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August 30, 2016 / 26 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Change’

Iran: Can Rouhani Deliver?

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

By Nir Boms and Shayan Arya

Last week, more than 250 Iranian steel workers gathered in front of the Supreme Leader’s residence in protest against unjustified layoffs and unpaid salaries. They were not the only ones. Reports from the past week revealed a dozen other such protests and strikes that range from a tire company, cable workers, the cinema association and even employees of Iran’s Ministry of Youth Affairs.

Protests and demonstrations are not that common in Iran; their last wave was met with harsh repression and violence. Now they have spread again and become more brazen. Signs again read “Down with the dictator,” while police used tear gas in an attempt to scare protesters away.

A combination of international sanctions and domestic mismanagement has resulted in rapidly rising unemployment and restive unemployed youth. The worsening economic conditions were also a key driver for the vote for change which took place in Tehran during the last Presidential election. But change is still a long way off.

Rouhani’s victory by such a wide margin was not just a testament to his politics, but seemingly a total rejection of the more conservative candidates more closely aligned with the widely despised supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Rouhani’s campaign symbol was a giant golden key, which he waved at rallies to symbolize his ability to open locked doors. To an Iranian electorate all too familiar with locked doors in every aspect of their lives — both domestic and international — even the remote possibility of things getting better was irresistible. But now that Rouhani has been elected, he may find it difficult to deliver on his promise.

Rouhani, to be sure, will face a mountain of problems, even compared to those of his predecessors. Iran’s international isolation has never been so severe. There is virtually no segment of Iran’s economy, or for that matter of Iranian society, that has been immune to the ill effects of the economic sanctions. In less than a year, Iran’s currency has lost two-thirds of its value against the dollar; and even by the most optimistic estimates, inflation is above 30%, with unemployment reaching similar proportions among urban youth.

Iran’s economy is under attack from two major fronts: international sanctions and domestic mismanagement inherent in the Islamic system.

Sanctions are not a new phenomenon there. Previous sanctions were imposed in response to the Islamic regime’s international support for terrorism and Iran’s dismal human rights record. But the more stringent sanctions now afflicting Iran were levied in response to the country’s nuclear program — and these are the crippling sanctions Rouhani needs to undo. To accomplish such a change, a change of policy is required. In addition to the nuclear issue, any negotiations for lifting sanctions obviously need to include Iran’s abandoning support for Hezbollah, its involvement in Syria, its continued support of other terrorist groups, as well as the Assad regime that continues to slaughter its people.

Rouhani’s first challenge is that he does not hold the keys to most of these issues. Iran’s policies on the nuclear issue, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, international terrorism and supporting the Assad regime are the sole purview of Iran’s supreme leader. No president has ever been able to enter these domains in any meaningful way, let alone alter them substantially; these issues have, in fact, always been sources of tension and discreet friction between presidents and the supreme leader.

Another challenge lies in the United States Congress. As many of the sanctions against Iran have been embedded in laws, it would take a Herculean effort on the part of President Obama to convince the legislative branch to change them. Even if the president were to decide to “trust” Rohani, he would still need to convince Congress. Given the political atmosphere in Washington, it is unlikely the president would even consider risking his remaining political capital on lifting sanctions without being able to demonstrate substantial progress in changing Iran’s course.

A third challenge lies on the domestic front. Here Rouhani must face an endemic system of corruption, in addition to gangs of Revolutionary Guards [IRGC], who have extended their control over almost every aspect of Iran’s economy, government, military and security apparatus. To change that, Rouhani would have to tackle the IRGC and their powerful ally, the Supreme Leader Khamenei, who sees them as his extended arm for controlling Iran and key to the Islamic regime’s survival.

Guest Author

Next Year in Jerusalem: Obama Wins Second Term

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

It’s been said that if Obama wins, that would be a big push for Aliyah.

I’m not sure how that works out considering the fact that 70% of Jews who voted, voted for Obama. I guess it’s that 30% that might be considering their options.

