Category Archives: General Israel

The over the top reaction to the UN Resolution

Since yesterday  the Jewish world as well as the Israeli political world has been obsessed with the UN vote and the fact that the US did not exercise its veto in the vote.  Israeli ministers including Netanyahu himself, called it the knife in the back of Israel and a very anti Israeli resolution.  Prime Minister Netanyahu stated tonight that “ Obama administration has carried out an underhanded and an anti-Israel maneuver at the UN Security Council.”  Nothing about the nations like Russia who actually voted for the resolution and did not abstain.  My twitter feed has been full statements from many of the Republicans that I follow ( yes I follow people I usually do not agree with) about what terrible act this was- how this proves how anti- Israeli Obama is.

 

Wow is all I can say- people seem to have lost their mind, on many levels.  Lets start with the fact that even if you do not agree with the resolution, it is a resolution under Article 6, which means there are no enforcement mechanism.  Second there was hardly anything new in the resolution-it says that the UN and the world does not recognize any activity beyond the 67 lines as legal.  Nothing new in that, and clearly under international law it’s clearly true.  The only really negative thing for Israel is the fact it calls on the world to differentiate between products produced in the West Bank ( 4% of Israel’s export) and those in Israel proper.  In a strange way while some people think this might help the BDS movement, in fact it could have the opposite impact since that same differentiation between Israel proper and the territories could serve as a break to general BDS against Israel.

The most absurd aspect of the reaction is the fact that two weeks ago Prime Minister Netanyahu who  initially opposed the passage of the law that would legalize the building on private Palestinian lines, warned that if it was passed there would be a UN  resolution. For internal political reasons he supported the misguided law and what he warned in fact has taken place . Read my article in Newsweek from two weeks ago- it explains all of this.

I also find the statements that this resolution is going to hurt the chance for peace- Really-  I am not a big believer in peace.  I am sad to say I do not believe there will peace in my lifetime, I do not see the Palestinians making the concession necessary, and neither do I see us making the needed concessions, so saying this resolution will decrease the chances of peace is absurd.  I am still waiting for Israel’s peace initiative.

Finally, to all the lovers of Israel in America- understand that if you carefully read this resolution that other then the reference to East Jerusalem at least half of Israelis would agree with it.  This resolution deals almost exclusively with the settlement in the West Bank, settlements that have grown not because most Israelis want them to, but because of the nature of the Israeli political system that give extreme views greater weight.  Obama is no more a hater of Israel then every voter of Meretz and the Labor Party.  His speech at Peres funeral was one of the best Zionist speeches that I have heard in a long time-  It easily could have been given by Ben Gurion or any of that generation.  Yes its not the speech the Bibi would give- and Bibi is our Prime Minister- but its a long road to go from thinking that Bibi is a problematic Prime Minister to saying that someone is anti Israel or worse anti semitic.

 

On a related note, I went tonight to a press conference by Yair Lapid- the person with the best chance of unseating Prime Minister Netanyahu.  I tweeted before the press conference began the question will he break right or will he break left-  I actually knew the answer in advance based on what he said to me after the Iran deal was announced-he was going to break right- and indeed he did- saying he had worked  with the government to stop the the resolution, and attacking the “left “ for celebrating the passage of the law.  He did attack the Netanyahu government for not being prepared and for the fact that there is no foreign Minister at the moment.  He said that Netanyahu had complained of a tense relationship with Obama, but wrongly claimed that our relations with other countries was much better.  I asked him what exactly was bad in the resolution- and there he fudged his answer- stating   that the resolution calls for a return to Six Day War borders, does not allow for building a terrace on a house in the territories, and finally calls on Israel to accept the Arab Peace initiative as it is, without dealing with refugees.  All of which is inaccurate-the resolution lists a long list of proposals and calls on the sides to use them as a basis of negotiations.  As to the Six Day War borders it is like every other resolution or position of almost every government in the world it says that any agreement must be based on those borders with changes agreed to by the parties.  Lapid however, is trying once again to make sure he is the alternative of Netanyahu and is convinced that the only alternative that can win is one that leans right, he may be right.

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What Have We Done?

I have been struggling whether to write this article since last night.  I knew I did not want to put it into my Newsweek column.  Last weeks column was difficult enough to file.  I am also working on another article for Newsweek that will not make many people happy, so I almost wrote the following for the Times of Israel, but even there I did not feel comfortable writing this so here it is on my little  blog.

