All posts by Marc

A Week Filled With Falsehoods

It’s been a while since I posted a semi-personal blog post, but this short week is coming to close, and I had several encounters this week which had a common theme- a disconcerting one.  

On Monday I had my weekly radio show with Bob Harden where  I speak about Foreign Affairs. You can listen to it here.  Bob is a Trump supporter, and I have always considered him my canary in the coal mine, that when he turns, then we know that Trump is done.  So I asked him before we went live to talk about Sri Lanka, Ukraine and other items, if he had read the Mueller report, he confessed that he had not.  I volunteered that there were some severe issues covered in the report.  His response was I hope now we can get around to indicted the real criminals- the Democrats who…….  I guess the canary is very alive.

We usually agree on foreign affairs, but when we touch domestic affairs we usually disagree, but we did agree on one issue, that was reparations which seems to be the newest Democratic issue.  Something I think is very wrong and will sink the democratic party if they pursue.

 

That evening I was asked to appear on RT TV, that is the Russian propaganda channel.  My son does not like me appearing there, but my feeling as long as I tell the truth especially on live TV it cannot be harmful.  Last time I was on, the subject was why the Poles were not allowing the Russian to be involved in the planning of a museum at Sobibor, after all, it was a Soviet prisoner who led the revolt.  I reminded the listeners of a few points in history where the Poles have good reason to be mad at the Russians including the Katyn Forest Massacre, where the Soviets killed over 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals.  On Monday  I was again talking about issues surrounding Poland, in this case, the two incidents of anti-semitism that occurred last weekend. The first when the American Ambassador was criticized for the Jews of Poland Happy Passover, and the second when a large doll who looked like a Jew was burned and beaten.  I had no problem talking about that story, and how the “right-wing” government of Poland had made it ok to be anti-semitic again in Poland.  However as I was waiting for my segment, I was listening to the live feed from Moscow and could hear the storyline that was being told how the Mueller report was all wrong, Russia had not interfered in the elections.  

The next day I was asked to appear on i24News in the evening to discuss both the talk of the Trump Peace plan together with the idea of a naming a settlement on the Golan after President Trump.  I had to imagine what it might be like 20 years from now to live in a place named after Trump- I could not imagine that scenario.

Last night Wednesday I appear on twice on i24News first for a 30 minute segment on the Arabic Channel and then on the Run Down to talk about Boeing and the 737 Max.- Even though there are political and economic implications to the Boeing story,  it is a subject that does not affect my family or me directly as such it was safe and fun to discuss.  The Arabic conversation was the most interesting and somewhat disturbing.  There was another guest in the studio, and then a guest in Amman followed by one from Ramallah and the Palestinian Authority.  The subject was the deal of the century.  With the other guest and the guest from Amann, I had little disagreement.

In the second segment, the guest from Ramallah who was having a hard time controlling himself turned to us the guests in the studio and plaintively demanded to know what we would do if we were Palestinians and presented with a Trump peace plan that we did not like.  I broke in to answer- and I made it clear I was responding as a historian who was an American/Israeli.  I said to him what you could not do is what you did to both Barak/Clinton and then Olmert, walk away without making a counterproposal.  I said that the Palestinians had made a mistake of historical proportions by not accepting the earlier agreements.  He a moment later returned with false history, claiming that Barak/Clinton’s plan did not deal with Jerusalem or the refugees, both false. 

 

AMERICAN PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON (CENTER), P.M. EHUD BARAK (L) AND CHAIRMAN OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY YASSER ARAFAT AT THE CAMP DAVID SUMMIT IN THE UNITED STATES. ôéñâú "÷îô ãéååéã" áàøä"á ìùéçåú òì ðñéåï ìäñãø ëåìì áéï éùøàì ìôìùúéðéí. áöéìåí, ðùéà àøä"á áéì ÷ìéðèåï (îøëæ), øàù äîîùìä àäåã áø÷ åéå"ø äøùåú äôìùúéðéú éàñø òøàôú áôúéçú ôéñâú "÷îô ãéååéã".
Camp David Barak, Clinton and Arafat

He then said the newest Palestinian line, that with Olmert they almost had an agreement and then came Netanyahu- so  true up to a point, but what he failed to mention was that the Palestinians did not agree to the Olmert plan if they had Livni would have run on it, and possibly Netanyahu might have lost.

