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June 17, 2016: And the Good Too

After my last post (which now requires follow-up), I promised I would return to my regular format, which includes good news.  Would that the good predominated. It does not, of course. But it is real – as you will see in the course of this posting.  And so offers promise and a bit of gladness.
But I begin by marking the death yesterday of philanthropist Dr. Irving Moskowitz z”l, whose support – with his wife Cherna - for Israeli national causes was rivaled by none.  He is on the right in picture below.  Baruch Dayan Emet, we say.  Blessed is the Righteous Judge.

Dr. Irving Moskowitz

Credit: Flash90
“[In] a secret ballot Monday in New York, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon was elected chairman of the GA’s Sixth Committee, which deals with legal issues.

“’This is a historic achievement for the State of Israel. We broke the glass ceiling: Despite the opposition of many countries, including Iran and others that tried to prevent the vote, we managed to be elected for the first time to head a committee at the UN,’ Danon said.

“In the past, Israeli diplomats have presided over other, less prestigious committees at the UN and even co-chaired the GA, but never headed one of the GA’s six main committees. ‘The Sixth Committee is the primary forum for the consideration of legal questions in the General Assembly,’ according to the UN.

“Among the issues it is expected to deal with at this fall’s GA are ‘measures to eliminate international terrorism,’ and “the rule of law at the national and international levels.” (Emphasis added)

Danny Danon

Credit: Reuters

A couple of thoughts here:  This victory was possible because it was a secret ballot. There are nations that will support us privately today, but not in public.  Not yet.  And then, there is the fact that the committee Danon will head will be looking at measures to combat international terrorism.  They know, they know very well – who better than Israel in this position?

And yet, this is something that would not have happened just a short time ago.  We are seeing, slowly, a shift in Israel’s position in the world.


The Planning and Building Committee of the Municipality of Jerusalem has approved the construction of a three-story residential building for Jews in Shiloah (Silwan), which is today predominately Palestinian Arab.  Near Beit Yehonatan (pictured) – a building in which Jewish families already live , it will be built on land purchased in 2005 by Ateret Cohanim (which received, I should mention, strong support from Irving Moskowitz). 

Beit Yehonatan.

Credit: Ariel Jerozolimski
This decision followed a debate of some weeks; it is considered “controversial,” an “infringement” into an Arab neighborhood.  However, this area, which is very near to the City of David, is part of a unified Jerusalem. The notion that Jews cannot live there is simply unacceptable. 
So we celebrate this decision, and hope that it holds as pressure mounts.
A bit of history is important here. Not only to correct the distortions circulated about this area - which is represented as exclusively Arab with Jewish interlopers.  But also because there is a way in which the distortions in this situation echo the larger fight for Jewish Israel, as Arabs attempt to erase markers of Jewish presence.
For a long time the area, which had a solid mix of Jewish and Arab residents, was called the Yemenite Village because most of the Jewish population had originally come from Yemen (back in 1881-82).
See the article documenting this – “Rewriting History: Silwan” put up by Israellycool:
The Jews were driven from the area by Arab riots in 1936-39.  Thus did it become “Arab.”
You will find a more extensive history here:
“The Battle Over Silwan: Fabricating Palestinian History,” in the Middle East Quarterly.
This fascinating piece includes a photograph of Arab homes build directly over (visible) ancient Jewish tombs carved into the limestone hillside.
It is being reported that Bassam Mahmoud Baraka, a senior member of Hamas, defected to Israel during the first week of June.  He came with his wife and children to the border with Israel, and gave himself up to Israeli security forces.  He carried a laptop and secret maps allegedly showing some of the tunnels that have been constructed in Gaza.,7340,L-4816034,00.html
War with Hamas (about which more below) is inevitable.  And so, information such as that reportedly carried by Baraka puts us way ahead. 
As to war with Hamas...
A senior source in the Ministry of Defense is saying that the next war with Hamas, while inevitable, will be the last. 
“His comments come after senior military officials made changes to the IDF's end goals in any potential future Gaza conflict. Should hostilities erupt again, military planners would seek the destruction of Hamas's military wing, not establishing deterrence like they did in past wars.”  (Emphasis added)
As you may remember, this is precisely what Lieberman said on assuming the position of Minister of Defense.  We cannot tolerate an on-going war of attrition, he declared, setting himself apart from Ya’alon, who indeed did opt to tolerate that war of attrition.  Lieberman’s is the stronger, if you will, more right wing, stance.


