Saturday, December 27, 2014

Jewish AND Democratic

From The Wall Street Journal, 18 Dec 2014, by Joel H Golovensky, lawyer and founding president of the Institute for Zionist Strategies in Jerusalem:

...Opponents ­[of a proposed law to designate ­Israel the “Nation-State of the Jewish People”] denounce it as anti-democratic, saying it will turn non-Jews into second-class citizens. That criticism is based on a misunderstanding of the bill and of the nature of democratic nation-states.

I was one of the bill’s originators. All of us are passionately committed to liberal democracy of the type that Israel has worked to build since its birth in 1948. The proposed law does not have anything to do with religious practices. Not one of us favours theocracy, and none would want to live in a country that lacked full democratic rights for everyone, including freedom of religion.

The proposed law would preserve the current basic laws guaranteeing democratic and civil rights. But in line with the thinking of David Ben-Gurion and Israel’s other founders, it would also ­reassert that there is nothing inherently inconsistent in the state protecting its generally Jewish character and all its citizens’ individual rights.

This notion is under assault from several directions. For decades, progressive activist judges have been increasingly calling into question the fundamental principle that Israel should be a Jewish state as well as a democratic state. Such politically activist judges often legislate from the bench in ways their critics (I among them) consider to be anti-democratic. For instance, Israeli law has for many years prohibited political parties from trying to destroy the Jewish or the democratic character of the state, yet some judges have chosen not to disqualify parties — such as the Balad Party — that aim to destroy Israel’s Jewish character by eliminating all Jewish characteristics of the nation-state and making it ethnically neutral.

Israeli Supreme Court president Aharon Barak made what he called a “constitutional revolution” in the early 1990s. An important consequence of that was interpreting civil liberties as inconsistent with Israeli government measures to give specific protection to Jewish culture, history and collective peoplehood.

The court has opposed classic Zionist land-use policies — such as the right to build Jewish settlements alongside Arab ones in the upper Galilee and Negev — going back to the founders of the Zionist movement. The court has also weakened the status of Hebrew, the national language of renewal which from the beginning has driven the Zionist enterprise. Justice Barak refers to protecting ­Israel’s Jewish character as a matter of mere “interest”, not on the level of civil “rights”.

Anti-Zionists and so-called post-Zionists have also campaigned to transform Israel. They argue it should cease to be the Jewish state and become an ethnically neutral country along the lines of the US or New Zealand. They argue that there’s something inherently non-democratic in Zionism. They are challenging not just Zionism, but the very idea of ­national self-determination.

Most democracies either have state religions (Britain, Denmark), put religious symbols on their flags (Norway, Switzerland), have ethnically based immigration-law preferences (Ireland, Germany) or otherwise give special protection to a particular ethnic culture (the Baltic states). Most of the more than 60 ­democracies are built on the ­ethnic identity of a predominant group, which moulds the character of the state while affording ­minorities full civil and religious rights. In this regard the Jewish state of Israel is a typical democratic country.

Untypically, it has been fighting to survive all of its life. Since the Roman Empire expelled them from their homeland 2000 years ago, the Jews in exile preserved their religion and their identity as a people. The dream of Zionism was to return to the homeland and re-establish sovereignty in a Jewish-majority state that would have equal dignity with all nations. The League of Nations endorsed this idea in 1922 by unanimous vote.

While the Arabs would have states of their own throughout the Middle East, the Jews would have one state in part of their ancient homeland. Like many of the states created after World War I, the Jewish state in Palestine would have citizens who were not part of the majority group and their civil and religious rights were to be protected within the Jewish state.

The Zionist dream was realised in 1948 with the creation of Israel. Jews exist across the globe, but Jewish national history marches forward only in the Jewish state.

The proposed bill codifying ­Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people grows out of a long and complex history in which the Jewish people and all of Israel’s citizens are thinking through their communal identities — as Jews, Arabs, Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Israelis. Reasonable people can and do differ about the bill. But its essence is simply to ­reaffirm the principle of national self-determination — that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Hezbollah Wants Assad in Power

From The Tower, 25 Dec 2014, by Staff :

Hezbollah insists that its ally, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, will remain in power. 

