Category Archives: Reflections

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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Trump’s Speech to the UN

It’s been a crazy few days. Rosh Hashanah is coming, and I have been going back and forth to Yaffo, appearing on i24 News four times in the past three days. This afternoon I was asked to appear again. I sent in my latest Newsweek story before I left for the studio.

After my appearance, I stopped in Shuk HaCarmel to buy a few things. At the same time, I was listening, and partially watching Trump’s speech at the United Nations. While his statements on North Korea were troubling (has he never heard of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous quote “talk softly and carry a big stick”??), and his talk about Iran is reckless, since the U.S. does not have a plan B (although I was on the air the other night with an Iran expert who believes that U.S. sanctions alone could collapse the regime- I do not buy that) what was worse, was the end of the speech and his calls to blatant Nationalism. His calls to Nationalism has brought out the worst humanity has to offer. He envisions a world opposite to the world that I had hoped my children and grandchildren would inherit from us. It, of course, got worse, when Prime Minister Netanyahu stated:”In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech”. So now I can be embarrassed to be an American, and to be an Israeli at the same time.

On Sunday I participated on a panel in which one of the topics discussed was the crisis between American Jews, and Israel. While others focused on the Kotel agreement, I said the issue is deeper and relates to values. A prime example of this, is the Israeli government’s enthusiasm for Trump, at a time where most American Jews feel very differently. Today’s speech and Netanyahu’s response underscores that.

GA pays tribute to the memory of His Excellency Baldwin Lonsdale (Vanuatu)

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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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Thoughts on Another Rally

I went tonight to the rally in Rabin Square by Sholom Achshav to mark 50 years of occupation.  Before going I was skeptical – another rally, what would it accomplish?  On the other hand putting on my journalist hat, I said how can I not go. When I first arrived, I was enthusiastic. I went around interviewing people taking notes. I even got a some good quotes.  A man about my age, who is a wounded veteran and who lost his brother in the Yom Kippur War said “that the Six Day War was a great victory- but if we keep the territories forever it will be the end of the state.”  Another couple, also my age who actually arrived in Israel from Argentina 42 years ago two months before I first arrived said “we have to bring about change”.

But then the rally started and the speeches began.  There were a few minutes of news in the speeches, Herzog who was met with both cheers and boo’s called for the creation of one bloc on the center left that would include both Kachlon and Lapid- both names were met with boo’s but Herzog went on to call for an open primary for the leader of the bloc.  Nice idea but it’s not clear how you get Lapid who is convinced that his only chance to be Prime Minister is to move to the right, to join in the effort.  Ayamn Odeh, that head of the Joint Arab list called for the creation of joint bloc called the democratic bloc.  An interesting idea, but after interviewing Odeh two years ago I have been very disappointed in his actions, and even in his speech.  He was very careful in defining himself, as a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel, but could not call himself an Israeli.

As the rally came to the end, I mostly felt sad.  A feeling I have been having often lately( not on a personal level but on a political level).  Sad that this was the nth rally I have attended in the last six years since we returned, sad that there was nothing new.  Sad that the left continued to think short term, instead of worrying about the long term.  Odeh talked about democracy, but in reality democracy is eroding in this country, and most people are not even aware of it.  I am not sure of the answers but I am fairly sure that our current leadership does not have them.

DSC_0476 DSC_0474 DSC_0466 DSC_0481 DSC_0469DSC_0467

DSC_0483

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Self Indulgent Reflections

Today is my  birthday and I thought it would be appropriate to spend  few minutes reflecting on the year that has gone past, not so much personally although its been an interesting if not economically challenging year, but more from a professional perspective.

Many of you reading this have known me for long time- a few probably going all the way back to elementary school, and of course many of you are new readers who I have never met.  When people asked what I do over the years it has never been a simple answer.  I am sure my children sometimes are jealous of their friends who can answer the question what does your Father do, by simply saying doctor, lawyer, businessman etc.  My identity is more complicated.  Am I an educator, a historian, a software developer, developer,businessman, political activist, or a journalist?  Over the last 40 years I have been a little of all of these things to a greater or lesser degree.  Circumstances of my life at various points have changed that mix, and in the last year that mix has clearly changed- today journalist probably comes first, with historian and software developer coming after.

My identity as a journalist developed rather late in life- a little over ten years ago, when I first started writing my Israel Update, that soon became a weekly radio appearance and three years ago I started writing a regular column for Newsweek.  Today,  I am also  an economic correspondent for subscription web site on emerging markets, plus a regular guest on i24News where I appear on a regular basis, mostly talking about the election and of course since the Trump inauguration about the Trump Presidency.

