Moses said to the people in his final charge "I put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life...Be strong and resolute..for the Lord will not forsake you" Deut. 30 and 31. Former US National Debate Champion and Ordained Rabbi tackles issues of Public Policy, Israel, Islamic Terrorism, Antisemitism, Jewish Wisdom and the Chicago Bears
Of all the idiocies uttered in reaction to Benjamin Netanyahu's stunning election victory, none is more ubiquitous than the idea that peace prospects are now dead because Netanyahu has declared that there will be no Palestinian state while he is Israel's prime minister.
I have news for the lowing herds: There would be no peace and no Palestinian state if Isaac Herzog were prime minister either. Or Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert for that matter. The latter two were (non-Likud) prime ministers who offered the Palestinians their own state - with its capital in Jerusalem and every Israeli settlement in the new Palestine uprooted - only to be rudely rejected. This is not ancient history. This is 2000, 2001 and 2008.
The fundamental reality remains: This generation of Palestinian leadership - from Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas - has never and will never sign its name to a final peace settlement dividing the land with a Jewish state.
Today, however, there is a second reason a peace agreement is impossible: the supreme instability of the entire Middle East. Syria has al-Qaeda allies, Hizbullah fighters, government troops and even the occasional Iranian general prowling the Israeli border. In the last four years, Egypt has had two revolutions and three radically different regimes.
The West Bank could fall to Hamas overnight. At which point fire rains down on Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion Airport and the entire Israeli urban heartland.
Peace awaits three things. Eventual Palestinian acceptance of a Jewish state. A Palestinian leader willing to sign a deal based on that premise. A modicum of regional stability that allows Israel to risk the potentially fatal withdrawals such a deal would entail. I believe such a day will come. But there is zero chance it comes now or even soon. That's essentially what Netanyahu said Thursday.
Mark levin: http://therightscoop.com/levin-to-obama-lets-have-a-national-discussion-about-the-anti-semitism-that-reeks-from-your-administation/
As American author and columnist Peter Beinart writes in today’s Haaretz, he and his liberal pals aren’t interested in following Herzog’s example. Instead, they plan on waging a war on Israeli democracy in which they will try to brand those entrusted by Israelis with their government as pariahs and to support actions by both the U.S. government and the Palestinians to undermine the Jewish state. By demonstrating such contempt for democracy, he is not only seeking to further divide American Jews from Israelis but is materially aiding those who seek its destruction.
Beinart claims his position is one taken out of love for Israel, which he has consistently stated must be saved from itself. But the distinction to be drawn here is not between supporters and critics of Netanyahu. Opposing the prime minister is not the same as opposing Israel. As a vibrant democracy, Israelis can and do disagree with their politicians. Though the parties that will likely make up Netanyahu’s next government will have won the votes of a clear majority of the voters, those who sought his defeat at the polls are entitled to a fair hearing and to gain the support of those living outside the country who agree with them. But what Beinart is suggesting goes far beyond that or anything that bears a faint resemblance to the normal give and take of democracy.
To the contrary, he plans to not only support possible actions by the Obama administration to “punish” Israel for re-electing Netanyahu, he seeks to organize an effort by American Jews to do the same via support for the Palestinians anti-Israel diplomatic campaign, boycotts of Israeli products and even efforts to deny Israeli politicians with whom he disagrees the right to visit the United States.
This is a disgraceful plan of action. But what is most lamentable about it and the likely applause it will receive in the mainstream liberal press is that it is rooted in sheer, willful ignorance about the realities of the Middle East that Israeli voters recognize and which Beinart strains with all his might to ignore.
The first few sentences of Beinart’s Haaretz piece give away the game. In it he says American Jewish organizations have said that Israel needs to be given sufficient U.S. support and a respite from terror so that it will eventually feel safe enough to “take risks for peace.” He goes on to claim that, “this election was not fought in the shadow of terror” and that the Obama administration had not exerted pressure on Israel’s government since it had not “punished” Israel for not meekly obeying the president’s demands about far reaching territorial concessions to the Palestinians.
All of this is simply untrue.
First, to claim that Israel has not taken repeated risks for peace in the last two decades is an assertion of such astonishing mendacity that it makes it difficult to treat the rest of Beinart’s argument seriously or to give him credit, as I would prefer to do, for having good intentions. The last several governments of Israel have made repeated territorial withdrawals (including a couple made by one led by Netanyahu during his first term as prime minister), allowing the creation and the empowerment of the Palestinian Authority and then withdrawing every last soldier, settler and settlement from Gaza in 2005. But these gestures not only didn’t help bring peace, they resulted in the creation of terror bases from which Palestinians have launched suicide bombers and rockets at Israel’s cities. Israel trade land for peace and only got terror.
