Tuesday, June 21

Right wing Extremist Scumbags threatening Commanding Officer giving Evidence against Subordinate

Something is going very wrong within the Israeli Electorate. We should view it as a wake-up call towards a trend towards fascism as has been voiced by ex-Minister of Defense, Moshe Ya’alon, and even the Deputy-Chief-of-Staff, Yair Golan. The outcry and intimidation of those defending IDF protocol in opening fire on terrorists, who have already been neutralized or prone is wrong.  Many years of the Netanyahu-led Coalition has given rise to extreme right wing ideologies that are doing much harm to Israel.

Right wing extremist scumbags, who unfortunately are being coddled by some members of the right wing Netanyahu-led coalition, are no credit to Israel as a democracy. After the murder of the prone Palestinian terrorist, Netanyahu spoke to the father of the suspect and even considered meeting him. He was advised against it. It was inappropriate for Netanyahu to have any contact with the suspect’s family or show empathy. Prior to his appointment as Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman demonstrated support for Sgt. Elor Azaria, the suspect, and so did the Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett. There were strong signs of empathy for the suspect in the Netanyahu Coalition.  When extreme right wing scumbags started threatening the Company Commander, Tom Na’aman on the social media, they changed their tune as it became clear that Na’aman made the right decision to testify against his subordinate, the suspect, who had broken the law by shooting the prone terrorist.

Not doing so would render the Company Commander of being guilty no less. The senior IDF commanders are correct in not supporting law breakers, who disregard IDF opening fire protocol. The suspect’s defense attorney and extreme right wing activist, Itamar Ben Gvir, has got it wrong. I wonder if Ben Gvir would have held the same view if a soldier would shoot a prone right wing Jewish extremist, who had killed an innocent Arab. Praising and defending the suspect and threatening a key witness are the result of extreme right wing elements in the government, who demonstrate empathy towards the suspect.
Sergeant Elor Azaria (Photo: Shaul Golan)

The lunatic fringe – right wing extremist scumbags, followers of the Late Rabbi Meir Kahane of the outlawed Kach Movement, Price Tag hooligans and Lehava - the racist movement led by Ben Zion Gopstein, are being tolerated. These movements exploit Israel’s democracy in the same way as the Nazi Party in Germany exploited Germany’s democracy prior to 1933. This ilk is threatening Israel’s democracy and there is no sign of them being outlawed by the present Netanyahu Government. Israel’s Electorate is moving towards the right and in doing so there is the danger of right wing extremists gaining legitimacy. The words of the moderates, not necessarily the left, see the handwriting on the wall of a definite move towards fascism. Some examples are ex-Ministers of Defense, Moshe Ha’yalon, Ehud Barak, Deputy Chief of Staff, Yair Golan and many others - ex generals of the IDF. Their warnings should be taken seriously.  

Saturday, June 18

The Fragmentation of the Israeli Left and a possible Peace Initiative

The Israeli left has never been so fragmented. The Labor Party has been in sharp decline for many years now. In fact, the tactic of uniting with Tzipi Livni’s Party, Hatnua, has been a failure. Yitzchak Herzog, the party leader and leader of the opposition, cannot be taken seriously as he straddles on the fence. He has had the carpet pulled out from under his feet by the wily, Benjamin Netanyahu. Herzog is no match for him let alone an alternative as prime minister. He lacks charisma and his strong desire to enter the Netanyahu Coalition in the hope that he will give it a more moderate face is doomed to failure.