Which brings me to what I actually wanted to write about and that is reflecting on being a journalist is such partisan times.  Being a historian is easy.  I am one of those people who do not believe in relativist history, at least for events that have taken place during the last 200 years.  Events are events, we have enough information today to say that with the exception of a few security related events there is not such thing has fake history.  Yes, history can be interpreted differently, ie how much weight should we give to the economic causes of the Revolutionary War as opposed to the political need of people to feel represented.  However, two hundred years later I have no problem laying out the facts and giving my interpretation, but so labeling it.

My role as a journalist seems more complicated. First, of course we do not have perfect information on events that are taking place. Second when you report news you are being selective.   My column in Newsweek is a perfect example.  I have had the luxury of having a regular column titled Tel Aviv Diary which appears under opinion.  That luxury frees me from having to be comprehensive and allows me to add opinion to what I write.  But what should I write about?  How critical should I allow myself to be of my own government?  It’s always a difficult line.  If I was writing in Hebrew for an Israeli daily or Israeli web site, there is no question I would be much more critical than I am in Newsweek.  There is little that I like about our current government in Israel, and no one with the exception of President Rivlin who I respect.  How strongly should that come through in my writing?  What stories should I write about- both keeping into account what is interesting  and what might be of interest to readers of Newsweek?

When I lived in the US there was always the question- what right did I have to criticize? After all I was not living in Israel.   But now that we have been back for over five years those questions are no longer relevant- but still it’s sometimes hard to be as critical as I would like to be or maybe should be.

Which brings me to the last question and that is about the Trump Presidency.  I have had a section on my web site about Presidential elections since 1995 and have written a book on the History of Presidential Elections, thus I have tried to be as non partisan as possible about American politics.  However, as the recent election campaign was reaching towards its conclusion and I began to fear that there was an actual chance that Donald Trump could win, I felt I had to write an article on Why a Jew Should Not Vote For Trump.  It ended up being one of the most read articles in the Times of Israel in 2016, and while it did not accomplish its goal it propel me into the partisan maelstrom.  In my many appearances on i24 News I have worn two very different hats, that of a historian of the Presidency, which of course come natural and as a foil to a guest Mark Zell who is the Head of the Republican Party in Israel.  I have been amazed at thr slavish support that Zell and others have given to Trump.  On Wednesday I listened as he said that Trump has been acting very Presidential since day one- and that his inaugural address was not dark, after all he was there and I was not.  What position should I take to the person I believe is a danger to the world and should never have been elected to the Oval Office?  The detached historian? the partisan journalist? The political activist? Difficult choices in very complex times.

I live in a country I love and have loved almost all of my life, but it is led by a Prime Minister who is under criminal investigation and in all likelihood is going to be indicted sooner rather than later.  My country of birth, whose history I have studied my whole life and who I have always thought to be the greatest country on earth is being led by a man who is wholly unequipped to do so, and whose corruption may be deeper and wider than anyone can imagine.

The Chinese have the curse – you should live in interesting times – For journalists this is always far from true, but sometimes even for a journalist/news junkie like me it becomes more than even we want to deal with.  As I enter the 63rd year of my life – I am not sure what to hope for both for America and for Israel.  Living in Israel is never boring, but today that can be said for events throughout the globe.  I can just hope in the next year that I can do a good job explaining these events to my readers and listeners. It will be  a challenge.

My beautiful picture
With My Mother when I was less than one.
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Trump Week One- Bibi Near the End

It’s been a difficult week.  As someone who is an American Israeli whose specialty is American history and to a lesser extent the Presidency, it has been like watching a car crash in slow motion.  Of course things in Israel have not been better as it’s become clear that the level of corruption in our government is greater than we thought – but more on that later.

Last friday night, the last chance that this was going to be a normal presidency ended with the inaugural address. I won’t repeat what I wrote in my Newsweek article about the address or what I said on the air afterwards on i24, but suffice it to say it was the most divisive inaugural address in American history.  It went downhill from there. Saturday was his speech at the CIA where we learned how obsessed he was about the size of the crowds at the inauguration, and where one of the least appropriate places he attacked the media.  A few hours later his spokesman made a fool of himself giving a briefing stating that Trump had the largest crowds at any inauguration.  So the week went – a hissy fit when Mexico would not agree to pay for the wall that he wants to build, more obsessive talk about him winning the popular vote if only the illegals did not vote. Of course the best for last his Friday announcement on banning all admission  including those holding green cards from 7 Muslim nations.  There was the minor issue of the White House issuing a proclamation on the Holocaust without mentioning Jews.  In case one was to think that it was merely an oversight, the White House clarified that it was deliberate, since not just Jews died in the Holocaust, but at least Trump is “not an antisemite like Obama”.

