Friday, July 31, 2015

If we adopt anti-civilian warfare in the mold of the PLO or Hamas – what does that make us?

We enter this Shabbat with heads bowed.

On Thursday night, a criminally insane ultra-Orthodox man stabbed six people at the annual gay pride parade in Jerusalem. Two of the victims sustained serious injuries. 

The perpetrator— we can dispense with "alleged" since there are pictures of him about to plunge a large hunting knife into the back of a marcher— is Yishai Schlissel. He'd been convicted of stabbing three people at a gay pride parade 10 years ago.

The police intelligence division has a lot of explaining to do.

This was also the week that we got a good look at the two smirking arsonists who torched the Church of the Loaves and Fishes near the Lake of Galilee.

Then things got even worse.

Jewish terrorists murdered a Palestinian toddler, Ali Saad Dawabsheh, and critically injured his 4-year-old brother very early this morning (Friday) by setting their home aflame. Their  mother and father were also injured in the fire.

The crime took place in the hamlet of Duma which is in gush Shilo.

In all three cases, the last thing we want is to "place them in context."

The "price tag" is fundamentally an anti-Zionist act. It discounts the fact that we have a state. It eats away at the fabric of Israeli society. It is a desecration of God.

Last summer saw the murder of a Jerusalem youth, Mohammed Abu Khdeir at the hands of Jewish terrorists.

There is no "revenge" in setting out to murder innocents. 

The killers may be driven by apocalyptic fantasies in which unleashing an all-out Muslim-Jewish war will force the hand of God and hasten the coming of the "Messiah king!"

They may well yet get a frenzy of bloodletting they so crave.

There is a need for context in understanding the Arab-Israel conflict. 

There is a need to expose Western double-standards and hypocrisy.

I have no doubt in the justice of the Zionist cause.

But now is not a time for context or excuses. 

Most every leader of the settlement community— and everyone across the Zionist political spectrum—has condemned the attack in Duma.

If we behave like Amelek, the Cossacks, the Crusaders  -- if we adopt anti-civilian warfare in the mold of the PLO or Hamas – what has become of us?

What a shameful, sad, and depressing week.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Random Stuff You Pick-Up in the Hebrew-edition of Haaretz

Israel and ISIS are kinda basically the same
- Page 12 Friday magazine  (17 July)

A make-believe Mad-magazine-like version of the weekly Hebrew Bible portion. [Ongoing series to ensure secular Israelis remain dismissive of Jewish civilization.]
-Page 16 Friday magazine

Orthodox kibbutz nearest to Gaza has trouble keeping young people from leaving. [to counter stream of reports that secular kibbutzim are abandoning area]
-  Page 32 Friday magazine

A surprise full-page ad from Shalem College aimed at Haaretz's young readers [but can they be de-programmed?]

[From Comrade Amira Haas:]
Israel will Destroy a Palestinian "village" and the US won't Like it.
-  Page 1 Sunday 19 July
{if it's Sunday, it must be the "occupation"}

Main Sunday headline: Difficult Conversation between Netanyahu and Kerry. Kerry says notion that a better Iran deal possible is pure fantasy. [Haaretz's Point: Bibi continues to poison relations with US] [Obviously, there is some truth to that, but Haaretz places exclusive blame on Netanyahu]

Accompanied by picture of Ayatollah Khamenei telling throngs at Ed il Fitr rally that US will remain the enemy. {file under for what's it's worth]

"About 200 Killed in Terror Attacks Around the World During eid al fitr"
{file under for what's it's worth]

Cartoon on page 2 Sunday paper shows Israeli leaders in cahoots with Fox News planning assault on Congress and White House

Of the four op-ed – four are by anti-Netanyahu critics or people of the left. 

Page 4 – Isaac Herzog under pressure not to speak out against the Iran deal from within his Labor Party on the grounds that it will help Netanyahu. [guess which side Haaretz favors?)

Page 4 the head of Hamas will parlay with the King of Saudi Arabia
{file under for what's it's worth]

115 Shiites murdered by Sunnis in Iraq during eid al fitr
{file under for what's it's worth]

Page 5 Netayahu calls Abbas to wish him a Happy eid al fitr

Page 1 – Chances Rise that Pollard will be released after 30 years in November

Sunday: 16 Year old Palestinian-Israeli boy killed in Family feud. It is the 8th family feud killing among Israeli Arabs in the past month (Month of Ramadan ended on Thursday). 