What spurred me to write this were the Tweets last night be Israelis including MK Herzog decrying that fact that the world was not doing enough for the those trapped in Aleppo.  I replied that that might be true but what have we done?  For the last few years as I hear our leaders talk about the holocaust and how the world did not do enough I have cringed.  What gives us with the largest and most effective military in the Middle East the right to talk about what the world has not done- when the only thing we have done is give some medical aid to those who arrive at our border.  Our Prime Minister is too afraid of his relationship with Putin to even condemn the indiscriminate Russian bombings of hospitals.  I understand all the very good reasons why we should not intervene, why we did not even create a safe haven next to the Golan Heights.  It was clearly not  in our “interests”.  When discussing with friends I get should our children risk their lives for people who hate us? Its all true but….

The but is that the Allies, in World war II had many legitimate reasons for not changing their war plans that were after all aimed at toppling Hitler.  So it’s time for us to stop decrying the fact that the world did not do enough to save the Jews during the holocaust.  They did not.  And the world has not done enough to stop the murderous Assad regime with the help of the Iranians and Russians for killing his own people.  They have not.  But what did we do?  We could have grounded the Syrian Air Force in five minutes, we could have saved thousands if not tens of thousands of lives, but it was not in our interests.  None of us really wanted to risk our children or take the chance that Hezbollah would start firing missiles to save some Sunni Arabs who were being slaughtered.  That is reality, and it’s not a very moral reality that we live in.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit in the United States to speak in front of the Congress. In the photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speech at the AIPAC conference. øàù äîîùìä áðéîéï ðúðéäå ááé÷åøå áàøöåú äáøéú òì îðú ìðàåí îåì ä÷åðâøñ. áúîåðä: øàù äîîùìä áðéîéï ðúðéäå áðàåîå áëðñ àéôà"÷.

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Rabin Memorial and Reflections on an Article That Went Viral

I just returned from the Rabin Memorial in Rabin Square, after years in which it was a totally apolitical affair, tonight it became something else.  It did so largely because the traditional organizers did not have the money to organize and in the last moment the Zionist Union stepped forward to become the sponsor.  In many ways I actually think this was more proper.  Over the years when all the youth movements sponsored it, the event became too parve.  It was too important not to insult anyone and be in the consensus that included Betar and Bnei Akiva than to present anything but the most general educational message against violence.  When they organized it there could be no hint that the assassin was rightwing, or had religious motives. Tonight was different. The Zionist Union took a risk organizing the event- were people going to show up?  They received a great assist from the head of the government coalition today when he gave a talk and said the assassination of Rabin was not a political act.  It was of course the most successful political assassination in recent history.  The crowds came – the square was full, between 50 – 70,000 people turned out.  Recent actions by the government to silence the opposition were very much on the minds of the people who came and the people who spoke. The music was good but the best speech by far was given surprisingly by Tzpi Livni, who spoke about the values of Zionism. She said Zionism was not attacking the press, Zionism was not attacking the courts, and Zionism was not living in a country where we become the minority.

Of course events in Israel are eclipsed by American politics. Its been an interesting few days for me. I was reluctant to write my article on Trump and the Jews and said so at the very beginning of the article.  I felt I had no choice since, however small my soapbox was I have at least a small following and maybe I can do my part.  I was shocked when my article went viral – and has now been shared 33,000 times.  At this point it is the most read article on the Time of Israel today, this week, and this month and it shows no signs of slowing.  I have to hope that most of the people who shared the article agree with it.  So I guess I did my part.  On the other hand, when you look at the responses that the article has garnered and the names I have been called it’s very impressive.  It’s interesting how most of the people just call me names and don’t try to refute the facts.  I am also always struck by the amount of hate out there and how much nonsense people repeat.  I am cautiously optimistic that Hilary will win, and yet I fear she might not, since I truly cannot understand how anyone could vote for Trump, so maybe I am truly underestimating his support.Rabin Square

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Ari Shavit and Sexual Harrassment