The three most problematic aspects of what has happened in the last week are: 1) Everything seems to be done without proper staff work.  Decisions of the magnitude that Trump has been making are usually done only after widespread review, and input from the relevant agencies of the government. He is using his reputed intuition to make world shattering decisions.  2) The Republicans in Congress seem to be going along, almost none willing to take stands against actions that go against everything they have ever said they believe in.  When former Vice President Dick Cheney is making the strongest statements criticizing Trump’s actions, we know we are in bad shape. 3) Finally, the realization that being President is not going to change Trump for the better. He will not grow into the job.  He will not spend the time needed getting up to speed on matters that he does not know, and he will never be willing to make decisions based on the proper staff work.  One final note on Trump: the announcement that Bannon will become one of the principles of the National Security Council is frightening.  The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces is out and Bannon is in.

As to Israel it was incredibly disturbing to see Netanyahu come out with a Tweet in support of Trump’s wall.  Netanyahu has clearly decided that the views of American Jewry or the 50% of Americans who oppose Trump are unimportant.  I will be writing an article for Newsweek tomorrow on the subject. Any input would be welcome. In the meantime the legal system is closing in on Netanyahu.  It’s becoming clear that the cases against him are strong and it’s only a matter of time until he is indicted.  He will try to stay on, the law is grey, but the precedent is not.  Who will replace him is unclear but an era is coming to an end.

POTUS_Speech2

 

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The Dangers Incorporated in Trump’s Inaugural Address

As an American expat sitting in Tel Aviv and listening to the inaugural address delivered by President Donald J. Trump was a very unsettling experience. I paid attention to his words wearing many hats —  American, Israeli, American historian, and that of someone about to go on air shortly afterward to try to make sense of what the freshly-minted president had said. By the time Trump ended his speech, every part of me was troubled. Many have written how poorly Trump’s speech compared to previous inaugural addresses (undoubtedly true). Others  expressed concern the President chose not use the opportunity of his inaugural to reach out to the rest of the country — the majority of whom did not vote for him (also true). However, to me, as someone who has divided my life between living in Israel and the US, what frightened me most was Trump’s use of the phrase, “America First,” and the pointed meaning he gave to those words. Trump proclaimed: “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.” He went on to declare: “Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.” In a mere few sentences, Trump undermined the basis of the world system that the US has championed since World War II.

America has always seen itself as more than the sum of its parts. Even from those first moments, when the first colonies were starting, Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts referred to Boston, which was yet to be established, stating: “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” Since then, Presidents and leaders — including JFK and Ronald Reagan — have referred to that as an essential aspect of what it means to be an American.  The American role has always been to be that light in the world. In the post-war world, there has been universal consensus that America might be required to make sacrifices (as the strongest nation on earth), in order to ensure that the horrors of the two world wars did not repeat — and though sometimes those sacrifices would result in short time pain, those actions are healthy for the United States as well.

And so, it’s been over the course of more than 70 years, since the guns of World War II were silenced. The  world has not always been peaceful, but the horrors of the World Wars have not returned — more importantly, the world and the United States have prospered. The United States GNP (adjusted for inflation) has grown from $2.2 Trillion in 1946 to $16.7 Trillion in 2016; and the world GDP rose from USD $5.3 Trillion to $73 Trillion today (keep in mind that immediately after World War II much of the world’s industry outside of the US lay in ruins). The world and the United States have both been enriched economically and while America’s percentage of world GNP has gone down from the world ravaged by World War II, America has steadily become more wealthy. There is not a reputable economist in the world today who believes protectionism is a good economic policy, for any country — except possibly, for the youngest emerging economies, but certainly not for a country like the United States.

The American economy is not perfect. Trump is certainly not wrong to point out many of the problems that exist throughout America’s middle-West, in former industrial cities, who today, are mere hollow version of their former selves. It is true that some of the economic damage has been caused by Globalization. However, the majority of these hardships are the result of technological transformations that have eliminated jobs, while allowing production to continually increase. True, there are problems in America, but none of them rise to the level of “carnage,” as it was so labelled by President Trump.

Many in Israel enthusiastically welcomed the election of President Trump. They believed the words he spoke about moving the embassy to Jerusalem were different than those of his predecessors. They believed that having a pro-settlement US ambassador would make all the difference. What they did not — and still do not — understand is what it means to have a President who speaks about “America First” and carries out a foreign policy reflective of that worldview — i.e., having a President who stated in an interview for the Times of London and the German newspaper Bild: “I think people want, people want their own identity, so if you ask me, others, I believe others will leave,” undermines the global order that has kept peace and insured prosperity … and moreover, that peace and global order have, despite conflicts with its neighbors, have been the bedrock upon which a strong and prosperous Israel has been built. The day before the Trump inauguration, Nadav Eyal, lead foreign affairs correspondent for Israel’s Channel 10 News stated that Presidents tend to try to actually implement the ideas they put forward in their inaugural addresses. Today, after the fact, much of Israel and the world hope Trump’s words were as his supporters often state, just a stake in the ground to open negotiations, and not the real policies he hopes to implement.POTUS_Speech2

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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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