And how timely is that!

Nefesh B’Nefesh is going to be working overtime this winter.

If you were thinking about Aliyah, and now considering it more seriously, talk to NBN now to ensure you can get a seat on that plane.

So, if “Change” has morphed into “Forward,” let “Forward” morph into “Eastbound.” It’s time to come home.

Tell them Jameel sent you.

 

 

[Editor’s Note: 60%-40% was updated to 70%-30% based on the latest exit polls of Jewish voters.]

JoeSettler

Barring a Miracle, No Need to Change the White House Curtains

Friday, September 28th, 2012

A good Israeli friend of mine, like most non-Americans, is mystified by the plethora of poll numbers emanating from the presidential campaign and seem to mean very different things to very different people.

In this column I’ve been trying to stress the huge difference between the national polls, which do nothing more than reflect the mood of a representative sample of Americans on a given day, and the state-by-state polls, which are also snapshots by nature, but with more meaningful information regarding the actual results of the coming vote.

On Sunday, my friend complained that I’m the only one who says Obama will, basically, wipe the floor with his Republican opponent. Everyone else has been telling him the race is neck and neck.

Indeed, last Sunday, you could still find national polls that, while favoring Obama, did so with a gap between him and Romney that fell within the 3 point margin of error.

Every educated American has had to explain to a foreigner, at one point or another, our election system, or, more specifically, the Electoral College.

The Electoral College, comprised of 538 delegates from the different states, will meet after the November election and will vote on who should be our next president. It didn’t used to be a foregone conclusion, but in our time it is: the candidate to receive 270 delegates or more will be our next president.

The president is not picked by the popular vote, even though it often seems that way. He or she are picked by the 270+ delegates they collected.

This is why the national polls, which last Sunday showed the candidates running neck and neck, essentially, didn’t present a viable prediction of the election results.

I’ll give you an example:

Take the two neighboring states of North and South Dakota. They’re very similar in many ways, including the fact that the size of their citizenry entitles them to three delegates each to the Electoral College.

Let’s say that it takes roughly half a million citizens to qualify for one delegate. ND and SD then should have 1.5 million voters each.

Let’s say that Mitt Romney is extremely popular in ND, where he is loved by everyone, 100% of the voters.

In SD, however, he is only liked by 49% of the voters, while Barack Obama enjoys the support of 51% of the voters.

If we ran a poll about the popularity of the two candidates in the Dakotas, Romney would be the runaway leader by a whopping 3 to 1 ratio. A clear winner.

But, come election day, to his chagrin, Romney would only receive 3 delegates, as will Obama. Because our system is winner-take-all, and having everybody vote for you, or merely a slim majority of the voters, comes down to exactly the same result.

Our country is divided into five kinds of states: Red—proud, dedicated Republicans; Pink—leaning Republicans; Blue—proud, dedicated Democrats; Baby Blue—leaning Democrat, and Gray – the tossup states.

Let’s assume that Romney gets both shades of red and Obama both shades of blue. This will net Romney 193 delegates, while Obama will have 252 delegates.

There are 93 votes remaining in the tossup states, which, were Romney to win the majority there, he could find his way to the yearned for 270.

The problem is that he is behind in most of them, and in all the larger states in that bunch.

Take North Carolina, where Romney was the clear leader throughout the summer – but not any more. An NBC/WSJ/Marist poll covering the period from 9/23 – 9/25, sampling 1,035 Likely Voters – folks who are registered to vote and planning to do so, with a 3.1 margin of error, show Obama with a 48-46 lead over Romney. That’s a Southern state, with mostly red state-wide elected officials, which should have gone to Romney and is slipping away from his grasp.

A Republican poll in the same state gave Obama a 4 point lead for the period of 9/18-9/19.

In Florida, the biggest tossup state (29 delegates), Obama is leading by 3 and 4 points (CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac last week gave him 9 points).