A few weeks ago Netanyahu decided to increase his power by bringing in Avigdor Lieberman, giving him the post of Defense Minister and ousting Moshe Ya’alon from that post. All this was done while he was negotiating with Yitzchak Herzog to bring the Zionist Camp into his coalition. Herzog had no knowledge of Netanyahu’s negotiations with Lieberman. The result was Herzog coming out of the deal with egg yolk covering his face and his tail between his legs.
Many members of the Zionist Camp feel betrayed by Herzog and his credibility as Zionist Camp leader has taken a great knock. Herzog declared rather unconvincingly that the Zionist Camp will remain a fighting opposition to Netanyahu (until another attempt is made by him to crawl on all fours into the Likud Coalition Government, where he hopes he will be made foreign minister). Meanwhile, the terrible terrorist attack in Sarona, Tel Aviv has taken the attention away from the wheeling and dealing with Yitzhak Herzog. Netanyahu has many rabbits in his hat unbeknown to Herzog in his ambition to reach a deal with Netanyahu.
Yitzhak Herzog is trying to move his party toward the center if not a shade to the right in order to gain support from the right. He made some disparaging remarks about the party not being an “Arab lover’s Party”. This was a most divisive, racist statement and he got wrapped over the knuckles over it by members of his own party and Meretz as well as the Joint List. Even Naftali Bennett of the right wing Habayit Hayehudi criticized Herzog for his statement. Trying to “out-Likud” on its inherent racism will bring Herzog more ridicule and will further damage the Zionist Camp that is already disunited and in the doldrums.
The time has arrived for the left in Israel to be inclusive of all its supporters in order to offer the electorate a viable and realistic alternative to the right wing policies of the Likud and the coddling of the settler camp and right wing religious camp, including the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) parties. The real issues of peace, social and economic issues are not being addressed as it should because of the budgeting for political favors within the ruling camp each having its own sectarian issues. The left has to re-organize in order to survive and become relevant again and Yizhak Herzog must be replaced as Leader of the Opposition.
There are members within the Zionist Camp, whose ideology is closer to Meretz than it is to the centre with a touch of right wing in the Zionist Camp. If this trend in the Zionist Camp continues towards becoming Likud B, it will cease to be relevant as the majority of the electorate is right wing to extreme right wing and will not vote for anything that has a “left wing stigma”.
Perhaps the time has arrived whereby a new left wing social democratic political platform can be supported by all parties on the left, including Meretz, Joint Arab List and disillusioned Zionist Camp members can join. The new social democratic party should embrace all Israel’s citizens irrespective of race, color or religion in a new Israeli patriotism for the good of the State of Israel. This is the only viable alternative to the partisan right wing coalition that rules Israel at present. Individual members of the new party need not be Zionists. This is a matter of personal choice. Historical divisions between Zionists and non-Zionists under the new order becomes irrelevant as both sides can work together for the common good of the country of which they both share equal citizenship. The main ideology that all members have is a common loyalty to Israel that goes beyond sectarian interests. This would also strengthen the movement towards a solution of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict by negotiations. Here, members of the Joint List within the new coalition can play an active role in negotiations. An old conflict that is deadlocked with no movement is bad for Israel and the Palestinians and offers no future for either side.
Ehud Barak speaks at the Herzliya Conference, June 16, 2016. (Adi Cohen Zedek
Ehud Barak, ex Chief of Staff, Prime Minister and Minister of Defense in Netahyahu’s Cabinet has made a scathing attack on the present Government, so has Moshe Ya’alon until recently Defense Minister, has also attacked the Netanyahu Government. A number of ex Generals have also come out against the present government and the direction that it is moving. It may be the beinning of the "night of the long knives" against Netanyahu. It remains to be seen whether it will destabilize the present government or  not. The fragmented left is out of the picture as an alternative. These attacks on Netanyahu seem to be “sour grapes attacks” or personality problem clashes that were unknown to the public while they were serving in the Netanyahu Cabinet. ThEhud Barak speaks at the Herzliya Conference, June 16, 2016. (Adi Cohen Zedek)ey do not offer any movement towards a viable alternative that is moderately left. The Zionist Camp is out of the picture entirely apart from a few impotent clucks from Yitzhak Herzog, who is still finding a way to join Netanyahu’s coalition, despite the setback of the carpet being swept from under his feet by Netanyahu.
A new peace initiative that merits examining for solving the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict has been making some soft ripples in the headlines. This is the Two States, One Homeland Initiative.
The following is an article from Haaretz about this new initiative:

