Current Postings

June 8, 2015: Fighting with Head High

“Imagine if there was a country you had no personal connection to, that people accused of being an apartheid state. This state was constantly condemned all over the world, and in the UN, for war crimes and human rights violations. Imagine if this country was claimed to be founded on colonialist principles, and was accused of systematic racism.

”In its defense, this state simply emphasized the fact that it is a leader in hi-tech and innovation, and that it invented things such as the cherry tomato, ICQ and the flash drive.

”Whose side would you be on? This is Israel’s image as seen in today’s world. (Emphasis added here and throughout this article)

”When thinking about the Jewish state’s public diplomacy, one must think about what the unengaged, ordinary person sees, not what the educated activist sees. Today, Israel is violently attacked by its haters through vicious delegitimization campaigns; these are of course based on lies, but the ordinary, unengaged person does not necessarily know that. Israel’s response to this campaign is simply unconvincing.

Israel needs to refocus its message and debunk the lies thrown at it, such as these accusations of war crimes, apartheid and racism. It must cultivate a parallel ethical discourse, one that is no less passionate than the one promoted by the supporters of the Palestinians [Arabs], based on the principles of freedom, historical justice and legal justice. This discourse is the only way to compete with the lies thrown at Israel because, although they are lies, they base themselves on the deepest levels of human conscience and cannot be rejected without proposing an alternative ethical foundation.

”The moral case for Israel is a strong one; however, no one seems to be making it. As such, a moral person who doesn’t actively educate himself on the conflict is fed a narrative which leads him to oppose Israel virulently.”
These words were written by Dan Illouz, for his column in the Jerusalem Post.  


Credit: Times of Israel
In his piece, he cites Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely, who recently said:
“Many times it seems that in our international relations, more than emphasizing the rightness of our cause, we are asked to use arguments that play well diplomatically.

But at a time when the very existence of Israel is being called into question, it is important to be right. The international community deals with considerations of justice and morality. We need to return to the basic truth of our right to this land. This country is ours, all of it.”
Concludes Illouz:
After years of going around in circles and trying to find diplomatic ways to get the world to love Israel without actually claiming the rights which are...ours, Hotovely asked that we start talking about these rights again.

The only way the world is going to accept Israel is if it believes Israel has a right to exist. As long as Israel is afraid to talk about its legal, historical and moral rights to its land, the world will keep on questioning its existence and will move closer to the Palestinians, who are not afraid to speak about their claim to the land.
At the end of the day, the question of Israel’s legitimacy comes down to the legal issue: Does Israel have a legal basis for its presence in Judea and Samaria? Israel can try to justify its stance with security concerns, but this will only bring the world to the conclusion that Israel had good reasons to temporarily break the law. The world will still see Israel as a state that is breaking the law, and in the long term it will not be able to accept this. After a few years, the world will say: ‘If you keep breaking the law, then despite whatever reason you might claim to have, you are still a criminal.’

The truth is that Israel has an outstanding legal case to make about its right to the entire Land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria...”
Now, the above is an excellent article, which I would have cited and encouraged you to share in any event. You’ve heard some of this before from me, as I’ve praised Hotovely for her forthrightness, and expressed despair about our prime minister’s tendency to resort to “security” as the rationale for retaining land in Judea and Samaria.  This well articulated piece carries the message clarity. it happens, its author - a savvy lawyer who “gets it” - is working with our Legal Grounds Campaign, doing Knesset education.  We are determined to make good things happen.  And I wanted to give my readers a sense of who we have working with us.
Before moving on then, I want to urge you to log on to our website – .  Start by joining the campaign (no cost – we need names for maximum impact), if you have not yet done so, and encouraging others to do the same. Then access information on the site about Israel’s legal rights (there’s great information) so that you can do your part to defend Israel from an informed position.

The campaign for the delegitimization of Israel, the BDS campaign, etc. is in full swing. We seem to be confronting more attacks every day.
By way of example, there was the recent outrage associated with Orange, the French telecommunications (cell phone) firm.  Orange CEO Stephane Richard declared that if it were possible, he would cut relations with Israel “tomorrow”: there was talk about severing ties with Partner, the Israeli subsidiary of Orange, licensed to carry the corporation’s name.
Ultimately Richard backed down and has how been invited to visit Israel.  But his pullback on his original position would not have come about without a very public and strong response from the Israeli government – including a call to the French government to condemn the boycott.
This is key: the days of shrugging off the BDS movement as a minor annoyance are over, and the Israeli government is taking a different stance.

Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor at Northwestern University, an expert on international law – and, incidentally, a member of Legal Ground Campaign’s Legal Advisory Board – has just written an enlightening article that touches upon the Orange issue.
Kontorovich has, for some time now, taken the brilliant tack of examining how the world relates to situations similar to what Israel is coping with, in other places.  This is a perspective that is quite valuable.
After the CEO of Orange made his statement, the French Ambassador to the US Gerard Araud put out on twitter: “4th Geneva convention : settlement policy in occupied territories is illegal. It is illegal to contribute to it in any way.”
To this, Kontorovich responded (emphasis added):
“Perhaps the most instructive aspect of this was the reaction of Amb. Araud, when I pointed out to him that his legal claim is baseless, and squarely contradicted by France’s own courts in recent decisions involving Israel, which held the Geneva Conventions flatly inapplicable to private companies. [That is, even if, which is not the case, Israel were operating in defiance of the Geneva Conventions in Judea and Samaria, it would not be illegal for private companies to do business there.]  It is also contradicted by the opinions the U.N. Security Council Legal Advisor, the EU Parliament’s legal advisor, and the U.K. Supreme Court, and more.
“The Orange incident, and the Ambassador’s legal claim, are also bad news for a number of French companies, like the oil giant Total, which is active in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara against the vociferous protests of the indigenous Sawahari people. (There are many other examples, like Michelin in Turkish-occupied Cyprus.) The French government has never criticized any of these controversial activities in any way. But if the Ambassador’s legal claim is right, he has provided the basis for war crimes prosecutions of France’s leading executives....

“Amb. Araud responded to my question by revealing that he had no idea one of his country’s largest companies was engaged in an major project that, by his account, is a war crime.

The Ambassador, after blocking me, revealed that his international law claims are not really about international law:

’I speak of one occupied territory. I am answered on other territories. I conclude that everybody agrees on what I say on the former.’

[Translation: Don’t tell me about Morocco occupying the Western Sahara, where French companies do business.  I am speaking only about Judea and Samaria, and everyone agrees that it’s not right to do business there.]

“In other words, [not fair] to cite precedents and practice. But of course, if you are talking about international law, ‘other territories’ are entirely relevant. First, for something to be law, it has to be a rule that applies to similar situations. And for it to be international, well, those situations will involve different countries.

What the French apparently want is, to paraphrase Stalin, international law for one country. Ok. But don’t call it international. And don’t call it law.


Credit: Northwestern University

Right on, Eugene!  My friends, book mark this article for future reference.
On Saturday night, at least one rocket was launched from Gaza into southern Israel, in the area of Ashkelon.  No injuries, no damage resulted.  On Sunday, Israel retaliated by hitting some four terrorist sites in Gaza – no one was injured in those attacks either.  Minister of Defense Ya’alon also gave the order to shut down the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings into Gaza, except for humanitarian aid.
Just days before, Ya’alon had said, quite clearly, that “we will not tolerate a drizzle.”,7340,L-4664831,00.html
Well... what is currently going on is just that: a drizzle of rockets.  One here, one there.  What is more, a statement from the IDF indicated: "The Hamas terrorist organization is the address and the one on whom the responsibility falls."  This has been Israeli policy – holding Hamas, which is in control of Gaza, responsible no matter which group – most often it has been Islamic Jihad - launches the rockets.
And so something of a hue and cry went up from the opposition, demanding to know when the government was going to act with firmness against Hamas.  Certainly hitting empty launching fields was not going to do it.  And it was the opinion of at least one analyst not long ago, that Hamas leaders were just as happy to have IJ launch a rocket now and then – they could claim “innocence” while keeping Israel off balance.
But now information has surfaced that possibly changes the equation:
It’s not Islamic Jihad that has been responsible for the latest “drizzle of rockets,” but a radical jihadi-Salafi group that calls itself the Omar Hadid Brigades.  I had alluded recently to radical groups that might end up making Hamas look a bit like “peace now.”  Not quite, but close.  The Brigades, with ISIS affiliation, would like to take over from Hamas in Gaza, and, it is thought, are utilizing the rocket attacks to encourage an Israeli attack on Hamas. They want Israel to do their work for them.
Groups such as this one are eager for Gaza to be used to open another front in the jihad caliphate movement – they don’t like Hamas’s identification with Palestinian Arab nationalism.
Hamas, for its part, is too beaten down, according to this information, to have any desire to take on Israel.  And Hamas is actually arresting members of the Brigades in an attempt to control the situation.
It does seem to be the case that Hamas is not ready to take on Israel now. But I hasten to correct any misimpression with regard to Hamas becoming “moderate” and peaceful.  They are simply biding time, and preparing for the next confrontation.  Very recently, for example, Hamas paved a road adjacent to the Gaza border with Israel.  According to Fathi Hammad, a former Hamas interior minister, the road was intended “to create for ourselves convenient opportunities to attack the Zionist enemy.”
At the same time, Hamas regularly tests their rockets, shooting into the Mediterranean, in order to determine their accuracy.
What Israel seeks is a weakened Hamas – too weak to attack, but strong enough to control the jidhadi groups.
Conclusion: a vastly complex situation requiring sharp intelligence, thoughtful planning, an ever-ready army, and a crystal ball.
I wrote the other day about the possibility that Syrian Druze near the Golan may yet flee into Israel.  Now we have this from Ayoob Kara (Likud), himself a Druze, and Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation:
“The State of Israel is acting on behalf of the Syrian Druze. These matters are being carried out quietly, and without publicity.”
© 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, June 8, 2015 at 03:51PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 4, 2015: Unity

Because first things must come first, I begin by marking National Unity Day.
As Michelle Napell of One Family Fund wrote in a message:
“We prayed for them, we cried for them and now we remember them. 