What is the thread that runs through the week, I am not sure if those telling the lies believe them, but lie they all do.  It’s sad!

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Some Days it is Embarrassing to be an Israeli

These past two days it has been depressing to be an Israeli.  It started with the police recommending to indict Interior Minister Aryeh Deri for a series of financial crimes.  This is the same Aryeh Deri who served time in jail fifteen years ago for accepting bribes. Deri joins Minister Haim Katz, and Prime Minister Netanyahu to make three members of the cabinet who the police have now recommended be indicted.

Deri

Next, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that Israel was pulling out of the UN treaty on refugees.  According to Channel 10’s Barak Ravid, the decision was reached after Austria, Hungary, and the Trump Administration requested that Israel do so.  Netanyahu proudly stated that “we will always fight against job seekers”, not daring to use the word in Hebrew for refugees.  It should be noted that the original UN agreement was written after World War II as a direct response to the Holocaust.  Israel has been active in the drafting of the newest version.  But I guess our new friends are more important than the values we claim to have.

As that was not enough for one day —  President Trump released his embarrassing statement on why the United States was not going to take any action against Saudi Arabia he used Israel as one of the reasons.

All that was yesterday- today was not quite as bad, with only two really embarrassing events at least that I can remember.  A bill to recognize the genocide of the Yazidi was voted down in the Knesset along party lines.  MK Yehuda Glick of the Likud voted against the bill after saying how embarrassed he was to do so, but he had to maintain coalition discipline. For those who think Israel has an independent parliament, think again. Its only true power is to approve a government or vote it down, in between it is merely a government rubber stamp.

 

Finally tonight the Supreme Court allowed the far right Ateret Cohanim group to go ahead and evict 700 Arab residents of East Jerusalem from their homes in Silwan, that the organization was able to purchase under mysterious circumstances.

 

One final comment on the Airbnb controversy.  They did not remove places in East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, two places that we annexed and Israeli law is the law of the land.  As much as the settlers try to make people believe that the laws of Tel Aviv should be the laws of Ofra, under Israeli law Ofra is not part of Israel, just administered by the military.  There is a difference.  For many reasons, I do not think it was a good or smart move to boycott the settlements, but it is not the same thing as boycotting Israel.

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Why I Care!

I should be doing many things today.  Writing up more Israeli companies for our economic App that will be coming out next month.  Working on the Postwar period of American history for our website, or even working on one of our other  Apps, but it is hard to get any work done today.  It is election day in the United States and although I am thousands of miles away, and have a government here in Israel that is problematic, I find myself spending the day worrying about what will happen in the US.  I do not think that despite being a political junkie I have never cared so much about the outcome of an interim election.

The question is why?

I have been a student and teacher of American history all my life.  I have written biographies of FDR and JFK, and the institution of the Presidency of the United and never have I seen the institution demeaned in the ways that I have seen it happen in these past two years.  Never has the Presidency been run in such a poor way.  Never has there been a President who has worked to divide the nation instead of at least trying to unite it.

But worse than all, never has there been a President who has walked away from so many international agreements.  Never has there been a President who seems valueless in his foreign policy.  Never has there been a President who has not met a dictator he does not like.

And never has their been a system that has not put the breaks on a President who has done all of these things and more.

The American system was designed to never let someone like Donald Trump become President.  That was what the Electoral College’s original role was, to stop a populist who was not qualified to become President becoming one.  But that role was long ago removed.  That is what the system of checks and balances was supposed to do, but a Republican Congress afraid of its base has been unwilling to do that.  So what is left is midterm elections to correct.

I have no idea how today will turn out.  I am cautiously optimistic, but still its hard to concentrate.  It’s hard to do any other work.  I know I am far away, but what happens in America has an impact here in Israel.  While many say Trump has been good for Israel I beg to differ- but this is not the time-

Rather I anguish as a Historian of the American Presidency- I can only hope that as I am writing this the American people are going to the ballot boxes and taking the only corrective measures they can make- Voting for Democrats!