In a message delivered to Russia, the Shiite terror organization made clear that it does not agree that anyone, even from the Alawite sect, should replace the current President as part of any possible solution to the Syrian conflict.

The Lebanese newspaper “Al-Akhbar” reported (Arabic link) Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently said to the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “is a red line.” The two met a few weeks ago in Beirut.

Sources close to Hezbollah told the paper that Nasrallah emphasized to the Russian diplomat that his organization is not only trying to protect Syria against “terrorism,” but also to protect Bashar al-Assad. “Any solution must include leaving the President in his post,” Nasrallah said.

Hezbollah officially acknowledged in early 2013 that its forces crossed from Lebanon into Syria and are fighting alongside the Syrian regime forces. Hezbollah fighters have enabled the regime to regain control of rebel-held areas in central Syria and have improved the effectiveness of pro-regime forces.

Hezbollah and Assad belong to “The Resistance Axis”, an Iran-led alliance of state and non-state actors in the Middle East that seeks to confront Western interests in the region, namely those of the United States and Israel. In recent years, Iran has also cultivated Iraqi Shia militants as the newest members of this alliance. 

In an think tank research  article dealing with this axis, Marisa Sullivan of the Institute for the Study of War wrote:
The war in Syria presents a significant threat to the strategic alliance of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. The Syrian government, the vital conduit between Iran and Hezbollah, is in danger of being overthrown. Iran cannot afford to lose its most important foothold in the Levant, and Hezbollah cannot risk losing its access to critical Iranian and Syrian support. Syria’s importance to Hezbollah, however, is not limited to its role as a conduit for financial and material support; the Assad regime has provided safe haven for Hezbollah training camps and weapons storage. 
Overall, Hezbollah’s support for Assad seeks to achieve three broad objectives. First, Hezbollah seeks to preserve the Axis of Resistance by shoring up the military capabilities of the Assad regime. Second, Hezbollah also seeks to retain access to Iranian and Syrian material support by securing the lines of communication that run from Damascus to Lebanon from any rebel interference. Without the ability to operate within Syria, Iranian support to Hezbollah becomes much more difficult and risks interdiction; Hezbollah’s own military capabilities and readiness would suffer without access to this military and financial assistance. Third, the group also seeks to prevent the emergence of a Sunni-dominated regime in Syria should Assad fall.”

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Who's your daddy now, Hamas?

From The Tower, 23 Dec 2014, by Staff:

Tensions in Hamas Surface Over Ties with Qatar, Syria, and Iran

The Arab newspaper Rai Al-Aam reports (Arabic link) that tensions inside the terrorist organization Hamas are pitting factions who support Iran and the Syrian regime against those who are based in Qatar.

The origin of this internal Hamas conflict centers on the decision by Hamas’s political leadership and its chairman Khaled Meshaal to abandon Hamas headquarters in Syria a few years ago. There were harsh disagreements about whether the movement should leave Syria, and especially whether it should move to Qatar, a country that is hostile to the Syrian regime.

The eventual decision aroused the ire of other senior Hamas figures, especially those in Gaza, who later claimed that leaving Syria angered Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad and his ally Iran, which in turn led to the decision to reduce the supply of Iranian-funded arms to Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
This conflict surfaced again last month, when Iran postponed a request by Meshaal to visit Tehran while allowing other lower Hamas officials to visit its territory. According to Rai Al-Aam, this is another sign of Iranian anger over the Hamas leader who left Syria. A week ago, Syrian president Assad also attacked Meshaal (Arabic link).

Within Hamas there are now two conflicting opinions. The first wants to maintain Hamas’ relationship with Qatar and Turkey, despite the Qatari move to improve relations with moderate Sunni countries, including Egypt, which is very hostile towards Hamas. The second group wants to normalize relations with Tehran.

More specifically, the military wing of Hamas in Gaza is very interested in improving relations with Iran. During the terror group’s 27th anniversary parade, a spokesman thanked Iran for its military assistance. This statement indicates the movement’s desire for more weapons from the Islamic Republic.