“It has been one year since terrorists kidnapped and murdered Israeli teenagers, Gil-ad Shaer z’l, Eyal Ifrach z’l and Naftali Fraenkel z’l. As thousands of Israelis searched for them last summer, Jews from around the world united in an unprecedented way to support the boys’ families as they coped with uncertainty, pain and loss. 

Today, the 16th of Sivan 5775 - June 3rd 2015, Unity Day has been designated to remind us that regardless of our challenges, there will always be far more that unites us than divides us.”


A video: 


We, the people of Israel, are indeed remarkable in how we respond to tragedy.  

My prayer – and let it be the prayer of everyone – is that we come together like this, by the hundreds of thousands, the millions, ultra-Orthodox and secular, Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrachi, young and old, to celebrate peace and blessings upon the nation. 


A clarification, prompted by questions from a couple of readers:  

I did not write yesterday that the US has never sold bunker busters to Israel.  Indeed, it has.  But those bunker busters are smaller ones, such as BLU bunker busters.  The BLU 109 weighs 2,000 pounds and the BLU 113 weighs 5,000 pounds.  Both of these munitions, were, I believe, recently acquired by Israel from the US to augment existing stores, but are a very far cry from the MOP, which weighs 30,000 pounds.  

What the US has provided cannot break into the underground reinforced nuclear facilities of Iran, or pierce through the mountain at Fordow.  The MOP, which can, the US will not sell to Israel.

The full interview of Obama, which I wrote about yesterday based on highlights, was released last night. When I wrote, I discussed what he said about Iran. But there was a second major theme he touched upon: “the peace process.”  I had hoped to come back to this today even before the full interview was released.  Now what he said about negotiations has been featured in news stories, and a response is even more important.
I find it fascinating, that some sources refer to Obama’s interview as a “charm offensive.”  But I?  I do not find him charming at all.  (Major understatement.) He spoke about being there for Israel, and understanding how Israelis feel, and having concern for Israeli wellbeing, etc.  Facile words. Let’s look a bit closer.  He said (emphasis added):

"I think Netanyahu is someone who is predisposed to think of security first; to think perhaps that peace is naïve; to see the worst possibilities as opposed to the best possibilities in Arab partners or Palestinian partners. And so I do think that, right now, those politics and those fears are driving the government's response.”

He was concerned, he said, about Israel having a "politics that's motivated only by fear," which could stand in the way of “peace” with the Palestinians Arabs.,7340,L-4664266,00.html


What motivates Netanyahu is a prudent and highly realistic assessment of the situation.  Regrettable – no, despicable - that Obama chooses to demean this realism. 

Every time Israel has withdrawn from territory, radical terrorist groups have moved it.  This is not “fear;” it is historical fact. 
Hamas, which overthrew Fatah (the PA) in Gaza eight years ago, is itching to do the same thing in the Arab areas of Judea and Samaria. There is a strong Hamas presence there, and the only thing that prevents them from pushing over Abbas – who is extraordinarily weak and unpopular – is the presence of the IDF.  The IDF does operations daily (actually, nightly) – uncovering weapons caches and exposing places where weapons are manufactured; arresting wanted terrorists and foiling plans for terror attacks.
Were we to pull out of Arab areas of Judea and Samaria, we would have a terrorist entity in our midst.  A fact that is of no concern to Obama, obviously.  Obama, who cares for Israel.
There is more: the terror entity at our border in the end might not be Hamas, but jihadist groups that make Hamas operatives look like peaceniks.
Take a look at this map:


Credit: lonelyplanet
Jordan is to Israel’s east.  At Jordan’s north and north-east are Syria and Iraq – hotbeds of instability and fierce violence, home to ISIS and other savage jidhadist groups.

The king of Jordan sits uneasily on his throne, for there are radical elements in his nation already. Should he fall, and radicals take control, they would quickly move into Judea and Samaria, if that region, or part of it, was controlled by the PA.  No way PA forces could repel them.  Only the IDF could stand against them.  If radical jihadist were to move into Judea and Samaria, they would bring with them rockets that could easily reach the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. And life as we know it in a thriving, vibrant Israel would come to a halt.


Obama demonstrates unmitigated gall to suggest that it is an inappropriate and unconstructive “fear” that prevents Netanyahu from risking this scenario by “taking a chance on peace.”

As Obama exposed his intentions towards the Iranian negotiations by taking the military option off the table, so does he here expose his true disregard for Israel.


And still there is more, as Obama also said that Israel is losing its “credibility” with its “intransigence” - "so many caveats, so many conditions, that it is not realistic to think that those conditions will be met anytime in the near future."

When asked about maintaining anti-Israel vetoes at the UN, he hedged:

“Well, here's the challenge. If in fact there is no prospect of an actual peace process, if nobody believes there is a peace process, then it becomes more difficult to argue with those who are concerned about settlement construction, those who are concerned about the current situation.

"It is more difficult for me to say to them, 'Be patient, wait, because we have a process here.'"


This is a veiled (or not so veiled) threat: go back to the table or I may not support you at the UN.


Obama’s entire representation of the situation is distorted.  He puts the onus on Israel, ignoring the many compromises that have been made by Netanyahu over time – compromises not in Israel’s best interest, such as release of prisoners, and freezing of construction in Judea and Samaria. At the same time, he fails to mention the enormous intransigence of Abbas, and that it was Abbas who walked away from negotiations the last time around.


You can see the text of the entire interview here:


Having said this about Obama, I now make comments about Netanyahu, as well:

Just the other day, I wrote about this, as I have many times before.  It is not enough, to refuse to negotiate a state with the Palestinian Arabs because of the security risk – as legitimate as this reason is.

Now is the time: Our government must declare the fact of Israeli rights to the land. 

The message Obama delivered in his interview was, undoubtedly, the motivating factor for Netanyahu’s recent statement that “two states for two people” is the only possible solution.  It is time to stop appeasing, to stop turning into a pretzel in order to demonstrate how willing Israel is to negotiate.  We cannot win this way.  We simply weaken ourselves.

It is time to start telling Obama and the greater Western world:

- that Abbas doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he refers to “the 1967 border”
- that there never was a Palestinian state
- that we are not occupiers in Judea and Samaria
- that international law gives this land to the Jews
- that Judea and Samaria represent the historical Jewish heartland

It is time to go on the offensive. And to start talking about alternatives to “the two state solution.”

Abbas repeatedly refers to his intention to seek statehood via the UN.  But what he is doing abrogates the Oslo agreements.  Israel has simply chosen not to call him on this.  The fact that we have no obligations under Oslo any longer also needs to be said loud and clear.


I close here with on remarkable statement by Abbas that should be sent to Obama by about 10,000 people.

Abbas was in Amman, to smooth over some tensions.  In the course of statements he made, Abbas, cited directly by Al Quds, said that the relationship between Jordan and Palestine is the relationship of “one people living in two states.”

How about that? Then there is no “Palestinian people” after all, huh?  Abbas ought to know.


© 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 3, 2015 at 03:31PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 2, 2015: Outrageous!

And that hardly begins to say it all. But then, I’m speaking about Obama, so what else would we expect?  I’m sorry I cannot start with good news today: I must begin with the outrage.
Israeli investigative journalist Ilana Dayan has just done an interview with President Obama for Israel’s Channel 2.  The full interview is being aired tonight, but segments have already been released.  Highlights, clearly.  And what he says must be countered.
Intoned Obama:
“I can, I think, demonstrate, not based on any hope but on facts and evidence and analysis, that the best way to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon is a verifiable, tough agreement.

“A military solution will not fix it. Even if the United States participates, it would temporarily slow down an Iranian nuclear program but it will not eliminate it.”


Credit: dnaindia


It’s difficult to know where to begin. 

Perhaps what is most outrageous here is that he has just announced to Iran that no matter what, the US will not be attacking. 

We all knew that, of course.  But the US policy, enunciated every so often, has been that all options, including the military option, were on the table. 

What Obama has done here, in pulling the military option off the table, is not something that should be done when in the midst of negotiations.  Not if the desire is to come out with the best possible deal: then you negotiate from strength and, at the very least, keep the your adversary guessing.

This tells us a great deal about Obama’s lack of seriousness in the negotiations. 


Or perhaps this is the most outrageous aspect of what he has said:  He is trying to convince the Israeli public that there is no point in attacking Iran, because a military solution won’t work.

My friends, at this point in time, a military solution is the only thing that will work!

Obama is quite correct that a tough, verifiable agreement would be the best way to go.  But the deal that is on the verge of being struck is neither tough nor verifiable.  P5+1 – and most specifically the US - have caved on all sorts of demands for verification.  Their demands have been spurned by Iran again and again, including with regard to inspections of military sites.  It is something of a fiasco, which practically guarantees that Iran will acquire the ability to build that bomb.


What is more, it is not true that a military solution would only slow down Iran’s operation.  Let’s parse what he said, for a moment.  He didn’t refer to the US attacking Iran, but to the US “participating,” which means Israel would have the lead. This is different from a determined attack from strength directly by the US.

It is true that Israel can only set back Iran’s operation – I’ve been told by three to five years (which would be no small matter).  That’s because Israel does not have the enormous 30,000 pound bunker busters – the Massive Ordnance Penetrators – that would be required to break through Iran’s underground fortifications. 

But the US has them, and has the B-2 and B-52 bombers required for carrying them.


In fact, let me carry this one step further:

A mere two months ago, it was announced that the Pentagon had just upgraded and tested its bunker busters (emphasis added):

The Pentagon has upgraded and tested the largest bunker-buster bomb in the US, powerful enough to disable Iran’s most heavily fortified nuclear facilities in case of failure to reach a nuclear deal, a senior US official told the Wall Street Journal.

“’The Pentagon continues to be focused on being able to provide military options for Iran if needed,’ an unnamed senior US official has been quoted as saying.

“ on the bunker buster (the so-called Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP) started before the latest round of talks with Iran.

“...according to Pentagon war planners the 30,000-pound (13,607 kg) bunker buster wasn’t powerful enough to destroy some fortified Iranian nuclear facilities. So work reportedly began to upgrade the bomb’s design and guidance systems.

