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September 15, 2014 / 20 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Israeli Government’

Israel: the Impudence Accompanying Betrayal

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

I’ve always been amazed that anyone thought the United States would ever act against the Iranian nuclear threat. There was never any chance that such a thing would happen. The United States would never go to war with tens of millions of people.

Moreover, there was never any chance the United States would let Israel “attack” Iran.

In a Huffington Post article by Steven Strauss, the author quotes Netanyahu:

“‘I believe that we can now say that Israel has reached childhood’s end, that it has matured enough to begin approaching a state of self-reliance… We are going to achieve economic independence [from the United States].’ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a Joint Session of the United States Congress – Washington D.C., July 10, 1996 (Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs).”

Unfortunately, today, almost 20 years later, this is not a fair statement to quote. Strauss continues: “In 1997, Israel received $3.1 billion in aid from the U.S. In 2012, Israel was still receiving $3.1 billion annually in U.S. aid.”

This, however, is not an appropriate comparison today. Let us look at the current situation: Egypt will receive $2 billion in U.S. aid; Saudi Arabia will receive military aid as well as the anti-Asad Syrian rebels; Turkey will receive billions of dollars and probably military equipment. Moreover, the United States and Europe will also reach out to Iran, and Hizballah and Syria will receive aid from Iran. In addition, the Palestinians have not made the least bit of commitment on a two-state solution. In other words, only Israel would lose. And this is the childhood’s end?

Strauss further notes, “Israel has become an affluent and developed country that can afford to pay for its own defense.” But the point is that other hostile countries will be receiving more while Israel will get the same amount.

He continues, “… Israel has a well developed economy in other ways.” But again, Israel will be placed at much more of a disadvantage.

The article’s claim, “Other countries/programs could better use this aid money,” does not state the reality.

“Even domestically, the aid that goes to Israel could be useful. Detroit is bankrupt, and our Congress is cutting back on food stamps, and making other painful budget cuts.” Again, the United States does not face an immediate threat from its neighbors, while Israel does. Moreover, this is shockingly implying that Israel is stealing money from poor people in the United States.

In other words, this is not equivalent.

“Israel and the United States have increasingly different visions about the future of the Middle East.” But again, so what? This is absolutely irrelevant.

“A major (bipartisan) goal of the United States has been the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Once again, this is a policy that is impossible, but the United States is going to try to force it on Israel anyway.

Note that the less security the United States and the West provide to Israel, the more difficult it makes it to secure or promote a desirable two-state solution. Strauss adds, “However, the current Israeli government is clearly not committed to the U.S. vision, and has done everything possible to sabotage American efforts.”

The problem with this last point is that the Palestinians have always tried to sabotage this. If this concept hasn’t gotten across in a quarter century, I can’t imagine when it will get across.

The current Israeli government has tried for many years to achieve a two-state solution and has made many concessions. And if Kerry can’t take Israel’s side on this issue, then I can’t imagine how decades of U.S. policy has been carried out. To say that the Israeli government is not committed is a fully hostile statement.

This claims Israeli settlement and not Palestinian intransigence has blocked the peace process.

Note that the author of this article has “distinguished” credentials: “Steven Strauss is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.”

Yet if this is what the U.S. government understands, it will end badly. Moreover, the issue of Iran and nuclear weapons is not the important point; rather, it is the transformation of the U.S. Middle East position that is significant. I do not believe there is any chance Iran will use nuclear weapons. The problem is that this is reversal of the U.S. policy. In other words, it is like going back to 1948 and opposing partition.

Finally, what this is all about is money and greed. Many European countries are drooling about the money to be made. For example, Vittorio Da Rold writes (Il Sole 24 ore), “Italian SMEs are hoping for a rapid agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue in order to return as soon as possible to trade without limits with Tehran and the rich Iranian market in hopes of finding new markets in a time when the European market flirts with deflation.”

Israelis Should Avoid Visiting Turkey, Govt. Says

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

The Israeli government issued an unequivocal travel advisory on Monday warning Israelis to avoid visiting Turkey, a popular vacation destination for Israelis over the summer and during the upcoming Jewish holidays, Israel Hayom reported.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued its routine semi-annual travel warning, formulated by the office’s Counterterrorism Bureau, stating that all non-essential visits to Turkey “should be avoided.”