Credit: i24news
The prospect of war cannot quite be “good news,” although it will unquestionably be a war that must be fought.  It is good, however, that Lieberman - in promoting a policy change - is remaining true to his word on this issue.  And good that we can envision the possibility, finally, of eliminating an enemy rather than indefinitely tolerating it.  After each of the three wars we’ve fought with Hamas, to deter it, it has come back even stronger with the acquisition of more sophisticated weaponry.
There are, however, two points in this article citing the “senior source in the Defense Ministry” that I would question.  One is that he says Israel must not initiate a war.  I understand the desire to not appear to be “war-mongering.”  (Yes, that again – how we appear.) But just recently I noted that a defense official had said that this time we would choose the time for going to war, and I had thought, finally... 
Each time, we have waited for Hamas to initiate at the moment of their choosing.  But I wonder if it’s not the case that the stockpiling of weaponry that Hamas is doing might be interpreted as a casus belli at some critical juncture, justifying a defensive action at a time of our choosing.  There would be an element of surprise and it would put us at the advantage.  
And then, this official said we might just take out Hamas’s military arm and leave the political arm in place.  Again, I understand the rationale: to avoid having to actually administer Gaza, in its horrendous situation.  Or to create a political vacuum into which some other terror group would immediately move. But what I question is whether there can really be a separation of these “arms” – or whether a political arm would very quickly instigate military buildup once again.  This issue has been raised in Europe with regard to Hezbollah, which ostensibly has military and political arms.
Lieberman, backed by the Shin Bet, has just revoked the permit for entry into Israel for PA liaison to Israel Muhammad Al-Madani, a member of Fatah, for “subversive” activities.  Said Lieberman: A foreign diplomatic official who is trying to intervene in political life in Israel is illegitimate.”  No further explanation was offered.
Al-Madani is an aide to Mahmoud Abbas.
And speaking of the PA, see this most interesting article by Khaled Abu Toameh – “Palestinians: Anarchy Returns to the West Bank” - which documents its internal rivalries, upheavals, and potential for chaos (emphasis added):
“[] Hostility towards the Palestinian Authority (PA) seems to have reached unprecedented heights among refugee camp residents.
“[] A chat with young Palestinians in any refugee camp in the West Bank will reveal a driving sense of betrayal. In these camps, the PA seems as much the enemy as Israel. They speak of the PA as a corrupt and incompetent body that is managed by "mafia leaders." Many camp activists believe it is only a matter of time before Palestinians launch an intifada against the PA.
“[] Nablus, the largest city in the West Bank, is surrounded by a number of refugee camps that are effectively controlled by dozens of Fatah gangs that have long been terrorizing the city's wealthy clans and leading figures.”
I would most strongly recommend that this article be sent to all of those who are promoting a “two-state solution.” 
Ask them: This? This unstable, weak and thoroughly corrupt entity is what you want to see existing at Israel’s side as a “state”? 
A “state” must be administered by a government that controls the area within its borders.  But the PA does NOT control all of the area that it theoretically administers under Oslo, most notably Area A.  To propose expanding the administrative area to all or most of Judea and Samaria is sheer madness.  (This totally aside from Israel’s rights to the land.)
A separate but equally critical question here is why there are “refugee camps” in areas that are presumed to be within the future “Palestinian state.”  Why are the residents of those camps still considered “refugees” and treated differently from any other residents of PA administered Judea and Samaria?  That they – political pawns, retained in their status to pressure Israel - are angry and bitter is hardly a surprise.
It is a common charge leveled unreasonably against Israel by Palestinian Arabs and their supporters – the charge that Israel deprives Arabs in Judea and Samaria of water.  When time allows, I’d like to come back to this with some solid information on all that Israel has done for Arabs villages in Judea and Samaria in order to provide them with water.  But here I simply want to provide the facts to counter one particular libel:
On Thursday, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah charged that “Israel wants to prevent Palestinians from leading a dignified life, and uses its control of our water sources to this end.”
Al-Jazeera followed with an outrageously incorrect story about Israel deliberately depriving Arabs of water during Ramadan, while the temperatures rise.  Other media sources then picked this up without checking.
COGAT (the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) clarified: There had been a temporary problem because of a broken water main that services villages in the Jenin area, which caused a shut-down in service.  It has already been fixed.
What is more, for the month of Ramadan, the water flow to the Jenin area has been increased at night, when use is particularly high. Additionally, water flow to the Hevron-Bethlehem area has been increased by 5,000 cubic meters per hour.
Mekorot, the national water company, put out a statement indicating that there were shortfalls in water across Judea and Samaria – including in Jewish communities – because the current infrastructure (old pipes) cannot meet the current demand.  A master plan was recently approved by the Israel Water Authority that would clean and upgrade the water infrastructure throughout Judea and Samaria. 
However, charged COGAT, the upgrading of water infrastructure is made difficult because of Palestinian Arab refusal to cooperate
Please, internalize this information – counter-intuitive though it may be: The Arabs would rather suffer from water problems and complain about Israel than work with Israel to improve their situation. 
Water is a particularly touchy issue, but this is broadly a prototype for what we deal with again and again.
The Honest Reporting site put up the brief COGAT video of the broken pipe, which you can see here (scroll down):
On Wednesday, the Knesset passed a new law for penalties against terrorists, shepherded through by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. This comprehensive bill now enters Israel’s criminal code.
“It expands the tools used to handle terrorism via criminal and legal mechanisms, extends the maximum sentence for carrying out various terrorism-related crimes to 30 years, anchors in law administrative detentions, and sets sanctions for multiple kinds of terrorism-related offenses.” 