“According to senior officials, the results show the improved bomb—when dropped one on top of the other—is now more capable of penetrating fortified nuclear facilities in Iran or in North Korea, The Wall Street Journal reported. The Pentagon also designed the bunker buster to challenge Iran’s Fordow facility, which is built into a mountain to protect it from potential airstrikes.
Upgraded electronic countermeasures have been added to the weapon to prevent jamming of its guidance systems by Iran, the source said. Electronic jammers could be allegedly used to throw an incoming bomb off target.

“It's believed that the above mentioned measures will allow the destructive weapon to be targeted with a precision previously possible only for far smaller guided US bombs.”


Credit: CSIS
Clearly, the Pentagon and the Obama administration are not of the same mind. Also not news.  But in light of the Pentagon’s improvements to the bunker busters, Obama’s statement about the military option not being able to “fix” the situation is a glaring misrepresentation.  In other words, it’s a lie.
Please note: the US has denied Israel’s request to purchase these bunker busters and the necessary planes.  Obama does not want Israel to do the job.
The Israeli government is clear on why the request for those bunker busters was denied.  No one here is under any delusions:
’U.S. President Barack Obama is determined to sign a bad deal with Iran,’ a senior diplomatic official in Jerusalem said Monday. ‘It appears that there will be a [nuclear] agreement with Iran, because the American president wants there to be one.’"
Obama’s lies regarding the situation with Iran extend to this, below, as well (emphasis added):
Iranian nuclear fuel stockpiles grew by a massive 20% over the past 18 months of negotiations between Iran and world powers, a report last month by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has revealed...
“News that Iran has been busily expanding its stockpiles contradicts claims by US President Barack Obama that the Islamic Republic had ‘frozen’ its nuclear program during the last year and a half of negotiations.”
This is what we are dealing with, then: Devoid of integrity or concern for ultimate consequences, Obama presses on in an effort to achieve his goal.  And he expects us to be reassured by his words, or even take them seriously?
At the concert that followed the parade in NYC on Sunday, former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton spoke, essentially agreeing with the position of the Israeli diplomat cited above, and advancing the view that Israel must strike Iran soon.
“I don't think Iran has any intention of giving up its efforts to get deliverable nuclear weapons.  Even if a deal is signed sometime in the summer I think the ayatollahs will violate it even before the ink is dry...
“According to Bolton, the West doesn't have enough knowledge about Iran's covert nuclear program, nor does it possess any sufficient mechanism to monitor possible violations of a future deal...
“Israel must decide soon, he added, because once Iran has the bomb, ‘any attack would risk nuclear retaliation.’"  Bolton believes Israel must make it clear before attacking, that she is acting out of legitimate self-defense.


Credit: Wikipedia
Sirens were tested today in most parts of the country, as part of a Homeland Front security drill.  And I confess: even though I knew was it a drill, and even though I handled myself quite well during the recent war, I found that the sound of those sirens sent chills through me.  Next time I hear that sound it may not be a drill.
Said Prime Minister Netanyahu with regard to the drill (emphasis added):
“...when it comes to the security of Israel, I rely first of all on ourselves.” This is clearly necessary, he explained, because of “the agreement being formulated between world powers and Iran, which both paves the path for Iran to many atomic bombs and also streams in many billions [of dollars] into the coffers of Iran.
“With this money, it [Iran] can continue to arm our enemies with high-trajectory weapons and other weapons, and it will also arm its war and terror machine, which is acting against us and against the Middle East, and it is many times as dangerous as the terror machine of Daesh [ISIS], even though it too is very dangerous.”
So we have no illusions about the dangers being created for us and the larger Middle East by Obama’s relationship with Iran.  And it is important that the prime minister included among those dangers the arming of terrorist entities.
The situation to our north grows increasingly unstable, as Assad’s forces in Syria are weakening.  The debate has been long and involved, regarding which of the elements battling in the Syrian civil war – Assad or various rebels groups now including ISIS – is most dangerous.  Israel has hoped to see Assad go down because he is a puppet for Iran. As you see above, the position Netanyahu espouses is that those working at Iran’s behest are most dangerous.
See a report on the situation here:
“’De facto, the Syrian army has ceased to exist,’ Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, the Israel Defense Forces’ deputy chief of staff, said on Monday...
”This isn’t a good moment – not for Hezbollah, not for Assad and not for Iran in Syria.”
The following article, which cites MEMRI, speaks of the “existential danger” Hezbollah is now facing.
Hezbollah has endured a heavy loss of fighters in the Syria war (I’ve read as many as a thousand have died) as well as a loss of popularity among Lebanese Shias.
While there is room for a bit of gladness when Iranian puppets are weakened – and by extension also Iran - we should certainly not be complacent.  The situation just across the border in the Syrian Golan will continue to be highly unstable, and jihad forces overtly hostile to Israel may move in there with intention of carrying their jihad into Israel.
ISIS has not made its way to the border at the Golan, least not yet.  As I understand it, they are being blocked by the Free Syrian Army. 
One of the things we may be seeing soon is that the Druze community in Syria near the Golan, may flee into Israel as Assad abandons them to rebel troops. These Druze were loyal to Assad, but no more.  Their cousins, on the other side of the border, have been loyal Israeli citizens for a long time.
We will also continue to see for some while, as well, attempts by Iran to bolster Hezbollah by sending in additional weaponry.  Hezbollah is down, but not out.  At present there is a report of a possible Israeli air strike in Lebanon at the border with Syria.  This strike has not been confirmed, but when such hits do take place, they are to take out sophisticated weaponry intended for Hezbollah.
And the good news today?  I absolutely love this because it truly is an “only in Israel” moment, reflecting something deep about our culture:
Hebrew University Prof. Sydney Engelberg, a social psychologist, was lecturing in front of a class. 
One of his students had brought her baby to class.  As a vice provost from Hebrew University explained:
“Israel is a very familial society, and it is not at all strange for young mothers to bring children to classes.”
Professor Engelberg, a grandfather, loves babies.  He leaned over and picked up the baby, and just continued to lecture.  Someone took a picture of him and it went viral.
Hebrew University Prof. Syndney Engelberg with the baby that's made him famous. 

Hebrew University Prof. Syndney Engelberg with the baby that's made him famous.
And how about this:
According to the UN’s 2015 World Happiness Report, Israel ranks as the 11th happiest country in the world.
This is in spite of all the violence and chaos surrounding us.  The article speaks of such things as personal freedom, healthy life expectancy and social support.  And, indeed I am sure these are all important.  But let me add here a sense of purpose, and sense of broader connectedness, and a belief system that provides meaning – which is very important.
© 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 2, 2015 at 04:58PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 2, 2015: Charade?

Once again, I choose to begin my posting with good news.  
Here you have a very short video from Jeremy Gimpel of Voice of Israel, speaking about the real reason that Israel sent rescue and medical teams to Nepal.  I believe his words are absolutely on the mark.  And I hold my head high.
This is also good news – a sign of changing times (with emphasis added):
Prominent Egyptian historian Maged Farag has just given a lengthy interview on Egyptian (Mehwar) TV, in which he insisted that "the old ideology and cultural heritage on which we were raised" [which included virulent anti-Semitism] should be abandoned.
"What I'm saying is that we should pay attention to the interests of our country...
“There are no such things as eternal enmity or eternal love. There are only eternal interests...As a man who knows a little bit about history and about international relations, I believe that it is in our interest to maintain normal relations with Israel...

The state [of Israel] is not the problem.  The problem lies with the people [of Egypt], who still live the old ideology and the cultural heritage on which we were raised.  Our generation was raised upon hatred and upon these people being barbaric...”


As to the “Palestinian cause”....

For over 70 years, the Palestinian cause has brought upon Egypt and the Egyptians nothing but harm, destruction, and expense.  We have been preoccupied all our lives with the Palestinian cause...

"The occupied land [Sinai] has been liberated. End of story, as far as I'm concerned. Let us now live and care about the interests of my country.

"Am I supposed to shackle myself to the Palestinian cause? Let the (Palestinians) resolve it... We have tried to help them many times."

"They don't think it is in their interest. They don't want to resolve their own problem."


Farag endorses normal relations with Israel, beginning with cultural exchanges:

"I must not fear the other...We should visit there."

And technological exchanges:

“There are Israeli companies that specialize in modern drip irrigation...We have a water problem...Why can’t we take advantage of their technology?”

I do not pretend that this is normative thinking in Egypt today.  Not at all. But it is a refreshing start.

You can see a MEMRI video of the Farag interview here:


Yesterday was the annual “Celebrate Israel Parade” in NY, with some 30,000 or 40,000 who came out to view those marching, the largest such celebration that takes place outside of Israel.  There is definitely a major feel-good atmosphere to the parade, and you can see some video of it here:
There is however, a downside, with regard to the participation of groups that support the delegitimization of Israel or BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).  The argument made by the organizers is that all groups that are “pro-Israel” should be included so as not to divide the community.  But that argument is all too facile – and the question of how an organization can be legitimately “pro-Israel” when working to weaken Israel looms large. 
The major focus of this discussion was the New Israel Fund, which truly cannot be considered “pro-Israel,” as it funds organizations that support BDS.  See here two informative articles addressing this issue, from United With Israel:
And from lawyer/correspondent Lori Lowenthal Marcus:
Wish all were sweetness and light, but it’s not so.
Don’t know how long the current coalition is going to last, but while it does, it’s reassuring to see how Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is moving ahead.  She is pushing through with all due speed the legislation to increase penalties for rock throwers.  A major issue here is the question of “intent to harm,” which was part of previous legislation and is difficult to prove sometimes: she wants this removed.
But there is another piece of legislation that she is promoting as well: no cellphones for security prisoners.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but in point of fact, terrorists in our prisons have gotten ahold of phones and provided instructions to groups on the outside to instigate violence, and have given interviews, as well.  Seems the banning of cellphones has been at the discretion of wardens, and – yes, this is incredible! – sometimes prisoners have gone to court, successfully, claiming the need for a phone for “humanitarian reasons.”
Sometimes I think we are nuts. So, right on, Ayelet!

Ayelet Shaked

Credit: Yonaton Sindel/Flash 90
As we’re speaking of the coalition...
Benny Begin, after a very brief stint of less than 20 days as Minister without Portfolio, has resigned.  His resignation (or that of some minister from Likud) was necessary once Gilad Erdan was made a minister, as the number of ministers permitted to Likud according to coalition agreements had been exceeded.
I had written that Begin was trying to avoid having to submit his resignation, but my information was incorrect.  It was Netanyahu who was working mightily to retain him.  However, Likud’s coalition partners – not surprisingly - were not receptive to the suggestion that the excess in Likud ministers be allowed to stand.
And so Begin, a man of integrity, resigned. There has been some question as to whether he will opt to remain in the Knesset, but he says he’s staying.