The Israeli world of journalism and politics is an uproar today, not over the fate of the Supreme Court or of the settlement of Armona and certainly not over the latest anti-Israel decision as Unesco.  But rather at something more prosaic and maybe over something more important in some way-the accusation by an American Jewish Journalist, Danielle Berrin that she was sexually assaulted by a prominent Israeli journalist later self identified as Ari Shavit.  Frankly I am not surprised, not that I know Shavit personally, but rather I spent a fair amount of time around places where Israeli males met American Jewish female professional and have seen what the results have been.  Of course my experience is from another era- I worked in the American/Israeli/Jewish years when I was young 17-20 and than later in my mid 30’s and it was a different time with different expectations.  Certainly during my service in the Israeli Air Force I saw things that in todays world, would  end careers.  But during my years working for Jewish Agency I saw first hand the actions of Israeli visitors.  It was still the years of the macho Israeli soldier, and they felt free to get their way with often willing American Jewish women students and professionals.  Many of the women were willing participants, although in retrospect since many of the sinners were their bosses or other in a hierarchy above them in many of the case one can not speak about willing consent, others less so. It was widespread, and reached to people today who hold some of the highest positions in the government.

I think it is better today, although I obviously cannot be sure.  My daughters did not experience in the army any of what I saw when I was serving. The problem seems to be greater among older Israeli men who seem to be stuck in the past, a past that might have been pleasant for them but not for women who were on the receiving ends of unwanted attention or much more.  We cannot be a society that tolerates this sort to behavior in any way.  Ari Shavit role as the spokesman for the liberal Israel is over.  Its too bad he was not a bad spokesman.  Hopefully American won’t elect someone to be President who is guilty of as much or more than Shavit- but  its irrelevant- there can be no excuses, no questions, sexual harassment is a career ender however talented an individual may be.

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Some Random Thoughts Before Rosh Hashanah

Its been a while since I wrote a blog piece.  For the last month since I stated working for Emerging Market Reports plus started MYIsraelNews I have gone from writing one or two articles top for Newsweek plus a blog piece or two every week, to writing on average ten stories a day.  While I am enjoying it and Emerging Markets is helping to pay our bills,  writing a blog article which is more writing sometime seems like a mountain too high to climb. Since we are effectively in the midst of a five day weekend in Israel and I cannot imagine there will be any economic news until Wednesday to write about and hopefully no political military news, I thought I would take a few minutes to share some thoughts. Furthermore I am hopeful that this will be a quiet week and my Newsweek article long planned but not yet written will be this week about the Jewish vote in the US.  On Wednesday we will have been back in Israel for five year, I hope to reflect on that then, so here are some random thoughts that I did not want to write for Newsweek as a new Jewish year begins

First on the decision of the Joint Arab List not to attend Peres funeral: it was in my mind one of the stupidest  things I have seen lately, and while they are not part of the traditional left in this country it is another example of the left committing collective suicide.  The Left including the Arabs seem more concerned about being right than accomplishing anything.  Accomplishing something is a matter of convincing voters.  You do not convince voters this way.  You do not convince the average Israelis that is ever a chance at reconciliation when you effectively say that even Peres who spent the last quarter of his life trying to find a way to achieve peace cannot be forgiven for earlier “mistakes” than how do you ever reach peace.  It was terrible decision and will effectively delegitimize the Joint List further.

 

The decision of the White House to correct the Email to the press: I am officially a member of the White House press corp- (because of my section on the web site on the Obama Presidency. ) I along with the rest of the Press Corp received Friday night an Email that corrected an earlier E-mail with Obama remarks at the funeral.  The original one said Mt Herzl Jerusalem, Israel the corrected one marked out Israel .One has to keep in mind this has been US policy since Harry TrumanI checked back at all my E mails from the earlier visit and everything said Jerusalem without Israel. My daughters passports say Jerusalem and not Israel as place of birth. The US never officially recognized any de jure borders beyond the 1947 partition plan and Jerusalem was suppose to an international city under that plan, This time it was a mistake that should have just been left alone. President Obama left behind good will with his speech, it was partially undermined by this correction

A few thoughts on the death of President Peres: Israel faces a real crisis.  When I was speaking to Herzog on Thursday night he compared it to the US after the Founding Fathers, but I mentioned to him that did not go that well for the US- He agreed and said that was our challenge.  It really is a problem for the country, after Netanyahu the other leaders of Likud are not very competent people to say the least.  That does not bode well for the future. They say the whole world suffers from a lock of leaders, our suffering is worse than many places.