Ayelet Shaked is a rising star in the right-wing, religious Zionist Jewish Home party. (Flash90)

Credit: Flash90
Among its provisions:
“...anyone who heads a terrorist organization, directly or indirectly, will be sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment. However, if that group carries out attacks, its leader will be sentenced to life in prison. The same sentence is fixed for those who carry out an act of terrorism with chemical, biological or radioactive weapons...
”Anyone who trains terrorists will be subject to a prison term of nine years; if they recruited new members to the terrorist organization during their training, or if they carry out operations for the organization, including threatening to carry out an act of terrorism, then they will be liable for a penalty of a further seven years,

“Those who [aid terrorists] will be subject to penalty of five years' imprisonment. The same sanction applies to those who provide services or means to terrorists...”,7340,L-4816332,00.html

Credit: clipartix
Israel is now negotiating with the US the terms of an aid package – to be secured in a Memorandum of Understanding - that would run for ten years after the current one expires in 2018. 
Israel’s position has been that the current state of the world – which has deteriorated considerably with regard to security issues – requires granting of additional assistance to Israel. 
I would very much doubt that Israeli negotiators put it so boldly – they are speaking of “increased security challenges in the region.”  But the fact is that the US - by closing the deal it did with Iran, which permits Iran at a minimum to continue fostering terrorist groups with the expanded largesse made available by sanctions relief, and by withdrawing from active involvement in this part of the world - has contributed to a situation of increased risk for Israel.  Thus does the US have an obligation to help Israel develop and maintain the defensive military equipment that is required. 
A couple of days ago, news broke about a letter that Obama had sent to Congress indicating his opposition to significant increases in aid for Israel’s missile defense. A bit of a panic ensued here in the media, but Netanyahu reassuringly declared that all would be well.  The issue was an internal one in the US, he said – it was a matter of how much increase we would see, there was no question of a decrease.
And indeed it appears he may well be correct, because both Congress and the Pentagon are with us.  

“...[a senior administration] official told The Jerusalem Post that a new decade-long US defense package to Israel would include a long-term missile defense aid commitment – a new feature to the defense relationship that Israel had sought to secure over several months of negotiations.”

(Note: my understanding is that previously there was a Memorandum of Understanding between the US and Israel that was long-term, but supplemental assistance for such things as missile development had to be negotiated annually, leaving Israel with a sense of insecurity in planning.)

“’This commitment, which would amount to billions of dollars over 10 years, would be the first long-term pledge on missile defense support to Israel, affording Israel robust support for its missile defense, as well as predictability and facilitating long-term planning for missile defense initiatives,’ the official said.”  (Emphasis added.)

“...Israel’s acting head of the National Security Council, Ya’akov Nagel (pictured) – who is leading the Israeli side in the negotiations over the MoU – told reporters in a phone call on Wednesday that the negotiations are in their final stages.”  One of the issues still under discussion is how much of this money can be spent in Israel.  It must be understood that the majority of the funds are spent in the US, for equipment that will be utilized by Israel – with some percentage used by Israel to customize and upgrade the equipment.


Yaakov Nagel (Miriam Alster / Flash90)

Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90
The Times of Israel quoted Nagel as saying Israel wants to conclude an agreement but “not at any price,” which leads to questions as to what is meant by this.
Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke at the Herzliya Conference this week and alluded to the aid likely to be given to Israel -  the “biggest aid package ever.”  Not surprisingly, he also spoke about the need for Israel to stop “settlement activity,” but did not overtly tie one to the other.  It is all more subtle than that.
So, what I see is that there indeed will be pressure on Netanyahu from the White House and State Department (could we expect otherwise?), and that our prime minister, especially mindful of the huge security boost this aid will provide for us, will play the game via public statements about his support for two-states, etc., as is his MO.  We are not about to agree to pull out of Judea and Samaria, or rush to the table for negotiations on Abbas’s terms.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is flying to the US to meet with his counterpart, Ashton Carter.
Circling back to issues related to the Orlando terror attack: 
It most certainly would have been my desire that someone else would have garnered sufficient delegates in state contests to become the presumptive Republican nominee for president. I have not been a promoter of Donald Trump, have not been excited about the prospects of him as president. 
But at this point, I believe we need to examine our options with clarity. 
Never mind all the other issues (which are themselves huge). When it comes to the security of the United States, what I see is that the prospect of Hillary Clinton in the White House is a nightmare.  Her alliances are highly questionable, and there is not the remotest reason to believe that her stance would be firm.  She is both slippery and politically correct.  She a danger to America’s future.  Security is America’s primary issue.  Those who do not yet understand this have not been paying attention.
After the attack in Florida, Trump made a major speech.  Most likely, it was scripted by others. But most likely, as well, it lays out certain positions that he wishes to advance.  And they are positions that are most welcome, in fact, desperately needed.  Were he to become president, and rely upon advisors who promote the positions that were in that speech, then America would be going in the right direction at long last.   
Please read what Robert Spencer – director of Jihad Watch and author of 15 books on radical Islam and related subjects – has to say about Trump’s speech, in “Finally, a Realistic Plan for Fighting Jihad and Protecting Americans, Courtesy of Donald Trump” (emphasis added):
“We’ve gotten so used to politically correct obfuscation about Islam being a religion of peace that preaches tolerance and non-violence that Donald Trump’s words in his address Monday were startling: ‘Many of the principles of radical Islam are incompatible with Western values and institutions. Remember this, radical Islam is anti-woman, anti-gay and anti-American. I refuse to allow America to become a place where gay people, Christian people, Jewish people are targets of persecution and intimation by radical Islamic preachers of hate and violence.’