And in Ohio, with its 18 delegates, Obama has been doing so well, that the site Real Clear Politics, the Mecca for political junkies during these trying times, has moved Ohio from gray to baby blue. It’s no longer a tossup state.

Yori Yanover

Kosher Hot Dogs and the Dichotomy of Tisha B’Av

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Wailing, fasting and the wearing of ashes, alongside socializing, communing and catching up with old friends in a fun outdoor atmosphere. That is the dichotomy of the 9th of Av in modern day Jerusalem. On the one hand a somber mood, but on the other hand, a paradoxical sense of joviality fills the warm summer night.

It makes sense that some level of happiness is in the air, because after all, we are bewailing the destruction of Jerusalem in a big, beautiful and built Jerusalem. This contrast is highlighted in the Jewish liturgy on the 9th of Av when we say the “Nachem” prayer referring to mournful, destroyed and desolate Jerusalem. However, we say that prayer in one of the hundreds of beautiful Synagogues in the city, or at the courtyard of Jerusalem’s city hall, or at the Western Wall with thousands of our fellow Jewish Israeli citizens who have travelled from other thriving Israeli cities on the paved roads of the Jewish state to pray for the future of Jerusalem.

Indeed, a major change has taken place in Jewish life, and while we keep the same rites as we have kept for 2000 years, our reality is vastly different. To understand the change, here is a parable: Two women are in a room and both are single. One’s husband has just died, while the other is engaged to be married – both are indeed single, but they are in totally different states of mind.

So, too, is the Jewish nation: We have mourned for the last two millennia because we were forcibly dispossessed of our land, our capital was sacked, our Temple destroyed and it was as though our husband was murdered. But now with half the Jewish people in the land of Israel and Jerusalem standing in earthly beauty, we are engaged to be married and await the next stage of fulfillment. Our mourning now is the yearning for a final redemption – like a bride waiting for the wedding canopy, we impatiently await the completion of this great process.

Yet, so many Jews deny the obvious reality. Almost like a mantra, they tell you that nothing has changed, that we are still in exile, that there is no difference between living in Israel and living in the Diaspora. Our own people somehow don’t see the transformation that has opened the doors for our nation to return to lost tradition, speak our national language, fight in a Jewish army, and create a culturally Jewish state on our ancestral land. One gets the impression that some prefer not to see it, lest it break their romance with other dreams, namely, the American Dream.

Recently, I caught an article in the Jewish Journal and it was titled: “They just want kosher Dodger Dogs”. The article went on to say that a consortium of six “accomplished professionals” who are also “season ticket holders” are working to remedy the lack of kosher hot dogs at Dodger Stadium in LA. “We are really just a group of people who feel very strongly that the second-largest Jewish community in the country should have the ability to eat a Jewish hot dog at a ballgame…” said a member of the committee, an attorney.

Seriously? Is this what grown men spend their time on? The Jewish people are engaged in the most exciting project in two thousand years – building a Jewish State. We face enormous challenges to build up, educate, and protect our people, and all this is happening while wealthy season-ticket Kosher-eating Jews are fighting for Kosher hot dogs in Dodger stadium? Are we so comfortable with the status quo that Jewish leaders can spend their time on nonsense?

Even closer to their home, in the great state of California there are serious problems with antisemitism at many colleges, high intermarriage rates, and scores of Jews who are losing all connection with Judaism. Some young Jews don’t stand a chance of getting Jewish schooling, while others are afraid to show their Kippah on campus. Yet a group of wealthy Kosher-eating Jews is not ashamed to go public with their efforts to bring fresh Kosher dogs to their box seats?

Yishai Fleisher

Excerpt of Letter From Prime Minister Netanyahu to Shaul Mofaz

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Following is an excerpt from the letter that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent to Shaul Mofaz on Tuesday:

“I regret your decision to give up on an opportunity to make an historic change. After 64 years, we were very close to a substantial change in the division of the burden. I gave you a proposal that would have led to the conscription of ultra-orthodox and Arabs from the age of 18. I explained to you that the only way to implement this on the ground is gradually and without tearing Israeli society apart, especially at a time when the State of Israel is facing many significant challenges. I will continue to work toward the responsible solution that Israeli society expects.”