“Out with separation, in with confederation – declare the proponents of the 'Two States One Homeland' initiative that will have its official launch on Thursday at a special full-day conference in Tel Aviv.
Judy Maltz Jun 01, 2016 7:37 PM
BEIT JALA, West Bank – Countless proposals for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been bandied about over the years. What sets this one apart, beyond everything else, is the unusual mix of supporters it has galvanized – among them Palestinians, settlers, ultra-Orthodox Jews, and left-wing activists.
Out with separation, in with confederation – declare the proponents of the “Two States One Homeland” initiative that will have its official launch on Thursday at a special full-day conference in Tel Aviv.
In a nutshell, here’s the plan: two sovereign states with open borders, every house stays where it is, and all people get to live where they want. Forget about uprooting settlements, evacuating residents, building high walls, and swapping territories. The border, under this plan, will be in the exact same place it was on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War, and all those Jews living on the other side are welcome to stay where they are provided they are willing to live as Israeli citizens under Palestinian sovereignty. In other words, they get to vote in Israeli elections, but their speeding tickets will be issued by Palestinian police. The same holds true for Palestinian nationals who choose to live under Israeli sovereignty. (Yes, this initiative does accept the Palestinian demand for right of return – despite being anathema to most Israelis.)
Several days before the official launch of their peace plan, a small group of activists – some new to the cause, others engaged from the start – have convened at their usual haunt, a hotel in this small town near Bethlehem, for some last-minute preparations.   
“The difference between this initiative and others,” explains Awni Elmashni, its lead Palestinian architect, as they settle down, “is that we try to work with reality rather than change it.”
Elmashni, who was born in the Dehaishe refugee camp, spent 12 years in Israeli prisons before moving up the ranks of the Fatah movement.  He is in a better position than many to know that certain key elements of the plan – keeping the settlements intact, for example – will not go down well with the average Palestinian. But what better alternative at the moment is there, he asks.
“Everything else that’s been tried has failed,” he notes. “And we are right now in a situation where there is no political horizon, and the status quo is unsustainable.”
It all began in 2012 when Elmashni was introduced to Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport, whom he was told had some “original ideas” about solving the decades-old conflict. Elmashni heard him out and liked what he heard. Operating largely under the radar, the Israeli and Palestinian set out to build a movement. They organized parlor meetings, met privately with key opinion leaders, drafted position papers and reached out to communities not typically part of the peacemaking discourse.
More often than not, they were dismissed as delusional. After all, who in their right mind could believe that after years of bloodshed, Israelis and Palestinians would be able to put all the bad feelings behind and live happily among one another?
Yet, slowly but surely, they succeeded in winning over some less cynical hearts.
That would include people like Nuri Gross, a 25-year-old college student who grew up in a right-wing Orthodox family and participated in demonstrations against Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. “On the one hand, I care about other people, so right-wing style solutions don’t appeal to me,” he says. “On the other hand, all those on the left who call for separating from the Palestinians – to me, there’s also a bit of racism in that.”
Gross was first introduced to the confederation idea during a parlor meeting held at the home of Hadassah Froman at the West Bank settlement of Tekoah. Following in the footsteps of her late husband, Rabbi Menachem Froman, Hadassah, a core activist in the movement today, has evolved into a rare breed of peace activist settler.  “What I heard in her home really made sense to me,” says Gross.
Even newer to the movement is 37-year-old Pnina Pfeuffer, an ultra-Orthodox mother of two involved in various efforts to engage the Haredi community with the Israeli political discourse. Pfeuffer had always supported the classic two-state solution that involved building a wall to separate Israelis and Palestinians. “But as far as I’m concerned, any solution is better than no solution, and if we can get Israelis and Palestinians to support this new idea, then I’m all for it,” she says.
For the leaders of the new initiative, a recent coup was signing up Eden Riskin, the grandson of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the prominent American-born founder and spiritual leader of Efrat, one of the larger West Bank settlements. He joins two well-known Haredi activists, Shmuel Drilman and Rabbi Shmuel Pappenheim. Some notable representatives of the Israeli left are former Peace Now executive director Moriah Shlomo, Meretz activist Avi Dabush, author (and Haaretz contributor) Nir Baram, and prominent civil rights attorney Limor Yehuda”.
Yehuda, formerly head of the occupied territories department at the Israel Civil Rights Association, estimates the number of core activists in the movement at “several dozen,” but says “we are growing every day.”
Israelis on the left tend to have two key reservations about the confederation plan. Like most Palestinians, they don’t like the idea of leaving the settlers where they are in what could be construed as handing them a victory. Where they differ with the Palestinians is on the issue of repatriation of refugees: Even hard-core leftists tend to draw the line there, seeing the Palestinian right of return as an existential threat to the Jewish state.
Many of the details of the plan have yet to be worked out, but according to Eran Tzidkiyahu, an Israeli activist in the movement, “the main obstacle is not deciding whether Jerusalem will have one mayor or two mayors but overcoming the lack of trust on both sides.”
At one point, he and his fellow activists debated the possibility forming a political party. They eventually concluded that growing the movement from the ground up was a preferable option. “The Israeli politicians aren’t there yet,” laments Yehuda. “Either we have to wait until we’ve gained more public support or until there are different politicians in power.’
They do take heart, though, from recent support expressed by President Reuven Rivlin for the idea of confederation (even if not exactly in the format they advocate), as well as some Knesset members on the Israeli left, whose names they prefer not to mention.
About two weeks ago, Al-Mashni organized a gathering of 70 Palestinians in Ramallah to hear about the initiative. “There was great interest,” he reports. “But what’s most important for our people is to know that there is a serious partner on the Israeli side.

