The first and most important reason we are looking up is because Rosh Hashana starts Sunday night. This is a time of reflection, and drawing closer to Heaven. With intention and effort, we can become what we are meant to be.
As I will likely not post again before Rosh Hashana, I here wish each of you a year of blessings, health, inner peace and fulfillment.
For the people of Israel collectively, I pray for strength, and the wisdom to remember who we are.
May we hear the call of the shofar.
And may the Almighty spread his shelter of peace over us all.
I think this is really neat:
The Conference of Education Ministers from the OECD countries is being held in Israel. This alone is a good thing. But there is more: Education Minister Naftali Bennett (chair, Habayit Hayehudi) brought some of the ministers to the Hevron Yeshiva in the Givat Mordechai neighborhood of Jerusalem, where he taught them about the “havruta” method of studying with one partner. This allows for dynamic interchange, enhances learning, and keeps students focused.
Bennett brought them at the peak of the morning study session and there were some thousand young men studying in the huge study hall. The ministers were fascinated and later said it was the peak of their visit to Israel.
Credit: Education Minister spokesman
Several weeks ago, I attended a Shurat HaDin conference at which Bennett gave the closing talk – a very upbeat talk about all that we have to teach the world. One of the things he mentioned is the secret of havruta study. And here we are.
A deal has been signed between the partners – including Noble Energy Inc. and Delek Drilling-LP – in Israel’s largest natural gas field, Leviathan, and Jordan’s Natural Electric Power Company. Over 15 years, 1.6 trillion cubic feet of gas will be exported to Jordan for a gross revenue of approximately $10 billion.
The deal “positions the Leviathan project in the center of the regional energy map,” declared Yossi Abu, chief executive officer of Delek Drilling.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, in New York on Sunday, met with both presidential candidates (about whom more below).
Trump’s campaign reached out to him first, but before the offer was accepted, Netanyahu’s people contacted Hillary about a meeting. An even-handed approach was essential. During the hour-and-a-half private meeting with Trump, in his Trump Towers apartment, the Republican candidate said: during his presidency, the US would “finally accept the longstanding congressional mandate to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel.”
This thoroughly infuriated Saeb Erekat, who charged Trump with “ignoring international law.”
A senior military officer with the Southern Command has said that the barrier being built along the border with Gaza will be complete in a matter of months if funding comes through. A wall is being constructed that reaches several meters upward and down into the ground as well, to block tunnel construction. In some areas, there will be flooding, in addition.
Said the officer, the goal is to turn this into a “death trap” for Hamas. “We’re putting a lot of effort into that.”
Hamas officials, stymied by this prospect, cannot just keep their mouths shut, however. Their responses are entertaining: Said Ismail Radwan, this project is a sign of Israel’s “failure to face the tunnels.”
I had hoped not to return to the matter of speeches given at the UN last week, yet I must. Starting with Abbas.
In my last posting, I had focused on “the right of return,” because that is what Palestinian Arab media said he would be speaking about. No harm done, to have set the record straight once more. But he barely touched on this.
Instead, Abbas focused on number of other issues. It would be impossible to respond to every one of his lies and misrepresentations, but in a couple of instances, it’s important to clarify matters:
He charges Israel with violating General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947. That’s the Partition Plan. He even says that “Israeli forces seized more land than that allotted to Israel, constituting a grave breach” of UN charter articles regarding “breach of the peace” or “aggression.”
But wait! As I explained last time with regard to the “right of return,” resolutions of the General Assembly are only recommendations and carry no weight in international law. What is more, in this instance, it was the Arabs who rejected the plan! Had they accepted, there would have been two states, for the Jews were willing. But the Arabs would not countenance Jews having any land at all. This is an old Palestinian Arab ploy, to attempt to go back now to 1947 and revert to that plan.
The kicker here, the breathtaking chutzpah (shameless audacity), is his claim that Israeli forces “seized” more land than had been recommended by that resolution. The Arabs – breaching UN articles regarding aggression – attacked Israel; it was in the course of that war, fought defensively by Israel, that more land was acquired.
He also maintains that the PLO “made a historic and immense sacrifice” when it agreed “to establish the State of Palestine on the 4 June 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Here it is imperative to set the record straight in several regards. He is speaking of the Oslo Accords. But be very very clear about this: a state on the 4 June 1967 borders (sic) – in actuality the 1949 armistice line – was NEVER promised in the Accords. They have made this up, along with the claim that eastern Jerusalem was promised to them. This is one of those toxic claims that has been repeated so often that much of the world believes it. As a matter of fact, the Oslo Accords does not promise a state. It refers to a final status agreement, but that status was not defined. Rabin, in his last address to the Knesset, said that he envisioned something less than a full state.