One comment on the US elections: I am astounded that there are people who are actually planning to vote for Trump.  Its seems inconceivable that anyone can think after all we have seen that this man should be in the Oval Office.  There has never been someone less prepared and less suited for the Presidency.  You can agree or disagree with policy but I am not sure how anyone can disagree about the man fitness to be President.  A further issue for  Jews remains the fact that he brings out the worse in Americans, including a level of anti-semitism that we may have all thought existed but are shocked to see out in the open the United States

My last thought Before Rosh Hashanah relates to Syria.  As an American and as an Israelis I am ashamed.  We have been spending the past 70 years saying never again, and yet when it comes down to it, its Never Again only when its easy- or maybe when its Jews, I am not sure which.  There are only two countries that could have stopped the at least part of the slaughter in Syria, the US and Israel. The US for reasons I will never fathom did not because of President Obama’s unwillingness to use conventional force, has led to his decision not to even threaten the use of forces, and Israel because it’s not in our interest.  From the Israeli perspective we need to stop talking about how the world did not do enough during the World War II  to stop the holocaust.  It was not in their military interest to do more, even if they could have, which is a highly disputed historic point . It’s not in our national interest to get involved, but if we wanted to we could ground the Syrian air force in a matter of minutes.

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Political Turmoil Continues in Israel- New Anti Semitism in the US?

Two very unrelated stories are dominating my thoughts as I write this.  The first the resignation this morning Avi Gabi the Minister of Environment, from the Netanyahu government and the second an article this morning by Jonathan  Weisman  in  the New York Times on the anti-semitism that he encountered after writing stories that were somewhat critical of Trump.

Gabi resigned this morning stating that he could no longer sit in a government that was destroying relations with the United States and dividing the country.  He warned that the second Temple had been destroyed because the nation was not united and stated that the current government was leading the country in that direction.  Gabi stated that the firing of Ya’alon was something that should never have been done, endangered us and was a “frog he could not countenance”. Gabi also opposed the recent controversial gas agreement and said he considered resigning after it was passed but decided at the time to continue to work form within. Ya’alon and Gabi are considered by many as the two minister with the greatest personal integrity and it leaves the cabinet with almost no one who cares about liberal values.  It puts the head of Gabi’s party Moshe Kachalon, in a very difficult position forcing to justify why he remains in the current government instead of bringing it down.  Kachalon is the only one that can do that, but believes that he can bring down the price of apartments in the company and thus win the affection of voters.  I am sorry to say he is not likely to succeed, but that is a different post. The feeling that that our ship is being captained by either fools or people whose ideology is blinding them to reality continues to be very unsettling to say the least.

Of course if I want to feel good about politics here all I have to do is take a look at what is happening in the United States at the moment. I continue to be an ardent observer and have remained tangential professional involved in the election process, working with the US embassy here to promote greater understanding of the US elections and its process. While I have avoiding in this election cycle from writing too much, since I have learned the humility at trying to predict the future based on the events of the past, I was truly struck by the article by Jonathan  Weisman “The Nazis Tweets of trump God Emperor” . In the article the author a reporter in the New York Times Washington bureau, describes the storm of anti semitism that he has encountered after daring to criticize Trump in any way.  Weismann described how he was a typical assimilated Jew who was largely unconnected to the Jewish community.  He describes his encounter with a 17 year old Jewish girl who was an LGBT and Black Lives Matter who stated that “there is no anti-Semitism, certainly nothing compared with the prejudices that afflict other minorities.” Weismann argued with the girl saying that you cannot ever ignore antisemitism – he wrote he thought he was sounding like his mother.  Trump has brought out a wave of anti semitism that many thought no longer existed.  Jews should have known better I suppose, when things start going bad somehow Jews are always at fault.    I have written before on why I thought both Sanders and Trump have been successful – how ultimately technology has been replacing workers and upsetting the balance between  capital and labor.  That has created a mass of insecure people, people who are supporting Trump and to a smaller degree Sanders .  These people are also turning on the “powerful Jews” .  Jews have been totally accepted in the American Mainstream, so much so that it is guaranteed that whoever becomes President will have grandchildren that are at least partially or fully Jewish, and that is clearly fine with them . Despite this, on the right and the left fringes it’s clear that anti semitism has returned, if it ever had disappeared. I have always been someone who thought American was somehow different, its’ history insulated from the events that have happened to Jews in other parts of the world.  Today I am not so sure.  A country that might elect Trump might do other things that were until now hard to contemplate.