0206002 Flag Band

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The GA – Rabin Assassination- Netanyahu and Fear

Its been a depressing two days. Wednesday was the last day of the GA. I did not participate in the event, but in advance of its happening, I wrote a Newsweek article. The article was toned down from how I felt, after seeing the schedule for the GA. It was titled American Jews and Israel We Really Have to Talk- my emphasis on Really, as opposed to what I felt the GA was going to be, a rather large whitewash of the issues. On Wednesday I had my chance to be at the GA virtually, I was asked to be in the studio at i24 News for Netanyahu’s closing speech to the GA. Bibi was late, and I spent time talking in the studio with the anchor and  the other guest a charming gentleman who is personally a Democrat and works for one of the many pro-Israel groups in Washington. In our discussions before Bibi’s speech, he kept on asking if we were off the air, concerned that he might criticize the government or whoever in public. When the address or rather the interview began ( he was interviewed by the outgoing chairman of the NA Federations), I said in the studio off mic this is ridiculous there is no real getting to the issues. The interviewer started with the softest pitch ever how did you decide to get involved in government- I was assured by the other guest who knew the interviewer, that this was an age-old prosecutors tactic to make the “witness” comfortable before coming in for the kill, of course, the kill never came, and Bibi received a standing ovation at the end, after saying little more than standard campaign slogans. Afterward, in the studio, my Jewish professional colleague took on the role of defender of Bibi and the Israeli government while I was more critical. Overall it was clear that my earlier concerns were correct the GA, we need to talk was a show and a bust.

I24scree

The day became more confusing when I returned in the early evening to i24News, ostensibly to talk about the reports of a French peace initiative. That initiative Macron warned will be started if Trump does not come forth with his long-promised plan. I was asked to come in around 3 for a 7 PM show. Of course between the time I was invited to when the show began the news was far from static, and the reports of the various bomb attempts from the US were breaking. That was the obvious lead story for the 7 o’clock news shows, and I was asked to be in studio to help with the breaking news and so I was on air discussing the bombings trying to put some context etc. ( as much as you can in a breaking news story that you know so little). In the course of the discussion, the anchor Tracy Alexander who does a good job threw me a curve- she asked me how I would compare the recent events to the assassination of Rabin, I gave what I think was a reasonable response talking about how incitement leads to violence. After the break, we moved on to the original topic, and we discussed the Trump vs. Macron plan, two unknowns.

Yesterday’s news, however, tied to the events of the night before. On the 6 PM new show Barak Ravid showed a letter he uncovered, written six months before the Rabin assassination by then Education Minister Amnon Rubenstein to Netanyahu, then head of the opposition. In the letter he beseeches him to turn down the rhetoric against Rabin, warning that if the rhetoric continues, it might lead to acts of violence against Rabin. All very relevant in today’s discourse not only because of the events in the US but also because of the attempt of the Likud here to rewrite history and claim that there was no incitement against Rabin by their people.
Two other troubling events yesterday. The news show that I watch London and Kirschenbaum led off with an ad that was created by the The Public Forum for a Jewish and Democratic Israel. The ad show kids going to Yasser Arafat, High School. In the classroom, someone asks is it not true that our country was once called Israel. The teacher says yes and asks why, a kid takes out a Tanach- and the teacher asks how does he have a banned book like that. The screen then pans to the picture on the wall of Prime Minister of the country Ahmad Tibi (from the Joint Arab List). The ad was shown according to the host not to scare the listener from the ad but from the organization that was promoting the ad.

Finally for those interested in some inside baseball- but its more than that- Prime Minister Netanyahu has begun a very public campaign against former Minister of Education and Likud Member Gideon Saar and to a lesser extent against President Rivlin. On Wednesday his house organ Yisrael Hayom led with a headline stating the reason Netanyahu did not go to new elections now is his fear that if the Likud leads after the next election the President will not appoint him but Saar to form the government. Rivlin office said it was nonsense and Netanyahu was paranoid. Saar denied the charges and said he supports Netanyahu. Instead of letting the story die on Wednesday night Netanyahu publicly charged Saar with trying to organize a putsch against him. This time Saar did not hold back on attacking Netanyahu for making up false charges and effectively saying what Rivlin said the day before that Netanyahu is paranoid. Up to now, no proof has been presented. Unfortunately for Netanyahu despite his media skills, his Trumpeske fake news has not been as successful even with his supporters.