What is more, that final status was to be determined via negotiations. Last I looked, they never happened.
And then, as if all of this is insufficient, Abbas makes a total fool of himself: He attacks Great Britain for the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which recognized Palestine as a Jewish homeland. His demand is that Britain apologize to the “Palestinian people” and rectify “this historic catastrophe.”
Netanyahu, when it was his turn at the podium, mocked this for the ludicrous proposal that it is.
As to Netanyahu’s speech, much of it was powerful and upbeat. He chastised the UN for its unending bias against Israel, and documented this. (“The UN, which began as a moral force, has become a moral farce.”) But then he said (emphasis added):
“So when it comes to Israel, you probably think nothing will change, right? Well think again. For everything will change, and a lot sooner than you think. The change will happen in this hall, because back home, your governments are rapidly changing their attitudes to Israel. And sooner or later, that’s going to change the way you vote at the UN.
More and more nations in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America, more and more nations see Israel as a potent partner – a partner in fighting the terrorism of today, a partner in developing the technology of tomorrow…
“Governments are changing their attitudes towards Israel because they know that Israel can help protect their people, can help feed them, can help better their lives.”
It is true, it is true. He went on to speak about our growing relationship with African nations, and changes in attitude towards Israel in China, India, Russia and Japan.
“But now I’m going to surprise you even more. You see, the biggest change in attitudes towards Israel is taking place elsewhere. It’s taking place in the Arab world…They recognize that Israel is their ally…our common goals are security, prosperity, and peace. I believe in the years ahead we will work together to achieve these goals, work together openly…
“Ladies and gentle, distinguished delegates from so many lands, I have one message for you today: Lay down your arms. The war against Israel at the UN is over.”
All of this said, I wish I didn’t have to point out the down sides to his talk. But…
After effectively detailing hostile Palestinian Arab attitudes – the refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the constant unremitting incitement of the children, etc. – he says, “I am ready to negotiate all final status issues but one thing I will never negotiate – our right to the one and only Jewish state…I know that many of you have given up on peace, But I want you to know: I have not given up on peace. I remain committed to a vision of two states for two peoples…I’m ready to begin negotiations to achieve this today – not tomorrow, not next week, today.” (Emphasis added) And he then invited Abbas to address the Knesset.
Difficult to hear this my friends. It’s posturing, and I certainly would rather he said otherwise.
Even putting aside the enormous importance of declaring our legal rights to the land, there is this: He made the case very effectively – with regard to the horrendous incitement of the young people and more – that we do not have, not remotely, a partner for peace negotiations. At a bare minimum, at the very least, I wish he would have said that it would have been his choice to begin peace negotiations, but he knows this cannot happen now, and will not happen until there are some very major changes inside the Palestinian Authority. But he skirted this honesty.
On this, I cut him some slack. Because he met with Obama in New York, and who knows what was said behind those closed doors. There is worry about Obama refusing to veto anti-Israel resolutions in the Security Council. And so, he plays it this way.
With regard to the need to stop pretending a “two state solution” is a viable option, and a consideration of the outrageous pressure from the US that Israel has endured in its name, please see Caroline Glick’s important piece, “Ending the Palestinian exception”:
But there was one other matter that Netanyahu addressed in his speech on which I do not cut him slack. Attempting to make the point that Israeli society has fanatics too, but that we are different in how we deal with them, he said (emphasis added):
“Take the tragic case of Ahmed Dawabsha. I’ll never forget visiting Ahmed in the hospital just hours after he was attacked. A little boy, really a baby, he was badly burned. Ahmed was the victim of a horrible terrorist act perpetrated by Jews. He lay bandaged and unconscious as Israeli doctors worked around the clock to save him. No words can bring comfort to this boy or to his family. Still, as I stood by his bedside I told his uncle, ‘This is not our people. This is not our way.’ I then ordered extraordinary measures to bring Ahmed’s assailants to justice and today the Jewish citizens of Israel accused of attacking the Dawabsha family are in jail awaiting trial.”
