by Lieberman.


As a cry-and-hue has gone up in certain quarters about the prospect of Lieberman, a civilian, assuming the role of Minister Defense, I note here comments by Aaron Lerner, director of IMRA (emphasis added):

“Some talking heads in Israel are essentially asserting that only senior brass are qualified to serve as minister of defense.

“But ex-brass come to the job with the mind set of the defense establishment.

“And while the defense establishment may be fantastic planning an operation, after the operation's goals have been delineated they have been a profound disaster in setting goals and policies...

“Our last civilian defense minister was Amir Peretz. Many Israelis owe him their lives thanks to his rejection of the recommendation of the brass that we first demolish Lebanese infrastructure at the start of the Second Lebanon War, Peretz wisely insisted that we first wipe out the missiles before they could be repositioned. Even more Israelis owe their lives to Peretz for deciding on Iron Dome.

“Contrast the foresight of civilian Peretz to the shocking lack of vision of Ehud Barak [a military man] - who couldn't fathom the strategic value having a second strike capability provided by submarine able to launch Jericho missiles...”

Lerner was not endorsing Lieberman, per se, but saying that a civilian Defense Minister may be the way to go.


Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) speaking at the Jerusalem Post Conference in NY on Sunday, had similar words, but coupled with an endorsement:

"I would also like to say, that as someone who has known Avigdor Lieberman personally for more than 20 years, I am confident that he will make an excellent Minister of Defense. I believe that it is good that every once in a while, we have a Defense Minister who does not come from the military establishment. Someone from the outside can bring fresh thinking and a fresh perspective to the IDF."


There are numerous questions that are still floating in the political atmosphere.

One is the issue of whether Lieberman is truly right wing, and whether he can be trusted to be stable within the government. 

He has on occasion been a loose cannon.  No question. But in this situation he is demonstrating a readiness to play it for reasonableness and stability. One of his big issues in the past was an insistence that the haredim (ultra Orthodox) had to serve in the army without exemptions.  But now he has backed off on this, recognizing that there are two ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition with which he must work.

As to being right wing – it strikes me that seeking the death sentence for terrorists would put him solidly on the right. So would his – very welcome and very reasonable - comments with regard to the soldier in Hevron who shot the terrorist:

It may be that the soldier was right or that he was wrong in his decision to shoot the terrorist, Lieberman said: "that will be checked by the appropriate sources in the IDF.

“But what is already clear now is that this onslaught against the soldier is hypocritical and unjustified, and it is better to have a soldier who makes a mistake and stays alive than a soldier who hesitates and the terrorist kills him.”


There has been a bit of panic, as well, that a very right wing Lieberman (this comes from different people than those who say he isn’t really right wing, of course) will cause problems with the US and others. In particular, there has been concern expressed that we won’t get the aid we otherwise would have gotten from the US.

But a “senior official from Washington” has told channel 10 that “Ya’alon’s replacement will not affect the continuation of negotiations between Israel and the scope of the military aid package Israel is to receive from the United States over the next ten years.”


Undoubtedly, Kerry is a very unhappy camper at the moment. He had been pulling for Herzog in the government, eager for what this would mean for his last push to get Israel to the table. 

And the PA?  A bit apoplectic, I think.

In any event, we should not, in my opinion, make decisions based on what the world thinks: They find fault with us no matter what we do.  Our concern must be doing what strengthens us most effectively.


Questions remain as well as to what was in Netanyahu’s head when he made the decisions he did, and why he opted in the end for Lieberman and not Herzog.

Some believe that Netanyahu’s only concern was strengthening his coalition.  It would appear on the surface that the Zionist Camp’s 24 members would have been a far better bet than Yisrael Beitenu’s relatively meager six members (actually five now, as one member resigned the party). However, in reality, entrance of Zionist Camp into the coalition might have brought about greater instability, as some in Likud, who were adamantly opposed, might have bolted, as might some members of the Zionist Camp.

According to one credible version of behind the scenes maneuvering, Netanyahu needed to be convinced that Lieberman (with whom he did not exactly have a warm relationship) was serious and would enter the coalition on stable terms.  Once convinced of this – reportedly with the intervention of Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) – he moved readily in that direction.  Some say that Netanyahu was glad to be able to do this, as this is a more natural fit for him than the Zionist Camp would have been. 

Elkin, who is quite right wing and very savvy, is from the Ukraine and speaks Russian.  He accompanies Netanyahu during his meetings with Putin and is obviously trusted by the prime minister.

There is a widely held opinion that Netanyahu never really wanted Herzog in, and was using him to lure Lieberman to come forward.  Certainly many in Labor think so.  They see Herzog as a patsy.

Then there is the very plausible possibility that Netanyahu preferred Lieberman in part because his demand for the Defense portfolio gave the prime minister a smooth way to get rid of Ya’alon.


If I have a concern at present, is that Netanyahu, eager to show the world that he has not swung too far right, will bend over backward in the other direction.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to embark on a major diplomatic effort to disprove outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s accusations that, under his premiership, Israel and the Likud Party are heading toward the extreme right, senior Likud sources said Saturday night.”

Netanyahu has said that there is “a great diplomatic opportunity on the horizon because of certain developments in the Middle East.” If moving forward on these is appropriate, all well and good.  He’s referring here to moderate Arab states, not the Palestinian Authority.  But saying this will be done in order to prove Ya’alon’s charges wrong is nonsense.

Just as it’s nonsense – grandstanding – that, after Lieberman already agreed to join the coalition, Netanyahu declared he would keep the door open to Zionist Camp to also join.  This is a patent impossibility.  Herzog was roundly criticized for entering the unity negotiations and Yachimovich will have no part of it.  Even more so now, with Lieberman in the government.  Netanyahu is well aware of all of this.  He simply wanted to show the world he is responsive to the left.


At present, the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs will remain empty. Technically, the prime minister fills this role and says he wishes to continue to do so in order to manage affairs in the months ahead, with the French initiative and more.  Although Netanyahu confident Dore Gold, as Director-General of the Ministry, is unofficially playing a role here.

According to reports I’ve read in several places, this portfolio has been promised in writing to Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), but Netanyahu intends to hold off on this.  Katz is opposed to a Palestinian state, and Netanyahu is uneasy about what the response to his appointment would be after Lieberman’s appointment.

Yisrael Katz

Credit: Getty


Dudu Fisher, singing a light-hearted “Rachem Na”

Have mercy, please, Almighty, on your people, Israel.