The threat issuing from Turkey is defined as an “ongoing potential threat,” a mid-level threat on the bureau’s five-level scale. Turkey is now on the same threat level as countries where jihadi terror cells are known to be operating, including Nigeria, Kenya and Azerbaijan.

The travel warning is for the upcoming Jewish holidays in September. So far, over the summer months of July and August, tens of thousands of Israelis have visited Turkey.

The Counterterrorism Bureau also recommended that Israelis avoid visiting the two countries with which Israel shares a border and a peace agreement: Egypt and Jordan. In those two countries, the threat facing Israelis was defined as a “basic concrete threat,” one level higher than the threat facing Israelis in Turkey. For Morocco, another popular destination for Israelis, an “ongoing potential threat” warning was issued.

Will ‘Terrorism’ be Redefined to Placate Israeli Leftists?

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

American news headlines over the past few weeks have focused on political targeting by the Internal Revenue Service of conservative groups. But Israel is experiencing its own form of political targeting by the state. The attorney general is leading an initiative to have a small group of radical juveniles who engage in mischief declared a terrorist organization.

The group of politically-motivated Jewish vandals operates under the name Tag Mechir, or Price Tag. They came together as a response to Arab rock-throwing and general acts of vandalism against Jews perpetrated in the West Bank and in some other areas. Much of their activity consists of writing graffiti on cars and homes of Arabs or Jewish leftists. Their worst acts of misbehavior have involved vandalizing mosques. The local police have been unsuccessful in tracking down and arresting those involved, but they are thought to be young people from settlements in the West Bank.

Most people on the political right in Israel, including most pro-settler organizations and parties, regard the Price Tag radicals as an embarrassment. The vandals have been condemned by nearly every rabbi in the country. The Price Taggers have damaged property and they needlessly provoke Muslims and others in the most explosive region of the world. But they have killed no one. They do not engage in actual violence against humans, except for some revenge-rock-throwing.

(As it turns out, in several cases leftists and Arabs have vandalized Arab property as provocations to be blamed on settlers and the Price Tag group. Presumably, the Price Taggers are happy to accept the “credit” for these crimes even when they are not involved.)

The same leftists who seek to define the Price Taggers as terrorists bend over backward to excuse rock throwing by Arabs against Jews. Members of Israel’s chattering classes are always willing to defend freedom of speech for those holding opinions of which they approve.

Rather than engage the Price Tag juveniles in debate or simply denounce their behavior in the media, the government apparently prefers to deal with them by redefining terrorism to include petty vandalism.

It should be noted here that not one of the many cases of synagogues being vandalized by Arabs has been defined by the government as terrorism.

The initiative to proclaim the Price Tag group a terrorist organization has come from Israel’s politicized attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein. It was immediately endorsed by the leftist herds in media and academia, as well as by political hacks such as the minister of internal security and the justice minister.

Weinstein has a long track record of “differential prosecution.” This is manifested in his refusal to prosecute leftists and Arabs while running a special surveillance agency to spy on right-wing Jews. When an Arab Knesset member who participated in the “Hamas flotilla” seeking to end Israel’s naval control of the waters around the Gaza Strip violently attacked Israeli soldiers, Weinstein refused to prosecute her.

Weinstein has also studiously defended freedom of speech for radical leftists and Arabs while just as studiously seeking its suppression for everyone else. He has repeatedly indicted rabbis and others for “incitement” and “racism” when they dare to express political opinions with which the left disagrees – even prosecuting people for catcalls at a soccer game – but has never indicted any leftists calling for violence or mutiny by soldiers.

So what are we to make of this initiative to declare a group of juvenile vandals and punks a “terrorist organization”?

The most obvious problem with it is that it empties the very notion of terrorism of any substantive meaning. If some teenagers engaging in fraternity-like pranks and malicious graffiti are in the same category as the genocidal suicide bombers of Hamas and al Qaeda, then how bad can the Islamofascist terrorists really be?

But what is at least as outrageous is that the initiative is really nothing more than an assault against freedom of speech inside Israel. It is an arbitrary attempt to criminalize the political behavior of a fringe group while ignoring the violence constantly being perpetrated by groups from the other end of the political spectrum.