“Trump continued: ‘This is not just a national security issue. It’s a quality of life issue. If we want to protect the quality of life for all Americans — women and children, gay and straight, Jews and Christians and all people then we need to tell the truth about radical Islam and we need to do it now.’

“...Trump is now the first presidential candidate since maybe John Quincy Adams to recognize that the problem posed by Islam is not just restricted to the specter of violent jihad attacks, but is, given Sharia oppression of women, gays, and non-Muslims, very much, as Trump put it, a ‘quality of life issue.’

“Trump declared his determination to prevent more jihad attacks such as the one in Orlando Saturday night above all by reiterating his proposal temporarily to ‘suspend immigration from areas of the world where there’s a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies until we fully understand how to end these threats.’ CNN huffed: ‘Critics of Trump's policies, however, have pointed out that the perpetrator of the Orlando massacre was born in the U.S.’

“Those critics are not being honest. What Trump actually said was that the Orlando jihad mass murderer was born ‘of Afghan parents, who immigrated to the United States.’ He noted, quite correctly, that ‘the bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place, was because we allowed his family to come here,’ and pointed out, quite rightly, that ‘we have a dysfunctional immigration system, which does not permit us to know who we let into our country, and it does not permit us to protect our citizens properly….We’re importing radical Islamic terrorism into the West through a failed immigration system and through an intelligence community held back by our president. Even our own FBI director has admitted that we cannot effectively check the backgrounds of people we’re letting into America.’

“...Another foray into political incorrectness in Trump’s speech was his insistence that the Muslim community in the U.S. has ‘to work with us. They have to cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad. They know it. And they have to do it, and they have to do it forthwith….The Muslims have to work with us. They have to work with us. They know what’s going on. They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death, and destruction.’
“...[said Trump] ‘America must unite the whole civilized world in the fight against Islamic terrorism.’
“Indeed. The world is on fire courtesy of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. If America votes in November for more of the same, we will soon be engulfed in those flames as well. On Monday, Donald Trump outlined an unprecedentedly realistic plan for putting out the fire.”


Credit: jihadwatch
So much much more yet to come...
“Rachem” - Cantors Shimon Farkas, Dov Farkas, Shai Abramson
I think I put this up previously in a different version. But this felt right today – a prayer to the Almighty for mercy for His people.  And these three cantors are marvelous.
© 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 18, 2016 at 03:55PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 14, 2016: Facing Down Reality

I decided to table this posting for a couple of days because of the horrendous terror attack in Florida. 

For all those who lost dear ones in that obscene assault, or who were wounded, I extend deepest compassion.  May they know healing.


Credit: Tribune

What is painfully ironic is that what I had originally planned to write about in this post and what subsequently happened in Orlando are thematically connected.


Let’s start with the attack in Orlando that killed at some 50 people and wounded at least as many more.  According to a number of news reports, the terrorist appeared to have ISIS connections:

“According to CNN citing a police source, Omar Mateen, 30, a US citizen born to Afghan parents, was holed up inside the club with hostages for several hours and communicated with police on a number of occasions. In one of the calls, he swore allegiance to the terror group that has claimed several deadly attacks around the world in recent months, including the Paris attacks in November 2015 and Brussels several months later.

“An FBI spokesman later confirmed that a call to police in which a ‘general allegiance to the Islamic State’ was made.”

A number of reports had it that he shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he aimed his assault weapon.


While, of course, claims are not documentation, this is enough to make people sit up and take notice:

ISIS, in a radio broadcast on Monday, claimed the Orlando terrorist as “one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America.”


Soldiers of the caliphate in America?  Is this just crazy talk? 


