Category Archives: Presidential Election

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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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.

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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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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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Tisha B’Av and the United States Elections

Tonight is Tisha B’Av, it’s a fast that I have always felt should be eliminated.  To me it has always been antithetical to basic Zionism to be mourning the loss of Jerusalem  2,000 years ago,when today it is once again under Israeli sovereignty.  I understand those who said, that despite events of modern history, Jerusalem is far from living in peace.  I have also understood the arguments about how we have to remember the events so we avoid the internecine hatred that to many was the cause of fall the Jerusalem.  As many of you know my concern for the country that I live (Israel) is very real.  Most of that concern is not from our external enemies but our internal problems, but strangely this Tisha B’ Av  my concerns are more about the United States the land of my birth and less about Israel.

Something very dangerous occurred in the US this past week.  While the whole candidacy of Donald Trump has been problematic and so many of his comments that he has made that are troubling have been too numerous to list, his comments in the last few days are very dangerous.  I am not talking about his 2nd amendment comment, which while to most it’s clear what he meant, was at least ambiguous.  No, it’s been his comments that the only way he can lose is if the election is stolen by his  opponent. He repeated that on  Thursday when he said that the only way he can lose Pennsylvania is if it’s stolen.  Polls currently show him losing that state by11-16 points. He has requested that people sign up to be poll watchers so the election is not stolen by “crooked Hilary” . The United States is in uncharted territory. Months before an election the results are already be discredited.  When what seems inevitable happen on November 8th and Donald Trump loses large number of his supporters will indeed believe that the election was stolen.  They will believe that Hilary Clinton is not the legitimate President, and a few might take actions that I do not even want to imagine.

One of the most basic facts about United States history has been the peaceful transition of power after an election.  The acceptance of the results.  Even in the most divisive election in US history 1860 when Lincoln won, no one questions whether he had won or not.  Some states were not willing to accept the results and therefore attempted to secede from the Union causing the Civil War.  In the last 20 years there has been a troubling attempt to discredit and not truly accept the new President. We saw that to some extent with President Clinton with Whitewater and of course much more so with President Obama with the birther movement. One could rightly blame the Republican establishment from never totally disavowing the birther movement- and we can easily use the analogy of riding a tiger- that tiger has brought Trump.  However, we cannot go back in history and undo the damage.  Even if every Republican elected official comes out tomorrow and says that they respect the electoral process and have no fears that the election will be stolen it may be too late.

America is a strong a resident nation and in its 240 year history has endured many challenges.  I lived through the turbulent 60’s and although I was a young boy remember 1968 well.  Never in my life however have I feared for America as I have in this election and more so in the past week.  I am confident that Trump will lose this election by close to a landslide- but fear two things: first that there are actually people after all that has occurred in the past two weeks who are planning to vote for him, second, that sometimes a bell cannot be unrung.  The bells that Donald Trump has rung since beginning his campaign are going to be very difficult to unring.  It will be up to President Clinton together with the Republican leadership after this election is over to find a way to the bring American people together.  Today on Tisha B’Av I fear not for the disunity here in Israel- but rather for that in the United States.RepublicanFlyer1876

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US Elections & Israeli Religious Tensions

It’s been a strange two weeks in Israel, clearly the most important news has been happening abroad and not here.  That is frankly very nice.  Of course the news abroad been either bad or very strange.  Bad of course, is the repeated terror attacks.  As I have written before my fear is there are no solutions at least any time soon.  It’s the fear of terror that might bring the far right to power in Europe,  and it’s the fear of terror that might further destroy the European Union, and it is the fear of terror that might bring Donald Trump to the White House.  The Donald Trump story is the strangest, the fact that he is the nominee of the Republican party is astounding, and frankly the fact that I know people who are actually thinking of voting for him is even more astounding to me.  To me the policies that Presidents come to office with is not of great consequence.  I wrote biographies of both FDR and JFK and what made them both in my opinion great Presidents, was two things, the first and most important their ability to analyze new situations, draw on both their own knowledge and  that of their advisors as well to come up with the best solution to the problem.  Does anyone truly believe that Trump is capable of that?  There is nothing in his history that would show him qualified to be President, and just the opposite it’s unbelievable that his actions and statements have not disqualified him to date to run and be taken seriously.  But I guess these are not normal times, and the hatred that has been directed at Hilary is not normal hatred.  I hear from people she is a liar, but than hear they are going to vote for Trump who by all accounts does not even know the difference between the two.  Furthermore, while people may or may not like the expected policies that Secretary Clinton might bring to the Presidency, at least we can anticipate what they are going to be.  When it come to Trump it’s completely unknown.  The world is fragile place at the moment, what it does not need is a “bull in a china shop” which in the best case will be what Trump will be.  The second trait that FDR, JFK and for the matter Reagan shared was a fundamental belief in the greatness of America- something they do not seem to share with Trump.

 

While these have been relatively quiet weeks in this country, the are certainly not weeks without local news.  Most of that news has been taking place on the plain where religion and state meet.  It’s been taken place on two levels.  On one between the mainstream of the country and the what are called “Chardal ” Rabbis.  These are not Charedim who wanted nothing to do with the state, but rather people who consider themselves Zionist, who believe that our return to the land is part of gods plan.  But they are much more rigid in their interpretation of orthodoxy, thus they are called Chardal. Two weeks ago one of the Chardal Rabbis who runs a pre army school, called homosexuals degenerates and objected to some of the policies of the army relating to homosexuals and related matters.  That same week the writing of the newly nominated Army Chief Rabbi came out, in which he condoned the rape of captive women in war, and wrote against having women in the army. He claimed that he was merely answering theoretical questions and does not share those beliefs today.  Both events  created a domestic firestorm that lasted for a day or two

This week with a little less controversy, the Knesset under the prodding of the government passed two laws that the Charedim (Ultra Orthodox) demanded.  The first  barred Conservative and Reform Jews from using public mikve ( ritual baths)for conversions.  The second removing the requirement from Ultra Orthodox schools that receive government funds from teaching Math and English.  One thing became perfectly clear this week, this government is so dependent on the Ultra Orthodox that even if its decision have a strong negative  impact on relations with diaspora Jewry they will give in to their demands.

A final note, this week while testifying in the Knesset Army Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot stated that the greatest threat the IDF faces is not from external threats, but by elements of the Israeli society that seem to be trying to delegitimize the IDF.

Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot
Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot

 

 

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How Can All the Republican Politicians Support Trump?

Yesterday was another interesting day in American politics, as Secretary of State Clinton was giving a speech taking apart Donald Trump, House Speaker Ryan succumbed to the Republican political disease and became the latest Republican leader to announce that he would support Donald Trump in the general election.

The rush of Republican leaders to endorse Trump has been breathtaking.  The same man ,who many called a threat to the Republic is now someone that these politicians can now support to achieve the highest post in the United States.  Of course, why they have been doing it is really all too clear- self-preservation.  The single strongest instinct of a politician is self-preservation.  These Republicans fear that if they do not fall into line, Trump’s supporters will take retribution and they will be voted out of office.  In today’s highly partisan world the thought of supported a Democrat is unthinkable for these Republican politicians despite the many dangers that a Trump Presidency could bring. I must admit I did think that Rep Ryan would hold out longer and extract some concessions from Trump on issues of substance- but I guess…

There are two exceptions to those Republican who has slovenly thrown in their support for Trump- former Presidents and the largely Jewish neo conservative intellectuals of the party.  The former Presidents Bush as well as the 2012 contender  Romney are not now, nor will they be in the future running for office, so they have the luxury of being men of principle and state they will not support a man who is totally unqualified to be President and who could be dangerous to the United States and the world.

I have to believe that the neo cons could not divorce their sense of Jewishness from the potential threat that Trump presents.  While no one is claiming that Trump is anti-semitic, the same thing cannot be said for his supporters.  Supporters he refuses to repudiate. More important, however, Trumps rhetoric toward other ethnic groups whether Hispanic or Muslim should be making the hair of any Jew involved in the public sphere stand up on the back of their necks.  As one listens to Trump, it is easy to imagine another time, 80 years ago when another demagogue came to power in a democracy.  He was voted into power by the German people.  Not once have Jews asked How is that possible?  How did the German people not know?  How could they elect someone who spew hatred?  If you want to know the answer to we only have to look at events in the US these last months, and maybe more importantly, these past few weeks, as one Republican politician after another fell into line supporting the most dangerous major party candidate for the Presidency in the US history.

One final note, support for Trump has grown in Israel thanks to the support of Yisrael Hayom, the paper controlled by Sheldon Adelson- now an avowed Trump supporters.  That being said as a right leaning friend who I had lunch with this week said.  We know what Hilary will be like  and it might not be great for Israel but its not likely to be too bad either.  Trump adds a level of danger to the equation – a level of uncertainty that Israel cannot afford.

Donald_Trump

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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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Reflections on Attack in Brussels and Trump at AIPAC

When I woke up this morning I was planning to write about Trump’s speech at AIPAC last night, it was the last thing I heard as I was going to sleep.  By the time I got back home this morning the news alert came across my phone of a bombing in Brussels.  Israeli news went live to Brussels and that became my morning.  The news was bad and only got worse as the time went on .  The world seems to be  faced with a problem that there is no real solution.  What do you do when a part (even if it’s a small part) of a major religion has declared war on the civilized world?  It is a war that has been going on for twenty years, has gotten worse over time and no one has a real solution to it.  I certainly do not claim to have a clue at this point.

Tel Aviv hold a solidarity vigil with Brussels
Tel Aviv holds a solidarity vigil with Brussels

Which brings me to the AIPAC conference.  This afternoon Israel time Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to the convention.  Since it was in the midst of the non-stop news from Belgium it was carried live on Israeli TV.  In fact, it was shown on split screen with Netanyahu filling a third of the screen and the pictures of the destruction at the airport taking up the rest.  Netanyahu’s speech was not all that different from speeches that he has given in the past.  This speech  began with condolences to the victims of today’s attacks.  He, of course presented the standard line that the terror attacks in Europe are merely a continuation of the terror attacks against Israel.  Terror with no real goals.  Usually, I just dismiss that view, and part of it is clearly ridiculous.  Regardless of one’s political views, it must be admitted that the Palestinians have a grievance.  Does it justify terrorism of course not, but one should not say they have no grievance.  On the other hand, I have recently begun to believe there is a greater link between the act of the ISIS and our dispute with the Palestinian then we have understood to date.  That tentative link I believe is the difficulty that Islam has in making compromises. After all, we would never have had 70 years of war if the Arab/Muslims of Palestine had been willing to compromise in 1947.  Or if they had been willing to accept their defeat in 1949 and just resettle in new places.  I believe we have underplayed the religious element of the conflict.   Its been easy in the last few years to say that the window of compromise was closing as the conflict has become more religious and less a secular nationalist conflict.  However what if it was always a religious conflict and we just did not recognize it.

Now finally to Trump, I had no doubt that AIPAC had to invite him.  He is after all the most likely Republican candidate for President.  I also opposed the walkout for the same reason.  On the other hand the enthusiasm that he was received with was stunning and depressing.  How a Jewish group could receive a demagogue with such enthusiasm is beyond my understanding.  Even more importantly how can anyone believe that Trump is the best candidate for Israel. I say that on two levels.  First, his contradictory statements. Who knows what he actually believes.  But more importantly, his stated policies for US foreign relations will, without doubt, weaken the United States in the world.  The strength of Israel is indirectly tied to the strength of the United States.  A Trump presidency would clearly weaken America in the world.

One final comment on the speech that Bernie Sanders did not give but published, It showed a sophisticated understanding of Israel and the Middle East, but he loses me when he attacks the disproportional Israeli response to the missile fire from Gaza.  It shows a fundamental lack of understanding of  the average Israeli.  I am sorry so many people died in Gaza, but all that had to happen to stop the killing was for Hamas to stop firing rockets at us. I am not sorry that  the missiles that were meant to kill me were intercepted by our anti-missile systems and thus, our response was “disproportional”  .  I want all our encounters with our enemies to result in disproportional results.  That will end when they fully accept our existence here, there unwillingness to compromise may in fact be indicative of their religious inhibitions to compromise

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Why “President Bernie Sanders” Troubles Me

A twitter friend asked me why I was not a fan of Bernie Sanders and I promised her an answer.  First let me say that I am sympathetic to Sanders basic message that one of the main problems that the US faces is the rising inequality of income.  He is right about that, however,  I have always believed that the problem does not have any easy solutions, and Sanders explanation for the cause of the problem is simply wrong.  While American bankers especially the nontraditional one like Hedge Fund Managers and their ilk have been piggish in their approach to their compensation, they are not the prime causes of the misbalance- rather technology and to a lesser extent globalization that technology enables.  I have written elsewhere about this problem but suffice it to say Sanders does not seem to have a grasp of the technology factors and his solution to globalization is a new version of protectionism.  When questioned on how he would get his domestic agenda approved he states that the US needs a revolution.  The only problem with that approach, is the US has never since the original revolution been a revolutionary society.  It has historically been evolutionary, and its very system of government was established in such a way to limit revolutionary impulses. The greatest revolutions to occur in modern American history was the Roosevelt’s New Deal and it took the Great Depression to get it implemented.  Today while there is underlying economic malaise, by all indicators the US economy is doing well

However, it’s not all these areas that would bother me about a Sanders Presidency, for ultimately as “President Sanders” would quickly find out his ability to impact economic matters is limited, it’s really the role of commander and chief and chief diplomat that counts.  I have alway been what was once called a “Henry Jackson” democrat.  While I think that the invasion of Iraq the second time was one of the greatest mistakes in US history, and Sanders gets points for his opposition, his opposition to the first Iraq war was mistaken. Iraq could not be allowed to have capture and sovereign neighboring state that was an ally of the US.  Furthermore, his view that America can achieve its goal almost solely through diplomacy is mistaken.  I believe he underestimates the vital role the US plays in the world system, and whether Americans like it or not, the US is the worlds’ policeman, with the only navy and air force to capable of  carrying out that role.

When it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, I am somewhat troubled by some of his wording.  As someone who believes that the occupation is a terrible thing that has gone on for two long, but see no easy solutions, on the other hand, I find some of his equivalency troubling.  His website states the following position “However, while recognizing that Israel has the right to defend itself, he also strongly condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza as disproportionate and the widespread killing of civilians as completely unacceptable.”  As someone who lived under two months of missile fire my answer was simple all they had to do was stop firing missiles.  If Israel cannot respond with force to attacks, it can never pull out of more territory.  His call for ending the blockade of Gaza without mentioning Hamas rejection of Oslo and any peace with a Jewish state is also problematic

In short I think Bernie Sander as Commander in Chief would make all but his most ardent supporters miss the days of the Obama Presidency.

WASHINGTON – During July 16, 2014 testimony before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
WASHINGTON – During July 16, 2014 testimony before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
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