Meanwhile, senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk confirmed that Iran promised his movement that it will resume the flow of its aid to the Gaza Strip. In an interview with a Turkish news agency, Abu Marzouk said (Arabic link) that relations with Tehran have returned to their natural state.

Beating Bibi: Obama’s Last Campaign

From PJ Media, 23 Dec 2014, by Rich Baehr:

The real goal of the Obama administration is to bring Netanyahu down.

Barack Obama has proven to be a determined man when it comes to achieving goals he really cares about. He may not get everything he wants when he wants it, but he has shown that there is often more than one way to advance his agenda, and he can be patient when the political environment is unfavorable. This has been true on both the domestic front and in foreign policy.

Obama has used federal agencies such as the EPA and NLRB to move aggressively to favor Obama interests (bashing coal producers, making it easier for workers to organize into unions) when Congress did not adopt climate change legislation or “card check” legislation. The Department of Health and Human Services has regularly changed the rules of Obamacare, seemingly making the rules up as they go along when it became clear that certain provisions were either very badly conceived or politically unpalatable to important Obama interest groups.

There has also been subterfuge to make it seem that the abuse of the separation of powers and routine bypassing of Congress has not really occurred. The president says he has issued far fewer executive orders than prior presidents, when in fact he has issued far more when you include his memoranda – which serve the same purpose.

In foreign policy, the administration has pursued several policies with the same doggedness. One of these has been to damage the historically close ties between Israel and the United States. The alternative way to say this is that so long as Israel elects leaders who do not see things the way the administration does, it will be very much out of favor with the White House.

Over the first six years of the Obama administration, there is little that Israel under the leadership of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has ever done right according to the White House or the State Department. Conversely, almost nothing the Palestinians have done has been called out for similar criticism. 

Meanwhile, the administration has pursued a new relationship with Iran (much as it has with Cuba), signaling that traditional alliances and enmities were out the window with this administration. The obsession of Secretary of State Kerry with pushing the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and the Iranian nuclear negotiations seems to be a mix of legacy-building for both Kerry and Obama, but also part of the shift away from the traditional alliance with Israel.

A goal of the White House seems to have been to break the bipartisan support for a strong U.S-Israel relationship in Congress by making it far easier for Democrats to go their own way. In essence, the White House has facilitated a transition within the party to better reflect the views of the Democratic Party’s base, now heavily made up of younger voters and minorities, among whom there is not nearly as much support for Israel as in the past.

The Obama administration has set in place a longer-term process to separate Democrats in Congress from their historic role as strong supporters of Israel.

Whether Obama is following his base on this issue or leading it is a different question. As the single most visible political figure in government, when a president is viewed as being engaged in a bitter feud with a foreign leader, as the press has dutifully reported is the case between Netanyahu and Obama, a strong message has been delivered. This message particularly gets to those who support the president in general, and on pretty much all specific issues.

The president has also blessed and opened the White House’s door to J Street, an organization allegedly committed to both Israel and peace. In reality, the group is a “blocking back for the White House,” as its own leaders have admitted, for the regular Israel-bashing and pressure campaign that has been underway since both Obama and Netanyahu took office in 2009. If one looks for instances of J Street uttering a kind word about Netanyahu, you will find even fewer than those from the president himself.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government has collapsed following the firing of two ministers from parties in his coalition that had broken with his government. New elections have been called for March 17. The Israeli election system is a parliamentary one, although one without legislative districts. Parties nominate slates and determine the order of their candidates. If a party wins 20 of 120 seats in the Knesset, based on their share of the overall vote among the parties who register at least 3.5% of the total vote, then the first 20 names on that party’s list will become Knesset members.

Thirteen parties hold seats in the current Knesset (the hurdle until this current election  had been only 2% of the total vote for representation for a party), an indication of the fragmentation of the current system. After the Knesset elections are held, since no single party ever wins a majority on its own or even comes close, the country’s president picks the leader of a party that he thinks has the best chance of putting together a coalition of parties to get to at least 61 seats, a Knesset majority. That has been Netanyahu for two consecutive elections, though a third victory is not assured.