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The Druze Rally- What does it mean?

A little over two weeks ago in the final hours of the Knesset session, two laws were passed, two laws that filled Rabin Square. The first two weeks ago and the second tonight. The crowds were very different but the anger and disappointment were not.

The first was the law on government funding of surrogacy- an amendment that would have included gay men in the bill was introduced, and after publicly promising to support the amendment Prime Minister Netanyahu voted against it. He quickly united the LGBTQ community and after a day of strikes, a rally was held that filled the square. While the purpose of the rally was to protest the issues of gay surrogacy-there was an underlying feeling as expressed by many of the speakers that more was at stake.

Tonight’s rally was different as I wrote in my Newsweek article, most of those on the left and center opposed the law. I thought it was not needed and would just hurt Israel’s image in the world for no good reason. I did not anticipate how the non-Jewish minorities in this country would feel, especially those who have clearly tied their future and identity to the state of Israel. The Druze community felt they had been stabbed in the back. Bibi’s supporters argue that the bill does nothing to hurt their rights, however, it clearly gives Jews greater rights without protecting these same minorities. It also removes Arabic as an official language of the country. The Druze, however, do not take to the streets quickly. They first tried to find a common ground with Netanyahu and negotiate a change. Preferably for everyone, but maybe just for their own community. At some point this week Bibi decided it was in his political interest (for reasons that I do not fully understand) to turn the Druze, into our enemies. He held a meeting on Thursday night ostensively to work out a deal, but in fact, he blew up the meeting claiming that Amsam Asad had brought up Apartheid saying Israel was an Apartheid State. When in fact it was Bibi who brought up a Facebook post that Amsam Asad had put up warning that the law could lead to an Apartheid State. He demanded an apology and when Asad, a reserve brigadier general refused, he walked out of the meeting and Bibi lied about what took place.

For the next 48 hours, a campaign against the Druze and the rally took place. Forged documents were circulated saying that the rally had received support from UNESCO, and the EU. Bibi retweeted a tweet saying that the New Israel Fund was behind the rally, and so it went lies after lies-

The rally itself was very different from any rally I have attended. First of all, there were the Druze. They had come in the thousands. Two hours before the streets of the city were filled with buses and cars bringing tens of thousands of people. The rest of the participants were a completely different crowd than that which turned out two weeks ago. It was my generation that filled the square and not the 20 and 30-year-olds who had come out for LGBTQ right two weeks ago. My estimate is that there were 100,000 people in the Kikar tonight- some are saying 250,000 but I doubt that number but maybe.
The rally began with one of the organizers reading the Declaration of Independence and ended with tens of thousands of Druze singing Hatikva. The Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Mowafaq Tari, who had never before spoke at a rally stated” Despite our unreserved loyalty, Israel doesn’t see us as equals,” The theme was simple we accept this is a state of the Jews that we live in, a state that we have given our total allegiance to- however as much as it is the national homeland of the Jewish people we want to have full and equal rights.

The rally and events of the last two weeks bring into sharp focus what does a Jewish state mean, what does it mean to be an Israeli and what is equality. What will be the longterm consequences I truly do not know but for his political survival Bibi seems willing to pull the Temple down on all of our heads.

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Was tonights rally a start of something bigger or not?

I just came back from the very large rally in Kikar Rabin (60,000-100,000)against the vote in the Knesset not to include gay men in the law approving payments for surrogate adoptions.  It was the largest rally that I can remember recently, and it followed a day of strikes and smaller rallies all over the country.

The rally was attended by young and old and probably most important a demographic that has been missing from most protests this year- the 30 somethings that were there in large numbers filling up the square.

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While the rally and the days’ events were initially aimed solely at the issue of gay surrogacy- it soon became apparent that the issues were larger. The anger was directed at all of the many things that the government did in the past week and beyond.  Speakers talked about the arrest of the Conservative Rabbi. A settler from a Kibbutz surrounding the Gaza Strip spoke about events there this past week, Yael Dayan(daughter of Moshe Dayan), 80 and ailing spoke, about saving the Declaration of Independence from the Nationality Law that passed last week.