© 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, May 23, 2016 at 01:11PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 18, 2016: Reaching, Always

I begin today with a moving “only in Israel” story.  I had written in my last posting about the way in which comrades of a fallen soldier maintain an ongoing connection with his family.  I subsequently received an email from a reader – Marsha Greenberg Motzen, wife of Cantor Yaakov Motzen - who told me about her husband’s brother, Avraham Chaim Motzen, who fell in the Lebanon War in 1982.  In the thirty four years since, comrades from his unit have been going to his mother’s apartment every three weeks to learn mishnayot (the earliest section of the Talmud, rabbinic commentaries on the Torah) in his memory.  His mother, who is now 90, bakes for them before they come. 

If that is not devotion, I do not know what is.  For those not familiar with the tradition: studying religious text in someone’s memory is done for the merit or elevation of the soul of the departed.


Credit: tzvee


The Israel Prize – Israel’s highest honor – was awarded to 11 citizens for outstanding merit in their respective fields last Thursday evening, in Jerusalem. Here I want to mention one recipient - Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog – because he is a sterling example of the determination to turn heartache into blessing.

Wrote UnitedwithIsrael:

“Doron Almog is an Israeli military hero who participated in some of the most daring operations, including the secret airlift of 6,000 Jews from Ethiopia in the 1980s and as a leading commander in the Entebbe rescue operation of 1976, when 100 IDF commandos rescued 102 hostages held by terrorists in Uganda....

“Yet what Almog, 63, considered his greatest achievement was caring for his severely disabled son Eran, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 23...

“More than a decade ago, Almog left his brilliant army career to found a new Aleh center in southern Israel for young adults – Aleh Negev, a rehabilitative village that provides severely disabled young men and women the opportunity to live a rich and productive life within a safe environment. [Aleh runs a number of rehabilitative facilities for hundreds of children with cognitive and physical difficulties.]

“’Eran, my beloved son, who never called me Abba [Hebrew for Dad] and never made eye contact with me, was the greatest teacher of my life,’ Almog stated at the ceremony marking the foundation of the new center... ‘He taught me the meaning of unconditional love.  He taught me to hear the soundless cries of the hundreds of children like him.  He taught me that the focus of our actions should not be the glorification of one’s ego. Rather, we should be focused on helping people like him.’” (emphasis added)

Credit Haaretz


In 2002, two illegal Arab houses were built in the Jerusalem Walls National Park, inside the historic Ir David (City of David).  Yesterday, they were taken down by the Jerusalem district police and the Israel Parks Authority.

Demolition of illegal Arab buildings in Jerusalem

Credit: Arutz7

And so, I count this as good news, even as I say, What the hell took so long?  It’s a rhetorical question.  What took so long is all of the left-wing and international pressure to leave the houses alone. So, yes, in spite of an incredible 14 year delay, this is good news – and perhaps doubly so because the authorities seem to have discovered their backbones.


Just one day earlier, on Monday, seven illegal Arab portable housing structures were dismantled in E1, the area between Jerusalem and the community of Ma’aleh Adumim.

Credit: Jewish Virtual Library

Because this is in Area C, it was the Civil Administration (which works under the Ministry of Defense) that did the dismantling. 

Dismantling the structures

Credit: COGAT spokesperson

The structures were standing only a matter of days.  This is a strategic area where there is a quick response, for the illegal housing, promoted and supported by the EU, is intended to prevent contiguity between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem, and foster contiguity between Arab areas to the south and the north – with an eye to an eventual Palestinian state.  Israeli housing is scheduled to be built in the area, if ever there is sufficient courage to proceed with these plans in spite of the international outcry that would ensue.   


It is not always the case, regrettably, that the Civil Administration responds with alacrity when EU funded illegal buildings are constructed in Area C outside of an area as highly contested as E1.  The EU is a tough adversary, claiming “diplomatic immunity” with regard to legal action, and I take off my hat to the NGO Regavim, which does much to fight that good fight in the courts.  See:


And speaking of the EU... 

EU Ambassador to Israel, Lars Faabourg-Anderson, is prone to making statements about the illegality of “settlements” in Judea and Samaria, although I have yet to see him back up these statements with solid legal arguments. The Legal Grounds Campaign, weary of his stance, invited him to debate international law professor Eugene Kontorovich on the issue of Israel’s legal rights in Judea and Samaria.  Actually, we invited him four times – via fax, snail mail, email and hand-delivery to his office.  After a silence of almost a month, he declined to debate.

If you think he should have the courage to stand up and debate the issue, you might want to email him at:  Tell him, if you are an Israeli citizen.


A recent poll found that 71.5% of Israeli Jews believe that Israel’s control of Judea and Samaria is not “occupation”:


Credit: 123rf

It reinforces my conviction that the Israeli populace is moving right and becoming more nationalist in perspective. 

This is what Aaron Lerner, director of IMRA, had to say on this issue a week ago (emphasis added):
“The truth is that there are indeed hard choices to make.

“This when the correct choices may result in pressure from the world.

“Fortunately, the citizens of Israel have a strong backbone.

A determination and willingness to endure challenges.

And this is a critical asset.

“Because it strips our leaders from excuses.

The citizens of Israel are ready.

It’s now up to the leaders to stop kicking the can.”


The not-so-good news, of course, is that the leaders are very skilled at kicking the can (a metaphor for deferring conclusive action by resorting to a short-term, stopgap solution).


Last Friday, top Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine was killed in an explosive attack in Syria.  Badreddine was brother-in-law of Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated by Israel in 2008.  As chief expert on explosives and the military commander responsible for Hezbollah’s operations in Syria, he was considered Mughniyeh’s successor.  His death represents a big blow to Hezbollah.

At first it was reported by Lebanese press (Israeli press will not write about this directly) that the assassination was Israel’s doing.  Then it was said to be the work of a Syrian rebel group (which does not definitively mean it was not Israel – but I cannot speak to this).

Now a Saudi paper reports that Imad Mughniyeh’s eldest son, Mustafa Mughniyeh, who had been a protégé of his uncle Badreddine, will succeed him.  He has been kept totally out of the public limelight.,7340,L-4804040,00.html

Jihad, another son of Imad, was also assassinated at an earlier time.  Sort of a family tradition, we might say.


