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?



Controversial Remarks on Yom Hashoah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

General Yair Golan
General Yair Golan

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.


Passover Eve in Tel Aviv

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Complicated Day

I just came back from the rally in Rabin Square that is being held in support of the soldier accused of killing a neutralized Palestinian terrorist.  It’s a complicated story.  Originally when the demonstration was announced  I thought I would have to write a Newsweek article about the demonstration, but yesterdays hard news stories trumped todays news, so I think I can pass.  Besides its late and i put much more effort into my Newsweek stories than I do for these blog posts.

It many ways it was a good day for Israel today, the court system worked.  This morning Yosef Chaim Ben David who was the leader of the group that killed Abu Khdier the Arab teenager burned to death  last year was found guilty of murder.  The court rejected his plea of insanity.  The judge hinted that he would be sentenced to life in prison.  A short time later, Yishai Schlissel’s was convicted of murder for his attack on participants in the gay pride parade in Jerusalem last year.

Rally at Rabin Square
Rally at Rabin Square

Tonight a more complicated environment took place in downtown Tel Aviv as thousands came to Rabin Square to show their solidarity with the soldier who is accused of killing the Palestinian terrorist who had already been neutralized.  The accused was not at the location at the time of the attack but arrived later.  The crowd was surprisingly not the average right wing gathering.  Only a small part of the crowd were religious.  I spoke to many of the participants and one theme kept repeating itself, the kid could be any our kids.  We sent him and we should stand behind him even if he made a mistake.  It was a sentiment that I could understand and even sympathize with.  My only problem comes down to the fact that he the soldier did not just make a mistake, he seemingly in cold blood killed the wounded terrorist.


People asked me at the rally how I would feel if it was my son, and when I heard both the Father and Mother of the soldier speak, my heart broke for the pain they are going through.  The Mother was crying throughout her short speech.  On the other hand, I would hope that my son whatever the circumstances and the general anger, would not go and just shoot someone.

It’s a hard story, there have certainly been many cases of soldiers losing it in war, killing POW’s and more.  Take a look at this story of British soldier in Afghanistan.  As I discussed with one religious woman from a settlement tonight, serving in Hebron is not easy for soldiers the pressures are high on all sides and its easy enough to just lose it.  But should there be consequences?  I worried after spending time on occupation duty in Gaza 35 years ago that the occupation would have terrible consequences for our society, it has whether we like it or not.  So maybe we cannot blame the soldier who was sent to do an impossible job but it’s our society at large who cannot come up with a solution.

The crowd
The crowd

In some ways my saddest conversation tonight was with a man who kept on saying that we have to beat the terror once and for all.  He was close to my age and when I reminded him that this has been going on in one form or another for our whole lives he just repeated but we have to beat it.


Some Reflections on Coming Events and a Survey of High School Students

Tomorrow night the right wing is having a demonstration in Rabin Square in support of the soldier who is accused of shooting a wounded and neutralized terrorist.  Nadav Eyal the chief foreign correspondent for Channel 10 news tweeted, what a bad idea this was, “it was going to cause the foreign press to start really covering the story.”  I tweeted back to him that yes it was indeed going to force me to write an article on the story, and he quoted my tweet.  A small twitter storm broke out on the subject, this time with me tweeting mostly in Hebrew.  It’s a problem, however, once again I will feel tomorrow night that there is not choice but to write a story about an embarrassing demonstration, with well known singers coming out to defend the soldier.  It was suggested to me that I tie into my story the story of a British soldier who in 2011 was accused of killing an already wounded Taliban fighter, and charged with his death. There were demonstrations in support of the soldiers although at first glance the incidents seem very different, I will research the story tomorrow before writing my column.

Unfortunately, tomorrow’s rally and the article I will no doubt write tie together with the survey I translated Friday from Yisrael Hayom.  That survey of Israeli high school students included answers by 60% of them that a terrorist who was wounded and neutralized should not get medical aid, with the same percentage believing that a soldier who then comes along and kills the terrorist should not be court-martialed. Those answers would not be so bad if 85% of the same respondents did not think that the IDF was the most moral army in the world and 48% did not think that Arab Israelis should have the right to vote.  I am quite sure that a very high percentage of the same respondents would also have said that they were proud that Israel was the only democracy in the Middle East.  Experts in polling tell me that I should not be surprised.  High school students are the most right wingers in the Israeli population.  Friends have told me the I should not be surprised, it represents the very real fear that people feel from attacks on the street by terrorists.  All of this is partially true.  But it’s also true as a new friend who I was having coffee with today said- Netanyahu has been very successful in turning everyone who oppose us into terrorist, every terrorist into ISIS and then turning ISIS into Hitler.  He has then thrown the Arab Israelis in with the terrorist and more recently any of the NGO who oppose his policies into  the same mix.  The success of that effort partially explains the opinion poll results.

The other part is a true lack of understanding of what democracy and democratic values mean.  To me, that is the most important problem that needs to be focused on, and it’s on that, that I intend to focus much of my efforts in the coming months and years. More on that in the near future.


My Article in Newsweek Set off a Storm of Comments

In the last 24 hours I have been called, a “self -hating Jews” , “ a hater of Israel”, a “Zionist Pig” and “spokesman for the Israeli Government”.  Those were just a few of the 107 comments made on my article that was published yesterday by Newsweek.

I have had a column in Newsweek now for almost two years called, Tel Aviv Diary, trying to give a perspective of Israel from Tel Aviv.  The column started during the Gaza War of 2014, but has since grown to cover a wide range of events, mostly, however, security and politically related.  This was the first time one of my articles created the storm that it did.  I wrote the article with a certain reluctance.  While my own preferences on the Israeli political spectrum would be considered by many left of center, I consider myself mostly a pragmatist.  Throughout my active life in the Israeli/Zionist world a period that now extends over 40 years I have always taken the position criticizing Israel should be done from the confines of Israel.  That said in all the articles that I have written, I have always striven to ensure that I maintain as high a level of journalistic professionalism as I can and have never tried to consciously slant a story one way or another.  For the last year my articles have appeared mostly under the section Opinion ( but that is a function of the fact that my editor moved from being the Foreign Editor of Newsweek to the Opinion Editor) which has given me the freedom to sometimes express opinions, but I have tried to follow the statement “just the facts”

My relationship with Newsweek does however, allow me to write on whatever topics I deem interesting and relevant to the readers, with the understanding that it will provide insight into Israel and Tel Aviv today.  Thus I am certainly not bound to write about everything that happens here, many of which would be considered “inside baseball” by many foreign readers.  It was thus with a certain reluctance that I decided to write a column about the separate rooms in Israeli maternity wards for Arabs and Jews and the incendiary statement made by MK Smotrich and the ensuing criticism of his remarks.  It was a story that had dominated Israeli news for two days and unfortunately reflected a certain reality in Israel. It was a story that I felt needed to be told.  I have often published articles that are more critical or more opinionated in the Times of Israel blog section, but the reality is their platform is such, that unless you become one of the “Featured Posts”, you disappear from view almost immediately, and thus the number of readers is often very limited.

I think I did a reasonable job in laying out the facts of the story without being overly critical of too many of the players and even presented a relatively flattering view of Minister of Education Naftali Bennet.  Thus, I was surprised by the comments that the article unleashed.  On one hand the minute I saw the headline, I should not have been surprised.  I should note- I have no control over the headline, something that critics of various correspondents do not seem to recognize.  We write a story and our editors or the headline writers choose the headlines.  Their choice is based on some connection to the story and a headline that they feel will get read,r to click on the article and read it.  In the days when media was mostly conveyed on paper medium, the headline was considered important, a way to get the attention of the reader. Today it’s much more important, readers do not read almost any publication linearly like they once did, but instead pick and choose the stories that strike their fancy, usually based on a quick look at the header.  While I disagreed with the choice of headline “Apartheid Arrives at the Maternity Ward”. It was an effective headline and at least reflected aspects of the story.  Of course, effectiveness is a function of the results and this article certainly generated the readership and level of interaction that a mostly web based news organizations desire.  So much so that the Editor and Chief of Newsweek wrote me an E-mail thanking me for the article.    Is it a fully accurate headline,? No its was not- Israel within the 1967 borders is not an apartheid state- Arabs are free to take any jobs go anywhere, live anywhere they desire.  Is there racism and discrimination in the Israeli society?Yes as there is in almost any society.  Is it codified in the laws? Something that is required to be apartheid, the answer is no.  Of course, the situation is completely different on the West  Bank but that is a different article.  What is true however, is that in our state of perpetual war, it is too easy to fall into the trap of becoming an apartheid state.

One final thought on what was planning to make a short posting- The level of discourse in the comments was clearly frightening on both sides. Those that were pro Israel immediately attacked me for writing the story, “what gave me the right to criticize Israel- and Israel that seemingly can do no wrong”  Of course, they obviously know little about me, but they immediate draw the conclusion that if someone is even mildly critical of Israel they must be an anti semite of self-hating Jew.  Second there seems to be no understanding that there is a clear difference between the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza and the Arab- Israelis who are full citizens of Israel. Something I will try to address with an article in coming weeks.

Finally, when it comes Israel’s critics, for them there are no half measures, our very existence remains the original sin, at least, based on the comments, reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians that would result in the partition of the land would be a half measure at best for them.

I truly do not know who seem scarier- our supporters who think we can do no wrong and our opponents who think we can do no right.

If you did not read the article or want to read the comments here it is



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


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

Super Tuesday a View From Israel

Living in Israel during an American election year has always been an experience. I have had a site on Presidential elections on the web  for 20 years and it needs to be continuously updated. This forces me to be more attuned to events and follow them closely in real time. Thanks to twitter I can get up in the morning in Israel and  hear blow to blow accounts of the various debates.


Of course the rather unusual nature of this years primary process has generated greater interest then usual in the elections, and as a result I find myself often answering questions about the elections to Israelis that I know. Reporting for Newsweek has put me in the position of giving American a little of how does it look from over here perspective. This year however, my connections to the election process have been a little more formal. We have been working with the US Embassy on a number of projects this past year, and about two months ago we jointly came up with the idea of an App that explains to Israelis the US elections process. I think there is woeful lack of knowledge about the US and its democratic processes in Israel, and as I mentioned above the election section was the first part of our web site to go up 20 years ago so it was a natural fit. In early January it was decided to go ahead and develop an App based on our current material plus additional material that we developed, all of which we translated into Hebrew. The goal was to have it ready for March 1st Super Tuesday, a day that the Embassy was planning an event. So we began work, and happily we were able to create the App in time and it was approved by Apple the day before. The App which includes an introduction by Ambassador Shapiro is free and available in the Israeli and US App stores for the iPhone, and runs in whatever language you have your iPhone set to. An Android version should be ready in the coming days. This was also the first content App that I did the programming in, in Swift. Of course whenever I ran into trouble Eytan was always there to help.You can download the app here

On the evening of Super Tuesday I found myself presenting the App to a house full of guest in the home of the Deputy Head of the US Mission in Herziliah. It was a fun and interesting evening.

Presenting at the home of the Deputy Head of US Mission
Presenting at the home of the Deputy Head of US Mission

As to the results themselves- one of the ideas for the evening was a contest to have people pick who was the likely winners in each of the contests. I must say there were a enough surprises Tuesday night that there were no winners, the closest winner had only two contests wrong. It was a night of small surprises, with Rubio pulling off a surprise victory in Minnesota, or Cruz winning in Alaska. But the overall narrative seems crystal clear on the Democratic side- Hilary will win, and while still a little hazy on the Republican side the means of stopping Trump are what is most hazy. If it was anyone else, he of she clearly would be the presumptive nominee. While Carson has bowed out, it seems clear that neither Cruz Rubio or even Kaisich will . By the time they do, it will most likely be too late for the anyone to stop Trump. Of course Trump could self-destruct- and certainly something terrible could be found in “his closet”. but if I had to bet at this moment I would say it will be Clinton vs Trump. What I find most interesting as someone who reads the news constantly, and of course sometimes write it, is how little has been discussed about what factors are driving the Trump and the Sander phenomena. What is causing so many Americans to choose candidates far from the mainstream? Candidates who in any other elections year could hope at best for a third party nomination. I have written a little about this before and will write about it in more depth in the future.