It is obvious that the present Israeli Government would not support this initiative and in the atmosphere that exists between the two parties to the conflict it appears to be unacceptable. Nevertheless, the time is more than ripe to examine new initiatives and encourage discussing them.

Tuesday, June 14

PM Netanyahu should take Leave from his Post

The timing could not be better. Netanyahu pundits will admit that the PM has not been charged or indicted of any crimes and is innocent of suspicions until proved otherwise. This is true and applies to all citizens. However, public officials (this includes PM Benjamin Netanyahu), who have been elected to power, should have a clean record. If there are suspicions of misdemeanors or breaking the law that warrants police investigation, the public official should take leave of his/her public position in order to clear his/her name of suspicion of misconduct or breaking the law. If these suspicions are unfounded then he/she can return to office without a blemish. As it so happens, according to a Haaretz report, the Police anti-corruption unit is launching a probe into Netanyahu’s financial affairs.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu is a savvy and shrewd politician. He and his wife enjoy their lavish lifestyle as well as travelling abroad - presumably on diplomatic business. Let us call it “diplomatic business” or even “public relations”. However, in many cases, this may be questionable, especially when the whole Netanyahu family accompanies him.
Israel is going through a tough time with all the terrorist attacks, the latest in Sarona, Tel Aviv where 4 innocent people were fatally wounded and 10 injured. There is no question that the solution to the terrorist activities against Israel is strategic. There has been no movement, not on Israel’s side or the Palestinian side to find a solution to this ever smoldering Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. PM Netanyahu is the longest serving prime minister in Israel’s history. There has been no new idea coming from his coalition to end the conflict apart from “Rambo tactics” that has not stopped the terror but minimized its frequency. Collective punishment is morally questionable as well as not being effective in the long term.
PM Netanyahu is embroiled with his own personal problems, some of them of his wife’s creation and some of them concerning his lavish lifestyle and relationship with his tycoon friends that finance his party propaganda machine.
He is also inconsistent on the Two-State Solution without pre-conditions. One pre-condition of Netanyahu that comes to mind is recognition of Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish People” as starters, rather than recognition of the State of Israel as being the “state of all its citizens” that is inclusive of all Israelis, irrespective of race, color or religion. This would not alter Israel’s status and it would not be a bone of contention concerning the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. It would also allow the neighboring Arab States to end the state of war with Israel and accept Israel as an integral part of the Middle East, which it is. While the dynamics within the Middle East have changed since the Arab Peace Initiative was drawn up, changes to adapt to the new situation can surely be discussed by all parties concerned and modifications by mutual agreement can be made where appropriate. The Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 does have positive elements that form a good basis for peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, including an atmosphere for finding a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.
Unfortunately, Netanyahu is not up to it and the time has come for him to go. He knows that if he does agree with the Arab Peace Initiative he stands a good chance of “upsetting” his right wing flank in the coalition as well as the settlers in the West Bank. This places him in a situation that may break up his coalition. He has to conform to the right wing which is his power base.