Information has now been released about the interrogation last month by the Shin Bet of a Gaza fisherman (if indeed he really was a fisherman at all), who had strayed (? or deliberately moved) out of the zone permitted for fishing by the Israeli naval blockade. 

When questioned, the fisherman, 39, ended up providing a wealth of important information on the smuggling – by fisherman, with the assistance of Hamas - of weapons, ammunition, rocket-making equipment and other military equipment via sea into Gaza, for use by Hamas and other terrorist organizations.  Even liquid fiberglass, a key ingredient in rocket production, is being brought in by sea. 

Credit: daysofpalestine

This situation represents just the sort of quandary that Israeli politicians and security personnel must wrestle with.  Calls for lifting of the naval blockade are met with a firm refusal.  That is a no-brainer. But there really is a Gazan fishing industry and it was said that the naval limits imposed by Israel were too restrictive for the fisherman. And so, Israel, as a gesture of goodwill, extended the zone from six to nine nautical miles.  But that goodwill was abused, to Israel’s detriment.


What we also learn from this particular situation is that another war with Hamas is coming down the road – as if we didn’t already know this. It will be of substantial proportions, judging by what is being smuggled.  We’re being told that this time Israel will choose the timing.  Let it be!  And let us hope that this time the fighting will not be terminated before Hamas is finished, whatever the international outcry.

Nerves of steel. Reaching for that strength.


In recent days, there has been talk – reports and rumors – of a unity government: that is, Zionist Camp (aka Labor), headed by Buji Herzog, joining Netanyahu’s coalition, with Likud at its core.  Netanyahu has seemed inclined towards this because it would provide him with more political latitude and a more stable coalition; plus it would weaken the influence of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi, headed by Naftali Bennett – who frequently challenges Netanyahu. While Herzog apparently craves whatever political influence and prestige he imagines would thus be conferred upon him.

I say Heaven forbid.  Zionist Camp party members are opposed because it means bolstering the opposition – helping the right solidify its coalition - and selling out. Likud party members are similarly opposed because the right-wing choices of the electorate should be honored and this would mean shifting the coalition  to the left.  A strong percentage of the public is opposed, as well.


And now, after reports that such a union might be imminent, there is a new and welcome wrinkle in the situation:

After a variety of statements about about not having received a serious offer to join the government, Avigdor Lieberman, head of Yisrael Beitenu, apparently did receive such an offer.


Credit: Avigdor Lieberman

He and Netanyahu are to meet tonight to discuss Lieberman’s coming into the coalition.  He was in the previous government and served two terms previously as Minister of Foreign Affairs.  He can be a bit off the wall sometimes, but he is solidly right wing and would pull the coalition to the right.  And so the prospect of his joining the government instead of Herzog is one that is greatly welcome. Lieberman says he will join if his terms are met.

For his part, Netanyahu has indicated frustration in dealing with Herzog and has let it be known that he will now be courting Lieberman. And Herzog?  He says the prime minister cannot negotiate with him and Lieberman at the same time, so he is putting a hold on his negotiations.


This entire saga offers, I think, a bit of a glimpse into the backroom dealing that is going on, the political jostling.  It also raises the question: Who is Binyamin Netanyahu?  How could it be that he would consider both Herzog and Lieberman for his coalition?  Is bolstering its numbers his only concern?


There has been considerable political tension of late between Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon, as a result of the latter’s speaking out on political issues and even encouraging the army brass to contradict the government directly if they disagree on policy – in the name of “free speech.”  I think that Ya’alon’s behavior has been despicable. He has been insubordinate, increasingly giving voice to left wing positions that challenge government policies.

Netanyahu summoned him, presumably to chastise him, and they subsequently released a joint statement acknowledging that the Ministry of Defense answers to the government.  It was said that they resolved their differences, but I do not believe it.  I think they were simply papered over. 

What has disturbed me is that Netanyahu has not seen fit to simply fire Ya’alon.  (I will mention here only I passing and very tentatively that Lieberman says he wants to be Minister of Defense, but that does not mean he will get it.)


The French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, was here earlier this week to meet with Netanyahu and Abbas in order to explain the “Peace Initiative” that France is proposing.  It is necessary, he says, because “the process is frozen, so there is a need for international intervention.”

Credit: melenchon

Oh joy.

The plan, as I have explained before, involves two steps.  First, a ministerial conference in Paris, that had been tentatively set for May 30, to which ministers of a select 20 countries will be invited, but which will exclude Israel and the PA.  This conference will set the agenda for a larger peace conference in the fall.

(The latest news today is that the date will be pushed forward to some time in June because Secretary of State Kerry cannot come on the 30th, which is Memorial Day.)

France has also drafted a position paper that it has not yet made public.

The notion that France has the moral authority or the wisdom or the objectivity to move forward on this is patently ridiculous. They are displaying the ultimate in chutzpa, setting up a situation that is bound to fail, but that will bring us some good measure of heartburn in the meantime.


Needless to say, PA leaders are delighted with this prospect and are making demands that France set a timetable for Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria to behind the 1949 armistice line, which is erroneously referred to as the “’67 border.”

And this illustrates precisely what is wrong with this entire process, which isn’t really about genuine “negotiations” but rather an attempt to force Israel into an entirely untenable situation reeking of injustice. 

“A peaceful settlement in Palestine can transform Palestine into a gate for democracy,” intoned PA prime minister Rami Hamdallah at a Ramallah press conference.  They, of course, say whatever they think will resonate with certain segments of the international community.  Anyone who truly believes a “Palestinian state” is going to foster democracy needs serious help.


Netanyahu has already said Israel is opposed to this “peace plan” because it provides a disincentive for the PA to genuinely negotiate – it gives them an “escape hatch” – while genuine face-to-face negotiations are the only way to proceed.

To demonstrate Israel’s willingness to participate in face-to-face negotiations, he has been making a series of statements about his commitment to this process and his readiness to meet Abbas at any moment.

Yes, I understand what he’s doing. I understand that he’s attempting to mitigate international criticism by demonstrating that he is cooperative with regard to peace-making efforts, and that it’s just the particular formulation being advanced by France that he opposes.  Presumably, he is attempting at the same time to demonstrate that Abbas is not sincere. 

This is the way he plays it, and his approach has a certain rationale.  And yet, it makes me very uncomfortable.  Of course, he knows Abbas is not coming to sit across the table from him, but there is danger in making statements to which we might be held later.