There is something wrong with this statement, because we don’t know that this act was committed by Jews. No Jew has been convicted of this crime. As it happens, Netanyahu is referring to an incident of arson in the Arab village of Duma, where serious doubts about the identity of the perpetrator of the crime have been raised: There is a clan feud in the village and there have been several instances of homes of members of one clan set on fire there by other Arab members of the village. I would not – absolutely cannot – say with certainty that it was not a Jew who did it. That would put me in denial. But neither do I have a sense of certainty that a Jew did it.
How I wish he had left this alone!
What I see here is a readiness to sacrifice principles of justice in order to show the world how tough we can be on our own people. It should be that the accused is considered innocent until proven otherwise. I wonder how fair a trial he can receive, now that the prime minister has made his statement. Will there be unease on the part of the judges that they might be seen as letting a guilty Jew go, if they find for him?
I have seen this sort of thing before (with former Minister of Defense Ya’alon and the Hevron soldier Elor Azaria), and it disturbs me greatly. Because far more than I care what the world thinks of us, I care about justice within Israeli society.
And lastly, my comments about the presidential debate last night (which I watched in the early morning hours here).
While some analysts see the debate as a tie that will determine nothing, there are a good number who think Clinton won by some margin. Clinton was certainly well-rehearsed. But what I saw is that she cited positions in a tone that sounded memorized. She was also tough – in a nasty way.
Trump – for whom I was rooting all the way – was self-assured, but softer in his tone; he avoided the nasty accusations. He certainly passed the test successfully regarding concerns about how appropriately he would handle himself. Unfortunately, he let pass opportunities to challenge her – on Benghazi, for example, or the corruption of her involvement with the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of state – that should have been visited with vigor. He needed to be tougher.
In the end, what I saw were two very different perceptions of how the US should be governed and how current serious problems might be rectified. It’s not a matter of who “won” the debate, in terms of style, etc. It’s a question of listening carefully and making a decision as to who would be more capable of bringing America to a better place. We’re looking at an America that is in incredible trouble.
As I see it, Trump has it over Clinton overwhelmingly. Clinton would continue failed policies, for which she already has responsibility.
Trump started from strength when he spoke about the US economic situation. He addressed specifics: the fact, for example, that NAFTA – which was negotiated by Bill Clinton – is an horrendous agreement that puts the US at a fiscal disadvantage. He made enormous sense when he spoke about the core problem of corporations going overseas for cheap labor, thus increasing American unemployment. And he advanced thoughts as to how to discourage this.
One of the economic remedies (not the only one) he advanced was tax cuts at the upper bracket. To Clinton this is ideologically anathema. She would tax the rich heftily and cut taxes at the middle class. But I see that she doesn’t get it: When taxes are cut at the upper bracket, it stimulates the economy and encourages investment in business. This in turn creates jobs and makes American grow.
Clinton was weak on specifics – Trump challenged her on this, saying she had no plan. She’s big on impassioned statements about how she’d make it “better,” but…?
I think Trump was enormously on the mark, as well, when he described the crisis in the inner cities, and spoke about the need to restore law and order. It is blacks and Hispanics in those inner cities, he pointed out, who suffer the most. But Hillary, who has a strong leftist orientation, is not a “law and order” person. (I will have more to say about Trump’s approach to the inner city in a coming posting.)
Trump also challenged the Iran deal. He spoke about the billions in cash that have been transferred to Iran, and the refusal of the Obama administration to link this deal to related issues. Iranian fomenting of problems in Yemen, for example. Or Iran’s cooperation with N. Korea. She championed the deal as it is – saying it’s enough that we stopped Iran in its development of nuclear weapons. In fact this is not the case at all.
It has long astounded me that the Obama administration maintains that the agreement achieved with Iran was the best that could be had, and that if other factors were added to the deal all would have been lost. But no, there was the leverage of sanctions relief, and much more might have been achieved if Obama did not cave on every single demand. Clinton is following in Obama’s path here, which is very worrisome. Rings bells, actually.
And so it goes, with a great deal yet to be examined – hopefully in the next debates. This is with regard to immigration, dealing with radical Islam and more. The difference between the two candidates is striking, and we must not lose sight of this.
The polls in the next few days will give us a better indication of what, if anything, this debate accomplished.
I share here the Fountainhead’s “Dip the apple in the honey”:
Dipping an apple in honey is customary on the holiday.
As is honey on challah (at least for Ashkenazim).
And to get us into the mood of the High Holidays, lastly, Shlomo Carlebach z”l, doing prayers in the holiday nusach (style/melody):
We need to offer our prayers as if our lives depend upon this. For they do.
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