Category Archives: General Israel

Thanksgiving, Tzipi Hotovely, and American Jews — A Bit of a Rant!

Today is Thanksgiving. It is the one American holiday that our family continues to celebrate in Israel.  This year, as in most past years, the majority of the people attending the celebration will be friends of my daughter Tali.  This time she did most of the cooking. My main responsibility was purchasing the turkey. Not as easy as it sounds.  Supermarkets in Israel do not stock whole turkeys, and it required special effort to get my local market to order one.  It is so rare that when I got to check out line, the woman manning the cash register called over the other workers to see something they had never seen before … a whole turkey.

Thanksgiving brings up happy memory of my youth.  For all of my childhood and teen years we always went to the Thanksgiving dinner hosted by one of my Grand Aunts. They were big affairs with the large extended family in attendance.  Everyone would bring something else, with my Grandmother making her lemon meringue pie, and my Grand-uncle Morris, a veteran of the US Navy (one of the first Jewish Naval officers) always being in charge of carving the turkey.

Thanksgiving 1961?

Remembering those events also reminds me a little of how I felt in the last few years I attended the event, as the year of my Aliyah and induction in the Israeli army came closer.  I was so sure of myself then. I knew all the answers.  I felt a little superior to some of my relatives, with my clear connection to Israel (at the time I was already working for the Jewish Agency).  I remember giving a speech at a convention, a few weeks before we (myself and several friends) made Aliyah — the complete details of which I do not remember, but it was clearly a speech that represented my view at that time, which was the traditional “Shlilat HaGolah,” or negation of the diaspora.

Over the past 40 years, some of that time spent living here in Israel and some time in the US, my views have evolved.  There was no question that 42 years ago when I first made Aliyah, I believed every Jew should move here.  I really did not see any future for the Jewish diaspora.  Today, I feel it’s not that simple.  While from a national perspective, I still believe it would be great of all Jews moved to Israel, I know that that’s not going to happen and that this place that I have always called home — even when I did not live here — is not the right place for everyone.  As to the future of the diaspora, it’s four decades later and the US Jewish community, despite what I thought then, is still going strong.  Still the same concerns I had 40 years ago remain.

Which brings me to the events of the last two days. Yesterday I participated in an hour-long show on i24News, where the main guest was Morton Klein of the ZOA.  My parents met each other at the young ZOA, and both were extremely active in that organization in their youth.  For many years, throughout my childhood, my parents would go to monthly ZOA meetings, where they would have food, listen to a speaker and discuss events.  Back then, ZOA was non-political, similar to Hadassah — a far cry from the very right-wing ZOA of today, whose annual dinner was attended by Steve Bannon. However, that is not what I want to write about now — nor do I want to write about the high salary the ZOA pays Klein as President. I guess I am just jealous that I was a lay President of a Jewish organization (a school) for nine years and never saw a cent.

What I want to talk about is the discussion we tried to have with Klein about the crisis in the relations between Israel and American Jewry.  Interestingly, when asked directly, he said the Israeli government should have honored the Kotel agreement, it itself had negotiated, but he immediately pivoted and said he saw no problem with the relationship between American Jews and Israel. He stated that as soon as American Jews hear from him how murderous the Palestinians are they immediately support Israel.  Leaving aside how absurd the statement itself is, the incredible one-dimensional nature of someone who has been working in the American Jewish community, as the head of the ZOA, for 23 years was breathtaking. To not recognize the breadth and depth of some of the problems between the two communities was astounding.  Of course, other things he said and believes, for instance, that someone cannot be an antisemite if they like Israel, was equally mind-boggling (but that is for another discussion).  Klein did mention that he has been writing a column every other week for Briebart — but…