In an interview with the JPost, Dore Gold, Foreign Ministry Director-General spelled out yet another reason for Israel’s opposition to France’s diplomatic proposal:

“When French diplomats vote for a resolution at UNESCO that rejects the historic Jewish connection to Jerusalem, it should not come as a surprise that Israel rejects the French initiative and the political horizon it aspires to ultimately expose.”

And so...stay tuned.


Ending with a lovely musical video, “We Are Home,” with thanks to Deena M.


© 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, May 18, 2016 at 11:27AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 12, 2016: We Mourn and We Rejoice 

In a thousand ways, Israel is different from all other nations in the world – and the observance of Yom HaZikaron followed immediately by Yom HaAtamaut is, I believe, one of those ways.
Yesterday was Yom HaZikron – Memorial Day for all those who have fallen for the the State of Israel. 
A siren sounded at 8:00 Tuesday night, to mark the beginning of the day. Everywhere people stopped what they were doing and stood at attention in memory of the dead.  A similar siren sounded at 11:00 in Wednesday morning.



Credit: Alon Ron
There were multiple ceremonies at night, with the official one at the Kotel, flag at half-mast.

Credit: bronfman
During the day yesterday there were further ceremonies, most notably at Har Herzl in Jerusalem.  But all of the many military cemeteries across the country are crowded with visitors visiting the graves of loved ones.

De la oscuridad a la luz

Credit: radiosefarad
And here is the point, my friends.  We are a family here in Israel.  Everyone knows someone who died, or someone who has lost a dear one.  The day is a day of national mourning.
We all know, as surely as we know anything, that they died so that Israel might live.
There are stories without end that amplify this family attitude:
When a soldier in a unit has died, his comrades do not forget him.  Sometimes, even after they are out of the army, they sustain incredible ties with the family of their fallen brother. 
Yishai Fleisher has recounted his days as a paratrooper 20 years ago.  He – still in training - and each of his fellow paratroopers was assigned the grave of a paratrooper who had died, to stand with the family during memorial ceremonies.
Lone soldiers – those without immediate family in the country – have special ceremonies so that they are not forgotten.
During Yom HaZikaron ceremonies at the Kotel, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, mindful of recent controversies, spoke about national unity (emphasis added):
“Beyond the silence enveloping the State of Israel this evening, we discover again how much we are tied to one another, united for a common fate and purpose...
“Unity is not necessary agreement, but we must not let these differences damage the unity of our goal...
“On the eve of Independence Day, the IDF is a powerful military...If we support one another there is no enemy we cannot defeat.”
Powerful words of truth.
Gadi Eisenkot
Credit: Marc Israel Sellem/JPost
A young woman I know well once said to me, when she was in high school, “We [she and her friends] know we might die.  It’s OK.” 
That floored me, but it is a reality our young people live with.  Death is a part of what they encounter at a young age.  They absorb this reality and they are happy anyway.  Actually, I think that it is not “in spite” of their knowledge of death, but rather “because” of it, that they are happy.  They know they are part of something worth dying for – Heaven forbid that any of them should have to die.  Their lives are imbued with a certain meaning, which includes, as I said above, the sense of being part of something larger than themselves.
This is not to suggest that there is no fear, or that losing comrades is anything less than heartbreaking.

Credit: hdnux
The number of fallen whom we commemorate this year is 23,447 since 1860.
This number is comprised mostly of soldiers lost in battle.  Soldiers to whom we are forever and unendingly indebted.
But it includes, as well, victims of terror, who also give their lives for the country.  It is important to note that the count begins 88 years before there was a state.  Never let it be said that terrorism is a response to “the occupation.”  The Arabs were attacking Jews when their numbers here were few and the idea of a sovereign state was still a dream. 
Sherri Mandell and her husband, Rabbi Seth Mandell, lost their eldest son, Koby, to a terror attack 15 years ago.  She spoke in a local synagogue on Sunday night and she was amazing in her forthright vulnerability.

Sherri and Seth epitomize the strength and resilience of many Israelis in the face of tragedy.  They grieve in their hearts always – the pain does not go away.  But they rise up to face life, and to make something meaningful out of what happened, so that the unimaginable becomes imbued with a larger purpose.  The Mandells founded the Koby Mandell Foundation, which runs Camp Koby, where bereaved children find comfort and solace.
Something similar is true of Miriam Peretz, who lost two sons in wars.  I once heard her speak about her conflict on going to the cemetery – not knowing which grave to visit first.  And yet, she also said, she is very grateful and proud to be Israeli. She devotes herself to giving inspirational talks, promoting that same pride in Israel in others. 


And so it is with countless others who have lost dear ones:  They refuse to let their loss embitter their lives, they go on, somehow, vowing to live with love.  I, quite frankly, are in awe of them. 
I think of Natan Meir, who said after the murder of his much beloved wife Dafna, “We do not curse Arabs. We are not people who hate.”  His focus is on caring for his family.


Credit: YNet
“The challenge is to choose life, and for this my children and I try to wake up every morning, even when we don’t want to – to chose life, this is our right and our duty...”
We should not be surprised that there has been a spate of terror attacks to coincide with Yom HaZikaron. An IDF officer was seriously injured in an explosion at Hizme Junction, just north of Jerusalem.  And there was a stabbing attack in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of Jerusalem.  I have scant information on this but apparently at least three young people were wounded. 
But most despicable was the stabbing attack – also in Armon Hanatziv – of two women in their 80s by masked assailants, who have yet to be caught.
We pray mightily that the days when we have to cope with the hatred and the despicable acts will come to an end.  But we go on...
At 8:00 last night, a siren, the mood shifted, and suddenly it was Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. A day of celebration.   


How sudden is the transition, and how emblematic of life in Israel, where sorrow and joy merge.
The modern State of Israel is 68 years young.  Today we boast a population of 8,522,000 people, 6,377,000 of whom are Jews.
I began the celebration last night, as do many Israelis, with prayer, including a spirited and joyously musical Hallel – recitation of psalms of thanksgiving.
For it is all for naught if we fail to recognize the Almighty’s hand in the blessings of this land. 
It is not just that our situation is incredibly good in a host of different ways – it is that we are looking at a miracle.
I rather like what Michael Freund wrote today (emphasis added):
“Religious Zionists view the birth of the state as ‘the beginning of the flowering of our redemption.’ This infuses Independence Day with majestic meaning, underlining the spiritual grandeur of the day...
And he reminds us of the 5708th verse in the Torah (corresponding, he notes, to the Hebrew date 5708 when modern Israel was founded) - Deuteronomy 30;5: “And the Lord your God will bring you to the Land, that your fathers possessed, and you will possess it, and He will do good unto you and multiply you more than your forbearers.”
Israel is a work in progress. This is obvious. 
But while we are very far from perfect, we are a magnificent and special nation, with great promise unfolding before us. 
We owe it to those who have given their lives, to make Israel the best she might be.
I’ve run this video before, but it’s a mark of what a special people we truly are.