A recent poll shows right-wing parties winning 40 seats, left-wing and Arab parties winning 40 seats, and 40 seats up for “sale” (or persuasion), though many of these would be with religious parties generally more comfortable as part of a right-wing government.

One of the issues Bibi has to deal with is that many Israeli voters are concerned about deteriorating U.S.-Israei relations. Israel has few allies beyond America, Canada under Stephen Harper, and Australia most of the time. Among these three, of course American support has always mattered most, given the history of foreign aid, weapons supply, and the Americans’ Security Council veto. European behavior, on the other hand, has become  more viper-like every week. Most Israelis are smart enough to understand that whatever Netanyahu’s faults, the problems in the relationship the last few years have been largely created by the Obama administration. Though there are some who are right-of-center on security issues who might think that someone other than Bibi might be better able to shepherd the country through the rocky last two years of the Obama administration, since any new president after Obama is unlikely to be so hostile.

When Bill Clinton was president, he allowed his campaign team, including pollster Stanley Greenberg, Bob Shrum, current J Street operative Jim Gerstein, and Jim Carville, to assist Labor party leader Ehud Barak and to help bring down Netanyahu’s government  in 1999. Greenberg is going back to Israel to help the Labor Party again. Surely, this has the Obama seal of approval.

The Obama team may have overplayed its hand when it allowed a rumor to get out that sanctions against Israel over its settlement building had been discussed at the White House. Congressional Democrats pushed back hard against the idea, and the administration denied it had ever come up. A few weeks back, a reporter close to the White House had repeated various obscenities which top administration figures had used to describe Netanyahu, including “chickens**t.”

This week, Secretary of State Kerry seems to be trying a different approach, by reassuring Israel that the U.S. will use its veto in the Security Council (if it has to, assuming the Palestinians collect nine votes) to prevent the Palestinian Authority from getting its resolution passed on a two-year deadline for statehood within the 1967 borders. Of course, Kerry has generally been milder in his public criticisms of Israel than the off-the-record amateurs at the White House.

At the same time, Kerry has let slip that Israeli leaders from the left believe a debate and vote on a PA resolution at the UN now will only solidify support for Netanyahu and right-wing parties, so he is loathe to give Bibi an assist.

In any case, the administration seems to be trying to deliver two messages: things could get far worse for Israel in the next two years (we won’t use our veto at the UN next time), or there could be more support if Israel is more forthcoming and accepts the American approach (offering concessions to the Palestinians and not opposing a U.S.-Iran nuclear deal). 

Of course, since Bibi Netanyahu is unlikely to become a J Street prime minister, the real goal of the administration, as was the case in the Clinton administration, is to bring him down.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Another Charade by Arab Despots Collapses

From Commentary, 18 Dec 2014, by Jonathan S. Tobin:

In the end, there wasn’t much suspense about the Obama administration’s decision whether to support a United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing a Palestinian state.

After weeks of pointless negotiations over proposed texts, including a compromise endorsed by the French and other European nations, the wording of the proposal that the Palestinians persuaded Arab nations to put forward was so outrageous that even President Obama couldn’t even think about letting it pass because it would undermine his own policies. And the rest of the international community is just as unenthusiastic about it.

In a very real sense this episode is the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict in a nutshell: the world wants to do something for the Palestinians but their leaders are more interested in pointless shows than in actually negotiating peace or doing something to improve the lives of their people.

The resolution that was presented to the Security Council was so extreme that Jordan, the sole Arab nation that is currently a member, didn’t want anything to do with it. But, after intense lobbying by the Palestinian Authority representative, the rest of the Arab nations prevailed upon Jordan and they put it forward where it will almost certainly languish indefinitely without a vote since its fate is preordained.

The terms it put forward were of Israeli surrender and nothing more. The Jewish state would be given one year to withdraw from all of the territory it won in a defensive war of survival in 1967 where a Palestinian state would be created. That state would not be demilitarized nor would there be any guarantees of security for Israel which would not be granted mutual recognition as the nation state of the Jewish people, a clear sign that the Palestinians are not ready to give up their century-long war against Zionism even inside the pre-1967 lines.