Credit: Flash 90
And now about that “charade?”  Not sure if this is the most appropriate term.  Perhaps “game-playing.”  Or, often when I describe a statement by Prime Minister Netanyahu, I refer to his “M.O.” – and yes, this is what it is about.  Except that it feels over the top.
There have been a couple of startling statements made by Netanyahu since the coalition was formed. A few days ago, he made a declaration that sounded like a proposal that we return to the negotiating table with the PA.  But on closer look, it was apparent that it wasn’t – not really. 
The EU had protested that Israel should not be doing construction beyond the borders of the main settlements blocs.  Our prime minister then proposed that we go into negotiations to determine the borders of those settlement blocs.  Obviously he knew that the PA would never, ever go for this, and indeed the PA did not: There was immediate screaming about how the negotiations must be based on the “1967 border” and that Israel would not be permitted to retain any settlements.
So, what he did in that instance was not terrible.  Although his ostensible proposal was certainly not pleasing to those of us who believe all of the land belongs to Israel, he made his point: that that it was foolish to criticize Israel for building “outside of borders” when those borders had not been determined.  And he exposed the total PA intransigence.
There was another, similar incident. And then yesterday, we had this:
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who will be going into Gaza, was visiting here.  In the course of a press conference he had with Steinmeier, Netanyahu made this statement:
"The only way is direct talks. I believe that the solution is two states for two peoples. I am saddened that while we loosen restrictions, the Palestinians have been dealing...attempts at delegitimization. We need to send a clear message to the Palestinians - stop this campaign and come back to negotiations without preconditions." (Emphasis added)
Excuse me? “The only solution is two states for two peoples”?  The man who now proclaims this is the same one who declared before the election that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch because the security situation absolutely precluded it.
Yes, I know he was playing to Steinmeier. And I acknowledge that in his full statement he added all the provisos about the PA recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, and the Palestinian state being demilitarized.
And yet it is not acceptable.  This turn-about. This eagerness to please the Europeans.  This unwillingness (or inability?) to stand strong.
It’s Jonathan Tobin, Editor of Commentary, who has a clearer sense of the matter, when he says, “How to Defend Israel? Talk About Rights.  Not Just Security”
Hey, in the citation I provide above, Netanyahu isn’t even talking about security. But here is Tobin’s take (emphasis added):
Israel’s case for its presence in the West Bank is based on historical, legal and spiritual factors that cannot be negated by revisionist Arab history of the region or the hate that the Jewish state inspires in its foes. It’s time for all of its representatives to stop trying to avoid the core issues of the conflict and to realize that no one will back Israel because its scientists are brilliant, its high-tech industry is innovative or its beaches are beautiful. The only answer to the apartheid state lies is a counter-argument that is rooted in the same sense of justice that motivates those who sympathize with the Palestinians.”
And then we have this, as well:
After the parade in NYC yesterday, there was a concert in Central Park.  Republican president candidate Mike Huckabee was there.  In an interview with Yoni Kempinski, he spoke about his love for Israel.  As to the “two state solution,” he declared:
"...two governments holding the same piece of real estate is irrational and unworkable, and I think it's time for us to quit playing this pretentious game."
He sees the situation clearly, and is not afraid to tell it like it is.  And I say, Bravo! 



Credit: Thepulse2016
© 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 2, 2015 at 04:49PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 27, 2015: Tracking

First a correction.  The information I had cited from Israel National News, regarding President Rivlin receiving an award from NIF turned out to be inaccurate.  He is, rather, to receive an award from the Jewish-Arab center for cooperation, Givat Haviva.
Givat Haviva - a recipient of NIF funds – was founded by the far left, secular Hashomer Hatzair movement.  To the best of my knowledge, it does not promote BDS, criminalization of IDF soldiers, or other similar abominations.  It fosters a vision of “shared human values,” which puts emphasis on a democratic and secular rather than a Jewish Israel.
(With thanks to Moshe D. for calling this correction to my attention.)  See more below about BDS and NIF.
We continue to see tensions between various government persons regarding their assigned positions and confusion as to who has precisely what responsibility.  All of this is regrettable and counterproductive.  Much of the problem is the result of lack of clarity about ministries, which are invented, done away with, reinstated, and redefined according to political need.
Thus, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has now expressed great dissatisfaction with the appointment of Ze’ev Elkin as Minister of Jerusalem Affairs; he says that Netanyahu had promised him that he would have responsibilities that will now be undertaken by Elkin.  (The Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, although it had existed previously, was not a defined ministry in this particular government until Netanyahu saw fit to assign Elkin to this post when other responsibilities were removed from his jurisdiction and given to Gilad Erdan.)
Elkin has responded by expressing the hope that he and Barkat will be able to work cooperatively for the good of Jerusalem.
In a similar vein, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely has disparaged Erdan’s role (presumably as Public Diplomacy Minister), as it undercuts her responsibilities.
And Benny Begin is refusing to cooperate by resigning so that Erdan can become a minister without exceeding the limit on Likud ministers that had been agreed up. 
In response to the rocket barrage (five Grads) – launched from Gaza - that hit Gan Yavne near Ashkelon last night, the IDF this morning attacked four targets in Gaza.  This sort of immediate response is routine policy.  Four direct hits on terrorist infrastructure were confirmed.  However, as Avi Issacharoff (below) writes, by design the sites hit were vacant and no one was hurt.  This was apparently because Israel wished to deliver a message, not take life in an action that would promote an escalation.  The attack, of course, was accompanied by a stern statement about Israel being prepared to do whatever is necessary – and should push come to shove, Israel indeed would  be prepared to take meaningful action.
Now, according to media reports, Egypt is asking Israel to hold fire.  (And apparently Hamas has written a similar letter.) Arab sources say Hamas security forces have arrested several members of the armed wing of Islam Jihad.  It was said to be an internal struggle within IJ that prompted the rocket-launching.
An alternate version of what happened: Dan Diker of Voice of Israel says this was a show of force between rival terrorist gangs with Islamic Jihad attempting to show up Hamas.
It is highly likely that Hamas has no appetite for starting with Israel again right now; they haven’t even begun to recover from the war waged last summer.  However, says Issacharoff, for a variety of reasons, Hamas leadership is not adverse to sporadic launching of rockets on Israel.  Among those reasons is a desire to demonstrate that it is not collaborating with Jerusalem, and to provide just a hint of a warning to Israel. While, says Issacharoff (and I believe he is correct), Israel, for her part, prefers a chastened Hamas in charge in Gaza rather than having to cope with the terrorist chaos that would ensue if Hamas were taken out, or alternatively, with the burden of retaking all of Gaza.
As to BDS:
Just weeks ago, in a stunning decision, Israel’s High Court ruled that the Finance Minister can “impose fines and withhold funding from Israeli NGOs calling for boycotts of businesses in all or parts of Israel.”  Power was also granted to file lawsuits against these NGOs.
As Ronn Torossian wrote at the time:
”Petitioners in court today who sought permission of boycotts of Israel were New Israel Fund (NIF) sponsored organizations, including Gush Shalom, Adalah — the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)...
”One wonders how the NIF can claim they do not support BDS when they go to Israel’s Supreme Court — with American Jewish donor money — and try to cancel the law forbidding boycotts of the State of Israel.

“The NIF’s website and annual report proclaim that NIF will ‘not exclude support for organizations that discourage the purchase of goods or use of services from [West Bank] settlements.’”
The battle against BDS has been gaining traction in another way as well, as states in the US have begun advancing opposition. First, was Tennessee, which on April 21st passed a resolution condemning boycotts.  A month later, both houses of the Illinois legislature unanimously passed anti-boycott legislation.
Now there is a push for Congress to do the same.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has just told the French parliament that France would not sign an agreement with Iran unless inspections are permitted at all sites, including military sites.
Last week Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ruled out inspections at military sites. 
But Yukiya Amano, the head of the UN’s IAEA said yesterday that Iran had agreed to “snap inspections,” including at military sites as part of the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) .  Amano says Iran would have to allow inspections according to the Protocol and that months would be needed to assess the military aspects of the situation.  (Remember that Iran has declined to provide the IAEA with baseline information.)
On the other hand, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said it was not so: “some” access to sites would be permitted, but not military sites.  In fact, just days ago, Iran demanded 24 day notice before any inspections – their definition of “snap inspections.”  As Fabius commented then: “in 24 days a lot of things can disappear.”
Always the lack of clarity, the hedging, the shifting of position.  And now there is talk that the June 30 deadline for a deal may be extended – buying Iran further time to advance its agenda.
This is a very bad scene because the notion that it is possible to genuinely negotiate in good faith with Iran is flawed at its core. The Iranians are running rings around the P5 + 1 team.  But the one thing Obama wants to avoid is the appearance that this great diplomatic venture of his has failed abysmally.  For some time now it has struck me as rather incredible that it is France that is hewing to the toughest line.
Oh joy. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini today called on Israel and the PA to resume peace talks immediately.  Why?  Because the current situation on the ground is "not sustainable."
She apparently knows this because we hit targets in Gaza. 
"Without any kind of political process, without any horizon, we cannot expect anything but more violence to come again," she said.
My question, then, is this:  Is Mogherini genuinely a dimwit, or is she pretending?  Does she not know that Hamas in Gaza would not be party to a “peace process,” were Israel to re-establish one with the PA?  I guess she does know, because she called upon Israel and the PA, not Hamas, to come to the table. 
So let me rephrase this: Why would she think that Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza would stop attacking Israel and become good neighbors if peace were made with the PA? That the existence of a “Palestinian state” on part of the land would mollify them?
Allow me to cite a few phrases from the Hamas Charter (with emphasis added):
- Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it.
- Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts.
- The Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] is a distinguished Palestinian movement, whose allegiance is to Allah, and whose way of life is Islam. It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.
- The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders.
- The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up.
- Nationalism, from the point of view of the Islamic Resistance Movement, is part of the religious creed. Nothing in nationalism is more significant or deeper than in the case when an enemy should tread Moslem land.
- Leaving the circle of struggle with Zionism is high treason, and cursed be he who does that.
Clearly, Hamas has to grapple with realities on the ground and decide when or if to launch serious attacks against Israel. But we should never make the mistake of thinking because Hamas is reticent to start up now means it opts for “peace,” or would be satisfied with sharing Palestine with the Jewish people. Moghirini’s “horizon” is not Hamas’s horizon.
A week from today, on Wednesday, June 3, Unity Day will be marked.  Mayor Nir Barkat, working with the parents of Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel – who were kidnapped and killed by terrorists last year - have designated the day as a time for honoring the memory of the boys by bringing people together.
A joint message from the parents read:
“Jews from around the world came together to support [the boys’] families by searching, praying, and just reaching out. The sense of unity reached its peak 17 days later as the three boys were found and ultimately laid to rest side by side.
"Now, one year later, the families of the boys are asking the Jewish people to come together again. Together with, Nir Barkat, the Mayor of Jerusalem and Gesher [an organization that promotes understanding between secular and religious Jews], we will honor the teens' memory by joining in 'Unity Day' to bring back that sense of togetherness and hope."
You may remember the incredible unity of those days.  Now we need such feeling more than ever.  As Barkat has written:
"The Jerusalem Unity Prize [which will be awarded that day] and Unity Day serve to memorialize the three boys by strengthening the common bonds that exist within our Jewish people and encourage greater tolerance and mutual respect between all sectors of our greater community."   (Emphasis added),7340,L-4660758,00.html