See this article in American Thinker, which states (emphasis added throughout):

”While the Middle East remains a hotbed for terrorists, we’ve got our own jihad training compounds set up in rural areas across the United States. They are run by an organization called Muslims of America (MOA). Law enforcement describes these compounds as ‘classically structured terrorist cells.’”


Author Carol Brown provides, first, background on the Muslims of America:

”Let’s start with the founder: El Sheikh Gilani. Prior to MOA, he founded Jamaat ul-Fuqra, a Pakistani terror organization. MOA is the American version of ul-Fuqra...

“Gilani emigrated from Pakistan around 1980. He settled in Brooklyn, NY, where he began preaching at a mosque frequented by African-American Muslims. This is where he started to recruit for jihad in Afghanistan, often targeting black criminals who converted to Islam in prison -- a source of recruits for jihad that continues to this day.

“Then Gilani took things a step further and set up a terror-training compound in a rural area of upstate New York. There are now numerous MOA compounds across the United States. Estimates vary regarding how many there are, ranging from 22 to 35. As of this writing, states where MOA has set up shop are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

In other words, they’re just about everywhere.

In some states there is more than one location. New York’s ‘Islamburg’ (located in the town of Hancock) is the largest operation and serves as the headquarters...

There is no doubt that MOA is a terror organization operating on American soil. It is well documented by the FBI whose records state that MOA has the infrastructure to plan and carry out terror attacks (here, and overseas) and that MOA leaders urge their members to commit jihad against enemies of Islam.”


She sites from a Christian Action Network (CAN) report:
“MOA trains men, and women, to become jihadists poised to attack Americans when Gilani gives the order. Toward this end, MOA maintains a stockpile of illegal weapons. Residents are taught that jihad is their life’s purpose...
“Compounds are completely insular, with their own stores, mosques, and graveyards, as well as guard posts to intercept visitors... All members follow Sharia law and consider themselves to be above local, state and federal authority...
“There are as many as four generations of people living in these camps, all of whom have been taught from the outset to distrust Americans and to prepare for jihad. For some members, life in the camp is all they’ve ever known...”

Then she explains how the Muslims of America get away with what they are doing:

“...factors that reflect a combination of deception, political correctness, and public policy that inhibits the FBI’s ability to do their job. First, the FBI wants to avoid the appearance that it is scrutinizing Muslim organizations and/or is infringing on religious freedom. Second, MOA sets up religious/charitable causes to mask their illicit activities, intertwining good with bad. This enables them to play the victim card during investigation attempts.

“In other words, suicidal political correctness overrides our safety as United States law enforcement allows itself to be intimidated by faux charities that provide cover for terrorists.

“But perhaps the most significant barrier to our ability to take action is the fact that our State Department refuses to designate ul-Fuqra a terrorist organization despite unequivocal evidence that they are.

“ Ryan Mauro, national security researcher for CAN stated back in 2009: ‘law enforcement authorities do not have the tools they need to search these compounds…members involved in terrorist and criminal activity are being treated as if they are isolated incidents; rogue followers of an otherwise innocent cult.’

So we’ve got jihad training camps and sleeper cells scattered all across the United States ready to attack. And what are we doing about it? Precious little.”


The current resident of the White House may speak of “terror,” when confronting what happened in Orlando. But he will not say “Muslim” or “jihad,” and certainly doesn’t speak of a “caliphate.”  The terrorist who took 50 lives is represented as one angry man.  An “isolated incident,” as above.  He declines to confront the truth of the situation.

The question, then, is whether the American people are ready to deal with reality

Dry Bones gets it so very right:

Islamism,Islam, Muslim, terror, terrorism, Orlando, terror attack, LGBT, Media, MSM, media bias,Jihad,






On this subject, I also recommend you read Caroline Glick’s latest: “Is ISIS a GOP franchise?” (emphasis added):
“ the president sees things, if you oppose limitations on firearm ownership, then you're on Mateen's [the terrorist’s] side...

“To say that Obama's behavior is unpresidential is an understatement. His behavior is dangerous. It imperils the United States and its citizens.

”Adolf Hitler did not go to war against Great Britain because he opposed parliamentary democracy. Hitler went to war against Britain because he wanted to rule the world and Britain stood in his way.

”Just so, Islamic jihadists are not sides in America's domestic policy debates about gun ownership and gay rights. Islamic jihadists like Mateen, the Tsarnaev brothers from Boston, Nidal Malik Hassan at Ft. Hood, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi at Garland, Texas, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik in San Bernadino didn't decide to slaughter innocents because of their passionate opposition to the liberal takeover of the US Supreme Court.

They killed Americans because they thought that doing so advances their goal of instituting the dominion of Islamic totalitarians across the world. They oppose freedom and democracy because democracy and freedom stand in the way of their goal to subordinate humanity to an Islamic caliphate.