This is a diktat, not a peace proposal, since there would be nothing for Israel to negotiate about during the 12-month period of preparation. Of course, even if the Palestinians had accepted the slightly more reasonable terms proposed by the French, that would have also been true. But that measure would have at least given the appearance of a mutual cessation of hostilities and an acceptance of the principle of coexistence. But even those concessions, let alone a renunciation of the “right of return,” was not possible for a PA that is rightly fearful of being supplanted by Hamas. So long as Palestinian nationalism remains wedded to rejection of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be drawn, no one should expect the PA to end the conflict or actually make peace.

Though many of us have been understandably focused on the question of how far President Obama might go to vent his spleen at Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government, that petty drama is, as it has always been, a sideshow distraction from the real problem at the core of the Middle East peace process: 

Palestinian rejectionism.

Though the administration has tirelessly praised PA leader Mahmoud Abbas as a champion of peace in order to encourage him to live up to that reputation, he had other priorities. Rather than negotiate in good faith with the Israelis, Abbas blew up the talks last year by signing a unity pact with Hamas that he never had any intention of keeping.

The purpose of that stunt, like the current UN drama, isn’t to make a Palestinian state more likely or even to increase Abbas’s leverage in the talks. Rather, it is merely a delaying tactic, and a gimmick intended to waste time, avoid negotiations, and to deflect any pressure on the PA to either sign an agreement with Israel or to turn it down.

That’s not just because the Palestinians wrongly believe that time is on their side in the conflict, a dubious assumption that some on the Israeli left also believe. The reason for these tactics is that Abbas is as incapable of making peace as he is of making war.

This is not just another case of the Palestinians “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” in Abba Eban’s immortal and quite accurate summary of their actions over the years. It’s that they are so wedded to unrealistic expectations about Israel’s decline that it would be inconceivable for them to take advantage of any opening to peace. That is why they turned down Israeli offers of statehood, including control of Gaza, almost all of the West Bank, and a share of Jerusalem, three times and refused to deal seriously with a fourth such negotiation with Netanyahu last year.

And it’s why the endless quarrels between Obama and Netanyahu over the peace process are so pointless. No matter how much Obama tilts the diplomatic playing field in the Palestinians’ direction or how often he and his supporters prattle on about time running out for Israel, 

Abbas has no intention of signing a peace agreement. 

The negotiations as well as their maneuverings at the UN and elsewhere are nothing but a charade for the PA and nothing Netanyahu could do, including offering dangerous concessions, would change that. 

The sooner Western leaders stop playing along with their game, the better it will be for the Palestinian people who continue to be exploited by their leaders.

The Day Europe Voted for Another Holocaust

From Arutz Sheva, Friday, December 19, 2014, by Giulio Meotti, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio:

Europe sent a clear, strong message: Hamas is a legitimate organization aiming to destroy the Jewish State.

January 20, 1942. In the villa at 56–58 Am Großen Wannsee, the administrative leaders of various Nazi government departments meet for the implementation of the "final solution to the Jewish question". The Holocaust.

December 18, 2014. The European Court of Justice and the European Parliament meet to vote the recognition of the "Palestinian State" and to include Hamas among the legitimate organizations. It is the day Europe planned a new Holocaust. 

In a single day, Europe's highest political and legal bodies voted as just and legitimate the mass deportation of 600,000 Jews from their historic land, the goal of the PLO and Mahmoud Abbas. Europe also gave a legitimacy to the stabbings, rockets, shootings and suicide bombings perpetrated by Hamas and Fatah, which killed over 1,000 Israeli Jews in twenty years.

Europe voted to create a state founded on the ethnic cleansing of every single Jewish man, woman and child between Beersheba and Afula and the Jordan border and Tel Aviv. Europe wants to ethnically cleanse one third of the Judea and Samaria population. 

Mr. Abbas, this Holocaust denier, said it last year in front of those European faces. He proclaimed his Nazi and Stalinist intentions. Lady Ashton, the ridiculous then EU foreign chief, was present. And she stood silent.

On December 18, 2014, Europe voted to see hundreds of thousands of Jews surrendering to expulsion or to becoming refugees like "lambs to the slaughter". 