What was just an interesting discussion on a TV show took center stage in the Israel political discourse, a few hours later, when on the same station that I had appeared, just a few hours earlier, deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely was interviewed on “The Rundown”.  When asked about the problems in the relationship between American Jews and Israel, Hotovely took the Netanyahu line that the Israeli government was doing a great deal to ensure that non-orthodox Jews could pray as they wish at the Kotel.  When pushed by anchor Nurit Ben, Hotovely made her fatal mistake by saying that American Jews cannot understand us — “since their children do not go into the army like our children do.  They do not fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Being unqualified for her job, Hotovely had no idea that the claim she made is an old canard used by antisemites, claiming that Jews do not fight in the army.  Of course, during the times of the draft in the US, that claim was just false — the Jews sent the highest percentage of soldiers to fight in World war II of any ethnic group and leaving apart the American Jews I know serving in the Armed forces, there is an element of truth. The US armed forces consist primarily of people from either the lower middle class or from families that have long traditions of service in the military.  Neither of which are groups that Jews are generally a part.  So, yes there was a grain of truth in what she said.  There was an even greater truth in what she meant to say — or was trying to say — however awkwardly.

There is a gulf of understanding between those who go the army and those that do not. There is a gulf between those whose children have to go to the army and those that do not.  I feel it personally, as the draft date for my youngest rapidly approaches.  There can be no denying how it impacts the relationship between American Jews and Israelis, but that has always been the case.  Whether it was in ’67, ’73 or any other point, that difference has always been very real.  No, the problems in the relationship today have nothing to do with this unchanged reality, they have everything to do with the Kotel agreement the government failed to honor; Netanyahu’s embrace of Trump, when most of American Jewry hates him; the failure of the Israeli government to speak out promptly about antisemitic incidents in the US and other similar issues.  There are many fundamental issues at work that nobody wants to even discuss — like what happens to a relationship that was fundamentally based on dependency, once the dependent party (Israel) is now strong and wealthy?

Of course, no one wants to discuss any of that …

Instead, everyone has called for Hotevely to be fired. I agree she should be fired because she is unqualified for the job — having no diplomatic experience and representing the extreme right-wing of the government, i.e., not really the type of person you want to effectively put in charge of the Foreign Ministry, but the careless half-truth she uttered last night is clearly not the reason.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this rant — Thanksgiving.  Two days ago, Sarah Huckabee, the White House Press Secretary asked reporters to say what they were thankful for before asking questions. It was not an appropriate question, however, since one of the hats I wear puts me on the White House press list, I will answer that question — as someone who is a much less sure of myself than I was so many years ago at my grand-aunt’s house on Thanksgiving … I am thankful for the wonderful family that I have. I am blessed with a happy marriage and three wonderful grown children.  I am also thankful that in this period before the twilight of my life, I have the opportunity to share my opinion on matters such as this, since other than the bored readers who have read through this piece, earlier tonight I had the chance to appear on Arabic TV and try to explain the Hotovely controversy to an Arabic speaking audience.

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Corruption or Animal Rights?

We live in a strange country at a strange time. On Friday it was officially announced that the wife of the Prime Minister Sara Netanyahu is going to be indicted for misuse of public funds.  No one in the right mind believes that her husband was not aware of what was going on.  All last week the news was filled with stories of different people arrested all of them confidants of the Prime Minister. (See my Newsweek story) .  But tonight what is happening in the streets of Tel Aviv? About 100 people have come out for the demonstration against corruption, and 14,000 or more are taking part in a rally for animal rights and favoring vegetarianism.

 

Demonstration at Habima against corruption
Demonstration at Habima against corruption

Most of those attending the rally against corruption were people in their 50’s,60’s and 70’s. The speaker called for Bibi to resign and described the many corrupt things that have happened, and gave a preview of some of the things that have not been understood by the public yet.

The large rally for animal rights was filled with young people including some of the younger members of the Knesset.  It was well organized and the crowd was enthusiastic.  They seemed strangely hopeful that they would make a difference.

Marchers for Animal Rights on Dizengoff
Marchers for Animal Rights on Dizengoff

I interviewed a few of the marchers and asked them why they came out.  Two young women said because they cared about animals.  I asked why not go to the rally against corruption? They shrugged and said they cared about corruption, but animals are something that tugs at your heart.  They said animals cannot speak for themselves.  When I asked another couple why did they come out for animal rights and not for the slaughter in Syria (there were a couple of rallies at the Russian Embassy where 100 people showed up)they also shrugged and said they really care about animals.

animalrights Click for short video

We are at a strange place.  Young people want to express themselves but seem convinced that when it comes to politics or even economics it’s impossible.  Instead, they seem to be directing themselves to a nice generic cause- where they cannot fail, after all, there are more vegans and vegetarians in Tel Aviv every day.