”...The most devastating, and at this point clearly premeditated, outcome of Obama's refusal to name the cause of the violence is that he has made it illegitimate to discuss it. He has made it controversial for Americans to talk about Islamic supremacism, extremism, violence and war for world domination.

”He has made substantive criticism of his policies tantamount to bigotry. And he has rendered the public debate about the most salient strategic threat to American lives, liberty and national security a partisan issue.

Today in Obama's America, only Republicans use the terms Islamic terrorism or radicalism or jihad. Democrats pretend those things don't exist.”
Here in Israel, as my readers know, we had a terror attack last Wednesday night.  There was one man present who was shot in the head at close range, twice. Miraculously, he survived.  His father was quoted in the news, as he opined that, “The solution [to terror attacks] is obviously diplomatic. Until we have a two-state solution, we have to protect our children.”
This father is not the only one who thinks this way, and yet his comment – his supposition that terror would cease if we gave the Palestinian Arabs a state - left me absolutely aghast.  And determined to counter his “observation” with a solid, albeit necessarily abbreviated, dose of reality.
It occurred to me then, as it has innumerable times in the past, that, in a situation such as this, we see a primary difference between those politically on the left and those on the right. On the left there is a tendency to believe that every problem has a solution, which can be approached via reason and kindness.  On the right we recognize the existence of evil, with which it is impossible to bargain. 
A few facts:
The attack was perpetrated by members of Hamas.
Hamas has never even pretended to be seeking a “two-state solution.” Says the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, with regard to the Hamas Charter (emphasis added):
“overtly anti-Semitic and anti-West, radical Islamic in outlook, it stresses Hamas’ ideological commitment to destroy the State of Israel through a long-term holy war (jihad).

Main points of the Charter:

“􀂔􀂔 The conflict with Israeli is religious and political...

“􀂔􀂔 All Palestine is Muslim land and no one has the right to give it up...

“􀂔􀂔 The importance of jihad (holy war) as the main means for the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) to achieve its goals: An uncompromising jihad must be waged against Israel and any agreement recognizing its [Israel’s] right to exist must be totally opposed. Jihad is the personal duty of every Muslim.”


Credit: Frontpage

By what stretch of the imagination, then, could we come to the conclusion that giving Hamas a state next to Israel would convince them to withdraw their commitment to destroy Israel?


Of course, at least in theory, Israel is expected to negotiate a “two-state solution” with the PLO/Palestinian Authority, anyway, not Hamas.  Hamas would be a party to nothing.  But what is clear from a security perspective is that Hamas is eager to overthrow the PA; were there – Heaven forbid! – to be a Palestinian state under PA/PLO auspices, Hamas would attempt to take it over as quickly as possible.  Then we would have Hamas at our eastern border.  That would put a quick end to terrorism, right?  Just like in Gaza.


But let’s take a look at the Palestinian Authority for a moment.  While the PA adapts an ostensibly more moderate stance, in the end its goals are no different from those of Hamas.

It should be noted that twice very generous (excessively generous) offers regarding a state have been made to the PA by Israeli leaders.  Once by then PM Ehud Barak, and again by then PM Ehud Olmert, whose terms were even more generous (a capital in eastern Jerusalem, 94% of Judea and Samaria, 5,000 “refugees” brought in).  But they were both turned down.  This is not how an entity that truly wants a state acts.


The Palestinian National Charter of 1968 – which has not been altered since – reads in part (emphasis added):

“􀂔􀂔 Palestine is the homeland of the Palestinian Arab people...

“􀂔􀂔 Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit...
“􀂔􀂔 The phase in their history, through which the Palestinian people are now living, is that of national (watani) struggle for the liberation of Palestine.

“􀂔􀂔 Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle and to work for an armed popular revolution for the liberation of their country and their return to it...
“􀂔􀂔 The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national (qawmi) duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine...

Sounds rather like the Hamas Charter, does it not?


In 1974, recognizing that Israel could not be defeated all at once, the PLO adopted the “Phased Program,” which speaks of “liberation steps.”  Any “step” that paved the way for the final goal of “complete liberation” was considered acceptable.  That included negotiations, if they weakened Israel, for the sake of the final goal.  As part of this policy, it was decided to give the impression of moderation.

Said Palestinian Minister Nabil Sha’ath in 1996:

“We decided to liberate our homeland step-by-step...Should Israel continue [to negotiate] – no problem...if and when Israel says ‘enough’ that case...we will return to violence. But this time it will be with 30,000 armed Palestinian soldiers...” (

That impression of moderation is nurtured to this day in English and there are those who persist in allowing themselves to be deluded by it.  When one studies what Palestinian Arab leaders say to their own people in their own language, however, it is quite another story.  See the Palestinian Media Watch ( for unending instances of incitement, support for terrorism (which includes a convoluted system for paying salaries to terrorists in Israeli prisons), claims to all of the land – with identification of Israeli cities such as Haifa as “Palestinian,” and maps that show “Palestine” in all of the land, with Israel gone.