Friday p 4 the infighting within Labor over its ethos (Haaretz worried party is moving too center)

Aipac Goes to War Against Obama  page 6 (Haaretz is rooting for Obama)

Page 8 Friday Kerry and Zarif May Get Nobel Peace Prize  [Haaretz is rooting they do)

p 11 another in an onslaught of Haaretz stories about the world court and Israeli "war crimes"  (Lawfare) (Haaretz's line is to play up notion that Israel is a pariah state because of the "occupation)

Sunday - Tiny piece about Gaza shooting rocket into Israel page 11

I subscribe to Haaretz for the same reason Soviet citizens used to take Pravda (Truth) and Izvestia (information). 

They knew "There is no Pravda in Izvestia, and there is no Izvestia in Pravda" ... but how else do you know (so early in the morning) the agenda of those who shape the news cycle.

удачной недели

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Where Haim Saban and Hillary Clinton Agree

I see that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton has written  to Haim Saban, the California-based Israeli-American billionaire and Clinton family friend, promising that if elected president she will work against the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanction campaign known as BDS.

The paradox is that policies Clinton implemented at the State Department from 2009 to 2013 for President Barack Obama did nothing to douse the BDS campaign. And Saban's embrace of a Palestinian state in lockstep with Clinton is yet another instance of prominent Jewish Americans in essence lobbying Jerusalem on behalf of Washington's policies. 

My guess is that if Clinton is elected, Saban will take charge at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Recall, that the strategy of successive U.S. administrations has been to support security cooperation with Israel while applying ever increasing diplomatic pressure to compel an Israeli withdrawal to the approximate 1949 Armistice Lines. 

The unintended consequence of this approach is that it made comparatively moderate Palestinian leaders such as Mahmoud Abbas more intransigent and encouraged their Western supporters to batter Israel with lawfare and BDS.

Why negotiate with Israeli leaders when the Arabs know how the U.S. sees the "endgame."

The Obama administration, following through on the well-intentioned but misguided reasoning of Lyndon Johnson's White House 48 years ago, still thinks that Israel's capture of east Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Golan Heights during the 1967 Six Day War created an enduring diplomatic window. 

Johnson's secretary of state Dean Rusk reasoned that the Arabs would abandon their goal of driving the Jews into the sea and instead exchange the conquered territories for peace.

Early on U.S. policymakers realized that they could not cajole Israel back to the '49 lines (that is the boundaries from which the 1967 war commenced) if the American Jewish community stood in the way. It would just be too messy. 

The Arabs, too, would have to revise their playbook. "No to recognition, no tonegotiation, and no to peace" would have to be swapped for messages (like the 2002 Saudi peace plan) that purport to recast the Arab-Israel conflict in non-zero-sum terms.

Next, American presidents needed to dissociate American Jewish support for Israel from support for its policies in the West Bank and Gaza.

Succeeding administrations have argued that in opposing Jerusalem's security and settlement policies (the two are more often than not intertwined) they are, in fact, being "pro-Israel." 

It's a nuanced approach; the Obama administration has intensified military support to Israel (the Iron Dome project being a prime example) while diplomatically cold-shouldering the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.  The president likes to say that he has Israel's back when it comes to military and security issues.

In the same breath with which Clinton pledged to fight tooth and nail against BDS she repeated the mantra that the solution to the Arab-Israel conflict is to carve out a Palestinian state in the West Bank. This is, supposedly, in Israel's highest interest so that it could remain both Jewish and democratic.

Yet anyone who has walked the West Bank (nine miles to the Mediterranean at its narrowest) can appreciate that a Palestinian state— no less than the demographic issue— would put into question Israel's sustainability. 

Pulling out Jewish civilians and the Israeli army from the West Bank would create a vacuum nearby Ben-Gurion Airport. 

In short order, the West Bank would be engulfed in intra-Arab and intra-Muslim warfare with Fatah, ISIS, Hezbollah, and Hamas jockeying for power.

With Egypt's Sinai Peninsula a battlefield, Hamas controlling Gaza, Syria imploding, Hezbollah the suzerain in Lebanon, and upheaval from the Maghreb to the Arabian Gulf 
– is it really "pro-Israel" to push at this juncture for the creation of a 22nd Arab state?

