So much, so much, seems not as it should be – or, at least, as we would, in the normal course of events, expect it to be. We shake our heads in confusion, and frustration, and anger. Consider:
On Tuesday, there were something like 20 fires started in Israel as the result of incendiary balloons; the day before there had been at least 14.
Gaza fishermen had been complaining that they were not responsible for the fires, and thus should not be punished by having their fishing range reduced. And so now Israel stopped fuel shipments into Gaza.
Hamas then declared that Israel’s actions were threatening the “ceasefire.”
This would be quite funny if it were not so damn serious.
The political infighting has been disheartening. I had thought that the lesson would have been learned: that the only way to ensure a solid electoral victory on the right is via unity, so that mandates would not be lost. That unity is badly needed for these tough times, and it’s not coming together.
In all of this, there was one bright spot recently, as Bezalel Smotrich (head of National Union, a faction within the Union of the Right) took a position that was especially laudable given the circumstances.
Determined to lead a campaign for right wing unity, he declared on social media (emphasis added):
“…The differences between us are important but they are secondary to the important responsibility we have to ensure a right-wing victory in the elections.
“…We must overcome our egos and work together. As I had already said in the past, we in the National Union will make no new demands, and I will be the first to give up my position in order to ensure that we can successfully work together.”
Mazel tov! Others – notably Tzipi Hotovely and Rafi Peretz – have since made calls for right wing unity. But we are not nearly where we need to be yet.
The major, significant, holdouts with regard to right wing unity are the founders of the New Right, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked.
Shaked had insisted that she should head the Union of the Right list, as she would pull the most votes. That’s what the polls showed, at any rate, but she was such a fantastic vote-getter in the last election that the New Right didn’t pass the threshold.
Rafi Peretz, (Bayit Yehudi, and head of the Union of the Right), offered her the second slot on the list, above Smotrich, but she declined to accept this. Right now she has told her supporters to be patient, as there are “secret negotiations” going on. Do we need all of this drama?
Bennett is apparently thinking about a technical union (for election purposes only) with Moshe Feiglin, head of Zehut. Otzma Yehudit, meanwhile, has announced a pullout from the Union of the Right because of a tiff that may yet be temporary.
And the spoiler Avigdor Lieberman? He is obviously enjoying himself immensely as he makes divisive pronouncements of one sort and another.
As part of understandings with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Smotrich has been appointed to the Security Cabinet. And yes, this, indeed, is a good thing. He had wanted the justice portfolio, which went to Amir Ohana. When the prime minister appointed him Transportation Minister ‒ replacing Yisrael Katz, now Minister of Foreign Affairs ‒ he asked to also be given a seat on the Security Cabinet.
Rafi Peretz has been given the Education Ministry, which he had requested, and will have observer status on the Security Cabinet.
But wait! To enormously complicate matters, the news is now full of reports about a “possibility” for canceling the elections in September.
The fact that Netanyahu was unable to form a coalition after the last election, which prompted him to call for new elections for the first time in Israel’s history, was itself surreal. And this is even more so.
This initiative apparently came from Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein (pictured); the prime minister is said to be looking into it. The possible procedure for pulling this off legally (which was apparently “just discovered”) is unclear and it’s said to be a long shot. A significant part of the motivation here was avoiding the enormous costs of the second election, which would require budget cuts.
The Blue and White party has declared they would not join with Likud, if this was part of what would be expected for this initiative. They are actually quite angry at what’s going on. But never mind, Netanyahu said he has no intention of calling on this party.
An historic three-way meeting of the national security advisors of Israel – Meir Ben-Shabbat; the US – John Bolton; and Russia – Nikolai Patrushev was held in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Below you see Bolton to the left of Netanyahu, and Patrushev to the right.
It was billed as a constructive meeting and undoubtedly the discussions were important.
Patrushev, however, delivered a decidedly mixed message. He spoke about the importance of eliminating threats to Israel’s security, which he said was of special concern because of all of the former Russians in Israel. This is great as far as it goes, although I think the reason for his expressed concern should be noted.
What is more, he also spoke about other interests in the region: He defended Iran’s right to remain in Syria, as Iran was “contributing a lot to fighting terrorists on Syrian soil and stabilizing the situation there.” Referring to Iran as Russia’s “ally and partner,” he further said that Israel’s attacks on Iranian forces in Syria were “undesirable.”
This last is very definitely not good news. And, considering the fact that Netanyahu and Putin do have a “deconfliction” understanding to prevent accidental attacks on the Russian presence in Syria, not quite what we might have expected. Actually, there is an inherent contradiction in Patrushev’s message. Are we to imagine that he does not recognize Iran’s designs on Israel?
As to that economic peace workshop going in Bahrain, I find myself enormously wearied by the pleading being done to entice Abbas to accept billions to help the situation of his people. He doesn’t want it, folks, because it comes with “peace” strings attached.
Yesterday, Deputy Fatah chairman Mahmoud al-Aloul declared that the Arabs participating in the workshop have “stabbed” the Palestinians in the back. “Our message to those who we call our [Arab] brothers: ‘Your stabs in our back have increased. Stop tampering with our cause.’”
While Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh charged that the goal of the workshop was to establish a separate emirate in Gaza.
Commentator Evelyn Gordon says that the refusal of Abbas to participate is “…merely further proof that the Palestinian leadership doesn’t actually want a state—or at least, not a viable one. Because even if Palestinian statehood isn’t imminent, economic development now would increase the viability of any future state.”
Indeed! She then proceeds to compare how the Palestinian Arab leadership is behaving now with how Jewish leadership in Palestine in the years before the founding of Israel behaved. Our leadership then made painful compromises in order to secure a state.
This is worth considering, and sharing.
Law professor Eugene Kontorovich makes similar observations in his piece, “Take the Palestinians’ ‘No’ for an Answer.”
In fact, he carries the parallel even further:
“India and Pakistan didn’t reject independence because major territorial claims were left unaddressed. Ireland accepted independence without the island’s six northern counties. Morocco didn’t refuse statehood because Spain retained land on its northern coast.”
“They’ve rejected every peace initiative. Their no-show this week in Bahrain should be the last.”
The Palestinian Arab claims, he is saying, should no longer be allowed to inhibit Jewish development in Jewish areas of Judea and Samaria: Israeli civil law should replace military law and the status of these areas should be normalized.
All of this said, I end on a lovely note. There is a synagogue in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, where the workshop is being held. Who knew? It is the only officially declared synagogue in the Gulf, although it is not in use now. It was established when there was an Iraqi Jewish community of several hundred in the area; a mere handful remains now.
This morning the modest synagogue came alive, when a prayer service was held there: Jason Greenblatt participated, as did five rabbis (including Marc Schneier, an “advisor” to the King of Bahrain), businessmen, and reporters.
Tweeted Greenblatt, “This is an example of the future we can all build together.” To which I would reply, nice thought, but a huge over-reach: the people who came to the synagogue may have somewhat diverse origins or connections, but we’re talking about Jews coming together for prayer. Another story altogether.
After the prayer service, the participants broke into song: “Am Yisrael Chai!” The People Israel lives.
See it here:
What I have learned is that Bahrain is different. Not only is there a synagogue in Manama, it is the only Middle Eastern city to host both Sunni and Shiite mosques, Christian churches for the various sects of Christianity and a Hindu temple, all in walking distance of each other.
I do not believe this could be said about any other Muslim-majority country.
Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, a Jewish woman, served as the Bahraini Ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2013 and still lives in Manama.
Now if the Palestinian Authority were a tad more like Manama, there might be something to talk about.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.