For example, the “Anarchists Against the Wall” organization that operates in Israel engages in actual violence against actual Israeli soldiers and police officers every single week. For years the group’s members have been joined by fellow anarcho-fascists from overseas in provoking violent confrontations with Israeli security personnel, supposedly all as part of their “protests” against Israel constructing its security fence against Palestinian terrorists.

The Next Round: Will Netanyahu Retain His Title?

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Netanyahu had no real opponent in the recent election for Israel’s 19th Knesset, making his re-election clear before elections were even announced. Thus, despite what many analysts graded as the worst campaign of the Knesset’s 12 parties, the alliance between the Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister Lieberman resulted in a clear win of 31 seats for Likud Beitenu. Second place Yair Lapid was the surprise of the elections, winning 19 seats, and he quickly announced he was looking to be a coalition member and not the Opposition Leader.

This Friday, Smith conducted a poll published by Globes, which put Prime Minister Netanyahu’s center-right Likud-Beitenu and Finance Minister Lapid’s center-left Yesh Atid at a 30-30 tie.  While polling is not an exact science, polls provide us with the latest voting trends and they are the best tool we have for predicting election results. The Smith poll is significant because Smith is not only one of the highest rated polling companies, but it most accurately predicted the 2013 election results.

In addition, the Smith poll makes Lapid the first contender to achieve that kind of success in a mid-term poll since Kadima, under Tzipi Livni, hit 30 seats in polls following Ehud Barak’s split from Labor in early 2011.  Friday’s poll also indicated that the two other current self-labeled center parties, led by Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz, would fail to pass the threshold in a new election, with their eight seats likely heading to Yesh Atid.

Ever since Netanyahu climbed to the top of the polls in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, there has been a shift of support from the traditional ideological left vs. right vote to the “Netanyahu & friends” vs. the “Anti-Netanyahu” vote. This phenomenon was evident when extreme left-wing party Meretz dropped to three seats in the 2009 elections because left-wing voters supported Tzipi Livni, hoping she would defeat Netanyahu.

In that election, Livni won 29 mandates, but Netanyahu, with 28 mandates, nevertheless formed the coalition. After Barak formed the Independence party and Labor faced another possible split led by MK Amir Peretz, polls showed that Labor voters began to support Livni. A few months later, however, voters have pulled their support from Livni. That’s because while Netanyahu hasn’t had any real competition since – he has now.

Although the current government has an unconventional make-up, splitting the Knesset into its traditional blocks, the key to the next government, shows a tie between the right and left. The poll gives the right-religious block of Likud-Beitenu, Bayit Yehudi, Shas and UTJ 60 seats. The center-left-Arab block of Yesh Atid, Labor, Meretz, Hadash, Ra’am-Ta’al and Balad win the other 60. One could argue that the Arab parties would never join a coalition, but splitting the seats between the traditional blocks gives a good indication for Netanyahu’s chances of forming a government. That’s because one can expect members of the center-left block to not join a Netanyahu government unless they expect him to form a coalition without them.

Many in the ideological-left camp feel that Labor, the third largest party, will be a big player in the next election. But Labor ran as the alternative to the Netanyahu government this past election and won a disappointing 15 seats. The Smith poll has Labor falling to 12, lower than the 13 seats Labor achieved under Ehud Barak in the 2009 elections. Labor, which has seen six leadership changes in the last dozen years, has become somewhat of a joke in many political circles. It seems highly unlikely that the party, under whichever leader it chooses, will be able to convince the Israeli voter to yet again look to them as the alternative to Netanyahu.

Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi came in fourth place in the recent elections with 12 seats. Bennett is an obvious future candidate for Prime Minister and will be a key player in the next election. The Smith poll has Bennett’s party in third place which means that after the next elections, he may have a chance to play the traditional kingmaker role of Israeli politics deciding between his former boss Prime Minister Netanyahu and his new best friend Yair Lapid. The thought of Bennett not backing the right-wing candidate seems improbable, but not if Netanyahu treats Bennett during this administration as poorly as he did in the weeks following the recent elections.

‘That’s Just How It Is In The Knesset’

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Last week, a few minutes after my stormy exchange with haredi members of Knesset, I went to what we in the Knesset call the “back cafeteria.” It is not exactly a cafeteria but rather a lounge area behind the plenum where members of Knesset alone can enter.