Chances of a peace treaty with the Palestinians under the present circumstances are very remote. However a long term “respite from hostilities” is still possible even under Hamas and this would be acceptable by the PA as well. This may sound very imaginative and unrealistic at present. A “respite from hostilities” does not mean a ceasefire The violations of the ceasefire are the terrorist acts that Israel has witnessed since October 2015 with the lone stabbing attacks against innocent civilians, shootings, car ramming etc.
The respite from hostilities can be achieved by the three components of Islamic Law regarding temporary cessation of war:
  1. Hudna: The concept "Hudna" stems from the Arab-Muslim tradition and refers to a reciprocal truce under agreed-upon conditions and for a specified time period. In the context of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the concept refers to a suggested framework for achieving a ceasefire between the two sides. However, the conditions for declaring Hudna, its purpose and its binding status are unclear.
  2. Tahdiah: instead of Hudna (3/05) which means "lull" or "pacification", and has no obligatory or traditional context.
  3. Treaty of Hudaybiyyah:  (Arabic: صلح الحديبية) was an important event that took place during the formation of Islam. It was a pivotal treaty between Muhammad, representing the state of Medina, and the Quraysh tribe of Mecca in March 628 (corresponding to Dhu al-Qi'dah, 6 AH). It helped to decrease tension between the two cities, affirmed a 10-year peace, and authorized Muhammad's followers to return the following year in a peaceful pilgrimage.
This is the only hope that Israel has of cessation of hostilities and terror coming from Hamas and its allies. It may seem impossible for Israel to comply with this. However, Hamas will cease hostile activities under these three components of Islamic law on “respite from hostilities” if Israel remains strong and invincible against Hamas militarily. Although Hudna, Tahdiah and the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah are temporary measures to refrain from hostilities until Hamas is strong enough to attack Israel in order to achieve its goal of Israel’s destruction. It is the most we can expect from Hamas, without recognizing Israel’s right to exist until such time as it eventually does.
Israel will have to remain strong and invincible in the eyes of Hamas. It must never show any sign of weakness. If Israel does show signs of weakness, Hamas will attack Israel, as Mohammed had attacked the Quraysh tribe of Mecca, thus breaking the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah when the Quraysh were showing signs of weakness two years after the treaty was signed with Mohammed,

Perhaps it may be a good idea for a militarily strong Israel to sign a peace treaty on the basis of these conditions. Any chance of preventing unnecessary bloodshed on both sides should always be investigated. It is doubtful if the Netanyahu Government has the will to investigate this option which is of course not perfect but will ensure a long period of peace. Israel will always have to be prepared for any violation of the agreement against future hostilities, which it is today without a formal agreement with Hamas.

Thursday, June 2

Israel’s Democracy threatened by Disturbing Trends

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
 alongside attorney Yossi Cohen
 at the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court on October 29, 2015
 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Over the last few weeks we have been witnessing a trend in Israel that is eroding democracy. A strong democracy is also dependent on a strong opposition with well defined objectives and principles that can be considered as an alternative to the ruling government. This does not mean populism. Populism is very often devoid of reality and as such misleads the electorate. An opposition that relies on populism will never be able to achieve its aims when elected. Within a short time disillusionment sets in and the principles on which the new government is elected are scuttled to the four winds.