3 kidnapped teen boys Israel 6-14-2014

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


Posted on Thursday, May 28, 2015 at 05:41AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 26, 2015: Spinning

The heads of many of us – as we survey the current situation – are spinning.  This is for certain.  But in a larger sense, I feel as if the world is also spinning: in reverse.  Situations are not static, they change.  But I’m hard put to see a great deal that counts as improvement. With regard to so much on the global scene, it is the contrary.
That being the case, I’m going to start this posting with good news.  Because, in spite of what I’ve just written, good news does exist in many spheres, if we take the time to seek it out.  And seek it out we must, if we are to stay sane and balanced.
SACH – Save A Child’s Heart – is an Israeli-based international organization dedicated to improving the cardiac care available to children in developing regions.  At this point, SACH has saved the lives of over 3,500 children from Africa, South America, Europe, and the Middle East. The number of countries involved in the program has reached 50 – the most recent patient having come from East Timor. Half of those treated are Palestinian Arab children from Gaza and Judea and Samaria; there are also hundreds who come from the war-torn areas of Syria and Iraq, including a 17-month-old boy from the Yazidi minority in Iraq.
The cost of care is covered entirely by the organization and doctors work at their own expense.  In addition to treating children here in Israel – at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, SACH has trained more than 100 medical personnel.  There is, for example, Dr. Yayu Mekonnen, who is in the third year of a five-year training program here in Israel. When he returns to his native Ethiopia, he will become his country’s first and only pediatric heart surgeon.


Credit: 124news
The world at large will never know what we do – because it does not want to know. But we know, as do the recipients of our tender care, and... I am convinced... so does the Almighty.
Another piece of encouraging news.  Background:
In 1885, a Yemenite village for some 65 families was founded on the slopes of the Mt. of Olives and a synagogue was established.  A Zionist philanthropist had contributed the major part of land on which the community built.
In the 1930s, the Yemenite Jews of this village were attacked by Arabs, just as Jews in many places in Palestine were.  The British, who held the Mandate for Palestine and were charged with working towards establishment of a Jewish homeland, told the Jews of the village that they could not protect them and they must leave.  This too happened in many places, including Hevron.  The British were supposed to protect the Jewish property and allow the rightful residents to return in due course.  None of this happened.
In recent years, buildings in the area have been carefully identified, property that was originally Jewish has been repurchased and Jewish families have moved back in.  Said Daniel Luria of the Ateret Cohanim Association, which has been overseeing this process of return (emphasis added):
"People must understand that this neighborhood was built by Yemenite Jews 130 years ago - way before any Arabs ever lived here."  He reinforces the point with photographs of the time.  They tell a very different story from the one that charges Jews with “usurping” Arab land.
What has happened now is that the original synagogue of the village has been refurbished and rededicated.  It has been renamed Ohel Yehonatan in honor of Jonathan Pollard.


Credit: IsraelNationalNews
Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel (not pictured) affixed the mezuzah to the doorpost and recited traditional blessings.  “All we need,” he said, “is true peace between Jews, and then we can work things out with everyone else."
In spite of the confusion that has ensued, I see the possibility, as well, of some significant good coming from the new government.  Gilad Erdan has now joined the Cabinet, with the portfolios of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy (the last not reported by me yesterday).  You can see how “public diplomacy” seems to overlap with foreign affairs, so that there remains a lack of clarity in terms of who is actually responsible for what.
And yet...Erdan says he has been given the tools to reform (and, I am assuming, strengthen) the police.  “I have the ability to bring about real change," he said. "I'm going to work hard and I'm committed to making achievements."
Please understand, even though an increased police budget is helpful, part of the issue has nothing to do with money.  It is, rather, a question of the directives that come from the top regarding dealing with Arab violence with toughness.  Erdan’s immediate predecessor, Yitzhak Aaronovitch, lacked that toughness.
This is the sort of situation to be dealt with:
Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin, pictured, who was required to surrender the Strategic Affairs portfolio to Erdan, has been given the Jerusalem Affairs portfolio.  Elkin is on record as being opposed to any Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and favors annexation.  We must hope and trust that he will watch over a united Jerusalem with diligence, with whatever authority has been accorded him.



Credit: Times of Israel
In many respects, however, the situation we are surveying runs the gamut from merely worrisome to horrifying.
On the worrisome side, we’ve got President Ruby Rivlin, who has turned out to not be exactly what many of us thought he was.  OK, he wants to be president of all Israelis.  Fair enough. But he is overdoing it:  He is about to receive an award from the New Israel Fund, which is overtly destructive to Israel – financially supporting organizations that promote prosecution of our soldiers for war crimes and that seek to undermine Israeli democracy from within.  Rivlin will not be swayed.
Unfortunately he will be providing legitimacy to an organization that deserves none.
More deeply worrisome is President Obama, who is in a feigned “I love Israel and the Jews” mode, having delivered a speech attempting to demonstrate this fact at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, DC.
His words were incredibly over the top:

“Earlier this week, I was actually interviewed by one of your members, Jeff Goldberg. And Jeff reminded me that he once called me ‘the first Jewish President.’ Now, since some people still seem to be wondering about my faith I should make clear this was an honorary title. But I was flattered. 

“And as an honorary member of the tribe, not to mention somebody who’s... been advised by two Jewish chiefs of staff, I can also proudly say that I’m getting a little bit of the hang of the lingo.”
An honorary member of the tribe??  This is painful. And yet, the likes of Alan Dershowitz, who was critical of Obama for a time, has suddenly discovered anew that Obama is a good guy and pro-Israel.
Sigh...  Obama is posturing, for whatever purpose, and no more.
Yes, there just was an instance of importance in which Obama supported Israel – blocking efforts by Egypt, in the course of a conference to review the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to advance a nuclear-free Middle East.
But he has also just let it be known that because he “loves” Israel, he has a right to criticize, on such issues as “settlements.”  And he has spoken inappropriately  - censuring Israeli democracy, which he sees as “eroding,” because the government does not support what he wants it to. These are not the stances of a true friend who respects Israeli autonomy.
And is appropriate to thank him when he supports us.  But never, ever should he be trusted.
What approaches the horrific is the threat Israel lives with at all times of war ensuing on one or multiple borders.  Here I share what Omni Ceren of The Israel Project has written (emphasis added):

“...Two weeks ago there were major recent pieces in the NYT and AP articles, where journalists got to look at IDF aerial photography showing that Hezbollah has moved the vast majority of its military infrastructure into Shiite villages. They've taken their arsenal - 100,000+ rockets including Burkan rockets with half-ton warheads, ballistic missiles including Scud-Ds that can hit all of Israel, supersonic advanced anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-aircraft assets, drones and mini drones, tunnels, etc. - and embedded it across hundreds of villages and probably thousands of homes.

“The Syrian war has been good for Hezbollah in that respect. They've cleaned out Assad's depots and brought the goods back to Lebanon.

The Israelis can't afford a war of attrition with Hezbollah. The Iran-backed terror group has the ability to saturation bomb Israeli civilians with 1,500 projectiles a day, every day, for over two months. They will try to bring down Tel Aviv's skyscrapers with ballistic missiles. They will try to fly suicide drones into Israel's nuclear reactor. They will try to detonate Israel's off-shore energy infrastructure. They will try to destroy Israeli military and civilian runways. And - mainly but not exclusively through their tunnels - they will try to overrun Israeli towns and drag away women and children as hostages. Israeli casualties would range in the thousands to tens of thousands.

And so the Israelis will have to mobilize massive force to shorten the duration of a future war. One of the things they'll do is immediately is move to eliminate as much of Hezbollah's vast arsenal as possible. Hezbollah is counting on the resulting deaths of their human turn Israel into an international pariah. But the Israelis can't let Hezbollah level their entire country with indiscriminate rocket fire and advanced missiles, just because no one in Lebanon is willing or able to expel the group from Shiite villages.”


Makes the blood run cold.  The most moral of armies confronting an enemy with no moral compass or value for human life at all.


As I am writing, notice has come through of sirens sounding in the south of Israel. At least one rocket has been launched from Gaza, apparently by Islamic Jihad.  The rocket, which caused no injury or damage, landed in the Ashkelon area.


And then we have the obscene war going on in Syria and Lebanon.  The wholesale deaths, the actions of people who can only be described as savage (and I do not use this word lightly!).  The back and forth between Shia and Sunni. 

The risk to the ancient ruins of Palmyra, now in the hands of Isis.

Matters are so upside-down that we see Iran criticizing the US for not hitting ISIS hard enough. 