Israel’s governments have also repeatedly offered the Palestinians statehood and independence in virtually all of the West Bank, Gaza and a share of Jerusalem only to be turned down in 2000, 2001 and 2008. Even under the last government Israel tried to negotiate peace with the Palestinians and even Tzipi Livni, one of Netanyahu’s leading opponents in the election, verified that it was the Palestinians that blew up the talks. That was made even clearer by the documents that were recently revealed showing Netanyahu had gone further than anyone had known in accommodating the Obama administration’s demands in the talks (something that proved an embarrassment for the prime minister during the campaign).
Just as false is Beinart’s claim that the election was not fought in the shadow of terror. I know seven months is a long time in journalism but are we really supposed to have already forgotten last summer’s 50-day war in which Hamas rained down thousands of rockets on Israeli cities and sent terrorists through tunnels into the Jewish state hoping to kill and kidnap as many Jews as possible? Apparently Beinart has forgotten it. But Israel’s voters have not. When Netanyahu spoke of his unwillingness to let the West Bank become another Hamasistan, he may have sneered but Israelis know all too well this is a possibility. They also regard the rise of ISIS and the way Hezbollah operates freely in Syria as well as Lebanon as a deadly threat. Not to mention the fact that the overwhelming majority of Israelis agree with the prime minister (including Herzog and his party) about the Iranian nuclear threat and the foolishness of the Obama administration’s attempt to appease Tehran.
Last, his belief that Obama has been soft on Israel is just as absurd. For six years (with only a respite provided by his 2012 re-election campaign Jewish charm offensive), the president has picked endless and ultimately pointless fights with Israel over settlements and especially Jerusalem. He’s tilted the diplomatic playing field in the Palestinians direction on territory and the status of Israel’s capital. Even worse, the administration not only unfairly criticized Israel during last summer’s Gaza war but also ordered a cutoff of the flow of arms resupply during the fighting.
It’s true he could have gone further and ruptured the alliance completely or joined the efforts of Europeans to isolate Israel at the United Nations, measures that Beinart is urging him to take now. But even Obama understood that to do so was not only politically unpopular but bad policy since it would undermine U.S. influence as much as it would hurt Israel.
Thus the entire premise of Beinart’s argument is false. Israel has taken repeated risks for peace and it does still live under the shadow of terror. And it has no credible partner for peace since the Palestinian Authority still refuses to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn or renounce the right of return for the descendants of the 1948 refugees.
The status quo is far from ideal for Jews or Arabs but in the absence of such a peace partner, how can any reasonable person blame Israeli voters for refusing to take actions that would further empower the terrorists? Beinart is free to disagree with them but the notion that he has the moral right to judge them or to try to punish them for not doing as he says is as arrogant and contemptible as his efforts to aid those who wish to overturn the verdict of Israel’s voters by non-democratic means.
The vast majority of Americans rightly believe American policy should punish those who threaten the Jewish state not the people of Israel. Part of the reason for that is that they respect the right of Israelis to decide their own fate just as we prefer to decide ours. Those who seek to wage war on Israel’s re-elected leader reveal themselves to be not only out of touch with the realities of the Middle East but as foes of the principles of democratic rule.
During the weeks leading up to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress on Iran, the White House orchestrated a media campaign to persuade Democrats that the speech was an effort to inject partisanship into the U.S.-Israel relationship. Though Netanyahu was foolish to walk into that trap, the charge was somewhat misleading since it was President Obama who used this as a wedge to break up an otherwise solid bipartisan consensus in favor of more sanctions on Iran. But now that the administration is threatening to isolate Israel in the wake of Netanyahu’s re-election victory, the question arises whether the president’s efforts to rally Democrats behind him on Iran will stop them from criticizing his decision to escalate tensions with the Jewish state. The answer to that question will tell us whether the Democrats, once a wall-to-wall stronghold of pro-Israel sentiment, have been sufficiently influenced by the president’s stands to the point where he needn’t worry about any significant pushback about his threats from within his party or its likely next presidential candidate.
In the past few days, the White House temper tantrum about its least favorite foreign leader’s stunning election victory has escalated from mere petulance at the setback to threats about acquiescing or supporting resolutions at the United Nations Security Council. That changes the dynamic about the debate over Israel in a fundamental way.
Throughout the first six years of the Obama presidency it was possible for Democrats to claim with varying success that the administration had not undermined the alliance with Israel. But in the last two years, the president has become increasingly belligerent toward Israel. He wrongly blamed Netanyahu for the collapse of Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative even though it had been the Palestinians who blew up the talks by making an end run around the negotiations to the United Nations and by signing a unity pact with Hamas. The White House not only unfairly criticized Israel for its measures of self-defense during last year’s war against Hamas but also cut off the resupply of ammunition to the Israel Defense Forces during the fighting.