Bibi brought this on himself by his zig zags last week.  On Monday speaking out and releasing a video supporting gay men receiving the same rights as other in surrogacy, and then on Thursday when the Ultra-Orthodox threatened him he led the vote against it.

That act inflamed the feeling of that part of the country who have liberal values and do not want to be dictated to by a group of Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis.  It coalesced around the issue of LGBTQ rights where there is wide consensus and where everyone knows someone- but it may be deeper.  Ultimately that is the question of the night.  Have the events of the past weeks awakened those who want Israel to be part of the Western world – a liberal democracy from the slumber, or is this another transient phenomena limited to a single issue?

I do not have the answer.

 

 

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Prime Minister Netanyahu Had a Bad Day

It’s been a difficult day for Prime Minister Netanyahu. For the first time in at least a generation to the leader of the Jewish world ignored the recommendation of the Israeli Prime Minister and picked someone he did not want to be the Head of the Jewish Agency.  They nominating committee overwhelming selected Opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog.  The head of the Jewish Agency has traditionally been from the same party as the Prime Minister.  Netanyahu had wanted Yuval Steinitz currently the Energy Minister and a Netanyahu loyalist.  However, the diaspora leaders said no, they wanted Herzog.  Some say it is a result of the anger at Netanyahu that still exists because of his withdrawal of the Kotel deal.  There can be no question that Herzog is the more qualified candidate.  He has a better understanding of the diasporas, grew up in a home that was deeply Jewish and is as close to royalty that exists in the country.  His Grandfather was Chief Rabbi and his Father both UN Ambassador and President.  By all accounts in the period that he was actually a minister he was considered to be very competent, and of course, there is the small matter that he is a Ramaz graduate.  

Of course, there is a chance that this is really wanted Netanyahu wanted to happen. He and Herzog have always gotten along well, and he knows that he will be a good bridge to the diaspora.  Netanyahu did not seem to fight very hard.  Israelis political observers believe he was surprised by the development.  Even though I am not a great fan of Bibi when it comes to politics there is very little that gets by him.  It should be noted that with opposition receiving the  Jewish Agency there will be pressure to give the Likud the Jewish National Fund.  It is the JNF that has real money, over $1 Billion in the bank and land worth many times that and that is the real prize for the Likud.  A Likud member argued with me today when I said that this was a problem.  He countered that the JNF is corrupt, I agreed- but then he said that the Likud would clean up corruption.  I just laughed and said that the Likud and cleaning up corruption were an oxymora .

The bigger problem for the Netanyahu is no doubt the decision of the Attorney General to indict his wife on fraud and breach.  The case relates to ordering $100,000 of outside food for personal use while at the same time having a cook on premises to cook.  The real problem in what happened is she lied about it, and to use plain vernacular she tried to cook the books. 

While this case is not really connected to the main cases against Netanyahu there are similarities.  The Case 1000 is all about getting gifts for Netanyahu and Sara, and both Case 2000 and 4000 which both center on getting favorable news coverage for Bibi and in many cases Sara.  So while Bibi is not implicated in this case Sara is directly and indirectly in the others.

It should be noted that in 1977 Prime Minister Rabin resigned because his wife illegally held on to their dollar account in the US.  At the time it was illegal for Israelis to have accounts outside of the country, and the Rabin’s established the account while he was Ambassador to Washington. According to the law at the time you had to close the account within three years and the account was discovered by a reporter four years later.  

On a side note, I mentioned the Rabin story to an Israeli friend who is in her late 30’s and she had no idea.  I guess it is not taught in history class.

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"÷.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit in the United States to speak in front of the Congress.