Jewish Press News Briefs

Anti-Islamist Protesters Pelt Hillary’s Motorcade with Tomatoes, Shoes

Monday, July 16th, 2012

As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s armored car motorcade was riding through the Egyptian port city of Alexandria where she had given a speech on democratic rights, a tomato hit an accompanying Egyptian official in the face, and shoes and a water bottle were thrown at Hillary’s car, Reuters reports.

According to a senior U.S. official, said Clinton herself was not hit, since her vehicle had already turned a corner by the time of the incident. But she may have been able to hear the taunts of “Monica, Monica” which the protesters were chanting, a reference to the extra-marital affair conducted by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Others had chanted the Arabic equivalent of ” Clinton go home,” according to an Egyptian security official.

According to Al Ahram, several liberal and Christian politicians and public figures condemned Clinton’s visit to Egypt, accusing the United States of favoring Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. There were several large demonstrations by liberal parties and movements, including the Free Egyptians party and the Front for Peaceful Change, against Clinton’s visit outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo, the presidential palace and the Four Seasons hotel in which Clinton was staying. The demonstrators were joined by supporters of Mubarak-era vice president Omar Suleiman.

A large group of Christian politicians – including Coptic MP Emad Gad, rights activist Michael Mounir, former MP Georgette Qeleini and business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, refused to meet with Clinton during her brief visit to Egypt.

In a joint statement on Sunday, they expressed their displeasure with Clinton’s decision to meet with members of Egypt’s Coptic-Christian community following earlier meetings with Muslim Brotherhood members and Salafists. They asserted that Clinton’s move served to “promote sectarian divisions.”

Clinton met with women and Christians, two groups with reasons to fear repression under a Muslim Brotherhood government.

“I will be honest and say some have legitimate fears about their future,” Clinton told reporters. “I said to them … no Egyptian, no person anywhere, should be persecuted for their faith, or their lack of faith, for their choices about working and not working. Democracy is not just about reflecting the will of the majority. It is also about protecting the rights of the minority.”

Clinton said the U.S. had learned that “the hard way,” pointing out that the U.S. constitution originally did not protect the rights of women or slaves.

Al Ahram reported that on Saturday the Front for Peaceful Change, a pro-revolution youth group, issued a statement calling on the Egyptian public to participate in the protests to register its rejection of perceived U.S. interference in Egypt’s affairs and its deal-making with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Al Ahram cites accusations of a secret agreement which was hammered out between the U.S. and the Brotherhood, which the paper says is a common refrain among the opponents of Clinton’s visit.

Emad Gad, a Coptic-Christian member of Egypt’s recently dissolved lower house of parliament, saw Clinton’s visit to Cairo in the context of an alleged U.S.-Brotherhood deal that enabled candidate Mohamed Morsi to assume Egypt’s presidency.

“In exchange for Morsi’s being named president, the Brotherhood is expected to protect Israel’s security by pressuring Hamas – the Brotherhood’s branch in Palestine – not to launch military attacks against Israel, and even accept a peace agreement with Tel Aviv,” Gad told Al-Ahram.

Gad, whom Al Ahram introduces as a prominent political analyst, told the paper that the U.S. was also supporting the Brotherhood in return for maintaining Mubarak-era agreements not to restore ties with Iran.

On Saturday night, according to Reuters, protesters outside Clinton’s Cairo hotel chanted anti-Islamist slogans, accusing the United States of engineering the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power.

In her speech at the recently re-opened U.S. consulate in Alexandria, Clinton rejected suggestions that the United States, which had been an avid supporter of the deposed Mubarak, was backing one faction over another in Egypt.

“I want to be clear that the United States is not in the business, in Egypt, of choosing winners and losers, even if we could, which of course we cannot,” Clinton said.