Yet that was just a taste of the bitterness that would come as the president violated his campaign pledges and began an effort to appease Iran that would allow it to keep its nuclear program. If Netanyahu’s Iran speech was the last straw for Obama, the president’s anger about the prime minister’s re-election sent him over the edge. Using Netanyahu’s statements about his unwillingness to create a Palestinian state under the current circumstances, the White House is now openly threatening to “re-evaluate” its approach to the peace process. But by that they don’t mean re-thinking Obama’s obsessive blaming of Israel and absolving the Palestinians of all responsibility for their decisions that have made peace impossible. Instead, they seem to be indicating that in the final two years of the Obama presidency with no need to bow to political pressures, the president will finally be able to vent his hostility to Netanyahu and begin a process of brutal pressure designed to thwart the will of the Israeli electorate and force the country into dangerous concessions even as he barters its security in order to create a new détente with Iran.
At this point it would seem incumbent on leaders of the Democratic Party to speak up to restrain the president from carrying out these threats. Though many of them don’t like Netanyahu and also resent the obvious closeness between the prime minister and some Republican leaders, their complaints about partisanship infecting the U.S.-Israel relationship have become self-fulfilling prophecies. With polls showing a distinct split between the parties in which Republicans are clearly more likely to be strongly supportive of Israel than the Democrats, the Obama-Netanyahu spat has become the wedge by which elements of the anti-Israel left have been able to assert with some justice that they are making inroads against the heretofore bi-partisan pro-Israel consensus.
Particular focus will fall on Hillary Clinton as she prepares for her coronation as the Democrats’ 2016 presidential campaign. In the past she has veered between strident criticism of Israel (a point that was emphasized during her four years as Obama’s secretary of state) and returning to the sort of standard pro-Israel rhetoric that was part of her persona as a senator from New York from 2000 to 2008. Clinton would like to continue to claim that she is strong supporter of Israel without the distraction of having to take a stand on Obama’s actions. But the statements from the White House may have made that impossible.
The bottom line is that neither Clinton nor any other leading Democrat can pretend that their backing for Israel cannot be questioned if they stay silent about Obama’s threats. Even worse, were they to equivocate or back the president as he isolates Israel at the United Nations or cuts back on military aid — a stance that is sure to tempt Hamas or Iran’s ally Hezbollah to resume rocket attacks and other forms of terrorism — it would place them outside the pro-Israel consensus that they have long claimed to uphold.
It’s one thing for them to blame Netanyahu for supposedly being too close to Republicans. It is quite another for Democrats to assert that they can be neutral about an administration that is seeking to isolate Israel while simultaneously embracing a vicious anti-Semitic Iranian regime that continues to threaten the Jewish state with annihilation.
Though there is a growing constituency on the left that is hoping to legitimize anti-Israel stands, including support for boycotts and divestment as well as pressure on the Jewish state to bow to Palestinian demands that have been rejected by the Israeli people at the ballot box, Clinton is making a mistake if she thinks she can avoid having to choose between the pro-Israel community and Obama’s stands. The same applies to other Democrats. If Obama doesn’t step back from the brink, Democrats must decide whether they wish to truly abandon support for Israel to the Republicans or if they are prepared to openly fight a president who appears on the brink of trashing an alliance still supported by the majority of Americans
MARCH 18, 2015Israel is a liberal nation—in the best sense of the word—but it’s not a leftist one. And for increasing numbers of Democrats, the center-right consensus of Israeli politics is unacceptable, immoral and bigoted— incompatible with their conception of American values. Or so they say.
This is bad news, because Likud looks like it’s going to win around 30 seats. If the numbers hold, Benjamin Netanyahu, despite the best efforts of the president and his allies, will likely remain prime minister. Bougie Herzog will, no doubt, have a bright future in the opposition.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. Paul Krugman had already declared Likud’s impeding fall was all about inequality. (What isn’t, right?) Slate proposed that Likud’s looming death would be about housing, or maybe it was racism. Mostly, though, Netanyahu was going to lose because he has a nasty habit of challenging the progressive worldview of Barack Obama, which offends many people, according to theNew York Times. And really, is there any bigger sin?
One imagines that the next 22 months will be reasonably unpleasant for the new Israeli government. Maybe it will remain hostile beyond Obama. It’s generally believed that our president’s aversion to Israel is merely a hiccup of history. The odds of the next president also undermining the Jewish State’s security seems pretty far-fetched. Yet, the ferocity in which many mainstream liberals attack the purpose of Israel’s existence you have to wonder if the alliance can avoid becoming a partisan issue.
A 2014 Pew survey found that just 39 percent of liberal Democrats are more sympathetic to Israel than to the Palestinians. Among conservative Republicans that number is 77 percent. It’s the biggest partisan gap in 40 years. Considering the coverage of the Middle East in outlets like the New York Times or MSNBC, I’m surprised it’s not worse. But for many on the Left it’s uglier than a lack of sympathy. A Likud win doesn’t only signify a temporary setback, it portends a Jewish State that will abandon democracy and force the United States to abandon it.