A friend said to me last night- did you hear the good news? What ? The new poll results that Trumpo is in the lead.  Why was that good I asked,? hHe said “maybe if Trump is elected 500,000 Americans Jews will come here, together with the British Olim and French we can finally change this country”  Maybe the two things that I have been reflecting on this morning are not so separate after all.

Leo Frank
Leo Frank
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What does it say about our Prime Minister if he picks Lieberman as Defense Minister

The past two days have been the craziest days I can remember in this country in terms of politics, and they certainly have not ended well.  I try to write at least one column a week for Newsweek even when the news is slow.  Yesterday morning I decided that there were two stories that were only loosely linked, the story of the ongoing disagreements between Netanyahu and the army and the story of the negotiations that Herzog was having with Netanyahu.  Frankly I did not understand why Herzog was engaging in the negotiations since I did not see how they could turn out well.  It just did not make sense to me that Netanyahu would be willing to give the minimum that Labor needed to justify entering into a coalition with Likud.  The thrust of my article was clearly in that direction and initially dealt with how Labor was coming apart over the issue.  Events of the day changed the article dramatically and the day ended  with Avigdor Lieberman as our new Defense Minister.

I have to say as someone whose son received his first draft notice today, the idea of Lieberman as Defense Minister is abhorrent.  Netanyahu’s actions in appointing him should prove to anybody who cares about Israel how dangerous he has become to Israel.  There are only two reasons that explain the appointment of Lieberman- Netanyahu’s perception that it will help him politically, or his interest in harming the army and its command. To many of us the army is one of the  last bastions of intelligent people making decision in the public sector in this country.  Either reason is frightening.

To realize how terrible  this idea is, you only have to reflect on the facts- and I am not talking about Lieberman’s politics, which while I think are self-defeating and immoral- do not disqualify him.  What should disqualify him, is his lack of experience, lack of temperament and the smell of corruption that surrounds him. Never has   a man as unqualified been appointed to Defense Minister.  He had a minimum army service, has never run a large organization and never shown any expertise in the matters of defense  beyond making provocative statements.  Worse than that, he is known not to have patience for meetings that last longer than 10 minutes.

Who is he replacing ? A former Chief of Staff, commander of the Central Command, commander of the most elite units, who by all accounts has been an excellent Defense Minister.  What might the current Defense Ministers sins be- he thought a soldier who by all accounts killed a wounded terrorist in cold blood for no reasons should be tried.  He defended the deputy chief of staff who might have picked the wrong day to warn about certain racist phenomena in our society, but most of us think he was right in warning about.  So now, Netanyahu  has appointed one of the people responsible for those problematic phenomena in our country  to be Defense Minister.

By the way have I mentioned the fact that although he was not charged in the end with corruption after a 10 year investigation, the fact that his 19-year-old daughter received a $17 million shekel consulting contract remains very suspicious, to say the least. Now that same man is going to be responsible for the largest budget of the state of Israel.

I repeat a qualified thoughtful experienced Defense Minister is being replaced to serve the narrow political interest of Netanyahu.  I am yet to hear any thoughtful person come up with a single justification.  Everyone I know is very worried by this development and i am clearly understating the level of concern.   I have to laugh when I read about the Conservative and Reform movements sending a delegation to convince Netanyahu to save the agreement on the access to the Wall.  Do American Jews really think that a man who put an unqualified demagogue to be in charge of the Defense Ministry because it was politically expedient, cares about the views of American Jewry when its not politically expedient to listen?

Netanyahu

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Controversial Remarks on Yom Hashoah

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel. Last night all the restaurants, bars and stores were closed, the TV programming was centered on the Holocaust and at 10 AM today sirens throughout Israel sounded for two minutes of silence. Everyone came to a halt to remember the six million who were killed.