Saban is not the first Jewish leader to take exception to Israeli policies.

In the immediate aftermath of the 1967 war, Nahum Goldmann of the World Jewish Congress called on the Diaspora to reject the policies of then-premier Levi Eshkol. 

Goldmann wanted an immediate unilateral Israeli withdrawal from captured territories. And Joachim Prinz the outgoing head of the Presidents Conference (after the 1967 war) was altogether uncomfortable with the pro-Israel sentiment sweeping the American Jewish community.  

But there was no holding back how much affiliated Jews began associating their Jewishness with Israel.

By 1969, U.S. groups like the Radical Zionist Alliance were organizing on college campuses in support of an Israeli pullback from the West Bank and Gaza. In 1973, Breira was founded as a vehicle through which intellectuals and progressives could express their Jewishness by leaning on Israel. 

Breira aimed to redefine what it meant to be pro-Israel. There was talk that Goldmann had helped finance the group.

When Breira fell apart, the New Jewish Agenda emerged in 1980. 

It had a much easier time dissociating support for Israel from backing its settlement and security policies because its nemesis was not Golda Meir or Eshkol but Likud Party prime minister Menachem Begin.

U.S. Jewish establishment machers much as the bristled when Ben-Gurion or Golda lectured  them about Zionism didn't detain the Israeli leaders.

Begin, they hated. He was altogether too ... everything they weren't. A classical liberal, tolerant, steadfast, and a student of Jabotinsky.

The notion that American Jewish criticism of Israeli policies is something new or courageous is risible.

J Street, founded in 2008, is not breaking new ground – it is treading where many Jews committed, in tandem with successive U.S. presidents, to pushing Israel back to the 1949 Armistice Lines have gone before.

So I see Clinton's outreach to Saban, ostensibly to express support for the Jewish state, as part and parcel of a rich tradition of political suasion, sometimes camouflaged, these days transparent, to use American Jews to pressure Israel. 

Current and former US officials use Jewish leaders to lobby Israel (no less than any "Israel Lobby" pressures U.S. officials). And Jewish personages who want to feel they are players happily allow themselves to be used.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Interviewing An Historian Writing in the First-Person

Leverage: How U.S. Presidents Use the American Jewish Community
 to Pressure Israel

A case study of the US-​American Jewish-​Israel triad 

by Elliot Jager

Decades ago policymakers realized that they could not force Israel back to the '49 lines if the American Jewish community stood in the way. It would just be too messy.

Available exclusively via Amazon on Kindle.

Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide
By Michael B. Oren
Random House, 2015

In Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide, Michael Oren has written a personal memoir that foremost chronicles his tenure from July 2009 to September 2013 as Israel's ambassador in Washington.

If being lambasted by political allies and opponents alike is good book publicity, than Oren has gotten more than his fair share. Besides being supposedly pilloried by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, leader of his own Kulanu Party, Oren has been denounced by the voluble outgoing ADL chief Abe Foxman and Yediot Aharanot's populist left-leaning columnist Nahum Barnea.

It all began with a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which Oren -- a recently-elected member of the Knesset -- argued that President Barack Obama "deliberately" torpedoed U.S.-Israel relations. "From the moment he entered office, Mr. Obama promoted an agenda of championing the Palestinian cause and achieving a nuclear accord with Iran," Oren wrote.

As soon as Obama arrived in the White House, writes Oren in Ally, he reversed "a masterpiece of diplomacy" -- the April 2004 memorandum from president George W. Bush to premier Ariel Sharon encapsulating the 1967-plus formula: In any peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, strategic settlement blocs and Jewish Jerusalem neighborhoods would remain part of Israel.

In Ally and in his follow-up op-eds, Oren offers a bill of particulars against Obama – from his "revolutionary" 2009 Cairo speech channeling the Arab narrative to holding nuclear talks with Iran behind Israel's back. In a Foreign Policy piece labeling Obama's policies toward Islam naïve, Oren wrote that Obama had been unduly influenced by the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said. And in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, he argued that Obama was mistaken in calculating that Iran could be a "rational" nuclear power.

Beyond its headline-making aspects, I found Oren's efforts in Ally to psychoanalyze Obama insightful. They are reminiscent of political scientist James David Barber's classic Presidential Character.