Matters of the “peace process” and pressure being placed on Israel, as well as issues of BDS, will be considered in some detail in future postings. 
© 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 27, 2015 at 04:40AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 25, 2015: Confusion on the Government Front

With regard to the establishment of a government, I do not remember the situation ever being quite as unclear and in flux as it is now.
Part of the problem is that ministry responsibilities have not been precisely delineated – that is, there is overlap among various ministries.  Makes it tougher to understand who is accountable for what, and tends to generate tensions between those heading those ministries. 
In addition, there are ministries in which responsibilities are shared internally or even farmed out to persons outside the ministry in question.  This is the case, for example, with Silvan Shalom, who is not in the Foreign Ministry and yet has been given responsibilities that might be expected to be within the jurisdiction of that ministry, such as strategic dialogue with the US.
And, to top it all off, there are MKs who have been given more than one ministry, although we are seeing shifts in that situation.
What I want to do here is provide an update on the situation since my last posting. But be forewarned: none of this is carved in stone and there may yet be other “adjustments.”
Last I wrote, I said that Gilad Erdan (pictured below), who is second on the Likud list, would not be taking a portfolio:  He had hoped for Public Security - which was in the end given to Yariv Levin - but only in conjunction with Interior – a position Erdan had held, but which was given to Shalom - because the two ministries work together.  He said that what he was offered by Netanyahu didn’t provide him with the tools to do his job effectively.  The problems that ensued here were a reflection of tensions between Netanyahu and Erdan, which have now been smoothed over.


Credit: Times of Israel

The word today is that Erdan will be Minister of Public Security after all.  And no, he will not be given Interior, but the reports are that he will be given a generous budget and possibly the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which had been given to Ze’ev Elkin, along with Immigration. 
A bit of clarification might help here:
Public Security is the statewide enforcement agency responsible for police, the prison system, rescue system, etc.  There are no independent local police departments – everything is overseen at a national level.  In light of terrorist acts inside of Israel and decisions that must be made regarding how to respond to them, this is a position of considerable import. An enhanced budget for police work seems to me an excellent thing.
Interior is the agency responsible for local government, citizenship and residency, identity cards, and student and entry visas.  Erdan had felt that coordination between local governments (municipal, etc.) and the services of Public Security was appropriate.
Strategic Affairs is, in broadest terms, responsible for coordinating security, intelligence and diplomatic initiatives regarding strategic threats.
Erdan should have a place in the (inner) Security Cabinet now, as I understand it because of his involvement with Strategic Affairs – which is critical. 
Additionally, Erdan may be given the Ministry of Communications (a position he has held before).  As I noted last time, Netanyahu had retained that position for himself.  I am not clear as to where this leaves Ofir Akunis, who had been assigned a place in the Ministry of Communications as a Minister-without-Portfolio. (I had read that as being a de facto Minister of Communication position, but now?)
Reports are that – because of the limit on the number of ministers who can be appointed - Benny Begin will have to resign his position as Minister-without-Portfolio.
And there is yet one more piece of news regarding the government: Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs, will be taking a leave of absence from that position in order to serve as Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 



Dr. Dore Gold – a long time advisor to Netanyahu and former Israeli Ambassador to the UN - is a good man. 

A ministry routinely has a director-general, who oversees the operation, in addition to the minister him or herself.  Gold, it must be said, is a notably well-known personage to fill that role.  There are ways in which this may be good, because he has considerable prestige and depth of strategic understanding.  But I see something else happening as well: Tzipi Hotovely is Deputy Foreign Minister, and, as Netanyahu is retaining that ministry for himself, there are ways in which it might have been said that she was de facto Foreign Minister.  We’ve already seen, however, that certain responsibilities that might have been hers were assigned to others. 
What I suspect here is that the presence of Gold in the Ministry may further undercut her autonomy and latitude to function.  This has to be watched.  What is certainly the case is that Gold will provide reports to the prime minister on what is happening vis-à-vis Hotovely.
What I close with here, is a marvelous statement last week by Hotovely – for Israeli diplomats and Foreign Ministry staff  - that has caused more than a bit of nervousness in certain government quarters, even as it has brought a smile to the faces of some of us (emphasis added):
“The international community deals with considerations of justice and morality. We need to return to the basic truth of our right to this land.”

Hotovely then quoted the late journalist Uri Elitzur, who said that for the last 40 years, while the Palestinians were demanding “their” lands, Israel’s has been that: “We have strategic interests and security concerns.”

Those arguments, she said, are the arguments of a robber.

“If I wear your coat because I’m cold, and I can prove pragmatically and analytically that it really is cold for me, the world will ask a primitive and analytic question: Who does the coat belong to? In this context, it is important to say that this coat is ours, this country is ours, all of it. We didn’t come here to apologize for that.”

Hotovely said the world understands Israel’s security needs, but arguments based on justice and morality always trump those dealing with security concerns.


Credit: pixshark

Bravo to Deputy Minister Hotovely.  That took courage when the prime minister says we must keep the land for security reasons.
© 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 25, 2015 at 02:31PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 21, 2015: Moving, Moving On

Now that I will have time again, after a hiatus of some several days, I want to resume my postings.  (Actually, I’ve missed writing.)  I will touch certain bases here, and return to consider many others later.  Please do know that Sunday is the holiday of Shavuot here (and Monday as well, outside of Israel).
We begin with a memoriam: Dr. Robert S. Wistrich, a world-renown and highly respected scholar of anti-Semitism passed away of a sudden heart attack in Rome two days ago, at the age of 70.  Dr. Wistrich, a professor of Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for many years headed the Sassoon International Center for the Study of anti-Semitism.
He is described by those who knew and loved him as a brilliant man of extraordinary integrity and great humanity.  He will be sorely missed. 

Robert Wistrich

Credit: Hebrew University
I include here a video of Wistrich’s last presentation, which was at the Global Forum for Combatting AntiSemitism and has been highly praised.  It is in two parts:,AAAA4Q0OiRE~,zBDGy0QklBlMT3nMCupudyS5B02SHi6B&bctid=4248728168001,AAAA4Q0OiRE~,zBDGy0QklBlMT3nMCupudyS5B02SHi6B&bctid=4248728161001
Well worth the time to view this.
I do not know of anyone here in Israel who was contented with the lengthy (agonizing?) process - as it unfolded - of forming the new government.  Once again, there were rumors, and charges and challenges – with multiple MKs in some instances vying for the same ministerial positions, and Likud MKs voicing discontent with the number of major positions given away to other parties in the course of negotiations.
Yes, my friends, there has to be a better way.  No need to write to me to suggest this or to propose alternatives.
My own greatest discontent came, I think, with the recognition of what we facing down the road: Get with it! I wanted to tell them.  Work together to strengthen the country rather than your own political careers or your own party.  But, regrettably, with very few exceptions, this is not the way it goes.
Prior to the establishment of the government, an amendment to Basic Law was passed in the Knesset, in order to increase the number of ministers who could be appointed.  This was done in large part to address the dissatisfaction of Likud MKs who felt they had inadequate opportunity to secure ministerial positions after the coalition negotiations were complete.  What is more, some “creative” division of ministerial responsibilities ensued, in order to satisfy certain MKs, which resulted in leaving certain others less than content.
And so, a government was formed, just in the knick of time.  It rests upon a coalition comprised of just 61 members, which means that unless those members do work together there is a constant risk of instability. 
The government was sworn in, in the Knesset, just a week ago.  

Embedded image permalink

Credit: Haaretz
At the first meeting of the Cabinet, which followed, Prime Minister Netanyahu said (emphasis added):
"From this moment on, we must leave our differences outside this room and focus on doing good for the citizens of Israel, all the citizens of Israel...We will take decisive, responsible, aggressive action against any attempt to challenge our borders and our security, be it from near or far.”
More on this below.
The Cabinet:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is reserving for himself the positions of Foreign Minister, Minister of Health and Minister of Communications.  He has said repeatedly that he is not appointing anyone as foreign minister because he is reserving it for the possibility of enlarging the coalition. 
His retention of the Foreign Ministry is widely interpreted in one of two ways: Either he hopes that Avigdor Lieberman, who was previously foreign minister and now sits with his party, Yisrael Beitenu, in the opposition, will finally agree to join the coalition after all.  Or that (Heaven help us) Yitzhak Herzog, head of the opposition, will join.  Both Herzog and his faction partner, Tzipi Livni, are on record as refusing to help out Netanyahu by strengthening his coalition.  Their stated preference is to let him fail; but there are no guarantees that Herzog won’t change his mind at some point.
It is important to note that Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) has been appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position potentially of considerable responsibility in light of the fact that there is no independent Foreign Minister above her.  However Netanyahu has undercut her severely by giving Silvan Shalom responsibility for negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs and strategic dialogue with the US as well as communication with the international community regarding Gaza. Shalom has declared that he is “de facto foreign minister.”
I note as well that Yakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) serves as Deputy Health Minister, and is de facto health minister, although declining to take that position.
Silvan Shalom (Likud) is officially Minister of the Interior and Deputy Prime Minister
Moshe Yaalon (Likud) remains Minister of Defense.
Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) is Minister of Immigration, and of Strategic Affairs.
Yariv Levin (Likud) is Minister of Public Security and of Tourism. 
Gilad Erdan, second on the Likud list, had hoped for the Ministry of Public Security and was actually offered the position.  But what he sought was the position of Minister of Interior along with this – as is done in many places around the world, with the official in charge of interior affairs also in charge of the police.  When Netanyahu declined Erdan’s request, Erdan decided not to join the government.  I learned today that Levin has said that if Erdan ever changes his mind, he will step down from Public Security.
Haim Katz (Likud) is Minister of Welfare and Social Services.
Danny Danon (Likud) is Minister of Science.
Naftali Bennett (Chair, Habayit Hayehudi) is Minister of Education.
Gila Gamliel (Likud) is Minister of Senior Citizens and of Gender Equality.
Ophir Akunis (Likud) is Minister-without-Portfolio in the Communications Ministry (perhaps a de facto minister of Communications). 
Miri Regev (Likud) is Minister of Culture and Sport.
Bennie Begin (Likud) is Minister-without-Portfolio.
Ayelet Sheked is Minister of Justice.