Israel appears to be reaching the crossroads in its so-called viable democracy. The Israeli electorate is showing signs of apathy as the ruling government headed by PM Benjamin Netanyahu are not doing what it had promised to the citizens of Israel. PM Netanyahu was insured of victory after every election since 2009. The reason, in view of most of Israel’s citizens, is that there is no alternative leader that is capable of being elected to tackle the gargantuan tasks that face Israel every day.

This is dangerous for Israel’s democracy from every aspect. There should be a law that limits the prime minister from serving more than two terms in the Knesset. We are now witnessing the antics of a desperate prime minister that has served too long in the Knesset. It is as if the State of Israel is his property and that he and his wife appear to be above the law. This is a very dangerous threat to democracy. It is conducive to its erosion.  

The State Comptroller’s Annual Report on irregularities in the funding of the prime minister’s travel expenses, the running of the Netanyahu household, including the role of Sara Netanyahu’s handling of those employed in the prime minister’s residence is under fire. There are plaintiffs who have sued Sarah Netanyahu on exploitation and ill treatment over the years under her employ. There were recent court cases, whereby some of the plaintiffs had won their cases as the judges had ruled in their favor:
2.    The Guy Eliyahu Case   The judgment by the Jerusalem District Labor Court breaks down into NIS 65,000 for emotional abuse, NIS 7,500 reimbursements for legal costs and NIS 25,000 for violating laws protecting employees from working beyond certain hours. Note that in this case the family lawyer,Jossi Cohen representing Sara Netanyahu, rejects the decision by the Jerusalem District Labor Court awarding Guy Eliyahu, a former employee of Prime Minister’s official residence, NIS 120,000 ($31,000) in damages for abuse at the hands of the prime minister’s wife. “The real abusive treatment is that of Judge Proginin, who, as expected, again blatantly ignored the testimony of Mrs. Netanyahu,” Cohen says following the court decision.
“The court case has been handled in a one-sided manner and Mrs. Netanyahu was not allowed to bring witnesses that would have discredited the false and deceitful claims of Guy Eliyahu. We intend to appeal this biased and unjust decision,” Jossi Cohen adds. The family lawyer made disparaging comments about a judge that passed a ruling against his client, Sarah Netanyahu, stands a strong chance of disciplinary action against him. This is unethical and against the law.
Meanwhile the cases and complaints of former workers against Sarah Netanyahu are reported in the press almost non-stop. The details that have been published about Sarah Netanyahu’s behavior over the years do not do her much credit. It is behavior that is not appropriate for a prime minister’s wife, who believes that her subordinates are expendable and she can do as she wishes. The various reports that come to light should be a warning to the electorate that the time is fast approaching for them to change their choice of prime minister and his political party to get out of the corridors of power. We are all aware of the old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts completely. Are we approaching that in Israel’s democracy?
PM “Bibi” Netanyahu is a wily politician, who loves the lavish lifestyle that seems to be bestowed upon him by funding from various sources with questionable legality. Sarah Netanyahu seems to have adjusted very well to the “riches of Croesus” and behaves like the wife of a despotic dictator.
Another threat to democracy and with it accountability is the desire to curtail the State Comptroller’s authority. Days after the state comptroller released a critical report of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions, Knesset House Committee Chairperson David Bitan—also from Netanyahu’s party—submitted a bill seeking to curtail the state comptroller’s authority. If he succeeds in having this bill passed it will be another nail in the future of democracy in Israel.
Where is the main opposition party – the Zionist Union? It should be involved in stopping this erosion in accountability. Instead they seem to be swallowing the toad of Avigdor Lieberman being appointed Defense Minister and seeking a loophole whereby at the end of the day they will find an excuse to join the right wing coalition of PM Netanyahu despite Yitzhak Herzog’s plupperings to the contrary.

Now that the right wing has increased its strength in the government with the inclusion of the radical right wing party of Avigdor Lieberman, less tolerance for political opponents on the left is on the horizon.