Likewise, his reminiscences of occasional run-ins with anti-Semitic bullies while growing up in West Orange, New Jersey: "And after each incident, my father took me down to our basement. There, in a cubbyhole behind the stairwell, he secreted a musty album that his brother, another veteran, had brought home from World War II. Inside were yellowing photographs of concentration camps, piles of incinerated corpses, and snickering Nazis. 'This is why we must be strong,' my father reminded me. 'This is why we need Israel.'"

Nonetheless, when it came time to give up his U.S. citizenship in order to serve as Israeli ambassador, Oren devotes practically an entire chapter to expressing his mixed feelings.

He first came to Israel at age 15 in 1970 shortly after meeting Israel's then-ambassador to the U.S. Yitzhak Rabin. Like other American Jews who made aliya, Oren describes having led a bifurcated life – loving the U.S. while being smitten by Israel. He moved to the Jewish state in 1979 and married Sally Edelstein in 1981. Oren saw combat during the early stages of the 1982 Lebanon War. Later, he went back to the U.S. to pursue a PhD at Princeton.

It was his 2008 book Power, Faith, and Fantasy  tracing the spiritual-like relationship between America and Israel that led an impressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to offer Oren the ambassador's spot. Within the Foreign Ministry, Oren tells us, he had no real relationship with minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Oren had to douse diplomatic fires from the get-go – for instance, when the Haaretz  viewspaper claimed that Israeli policymakers were referring to Obama's coterie of dovish advisers as "self-hating Jews."

He describes his fateful first meeting with Daniel Shapiro in 2008. "Dan, who, the bookishness of his clipped Vandyke beard and pea-shaped glasses notwithstanding, could react temperamentally" was "an early Obama acolyte" who "fervidly embraced Oslo." No surprise then that Shapiro, who in 2011 became U.S. ambassador in Tel Aviv, has been leading a full-court press against Oren's book.

Oren writes about the shockingly hostile reception he met on February 8, 2010 when he lectured at the University of California, Irvine. "One of the protesters, strategically placed mid-row to prevent his rapid removal, stood and shouted, 'Michael Oren, murderer of children!'"

Ally also describes the prosaic challenges Oren faced. While in Washington, his mother-in-law was dying of cancer back in Israel, his youngest boy was in the army, and two other children were at college. He found the embassy building run down and the ambassador's residence dilapidated.

He did get to have a little fun, though, whenever president Shimon Peres came to the U.S. and Oren would accompany him around the country.

I caught up with Oren by phone in New York where he is on a book tour. Here is an edited version of our conversation.

You wrote that the job of an Israeli ambassador to the U.S. is misunderstood. Set us straight.
In the Middle Ages, an ambassador's one job was to keep his ears open around court; try to get close to the king and then send dispatches back home. In the 21st century kings, presidents, and prime ministers can simply pick up the phone and call one another. Some think the ambassador's role has been rendered obsolete. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case.
Technology allows the ambassador to reach out beyond the court. He can not only interact with the king and his entourage, he can interact with the people.
And that also becomes the ambassador's duty: to be a communicator.

That was the way Abba Eban used to see the role.
He was a great influence on me. I worked for him. He did not live in the age of the 24-hour news cycle. The challenge for me was that I could communicate through innovative channels, but Israel could also be criticized through them. It rendered the ambassadorial role all the more complex and difficult.

Writing as an historian you garnered bipartisan praise. How does it feel to now draw across-the-board opprobrium?  
It's the first time in my life I've written in the first person.
This is the first time I've written not about other people's role in history but about my own role in what I believe to be a very crucial time for Israel and the Jewish people. I knew it would be controversial. It was not an easy decision.

The criticism has been overwhelmingly ad hominem. I've been called a liar, a money-grubbing politician – some very serious charges have been made about me personally. What you notice is that almost nobody is taking down the book.

Whose message is…
That this alliance between the US and Israel is vital not just for the two countries' security but also for maintaining what remains of Middle East stability. This alliance has suffered blows the past five years and is in dire need of restoration. Part of the book talks about how we can get this alliance back on its feet.

Were you surprised by the way Moshe Kahlon reacted to the book?
The book was written before I went into politics. I added a few lines at the last minute about becoming a politician. My whole political career merits about a paragraph.
His reaction to the book was that it was written before I went into politics. Which was fine. It was spun into something different. He never apologized. He said the obvious – that the book, written before I went into politics, doesn't pretend to represent the party's position.