At Yad Vashem last night Prime Minister Netanyahu gave his traditional speech in which he promised that there would never be a second Holocaust. He, as usual described Muslim unwillingness to accept Israel as a Jewish state as a continuation of the very same anti-semitism that resulted in the Holocaust. Usually on Holocaust Memorial Day the news cycle is filled with the stories of the Holocaust, stories of survivors and every once in a while, some of the difficulties that the ever diminishing number of survivors find themselves living under.  Every year the government promises to do something to help, while continually failing to do so.  I should write a whole article on the refusal of the government to pay a monthly stipend to the survivors who arrived after 1953 (when the reparations agreement was signed with Germany) and their attempts to defend the policy and delay court action long enough until the last survivors dies of old age, but that is for another day.)

Today’s news cycle has been dominated by two other stories – the first, being confrontations around the Gaza border and the discovery of another Hamas tunnel which was the cause of hostilities. The larger story, at least in terms of coverage, has been the reporting on the speech made by Deputy Chief of Staff Maj General Yair Golan. In his address given in at Kibbutz Tel Yosef, Golan stated: ”If there’s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it’s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80 and 90 years ago – and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.”

The speech set off a firestorm of criticism, especially from right wing politicians. Education Minister MK Naftali Bennett stated: “The Deputy Chief of Staff made a mistake and he must correct it immediately,” Bennett continued, “before Holocaust deniers will raise these erroneous words as a standard, before our soldiers will be compared to Nazis, God forbid, with legitimization from high above.”  Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked stated that Golan was “confused” and added that Golan was showing “contempt” for the Holocaust”.

This afternoon Defense Minister Ya’alon defended Golan saying that attacking Golan was another assault by some politician on the I.D.F.. Ya’alon asserted that it was the role of senior officers not only to lead, but to establish norms of conduct within the I.D.F.

Golan went on to say in his speech that purity of arms had always been a challenge that the IDF faced, but it was a challenge it faced with open eyes. He stated that the Holocaust “must make us think deeply about the responsibility of leadership, the quality of society, and it must lead us to fundamental thinking about how we, here and now, treat the stranger, the orphan and the widow, and all who are like them.”

Golan’s words cut deep to the one of the fundamental divides among those who try to understand the Holocaust and apply the lessons they glean today. On one side of the divide are those who say the Holocaust and its lessons are unique to the Jewish people and what it teaches us is that the world hates us and we can only rely on ourselves.  That has certainly been the official message of this government. The alternative understanding that Golan had the temerity to present is that the lessons of the Holocaust are more universal, and they teach us about tolerance, about hatred of the other, and most importantly, show where extreme intolerance and hatred can lead. Golan was trying to say that our society has been very good at learning the first lessons, but not so good at learning the second. Unfortunately, attacks on Golan for even bringing up the question of acceptance of ‘the other’, of those less-fortunate, proves the very necessity for the speech. Have we become a society where self-reflection even on a day a solemn as today has become unacceptable?

General Yair Golan
General Yair Golan
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Israel and Democracy

Over the years, Israel the years has rightly taken pride in itself for being the only democracy in the Middle East. The nature of the enduring bond between Israel and the United is complicated and relies on a variety of factors. However, there can be no doubt that one reason for the close U.S.-Israel relations has been the sense of shared democratic values the two countries share.

I am not one of those people who goes around proclaiming,“our democracy is under siege,” or “the sky is falling, we are about to become a dictatorship.”  Nor (at this point in my life) am I going march about declaring – “our system of government is fatally flawed and I’m plan to change that. I am old enough to have been involved in the first serious attempts to revamp Israel’s dysfunctional political system (in 1977, through a party named “Dash”, led by Yigal Yadin.) Despite all of its efforts, I watched up close as Dash crashed and burned.

Yes, I do still believe that our system is very problematic and I could present any number of solutions that would improve it. Though I am enough of a realist to know how difficult it is to change a system in which too many parties and individuals have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo … making Israeli political reform most likely impossible to achieve any time soon.

That being said, I do believe that sustaining a democracy is not an easy proposition – especially in a young country whose democratic roots are not steeped in history.  In addition, the nearly 70 years of continuous state of war that have characterized Israel’s existence, together with our extended occupation of the West Bank present unique challenges for any democracy. To further complicate matters Israel’s unique definition of itself as a “democratic” and “Jewish” state poses its own set of obstacles.