From the Facebook page of Fatah, the main party of the PA:




The delusion of an America safe from Islamic radical threat, and the delusion that Israel can find security in a “two-state solution,” are close cousins then.  And they are both exceedingly dangerous.


I will return to my regular format with good news (which does exist) and lots of pictures, next I write.

Please share this very widely.


© 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, June 14, 2016 at 02:01PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 10,2016: Recurring Evil

Last time I posted, it was with a spirit uplifted because of Yom Yerushalayim.  I had not intended to post again until next week.  For Shabbat is coming, and immediately after, Shavuot, the harvest festival that celebrates our receiving of the Torah and is marked by study into/or through the night, and a custom of eating dairy foods (cheesecake a specialty). 

But pain and horror have intervened, and so I must write again now, because everyone must know:

On Wednesday night, two terrorists attacked in Tel Aviv, killing four innocent Israelis and wounding another sixteen, several of whom are in intensive care.  The carnage took place at an outdoor mall known as the Sarona Market. It is immediately across from the Defense Ministry headquarters, the Kirya. 


The four who were killed are:

Ido Ben Ari, 42, from Ramat Gan.  The father of two, he served in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit during his IDF service.  His wife was injured in the attack.  Their two children were with them; one of his sons was restless and didn’t want to be there.

Ido Ben Ari, of of four victims killed in a terror attack in Tel Aviv's Sarona Market on June 6, 2016. (Courtesy)

Ilana Naveh, 40, from Tel Aviv.  The mother of four – including a daughter who had recently celebrated her bat mitzvah; she was out that night to celebrate her birthday.  A neighbor said about Ilana, “She was the best woman in the world...her door was always open.”

Ilana Navaa

Credit: Times of Israel
Michael Feige  58,from Ramat Gan.  The father of three, he was a highly esteemed professor at Ben Gurion University in Be’ersheva. A sociologist and anthropologist, he headed the Israel studies program at the university.

Credit: Dani Machlis
Mila Mishayev, 32, from Rishon Lezion.   She was engaged to be married, and her wedding was planned for the near future.  She was waiting for her fiancé in the café when she was attacked. After having been shot, she actually called him before she died of loss of blood.

Mila Mishayev

Credit: Times of Israel


The killers have been identified as first cousins, Muhammad and Khalid Mehamara of the Arab village of Yatta in the Hevron Hills, in Area A, controlled by the PA. One is now in police custody, and the other, shot, in the hospital. 
At first there were questions about how they got into Israel, but it has since been revealed by security that there were in Israel illegally for some months before the attack.
This immediately suggests the likelihood of collaborators. Terror is often a “family affair,” and it has come to light that the uncle of these terrorists, Taleb Mehamara, was a member of a Fatah Tanzim terror cell that killed four Israelis in a targeted shooting attack in 2002. He is currently in an Israeli prison.

I have my own unanswered question: Did they come into Israel illegally, sent by Hamas to plan, and wait for the “right” time to attack.  Or were they here for other reasons and then recruited in the last several days?


The two, dressed in white shirts and black pants and ties, sat down at a table in the upscale Max Brenner café and ordered desserts. Then they rose to their feet, pulled out submachine guns, and began to indiscriminately shoot. When they were done, there was death, and injury, and a café strewn with blood.

MK Amir Ohana (Likud), who arrived at the scene shortly after the attack occurred, described  “uneaten birthday cakes next to pools of blood.”


Prime Minister Netanyahu had just arrived in the airport following his trip to Moscow when this happened.  Heading straight to the scene of the attack, he vowed a “decisive” response.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the scene of a terror attack on Tel Aviv's Sarona Market on June 9, 2016. (Prime Minister's Office)

Credit: PMO

Thursday, after meeting with heads of the security agencies, Netanyahu said, “We discussed a series of offensive and defensive steps that we will take in order to act against this serious phenomenon of shootings. This is a challenge, and we shall meet it.”  In this statement, he raised the issue of collaborators.

While our new Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, declared that Israel “doesn’t intend to put up with the situation. I don’t think this is the time to issue pronouncements, but everything necessary we will do and we will do in a severe manner.”

To which I respond, all power to him.

At the time of this writing, the following actions have been taken, although more might follow: 

The village of Yatta has been sealed off, and no one will be allowed in or out except for emergencies.  The question is how long this will be sustained.  Some members of the Mehamara clan have been taken in for questioning, and the work permits (allowing entry into Israel) for 204 members of that clan have been cancelled.
Additionally, 83,000 permits for entry into Jerusalem over Ramadan, for praying at the Al-Aksa Mosque at the Temple Mount, which had been given to residents of Judea and Samaria, have been cancelled.

Lieberman on Thursday called for a moratorium on the return of terrorists’ bodies to their families.  We’ve been round and round on this one so often!  Let us hope this is the last word on the situation now.  Lieberman is also calling for the process of razing terrorists’ homes to be expedited so as to be completed in 24 hours.