Still, his letter to Ambassador Shapiro distancing himself from your criticism of Obama was not helpful. Do you know why he did it?
You're going to have to ask him.

You write that Obama pointedly ignored Israeli aid to earthquake-devastated Haiti. Would you say that this was symptomatic of the administration's psychological warfare against Netanyahu?
I don't think it was about Netanyahu. It had to do with a worldview. It's a worldview of outreach to Iran, unprecedented support for the Palestinians. The Cairo speech was the foundational document, a key tool in understanding how Obama was going to react to the Middle East. I also talk about the abandonment of the 'principle of daylight' or diplomatic distance between Israel and the United States.

Was this effort to create distance intended to weaken support in the U.S. Jewish community and make it easier to lean on Israel? The message being: You can be pro-Israel, but that doesn't mean you have to support the Netanyahu government.
You are quoting the president. He said that.
The president was candid about his position. The approach of the administration that I discuss in the book is to distinguish between two types of daylight. Diplomatic daylight and security daylight. The U.S. wanted to publicly show that it was pressuring Israel on settlements and Jerusalem. By showing less daylight on security it could show more daylight on diplomacy.

That was the formula. My strong feeling is that this didn't work.
When there is more daylight on diplomatic issues, Israelis feel less secure – irrespective of how much money you give to Iron Dome. Israelis make concessions when they feel secure, not when they feel insecure. Secondly, there is no distinction between types of daylight in the Mideast -- locals don't know if it's security daylight or diplomatic daylight. The policy was too cerebral.

Based on her performance as secretary of state while you were ambassador, is there daylight between Hillary Clinton's positions and Obama's?
Well, she says there is. She's written in her memoirs that she thought open pressure on Israel over settlements was not a good idea. What she did, she did on instructions from the president – reluctantly. Mahmoud Abbas said Obama pushed him up the tree, not Clinton.

You write extensively about Jonathan Pollard and offer some ideas about his continued incarceration.
For the American intelligence community, he remains a traitor. He has to pay a very high price. The more prosaic and tragic reason is that he's become a card in the diplomatic process, to be traded off for a certain prize. I brought a letter from the prime minister to the president beseeching him to show clemency on humanitarian grounds. As far as I know, I was the last Israeli official to visit him.

You quoted former Democratic House member Gary Ackerman as describing J Street's leadership as being so open-minded that their brains fell out. How invested is the White House in leveraging J Street?
My working assumption was that J Street saw itself — and to a certain degree was seen by the administration — as the administration's arm in the American Jewish community. For that reason I sought to engage J Street on several levels. J Street attracts a lot of young people and this was an opportunity to engage them— it was their last stop— before they left the pro-Israel camp. J Street says it is pro-Israel.

You write about media hostility toward the Zionist narrative.  Isn't part of the problem that Israel doesn't have a harmonious message.
In the book I talk about how impressed I was by the Obama administration's messaging. You can go to 20 different offices and get the same message – uncannily, the same wording. In Israel, you go to 20 different offices, you get 20 different messages. Our democratic system just doesn't lend itself to disciplined messaging.

To what extent has Israel's rabbinate contributed to the diminishing sense of connection between Israel and U.S. Jewry?
It doesn't help. American Jewry is a strategic asset. We claim to be the nation state of the Jewish people. One of my initiatives was to create tishes – tables – around which Jews from different movements could meet. Israeli embassies and consulates were considered neutral turf where Orthodox rabbis could sit with Reform and Conservatives rabbis. They agreed on just about nothing. One of the few things they agreed on was their opposition to the rabbinate. For the Orthodox rabbis it was a case of their conversions not being recognized.

You have a chapter that asks whether "We Are One?"
There is no one community – there are many communities, but the Jewish people is a rambunctious tribe.

Your publisher wanted this book to come out in the Fall.
I wanted it to come out now before the monumental decision on Iran. There may be very significant developments in the Palestinian arena as well. The timing of the book was very intentional. I wanted to shout "Stop!" and have a moment of introspection and reflection and not jeopardize this alliance which is vital not just for the United States and Israel but for the world. I want the book to get people to think about where we've been and where we have to go. If I achieved the job of starting that conversation, the personal attacks will all have been worth it.

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