As is this. Where else in the world, except Israel, is there an armed force that takes the time to integrate young people with disabilities into the army as volunteers, so that they might reach their full potential and be given a sense of belonging. See the video here:


I also like to include a video clip of David Ben Gurion reading the Declaration of Independence:

But I want to add a few historical and legal comments to what you hear in the video.  Ben Gurion refers to UN General Assembly resolution 181 of 1947 (known as the Partition Plan).  Note that he says first and foremost that the State of Israel is being founded based on the natural right of the Jews to their homeland. But he also says based on the UN resolution.

However...the resolution, coming as it did from the General Assembly, was merely a recommendation and had no weight in international law. It was the Declaration of Independence and not that resolution that established the State.  It seems that Ben Gurion referred to the resolution because it was a way of saying, see, the world now sanctions our Jewish state.

The State was established within the lines that the UN had recommended, but no formal borders were declared. And, in fact, by the end of the War of Independence in 1949, the lines had been extended a bit to what is called the Green Line (armistice lines).

At no point did the Declaration of Independence renounce the right granted to the Jewish people via the Mandate for Palestine to all of Palestine from the river to the sea.  That right still stands. We liberated Judea and Samaria in 1967, but have yet to establish sovereignty over it, or even apply Israeli law to the area.  May that day come soon.


It is customary on Yom Ha’Atzmaut to compile lists of things that are unique to Israel or that make us special.  I’d like to close with a few of those that caught my fancy.  Hope you enjoy them as well.

These are from Barbara Sofer’s JPost column:

[] The Israel water company isn’t allowed to turn off water for those who can’t pay. It’s the law.

[] Rock stars sing songs from the Passover Haggada and  prayer books.

[] A retired bus driver continues one route, making sure the grandmas reciting pre-dawn psalms have a safe ride home.

[] The only registry for Arab bone-marrow donors for Muslims in all of the world is located in Jerusalem.

[] When the father of a Palestinian toddler who fell headfirst into a vat of boiling jam was told to dig a grave for his son, the IDF brought him to Hadassah University Medical Center, where he’s recovering with the help of the National Skin Bank.  


And these are from Buzzfeed with thanks to reader Sharon R:

[] OnlyInIsrael is the sign on public transport reminding passengers to give up their seat for the elderly a direct quote from the Bible.

[] OnlyInIsrael does army radio broadcast government infomercials reminding listeners to call their grandparents. 

[] OnlyInIsrael does the mother of an army major general go on the radio to defend her son from public criticism.


This sounds perfect to me:

Prayer for the State of Israel, IDF Chief Cantor Shai Abramson.

If you don’t understand the Hebrew, see the English translation.




© 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, May 12, 2016 at 06:03AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 4, 2016: Finding the Light (Goes Before "Many Bases")


Credit: headingupwards 

Tonight at sundown Holocaust Remembrance Day begins.  In Israel, it’s Yom Hashoah V’Gevurah – a day for remembering the Holocaust and the heroism.  This particular date was selected by the Knesset in 1951 because it marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, a stunning example of heroism.
Especially this year there are reasons why remembering is important, and I will get to them.  But for the very same reasons, it is also critical that we seek the light – the good things and the blessings of our lives.  Dafka! as we say.  And so I have chosen to begin with good news, as is my routine practice.
“According to the InterNations survey’s Family Life Index, in a roundup of the world’s 41 top countries to raise a family in, the best three countries are Austria, Finland, and Sweden. And right behind those wealthy, industrialized European nests of socialized everything and the baskets of goodies from the nanny state, in fourth place, you’ll find a country that’s been fighting for its life for almost 70 years, with a huge security budget, supposedly enormous gaps between rich and poor, and ceaseless ethnic strife — and there, according to the survey’s criteria, is the fourth best place on the planet to raise your children.”  Israel.
Mentioned were availability of childcare and education, and family well being.


The picture above of nursery school children in the community of Bruchin in the Shomron (Samaria) is part of the slide show on the Legal Grounds website homepage:
I once before shared a video, also from Bruchin, but it is so upbeat that it fits the theme of Israel as a good place to live, and so I gladly share it again:
That, from the ashes of the Shoah, we now have communities such as Bruchin in a strong and vibrant Israel is nothing short of a miracle – if only we take the time to see it.
On Monday, I attended a class that is part of the Legal Grounds pilot law course named in memory of Salomon Benzimra z”l.  We are very pleased at the progress of the classes – which provide important information about our rights in the land.  (Write to me if you would like to know more.) 

This class was taught by Prof. Eugene Kontorovich.

Credit: thetower

Eugene has been moving in a direction that is brilliant.  He has done a carefully researched survey of how the world approaches situations that are akin to the Israeli situation, with regard to “occupation,” “settlements” and the like, and how these situations are addressed by the international community.  International law, after all, applies to various nations in the same situation – or at least it should.

He offered a good deal of valuable information in the course of his lecture. But I want to leave you here with one thought, which rather encapsulates our situation:

When nations, entities and international bodies criticize Israel, they very frequently rely upon the charge that Israel is not acting in accordance with “international law.”  This tends to shut down argument. International law? The standard by which other nations are required to function? Well...surely Israel should be required to act the same way.

What he has discovered, however, is just the reverse of what should have been expected.  While Israel is charged with failing to adhere to “international law,” it turns out that other nations that are in similar situations are not accused of breaking “international law.”  For example, the term “illegal settlements” – a clear pejorative – is applied almost exclusively to building Israel does and not to that of other nations, even when those nations have taken over territory that is not theirs and have actively encouraged their nationals to settle there.


So we can forget international “law” – a highly dubious construct.  What we see is international “bias.”  That bias has always been with us, but there is an enormous and alarming burgeoning of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in certain parts of the western world now.  This connects directly to issues of the Shoah and I want to consider several facets of what is going on.