There are couches and chairs, a smoking room, an espresso machine, and a large plasma TV that broadcasts the Knesset channel. This is the place where Knesset members can rest a little, gossip, close deals, and even develop friendships far from the public eye.

I took a coffee and sat with two fellow Yesh Atid MKs, Rena Frenkel and Yifat Kariv, who were still short of breath from the emotions that had just been unleashed in the plenum. After a minute, UTJ MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, whom I had engaged in most of the debate, appeared next to us.

Gafni is a complex person. Most of the time in the plenum he acts haughty, attacking and shouting – a “hero of interruptions” who is equipped, as I mentioned from the podium, with a very strong pair of lungs that enable him to deafen you without a microphone.

But the moment he is away from the cameras he becomes a sweet, reasonable person whom you can come to agreements with regarding laws and committee work. In my eyes, and apparently in his as well, this is not duplicitous. When one is in the plenum, one is a representative of the public. When one is in the back cafeteria, one can be a human being.

“You are making a mistake, Rabbi Gafni,” I told him.

“Regarding what?” he asked.

“Regarding the debate.”

“Why?”

“Listen,” I said. “Tomorrow I am ascending the stage at the National Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv to give my first comprehensive speech as finance minister. I am going to present the principles of the economic policies I plan to present to the government, to provide details regarding my vision for Israeli society, and to explain for the first time the reforms the finance ministry is planning to pass in the Economic Arrangement Law. ”

“So what was the mistake?” Gafni asked.

“The mistake,” I answered, “is that from every perspective it would be better for me to present this speech in the Knesset. In my view, it is more democratic and more fitting that members of Knesset be the first to hear from the finance minister regarding his financial program rather than reading about it the next day in the newspaper.”

“You are very right,” said Gafni, “so why don’t you do that?”

“Because your faction won’t let me even complete the first sentence,” I said. “We both know precisely what will happen. I will start to speak, you will begin to scream, and I won’t succeed in explaining anything. An economic plan is complex and it deserves to have a real discourse and thoughtful dialogue based on facts and realities. I need twenty-five minutes to explain the budget and I don’t think it is too much to ask MKs to listen with seriousness and without interruptions for twenty-five minutes to something that will set the course for the country’s economy.

“If you would agree to give me this opportunity, I am prepared to sit afterward for six straight hours, to listen to your side regarding every detail in the budget, to take notes, and to look into every issue with seriousness and in good faith.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” said Gafni.

“Why not?”

“Because that’s just how it is in the Knesset.”

“What kind of answer is that? If that is so, then we need to change it.”

“It won’t work.”

“But don’t you agree with me,” I insisted, “that this is how it should work? That this will bring honor to the Knesset and to ourselves?”

“It could be,” Gafni said with hesitation.

“So I want to challenge you,” I said. “Go to the members of the opposition and get them organized. Tell them the time has come to change the rules of the game and create a new discourse. We will establish a couple of hours without interruptions from the floor and I will listen to you and you will listen to me. Perhaps a dialogue will emerge that will make us better. Want to try?”

Israeli Airlines Grounded on Day 1 of Anti ‘Open Skies’ Policy

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

The Israeli government is expected to approve today, Sunday, the Open Skies agreement enabling free competition for foreign airlines flying into Israel from Europe. Workers for the Israeli airlines are adamantly opposed to the agreement, which they say would wreck their industry, and so they went on strike at 5:00 AM, effectively disabling all the flights scheduled to depart from Israel.

The three local airlines, El-Al, IsrAir and Arkia, had been planning for the strike, and so they switched many flights to 4:50 AM, so that passengers could leave the country as planned.

Negotiations between the country’s major trades union, the Histadrut, and the Ministry of Transport over the free competition agreement was halted on Friday, and so far there have been no contacts between the two sides to renew talks.

The planned Open Skies will allow, over the next five years, a gradual process for many European airlines to run flights from Israel to the mainland and back. The main goal of the reform instituted by the Ministry of Transport is to encourage competition between companies, thereby reducing the prices for the Israeli consumer.

In addition, Israelis will now be able fly directly to destinations that currently are not reached from Israel.