Take this dystopian fiction from Jonathan Chait, headlined, “Netanyahu Clarifies His Chilling Vision for Post-Democratic Israel:”
In the long run, a deep American alliance with the kind of garrison state Netanyahu envisions will become untenable. The only remaining diplomatic strategy will be to deepen Israel’s ties with right-wing America, whose support for Israel is not contingent upon it fulfilling its liberal, democratic ideals.
Funny, because the Right seems imbued with idealism when it comes to Israel’s role in the free world. It’s the Left that seems to believe Israel’s primary duty to the world is empowering Arabs that seek it harm.
In Slate, William Saletan (all in on the imminent Netanyahu lose just a few days ago) echoes Chait’s sentiments, claiming that Likud not only rejects autonomy for Arabs in the Palestinian territories, but that Bibi is running against the empowerment of Arabs within Israel, as well. Or as Chait put it, Netanyahu “proposes to snuff out every peaceful outlet for Arab political aspirations.”
You might find these statements awfully perplexing after you learn that the Arab Joint List—an alliance of Israel’s formerly disparate Arab political parties—finds itself the third most popular party in all of Israel. This is a historic achievement by any measure. So what has Netanyahu been doing for three terms? What kind of sloppy authoritarian state do these Jews run, anyway?
Jews” is the pivotal word to remember. What set off this new round of ominous Israel concern-trolling was Netanyahu’s assertion that leftist NGOs, billionaires and consultants were making sure that “Arab voters are going to the polls in droves.”
Which was a fact.
The leadership of the Arab front has openly stated that it wanted to pull together any and all factions of Israeli Arabs, including communists and Islamists, for the single political purpose of removing Israel’s prime minister. Arab political forces are free to rally to unseat Netanyahu, free to aspire to dismantle the Jewish State, but if Netanyahu mentions any of this he’s a racist undermining Israel’s formerly pristine democracy. Or so we’re told.
In truth, any left-winger especially concerned about “democratic ideals” in Israel, might point out that if the Joint Arab List had its way there would be no democratic ideals in Israel. But that’s another story.
If Israel’s left-wing critics cared about democratic ideals they would also probably be asking Fatah to allow elections in the West Bank so everyone could see what a peaceful outlet for Arab political aspirations looks like before contemplating the creation of another Gaza. I don’t know about you, but backing another poverty-stricken theocracy doesn’t sound very liberal to me.
According to the Times of Israel, during an interview with an Israeli website, Netanyahu was asked: “If you are prime minister, there will be no Palestinian state?” He answered: “Indeed.” The rest of Netanyahu’s statement, though, goes like so: “I think anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state and to evacuate territory is giving radical Islam a staging ground against the State of Israel.”
Whether Netanyahu, who was clearly appealing to his base, won or lost, that reality does not change. Discussions now may placate American administrations and European powers, but there no way either a left-leaning or right-leaning Israeli government, both imperfect in their own special ways, can allow such a state to exist on its borders. (And, at this point, Fatah probably can’t accept any conditions that would make any state a reality, anyway.)
None of these are new predicaments. The only thing new is Obama. If you believe protecting the legacy of a progressive American president is more important than Israel’s security, that’s your prerogative. If Israel only gets your support when the Knesset acts like the Berkeley city council, so be it. These positions, though, have nothing to do with American principles, and everything to do partisanship and ideology.
White House won't block Palestinian action at U.N.
10:18 AM on Thursday, March 19, 2015 - Adar 28, 5775
That took about ... 24 hours. After Binyamin Netanyahu's sweeping victory Tuesday, the White House issued new threats almost immediately, signaling it might not stand in the way of Palestinian action at the United Nations. That means the U.S. might not veto a Security Council resolution intended to create a Palestinian state. The U.S. has steadfastly blocked all Palestinian unilateral action at the U.N. with its veto power, but now that Netanyahu is in office yet again, the U.S. is changing its tune. Part of the issue is that Netanyahu said in the closing days of the campaign that he would oppose establishing a Palestinian state while he is prime minister, a seeming contradiction of a 2009 statement endorsing the creation of a Palestinian state.
“I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state today, and evacuate areas, is giving radical Islam an area from which to attack the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “This is the true reality that has been created in past years. Those that ignore it are burying their heads in the sand. The left does this, buries its head in the sand, time and again.”
But Netanyahu's statement doesn't indicate he opposes a Palestinian state on principle, only that he opposes a Palestinian state right now, given the current Middle East reality. In 2009, that reality was quite different. Whatever the case, the White House will be sure to grab onto Netanyahu's statement and use it as a cudgel to push their pro-Palestinian policies. These next two years will be anything but quiet.