 

I am not sure whether to laugh or cry

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Bibi and Trump Who Will Fall First?

My professional world at least the journalistic part of it is strangely bifurcated.  For Newsweek I write about political, military events here in Israel, as I do for the economic publication that I cover Israel for, but for CEEMarketwatch  I spend time following all the main economic stories in Israel.  On the other hand, when I appear on TV on i24News or on Radio I return to my roots and my expertise on American politics.  Once in a while, they meet when   Bibi visits Washington or Trump comes here.  However, at the moment it seems that my two worlds and my two expertise are meeting in a sort of strange virtual way.

Both last night on the phone with a friend and this morning when I had my daily get together with a group of friends at the dog park the discussion was who was going to be forced out first, Bibi or Trump.  Yes, I know many say it will never happen, and where is the fire? ( well there seems to be a little fire recently) but around both of them the smoke is so thick that somewhere in there, there must be a blazing fire.

In reality in the past week on both sides of the Atlantic, the walls have no doubt been closing in just a little on respective leaders.  On Trump’s side the Emails released by his son while not directly tying him to the crime or without a doubt establishing a crime, have undermined six months of denials, members of his campaign clearly met with the Russians.  How much collusion will come out in the coming weeks and months is unknown but if I had to guess I believe the revelations that will come out over the coming months will take everyone’s breath away.  I am amazed at those defending him, although I should not be after all enough people voted for him so he became President knowing what they did, there can be no doubt at this point that was willing to accept help from the Russians, help that will turn out to be decisive.  There is much we still do not know and as a result, I have not updated my  book on the History of Presidential elections yet but the outlines are clear, and I do not believe that President Trump will make it to 2020- but then I did not think he was going to elected

Here the investigations into Bibi and those around him keep getting deeper and in the case of the latest two investigations much more explosive.  There are currently four different investigations of Bibi or people close to him.  They are now called Case 1,000, Case 2,000 Case 3,000 and Case 4,000.  The first case is where the most direct evidence has already been collected relate to Bibi’s receipt of gifts and other things that were not proper and not reported that apparently come to a cumulative value of $100,000’s.  The second case relates to tapes of conversations in which Bibi promised financial benefits to the publisher of the Yediot Achronot if it would publish favorable stories on him and unfavorable stories on his rival.  The incentives including having Yisrael Hayom (the Adelson paper) not publish on Friday, something if he was not lying about his connection to the paper he should not have been able to offer.  Case 3,000 involves the purchase of submarines and frigates from Germany.  The charge is that money exchanged hands from the manufacturer to former member of the Nation security council a lawyer that is Bibi’s cousin and sometimes lawyer and the former head of the Navy.  While Bibi is not formally being investigated in this case yet, he was at the forefront of the efforts to buy the subs from Germany and it would seem in retrospect it may have been the reason that Bougie Ya’alon who opposed the purchase was fired by Bibi.   Finally, we have the newest case that of Bezeq. It started with the investigation into the purchase of Yes (satellite provider ) by Bezeq.  Yes was privately held by the Shaul Elovich, who controlled Bezeq, and it’s alleged that Bezeq bought Yes at a very inflated price and furthermore that Yes cooked its books to ensure that Elovich received the maximum he could.  It should be noted that Elovich is a friend of Bibi’s a friendship he tried to hide, and when it was outed Bibi was forced to recuse himself from dealing with Bezeq or its competitors in his role of Minister of Communications a role he insisted on.  The investigations took a turn when the hand picked (by Bibi ) Director General of the Ministry of Communication was arrested and interrogated on the charge of acting against the interests of the public on behalf of Bezaq.  He has been remanded to house arrest for 14 days.

So lots of smoke surrounds both Trump and Bibi.  Both have been investigated many times before and both have avoided prosecution.  Will they this time?  My sense is there is just too much smoke, and in both cases, it will only take one of the lesser defendants to agree to become a state witness and turn on the big boss.  At least in the nation that is never boring there is no chance of boredom setting in.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are welcomed by Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, on their arrival to Ben Gurion International Airport, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are welcomed by Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, on their arrival to Ben Gurion International Airport, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
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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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