“We are prepared to work with you as you chart your course, as you establish your democracy,” she added. “We want to stand for principles, for values, not for people or for parties.”

Jewish Press Staff

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Facing Heated Calls For Change On Several Fronts

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

WASHINGTON – The latest battle over religious pluralism in Israel has unleashed a new barrage of criticism and calls for reform aimed at the Orthodox-controlled Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

Unlike major flare-ups in past decades, however, this time it’s not just the Reform and Conservative movements leading the charge – mainstream, consensus-oriented Jewish groups with no denominational affiliations are speaking out, too.

One flashpoint has been the fallout from the Israeli attorney general’s decision to approve government funding for Reform and Conservative religious leaders as “rabbis of non-Orthodox communities” – albeit through the Ministry of Culture and Sports rather than the Orthodox-controlled Religious Services Ministry, which funds Orthodox rabbis.

That announcement drew a caustic response from Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who in a June 27 meeting urged more than 100 fellow Orthodox rabbis – including Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger – to pray “in order to stop the destroyers and saboteurs of Judaism [because] they are trying to uproot the foundation of Judaism.”

“There is a natural backlash on the part of American Jews and American Jewish leaders when the Chief Rabbinate issues such statements,” said Steven Bayme, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Koppelman Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations. “As we enter the 21st century, the [Chief Rabbinate] needs to be reevaluted in terms of democratic norms and modern Israel’s relationship to world Jewry.”

In response to Rabbi Amar’s remarks, about 50 Reform and Conservative rabbis protested outside of the Chief Rabbinate’s building in Jerusalem. Two Conservative rabbis filed a police complaint accusing Amar of incitement – a particularly serious claim in Israel ever since the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The Jewish Federations of North America, which has leaders from across the religious spectrum, but which in recent years has become more vocal on behalf of Israel’s non-Orthodox Jews, was quick to respond.

“It is a fundamental Jewish virtue to ‘love your fellow as yourself.’ We condemn comments that disparage fellow Jews and, in particular, well-established branches of Judaism that represent 80 percent of North American Jewry,” Jerry Silverman, the president and CEO of JFNA, said in a statement. “Statements such as those made by Rabbi Amar only serve to alienate our fellow Jews from our religion, our people and the Jewish state.”

Shortly after that controversy, the board of governors of the AJC – another nonsectarian Jewish organization with no formal ties to either the Reform or Conservative movements – went even further in criticizing the Chief Rabbinate and calling for major changes to the institution.

“In the 21st century, a coercive Chief Rabbinate has become, at best, an anachronism, and at worst a force dividing the Jewish people,” the AJC’s leaders declared in a resolution.

The Chief Rabbinate’s actions “threaten to divide the Jewish people and risk an anti-religious backlash against Judaism itself within the Jewish state,” they wrote. The AJC urged Israel’s government “to undertake promptly all needed actions” to end the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over issues of personal status.

The latest wave of criticism comes amid a backdrop of religion-related controversies – tensions between Modern Orthodox rabbis and haredi Orthodox rabbis over conversions; the push for civil marriage in Israel; and the struggle over whether haredi men should serve in the military or continue to be exempt to study in yeshivas.

“Like any human institution, the Chief Rabbinate could use improvement,” said Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive director emeritus of the Orthodox Union.

“What those improvements would be though requires a lot of thought and a lot of study, and from the OU’s perspective in no way could the Orthodox nature and the halachic nature of the Chief Rabbinate be compromised.”

Rabbi Weinreb stressed that OU congregations and rabbis adhere to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s decisions. He added that the process of electing chief rabbis could be refined so that it is “less political.”

The call for radical reform of the Chief Rabbinate was greeted warmly by Reform and Conservative groups.

“It’s a powerful letter from the dead center of the American Jewish establishment weighing in on what the Israeli government and the Israeli public still thinks is a fringe issue,” Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said of the AJC’s position. “It’s a welcome voice in that debate.”

Neil Rubin

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