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.


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.

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!

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