The Palestinian nationhood argument is a real strategic deception, more dangerous even than the Iranian death cult, the one geared to set up the destruction of Israel. 

Hamas thanked the European Union from Gaza for the "victory of the Palestinian people". Hamas well might return to the blacklist of terror groups, the place where it should stay forever. But Europe sent a clear, strong message: Hamas is a legitimate organization aiming to destroy the Jewish State.

Don't believe to Europe's empty words about "two states", the December 18 vote means: "Israel is illegitimate, it’s the instigator of every type of the world's disorder, it must be disengaged from the Middle East as soon as possible". 

This is the meaning of the French resolution coming to the UN these days and asking Israel to "end the occupation".

And there is a lot of money, Islamic money, behind the vote. You see it from the Islamic finance present in London, the Qatari investments in Paris and so on. Europe sold the Jews for money - and because it hates them. Especially the strong, religious and armed Israeli Jews. 

Meanwhile, in Europe's mosques and on its televisions you hear the same slogans of Al Aqsa's mosque over the Temple Mount: "Idbach al Yahud!" (Slaughter the Jews) and "Falastin baladna, al Yahud kalabna" (Palestine is our homeland, the Jews are our dogs). 

PLO Covenant Article Six declares:
“The Jews, who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion (usually dated as the mid-19th century) will be considered Palestinians”. 
In other words, 98 per cent of the existing Israeli population must be uprooted and exiled, like the 8.000 Jews of Gush Katif. 

Or slaughtered, like the Fogels. 

Is this the "Palestinian State" envisioned by the European Union and judges? Yes. Brussels supports the establishment of a state that would be the first to officially prohibit Jews or any other faith since the Third Reich. 

It is not a coincidence that the vote on "Palestine" came the same day Hamas returned to the club of the good people. As if Hamas never abducted and killed three students in Gush Etzion. As if Hamas never fired thousands of rockets on Israeli homes. As if Hamas never killed 11 people in the last two months of Third Intifada in Jerusalem and surroundings. And the list goes on.

Europe's ability to implement this new Holocaust will now depend only on the Jews. I hope the Jews have enough courage and wisdom to see what the rest of the world is preparing for them. It is the "final solution" - to the "Israeli question"...

We are breaking up with you. For good.

From JPost, 18 Dec 2014, by Anna Berg*:


Despite everything that happens here, I still feel that Israel is the sanest place in the world. In fact, we seem to be the only country that still has its head straight on, while the Europeans run around like ISIS-beheaded chickens. The latest balagan? Hamas is “temporarily” removed from the EU terrorist list due to a technicality, while an anti-Israel conference is being organised in Geneva.

Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Seriously, what is wrong with everyone? The only democracy in the Middle East is boycotted, shunned, ostracised, obsessively criticised, hated, lied about and attacked in every way imaginable – while our terrorist neighbours are left in peace to continue with their dirty, evil deeds.

We are the light unto the nations, even though the rest of the world is too engulfed in their own darkness to see it. We are the bullied new kid on the block that will grow up, move on and shine – while the bullies will get older, stay put and live miserable lives beating their wives and kids.

Look what we have achieved since our beginning as a state in 1948. The heat and desert has not stopped us from making it bloom. Wars have not torned us apart. Suicide bombers have not stopped us from living our lives. Boycotts have not stopped our economy from thriving. Our love for life is still here. Our strong spirit grows stronger every day. Our sense of family and community is unbreakable. We are friggin’ amazing!

So why stay in this stormy, dysfunctional relationship? It’s time to move on. Can you hear it? Israel is calling you to come home dear Jews in the diaspora. It’s time now. You are needed here. Take all the culture, innovation, science, spirituality and chutzpah that you have and come! You are wasting your time in countries that don’t appreciate you. You deserve better. They deserve less. Leave them in the dark and come here and make this country shine even brighter. You know they will miss us, but then it’ll be too late.

It’s time to break up with Europe. For good.

Sorry, we are just not that into you. This relationship isn’t working. It’s not us, it’s you. Really.


*Anna Berg
Anna Berg
Anna Berg was born in Sweden and made Aliyah in April 2014. 
She currently resides in Tel Aviv