Yisrael Katz (Likud) is Minister of Intelligence.
Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) is Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.  There has been considerable discussion here regarding what “rural development” means.  It is my understanding that responsibilities that were expected to fall to Ariel, with regard to Judea and Samaria, are reportedly being retained by Yaalon.
Moshe Kahlon (Chair, Kulanu) is Minister of Finance.
Yoav Galant (Kulanu) is Minister of Construction.  There is a policy linkage here between Finance and Construction, both under the auspices of Kulanu.
Aryeh Deri (Chair, Shas) is Minister of the Economy and of the Development of the Negev and Galilee.
David Azoulay (Shas) is Minister of Religious Services.  It pains me (and many others) that this ministry did not fall under the auspices of Habayit Hayehudi.
This line up has some considerable promise, if only those to the right who have been given major positions will be allowed to act with full authority.
Briefly, here, in terms of what our government is facing: there is the growing embrace of the Palestinian Authority, and increasing pressure in Europe regarding the need for Israel to return to the negotiating table (which will, of course, bring “peace”).
Much has been made of the fact that just days ago Pope Francis, in a meeting with Abbas, called him an “angel of peace.” Apparently this was incorrectly reported, as what the pope said was that Abbas “could be” and angel of peace.  That is, if he had the will and made some hard decisions.  (credit to Israpundit)
But the focus most clearly was on the Palestinian Authority and on the possibilities for “peace.”
What is more, the Pope has recognized “Palestine” as a state and the Vatican has forged this recognition in a new treaty: Vatican diplomatic relations will now be with the “state” rather than with the PLO.
Not a move that pleased Israel.
Add to this yet another Obama interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic in which the president declares that he has no intention of “rubber-stamping” Israeli government policies.  He is ready to speak out about certain policies, you see, because he loves Israel so much. (I hope you have not eaten immediately before reading this.) He knows what’s good for Israel, it seems, better than the Israeli electorate does.  For example, he understands the wisdom of speaking out about settlement policy.
And then there is the 18-month plan for peace negotiations that France is currently promoting.  At the end of 18 months, if there is no “peace,” then France will recognize the “state of Palestine.”,7340,L-4659872,00.html
This, my friends, simply touches the surface of what’s ahead for us here in Israel. 
What I see is that Netanyahu, as is his M.O., will play the game, declaring that he is for a “two state solution.” But he will continue to insist (and this is fact the reality) that the chaos in the region and security concerns make it impossible for Israel to pull back from any territory.  This doesn’t touch the heart of the matter – our rights to the land – but I believe this is how he intends to frame the situation.  It is less confrontational.
I am not comfortable with this approach – preferring to speak about our Legal Grounds (\ .  Making our case is something that it is increasingly important to do.  But I think we have to remain mindful of the incredible pressure our prime minister faces on a daily basis.
It is worth noting that the PA has already objected to Shalom as negotiator for Israel, as he doesn’t believe in a “two state solution.” 
To all who will be observing Shavuot – which marks the receiving of the Torah – I wish Chag Sameach!

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


Posted on Friday, May 22, 2015 at 03:47AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 7, 2015: Could Be Worse

Before I begin to discuss how it could be worse, a couple of housekeeping matters.
First, dear readers, please know that I am working overtime on the Legal Grounds Campaign.  That’s a good thing, because it means we are developing a solid campaign to coincide with the formation of the new government.  But it also means that there is less time for me to write. And so, please understand if sometimes intervals of several days go by in which I do not post.  Nothing is wrong.
I’ll pick up again on my regular posting schedule as soon as possible.
Thank you.
As to the Legal Grounds Campaign, if you have not done so, please do take a look at our website: .  Please! join the campaign (no cost), and take the time to learn about the campaign and Israel’s legal rights by reading the material on the site.

Legal Grounds

Thank you again.
And then...

Credit: CagleCartoons
This lovely man is Yaakov Kirschen, originator of the Dry Bones cartoons. When you visit our website you will see the cartoon he did to address our issues.
When I wrote about him recently, I referred to him as Yaakov Kirschner.  And I do not excuse myself for this silly mistake.  I sentence myself to 100 lashes with a wet noodle.
Now let’s talk about how it could be worse. What I have in mind is the new coalition that was formed, literally, at the very last minute, by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Credit: presidentconference
Deadline was midnight, last night, and he completed negotiations with Bayit Yehudi at about 10:30 PM.
This has not been a happy time for the Israeli electorate. Since the election on March 17, there has been no clarity.
President Rivlin, after meeting with all factions, had offered Netanyahu – whose Likud faction has 30 mandates - the first opportunity to form a governing coalition. A coalition requires sufficient factions coming together with agreements so that they collectively represent at least 61 seats in the Knesset (half plus one).  When Netanyahu could not accomplish this within the allotted time, he requested an extension of 14 days, as the law permits.
I had made reference in postings during this time to the fact that rumors were flying fast and furious.  In the main, I did not write about those rumors – as they were just that: rumors, sometimes planted for purposes of influencing one faction or another, without shedding any genuine light on the negotiating situations.
There was (still is) talk of a unity government with the Zionist Union (Herzog-Livni).  It was said, until very recently, that Netanyahu wanted Lieberman to continue in his role as Foreign Minister. There was a great deal of scuttlebutt regarding what positions former Likudnik Moshe Kahlon of Kulanu was insisting upon – Kulanu’s orientation is socio-economic. It was widely understood, and correctly so, that Lapid of Yesh Atid would remain on the outside.
And there was a lot of talk about discontent expressed by many of the senior individuals who had secured seats within the Likud party.
And on and on.
This new coalition, once it was formed, was supposed to bring stability and a cohesiveness that would permit strong governance.  But in the end of the day, that is not what we have gotten, in several respects.
The first parties Netanyahu signed coalition agreements with were Kulanu and UTJ (United Torah Judaism – Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox), with 10 and six mandates respectively.  It does appear that Kahlon (pictured) will be Finance Minister, as had been promised, and have control of related agencies that will permit him to push forward certain reforms – which have undoubtedly been written into the coalition agreement.   



Credit: TimesofIsrael
But the UTJ agreement?  It reverses reforms that had been made in the conversion process, and reinstates funds to hareidi schools that do not teach a core curriculum.  These are very bad moves in my opinion.  That’s even before we discuss the complex matter of haredi draft (which I would like to return to at another time.)
Following this was the agreement with Shas (Sephardi ultra-Orthodox), with seven mandates.  I see this as much worse than the agreement with UTJ, because I do not believe that Shas party head Aryeh Deri is fit to be appointed dog catcher.
And what is this about?  Securing mandates for the coalition.  Not about forming a solid nationalist base, that is for sure.
At about this point, Avigdor Lieberman, head of Yisrael Beitenu, with six mandates, announced that he was resigning forthwith from his position as Foreign Minister and would be in the opposition – refusing to take part in the new government.

Credit: Haaretz
There was some head-scratching at this, because Lieberman had declared consistent intention of continuing in the Foreign Ministry.  And he is, generally, erratic in his statements.  But I believe the motivation for his action here became quite clear: He was disgusted with Netanyahu’s rush to bring the ultra-Orthodox parties, with their demands, into the coalition and considered it a betrayal of principles, including nationalist principles.
Lieberman’s withdrawal from the process made the numbers a lot tighter.
The final party negotiating a coalition agreement was Bayit Yehudi, with eight mandates – headed by Naftali Bennett.  

Credit: Jpost
It has been Netanyahu’s interaction with this party throughout that has been most troubling.
In the course of the elections, with Likud running neck and neck with the Zionist Union in the polls, and sometimes even falling behind Zionist Union – a call went out to nationalist voters to vote Likud rather than Bayit Yehudi in order to ensure a Likud victory.  That call was apparently successful, as Likud pulled ahead in the elections – way ahead of what polls had predicted, while Bayit Yehudi fell back a handful of mandates from what the polls had predicted.
I don’t think it is unfair to say that Naftali Bennett took a hit for Bibi Netanyahu’s sake. This is certainly the way I, and many others, saw it.  Netanyahu spoke frequently about how Bayit Yehudi and Likud were natural partners in the upcoming government.  The expectation, if this was the case, was that this would be the first coalition agreement signed.  But that is not what happened.  
There are those who say that the problem was that Bennett’s demand’s were excessive: he sought either the defense or foreign ministry. And yes, Bennett is a politician among politicians. But there was more than this going on, perhaps a reflection of tensions between the two dating back for some time.  Whatever the case, there was the sense that Likud was distancing itself from Bayit Yehudi. 
Was this a desire to appear more “centrist” (read, less nationalist) than Bayit Yehudi?
I am keenly aware of the enormous pressures being placed on Netanyahu from the outside – the expressed expectation that we must commit to negotiations again, etc.  But when a government is formed, if it cannot represent what we are supposed to be, than we are in trouble.
In the end, Bennett relinquished demands for defense or foreign affairs and sought the education portfolio.  In addition, he sought he sought the Justice Ministry for Ayelet Shaked. 