“...none of those involved in the attack will escape justice,” he said

“Those who tried and succeeded in harming innocent Jews, at this very moment they and their families are paying and will pay the price. And those who sent them, directly and indirectly...who provide the ideological and operational infrastructure for these acts, will not be spared. We will catch each and every one of them.”

Late yesterday, the prime minister announced that a third suspect had been apprehended.


The question being asked is why this happened now after many weeks of relative calm in Israel.

Much is being made in certain media sources of the fact that Hamas has praised the attack without actually taking credit for it.  But I’m not reading it this way.  Hamas has said that the terrorists were members of their group, and has praised their actions as “heroic.”  The village of Yatta is actually recognized as a Hamas stronghold.

Hamas has offered a “rationale” for the attack: unspecified “Al-Aksa violations.”  This is a standard charge as part of the incitement against Israel, and in that sense it is not connected to Hamas exclusively – it is the constant cry of Abbas.  But this charge is particularly ironic now considering that permits by the tens of thousands had been granted to Palestinian Arabs to make it easier to get to Al-Aksa.

Finally, Hamas has threatened that there will be more attacks during the month of Ramadan.


And that leads to another thread in this situation: Ramadan, which began Sunday night. Typically, there is heightened Arab violence here over this period of time when observant Muslims neither eat nor drink from sun-up to sun-down.  I do not believe there is any ideological reason for this – it is more the physical strain on the Muslim systems, the discomfort and frustration. 


And then, lastly, there is this: the convergence of Yom Yerushalayim with the beginning of Ramadan.  They tried to stop the Parade of Flags through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and could not – never mind that the Damascus Gate (Sha’ar Shechem) was closed to the Parade early so that there would not be Jewish celebrants in the area when Ramadan started.

I believe the Parade – the celebration of victory at a time the Arabs consider a “setback” - is galling to them in any terms.

See just a portion of the video clip below:

It shows tens of thousands of young Zionist Jews celebrating at the Kotel for Yom Yerushalayim. This particular clip was from three years ago, but the flavor is much the same.  It is not a hostile celebration.  It doesn’t involve shooting of guns or shouting violent threats.  It is joyous.  It suggests victory and a positive Jewish future.

The Kotel is on the edge of Arab areas of the Old City.


I do not paint all Arabs with one brush.  I know there are peaceful Arabs, and Arabs glad for Israeli citizenship or residency.  Some who are even Zionistic.

But neither do I delude myself.  There is much hatred within the Arab community, and it is directed at us – not because of anything we have done, but because of who we are. It is palpable.

Innocents were murdered in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night.  People – good people with loving lives – who were doing nothing to invite what happened to them.  And yet their deaths were celebrated as a victory by many in the Arab community. There was the passing out of candy. And they lit up the sky with fireworks in Yatta. 

In a million years, can you imagine Jews behaving thus?

Perhaps ugliest of all, there was celebration in front of Sha’ar Shechem, where our young people had sung and danced only days ago.  See it for yourself in this brief video clip:


And so we must be resilient as we face down this enemy. Strong in defending ourselves. Confident that we have a right to do so.

There can be no equivocation – no accepting of excuses of any sort. 


In the end, they cannot win.  For the hatred in their hearts is destructive to them, more than to us.  It is corrosive.

We Israelis, on the other hand, are amazing in our determination to go on with life in positive ways.  On Thursday, less than 24 hours after the attack, this was the scene at Sarona Market, with young people erecting an impromptu memorial to those who had been killed. 

Teenage members of a pre-army program set up an impromptu memorial for the victims of a terror attack a day prior at the Max Brenner cafe at the Sarona Market in central Tel Aviv, June 9, 2016. (Ricky Ben-David/Times of Israel) 

Credit: Ricki Ben-David/Times of Israel

They softly sang Shir Lama’alot - a Song of Ascents, Psalm 121: “Behold, He that keepeth Israel, doth neither slumber nor sleep...The Lord shall guard thy going out and thy coming in, from this time forth and for ever.”
“We have to be strong. We survive as Israelis because people wake up the next morning and do what needs to be done,” said one participant.

While a Chabad rabbi, at a table on the periphery of this activity, encouraged male passersby to put on tfillin.  “We all need to do good,” he explained, “to create a chain effect in our own surroundings, among our family and friends and workplace and to be better people. If we go out of our way to do good, it will hasten our redemption.”

And Defense Minister Lieberman came by for a cup of coffee in a show of solidarity.


Credit: jta


As we head towards Shavuot, and the time for religious study, let us be mindful of all that we are meant to be.


Credit: Jewish ledger
“It is is a tree of life, to those who grasp it, and all its ways are peace.”


© 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 Friday, June 10, 2016 at 07:31AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

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