Israeli airline employees have stressed in press interviews that they are not against the agreement, despite the strike. Avi Edri, Chairman of the Histadrut Transport Workers Union, clarified that he was “in favor of ‘open skies,’ and for benefiting the consumers, but not this way.” As he puts it, “the agreement as it is, without the needed adjustments to protect the Israeli companies, is a death sentence for these companies. You can’t enter the competition when the two sides are not equal, and the Ministry of Transport, unfortunately, favors the foreign companies.”

Among other things, the striking employees demand an added clause in the agreement, allowing Israeli companies to run lines to the same destinations as foreign companies would be given as part of the agreement..

Hours before the government discussion of the proposed treaty, Channel 10 News exposed an internal document of the Ministry of Transport warning against the collapse of El-Al as a result of implementing the Open Skies deal. Among other things, the report warns of El-Al going bankrupt and defaulting on its debts, in which case the Israeli government would have to funnel in funds to keep it alive, nationalize it temporarily, or turn it into a state enterprise.

Coalition Burn Out

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Last night, a bit before I turned off the computer, I posted the following on facebook:

Maybe I’m crazy, or it’s a bit of political “burnout,” but I must admit that I really don’t care which parties are in Bibi’s government coalition. He’s just going to do what he wants, and God will stir as He wills it. I did my bit to vote for the party with the candidates I wanted to see in the Knesset, but they didn’t get in. My blog posts didn’t help, certainly not enough. As much as I enjoy a good political campaign, pre-election period, this long, leak-filled, innuendo flooded, media sabotaged coalition ultra-marathon has become worse than a bore.  When the “negotiations” are double-guessed by the media, we’ve passed the point of absurdity.  It’s hard to distinguish between fact, fiction, guess-work and wishful thinking. Arlene Kushner, as usual, has a much more intelligent way of explaining what’s going on and why we should be worried:

Nothing concrete to report yet on the coalition, as, again, there are mostly rumors. Based on what I’m reading, however, I confess to a great unease that Lapid sees himself as a reformer upon whom formation of the coalition depends — and who thus can, with his demands for entry into that coalition, instantaneously restructure much of Israeli society. Whether he’s right or wrong on specific issues, I fear a heavy-handed audacity that is only going to tear the society apart. Bibi’s “roast beef” has been cooking much too long.  Even if he had been making chulent, it would be overcooked already. And too much of what should be the coalition negotiations are being ki’ilu, sort of conducted “in public” by the media.  We keep hearing politicians, possible cabinet members being  interviewed interrogated, and asked which ministerial posts they demand or which would they refuse.  Instead of politely and firmly brushing off these questions with a “that’s between me, my party leader and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu,” they actually answer the questions and with much too much detail.  Obviously they’ve never taken my media when you’re being interviewed course.  One of the first rules is not to answer theoretical questions.  I’d put the “which ministry do you want question” in that category.  Too much public talking will only make things worse for everyone.

Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid keeps his facebook followers updated.  No, I’m not one of his friends.

Lapid is reportedly demanding the Foreign Ministry, but Netanyahu has reserved the post for faction Number 2 Avigdor Liberman, who stepped down from the post late last year to fight fraud and breach of trust charges. On Wednesday, the attorney general said it was legal for Netanyahu to hold the ministry for an indicted M.K.

Earlier Likud sources told Army Radio that Lapid was “obsessing” about becoming foreign minister, “which isn’t going to happen”…

Lapid, who is also demanding a smaller Cabinet and that the ultra-Orthodox be drafted into national service, said on Facebook that the talk about ministerial posts was beside the point. (Times of Israel). Most people I speak to have great faith that somehow Bibi will do his usual hat trick and pull a nice fluffy rabbit out of his hat before United States President Barack Hussein Obama arrives to “inspect” him and the State of Israel. Besides the fact that the suspense is over, like a balloon which no longer has air, I really don’t think it makes all that much of a difference which parties are in a coalition and who holds which ministerial portfolios.  Too many times we’ve elected Right wing, pro-Land of Israel governments which ended up being davka the ones that gave our Arab enemies portions of the Land of Israel, most notably Ariel Sharon.

It doesn’t really matter who’s elected and who is Minister of whatever.  Sorry for the cynicism, but that’s what is going through my mind right now.

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