Credit: Haaretz
At this point, Bennett was in a very strong bargaining position, because without his mandates, Netanyahu had no coalition.  He said he would walk, if his demands were not met.  After extensive negotiations, Likud agreed to accept Shaked as Justice Minister. Sort of. For there was an infuriating attempt to strip Shaked, who should be excellent in this post, of her authority in several respects.  The stipulations were:
That she not chair the Judicial Committee, the body that appoints judges for the law courts; that she not appoint religious judges; and that she not sit in the Security Cabinet – where Bennett will also be sitting. 
What was so enraging about the attempt to limit Shaked’s power is that the last justice minister was Tzipi Livni, and apparently this was all right with Likud.  Livni was a fig leaf – giving the world the impression that they were seeing a government to the left. Shaked represents just the opposite.
Bennett balked at these limitations, and they went back into those eleventh hour negotiations. In the end, the only restriction that remained was that a Likud minister would head the panel that would make the religious judge appointments, with Shaked and someone from Shas participating. 
Shaked will also sit in the Security Cabinet – although it is likely that Netanyahu will enlarge the number of individuals sitting in it to dilute the Bayit Yehudi influence.
My friends, this is huge, and can change the face of Israel in several major respects.
A Likud official was cited thus (emphasis added):
“...the justice minister will soon have to decide on who the next attorney general will be.  It’s a very sensitive position...The second problem is that Shaked is spearheading the battle to change the face of the Supreme Court. Netanyahu has so far avoided going head to head with the court, and he may well not want this headache.”
While Shelly Yachimovich, former head of Labor, said:
“Prepare to see a hard and bitter battle for the welfare and identity of the judicial system and law enforcement...She is capable, but her view of the courts, the judiciary, and the legislature, are the opposite of mine.”
Need we say more?
Nor is Bennett as Education Minister a small matter.  The future of the nation rests with the understandings our young people have about Jewish identity, Jewish rights, and our place in the land.
Hear a discussion of these issues, on Voice of Israel, that clarifies their importance:
And so, it could be a lot worse indeed.  In spite of Shas and all the rest, there may be some reforms ahead that can affect Israel in significant ways.  Let us pray so.
Let me add here that a third member of Bayit Yehudi (Tekuma faction), will be Minister of Agriculture.
One of the major problems to be faced with this new coalition is that it has a razor-thin majority, and is thus vulnerable to extortion that can make moving ahead difficult.  (“You do that, and my party walks, bringing down the government.”) The likelihood that this government, as presently constituted, will be stable enough to last four years is small.
Netanyahu commented yesterday that “61 is good, 61 plus is better,” thereby stimulating speculation that he intends to enlarge the coalition.  Those rumors that he seeks Herzog for a unity government persist, but Herzog insists that he has no intention of bailing Netanyahu out. A political consultant I spoke with today believes that Herzog means it – that it would not serve him well to join Netanyahu now.
A second possibility is that Netanyahu still hopes to lure Lieberman, with his six mandates, back in. And there are other more obscure possibilities as well.  We shall see...
In the meantime, there are more immediate issues confronting Netanyahu.  He still has to announce all ministry appointments. Will Yaalon retain his position as Defense Minister?  Seems a good bet but we do not know yet with certainty.  And Foreign Minister?  Netanyahu is reported to be reserving this for himself. But there is the feeling in certain quarters that he’s saving this for Lieberman, should he want to return, or Herzog, should he be lured in. 
Additionally, there is discontent within Likud, as I had indicated above.  So many major posts have been given to other parties that Likud senior party members feel short-changed. Thus is there also talk about creating more ministries, which would require a change in the law.  From the opposition Yair Lapid says he will fight this tooth and nail because of the added expense to the country.
And so, we have a government. But there is yet a great deal to resolve.  Within a week, there should be answers, and I will track this to the best of my ability.
Let me end with two good news pieces that show how special we are, no matter what the world thinks:
A team of five Israeli medical clowns has gone to Nepal to help reduce trauma and anxiety.


Credit: Reuters
A medical team from IsraAID, an Israeli humanitarian response non-profit, has carried supplies in backpacks to reach remove villages in Nepal and provide care to the people.  Participating are ten doctors, nurses and midwives, who left their jobs in Israel to volunteer for two weeks in Nepal.  They first made their way to a group of mountain villages known as Thangpaldkap, in the district of Sidhulpalchowk, one of the hardest-hit regions of Nepal.
© 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, May 8, 2015 at 03:28AM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 4, 2015: Towards a New Law of War

This is the subject of a conference currently being held by Shurat Hadin, the Israeli Law Center, founded and run by the amazing Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. 


Credit: Wikimedia
Current laws of warfare are outdated, she explained in her introductory remarks.  The Geneva Conventions never envisioned the asymmetrical warfare that is waged today.  We must redefine the laws of warfare, so that democratic states can adequately fight back. Today, terror groups attack civilians, and when democracies fight back, their defense is referred to as a war crime.  Terrorists should not be able to apply to international courts as if they were victims when they are the perpetrators.
The IDF must be able to fulfill its mission of protecting the people of Israel and we we must protect our soldiers, as well.
The conference is not being held with the expectation that it has any ability to change the rules of war. Rather, the goal is to stimulate an international dialogue on the issue.  What I will do here is summarize key speakers, and offer significant thoughts garnered throughout the day.
Participants are Israelis, Brits and Americans with legal and military expertise/experience. 
Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, immediate past Chief of Staff of the IDF, provided the opening keynote speech. 


Credit: Telegraph (UK)
His words were particularly powerful, as he spoke from experience in the field, addressing both strategic and moral issues.
Warfare in the past, he explained, took place on a battleground, on which military forces met each other. That battlefield has now disappeared and new dimensions have inserted themselves. As never before, we see the involvement of civilians – both as targets and human shields.  How does a soldier even determine who the enemy is, when he is not wearing a uniform?
As far as the international community is concerned, Israel has lost before even starting. Israel has no desire to hurt others who are not combatants but must protect the Israeli people.  A human dilemma.
There are broad similarities with regard to the situations in Gaza and Lebanon.  In all instances, hostilities have been started by the terrorists, with Israel holding its force until there is no choice. In both instances, the enemy fighters are allied with the ruling powers, and operate from inside civilian society.  A house in a village in Lebanon will have a livingroom, but also a missile room; in the garden a launching pad may be hidden. Shifa hospital in Gaza has served as headquarters for Hamas terrorists.
We – as a moral nation - must update our legal tools.  The soldier today is subject to uncertainties as he faces a complicated situation.
Second speaker, Lt. Gen. David Fridovich, Former Deputy Commaner, US Special Operations Command, asked:  Can you deter terrorists?  He thinks not.  Americans do not get it, he declared.  They are shielded by the media.
The first panel addressed the problem of human shields – civilians who protect weapons.  What we are dealing with here is military necessity vs. humanitarian needs. We cannot attack civilians as such or use indiscriminate force. but there is an obligation upon the enemy (in principle only as it is never honored) to separate civilians from combatants and from military operations.
Said Prof. Richard Jackson, Special Assistant to the US Army Judge Advocate General for Law of War, eyes must stay on the target, with fire adjusted one round at a time, using precision weapons.  The enemy is trying to provoke a response that uses overwhelming force. What is needed then is a modulated response.
The next member of the panel to speak was Col. Richard Kemp, Former Commander, British Forces in Afghanistan, and one of Israel’s staunchest friends.


Credit: militaryspeakers (UK)
The use of human shields is rapidly increasing, he said:
- there is a greater prevalence of asymmetrical power, with the weaker side using civilians
- this is a means of political warfare against the Western powers (Israel included), a way to undermine democracies and democratic armies
- there is influence by the media
- this hinders direct attack, restrains democratic armies ability to operate
Today human shields are used as primary weapons. Greater blame is placed by the world on those who hit human shields than on those who use them.
The use of human shields continues, said Kemp, because this works.  He suggested here that if democracies had greater reluctance to be deterred by human shields they might be employed less.  He is not suggesting wholesale slaughter! but wonders if perhaps there is a need to permit greater collateral damage.  The proportionality calculus must change, and it needs to be codified.
Human shields lose their status as protected persons because they enhance the enemy’s goals.  But only if they are serving as shields voluntarily. (More on this follows.)
Death of human shields must be considered the responsibility of those who use them.  It is illegal to use human shields.  In fact, the law requires moving civilians from a combat area.
Kemp suggested that over-all military objectives, and not just the immediate situation, must be considered when deciding on how to respond to human shields.  If there is greater collateral damage permitted in one operation, perhaps in the long term it would discourage use of human shields.
Bassem Eid, a courageous Palestinian Arab Human-Rights activist, followed with some comments on what Kemp had suggested.
The civilians in Gaza must wake up, he declared: their leaders do not have the right to do as they do.  However, Hamas coerces people, pays them to motivate them to stay put, and charges those who flee an area that Israel is about to attack with being Israeli collaborators. 
International human rights organizations do not raise the issue of human shields:  “No Jews, no news.”    
Hamas cares nothing about civilians or reconstruction – only about new tunnels and a stronger military.
I want to move here to the panel that discussed the critical issue of proportionality.  Proportionality is not about how many deaths were suffered on each side – which is how the topic is frequently represented. It is rather a question of what is a proportionate amount of collateral damage for a given military advantage. In the end, this is a principle that requires interpretation.  The rule of proportionality is the most misunderstood and misapplied.
Prof. Yuval Shany, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Hebrew University, says that democracies do not normally utilize indiscriminate force or kill civilians on purpose.  But there remains a host of related questions.  Regarding, for example, weapon choice: do you act quickly, even though there will be collateral damage?  Or do you lose valuable time and wait until a more accurate weapon is brought in?  Risk to the soldiers serving under a commander must be considered by him, as must issues of military necessity.
On these questions, “reasonable minds may disagree.”
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, Northwestern University School of Law, asked how one measures proportionality. The law does not define what the proportion is.  Who decides?  In international law, there is no final legal decider.
Prof. Geoffrey Corn, of the South Texas College of Law, provided insights on this matter that were clear and enormously useful.


Credit: mysantonio
We are dealing, he said, with the hypocrisy of double standards.  The law is not going to change, but we should not allow it to be distorted: if properly understood, there is flexibility.
The keyword is excessive: a significant imbalance.  Commanders must anticipate the risk, and make an assessment regarding whether it is worth it. 
The commander must be judged on conditions that prevailed when he made his decision.  Many tactical factors will have weighed into the equation.
Instead, the commander is criticized based on the results.  No commander, no matter how moral, can always make the right decision.
Professor Corn prefers to think in terms of the rule of precautionary obligations.  This provides objective evidence of good faith and morality.  Did the commander take into consideration different weapons, different timing, how much warning to give?  Etc. etc.  If all these measures have been weighed, then it is possible to move ahead with lethal force to defeat the enemy.
Prof. Corn says that the moral considerations need to be ramped up when fighting the most immoral of enemies – otherwise all moral footing is lost.  The moral well being of our combatants at the end of the war must be considered.
These are exceedingly heavy issues that must be struggled with in real time.  We know that down the road – soon - we will be confronting these situations again.
I close here by noting that it was remarked several times during the course of the day that there is no more moral army in the world than the IDF. No other army takes the extraordinary measures that ours does to warn civilians before we attack.  At the same time, we take the most heat from the world.
It is highly likely that when I next post it will be to discuss the formation of the coalition.  The deadline for Netanyahu is almost upon us.  It has not been a happy scenario, but I believe he will pull it off somehow by Wednesday. The news today is that Avigdor Lieberman, head of Yisrael Beitenu and until now foreign minister, is declining to participate in the coalition.
© 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 4, 2015 at 02:49PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint