Current Postings

May 26, 2015: Spinning

The heads of many of us – as we survey the current situation – are spinning.  This is for certain.  But in a larger sense, I feel as if the world is also spinning: in reverse.  Situations are not static, they change.  But I’m hard put to see a great deal that counts as improvement. With regard to so much on the global scene, it is the contrary.
That being the case, I’m going to start this posting with good news.  Because, in spite of what I’ve just written, good news does exist in many spheres, if we take the time to seek it out.  And seek it out we must, if we are to stay sane and balanced.
SACH – Save A Child’s Heart – is an Israeli-based international organization dedicated to improving the cardiac care available to children in developing regions.  At this point, SACH has saved the lives of over 3,500 children from Africa, South America, Europe, and the Middle East. The number of countries involved in the program has reached 50 – the most recent patient having come from East Timor. Half of those treated are Palestinian Arab children from Gaza and Judea and Samaria; there are also hundreds who come from the war-torn areas of Syria and Iraq, including a 17-month-old boy from the Yazidi minority in Iraq.
The cost of care is covered entirely by the organization and doctors work at their own expense.  In addition to treating children here in Israel – at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, SACH has trained more than 100 medical personnel.  There is, for example, Dr. Yayu Mekonnen, who is in the third year of a five-year training program here in Israel. When he returns to his native Ethiopia, he will become his country’s first and only pediatric heart surgeon.


Credit: 124news
The world at large will never know what we do – because it does not want to know. But we know, as do the recipients of our tender care, and... I am convinced... so does the Almighty.
Another piece of encouraging news.  Background:
In 1885, a Yemenite village for some 65 families was founded on the slopes of the Mt. of Olives and a synagogue was established.  A Zionist philanthropist had contributed the major part of land on which the community built.
In the 1930s, the Yemenite Jews of this village were attacked by Arabs, just as Jews in many places in Palestine were.  The British, who held the Mandate for Palestine and were charged with working towards establishment of a Jewish homeland, told the Jews of the village that they could not protect them and they must leave.  This too happened in many places, including Hevron.  The British were supposed to protect the Jewish property and allow the rightful residents to return in due course.  None of this happened.
In recent years, buildings in the area have been carefully identified, property that was originally Jewish has been repurchased and Jewish families have moved back in.  Said Daniel Luria of the Ateret Cohanim Association, which has been overseeing this process of return (emphasis added):
"People must understand that this neighborhood was built by Yemenite Jews 130 years ago - way before any Arabs ever lived here."  He reinforces the point with photographs of the time.  They tell a very different story from the one that charges Jews with “usurping” Arab land.
What has happened now is that the original synagogue of the village has been refurbished and rededicated.  It has been renamed Ohel Yehonatan in honor of Jonathan Pollard.


Credit: IsraelNationalNews
Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel (not pictured) affixed the mezuzah to the doorpost and recited traditional blessings.  “All we need,” he said, “is true peace between Jews, and then we can work things out with everyone else."
In spite of the confusion that has ensued, I see the possibility, as well, of some significant good coming from the new government.  Gilad Erdan has now joined the Cabinet, with the portfolios of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy (the last not reported by me yesterday).  You can see how “public diplomacy” seems to overlap with foreign affairs, so that there remains a lack of clarity in terms of who is actually responsible for what.
And yet...Erdan says he has been given the tools to reform (and, I am assuming, strengthen) the police.  “I have the ability to bring about real change," he said. "I'm going to work hard and I'm committed to making achievements."
Please understand, even though an increased police budget is helpful, part of the issue has nothing to do with money.  It is, rather, a question of the directives that come from the top regarding dealing with Arab violence with toughness.  Erdan’s immediate predecessor, Yitzhak Aaronovitch, lacked that toughness.
This is the sort of situation to be dealt with:
Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin, pictured, who was required to surrender the Strategic Affairs portfolio to Erdan, has been given the Jerusalem Affairs portfolio.  Elkin is on record as being opposed to any Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and favors annexation.  We must hope and trust that he will watch over a united Jerusalem with diligence, with whatever authority has been accorded him.



Credit: Times of Israel
In many respects, however, the situation we are surveying runs the gamut from merely worrisome to horrifying.
On the worrisome side, we’ve got President Ruby Rivlin, who has turned out to not be exactly what many of us thought he was.  OK, he wants to be president of all Israelis.  Fair enough. But he is overdoing it:  He is about to receive an award from the New Israel Fund, which is overtly destructive to Israel – financially supporting organizations that promote prosecution of our soldiers for war crimes and that seek to undermine Israeli democracy from within.  Rivlin will not be swayed.
Unfortunately he will be providing legitimacy to an organization that deserves none.
More deeply worrisome is President Obama, who is in a feigned “I love Israel and the Jews” mode, having delivered a speech attempting to demonstrate this fact at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, DC.
His words were incredibly over the top:

“Earlier this week, I was actually interviewed by one of your members, Jeff Goldberg. And Jeff reminded me that he once called me ‘the first Jewish President.’ Now, since some people still seem to be wondering about my faith I should make clear this was an honorary title. But I was flattered. 

“And as an honorary member of the tribe, not to mention somebody who’s... been advised by two Jewish chiefs of staff, I can also proudly say that I’m getting a little bit of the hang of the lingo.”
An honorary member of the tribe??  This is painful. And yet, the likes of Alan Dershowitz, who was critical of Obama for a time, has suddenly discovered anew that Obama is a good guy and pro-Israel.
Sigh...  Obama is posturing, for whatever purpose, and no more.
Yes, there just was an instance of importance in which Obama supported Israel – blocking efforts by Egypt, in the course of a conference to review the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to advance a nuclear-free Middle East.
But he has also just let it be known that because he “loves” Israel, he has a right to criticize, on such issues as “settlements.”  And he has spoken inappropriately  - censuring Israeli democracy, which he sees as “eroding,” because the government does not support what he wants it to. These are not the stances of a true friend who respects Israeli autonomy.
And is appropriate to thank him when he supports us.  But never, ever should he be trusted.
What approaches the horrific is the threat Israel lives with at all times of war ensuing on one or multiple borders.  Here I share what Omni Ceren of The Israel Project has written (emphasis added):

“...Two weeks ago there were major recent pieces in the NYT and AP articles, where journalists got to look at IDF aerial photography showing that Hezbollah has moved the vast majority of its military infrastructure into Shiite villages. They've taken their arsenal - 100,000+ rockets including Burkan rockets with half-ton warheads, ballistic missiles including Scud-Ds that can hit all of Israel, supersonic advanced anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-aircraft assets, drones and mini drones, tunnels, etc. - and embedded it across hundreds of villages and probably thousands of homes.

“The Syrian war has been good for Hezbollah in that respect. They've cleaned out Assad's depots and brought the goods back to Lebanon.

The Israelis can't afford a war of attrition with Hezbollah. The Iran-backed terror group has the ability to saturation bomb Israeli civilians with 1,500 projectiles a day, every day, for over two months. They will try to bring down Tel Aviv's skyscrapers with ballistic missiles. They will try to fly suicide drones into Israel's nuclear reactor. They will try to detonate Israel's off-shore energy infrastructure. They will try to destroy Israeli military and civilian runways. And - mainly but not exclusively through their tunnels - they will try to overrun Israeli towns and drag away women and children as hostages. Israeli casualties would range in the thousands to tens of thousands.

And so the Israelis will have to mobilize massive force to shorten the duration of a future war. One of the things they'll do is immediately is move to eliminate as much of Hezbollah's vast arsenal as possible. Hezbollah is counting on the resulting deaths of their human turn Israel into an international pariah. But the Israelis can't let Hezbollah level their entire country with indiscriminate rocket fire and advanced missiles, just because no one in Lebanon is willing or able to expel the group from Shiite villages.”


Makes the blood run cold.  The most moral of armies confronting an enemy with no moral compass or value for human life at all.


As I am writing, notice has come through of sirens sounding in the south of Israel. At least one rocket has been launched from Gaza, apparently by Islamic Jihad.  The rocket, which caused no injury or damage, landed in the Ashkelon area.


And then we have the obscene war going on in Syria and Lebanon.  The wholesale deaths, the actions of people who can only be described as savage (and I do not use this word lightly!).  The back and forth between Shia and Sunni. 

The risk to the ancient ruins of Palmyra, now in the hands of Isis.

Matters are so upside-down that we see Iran criticizing the US for not hitting ISIS hard enough. 

Matters of the “peace process” and pressure being placed on Israel, as well as issues of BDS, will be considered in some detail in future postings. 
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 04:40AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 25, 2015: Confusion on the Government Front

With regard to the establishment of a government, I do not remember the situation ever being quite as unclear and in flux as it is now.
Part of the problem is that ministry responsibilities have not been precisely delineated – that is, there is overlap among various ministries.  Makes it tougher to understand who is accountable for what, and tends to generate tensions between those heading those ministries. 
In addition, there are ministries in which responsibilities are shared internally or even farmed out to persons outside the ministry in question.  This is the case, for example, with Silvan Shalom, who is not in the Foreign Ministry and yet has been given responsibilities that might be expected to be within the jurisdiction of that ministry, such as strategic dialogue with the US.
And, to top it all off, there are MKs who have been given more than one ministry, although we are seeing shifts in that situation.
What I want to do here is provide an update on the situation since my last posting. But be forewarned: none of this is carved in stone and there may yet be other “adjustments.”
Last I wrote, I said that Gilad Erdan (pictured below), who is second on the Likud list, would not be taking a portfolio:  He had hoped for Public Security - which was in the end given to Yariv Levin - but only in conjunction with Interior – a position Erdan had held, but which was given to Shalom - because the two ministries work together.  He said that what he was offered by Netanyahu didn’t provide him with the tools to do his job effectively.  The problems that ensued here were a reflection of tensions between Netanyahu and Erdan, which have now been smoothed over.


Credit: Times of Israel

The word today is that Erdan will be Minister of Public Security after all.  And no, he will not be given Interior, but the reports are that he will be given a generous budget and possibly the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which had been given to Ze’ev Elkin, along with Immigration. 
A bit of clarification might help here:
Public Security is the statewide enforcement agency responsible for police, the prison system, rescue system, etc.  There are no independent local police departments – everything is overseen at a national level.  In light of terrorist acts inside of Israel and decisions that must be made regarding how to respond to them, this is a position of considerable import. An enhanced budget for police work seems to me an excellent thing.
Interior is the agency responsible for local government, citizenship and residency, identity cards, and student and entry visas.  Erdan had felt that coordination between local governments (municipal, etc.) and the services of Public Security was appropriate.
Strategic Affairs is, in broadest terms, responsible for coordinating security, intelligence and diplomatic initiatives regarding strategic threats.
Erdan should have a place in the (inner) Security Cabinet now, as I understand it because of his involvement with Strategic Affairs – which is critical. 
Additionally, Erdan may be given the Ministry of Communications (a position he has held before).  As I noted last time, Netanyahu had retained that position for himself.  I am not clear as to where this leaves Ofir Akunis, who had been assigned a place in the Ministry of Communications as a Minister-without-Portfolio. (I had read that as being a de facto Minister of Communication position, but now?)
Reports are that – because of the limit on the number of ministers who can be appointed - Benny Begin will have to resign his position as Minister-without-Portfolio.
And there is yet one more piece of news regarding the government: Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs, will be taking a leave of absence from that position in order to serve as Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 



Dr. Dore Gold – a long time advisor to Netanyahu and former Israeli Ambassador to the UN - is a good man. 

A ministry routinely has a director-general, who oversees the operation, in addition to the minister him or herself.  Gold, it must be said, is a notably well-known personage to fill that role.  There are ways in which this may be good, because he has considerable prestige and depth of strategic understanding.  But I see something else happening as well: Tzipi Hotovely is Deputy Foreign Minister, and, as Netanyahu is retaining that ministry for himself, there are ways in which it might have been said that she was de facto Foreign Minister.  We’ve already seen, however, that certain responsibilities that might have been hers were assigned to others. 
What I suspect here is that the presence of Gold in the Ministry may further undercut her autonomy and latitude to function.  This has to be watched.  What is certainly the case is that Gold will provide reports to the prime minister on what is happening vis-à-vis Hotovely.
What I close with here, is a marvelous statement last week by Hotovely – for Israeli diplomats and Foreign Ministry staff  - that has caused more than a bit of nervousness in certain government quarters, even as it has brought a smile to the faces of some of us (emphasis added):
“The international community deals with considerations of justice and morality. We need to return to the basic truth of our right to this land.”

Hotovely then quoted the late journalist Uri Elitzur, who said that for the last 40 years, while the Palestinians were demanding “their” lands, Israel’s has been that: “We have strategic interests and security concerns.”

Those arguments, she said, are the arguments of a robber.

“If I wear your coat because I’m cold, and I can prove pragmatically and analytically that it really is cold for me, the world will ask a primitive and analytic question: Who does the coat belong to? In this context, it is important to say that this coat is ours, this country is ours, all of it. We didn’t come here to apologize for that.”

Hotovely said the world understands Israel’s security needs, but arguments based on justice and morality always trump those dealing with security concerns.


Credit: pixshark

Bravo to Deputy Minister Hotovely.  That took courage when the prime minister says we must keep the land for security reasons.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Monday, May 25, 2015 at 02:31PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 21, 2015: Moving, Moving On

Now that I will have time again, after a hiatus of some several days, I want to resume my postings.  (Actually, I’ve missed writing.)  I will touch certain bases here, and return to consider many others later.  Please do know that Sunday is the holiday of Shavuot here (and Monday as well, outside of Israel).
We begin with a memoriam: Dr. Robert S. Wistrich, a world-renown and highly respected scholar of anti-Semitism passed away of a sudden heart attack in Rome two days ago, at the age of 70.  Dr. Wistrich, a professor of Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for many years headed the Sassoon International Center for the Study of anti-Semitism.
He is described by those who knew and loved him as a brilliant man of extraordinary integrity and great humanity.  He will be sorely missed. 

Robert Wistrich

Credit: Hebrew University
I include here a video of Wistrich’s last presentation, which was at the Global Forum for Combatting AntiSemitism and has been highly praised.  It is in two parts:,AAAA4Q0OiRE~,zBDGy0QklBlMT3nMCupudyS5B02SHi6B&bctid=4248728168001,AAAA4Q0OiRE~,zBDGy0QklBlMT3nMCupudyS5B02SHi6B&bctid=4248728161001
Well worth the time to view this.
I do not know of anyone here in Israel who was contented with the lengthy (agonizing?) process - as it unfolded - of forming the new government.  Once again, there were rumors, and charges and challenges – with multiple MKs in some instances vying for the same ministerial positions, and Likud MKs voicing discontent with the number of major positions given away to other parties in the course of negotiations.
Yes, my friends, there has to be a better way.  No need to write to me to suggest this or to propose alternatives.
My own greatest discontent came, I think, with the recognition of what we facing down the road: Get with it! I wanted to tell them.  Work together to strengthen the country rather than your own political careers or your own party.  But, regrettably, with very few exceptions, this is not the way it goes.
Prior to the establishment of the government, an amendment to Basic Law was passed in the Knesset, in order to increase the number of ministers who could be appointed.  This was done in large part to address the dissatisfaction of Likud MKs who felt they had inadequate opportunity to secure ministerial positions after the coalition negotiations were complete.  What is more, some “creative” division of ministerial responsibilities ensued, in order to satisfy certain MKs, which resulted in leaving certain others less than content.
And so, a government was formed, just in the knick of time.  It rests upon a coalition comprised of just 61 members, which means that unless those members do work together there is a constant risk of instability. 
The government was sworn in, in the Knesset, just a week ago.  

Embedded image permalink

Credit: Haaretz
At the first meeting of the Cabinet, which followed, Prime Minister Netanyahu said (emphasis added):
"From this moment on, we must leave our differences outside this room and focus on doing good for the citizens of Israel, all the citizens of Israel...We will take decisive, responsible, aggressive action against any attempt to challenge our borders and our security, be it from near or far.”
More on this below.
The Cabinet:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is reserving for himself the positions of Foreign Minister, Minister of Health and Minister of Communications.  He has said repeatedly that he is not appointing anyone as foreign minister because he is reserving it for the possibility of enlarging the coalition. 
His retention of the Foreign Ministry is widely interpreted in one of two ways: Either he hopes that Avigdor Lieberman, who was previously foreign minister and now sits with his party, Yisrael Beitenu, in the opposition, will finally agree to join the coalition after all.  Or that (Heaven help us) Yitzhak Herzog, head of the opposition, will join.  Both Herzog and his faction partner, Tzipi Livni, are on record as refusing to help out Netanyahu by strengthening his coalition.  Their stated preference is to let him fail; but there are no guarantees that Herzog won’t change his mind at some point.
It is important to note that Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) has been appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position potentially of considerable responsibility in light of the fact that there is no independent Foreign Minister above her.  However Netanyahu has undercut her severely by giving Silvan Shalom responsibility for negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs and strategic dialogue with the US as well as communication with the international community regarding Gaza. Shalom has declared that he is “de facto foreign minister.”
I note as well that Yakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) serves as Deputy Health Minister, and is de facto health minister, although declining to take that position.
Silvan Shalom (Likud) is officially Minister of the Interior and Deputy Prime Minister
Moshe Yaalon (Likud) remains Minister of Defense.
Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) is Minister of Immigration, and of Strategic Affairs.
Yariv Levin (Likud) is Minister of Public Security and of Tourism. 
Gilad Erdan, second on the Likud list, had hoped for the Ministry of Public Security and was actually offered the position.  But what he sought was the position of Minister of Interior along with this – as is done in many places around the world, with the official in charge of interior affairs also in charge of the police.  When Netanyahu declined Erdan’s request, Erdan decided not to join the government.  I learned today that Levin has said that if Erdan ever changes his mind, he will step down from Public Security.
Haim Katz (Likud) is Minister of Welfare and Social Services.
Danny Danon (Likud) is Minister of Science.
Naftali Bennett (Chair, Habayit Hayehudi) is Minister of Education.
Gila Gamliel (Likud) is Minister of Senior Citizens and of Gender Equality.
Ophir Akunis (Likud) is Minister-without-Portfolio in the Communications Ministry (perhaps a de facto minister of Communications). 
Miri Regev (Likud) is Minister of Culture and Sport.
Bennie Begin (Likud) is Minister-without-Portfolio.
Ayelet Sheked is Minister of Justice.

Yisrael Katz (Likud) is Minister of Intelligence.
Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) is Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.  There has been considerable discussion here regarding what “rural development” means.  It is my understanding that responsibilities that were expected to fall to Ariel, with regard to Judea and Samaria, are reportedly being retained by Yaalon.
Moshe Kahlon (Chair, Kulanu) is Minister of Finance.
Yoav Galant (Kulanu) is Minister of Construction.  There is a policy linkage here between Finance and Construction, both under the auspices of Kulanu.
Aryeh Deri (Chair, Shas) is Minister of the Economy and of the Development of the Negev and Galilee.
David Azoulay (Shas) is Minister of Religious Services.  It pains me (and many others) that this ministry did not fall under the auspices of Habayit Hayehudi.
This line up has some considerable promise, if only those to the right who have been given major positions will be allowed to act with full authority.
Briefly, here, in terms of what our government is facing: there is the growing embrace of the Palestinian Authority, and increasing pressure in Europe regarding the need for Israel to return to the negotiating table (which will, of course, bring “peace”).
Much has been made of the fact that just days ago Pope Francis, in a meeting with Abbas, called him an “angel of peace.” Apparently this was incorrectly reported, as what the pope said was that Abbas “could be” and angel of peace.  That is, if he had the will and made some hard decisions.  (credit to Israpundit)
But the focus most clearly was on the Palestinian Authority and on the possibilities for “peace.”
What is more, the Pope has recognized “Palestine” as a state and the Vatican has forged this recognition in a new treaty: Vatican diplomatic relations will now be with the “state” rather than with the PLO.
Not a move that pleased Israel.
Add to this yet another Obama interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic in which the president declares that he has no intention of “rubber-stamping” Israeli government policies.  He is ready to speak out about certain policies, you see, because he loves Israel so much. (I hope you have not eaten immediately before reading this.) He knows what’s good for Israel, it seems, better than the Israeli electorate does.  For example, he understands the wisdom of speaking out about settlement policy.
And then there is the 18-month plan for peace negotiations that France is currently promoting.  At the end of 18 months, if there is no “peace,” then France will recognize the “state of Palestine.”,7340,L-4659872,00.html
This, my friends, simply touches the surface of what’s ahead for us here in Israel. 
What I see is that Netanyahu, as is his M.O., will play the game, declaring that he is for a “two state solution.” But he will continue to insist (and this is fact the reality) that the chaos in the region and security concerns make it impossible for Israel to pull back from any territory.  This doesn’t touch the heart of the matter – our rights to the land – but I believe this is how he intends to frame the situation.  It is less confrontational.
I am not comfortable with this approach – preferring to speak about our Legal Grounds (\ .  Making our case is something that it is increasingly important to do.  But I think we have to remain mindful of the incredible pressure our prime minister faces on a daily basis.
It is worth noting that the PA has already objected to Shalom as negotiator for Israel, as he doesn’t believe in a “two state solution.” 
To all who will be observing Shavuot – which marks the receiving of the Torah – I wish Chag Sameach!

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Friday, May 22, 2015 at 03:47AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 7, 2015: Could Be Worse

Before I begin to discuss how it could be worse, a couple of housekeeping matters.
First, dear readers, please know that I am working overtime on the Legal Grounds Campaign.  That’s a good thing, because it means we are developing a solid campaign to coincide with the formation of the new government.  But it also means that there is less time for me to write. And so, please understand if sometimes intervals of several days go by in which I do not post.  Nothing is wrong.
I’ll pick up again on my regular posting schedule as soon as possible.
Thank you.
As to the Legal Grounds Campaign, if you have not done so, please do take a look at our website: .  Please! join the campaign (no cost), and take the time to learn about the campaign and Israel’s legal rights by reading the material on the site.

Legal Grounds

Thank you again.
And then...

Credit: CagleCartoons
This lovely man is Yaakov Kirschen, originator of the Dry Bones cartoons. When you visit our website you will see the cartoon he did to address our issues.
When I wrote about him recently, I referred to him as Yaakov Kirschner.  And I do not excuse myself for this silly mistake.  I sentence myself to 100 lashes with a wet noodle.
Now let’s talk about how it could be worse. What I have in mind is the new coalition that was formed, literally, at the very last minute, by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Credit: presidentconference
Deadline was midnight, last night, and he completed negotiations with Bayit Yehudi at about 10:30 PM.
This has not been a happy time for the Israeli electorate. Since the election on March 17, there has been no clarity.
President Rivlin, after meeting with all factions, had offered Netanyahu – whose Likud faction has 30 mandates - the first opportunity to form a governing coalition. A coalition requires sufficient factions coming together with agreements so that they collectively represent at least 61 seats in the Knesset (half plus one).  When Netanyahu could not accomplish this within the allotted time, he requested an extension of 14 days, as the law permits.
I had made reference in postings during this time to the fact that rumors were flying fast and furious.  In the main, I did not write about those rumors – as they were just that: rumors, sometimes planted for purposes of influencing one faction or another, without shedding any genuine light on the negotiating situations.
There was (still is) talk of a unity government with the Zionist Union (Herzog-Livni).  It was said, until very recently, that Netanyahu wanted Lieberman to continue in his role as Foreign Minister. There was a great deal of scuttlebutt regarding what positions former Likudnik Moshe Kahlon of Kulanu was insisting upon – Kulanu’s orientation is socio-economic. It was widely understood, and correctly so, that Lapid of Yesh Atid would remain on the outside.
And there was a lot of talk about discontent expressed by many of the senior individuals who had secured seats within the Likud party.
And on and on.
This new coalition, once it was formed, was supposed to bring stability and a cohesiveness that would permit strong governance.  But in the end of the day, that is not what we have gotten, in several respects.
The first parties Netanyahu signed coalition agreements with were Kulanu and UTJ (United Torah Judaism – Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox), with 10 and six mandates respectively.  It does appear that Kahlon (pictured) will be Finance Minister, as had been promised, and have control of related agencies that will permit him to push forward certain reforms – which have undoubtedly been written into the coalition agreement.   



Credit: TimesofIsrael
But the UTJ agreement?  It reverses reforms that had been made in the conversion process, and reinstates funds to hareidi schools that do not teach a core curriculum.  These are very bad moves in my opinion.  That’s even before we discuss the complex matter of haredi draft (which I would like to return to at another time.)
Following this was the agreement with Shas (Sephardi ultra-Orthodox), with seven mandates.  I see this as much worse than the agreement with UTJ, because I do not believe that Shas party head Aryeh Deri is fit to be appointed dog catcher.
And what is this about?  Securing mandates for the coalition.  Not about forming a solid nationalist base, that is for sure.
At about this point, Avigdor Lieberman, head of Yisrael Beitenu, with six mandates, announced that he was resigning forthwith from his position as Foreign Minister and would be in the opposition – refusing to take part in the new government.

Credit: Haaretz
There was some head-scratching at this, because Lieberman had declared consistent intention of continuing in the Foreign Ministry.  And he is, generally, erratic in his statements.  But I believe the motivation for his action here became quite clear: He was disgusted with Netanyahu’s rush to bring the ultra-Orthodox parties, with their demands, into the coalition and considered it a betrayal of principles, including nationalist principles.
Lieberman’s withdrawal from the process made the numbers a lot tighter.
The final party negotiating a coalition agreement was Bayit Yehudi, with eight mandates – headed by Naftali Bennett.  

Credit: Jpost
It has been Netanyahu’s interaction with this party throughout that has been most troubling.
In the course of the elections, with Likud running neck and neck with the Zionist Union in the polls, and sometimes even falling behind Zionist Union – a call went out to nationalist voters to vote Likud rather than Bayit Yehudi in order to ensure a Likud victory.  That call was apparently successful, as Likud pulled ahead in the elections – way ahead of what polls had predicted, while Bayit Yehudi fell back a handful of mandates from what the polls had predicted.
I don’t think it is unfair to say that Naftali Bennett took a hit for Bibi Netanyahu’s sake. This is certainly the way I, and many others, saw it.  Netanyahu spoke frequently about how Bayit Yehudi and Likud were natural partners in the upcoming government.  The expectation, if this was the case, was that this would be the first coalition agreement signed.  But that is not what happened.  
There are those who say that the problem was that Bennett’s demand’s were excessive: he sought either the defense or foreign ministry. And yes, Bennett is a politician among politicians. But there was more than this going on, perhaps a reflection of tensions between the two dating back for some time.  Whatever the case, there was the sense that Likud was distancing itself from Bayit Yehudi. 
Was this a desire to appear more “centrist” (read, less nationalist) than Bayit Yehudi?
I am keenly aware of the enormous pressures being placed on Netanyahu from the outside – the expressed expectation that we must commit to negotiations again, etc.  But when a government is formed, if it cannot represent what we are supposed to be, than we are in trouble.
In the end, Bennett relinquished demands for defense or foreign affairs and sought the education portfolio.  In addition, he sought he sought the Justice Ministry for Ayelet Shaked. 


Credit: Haaretz
At this point, Bennett was in a very strong bargaining position, because without his mandates, Netanyahu had no coalition.  He said he would walk, if his demands were not met.  After extensive negotiations, Likud agreed to accept Shaked as Justice Minister. Sort of. For there was an infuriating attempt to strip Shaked, who should be excellent in this post, of her authority in several respects.  The stipulations were:
That she not chair the Judicial Committee, the body that appoints judges for the law courts; that she not appoint religious judges; and that she not sit in the Security Cabinet – where Bennett will also be sitting. 
What was so enraging about the attempt to limit Shaked’s power is that the last justice minister was Tzipi Livni, and apparently this was all right with Likud.  Livni was a fig leaf – giving the world the impression that they were seeing a government to the left. Shaked represents just the opposite.
Bennett balked at these limitations, and they went back into those eleventh hour negotiations. In the end, the only restriction that remained was that a Likud minister would head the panel that would make the religious judge appointments, with Shaked and someone from Shas participating. 
Shaked will also sit in the Security Cabinet – although it is likely that Netanyahu will enlarge the number of individuals sitting in it to dilute the Bayit Yehudi influence.
My friends, this is huge, and can change the face of Israel in several major respects.
A Likud official was cited thus (emphasis added):
“...the justice minister will soon have to decide on who the next attorney general will be.  It’s a very sensitive position...The second problem is that Shaked is spearheading the battle to change the face of the Supreme Court. Netanyahu has so far avoided going head to head with the court, and he may well not want this headache.”
While Shelly Yachimovich, former head of Labor, said:
“Prepare to see a hard and bitter battle for the welfare and identity of the judicial system and law enforcement...She is capable, but her view of the courts, the judiciary, and the legislature, are the opposite of mine.”
Need we say more?
Nor is Bennett as Education Minister a small matter.  The future of the nation rests with the understandings our young people have about Jewish identity, Jewish rights, and our place in the land.
Hear a discussion of these issues, on Voice of Israel, that clarifies their importance:
And so, it could be a lot worse indeed.  In spite of Shas and all the rest, there may be some reforms ahead that can affect Israel in significant ways.  Let us pray so.
Let me add here that a third member of Bayit Yehudi (Tekuma faction), will be Minister of Agriculture.
One of the major problems to be faced with this new coalition is that it has a razor-thin majority, and is thus vulnerable to extortion that can make moving ahead difficult.  (“You do that, and my party walks, bringing down the government.”) The likelihood that this government, as presently constituted, will be stable enough to last four years is small.
Netanyahu commented yesterday that “61 is good, 61 plus is better,” thereby stimulating speculation that he intends to enlarge the coalition.  Those rumors that he seeks Herzog for a unity government persist, but Herzog insists that he has no intention of bailing Netanyahu out. A political consultant I spoke with today believes that Herzog means it – that it would not serve him well to join Netanyahu now.
A second possibility is that Netanyahu still hopes to lure Lieberman, with his six mandates, back in. And there are other more obscure possibilities as well.  We shall see...
In the meantime, there are more immediate issues confronting Netanyahu.  He still has to announce all ministry appointments. Will Yaalon retain his position as Defense Minister?  Seems a good bet but we do not know yet with certainty.  And Foreign Minister?  Netanyahu is reported to be reserving this for himself. But there is the feeling in certain quarters that he’s saving this for Lieberman, should he want to return, or Herzog, should he be lured in. 
Additionally, there is discontent within Likud, as I had indicated above.  So many major posts have been given to other parties that Likud senior party members feel short-changed. Thus is there also talk about creating more ministries, which would require a change in the law.  From the opposition Yair Lapid says he will fight this tooth and nail because of the added expense to the country.
And so, we have a government. But there is yet a great deal to resolve.  Within a week, there should be answers, and I will track this to the best of my ability.
Let me end with two good news pieces that show how special we are, no matter what the world thinks:
A team of five Israeli medical clowns has gone to Nepal to help reduce trauma and anxiety.


Credit: Reuters
A medical team from IsraAID, an Israeli humanitarian response non-profit, has carried supplies in backpacks to reach remove villages in Nepal and provide care to the people.  Participating are ten doctors, nurses and midwives, who left their jobs in Israel to volunteer for two weeks in Nepal.  They first made their way to a group of mountain villages known as Thangpaldkap, in the district of Sidhulpalchowk, one of the hardest-hit regions of Nepal.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted. 

Posted on Friday, May 8, 2015 at 03:28AM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 4, 2015: Towards a New Law of War

This is the subject of a conference currently being held by Shurat Hadin, the Israeli Law Center, founded and run by the amazing Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. 


Credit: Wikimedia
Current laws of warfare are outdated, she explained in her introductory remarks.  The Geneva Conventions never envisioned the asymmetrical warfare that is waged today.  We must redefine the laws of warfare, so that democratic states can adequately fight back. Today, terror groups attack civilians, and when democracies fight back, their defense is referred to as a war crime.  Terrorists should not be able to apply to international courts as if they were victims when they are the perpetrators.
The IDF must be able to fulfill its mission of protecting the people of Israel and we we must protect our soldiers, as well.
The conference is not being held with the expectation that it has any ability to change the rules of war. Rather, the goal is to stimulate an international dialogue on the issue.  What I will do here is summarize key speakers, and offer significant thoughts garnered throughout the day.
Participants are Israelis, Brits and Americans with legal and military expertise/experience. 
Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, immediate past Chief of Staff of the IDF, provided the opening keynote speech. 


Credit: Telegraph (UK)
His words were particularly powerful, as he spoke from experience in the field, addressing both strategic and moral issues.
Warfare in the past, he explained, took place on a battleground, on which military forces met each other. That battlefield has now disappeared and new dimensions have inserted themselves. As never before, we see the involvement of civilians – both as targets and human shields.  How does a soldier even determine who the enemy is, when he is not wearing a uniform?
As far as the international community is concerned, Israel has lost before even starting. Israel has no desire to hurt others who are not combatants but must protect the Israeli people.  A human dilemma.
There are broad similarities with regard to the situations in Gaza and Lebanon.  In all instances, hostilities have been started by the terrorists, with Israel holding its force until there is no choice. In both instances, the enemy fighters are allied with the ruling powers, and operate from inside civilian society.  A house in a village in Lebanon will have a livingroom, but also a missile room; in the garden a launching pad may be hidden. Shifa hospital in Gaza has served as headquarters for Hamas terrorists.
We – as a moral nation - must update our legal tools.  The soldier today is subject to uncertainties as he faces a complicated situation.
Second speaker, Lt. Gen. David Fridovich, Former Deputy Commaner, US Special Operations Command, asked:  Can you deter terrorists?  He thinks not.  Americans do not get it, he declared.  They are shielded by the media.
The first panel addressed the problem of human shields – civilians who protect weapons.  What we are dealing with here is military necessity vs. humanitarian needs. We cannot attack civilians as such or use indiscriminate force. but there is an obligation upon the enemy (in principle only as it is never honored) to separate civilians from combatants and from military operations.
Said Prof. Richard Jackson, Special Assistant to the US Army Judge Advocate General for Law of War, eyes must stay on the target, with fire adjusted one round at a time, using precision weapons.  The enemy is trying to provoke a response that uses overwhelming force. What is needed then is a modulated response.
The next member of the panel to speak was Col. Richard Kemp, Former Commander, British Forces in Afghanistan, and one of Israel’s staunchest friends.


Credit: militaryspeakers (UK)
The use of human shields is rapidly increasing, he said:
- there is a greater prevalence of asymmetrical power, with the weaker side using civilians
- this is a means of political warfare against the Western powers (Israel included), a way to undermine democracies and democratic armies
- there is influence by the media
- this hinders direct attack, restrains democratic armies ability to operate
Today human shields are used as primary weapons. Greater blame is placed by the world on those who hit human shields than on those who use them.
The use of human shields continues, said Kemp, because this works.  He suggested here that if democracies had greater reluctance to be deterred by human shields they might be employed less.  He is not suggesting wholesale slaughter! but wonders if perhaps there is a need to permit greater collateral damage.  The proportionality calculus must change, and it needs to be codified.
Human shields lose their status as protected persons because they enhance the enemy’s goals.  But only if they are serving as shields voluntarily. (More on this follows.)
Death of human shields must be considered the responsibility of those who use them.  It is illegal to use human shields.  In fact, the law requires moving civilians from a combat area.
Kemp suggested that over-all military objectives, and not just the immediate situation, must be considered when deciding on how to respond to human shields.  If there is greater collateral damage permitted in one operation, perhaps in the long term it would discourage use of human shields.
Bassem Eid, a courageous Palestinian Arab Human-Rights activist, followed with some comments on what Kemp had suggested.
The civilians in Gaza must wake up, he declared: their leaders do not have the right to do as they do.  However, Hamas coerces people, pays them to motivate them to stay put, and charges those who flee an area that Israel is about to attack with being Israeli collaborators. 
International human rights organizations do not raise the issue of human shields:  “No Jews, no news.”    
Hamas cares nothing about civilians or reconstruction – only about new tunnels and a stronger military.
I want to move here to the panel that discussed the critical issue of proportionality.  Proportionality is not about how many deaths were suffered on each side – which is how the topic is frequently represented. It is rather a question of what is a proportionate amount of collateral damage for a given military advantage. In the end, this is a principle that requires interpretation.  The rule of proportionality is the most misunderstood and misapplied.
Prof. Yuval Shany, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Hebrew University, says that democracies do not normally utilize indiscriminate force or kill civilians on purpose.  But there remains a host of related questions.  Regarding, for example, weapon choice: do you act quickly, even though there will be collateral damage?  Or do you lose valuable time and wait until a more accurate weapon is brought in?  Risk to the soldiers serving under a commander must be considered by him, as must issues of military necessity.
On these questions, “reasonable minds may disagree.”
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, Northwestern University School of Law, asked how one measures proportionality. The law does not define what the proportion is.  Who decides?  In international law, there is no final legal decider.
Prof. Geoffrey Corn, of the South Texas College of Law, provided insights on this matter that were clear and enormously useful.


Credit: mysantonio
We are dealing, he said, with the hypocrisy of double standards.  The law is not going to change, but we should not allow it to be distorted: if properly understood, there is flexibility.
The keyword is excessive: a significant imbalance.  Commanders must anticipate the risk, and make an assessment regarding whether it is worth it. 
The commander must be judged on conditions that prevailed when he made his decision.  Many tactical factors will have weighed into the equation.
Instead, the commander is criticized based on the results.  No commander, no matter how moral, can always make the right decision.
Professor Corn prefers to think in terms of the rule of precautionary obligations.  This provides objective evidence of good faith and morality.  Did the commander take into consideration different weapons, different timing, how much warning to give?  Etc. etc.  If all these measures have been weighed, then it is possible to move ahead with lethal force to defeat the enemy.
Prof. Corn says that the moral considerations need to be ramped up when fighting the most immoral of enemies – otherwise all moral footing is lost.  The moral well being of our combatants at the end of the war must be considered.
These are exceedingly heavy issues that must be struggled with in real time.  We know that down the road – soon - we will be confronting these situations again.
I close here by noting that it was remarked several times during the course of the day that there is no more moral army in the world than the IDF. No other army takes the extraordinary measures that ours does to warn civilians before we attack.  At the same time, we take the most heat from the world.
It is highly likely that when I next post it will be to discuss the formation of the coalition.  The deadline for Netanyahu is almost upon us.  It has not been a happy scenario, but I believe he will pull it off somehow by Wednesday. The news today is that Avigdor Lieberman, head of Yisrael Beitenu and until now foreign minister, is declining to participate in the coalition.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.

Posted on Monday, May 4, 2015 at 02:49PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint




Legal Grounds

Many is the time that I have alluded to this Campaign, and to Israel’s legal rights in Judea, Samaria, and all of Jerusalem.
Today I will move further in explaining the Campaign.  This is for your edification, and in the hopes that you will choose to be involved. 
Please make sure you get to the end of this special posting.
The Campaign is chaired by Jeff Daube and myself, working in Jerusalem.  We seek an Israeli government that speaks out for Israel’s rights and bases policies upon those rights. 
We do not for a minute imagine that this is a simple or easy task. For we are battling over 20 years of Oslo thinking, and a host of misrepresentations and outright lies – promoted by those supporting the Palestinian Arabs and readily accepted by much of the world - regarding Israel’s rights.  The pressure on our government is enormous! 
What is required is a shift in the paradigm of thinking.  And this is a process.  Little by little.  No magic bullets. 
While the ultimate goal is a shift in the position of the government of Israel, we are working now in the Knesset – doing education on the issues and recruiting members of the Knesset to take a stand. 
This is a part of the process, and we are in the second year of this effort.  We have had successes, and have held forums in the Knesset.  Unfortunately, some of the best people we had on board with us before the election are no longer in the Knesset and it is our task now to reach out to a large number of new members of Knesset.  We have very fine professionals working with us to maximize our efforts.
At the same time that we are doing this work, we are eager to do a modified public campaign – getting the word out and doing education wherever we can.  (A full fledged public relations campaign is enormously expensive and beyond our reach at the moment.)  Our social media campaign has this goal, as does our PR.  We work to place op-eds on the issues, promote interviews and more.
Most of my readers are outside of Israel – primarily in the US (with some significant individuals also in Canada).  And so I want to emphasize here that education on this issue in the US is tremendously important and that outreach must be done to Senators and Congresspersons.
However, we believe that the first impetus must come from within the Israeli government.  We see that even Senators and Congresspersons who are with us in principle look to the positions of the Israeli government before taking a stand.
One last note here: We are not a campaign to promote sovereignty, but to provide the groundwork that will ultimately make that sovereignty possible.  We believe that there will be no government of Israel that will seriously talk about annexation until it has been made clear that we have the RIGHT to annex – that international law, history, etc. are on our side.  Right now, you will note, the prime minister says he will not consider a “Palestinian state” because of security risks.  That is not the same as saying we have legal and historical rights that must be taken into account.
(Even those who would - for whatever reason - still like to see a “two state solution” should welcome promotion of our legal rights – for this would permit going into negotiations from strength, and not from the horrendous position that the land is “theirs” and we must “return” it.)                  
What we would like to do, down the road, is consider different formulations and plans for how to proceed in the future, once Israel’s rights are more broadly established.
Now I ask my readers, wherever you are, to:
Inform yourselves on the issues of Israel’s legal rights.  To that end, Please! see and bookmark our website:
On the site, you will find:

- an outline of our basic legal rights (including the San Remo Resolution I spoke about yesterday) - this is the heart of the matter, the core documentation
- information on our rights to all of Jerusalem
- articles, reports, and videos on the issue
- links to primary documents such as the Balfour Declaration
- a discussion of why promotion of Israel’s rights is important

There is, as well, a great deal more, including a list of the highly respected international lawyers who comprise our Legal Advisory Board.
Please, while you are logged on to the website, sign on as a member of the Campaign.  This costs nothing.  But it gives us leverage and allows us to provide information updates and promote activist action.
Take a look at our Facebook page, as well – and “Like” it, please: 
Both the website and the FB page have very recently been upgraded.
And then, because Jeff and I, with our professionals and volunteers cannot do the job alone, we ask you to join us in a number of respects:
[] Tell others about our work, and ask that they in turn inform themselves and sign on to our Campaign, “Like” our FB.
[] Don’t let people get away with promulgating gross misrepresentations and lies.  Refute the lies and misrepresentations wherever you can. 
There was never a Palestinian state and Judea and Samaria do not “belong” to the Palestinian Arabs.
There is no “1967 border” – it was only a temporary armistice line.   
The 1947 partition plan is not legally binding, as some maintain.
Israel is not an “occupier” according to international law.  The reasons why this is so are quite clear.
The “settlements” are not “illegal.” 
On and on.  These are not “innocent” mistakes – they are calculated lies, which are then absorbed as well by naïve individuals who believe what they have been told. 
It’s time to fight back, as extensively as possible.
Beware in particular of the language that promotes misrepresentations.  I think the officials of the PA use the term “international law” more than any other. They don’t have to document the law – which most often does not even exist: people tend to automatically defer when they hear that term.  Then there are “war crimes,” “illegal settlements,” and (as alluded to above) “the ‘67 border.” 
And watch your own language usage.  Much of this terminology has been so thoroughly absorbed into mainstream thinking that you are not even aware of it:
- “Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria” and not “settlements”
- “Judea and Samaria” and not “West Bank”
- “the temporary ‘67 armistice line” and not “the ‘67 border”
- letters to the editor
- talkbacks on the Internet
- op-eds
- your own websites and FB pages
- websites and discussion lists for groups with which you participate

State your position briefly, unemotionally, and factually.
Become pro-active!  Talk to people.
If you are in the US, monitor the positions of your Senators and Congresspersons and contact them as appropriate (whether to thank them, provide information, or encourage a change in position).
We will be grateful if you decide to become part of the Legal Grounds team, and actively stand up on this issue.
I am not writing today to raise funds, but rather to inform and recruit activists.  But it goes without saying that I do not turn away funds, which are always needed for our operation.  (Some of those reading this have already graciously and generously made donations.)
If you are in the US, and might be interested in supporting a very special “out-of-the-box” project for this Campaign, let me know, please.
The good news I close with today comes from Yaakov Kirschner, who does the “Dry Bones” cartoons. We are enormously grateful to him. For he has not only done a cartoon that addresses the issue of Israel’s legal and historical rights (see immediately below), he has sent it out very widely, with the URL to our website.
And so, Dry Bones: Thank you, thank you!


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.





Posted on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 11:24AM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

April 27, 2015: Step-by-Step

There are - forgive the cliché - just so many hours in the day.  And so, which happens now and again, as I am working on the Legal Grounds Campaign, it is impossible to do a full posting, as much as I would like to.  

There is enough happening to make one’s head spin, but here we will simply touch a few of bases.  And we will begin with a fine article that relates to the Legal Grounds issue, an op-ed by Salomon Benzimra, “San Remo:The Forgotten Milestone” (emphasis added):
“...On Sunday, April 25, 1920, after hectic deliberation, the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan and the U.S. acting as an observer) adopted the San Remo Resolution -- a 500 word document which defined the future political landscape of the Middle East out of the defunct Ottoman Empire.
“This Resolution led to the granting of three Mandates, as defined in Article 22 of the 1919 Covenant of the League of the third Mandate, the Supreme Council recognized the ‘historical connection of the Jewish people to Palestine and the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country’...

The importance of the San Remo Conference with regard to Palestine cannot be overstated...”

A significant piece of the larger Legal Grounds story.  More to follow.
I have written next to nothing about the formation of the new coalition, something that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been working on for what seems to be (but is not) an interminable amount of time.  It has not been an easy process: this is clear. 

But I have avoided reporting on rumors because it serves no purpose.  While rumors may be correct, often they are not, and are actually planted by one faction or another in order to influence the proceedings.  There has been talk (just talk, I believe) about a unity government with Herzog, Heaven help us.  There has been tension regarding whether one faction or another will be given a specific portfolio or it will be retained for a member of the victorious Likud.  (It has happened on previous occasions that so many key portfolios were promised out that the Likud members ended up quite disgruntled.)
Now I believe we are on the cusp of having a government, which I expect to be able to write about before long.  What I will mention here is that the current scuttlebutt is that Naftali Bennett, chair of Bayit Hayehudi, has relinquished demands for the Defense or Foreign Affairs Ministry and is requesting Education.  (Although apparently there are rumblings in Likud about this, too.)
Seems perhaps not a “major” position, but in point of fact is exceedingly significant.  The future lies with our youngsters, and their ability to understand our people’s heritage in the land, and our rights to that land.
I had a good laugh when people on the far left, such as Meretz chair Zehava Galon, said Bennett’s appointment would be “dangerous.”  Oh, the damage that the far left did to a generation of our students.
There is a great deal going on, with regard to violence,  attacks, response to those attacks, attempted attacks, and more, both at our northern border and with Gaza.  I cannot do justice to this now and hope to return for a solid report.

Undoubtedly all or most of my readers know of the horror that has taken place in Nepal, with, last I heard, well over 3,000 lives lost as the result of an earthquake. 
Once again, Israel is responding with an outstanding humanitarian spirit:
From the IDF spokesman we learn that a 260 member mission has gone to Nepal. “An advanced multi-department medical facility, equipped with approximately 95 tons of humanitarian and medical supplies from Israel and a medical staff of 122 doctors, nurses and paramedics, will be rapidly established in the city of Katmandu to provide medical care for disaster casualties. The facility will include pediatric, surgical, internal medicine,neonatal, and radiology departments as well as a maternity ward and emergency and operating rooms. The hospital has the equipment, capacity and manpower to treat approximately 200 patients each day."
This is fairly incredible, but very much in line with what we did in Haiti.
The mission includes a search and rescue team from the IDF National Search and Rescue Unit, which is “a highly skilled force trained to execute special search and rescue missions, both in Israel and abroad.”


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Monday, April 27, 2015 at 04:00PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

April 23, 2015: See the Miracle!


Credit: Jpupdates

Today is Yom Ha’azma’ut – Israel Independence Day.  It is 67 years since Ben Gurion announced the establishment of the State of Israel, on the Hebrew date of Iyyar 5, which that first year corresponded to May 14.  (Today is only the 4th of Iyyar – celebrations were moved up to avoid Shabbat desecration).

See here the full reading by David Ben Gurion of the Declaration of Independence:

Its words are of enormous significance – in terms of the recognition of our historical and legal rights to the Land, our readiness to include Arabs in peace, and a great deal more.  Many of the illustrations that accompany the reading are enlightening as well (Ban Ki Moon towards the end notwithstanding).


Credit: takegreatpictures


When Ben Gurion announced independence, the people were already at war, for the Arab nations were determined to destroy the Jewish State at its very inception.  The population of Israel at that time was 806,000 - many were bone-weary refugees from the Shoah; they had to conduct their war of self-defense with meager weaponry. 

It didn’t look good.  But we prevailed, just as we have prevailed in every war since, sometimes astoundingly so.

Not only have we prevailed against every enemy intent on destroying us, we have managed to grow and flourish at the same time.  Today our population is 8,345,000.  The Jewish population is 6,250,000 (74.9% of the total population), making Israel now the largest Jewish community in the world.  The Arab population is 1,730,000 ((20.7%), and the remainder are non-Arab Christians and members of other groups.  Some 176,000 babies have been born in the last year, and 32,000 have come to Israel.


I site here commentators who have, over the last couple of days, celebrated Israel’s successes. 

Isi Liebler, in “We have reason to rejoice,” writes (emphasis added):

“Israel has become a veritable economic powerhouse, emerging as the second-largest country (after the US) in high tech and start-up facilities. We overcame our water problems via an extraordinary desalination program.  And now we are effectively energy self-sufficient, and will even be exporting surplus gas resources.

“...our social welfare structure and in particular the medical system provides outstanding services for all Israeli citizens without discrimination.

“Culturally, we are a pulsating country in which our ancient and sacred language has been renewed as the lingua franca for Jews coming from totally different cultures....

“Despite external threats and terror, we remain a democratic oasis in a region of barbarism, providing the right to vote to all citizens...

“But the most incredible transformation is that after 2,000 years as a subjugated and persecuted people, we have become a regional military superpower.  The empowerment of the Jewish nation, the success of our people’s army, and its ability to deter the combined force of all its enemies is mind-boggling...”


Michael Freund, in “Kvell, don’t kvetch, on Independence Day,” says (emphasis added):

“...In the blink of an eye, we went from bloodstained Jewish history to blossoming Jewish destiny...

“...In the spiritual realm, we have also reached new heights.  Israel is now home to more yeshivot than have ever existed at any time in all of Jewish history.  On any given day, more Torah is being studied than ever before, more pages of Talmud are being scrutinized, and more Jews are visiting sites such as the Western Wall and the Cave of the Patriarchs.

“Indeed, in just about every field imaginable, be it literature or music, theater or the arts, Jewish creativity is at an unprecedented level...”


To this I want to add Israel’s incredible propensity for lending assistance to other nations in times of hardship and crisis.  There are Israeli teams working with drought-plagued Africans to improve irrigation techniques for better agricultural yield, Israeli doctors seeking to ameliorate disease in struggling corners of the world, Israeli rescue efforts in times of earthquake and tsunami.

That propensity for lending assistance applies at home, as well. Wrote Abigail Klein Leichman, in Israel 21C, “Intermittent terrorism and wars since before the founding of the state of Israel have bred a culture of caring second to none.”

In this sense, too, we are very much family – people reach out even to strangers with advice and assistance. 

Israeli society is exceedingly child-friendly, as well.  I was astonished, and delighted, to see, when I first came here, that parents bring babies and toddlers to weddings, which is fine for all concerned.  Jews in Israel have a considerably higher birthrate than Jews of other lands – babies are an intrinsic part of all that goes on.

And what better indicator of hope for the future than making babies?


How has all of this happened?  There is a reason why Yom Ha’atzma’ut begins with a special prayer service that includes Hallel – psalms of praise to the Almighty.  Without the Hand of Heaven, we could not be where we are. 


Above I wrote about the increase in the Jewish population here over the years.  I believe this is a step in the Ingathering of the Exiles – kibbutz galluyot, spoken of by prophets and rabbinic sages alike.  Jeremiah (29:14): "I will...gather you from all the nations and from all the places whither I have driven you… and I will bring you back." The Talmud states that "the day of the Ingathering of the Exiles is as great as the day on which heaven and earth were created."


And so, my friends, open your eyes and SEE THE MIRACLE.  Embrace it and broadcast it.

My Beautiful Israel:

Israel – Small but Outstanding:

Hatikva and more:

Note: I provide links to specific videos. What sometimes happens is that they are followed automatically by others that may or may not be of interest to you, but which I have neither endorsed nor recommended.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.



Posted on Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 12:06PM by Registered CommenterArlene in | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

April 19, 2015: The Bottom Line

...on the unanimous vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to advance the bill, sponsored by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), which would give Congress the right to review the deal currently being worked out with Iran.
Yes, as I wrote last week, it is a step in the right direction, as Senators are beginning to insist upon their right to be involved in this critical deal.  But it falls short in a very critical respect. 
Jonathan Tobin, editor of Commentary, effectively explains this in “The Reverse Iran Deal Ratification Process” (emphasis added):

“...By treating it as a normal act of legislation, the president will be able to veto the measure. That sets up a veto override effort that will force Iran deal critics to get to 67 votes, a veto-proof majority. If that sounds reasonable to you, remember that in doing so the bill creates what is, in effect, a reverse treaty ratification mechanism. Instead of the president needing a two-thirds majority to enact the most significant foreign treaty the United States has signed in more than a generation, he will need only one-third of the Senate plus one to get his way.

“By allowing pro-Israel Democrats a free pass to vote for Corker-Menendez the president is giving them a way to say they voted to restrain the president before also granting them a path to back him by either voting for the deal or failing to vote to override the president’s veto. That gives plenty of room for inveterate schemers such as Democratic Senate leader-in-waiting Chuck Schumer to make sure the president gets his 34 votes while giving some Democrats, including perhaps himself, impunity to vote against him.

What has happened here is that despite furious effort and hard legislative work all critics of Obama’s pursuit of détente with Iran have accomplished is to allow him the opportunity to legally make a historic and disgraceful act of betrayal of Western security with the least possible support. They may have had no better options and I’ll concede an ineffectual vote on an Iran deal might be better than no deal at all, but please spare me the praise for Corker’s bipartisanship or the chortles about how the White House was beaten. What happened yesterday actually advanced the chances for Iran appeasement. And that’s nothing to celebrate.”
Keith Koffler, in his article, “The Corker Cave-in,” agrees with this analysis and takes it one step further (emphasis added):

’The Unified States Senate just capitulated to Obama,’ radio host and Constitutional scholar Mark Levin said Tuesday night. ‘The Unified States Senate just rewrote the Treaty Provision of the Constitution.’

“...It’s true, international agreements have increasingly, over the decades, been done by executive action. But an agreement such as this – negotiated over the course of years and involving nuclear weapons for our most pernicious adversary and therefore the possible destruction of the United States – must by its nature qualify as a treaty under the Constitution, or there is no Constitution at all.

The Founders are very clear on the need for a co-equal role in such critical matters for the Senate, which was originally entrusted not just with approving treaties, but helping negotiate them too...

”With the Corker bill, he [Obama] now has Congress in his pocket as he joins Iran in shredding the Constitution over a Swiss negotiating table. And in ten to 15 years, when Iran conducts its first nuclear test, Congress will have had a ‘role’ in the tragedy.”


Let’s look briefly at some other commentary about the Iran deal, and some of the latest news updates:

“Iran could collect up to $50 billion in oil revenue if sanctions are lifted, according to congressional officials briefed by the Obama administration.

“If negotiators are successful in brokering a deal with Iran this summer to suspend its nuclear program, officials say the country could receive between $30 billion and $50 billion after signing an agreement, the Wall Street Journal reported....”
Foreign Policy editor David Rothkopf argued last week that:

“Unfreezing billions of dollars worth of Iranian assets...will have the effect of exacerbating Iran’s ‘systematic, 35-year campaign of regional meddling, destabilization, and extension of … influence’ that threatens the Middle East.”

“As UN nuclear inspectors arrived in Tehran [last] Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic Republic will not accept a comprehensive nuclear deal with major powers if all sanctions imposed on Tehran are not lifted.

“’If there is no end to sanctions, there will not be an agreement,’ Rouhani said in a televised speech in the northern Iranian city of Rasht.

"’The end of these negotiations and a signed deal must include a declaration of cancelling the oppressive sanctions on the great nation of Iran.’",7340,L-4647387,00.html


And – as you grapple with this horrendous situation - factor this in, as well (emphasis added):

“Even if Congress rejects his final Iranian nuclear deal, President Barack Obama could use his executive pen to offer Tehran a hefty portion of sanctions relief on his own. ...
The president could suspend some existing US sanctions with his waiver authority. He could issue new orders to permit financial transactions that otherwise are banned under current law. And he could simply take certain Iranian entities, including nearly two dozen Iranian banks, off US target lists, meaning they no longer would be subject to sanctions.

“Only Congress can terminate its legislative sanctions. And those are some of the toughest penalties against Iran because they target its energy sector, central bank and key segments of its economy. But experts say Obama can neutralize the effect of some of those sanctions, too, and work with the Europeans to neutralize others....

“Says Tyler Cullis, legal fellow at the National Iranian American Council, which favors an agreement: ‘Some have expressed doubt whether the president can provide Iran significant sanctions relief solely on the basis of his own authority. Such doubt should be put to rest.’

He said the president ‘could almost gut’ an entire segment of sanctions...”


“North Korea supplied several shipments of missile components to Iran during recent nuclear talks and the transfers appear to violate United Nations sanctions on both countries, according to U.S. intelligence officials.” (Emphasis added)


“A senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard said Sunday that inspectors would be barred from military sites under any nuclear agreement with world powers.

“Gen. Hossein Salami, the Guard's deputy leader, said on state TV that allowing the foreign inspection of military sites is tantamount to ‘selling out.’

"’We will respond with hot lead [bullets] to those who speak of it,’ Salami said. ‘Iran will not become a paradise for spies. We will not roll out the red carpet for the enemy.’"

Just how much will Obama tolerate?  Is this a deal at any cost, so that he can claim a deal?


This is heavy information, as I am well aware, my friends.  But we dare not ignore it.


And now for the good news, which we so badly need. Today I include a couple of sites – the first and last items - that may be of interest to tourists.

Israel’s Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park has earned its certification as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Located in lowland south of Beit Shemesh and east of Kiryat Gat, the Park – which is five sq. kilometers - is within a larger area referred to as the “land of the caves.”

The park contains thousands of ancient underground man-made caves, and also encompasses the ruins of Maresha, an important town of Judah of 2,000 years ago.  Here you see the “Bell Cave” and below it, a cave with dovecotes.   


The ‘Bell Caves’ at Beit Guvrin

Credit: Shmuel Bar-Am

Credit: S. Aronson


In the face of its lowest levels of available water ever, Brazil has hosted a delegation of 13 Israeli water companies who came to help the Brazilians address their water crisis.


Professor Zvi Bentwich, 78, a member of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s department of microbiology, immunology and genetics, heads the university’s Center for Emerging Diseases, Tropical Diseases and AIDS.  In the 1990s, he did groundbreaking research that uncovered a link between intestinal worms and immune system deficiencies – deficiencies that contribute to Africa’s AIDS and tuberculosis epidemics.

Now the professor has been named the recipient of a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for his project in Ethiopia to wipe out parasitic worm infections.

Credit: BBC


“Can you name 15 varieties of cherry tomatoes? What about four types of carrots? Have you ever tasted an Uri Kaduri orange? And do you know the difference between the seven varieties of mint leaves?

“A three-hour visit to the Salad Trail, a unique touch-and-taste farm in the Hevel Habesor region of the northern Negev, will turn you into an expert grower for the day.

“Pick-your-own produce farms are commonplace. But agronomist Uri Alon (pictured below) has upped the ante with his complete senses-and-learning experience at his farm in the northern Negev.

“’If you want to see how the real vegetables grow, and taste the best vegetables in the world, that’s reason enough to come visit,‘ Alon, the brains behind this blossoming oasis in the middle of the sandy desert, tells ISRAEL21c.

“’If you want to see the real Israel and see how you can take a desert and change it and make it bloom, it’s enough reason to drive 1.5 hours from Tel Aviv.’”


Uri Alon’s veggies are his tourist attraction.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Sunday, April 19, 2015 at 04:02PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

April 17, 2015: A Heartfelt Lament



Courtesy Family
His name was Shalom Yohai Sherki, and he was 25.  On Wednesday night, he was standing at a bus stop in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem, and a car rammed into him and the woman standing next to him.   

Scene of the car attack

Credit: MDA
Both were rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
On Thursday morning, he succumbed to his head wounds; his brother later expressed gratitude that he held on until the family was able to say goodbye.

Again? We cried at this news.  Is there no end?
Shalom worked as a counselor to teenage students.  I did not know him personally, but am close to people who did.  I am told that he was much loved by his students and that he was a wonderful person.  Always with a smile on his face. Somehow it is the special ones who die.
The driver of the car that ran into these young people? An Arab – from a village near Jerusalem.  Police are indicating that they believe this was a terror attack (an attack with “nationalist” motives, is how they say it).  We knew, as soon as we heard what had happened.  The Arab will be interrogated by the Shin Bet.
The funeral, attended by thousands, was held in Jerusalem late yesterday..


Credit: Hillel Maeir, Tazpit News Agency 

This happened on Yom Hashoah.  Likely not a coincidence, as this would have played into the timing of the Arab who drove the car. 

More painful, to lose someone else as we are mourning the six million lost.
I am frequently in absolute awe of the strength of the families losing loved ones to terrorists, and so was it the case yesterday. This sort of strength is a reflection of religious faith.  Shalom’s father is Rabbi Uri Sherki. At the funeral, Rabbi Sherki, noting that his son saved the woman standing next to him by moving quickly to push her aside, said:
Go dear son, it is not difficult because your noble soul is ascending straight to the King of Peace.
“...It's not by chance that you were separated from us on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
"Our family didn't wander for two thousand years and return to Israel to be murdered but to be planted… We need to be strong, both in our private work and in the work of the government, which will know how to appropriately plant the people of Israel in its land."
The woman who was next to Shalom is Shira Klein, 20, currently in serious but stable condition in the hospital.
I learned this morning that Shira and Shalom were due to become engaged.  Brings tears to the eyes.  Again, again.
Her family is asking for prayers for her complete recovery:  Shira bat Adel Ada.

I could not go into Shabbat without posting this.  Dear God, may there be no more Jews who die ONLY because they are Jews.  As you pray for Shira’s recovery, pray for this, as well, please.
We say Baruch Dayan HaEmet: Blessed is the Righteous Judge. 
With wishes for a Shabbat Shalom to all.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.

Posted on Friday, April 17, 2015 at 06:36AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint
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