Anti-Semitism is the oldest and most persistent of hatreds.  While it seemed to diminish significantly in the decades after the Holocaust, it never went away.  Rather, it was suppressed: it was not considered good form to express Jew-hatred publicly after six million Jews had been horrendously murdered. But now that hatred has bubbled to the surface again and is considered quite acceptable in certain circles.  Accompanying the public rise of this hatred is, of course, an increase in violence against Jews.

This situation is most critical in Europe, which has had a strong proclivity for anti-Semitism over the centuries.  We’ve seen, in various parts of Europe at various times, expulsions, forced conversions, pogroms, blood libels, the inquisition, and the Holocaust.


Where we once associated anti-Semitism with the far right, which is perceived as fascist, it now also exists openly on the left.  Nowhere is this being exhibited more blatantly than in the British Labor party.

The list of anti-Semitic statements by members of Labor, too extensive to include in its entirety here, has been documented by The Telegraph (UK).

The anti-Semitic sentiments expressed by some officials and prominent members of Labor have precipitated their suspension from the party.  Chief among those suspended is Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London, who said Hitler supported Zionism. While Ilyas Aziz was suspended for Facebook posts that said Israel should be moved to the US, and included an illustration suggesting that Israelis drank the blood of Gazans.


Credit: Huffingtonpost

While he publicly decries anti-Semitism in his party, and has, under pressure, appointed an independent panel to investigate, he is in fact far from clean on the issue himself.

“In a particularly disturbing reflection of attitudes on the Labor left, Mr Corbyn is accused of having given his support to a controversial mural in Tower Hamlets of stereotypical Jewish figures counting money at a Monopoly-style board resting on the backs of the poor...

“It was criticized as anti-Semitic even by the east London borough’s then mayor Luftur Rahman, who has himself been linked to extremists.

“Following complaints, Mr Rahman ordered the artwork to be removed, saying: ‘Whether intentional or otherwise, the images of the bankers perpetuate anti-Semitic propaganda about conspiratorial Jewish domination of financial and political institutions.’

“But Mr Corbyn questioned its removal.”

The controversial mural in Tower Hamlets of stereotypical Jewish figures counting money

Credit; TheTribune

Corbyn also has close personal ties with questionable persons, such as Livingstone.


Sir Eric Pickles, the British government’s special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, said, when questioned by The Telegraph: “Jeremy Corbyn has legitimized and unleashed a strain of anti-Semitism that has been lurking in the shadows of the Left for quite some time.” (Emphasis added)

While British commentator Douglas Murray (pictured) writes, about Corbyn (emphasis added):

He is a man who has spent his political life cozying up to anti-Semites and terrorist groups that express genocidal intent against the Jewish people. He has worked closely with Holocaust deniers, praised anti-Semitic extremists and described Hamas and Hezbollah as his friends.” (Hamas calls its ties to Corbyn “a painful hit for the Zionists.”)

Credit: swissdefenceleague


In response to current Labor positions, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) observed:

”I don’t want to say this was expected, because it’s shocking how immoral these stances are. But it’s a clear example of radical Islam’s penetration in Europe, and France and the UK are among the clearest examples of it.”
And, indeed, this is precisely to the point.  The greater the influx of radical Islamists into Europe, the more virulently anti-Jewish will the positions of some European politicians be.
See this, from the Atlantic:

“But what makes this new era of anti-Semitic violence in Europe different from previous ones is that traditional Western patterns of anti-Semitic thought have now merged with a potent strain of Muslim Judeophobia. Violence against Jews in Western Europe today, according to those who track it, appears to come mainly from Muslims, who in France, the epicenter of Europe’s Jewish crisis, outnumber Jews 10 to 1.”
Richard Kemp and Jasper Reid, writing in Gatestone, pull no punches:
Citing British Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan - who says (emphasis added), "Anti-Semitism isn't just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it's routine and commonplace" – they arrive at a dire conclusion:
The consequences of Western politicians' continued weakness and appeasement are far greater than encouraging anti-Semitism and undermining the State of Israel. It is the fatal and irreversible descent of their own countries.” (Emphasis added)
It is fairly obvious from what I’ve written above, but I want to make it explicit: Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism.  Anti-Semitism most certainly still exists, but in many cases anti-Zionism replaces it or is conflated with it.  While fair and honest criticism of Israel is remains legitimate, what we are seeing is a virulent hatred of Israel aimed at shutting down the Jewish state. This, in the end, is what the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement is all about.

By way of example – and examples are legion: The former mayor of Blackburn, in Britain, now a Labor councilor for the city, Salim Mulla, has declared that “Zionist Jews are a disgrace to humanity.”


It is Europe that is on the edge at this point, because of that lethal mix of traditional anti-Semitism and Muslim Jew-hatred.

But I want to caution that Americans best not be too complacent about what is happening across the sea. America has neither the long-standing tradition of virulent anti-Semitism that Europe does, nor an influx of Islamists in the percentage that Europe is coping with (although this may be coming). 

However, America, in point of fact, is only a few steps behind.

Dennis Prager, writing in “A Dark Time in America,” says:

“ no other time has there been as much pessimism -- valid pessimism, moreover -- about America's future as there is today...

Every distinctive value on which America was founded is in jeopardy.” (Emphasis added)


“According to the hate crime statistics kept by the FBI, Jews are the primary victims of religious hate crimes. More than 50% of all hate crimes (57% in 2014) are committed against them. For a point of comparison, anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2014 were 16%.

“If you include other groupings by ethnicity, race, or sexuality, Jewish people are still at the top. They are more than three times more likely to be the victim of a hate crime than any other group.”

This, my friends, is in America.  In 2014, anti-Semitic attacks increased by 21%.


Most alarming of all is what goes on at many prominent US campuses, where liberal values are shot to hell, and Jews and those who support Israel are intimidated. 

In the academic year 2014-15, ADL reported a 38% increase in anti-Israel activities on campuses.

Following a coast-to-coast tour of American campuses, Peretz Lavie, president of the Technion in Haifa, wrote, in “’Eviction notice’ for Israel on US campuses” (emphasis added):

What began several years ago as a local initiative in a few universities has turned into a poisonous, organized and well-funded campaign with clear goals – isolating and boycotting Israel in general and the Israeli academia in particular...

“...incidents include protests, mock ‘checkpoints’ and ‘apartheid walls,’ and even ‘eviction notices’ slid under the doors of Jewish and Israeli students.,7340,L-4606400,00.html


You might want to see this well-known video from 2010 of David Horowitz, of the Horowitz Freedom Center, at the University of California, San Diego, confronting a student supporter of Hamas, during the question session after he spoke:

And remember, this was six years ago.


Liberal pro-Israel Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz made quite a stir in January in a TV interview, when he spoke about the rampant demands for political correctness on college campuses.

University students, he lamented, have become “afraid of ideas” and have taken on a low tolerance for viewpoints that stand in opposition to their own.

Students, he observed, tend to display selective attitudes for which ideas are tolerated enough to have “safe spaces.”

I know when I speak on college campuses in favor of Israel, I need armed guards protecting me from radical leftist students who would use physical intimidation. They won’t give me a safe space. They won’t give pro-Israel students a safe space...”

Credit: Jewishbusinessnews


There is little more to say.  The notion that Dershowitz should require police protection in order to defend Israel on American college campuses should send chills up and down your spine.


This, then, is my Yom Hashoah posting.  What I have written here is intrinsically tied to what went on over 70 years ago, and the message today is that we must genuinely learn from what happened then.  “Never again!” is a facile cry unless there is commitment behind it.

Wake up! Wake up!  Open your eyes and act with determination, before it is too late.

In Europe, it likely is too late already.  America still has time.


If there is one overwhelmingly significant difference between the Shoah and the current situation, it is the existence of a vibrant and strong sovereign Jewish state.  Israel provides refuge to Jews at risk and reaches out into the world to lend support as it is possible. 

Conversely, Israel hopes for the support of every fair-thinking and honorable individual. Support in the public sphere, when Israel is maligned and attacked and there are attempts made to isolate her.  And support on college and university campuses, so that pro-Israel voices might be heard again without fear.

Israel, with her struggles, is a beacon of light in a world growing dark.  The future of the Jewish people.

Think about this: If US university students have their minds poisoned by anti-Israel vitriol today, then US leadership twenty years from now will be very, very problematic with regard to positions on Israel.


A video of an Israeli Air Force fly-over at Auschwitz in 2003:


And Hatikvah – The Hope. Our national anthem, which, I’ve been told, was sung in Auschwitz:

As long as deep within the heart
A Jewish soul stirs,
And forward, to the ends of the East
An eye looks out, towards Zion.

Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free people in our land
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

Credit: vfntv1


© 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, May 10, 2016 at 09:43AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 10, 2016: Many Bases

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev is working on a proposal that would require all institutions that receive state funds, or whose facilities were built by the State of Israel, to fly the Israeli flag.  This would include sports centers, soccer fields, cultural institutions and theaters, etc.

Sounds like a no-brainer, does it not?  But this is to apply to Jewish and Arab municipalities, and there remains the lingering possibility that there might be push-back somewhere along the line.  No, let me be honest: there is a good likelihood of objections being raised somewhere within the Arab community.

Which is why what Regev is doing is good news. This is an instance of Israel moving in the right direction.
"It is unfathomable that flying the flag in cultural institutions and in sports arenas that were built by the state be left to the discretion of one person or the other," she said. "The institutions that Israel builds should wave the flag with pride."


Credit: mfa


The Shin Bet (Israel’s national security agency or Shabak) has a new head: Nadav Argaman.


Courtesy Shin Bet
Having grown up on a kibbutz in the Beit She’an, Argaman joined the Sayeret Matkal special forces unit of the IDF and from there moved on to Shin Bet.  Most of his career was spent in the most prestigious and highly secretive “Operations Division.”  Notable for me is the fact the he was responsible for the assassination of “The Engineer,” Yahya Ayyash, chief bomb-maker for Hamas, and, within that capacity, head of the West Bank battalion of Hamas’s military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.  A terrorist who very much needed eliminating.

See more:,7340,L-4769096,00.html


And speaking of the Shin Bet...

It was announced last Thursday that the Shin Bet had, on April 16, apprehended a Izz ad-Din al-Qassam operative who had slipped into Israel from Gaza carrying knives.  Mahmoud Atauna, 29, confessed readily enough that he was on a mission to kill whichever Israelis he encountered.  But that was just the beginning of what he revealed to Israeli security – as he had been involved in tunnel activities;
He spoke about “the physical features of tunnels in northern Gaza, about techniques used by Hamas in digging them, and about the use of private homes and institutions by Hamas, from which it digs the tunnels.

“He also provided information on the means and materials Hamas uses.  During questioning, Atauna pointed to many digging centers, and to tunnel shafts that are supposed to serve the Nuhba [Hamas’s elite unit] operatives for attacks during fighting with Israel.”

He provided names of others who worked with him, and information on hospitals and private homes used for the storage of weapons.  His own home was “a storage center for many weapons, including bombs, assault rifles, and suicide bomb vests, which he was supposed to distribute before a large-scale conflict with Israel broke out.”

It was also on Thursday that the IDF announced another Hamas tunnel had been discovered emerging from southern Gaza into Israeli territory.  It is 28 meters deep and runs close to the tunnel that was discovered last month.

Photo: IDF Spokesman

Credit: IDF Spokesman

“The IDF considers above and below-ground terror activity a violation of the State of Israel’s sovereignty and a threat to its citizens and deems Hamas solely responsible,” a spokesperson said. “It is our job to locate and destroy them [tunnels in Israel’s territory].”

The IDF spokesperson further indicated that the tunnel was uncovered using a combination of intelligence, technology and engineering.  What I would say, based on all I’ve read, is that it was the information gleaned from the Hamas operative that did the trick.  Once he provided approximate parameters of the tunnel, hi-tech equipment enabled its exposure.


As a result of IDF attempts to unearth Hamas tunnels, the situation at the border grew hot last week.  Mortar shells were fired at IDF soldiers who were at work near the border in at least 12 incidents between Tuesday and Friday. Friday night and early Saturday, two rockets were fired into Israel.

Israel responded, first by returning fire in response to the mortar shelling and then via a series of five airstrikes into Gaza aimed at Hamas targets.

Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 5, 2016. Israeli warplanes struck four new Hamas positions in the southern Gaza Strip, as a flare-up continued to threaten a 2014 ceasefire agreement. / AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIBSAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

Credit: AFP

For a period of time, there was serious speculation as to how much these hostilities were going to escalate.


As I write there is quiet, but it is an uneasy quiet. 