All of these factors translate into is the need to strengthen the very foundation and understanding of democracy in Israel. Israeli students are never exposed to many of the philosophers of democracy, (such as, Locke and Rosseau.) Moreover, since Israel never had a constitutional convention – or even an extended debate over its Declaration of Independence – Israeli students are never presented the discussions that frame those foundational documents, which every American school-age student is taught. To many Israelis, Israel is to be considered a democracy solely because we have nation-wide elections every four years.

It has become clear to me that the way I can work best to strengthen Israel over the coming years is by working to reinforce Israeli democracy. Doing that does not mean fighting the day-to-day battles over legislation and civil rights; rather it means taking the long view, helping educate the coming generations on the meaning of democracy.

To this end, my wife and I, together with a group of like-minded Israeli friends have just founded a new organization, named “Arachim Laderech – Values in Action.”  The sole objective of Arachim Laderech is to educate Israelis of all ages (with special emphasis on high schoolers) regarding what democracy means. Our goal is develop an organization that will be able bridge the gaps between changing ministers and governments, and will be able to transcend the sense that democracy is a “leftist project.”

As we launched this new endeavor, we have been fortunate to work in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv on a number of projects, including a key venture educating Israelis on the American Presidential election system – a program that can be implemented without becoming involved in the sectarian right–left, religious-–non-religious divides that make achieving many educational aspirations so difficult.

We have an ambitious list of projects that we hope to accomplish in the next few years, including: developing and providing lessons plans, apps, educational resource materials and teacher training all focusing on education toward democratic values. We hope to work across all sectors of society with one goal – and only one goal – in mind, i.e. to strengthen the understanding of democracy in our society. I hope that as many of my readers as possible will become involved, either by helping develop material, giving financial support or taking on leadership roles in this essential enterprise.

Knesset
Knesset
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Passover Eve in Tel Aviv

The week in Israel is coming to an end, as Pesach is   at our doorstep.  Tel Aviv tomorrow night will be a ghost city, with all of its young residents taking off for the homes of their parents usually outside of Tel Aviv.  Of course, many Israelis have left for vacations overseas, this week being the busiest of Ben Gurion Airport.  Once upon a time, the majority of travelers would be Jews coming to spend Passover here, but these days those numbers are way down.

Politically this week the career of the head of the opposition MK Bougie Herzog effectively came to an end.  At this point, he is what one would call the “walking dead”.  His final downfall was not the fact that the police are investigating him for campaign law violations, but rather, it was his statement two days ago in Ashdod that the problem with the Labor party is that it has been seen as worrying more about the Arabs and then about the Jews.  I understand what he was trying to say- but he is over as a politician leading the Labor.  His policy of trying to move to the right of Netanyahu seems pathetic, especially when Bennet cannot even do it.  Bennet actually succeeded this week in outflanking Herzog from the left.  After Herzog stupid statement Bennet stated I am the Minister of Education of all Israelis, Jews and Arabs and  I love them all.

This was a week of tunnels found,  buses being blown up by Hamas in Jerusalem; thankfully no one was killed. It was a week that Netanyahu decided to have a cabinet meeting on the Golan to declare that the Golan will always be ours, in the meantime he managed to get the world to say it was Syrian.  It was a week where the big story this morning was that Netanyahu threatened to fire Bennet at the cabinet meeting. Of course, he did not fire him and bring down his government.   Today, Netanyahu visited Putin for the third time this year and announced that he will return for another visit in two months.  Obama is in Saudi Arabia and Netanyahu is in Moscow- growing up who would have believed  it.

Tomorrow night we all sit down at our Seders, in the end, we traditionally say next year in Jerusalem.  As a nation, we no longer have to say it, as someone who lives in Tel Aviv it’s not something I wish for.  As a kid after the ’67 war we would say the rebuilt Jerusalem but after some of the architectural monstrosities that have been built in Jerusalem these past few years ( think about the Holy Land project)it’s hard to wish for that. We have been saying Jerusalem in peace and that is about as good as we can wish, and seemingly as unattainable as Zion was for the 17th centuries Jews. We did finally return and hopefully we will eventually be able to live in peace, I doubt our generation but I still hope for my grandson’s generation.

So I wish my readers a  Happy Passover, may you all have meaningful seders with friends and family!

My Dad in Jerusalem in the early 70's
My Dad in Jerusalem in the early 70’s
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