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A Very Disturbing Encounter About Syria

I wanted to share what I found a disturbing encounter I had this evening.  I appeared on i24News in Arabic something that I do once or twice a month. I speak in Hebrew and its translated into Arabic and of the reverse for the questions or another guest words.  I was there to speak about the differences that Sec of Defense Mattis has been saying – The US will continue to have troops in Syria and President Trump who says they should all come home.  The other guest in the studio was talking about the agreement to evacuate the Palestinian Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Damascus.  The other guest was speaking in Arabic and the Hebrew translation in my ear kept talking about the terrorist.  Every reference to the rebels and the Palestinians was to the terrorist. I thought there might have been a problem with the translation so when the segment was over and we got up to leave I asked him did you say all the time in Arabic terrorists.  He said yes.  We then began arguing, he saying that all the opponents of Assad are terrorist, he did not start the war it was outside terrorist sent by Saudi Arabia that began the war. I of course disagreed.  I then asked him if it was ok for Assad’s planes to bomb hospitals.  He said yes they are all terrorists in the hospitals and its fine to bomb them.  I said it was against international law and to the best of my knowledge no one had ever deliberately targeted hospitals before.  He started yelling you westerners with double standards, what did you do in Hiroshima.  He then said something about us being like the Crusaders ( I am not sure I fully caught that) and that they (whoever they were ) were here before us and will be there long after we are gone.

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A totally disturbing encounter

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Yom Hazikaron

It’s Yom Hazikaron here in Israel. The day when most of the country comes together and remembers the sacrifices that this country has required. The ceremony in Rabin Square varies little from year to year, sad songs interspersed with the stories of the those who have fallen. Those stories are always well done and moving with often parents or other loved ones talking about the fallen. Tonight I was struck by the number of stories of those who perished in the Yom Kippur War or the time before and after. Very often soldiers who were close to my age. In almost every one of these cases, it was a brother or a friend from the unit who spoke, for by now the parents are gone.

Its hard hearing the stories and thinking of the kids who were my age, but never got to live the life that I have had. Never got to have children and grandchildren. It’s hard to realize what so many sacrificed so that we could live here in freedom.

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Tonight’s events come one week after Yom Hashoah, and in some ways put the sacrifice of Israelis into perspective. The 23,646 soldiers who died represented a terrible loss. However, I can still remember my Mother talking about all of her first cousins (probably 40 out 45)who died during the holocaust and never got to live, and then I think of the 1 million children who perished, a number that is simply too big to understand.

So here we stand 70 years after the establishment of the State. The State of Israel that we the Jewish people dreamed of and the founder of Modern Zionism took the steps to make it a reality. That state in many ways has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of its founders. We are a wealthy country with a strong economy who despite our small size leads the worlds in many areas. And yet in one way it has not succeeded at all. Our children like us still have to go into the army. We fear that next year when we commemorate Yom Hazikaron the number of those we remember will have gone up.

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We Are at a Strange Place

Tomorrow night is Yom Hashoah and I will be filing an appropriately somber article to Newsweek on the holocaust and the events in Syria in the last few days and years. But tonight a totally different sort of event was taking place here in Tel Aviv. In Rabin Square, over 10,000 mostly young people (20’s and 30’s ) showed up for a unique show. A pre-Eurovision concert where representatives of 30 countries came to preview their songs that they will sing in two months at the Eurovision contest. Singers from throughout Europe and from Australia previewed their songs to an enthusiastic crowd. I am sure that many in the crowd imagined that they were standing in the middle of a city in Europe and not 40 miles from Gaza and 90 miles from the Syrian border.

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Events seem to be moving ever faster- As I write this post I am listening to Mark Zuckerberg testifying before the Senate, while my twitter feed just informed me that the Russians have vetoed a US proposal to create an independent commission to investigate the gas attacks in Syria.
Iran today promised that it would retaliate for the alleged Israeli attack on an Iranian base in Syria, in which a significant number of Iranians were killed. It would seem that the Iranian installation that was attacked was significant and the attack was very successful. Israel is taking the Iranian threat seriously and is preparing accordingly.

Tonight Ehud Barak was interviewed on the news. He somberly stated that while in his opinion at any given time there is a 1% chance that a miscalculation could bring about a full-scale war, recent events have brought that number to 10%, something that he thought was way too high. Barak stated that while the army was ready for a potential war, the country as a whole is not.

So here we are a week before Israel’s 70th anniversary, and on one hand, we celebrate our success and reach out as part of the larger world community. At the same time, it’s becoming clear that there exists a very real possibility that war is a very real possibility.

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