Israel has begun dismantling the best offensive weapon Hamas had, which was being enhanced in preparation for a war some time down the road.  Hamas cannot force the IDF to stop looking for tunnels in Israeli territory (as more most certainly exist).  The IDF is in possession of some stunningly detailed intelligence now, as well as machinery that utilizes advanced technology. 

As IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said: “The repeated attacks against the IDF activities to locate and destroy cross-border tunnels will not be tolerated. Hamas’s diabolical plan to infiltrate into Israeli communities must be stopped. The IDF has the obligation and a duty to safeguard the people in southern Israel and the sovereignty of our borders, we will continue to do so.”  (Emphasis added)

What Hamas could do, however (but apparently chooses not to do at this point) is continue to fire across the border, inviting retaliation from the IDF so that an escalation of major proportions takes place.

The only thing to be said now is that the situation is volatile, and that the dynamic is shifting.

There have been some international suggestions made regarding a “truce,” in which Hamas would agree to refrain from shooting into Israel in return for Israel’s agreement to stop searching for tunnels.  These suggestions infuriate me.  A truce is in order when there is aggressive action between two parties.  However, Israeli action against the tunnels that have been dug in Israeli territory is absolutely legitimate self-defense and does not constitute aggression against Hamas.  We must trust that we can take Lt. Col. Lerner, who is speaking for the IDF, at his word.


The biggest question here, I would imagine, is what Hamas leaders decide is in their best interest.  Before the discovery of the tunnels, and the capture of Atauna, it did not seem to be the case that they were on the verge of precipitating another war.  That they were preparing to do so down the road, of course.  But our greatly enhanced ability to uncover their tunnels has to have them furious and frustrated.  Will they see it as wiser to provoke an escalation soon, while there are still tunnels that might be utilized?  Or would they prefer to hold off because they have not completed other sorts of preparations and they have barely begun to recover from the last war?


All of this echoes enormously because of what broke in the news the other day: A report on political failures during the 2014 Gaza war by State Controller Yoseph Shapira was leaked. 

Credit: Moti Milrad

“According to the leaked report, the comptroller first slams Netanyahu, Ya’alon and former IDF Chief-of Staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Benny Gantz (pictured) for failing to warn the security cabinet about intelligence they had from the Shin Bet about the possibility of war with Hamas prior to the start of Operation Protective Edge...”

Benny Gantz has participated in more than eight wars fought over the course of his career with the IDF

Credit: Getty

“Next, the report attacks the trio for failing to hold serious security meetings about the Hamas tunnel threat...”

Needless to say, the entire situation has been highly politicized.  Netanyahu’s defenders say this was leaked simply to damage him and that the information was drawn from a draft that is greatly different from the final document.  We will know more in this regard when the final document is released to the public – which apparently is scheduled to happen soon.  Shapira has called upon Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to investigate the source of the leak, as well.

But even if the charges made by those defending Netanyahu et al are true to a degree, this seems to me a case of “where there’s smoke...”  I have my own memories of realizing after the fact that there had been tunnels in Israeli territory and that nothing had been done about them until the war started.  It was, in fact, Minister Naftali Bennett, who pushed the issue of the necessity of an operation against the tunnels at cabinet meetings, to the great irritation of Defense Minister Ya’alon.

And I remember the wide-scale feeling here that the war had ended prematurely.  There was enormous international pressure, and the incessant Hamas PR about how Israel – with the most moral military in the world  - was wantonly killing civilians. Huge anti-Israel demonstrations in various nations.  It takes tremendous resolve on the part of our leaders to keep going in the face of that.  But that is what we must demand of our leaders: spines of steel.


Especially now, we need leaders who are strong and proud.

There have been instances of late of some in leadership positions – not all by any means! – who seem too eager to show the world how tough we can be on our own and how “nice” to others.   

There was the rush in certain quarters to prematurely condemn the soldier who killed a wounded terrorist in Hevron – before the facts were known.  Chief among these was Ya’alon, who spoke with great harshness, when he should have simply said that he had confidence that the military courts would see justice done - that it was a point of pride with the military that justice would be sought. The soldier, Elor Azaria, is standing trial now and there has been some discomfiting press about that, as well.

Elor Azariya in court with his parents

Credit: Flash90

One gets the feeling that there may be a fear that if he is found innocent of manslaughter – and it is possible that he is innocent of manslaughter even if his judgment was poor - then the world will accuse us of going easy on murderers of Arabs.  In fairness to the IDF, there seems a strongly held conviction that he is guilty and must not get away with what he did.  Right now, the court is looking for a plea bargain.

And there was Netanyahu’s maddening but unsurprising reversal of his order – of just weeks previous - not to return bodies of terrorists to their families.  He gave the word to Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who has authority regarding terror acts inside the Green Line, and to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who oversees the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, that they were free to release bodies at their discretion with the proviso that the funerals would be very small and quiet affairs. Bad policy, in my opinion, to have different people making decisions on the same issue in different areas.  (I wrote recently about Harry Truman’s motto that “The Buck Stops Here,” but I guess Netanyahu missed that.)

Erdan is opposed to release. But Ya’alon wasted no time.  

Ahmed Reyad Shehada was shot dead by IDF forces after ramming his car into a group of soldiers, injuring three, one critically.  Forthwith, his body was returned. And guess what? A huge funeral for him attended by thousands took place in a suburb of Ramallah.

Mourners carry the body of Arab terrorist Ahmed Reyad Shehada during his funeral in Beitunia, a suburb of the Palestinian Authority capital city of Ramallah.  Shehada was shot dead by IDF forces after ramming his vehicle into a group of Israeli soldiers in the Binyamin region.

Credit: Flash 90

This does not serve us well.


Within hours, a siren will sound signaling the beginning of Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day.  And so I leave off writing now and will in my next posting look at this most somber day of mourning and the joyous Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, which follows.


I close with Neshama Carlebach singing “Shomer Yisrael” – Guardian of Israel - a traditional prayer.

The video includes a mix of pictures about Israel.

Guardian of Israel,
protect the remnant of Israel
Don't let Israel be destroyed
Those who say "Shma Yisrael"
Guardian of the unique nation
Protect the remnant of the unique people
Don't let the unique nation be destroyed
Those who proclaim the oneness of your name;
"Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One"
(Guardian of Israel)

Guardian of the holy nation
Protect the remnant of the holy people
Don't let the holy nation be destroyed
Those who proclaim three-fold
Sanctifications to the Holy One
(Guardian of Israel)


© 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, May 10, 2016 at 09:25AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint