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May 25, 2016: Sof Sof!

“Sof Sof!” means Finally!
When last I wrote two days ago, I expected Lieberman to close on a coalition agreement with Likud within hours.  Instead it has taken days.  But as of this morning at 11 AM, the agreement was signed and it was a done deal. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman shake hands after signing a coalition agreement in the Knesset on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
The holdup was caused by Lieberman’s demand that there be increased pension benefits for Russian retirees.  The concern was primarily for those who came to Israel from Russia already past working age (so that they did not have the opportunity to accrue Israeli pensions of substance) but without Russian pensions; as the Israeli pensions they do receive are inadequate, they remain below the poverty line. Most seniors below the poverty line, are, I believe, of Russian origins. The resolution came via an understanding that pensions would be increased across the board – to the tune of at least $360 million - and not just for Russians, which would be inequitable. 
Apparently Lieberman, anxious to end the negotiations and get on with it, was flexible in the end.  This was after typical negotiation hardball of the other day, with him declaring talks were at a standstill.
As part of the agreement, MK Sofa Landver of Yisrael Beitenu will become immigrant absorption minister, a position she held from 2009 to 2015.


Credit: Flash90
Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu, pictured) was involved in the negotiations in his role as Minister of Finance, while Yariv Levin served as Likud negotiator. 

Finance minister and  leader of the Kulanu party, Moshe Kahlon, at the opening meeting of the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, May 18, 2015 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Credit: Hadas Perush/Flash90
Now we must pray that Lieberman remains true to the tough right wing stance he has been embracing. 
He will not be sworn in as Defense Minister until early next week because the Knesset must first approve his appointment and the Knesset will not be in session on Thursday because it is Lag B’Omer. 
Hopefully there will not be a further hold-up, as head of Bayit Yehudi Naftali Bennett had threatened to withhold approval until his own demand was met. 
He has been seeking a military secretary whose responsibility would be to keep the various members of the Security Cabinet well informed in critical security situations and facilitate visits to military zones.  He has protested that the Security Cabinet has not been sufficiently involved in major decisions, and I believe he is quite correct in terms of how matters have transpired, especially during the Gaza War of 2014.  (We’re going to be hearing more about this.)
What is not clear is that his proposal is necessary as a corrective - other avenues may be in place, if they are utilized properly and there is awareness of the problem.  It seems to me that a good part of resolving this is a genuine commitment on the part of the prime minister and defense minister to bring in the Cabinet on security decisions.
Today, I am seeing no further mention of this issue.
As the situation requires this, I have been focusing almost exclusively of late on internal Israeli political matters.  And we are likely not yet done. 
We are all familiar with the saying that is reported apocryphally to be a Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”  Indeed we do.  Never boring here.
But I do want to turn to other issues, as well here – starting with a couple of good news items.
Unit 9900 – an extraordinary elite IDF intelligence unit – is composed of high functioning adults with autism, who serve on a volunteer basis. 
“...they must have rare powers of concentration, along with strong spatial intelligence and visual perception, to decipher what they see. Their interpretations of the images help the IDF plan combat missions, sometimes changing strategy based on newly deciphered images.
“Research has shown that the visual perception of people on the autism spectrum is often different...than those not on the spectrum...autistic individuals can excel at approaching complex visual images objectively,’ focusing only on the ‘raw data,’ without preconceived notions of how things are supposed to be.”
At the very same time that this service bolsters Israel’s security, it provides an invaluable sense of self-worth to those who participate. 


According to a Ministry of Absorption document that will facilitate the process, it is expected that by the end of this year hundreds of people from the Bnei Menashe community in India will be brought to Israel, where they will undergo conversion to Judaism and receive Israeli identity cards.  This process will be facilitated by the organization Shavei Yisrael, founded and headed by Michael Freund; it will over-see the community’s acclimatization, including conversion and Hebrew studies, and assist in their in absorption into local communities.
The Bnei Menashe do not qualify for aliyah under the Law of Return and are not recognized as formally Jewish according to Jewish Law, however, they “say their oral history of 2,700 years describes their escape from slavery in Assyria to Media/Persia. From there they moved to what is now Afghanistan and then to Hindu Kush, Tibet and then, in around 240 BCE, to Kaifeng – eventually settling in the Himalayas, where they tried to preserve their heritage. They practice many Jewish rituals.”
While Freund was working in the prime ministers office as (1996-97) he “received a letter from the Bnei Menashe, who told him they were descendants of the tribe of Menashe, one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, and appealed to him to help them return to their ‘Promised Land.’”
There are already 2,000 members of the community here; they have been arriving sporadically since 2006, after some years of controversy regarding their origins.


Credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90
Danny Danon, Israeli Ambassador to the UN, has done battle with the UN and won.  The Israel Mission to the UN and Stand with US, an American organization advocating for Israel, jointly mounted an exhibit on Israel – that was to provide information about Zionism, Jerusalem and Arab Israelis, that was to be shown at UN headquarters in NY.  At first the UN censored the entire exhibit, and then said that the unit on Zionism could be shown, but not the units on the historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem or Israel’s treatment of its Arab citizens. 
Danon held his ground, and now the entire exhibit is on display in an area that can be seen by diplomats and visitors. 
See here for pictures of the elements of the exhibit (scroll down):

Credit: Kobi Kalmanovitz
Laugh of the week: French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who was just here, said that Israel should have faith in France’s peace plan.
Faith?  Is he for real?

Manuel Valls

Credit: thehoopsnews
Netanyahu’s response was clear: Israel rejects France’s plan because it does not provide an incentive to the Palestinian Arabs to compromise. 
“In fact,” said Netanyahu, “the Palestinian prime minister, [Rami] Hamdallah, let slip the other day his hope for an imposed timetable, rather than a negotiated peace.”
Netanyahu subsequently proposed an alternative to the French plan:
“If you really want to help launch peace, then help us launch direct negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas.

“I’m ready to clear my schedule and fly to Paris tomorrow. Well, I think tomorrow we’re expanding the government, but the day after tomorrow.”
“Every difficult issue will be on the table,” Netanyahu told Valls, who said he would bring the proposal to President Francois Hollande.
It took no time at all for PA officials to reject this: “Netanyahu is trying to buy time… but this time he will not escape the international community,” declared  Hamdallah.
This is Netanyahu’s point precisely – that the PA is counting on coercion by the international community rather than working face-to-face for an agreement.
Is there a gain for Israel in this tactic of our prime minister?  With his eager suggestion (that includes a stomach-turning offer to put everything, which means also Jerusalem, on the table), has he at all demonstrated to the world that the PA and not Israel is obstructionist?  Or – as I suspect - does the world continue to see Israel as it wishes?  Will the world remember only that the Israeli prime minister offered to discuss the status of Jerusalem? (Rhetorical question.)
When does it become time for a different tactic?  One that relies heavily on documented information broadcast world-wide about PA support for terrorists (including their convoluted method for continuing to pay those in Israeli prison), continued incitement and all the rest?  How about saying that it’s time for the international community, if it is REALLY interested in peace in the region, to start to make serious demands of the PA to demonstrate peaceful behavior?
How many times do we have to show how “peaceful” we are?
I wrote recently about the bind of Israeli security officials who are called upon to act with compassion with regard to the needs of the populace of Gaza, and then get burned when good will gestures are utilized by Hamas. 
When I wrote last, it was with regard to Gazan fisherman who brought in weaponry as well as fish.  Now there is a similar issue concerning cement.  Cement is one of those materials that is “dual use.”  It can be utilized for building houses, badly needed by people in Gaza, and by Hamas for building tunnels.
For six weeks, no cement has been allowed into Gaza by Israel, because it was uncovered (what a surprise!) that it was being diverted.  COGAT (the Coordinator of Government Activities in the the Territories, which works under the Ministry of Defense) said at the time that some quantity of cement was being taken by Imad al-Baz, deputy director of Hamas’s Economic Ministry. 
Now with the announcement that cement will be let in again, certain stipulations – worked out in conjunction with the UN – have been put in place: Al-Baz has been dismissed and there will be more Palestinian inspectors on the Gaza side of the Keren Shalom crossing.
Now really...does anyone actually believe that this will solve the problem and that all of the cement will now go where it is supposed to? 
Israeli authorities are either shockingly naïve (which I don’t believe) or are simply trying to cover their tracks.  The pressure on Israel to allow in material for the poor civilians to have housing is strong.  Somehow the problem, once again, becomes Israel’s fault.  Not the fault of Egypt, which has closed crossings and tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai. And Hamas, well, it builds tunnels and it is just being Hamas.
There is talk about an island in the Mediterranean beyond the Gaza coast that would have a port, so that nothing would have to go into Gaza via Israel.  That, clearly, presents its own serious problems, but the talk is an indication that Israeli authorities are weary of the status quo.
I’ve put up this song before, but once again, in this time of turmoil, it feels appropriate. 
“Kol Haolam Kulo”
All of the world is a narrow bridge but the main thing is not to be afraid.
There are many versions; I’m sharing the same one I did previously, because I think the production, with children, is special.
© 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 25, 2016 at 03:00PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 23, 2016: Shifting Political Fortunes

Israel’s political scene is in the process of significant transition.  I’ve been waiting a bit for the dust to settle, as there has been so much flux.
Now there has been some settling, certainly – and we can see the situation with a bit more clarity.  But still the rumors swirl, there are a host of interpretations with regard to what has happened, and there are outcomes as yet unknown.
What we know is this:
Avidgdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu (“Israel is our home”) party will be joining the coalition with Likud, bringing the number of members of the coalition up to 66 from the minimal 61 it had been. 
Everyone is speaking as if it is a done-deal, but the final sign-off on the coalition agreement has yet to take place – it is being held up by details. I am going to write this with the assumption that it will finalize shortly. 

Credit: Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash90
Lieberman had a number of demands for joining the coalition.  Primary was that the portfolio of the Minister of Defense be given to him.  Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed, and informed Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon that he was out as soon as the coalition agreement was finalized.  Ya’alon subsequently resigned. Reportedly, the prime minister then offered Ya’alon the position of Foreign Minister, but he turned it down. (More on Ya’alon below.) 

Moshe Yaalon - Israel News

Credit: politiscope
Another demand of Lieberman was that Netanyahu support legislation promoting the death penalty for convicted terrorists, and this has been agreed to.  This legislation, if passed, would not automatically invoke the penalty for terrorists convicted of a specific sort of crime.  Rather, it would permit it to be invoked if it was supported by two out of three judges sitting on a case (there is no jury trial in Israel), whereas under the current law it is permitted only if there is a unanimous judicial vote in favor. And this has been only theory, as it has never happened.  Such legislation has been advanced before and failed to pass, as there was no support from the prime minister.
This will be the first time Netanyahu will be supporting it.  But even this is no guarantee of success for the bill that is going to be drafted.  On the left there will be a great outcry about this. Former attorney general Yehuda Weinstein adamantly opposes it and has called on his successor, Avichai Mandelblit, to do the same.
In the Western world, capital punishment is invoked infrequently (but still exists in the US).  I do not believe anyone is advocating that every convicted terrorist receive capital punishment. The thought is that the option should exist for particularly heinous cases.
A primary concern of advocates of capital punishment is that this precludes the possibility of those who have committed those heinous crimes being traded in a deal and thus receiving freedom to commit further heinous crimes. This has happened.  It is not only a heartbreak, it constitutes a moral betrayal of the families of those who have been murdered.
As I understand it, this law would apply via the Civil Administration, in Judea and Samaria.  This area is under the authority of the Ministry of Defense.
It should be noted that Lieberman is of Russian origins and his party began as a home for Russian olim (immigrants).  There are a number of implications here.  Lieberman is seeking enhanced benefits for Russian pensioners (retirees), although budget constraints will prevent him from achieving everything he is seeking.  (This is one of the matters still under discussion.)
It has occurred to me that Lieberman’s accession to the post of Minister of Defense might resonate well with Putin, as we deal with him on military matters in Syria. 
What has become clear is that this deal with Lieberman did not come out of the blue: there were negotiations and feelers on-going for some time, even as there were coalition negotiations proceeding with Yitzhak (Buji) Herzog for his Zionist Camp (Labor) to join the coalition.  

Yitzhak Herzog

Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90
Herzog stopped negotiations as soon as he realized Lieberman was also being courted.  There was a point at which he was sure he had it sewed up, and was ready to step into the government to “make peace.” 
Now Herzog is being lambasted by his party for being used, and may yet step down – or be pushed out – from his leadership position in Labor.  Shelley Yachimovich is poised to resume that position, which she held previously.

Shelly Yachimovich

Credit: Flash90
If this happens, I say, “Bye, bye, Buji.” 
Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who was next in line on the Likud list, will move into the Knesset because of Ya’alon’s resignation.

Credit: Getty
Rabbi Glick, who miraculously survived a terror attack in October 2014, says he believes God saved him because his work on this earth is not done.  An ardent activist for Jewish rights on Har Habayit (the Temple Mount), Glick is often labeled an extremist.  But the fact of the matter is that in many respects, he is quite moderate. 
There are those saying that the new coalition will be the most right wing government Israel has ever had.
As to Ya’alon, he seems to be having a temper tantrum.  He has now made statements to the press about the government having lost its “moral compass.”
Whereas I – and many others on the right – see it quite a different way.  It was Ya’alon who lost his way.  There are solid reports from the inside that indicate he knew what was coming down the road – that it was no surprise.  Yet he prefers to behave as if he has been ambushed.
The military in a democracy – while obligated to train the best troops and develop the most effective weaponry possible, and to use those troops and weapons as required in defense of the nation - takes its order from the political echelon. It does not make political decisions.  Yet Ya’alon, who was not in sync with a number of government decisions, chose to push his own policies and ended up encouraging insurgency on the part of the IDF elite, in the name of “free speech.”  He had to go.
Netanyahu let it be known that he didn’t want terrorists’ bodies returned to families.  Ya’alon returned bodies of those terrorists taken down in Judea and Samaria.  Most recently there was a major funeral held, even though there was supposed to be a stipulation requiring a small funeral.  On another occasion, the army said they released a body “by mistake.”  Please, do not ask me to justify or explain this.
And it was the IDF brass and not the government that pushed for a cessation of IDF operations in Areas A and B.
Perhaps most distressing, however, were Ya’alon’s statements regarding Elor Azariya, the soldier who killed the immobilized terrorist in Hevron.  “We’re not ISIS here, you know,” he intoned.
The outrage.
You might find this open letter to Ya’alon from a member of Likud enlightening with regard to what has been going on:
Amos Harel, writing in Haaretz, spoke of:
“...the crisis of confidence between Netanyahu and Ya’alon and the IDF brass in recent months...
“There will now be an attempt to reeducate the General Staff, now without Ya’alon, as Bennett is doing to the Education Ministry and the civics teachers, and as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is trying to do with the state prosecution and the Supreme Court.”

Whatever Harel’s feelings in the matter, for many, this is wonderful news.  Not only is it critical that the government and the IDF brass relate in a spirit of confidence, it is reassuring that there will an attempt to bring the top brass around to a different sort of thinking.  For two long, leftists have held sway. We are moving right now, and the leftists are screaming bloody murder.


Ya’alon declares that he is not finished with politics.  He will either start his own centrist-left party, or join one already in existence.  Of course, he could have remained in the government in the position of Foreign Minister, but chose not to.  I believe this is likely so that he can have more political latitude than he would within the constraints of the current coalition.

And I think Ronn Torossian is correct, when he writes that “Ya’alon’s public trashing of Netanyahu harms Israel worldwide.”

Ya’alon, who claims the higher moral ground, has dishonored himself.


His last vindictive act before leaving was to cancel the permits for Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Habayit Hayehudi) and his staff to enter the Kirya - Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv. Netanyahu has since restored the permits.

Eli Ben-Dahan

Credit: Flash90

There was long-standing enmity between Ben-Dahan and Ya’alon. According to the coalition agreement, Habayit Hayehudi is to have control of the Civil Administration, and it was Ben-Dahan, as Deputy Defense Minister, who should have been given that role.  But Ya’alon balked, undoubtedly because Ben-Dahan’s right wing views were not to his liking.

This is one of the situations we can hope might now be adjusted by Lieberman.


As a cry-and-hue has gone up in certain quarters about the prospect of Lieberman, a civilian, assuming the role of Minister Defense, I note here comments by Aaron Lerner, director of IMRA (emphasis added):

“Some talking heads in Israel are essentially asserting that only senior brass are qualified to serve as minister of defense.

“But ex-brass come to the job with the mind set of the defense establishment.

“And while the defense establishment may be fantastic planning an operation, after the operation's goals have been delineated they have been a profound disaster in setting goals and policies...

“Our last civilian defense minister was Amir Peretz. Many Israelis owe him their lives thanks to his rejection of the recommendation of the brass that we first demolish Lebanese infrastructure at the start of the Second Lebanon War, Peretz wisely insisted that we first wipe out the missiles before they could be repositioned. Even more Israelis owe their lives to Peretz for deciding on Iron Dome.

“Contrast the foresight of civilian Peretz to the shocking lack of vision of Ehud Barak [a military man] - who couldn't fathom the strategic value having a second strike capability provided by submarine able to launch Jericho missiles...”

Lerner was not endorsing Lieberman, per se, but saying that a civilian Defense Minister may be the way to go.


Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) speaking at the Jerusalem Post Conference in NY on Sunday, had similar words, but coupled with an endorsement:

"I would also like to say, that as someone who has known Avigdor Lieberman personally for more than 20 years, I am confident that he will make an excellent Minister of Defense. I believe that it is good that every once in a while, we have a Defense Minister who does not come from the military establishment. Someone from the outside can bring fresh thinking and a fresh perspective to the IDF."


There are numerous questions that are still floating in the political atmosphere.

One is the issue of whether Lieberman is truly right wing, and whether he can be trusted to be stable within the government. 

He has on occasion been a loose cannon.  No question. But in this situation he is demonstrating a readiness to play it for reasonableness and stability. One of his big issues in the past was an insistence that the haredim (ultra Orthodox) had to serve in the army without exemptions.  But now he has backed off on this, recognizing that there are two ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition with which he must work.

As to being right wing – it strikes me that seeking the death sentence for terrorists would put him solidly on the right. So would his – very welcome and very reasonable - comments with regard to the soldier in Hevron who shot the terrorist:

It may be that the soldier was right or that he was wrong in his decision to shoot the terrorist, Lieberman said: "that will be checked by the appropriate sources in the IDF.

“But what is already clear now is that this onslaught against the soldier is hypocritical and unjustified, and it is better to have a soldier who makes a mistake and stays alive than a soldier who hesitates and the terrorist kills him.”


There has been a bit of panic, as well, that a very right wing Lieberman (this comes from different people than those who say he isn’t really right wing, of course) will cause problems with the US and others. In particular, there has been concern expressed that we won’t get the aid we otherwise would have gotten from the US.

But a “senior official from Washington” has told channel 10 that “Ya’alon’s replacement will not affect the continuation of negotiations between Israel and the scope of the military aid package Israel is to receive from the United States over the next ten years.”


Undoubtedly, Kerry is a very unhappy camper at the moment. He had been pulling for Herzog in the government, eager for what this would mean for his last push to get Israel to the table. 

And the PA?  A bit apoplectic, I think.

In any event, we should not, in my opinion, make decisions based on what the world thinks: They find fault with us no matter what we do.  Our concern must be doing what strengthens us most effectively.


Questions remain as well as to what was in Netanyahu’s head when he made the decisions he did, and why he opted in the end for Lieberman and not Herzog.

Some believe that Netanyahu’s only concern was strengthening his coalition.  It would appear on the surface that the Zionist Camp’s 24 members would have been a far better bet than Yisrael Beitenu’s relatively meager six members (actually five now, as one member resigned the party). However, in reality, entrance of Zionist Camp into the coalition might have brought about greater instability, as some in Likud, who were adamantly opposed, might have bolted, as might some members of the Zionist Camp.

According to one credible version of behind the scenes maneuvering, Netanyahu needed to be convinced that Lieberman (with whom he did not exactly have a warm relationship) was serious and would enter the coalition on stable terms.  Once convinced of this – reportedly with the intervention of Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) – he moved readily in that direction.  Some say that Netanyahu was glad to be able to do this, as this is a more natural fit for him than the Zionist Camp would have been. 

Elkin, who is quite right wing and very savvy, is from the Ukraine and speaks Russian.  He accompanies Netanyahu during his meetings with Putin and is obviously trusted by the prime minister.

There is a widely held opinion that Netanyahu never really wanted Herzog in, and was using him to lure Lieberman to come forward.  Certainly many in Labor think so.  They see Herzog as a patsy.

Then there is the very plausible possibility that Netanyahu preferred Lieberman in part because his demand for the Defense portfolio gave the prime minister a smooth way to get rid of Ya’alon.


If I have a concern at present, is that Netanyahu, eager to show the world that he has not swung too far right, will bend over backward in the other direction.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to embark on a major diplomatic effort to disprove outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s accusations that, under his premiership, Israel and the Likud Party are heading toward the extreme right, senior Likud sources said Saturday night.”

Netanyahu has said that there is “a great diplomatic opportunity on the horizon because of certain developments in the Middle East.” If moving forward on these is appropriate, all well and good.  He’s referring here to moderate Arab states, not the Palestinian Authority.  But saying this will be done in order to prove Ya’alon’s charges wrong is nonsense.

Just as it’s nonsense – grandstanding – that, after Lieberman already agreed to join the coalition, Netanyahu declared he would keep the door open to Zionist Camp to also join.  This is a patent impossibility.  Herzog was roundly criticized for entering the unity negotiations and Yachimovich will have no part of it.  Even more so now, with Lieberman in the government.  Netanyahu is well aware of all of this.  He simply wanted to show the world he is responsive to the left.


At present, the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs will remain empty. Technically, the prime minister fills this role and says he wishes to continue to do so in order to manage affairs in the months ahead, with the French initiative and more.  Although Netanyahu confident Dore Gold, as Director-General of the Ministry, is unofficially playing a role here.

According to reports I’ve read in several places, this portfolio has been promised in writing to Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), but Netanyahu intends to hold off on this.  Katz is opposed to a Palestinian state, and Netanyahu is uneasy about what the response to his appointment would be after Lieberman’s appointment.

Yisrael Katz

Credit: Getty


Dudu Fisher, singing a light-hearted “Rachem Na”

Have mercy, please, Almighty, on your people, Israel.


© 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 23, 2016 at 01:11PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 18, 2016: Reaching, Always

I begin today with a moving “only in Israel” story.  I had written in my last posting about the way in which comrades of a fallen soldier maintain an ongoing connection with his family.  I subsequently received an email from a reader – Marsha Greenberg Motzen, wife of Cantor Yaakov Motzen - who told me about her husband’s brother, Avraham Chaim Motzen, who fell in the Lebanon War in 1982.  In the thirty four years since, comrades from his unit have been going to his mother’s apartment every three weeks to learn mishnayot (the earliest section of the Talmud, rabbinic commentaries on the Torah) in his memory.  His mother, who is now 90, bakes for them before they come. 

If that is not devotion, I do not know what is.  For those not familiar with the tradition: studying religious text in someone’s memory is done for the merit or elevation of the soul of the departed.


Credit: tzvee


The Israel Prize – Israel’s highest honor – was awarded to 11 citizens for outstanding merit in their respective fields last Thursday evening, in Jerusalem. Here I want to mention one recipient - Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog – because he is a sterling example of the determination to turn heartache into blessing.

Wrote UnitedwithIsrael:

“Doron Almog is an Israeli military hero who participated in some of the most daring operations, including the secret airlift of 6,000 Jews from Ethiopia in the 1980s and as a leading commander in the Entebbe rescue operation of 1976, when 100 IDF commandos rescued 102 hostages held by terrorists in Uganda....

“Yet what Almog, 63, considered his greatest achievement was caring for his severely disabled son Eran, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 23...

“More than a decade ago, Almog left his brilliant army career to found a new Aleh center in southern Israel for young adults – Aleh Negev, a rehabilitative village that provides severely disabled young men and women the opportunity to live a rich and productive life within a safe environment. [Aleh runs a number of rehabilitative facilities for hundreds of children with cognitive and physical difficulties.]

“’Eran, my beloved son, who never called me Abba [Hebrew for Dad] and never made eye contact with me, was the greatest teacher of my life,’ Almog stated at the ceremony marking the foundation of the new center... ‘He taught me the meaning of unconditional love.  He taught me to hear the soundless cries of the hundreds of children like him.  He taught me that the focus of our actions should not be the glorification of one’s ego. Rather, we should be focused on helping people like him.’” (emphasis added)

Credit Haaretz


In 2002, two illegal Arab houses were built in the Jerusalem Walls National Park, inside the historic Ir David (City of David).  Yesterday, they were taken down by the Jerusalem district police and the Israel Parks Authority.

Demolition of illegal Arab buildings in Jerusalem

Credit: Arutz7

And so, I count this as good news, even as I say, What the hell took so long?  It’s a rhetorical question.  What took so long is all of the left-wing and international pressure to leave the houses alone. So, yes, in spite of an incredible 14 year delay, this is good news – and perhaps doubly so because the authorities seem to have discovered their backbones.


Just one day earlier, on Monday, seven illegal Arab portable housing structures were dismantled in E1, the area between Jerusalem and the community of Ma’aleh Adumim.

Credit: Jewish Virtual Library

Because this is in Area C, it was the Civil Administration (which works under the Ministry of Defense) that did the dismantling. 

Dismantling the structures

Credit: COGAT spokesperson

The structures were standing only a matter of days.  This is a strategic area where there is a quick response, for the illegal housing, promoted and supported by the EU, is intended to prevent contiguity between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem, and foster contiguity between Arab areas to the south and the north – with an eye to an eventual Palestinian state.  Israeli housing is scheduled to be built in the area, if ever there is sufficient courage to proceed with these plans in spite of the international outcry that would ensue.   


It is not always the case, regrettably, that the Civil Administration responds with alacrity when EU funded illegal buildings are constructed in Area C outside of an area as highly contested as E1.  The EU is a tough adversary, claiming “diplomatic immunity” with regard to legal action, and I take off my hat to the NGO Regavim, which does much to fight that good fight in the courts.  See:


And speaking of the EU... 

EU Ambassador to Israel, Lars Faabourg-Anderson, is prone to making statements about the illegality of “settlements” in Judea and Samaria, although I have yet to see him back up these statements with solid legal arguments. The Legal Grounds Campaign, weary of his stance, invited him to debate international law professor Eugene Kontorovich on the issue of Israel’s legal rights in Judea and Samaria.  Actually, we invited him four times – via fax, snail mail, email and hand-delivery to his office.  After a silence of almost a month, he declined to debate.

If you think he should have the courage to stand up and debate the issue, you might want to email him at:  Tell him, if you are an Israeli citizen.


A recent poll found that 71.5% of Israeli Jews believe that Israel’s control of Judea and Samaria is not “occupation”:


Credit: 123rf

It reinforces my conviction that the Israeli populace is moving right and becoming more nationalist in perspective. 

This is what Aaron Lerner, director of IMRA, had to say on this issue a week ago (emphasis added):
“The truth is that there are indeed hard choices to make.

“This when the correct choices may result in pressure from the world.

“Fortunately, the citizens of Israel have a strong backbone.

A determination and willingness to endure challenges.

And this is a critical asset.

“Because it strips our leaders from excuses.

The citizens of Israel are ready.

It’s now up to the leaders to stop kicking the can.”


The not-so-good news, of course, is that the leaders are very skilled at kicking the can (a metaphor for deferring conclusive action by resorting to a short-term, stopgap solution).


Last Friday, top Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine was killed in an explosive attack in Syria.  Badreddine was brother-in-law of Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated by Israel in 2008.  As chief expert on explosives and the military commander responsible for Hezbollah’s operations in Syria, he was considered Mughniyeh’s successor.  His death represents a big blow to Hezbollah.

At first it was reported by Lebanese press (Israeli press will not write about this directly) that the assassination was Israel’s doing.  Then it was said to be the work of a Syrian rebel group (which does not definitively mean it was not Israel – but I cannot speak to this).

Now a Saudi paper reports that Imad Mughniyeh’s eldest son, Mustafa Mughniyeh, who had been a protégé of his uncle Badreddine, will succeed him.  He has been kept totally out of the public limelight.,7340,L-4804040,00.html

Jihad, another son of Imad, was also assassinated at an earlier time.  Sort of a family tradition, we might say.


Information has now been released about the interrogation last month by the Shin Bet of a Gaza fisherman (if indeed he really was a fisherman at all), who had strayed (? or deliberately moved) out of the zone permitted for fishing by the Israeli naval blockade. 

When questioned, the fisherman, 39, ended up providing a wealth of important information on the smuggling – by fisherman, with the assistance of Hamas - of weapons, ammunition, rocket-making equipment and other military equipment via sea into Gaza, for use by Hamas and other terrorist organizations.  Even liquid fiberglass, a key ingredient in rocket production, is being brought in by sea. 

Credit: daysofpalestine

This situation represents just the sort of quandary that Israeli politicians and security personnel must wrestle with.  Calls for lifting of the naval blockade are met with a firm refusal.  That is a no-brainer. But there really is a Gazan fishing industry and it was said that the naval limits imposed by Israel were too restrictive for the fisherman. And so, Israel, as a gesture of goodwill, extended the zone from six to nine nautical miles.  But that goodwill was abused, to Israel’s detriment.


What we also learn from this particular situation is that another war with Hamas is coming down the road – as if we didn’t already know this. It will be of substantial proportions, judging by what is being smuggled.  We’re being told that this time Israel will choose the timing.  Let it be!  And let us hope that this time the fighting will not be terminated before Hamas is finished, whatever the international outcry.

Nerves of steel. Reaching for that strength.


In recent days, there has been talk – reports and rumors – of a unity government: that is, Zionist Camp (aka Labor), headed by Buji Herzog, joining Netanyahu’s coalition, with Likud at its core.  Netanyahu has seemed inclined towards this because it would provide him with more political latitude and a more stable coalition; plus it would weaken the influence of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi, headed by Naftali Bennett – who frequently challenges Netanyahu. While Herzog apparently craves whatever political influence and prestige he imagines would thus be conferred upon him.

I say Heaven forbid.  Zionist Camp party members are opposed because it means bolstering the opposition – helping the right solidify its coalition - and selling out. Likud party members are similarly opposed because the right-wing choices of the electorate should be honored and this would mean shifting the coalition  to the left.  A strong percentage of the public is opposed, as well.


And now, after reports that such a union might be imminent, there is a new and welcome wrinkle in the situation:

After a variety of statements about about not having received a serious offer to join the government, Avigdor Lieberman, head of Yisrael Beitenu, apparently did receive such an offer.


Credit: Avigdor Lieberman

He and Netanyahu are to meet tonight to discuss Lieberman’s coming into the coalition.  He was in the previous government and served two terms previously as Minister of Foreign Affairs.  He can be a bit off the wall sometimes, but he is solidly right wing and would pull the coalition to the right.  And so the prospect of his joining the government instead of Herzog is one that is greatly welcome. Lieberman says he will join if his terms are met.

For his part, Netanyahu has indicated frustration in dealing with Herzog and has let it be known that he will now be courting Lieberman. And Herzog?  He says the prime minister cannot negotiate with him and Lieberman at the same time, so he is putting a hold on his negotiations.


This entire saga offers, I think, a bit of a glimpse into the backroom dealing that is going on, the political jostling.  It also raises the question: Who is Binyamin Netanyahu?  How could it be that he would consider both Herzog and Lieberman for his coalition?  Is bolstering its numbers his only concern?


There has been considerable political tension of late between Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon, as a result of the latter’s speaking out on political issues and even encouraging the army brass to contradict the government directly if they disagree on policy – in the name of “free speech.”  I think that Ya’alon’s behavior has been despicable. He has been insubordinate, increasingly giving voice to left wing positions that challenge government policies.

Netanyahu summoned him, presumably to chastise him, and they subsequently released a joint statement acknowledging that the Ministry of Defense answers to the government.  It was said that they resolved their differences, but I do not believe it.  I think they were simply papered over. 

What has disturbed me is that Netanyahu has not seen fit to simply fire Ya’alon.  (I will mention here only I passing and very tentatively that Lieberman says he wants to be Minister of Defense, but that does not mean he will get it.)


The French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, was here earlier this week to meet with Netanyahu and Abbas in order to explain the “Peace Initiative” that France is proposing.  It is necessary, he says, because “the process is frozen, so there is a need for international intervention.”

Credit: melenchon

Oh joy.

The plan, as I have explained before, involves two steps.  First, a ministerial conference in Paris, that had been tentatively set for May 30, to which ministers of a select 20 countries will be invited, but which will exclude Israel and the PA.  This conference will set the agenda for a larger peace conference in the fall.

(The latest news today is that the date will be pushed forward to some time in June because Secretary of State Kerry cannot come on the 30th, which is Memorial Day.)

France has also drafted a position paper that it has not yet made public.

The notion that France has the moral authority or the wisdom or the objectivity to move forward on this is patently ridiculous. They are displaying the ultimate in chutzpa, setting up a situation that is bound to fail, but that will bring us some good measure of heartburn in the meantime.


Needless to say, PA leaders are delighted with this prospect and are making demands that France set a timetable for Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria to behind the 1949 armistice line, which is erroneously referred to as the “’67 border.”

And this illustrates precisely what is wrong with this entire process, which isn’t really about genuine “negotiations” but rather an attempt to force Israel into an entirely untenable situation reeking of injustice. 

“A peaceful settlement in Palestine can transform Palestine into a gate for democracy,” intoned PA prime minister Rami Hamdallah at a Ramallah press conference.  They, of course, say whatever they think will resonate with certain segments of the international community.  Anyone who truly believes a “Palestinian state” is going to foster democracy needs serious help.


Netanyahu has already said Israel is opposed to this “peace plan” because it provides a disincentive for the PA to genuinely negotiate – it gives them an “escape hatch” – while genuine face-to-face negotiations are the only way to proceed.

To demonstrate Israel’s willingness to participate in face-to-face negotiations, he has been making a series of statements about his commitment to this process and his readiness to meet Abbas at any moment.

Yes, I understand what he’s doing. I understand that he’s attempting to mitigate international criticism by demonstrating that he is cooperative with regard to peace-making efforts, and that it’s just the particular formulation being advanced by France that he opposes.  Presumably, he is attempting at the same time to demonstrate that Abbas is not sincere. 

This is the way he plays it, and his approach has a certain rationale.  And yet, it makes me very uncomfortable.  Of course, he knows Abbas is not coming to sit across the table from him, but there is danger in making statements to which we might be held later.


In an interview with the JPost, Dore Gold, Foreign Ministry Director-General spelled out yet another reason for Israel’s opposition to France’s diplomatic proposal:

“When French diplomats vote for a resolution at UNESCO that rejects the historic Jewish connection to Jerusalem, it should not come as a surprise that Israel rejects the French initiative and the political horizon it aspires to ultimately expose.”

And so...stay tuned.


Ending with a lovely musical video, “We Are Home,” with thanks to Deena M.


© 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 18, 2016 at 11:27AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 12, 2016: We Mourn and We Rejoice 

In a thousand ways, Israel is different from all other nations in the world – and the observance of Yom HaZikaron followed immediately by Yom HaAtamaut is, I believe, one of those ways.
Yesterday was Yom HaZikron – Memorial Day for all those who have fallen for the the State of Israel. 
A siren sounded at 8:00 Tuesday night, to mark the beginning of the day. Everywhere people stopped what they were doing and stood at attention in memory of the dead.  A similar siren sounded at 11:00 in Wednesday morning.



Credit: Alon Ron
There were multiple ceremonies at night, with the official one at the Kotel, flag at half-mast.

Credit: bronfman
During the day yesterday there were further ceremonies, most notably at Har Herzl in Jerusalem.  But all of the many military cemeteries across the country are crowded with visitors visiting the graves of loved ones.

De la oscuridad a la luz

Credit: radiosefarad
And here is the point, my friends.  We are a family here in Israel.  Everyone knows someone who died, or someone who has lost a dear one.  The day is a day of national mourning.
We all know, as surely as we know anything, that they died so that Israel might live.
There are stories without end that amplify this family attitude:
When a soldier in a unit has died, his comrades do not forget him.  Sometimes, even after they are out of the army, they sustain incredible ties with the family of their fallen brother. 
Yishai Fleisher has recounted his days as a paratrooper 20 years ago.  He – still in training - and each of his fellow paratroopers was assigned the grave of a paratrooper who had died, to stand with the family during memorial ceremonies.
Lone soldiers – those without immediate family in the country – have special ceremonies so that they are not forgotten.
During Yom HaZikaron ceremonies at the Kotel, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, mindful of recent controversies, spoke about national unity (emphasis added):
“Beyond the silence enveloping the State of Israel this evening, we discover again how much we are tied to one another, united for a common fate and purpose...
“Unity is not necessary agreement, but we must not let these differences damage the unity of our goal...
“On the eve of Independence Day, the IDF is a powerful military...If we support one another there is no enemy we cannot defeat.”
Powerful words of truth.
Gadi Eisenkot
Credit: Marc Israel Sellem/JPost
A young woman I know well once said to me, when she was in high school, “We [she and her friends] know we might die.  It’s OK.” 
That floored me, but it is a reality our young people live with.  Death is a part of what they encounter at a young age.  They absorb this reality and they are happy anyway.  Actually, I think that it is not “in spite” of their knowledge of death, but rather “because” of it, that they are happy.  They know they are part of something worth dying for – Heaven forbid that any of them should have to die.  Their lives are imbued with a certain meaning, which includes, as I said above, the sense of being part of something larger than themselves.
This is not to suggest that there is no fear, or that losing comrades is anything less than heartbreaking.

Credit: hdnux
The number of fallen whom we commemorate this year is 23,447 since 1860.
This number is comprised mostly of soldiers lost in battle.  Soldiers to whom we are forever and unendingly indebted.
But it includes, as well, victims of terror, who also give their lives for the country.  It is important to note that the count begins 88 years before there was a state.  Never let it be said that terrorism is a response to “the occupation.”  The Arabs were attacking Jews when their numbers here were few and the idea of a sovereign state was still a dream. 
Sherri Mandell and her husband, Rabbi Seth Mandell, lost their eldest son, Koby, to a terror attack 15 years ago.  She spoke in a local synagogue on Sunday night and she was amazing in her forthright vulnerability.

Sherri and Seth epitomize the strength and resilience of many Israelis in the face of tragedy.  They grieve in their hearts always – the pain does not go away.  But they rise up to face life, and to make something meaningful out of what happened, so that the unimaginable becomes imbued with a larger purpose.  The Mandells founded the Koby Mandell Foundation, which runs Camp Koby, where bereaved children find comfort and solace.
Something similar is true of Miriam Peretz, who lost two sons in wars.  I once heard her speak about her conflict on going to the cemetery – not knowing which grave to visit first.  And yet, she also said, she is very grateful and proud to be Israeli. She devotes herself to giving inspirational talks, promoting that same pride in Israel in others. 


And so it is with countless others who have lost dear ones:  They refuse to let their loss embitter their lives, they go on, somehow, vowing to live with love.  I, quite frankly, are in awe of them. 
I think of Natan Meir, who said after the murder of his much beloved wife Dafna, “We do not curse Arabs. We are not people who hate.”  His focus is on caring for his family.


Credit: YNet
“The challenge is to choose life, and for this my children and I try to wake up every morning, even when we don’t want to – to chose life, this is our right and our duty...”
We should not be surprised that there has been a spate of terror attacks to coincide with Yom HaZikaron. An IDF officer was seriously injured in an explosion at Hizme Junction, just north of Jerusalem.  And there was a stabbing attack in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of Jerusalem.  I have scant information on this but apparently at least three young people were wounded. 
But most despicable was the stabbing attack – also in Armon Hanatziv – of two women in their 80s by masked assailants, who have yet to be caught.
We pray mightily that the days when we have to cope with the hatred and the despicable acts will come to an end.  But we go on...
At 8:00 last night, a siren, the mood shifted, and suddenly it was Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. A day of celebration.   


How sudden is the transition, and how emblematic of life in Israel, where sorrow and joy merge.
The modern State of Israel is 68 years young.  Today we boast a population of 8,522,000 people, 6,377,000 of whom are Jews.
I began the celebration last night, as do many Israelis, with prayer, including a spirited and joyously musical Hallel – recitation of psalms of thanksgiving.
For it is all for naught if we fail to recognize the Almighty’s hand in the blessings of this land. 
It is not just that our situation is incredibly good in a host of different ways – it is that we are looking at a miracle.
I rather like what Michael Freund wrote today (emphasis added):
“Religious Zionists view the birth of the state as ‘the beginning of the flowering of our redemption.’ This infuses Independence Day with majestic meaning, underlining the spiritual grandeur of the day...
And he reminds us of the 5708th verse in the Torah (corresponding, he notes, to the Hebrew date 5708 when modern Israel was founded) - Deuteronomy 30;5: “And the Lord your God will bring you to the Land, that your fathers possessed, and you will possess it, and He will do good unto you and multiply you more than your forbearers.”
Israel is a work in progress. This is obvious. 
But while we are very far from perfect, we are a magnificent and special nation, with great promise unfolding before us. 
We owe it to those who have given their lives, to make Israel the best she might be.
I’ve run this video before, but it’s a mark of what a special people we truly are.


As is this. Where else in the world, except Israel, is there an armed force that takes the time to integrate young people with disabilities into the army as volunteers, so that they might reach their full potential and be given a sense of belonging. See the video here:


I also like to include a video clip of David Ben Gurion reading the Declaration of Independence:

But I want to add a few historical and legal comments to what you hear in the video.  Ben Gurion refers to UN General Assembly resolution 181 of 1947 (known as the Partition Plan).  Note that he says first and foremost that the State of Israel is being founded based on the natural right of the Jews to their homeland. But he also says based on the UN resolution.

However...the resolution, coming as it did from the General Assembly, was merely a recommendation and had no weight in international law. It was the Declaration of Independence and not that resolution that established the State.  It seems that Ben Gurion referred to the resolution because it was a way of saying, see, the world now sanctions our Jewish state.

The State was established within the lines that the UN had recommended, but no formal borders were declared. And, in fact, by the end of the War of Independence in 1949, the lines had been extended a bit to what is called the Green Line (armistice lines).

At no point did the Declaration of Independence renounce the right granted to the Jewish people via the Mandate for Palestine to all of Palestine from the river to the sea.  That right still stands. We liberated Judea and Samaria in 1967, but have yet to establish sovereignty over it, or even apply Israeli law to the area.  May that day come soon.


It is customary on Yom Ha’Atzmaut to compile lists of things that are unique to Israel or that make us special.  I’d like to close with a few of those that caught my fancy.  Hope you enjoy them as well.

These are from Barbara Sofer’s JPost column:

[] The Israel water company isn’t allowed to turn off water for those who can’t pay. It’s the law.

[] Rock stars sing songs from the Passover Haggada and  prayer books.

[] A retired bus driver continues one route, making sure the grandmas reciting pre-dawn psalms have a safe ride home.

[] The only registry for Arab bone-marrow donors for Muslims in all of the world is located in Jerusalem.

[] When the father of a Palestinian toddler who fell headfirst into a vat of boiling jam was told to dig a grave for his son, the IDF brought him to Hadassah University Medical Center, where he’s recovering with the help of the National Skin Bank.  


And these are from Buzzfeed with thanks to reader Sharon R:

[] OnlyInIsrael is the sign on public transport reminding passengers to give up their seat for the elderly a direct quote from the Bible.

[] OnlyInIsrael does army radio broadcast government infomercials reminding listeners to call their grandparents. 

[] OnlyInIsrael does the mother of an army major general go on the radio to defend her son from public criticism.


This sounds perfect to me:

Prayer for the State of Israel, IDF Chief Cantor Shai Abramson.

If you don’t understand the Hebrew, see the English translation.




© 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, May 12, 2016 at 06:03AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 4, 2016: Finding the Light (Goes Before "Many Bases")


Credit: headingupwards 

Tonight at sundown Holocaust Remembrance Day begins.  In Israel, it’s Yom Hashoah V’Gevurah – a day for remembering the Holocaust and the heroism.  This particular date was selected by the Knesset in 1951 because it marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, a stunning example of heroism.
Especially this year there are reasons why remembering is important, and I will get to them.  But for the very same reasons, it is also critical that we seek the light – the good things and the blessings of our lives.  Dafka! as we say.  And so I have chosen to begin with good news, as is my routine practice.
“According to the InterNations survey’s Family Life Index, in a roundup of the world’s 41 top countries to raise a family in, the best three countries are Austria, Finland, and Sweden. And right behind those wealthy, industrialized European nests of socialized everything and the baskets of goodies from the nanny state, in fourth place, you’ll find a country that’s been fighting for its life for almost 70 years, with a huge security budget, supposedly enormous gaps between rich and poor, and ceaseless ethnic strife — and there, according to the survey’s criteria, is the fourth best place on the planet to raise your children.”  Israel.
Mentioned were availability of childcare and education, and family well being.


The picture above of nursery school children in the community of Bruchin in the Shomron (Samaria) is part of the slide show on the Legal Grounds website homepage:
I once before shared a video, also from Bruchin, but it is so upbeat that it fits the theme of Israel as a good place to live, and so I gladly share it again:
That, from the ashes of the Shoah, we now have communities such as Bruchin in a strong and vibrant Israel is nothing short of a miracle – if only we take the time to see it.
On Monday, I attended a class that is part of the Legal Grounds pilot law course named in memory of Salomon Benzimra z”l.  We are very pleased at the progress of the classes – which provide important information about our rights in the land.  (Write to me if you would like to know more.) 

This class was taught by Prof. Eugene Kontorovich.

Credit: thetower

Eugene has been moving in a direction that is brilliant.  He has done a carefully researched survey of how the world approaches situations that are akin to the Israeli situation, with regard to “occupation,” “settlements” and the like, and how these situations are addressed by the international community.  International law, after all, applies to various nations in the same situation – or at least it should.

He offered a good deal of valuable information in the course of his lecture. But I want to leave you here with one thought, which rather encapsulates our situation:

When nations, entities and international bodies criticize Israel, they very frequently rely upon the charge that Israel is not acting in accordance with “international law.”  This tends to shut down argument. International law? The standard by which other nations are required to function? Well...surely Israel should be required to act the same way.

What he has discovered, however, is just the reverse of what should have been expected.  While Israel is charged with failing to adhere to “international law,” it turns out that other nations that are in similar situations are not accused of breaking “international law.”  For example, the term “illegal settlements” – a clear pejorative – is applied almost exclusively to building Israel does and not to that of other nations, even when those nations have taken over territory that is not theirs and have actively encouraged their nationals to settle there.


So we can forget international “law” – a highly dubious construct.  What we see is international “bias.”  That bias has always been with us, but there is an enormous and alarming burgeoning of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in certain parts of the western world now.  This connects directly to issues of the Shoah and I want to consider several facets of what is going on.

Anti-Semitism is the oldest and most persistent of hatreds.  While it seemed to diminish significantly in the decades after the Holocaust, it never went away.  Rather, it was suppressed: it was not considered good form to express Jew-hatred publicly after six million Jews had been horrendously murdered. But now that hatred has bubbled to the surface again and is considered quite acceptable in certain circles.  Accompanying the public rise of this hatred is, of course, an increase in violence against Jews.

This situation is most critical in Europe, which has had a strong proclivity for anti-Semitism over the centuries.  We’ve seen, in various parts of Europe at various times, expulsions, forced conversions, pogroms, blood libels, the inquisition, and the Holocaust.


Where we once associated anti-Semitism with the far right, which is perceived as fascist, it now also exists openly on the left.  Nowhere is this being exhibited more blatantly than in the British Labor party.

The list of anti-Semitic statements by members of Labor, too extensive to include in its entirety here, has been documented by The Telegraph (UK).

The anti-Semitic sentiments expressed by some officials and prominent members of Labor have precipitated their suspension from the party.  Chief among those suspended is Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London, who said Hitler supported Zionism. While Ilyas Aziz was suspended for Facebook posts that said Israel should be moved to the US, and included an illustration suggesting that Israelis drank the blood of Gazans.


Credit: Huffingtonpost

While he publicly decries anti-Semitism in his party, and has, under pressure, appointed an independent panel to investigate, he is in fact far from clean on the issue himself.

“In a particularly disturbing reflection of attitudes on the Labor left, Mr Corbyn is accused of having given his support to a controversial mural in Tower Hamlets of stereotypical Jewish figures counting money at a Monopoly-style board resting on the backs of the poor...

“It was criticized as anti-Semitic even by the east London borough’s then mayor Luftur Rahman, who has himself been linked to extremists.

“Following complaints, Mr Rahman ordered the artwork to be removed, saying: ‘Whether intentional or otherwise, the images of the bankers perpetuate anti-Semitic propaganda about conspiratorial Jewish domination of financial and political institutions.’

“But Mr Corbyn questioned its removal.”

The controversial mural in Tower Hamlets of stereotypical Jewish figures counting money

Credit; TheTribune

Corbyn also has close personal ties with questionable persons, such as Livingstone.


Sir Eric Pickles, the British government’s special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, said, when questioned by The Telegraph: “Jeremy Corbyn has legitimized and unleashed a strain of anti-Semitism that has been lurking in the shadows of the Left for quite some time.” (Emphasis added)

While British commentator Douglas Murray (pictured) writes, about Corbyn (emphasis added):

He is a man who has spent his political life cozying up to anti-Semites and terrorist groups that express genocidal intent against the Jewish people. He has worked closely with Holocaust deniers, praised anti-Semitic extremists and described Hamas and Hezbollah as his friends.” (Hamas calls its ties to Corbyn “a painful hit for the Zionists.”)

Credit: swissdefenceleague


In response to current Labor positions, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) observed:

”I don’t want to say this was expected, because it’s shocking how immoral these stances are. But it’s a clear example of radical Islam’s penetration in Europe, and France and the UK are among the clearest examples of it.”
And, indeed, this is precisely to the point.  The greater the influx of radical Islamists into Europe, the more virulently anti-Jewish will the positions of some European politicians be.
See this, from the Atlantic:

“But what makes this new era of anti-Semitic violence in Europe different from previous ones is that traditional Western patterns of anti-Semitic thought have now merged with a potent strain of Muslim Judeophobia. Violence against Jews in Western Europe today, according to those who track it, appears to come mainly from Muslims, who in France, the epicenter of Europe’s Jewish crisis, outnumber Jews 10 to 1.”
Richard Kemp and Jasper Reid, writing in Gatestone, pull no punches:
Citing British Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan - who says (emphasis added), "Anti-Semitism isn't just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it's routine and commonplace" – they arrive at a dire conclusion:
The consequences of Western politicians' continued weakness and appeasement are far greater than encouraging anti-Semitism and undermining the State of Israel. It is the fatal and irreversible descent of their own countries.” (Emphasis added)
It is fairly obvious from what I’ve written above, but I want to make it explicit: Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism.  Anti-Semitism most certainly still exists, but in many cases anti-Zionism replaces it or is conflated with it.  While fair and honest criticism of Israel is remains legitimate, what we are seeing is a virulent hatred of Israel aimed at shutting down the Jewish state. This, in the end, is what the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement is all about.

By way of example – and examples are legion: The former mayor of Blackburn, in Britain, now a Labor councilor for the city, Salim Mulla, has declared that “Zionist Jews are a disgrace to humanity.”


It is Europe that is on the edge at this point, because of that lethal mix of traditional anti-Semitism and Muslim Jew-hatred.

But I want to caution that Americans best not be too complacent about what is happening across the sea. America has neither the long-standing tradition of virulent anti-Semitism that Europe does, nor an influx of Islamists in the percentage that Europe is coping with (although this may be coming). 

However, America, in point of fact, is only a few steps behind.

Dennis Prager, writing in “A Dark Time in America,” says:

“ no other time has there been as much pessimism -- valid pessimism, moreover -- about America's future as there is today...

Every distinctive value on which America was founded is in jeopardy.” (Emphasis added)


“According to the hate crime statistics kept by the FBI, Jews are the primary victims of religious hate crimes. More than 50% of all hate crimes (57% in 2014) are committed against them. For a point of comparison, anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2014 were 16%.

“If you include other groupings by ethnicity, race, or sexuality, Jewish people are still at the top. They are more than three times more likely to be the victim of a hate crime than any other group.”

This, my friends, is in America.  In 2014, anti-Semitic attacks increased by 21%.


Most alarming of all is what goes on at many prominent US campuses, where liberal values are shot to hell, and Jews and those who support Israel are intimidated. 

In the academic year 2014-15, ADL reported a 38% increase in anti-Israel activities on campuses.

Following a coast-to-coast tour of American campuses, Peretz Lavie, president of the Technion in Haifa, wrote, in “’Eviction notice’ for Israel on US campuses” (emphasis added):

What began several years ago as a local initiative in a few universities has turned into a poisonous, organized and well-funded campaign with clear goals – isolating and boycotting Israel in general and the Israeli academia in particular...

“...incidents include protests, mock ‘checkpoints’ and ‘apartheid walls,’ and even ‘eviction notices’ slid under the doors of Jewish and Israeli students.,7340,L-4606400,00.html


You might want to see this well-known video from 2010 of David Horowitz, of the Horowitz Freedom Center, at the University of California, San Diego, confronting a student supporter of Hamas, during the question session after he spoke:

And remember, this was six years ago.


Liberal pro-Israel Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz made quite a stir in January in a TV interview, when he spoke about the rampant demands for political correctness on college campuses.

University students, he lamented, have become “afraid of ideas” and have taken on a low tolerance for viewpoints that stand in opposition to their own.

Students, he observed, tend to display selective attitudes for which ideas are tolerated enough to have “safe spaces.”

I know when I speak on college campuses in favor of Israel, I need armed guards protecting me from radical leftist students who would use physical intimidation. They won’t give me a safe space. They won’t give pro-Israel students a safe space...”

Credit: Jewishbusinessnews


There is little more to say.  The notion that Dershowitz should require police protection in order to defend Israel on American college campuses should send chills up and down your spine.


This, then, is my Yom Hashoah posting.  What I have written here is intrinsically tied to what went on over 70 years ago, and the message today is that we must genuinely learn from what happened then.  “Never again!” is a facile cry unless there is commitment behind it.

Wake up! Wake up!  Open your eyes and act with determination, before it is too late.

In Europe, it likely is too late already.  America still has time.


If there is one overwhelmingly significant difference between the Shoah and the current situation, it is the existence of a vibrant and strong sovereign Jewish state.  Israel provides refuge to Jews at risk and reaches out into the world to lend support as it is possible. 

Conversely, Israel hopes for the support of every fair-thinking and honorable individual. Support in the public sphere, when Israel is maligned and attacked and there are attempts made to isolate her.  And support on college and university campuses, so that pro-Israel voices might be heard again without fear.

Israel, with her struggles, is a beacon of light in a world growing dark.  The future of the Jewish people.

Think about this: If US university students have their minds poisoned by anti-Israel vitriol today, then US leadership twenty years from now will be very, very problematic with regard to positions on Israel.


A video of an Israeli Air Force fly-over at Auschwitz in 2003:


And Hatikvah – The Hope. Our national anthem, which, I’ve been told, was sung in Auschwitz:

As long as deep within the heart
A Jewish soul stirs,
And forward, to the ends of the East
An eye looks out, towards Zion.

Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free people in our land
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

Credit: vfntv1


© 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, May 10, 2016 at 09:43AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 10, 2016: Many Bases

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev is working on a proposal that would require all institutions that receive state funds, or whose facilities were built by the State of Israel, to fly the Israeli flag.  This would include sports centers, soccer fields, cultural institutions and theaters, etc.

Sounds like a no-brainer, does it not?  But this is to apply to Jewish and Arab municipalities, and there remains the lingering possibility that there might be push-back somewhere along the line.  No, let me be honest: there is a good likelihood of objections being raised somewhere within the Arab community.

Which is why what Regev is doing is good news. This is an instance of Israel moving in the right direction.
"It is unfathomable that flying the flag in cultural institutions and in sports arenas that were built by the state be left to the discretion of one person or the other," she said. "The institutions that Israel builds should wave the flag with pride."


Credit: mfa


The Shin Bet (Israel’s national security agency or Shabak) has a new head: Nadav Argaman.


Courtesy Shin Bet
Having grown up on a kibbutz in the Beit She’an, Argaman joined the Sayeret Matkal special forces unit of the IDF and from there moved on to Shin Bet.  Most of his career was spent in the most prestigious and highly secretive “Operations Division.”  Notable for me is the fact the he was responsible for the assassination of “The Engineer,” Yahya Ayyash, chief bomb-maker for Hamas, and, within that capacity, head of the West Bank battalion of Hamas’s military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.  A terrorist who very much needed eliminating.

See more:,7340,L-4769096,00.html


And speaking of the Shin Bet...

It was announced last Thursday that the Shin Bet had, on April 16, apprehended a Izz ad-Din al-Qassam operative who had slipped into Israel from Gaza carrying knives.  Mahmoud Atauna, 29, confessed readily enough that he was on a mission to kill whichever Israelis he encountered.  But that was just the beginning of what he revealed to Israeli security – as he had been involved in tunnel activities;
He spoke about “the physical features of tunnels in northern Gaza, about techniques used by Hamas in digging them, and about the use of private homes and institutions by Hamas, from which it digs the tunnels.

“He also provided information on the means and materials Hamas uses.  During questioning, Atauna pointed to many digging centers, and to tunnel shafts that are supposed to serve the Nuhba [Hamas’s elite unit] operatives for attacks during fighting with Israel.”

He provided names of others who worked with him, and information on hospitals and private homes used for the storage of weapons.  His own home was “a storage center for many weapons, including bombs, assault rifles, and suicide bomb vests, which he was supposed to distribute before a large-scale conflict with Israel broke out.”

It was also on Thursday that the IDF announced another Hamas tunnel had been discovered emerging from southern Gaza into Israeli territory.  It is 28 meters deep and runs close to the tunnel that was discovered last month.

Photo: IDF Spokesman

Credit: IDF Spokesman

“The IDF considers above and below-ground terror activity a violation of the State of Israel’s sovereignty and a threat to its citizens and deems Hamas solely responsible,” a spokesperson said. “It is our job to locate and destroy them [tunnels in Israel’s territory].”

The IDF spokesperson further indicated that the tunnel was uncovered using a combination of intelligence, technology and engineering.  What I would say, based on all I’ve read, is that it was the information gleaned from the Hamas operative that did the trick.  Once he provided approximate parameters of the tunnel, hi-tech equipment enabled its exposure.


As a result of IDF attempts to unearth Hamas tunnels, the situation at the border grew hot last week.  Mortar shells were fired at IDF soldiers who were at work near the border in at least 12 incidents between Tuesday and Friday. Friday night and early Saturday, two rockets were fired into Israel.

Israel responded, first by returning fire in response to the mortar shelling and then via a series of five airstrikes into Gaza aimed at Hamas targets.

Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 5, 2016. Israeli warplanes struck four new Hamas positions in the southern Gaza Strip, as a flare-up continued to threaten a 2014 ceasefire agreement. / AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIBSAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

Credit: AFP

For a period of time, there was serious speculation as to how much these hostilities were going to escalate.


As I write there is quiet, but it is an uneasy quiet. 

Israel has begun dismantling the best offensive weapon Hamas had, which was being enhanced in preparation for a war some time down the road.  Hamas cannot force the IDF to stop looking for tunnels in Israeli territory (as more most certainly exist).  The IDF is in possession of some stunningly detailed intelligence now, as well as machinery that utilizes advanced technology. 

As IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said: “The repeated attacks against the IDF activities to locate and destroy cross-border tunnels will not be tolerated. Hamas’s diabolical plan to infiltrate into Israeli communities must be stopped. The IDF has the obligation and a duty to safeguard the people in southern Israel and the sovereignty of our borders, we will continue to do so.”  (Emphasis added)

What Hamas could do, however (but apparently chooses not to do at this point) is continue to fire across the border, inviting retaliation from the IDF so that an escalation of major proportions takes place.

The only thing to be said now is that the situation is volatile, and that the dynamic is shifting.

There have been some international suggestions made regarding a “truce,” in which Hamas would agree to refrain from shooting into Israel in return for Israel’s agreement to stop searching for tunnels.  These suggestions infuriate me.  A truce is in order when there is aggressive action between two parties.  However, Israeli action against the tunnels that have been dug in Israeli territory is absolutely legitimate self-defense and does not constitute aggression against Hamas.  We must trust that we can take Lt. Col. Lerner, who is speaking for the IDF, at his word.


The biggest question here, I would imagine, is what Hamas leaders decide is in their best interest.  Before the discovery of the tunnels, and the capture of Atauna, it did not seem to be the case that they were on the verge of precipitating another war.  That they were preparing to do so down the road, of course.  But our greatly enhanced ability to uncover their tunnels has to have them furious and frustrated.  Will they see it as wiser to provoke an escalation soon, while there are still tunnels that might be utilized?  Or would they prefer to hold off because they have not completed other sorts of preparations and they have barely begun to recover from the last war?


All of this echoes enormously because of what broke in the news the other day: A report on political failures during the 2014 Gaza war by State Controller Yoseph Shapira was leaked. 

Credit: Moti Milrad

“According to the leaked report, the comptroller first slams Netanyahu, Ya’alon and former IDF Chief-of Staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Benny Gantz (pictured) for failing to warn the security cabinet about intelligence they had from the Shin Bet about the possibility of war with Hamas prior to the start of Operation Protective Edge...”

Benny Gantz has participated in more than eight wars fought over the course of his career with the IDF

Credit: Getty

“Next, the report attacks the trio for failing to hold serious security meetings about the Hamas tunnel threat...”

Needless to say, the entire situation has been highly politicized.  Netanyahu’s defenders say this was leaked simply to damage him and that the information was drawn from a draft that is greatly different from the final document.  We will know more in this regard when the final document is released to the public – which apparently is scheduled to happen soon.  Shapira has called upon Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to investigate the source of the leak, as well.

But even if the charges made by those defending Netanyahu et al are true to a degree, this seems to me a case of “where there’s smoke...”  I have my own memories of realizing after the fact that there had been tunnels in Israeli territory and that nothing had been done about them until the war started.  It was, in fact, Minister Naftali Bennett, who pushed the issue of the necessity of an operation against the tunnels at cabinet meetings, to the great irritation of Defense Minister Ya’alon.

And I remember the wide-scale feeling here that the war had ended prematurely.  There was enormous international pressure, and the incessant Hamas PR about how Israel – with the most moral military in the world  - was wantonly killing civilians. Huge anti-Israel demonstrations in various nations.  It takes tremendous resolve on the part of our leaders to keep going in the face of that.  But that is what we must demand of our leaders: spines of steel.


Especially now, we need leaders who are strong and proud.

There have been instances of late of some in leadership positions – not all by any means! – who seem too eager to show the world how tough we can be on our own and how “nice” to others.   

There was the rush in certain quarters to prematurely condemn the soldier who killed a wounded terrorist in Hevron – before the facts were known.  Chief among these was Ya’alon, who spoke with great harshness, when he should have simply said that he had confidence that the military courts would see justice done - that it was a point of pride with the military that justice would be sought. The soldier, Elor Azaria, is standing trial now and there has been some discomfiting press about that, as well.

Elor Azariya in court with his parents

Credit: Flash90

One gets the feeling that there may be a fear that if he is found innocent of manslaughter – and it is possible that he is innocent of manslaughter even if his judgment was poor - then the world will accuse us of going easy on murderers of Arabs.  In fairness to the IDF, there seems a strongly held conviction that he is guilty and must not get away with what he did.  Right now, the court is looking for a plea bargain.

And there was Netanyahu’s maddening but unsurprising reversal of his order – of just weeks previous - not to return bodies of terrorists to their families.  He gave the word to Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who has authority regarding terror acts inside the Green Line, and to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who oversees the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, that they were free to release bodies at their discretion with the proviso that the funerals would be very small and quiet affairs. Bad policy, in my opinion, to have different people making decisions on the same issue in different areas.  (I wrote recently about Harry Truman’s motto that “The Buck Stops Here,” but I guess Netanyahu missed that.)

Erdan is opposed to release. But Ya’alon wasted no time.  

Ahmed Reyad Shehada was shot dead by IDF forces after ramming his car into a group of soldiers, injuring three, one critically.  Forthwith, his body was returned. And guess what? A huge funeral for him attended by thousands took place in a suburb of Ramallah.

Mourners carry the body of Arab terrorist Ahmed Reyad Shehada during his funeral in Beitunia, a suburb of the Palestinian Authority capital city of Ramallah.  Shehada was shot dead by IDF forces after ramming his vehicle into a group of Israeli soldiers in the Binyamin region.

Credit: Flash 90

This does not serve us well.


Within hours, a siren will sound signaling the beginning of Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day.  And so I leave off writing now and will in my next posting look at this most somber day of mourning and the joyous Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, which follows.


I close with Neshama Carlebach singing “Shomer Yisrael” – Guardian of Israel - a traditional prayer.

The video includes a mix of pictures about Israel.

Guardian of Israel,
protect the remnant of Israel
Don't let Israel be destroyed
Those who say "Shma Yisrael"
Guardian of the unique nation
Protect the remnant of the unique people
Don't let the unique nation be destroyed
Those who proclaim the oneness of your name;
"Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One"
(Guardian of Israel)

Guardian of the holy nation
Protect the remnant of the holy people
Don't let the holy nation be destroyed
Those who proclaim three-fold
Sanctifications to the Holy One
(Guardian of Israel)


© 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, May 10, 2016 at 09:25AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

April 27, 2016: In the Midst of the Holiday

I am writing during Hol Hamoed – the semi-holiday, five days in duration, that falls between the two full holidays at either end of the Pesach week.  I want to touch a few bases here and will pick up again with postings next week.
Perhaps primary in my motivation for posting now is my desire to call your attention to San Remo Day, which fell on Monday, April 25th.  This day marks the passing of the San Remo Resolution at the San Remo Conference, attended by the allied victors of WWI. It set the stage for the Mandate for Palestine, subsequently passed by the League of Nations, which allocated to the Jewish people all of Palestine as a Jewish homeland. This provided the basis in international law for the establishment of the modern State of Israel.
Jews have forgotten this day, and we need to remember it, and our rights, once again.
Learn more:
Here you see a great cartoon strip by Shlomi Charka, commissioned by the Legal Grounds Campaign for this day.  Feel free to share it broadly.

San Remo

You can also see it larger scale, here:

In my last posting, I wrote that the PA’s Abbas was about to go to the UN to promote a resolution demanding that Israel withdraw from Judea and Samaria.  But he backtracked on this because on Thursday France announced that a conference would be convened on May 30 to plan ways to push Israel and the PA back to the negotiating table.  This would be a preliminary conference – hosted by France and attended by 20 nations but including neither Israel nor the PA – to prepare for an international summit in the second half of 2016 that would include Israel and the PA.
Obtrusive fools, one and all – but beginning with France.  Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who made the announcement, said (emphasis added):
There is no other solution to the conflict than establishing two states, one Israeli and the other Palestinian, living side by side in peace and safety with Jerusalem as a shared capital.

“We cannot do nothing.  We have to act before it is too late.

“In Israel, the government is more and more ambiguous on the issue of a two-state solution and the Palestinians are more and more divided. We have to explain to the Israelis that settlement activity is a dangerous process and that it puts their own security in danger.
“I am not naïve, I am perfectly sincere. There is no alternative – the other option is fatalism and I reject that.”
THEY have to explain to US what is in our best interest??  Were the French open to reason, and to an honest examination of our recent history, and not sucking up to the growing numbers of restive Muslims within their borders, I would suggest explaining to them that relinquishing Judea and Samaria is precisely what would be a “dangerous process.” 
But, as it is...
The fact of the matter is that there are a good number of other solutions, none of which has been adequately examined because the world is so set on giving the Palestinian Arabs a state. 
It is time for the international community to internalize the fact that we are not relinquishing half of Jerusalem either.  In any event, dividing the city – in which Jewish and Arab neighborhoods are intermeshed - absolutely would not work. 
“Dividing Jerusalem,” “two states living side by side in peace,” and all the rest of the facile phrases we hear repeated constantly are merely politically correct buzzwords that pass for diplomatic thought in a world that has abandoned reason.  Phooey. 
I’ll come back to examining some of these issues in greater length.
Abbas figured his best bet was to support the French endeavor and not work at cross purposes to it.  However, a reversal of his stated commitment to go to the Security Council brought him criticism in several Palestinian Arab quarters.  Many are reluctant to rely upon the French and eager to push ahead on their own.  What is more, Abbas’s turn-about,  accompanied by conflicting statements, was embarrassing to them.
See him here, bestowing upon French president Francois Hollande a look that seems akin to adoration: 

French President Francois Hollande and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas

Credit: Flash90
Abbas was in Germany last week, and during an interview with Der Spiegel, proclaimed:

"Our security forces are working very efficiently to prevent terror...Our security cooperation with Israel is functioning well. Hamas is trying to sabotage things, but we have the situation under control."  (Emphasis added),7340,L-4794690,00.html
What infuriates here is that the international community cuts him unending slack, and never calls him on his inconsistencies. No one points out that just days prior to this interview the PA was making statements about cutting all security cooperation with Israel, and denying Israel the right to even enter Area A for security purposes. Hey!  Whatever works for him, depending on the context, is just fine.  Right?
Needless to say, Hamas and other Palestinian Arab factions were less than pleased with this statement – which denies all PA association with the “resistance,” i.e., with the terrorism that has been unleashed on Israel (in good part by Abbas). 
At any rate, the whole issue of Israel no longer going into Area A, with all security cooperation with the PA terminated, seems to have fizzled out.
Recently, I suggested that I might soon be banging my head against the wall because of a reported proposal from the Israeli side that all security operations in Area A be turned over exclusively to the PA.
What seems painfully clear to me at this point is that this proposal was advanced by certain left-leaning members of the military (an anomaly for me) and not by the government – not by our prime minister nor the Cabinet.
Last Wednesday, Netanyahu, following a Cabinet meeting, stated (emphasis added) that the IDF would maintain the right to operate in Area A according to “operational needs.”

There is no other deal with the Palestinians.”

I have enough information to believe this is on the level.  It is possible to envision a situation in which we might go in less than we have been doing, depending on a variety of conditions. But there is no way in which we will relinquish the right to go in and instead rely exclusively on PA security.

Just a day before the Pesach holiday was to begin last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu took a lightning trip to Moscow to confer once more with Putin.  (Picture below is from a recent meeting.)
While the prime minister clarified to Putin the fact that withdrawal from the Golan Heights is a red line for Israel (a statement to which Putin reportedly did not respond), the major focus of this brief meeting was enhanced coordination so that no incident inadvertently evolves from Israeli defensive actions.

Said Netanyahu, following the meeting:

“I finished a very important meeting with President Putin - very important for the security of Israel.

“Putin suggested that the [Israeli] Air Force commander [Gen. Amir Eshel] and my military [advisor, Brigadier General Eliezer Toledano] meet with his defense minister, and they went out there and discussed constructive cooperation between our armies on several issues that were raised.

“...our freedom of operation is unharmed. But if you’re in a situation of friction, time after time after another time, you can find yourself in a situation in which things happen that afterwards harm the freedom of operation. There is no problem now, but the friction demands coordination; I acted so that we can continue to act as we have acted.”

It was only after this meeting that news broke regarding a potential incident that had developed when a Russian jet was scrambled in response to the presence at the Syrian border of an Israeli jet.
It would seem that at this point top Israeli military brass and the prime minister recognized that refinement of Israeli-Russian military coordination was in order.
Following this came a report that Putin has expressed an interest in participating in the development of Israel’s Leviathan gas reservoir.  Issues are enormously complex:
Before Pesach I reported on the major terror attack that blew up two buses.  It took time to make the determination, because there was difficulty in identifying the suspected terrorist, as he was unconscious.  But ultimately the victim who had been most seriously injured because of his proximity to the bomb – Abd al-Hamid Abu Srour - was positively identified as the terrorist who had wounded 15 people with a bomb loaded with shrapnel.  He himself has since died.
Abu Srour, 19, was from the village of Al-Aida adjacent to Bethlehem in Judea.  Hamas claimed him as one of theirs.
A few additional points about this situation are important to note here:
His family claimed innocence: they didn’t know a thing about his Hamas involvement. They persisted in declaring themselves innocent of what he planned to do, apparently with straight faces, even though his mother Um Ahmad – an Arabic teacher in a Bethlehem school – “released a picture of him wearing a Hamas scarf after the attack, saying he asked her to distribute the image after his death.” 
(I try my best to report the news.  I do not claim to make sense of it.)
His father said Israelis were responsible for what his son did, because “this generation has no future, no work.”  But his father also let it be known that theirs was a family of wealth, and his son had his own car. “You Jews need to understand something: Abd al-Hamid didn't come from a poor family. He came from a wealthy family, in a good economic situation, he had a car of his own. [It's a] family with properties and funds."
According to journalist Avi Issacharoff, the hometown of the bus bomber...”was filled with posters and pictures of the terrorist praising him as a ‘martyr.’ In the posters, he was seen pictured in an expensive Armani shirt.”
So it’s radical ideology, folks.  Not despair nor hopelessness. And it’s pervasive:  When Hamas claimed the terrorist as one of theirs, “hundreds of youths in Al-Aida took to the streets in cries of joy and a demonstration of support for Hamas, even as elderly women threw candies at them.”
“Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh even called Abu Srour's family from Gaza, and his words were broadcast live at the mourner's tent.”
None of this can be taken lightly. There are multiple lessons to be learned here.
We are grateful that – so far – the Pesach holiday has been quiet.  This is because of the diligence of our security forces, which foiled at least one major planned terror attack.  We pray that this quiet continues.  Israelis are out during this Hol Hamoed period by the tens of thousands – in Jerusalem’s Old City and at the Kotel, in parks and zoos, along streams and in woodlands, at the beaches, along the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret – hiking, camping, swimming and enjoying nature in Israeli fashion.  Sometimes hiking means hiking in the water (see picture) – great fun.

The Zaki trail goes from shallow water to deep pools

Credit: Israel travel secrets
When next I write, I want to look at the volatile situation on the Temple Mount in some detail.  It’s increasingly worrisome.
And there are, of course, a dozen other topics, at least, to look at.
Here I want to leave off... turning my attention once again to my family, and the celebration of Pesach.  It’s a very beautiful time here in Israel, with flowers, many fragrant, in great abundance.  May you all continue to enjoy your holiday.
At the end of the seder, we sing “LeShana Haba’a BeYerushalayim” – Next Year in Jerusalem - which I humbly suggest should be taken seriously by all Jews today. 
Here, sung by the late, great Shlomo Carlebach:
© 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, April 27, 2016 at 07:29AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

April 20, 2016: Redemption!

That, in the end, is what Pesach – which begins Friday night - is about for the Jewish people.
We talk about Pesach as Chag Ha’matzot (the festival of matza) and Chag Ha’aviv (the spring festival); it is all of this, as well as being the festival of freedom (Zeman Heruteinu). But first it is about remembering that the Almighty took us out from Egypt with a strong hand. 
We were, without a question, freed of forced labor and of the burden of being in Egypt. But that is just the beginning. We were redeemed – which means brought back to God, who claimed us as His people, and gave us Torah.
And lastly, which is a part of the redemption, we were brought to the land that had been given to our ancestors as an inheritance.  Though some Jews try mightily to to do this today, there really is no way to separate spiritual redemption from Israel.
I write of this now because – in these terrible times - we so badly need to keep our eye on our redemption.  We are God’s people. We must believe it, and act as if it is so.
Our redemption is, of course, incomplete.  It is a process.  The hope is never to be abandoned, but rather, to be strengthened in every generation.
I think Pesach is also about the miraculous. Certainly our being brought out of Egypt was a miracle. 
Today, we can look around and know that the continued existence of Jews as a people is a miracle. Just as the founding of modern Israel – which persists and succeeds unbelievably – is a miracle.  If we but have eyes to see.
This is what Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz says about Pesach and redemption:

“Pesach - the Hebrew name for Passover-- comes from the Hebrew root PSH which means to skip over, to pass over. It appears first in the context of the ten plagues, in which God skipped over the homes of the Israelites while the rest of Egypt suffered.

“On a deeper, more fundamental level, the Passover festival is based on this idea of passing or skipping over the regular order of things. The Jews did not leave Egypt as part of an evolutionary process. Their departure was a leap, a shortcut. While the exodus was a move from slavery to freedom – a practical, political situation – it was also a transition from oppression to redemption. From beginning to end, the Passover redemption is a leap over an orderly, consistent historical course into a new, different and better state, and into a much higher level of existence.” (emphasis added)

Is not the leap over an orderly, consistent historical course a miracle?


Credit: Dr. Lidia Kozenitzky/ Wiki Commons
Being mindful of God’s redemption, and of the miracles and the promise of what is yet to come, gives us strength to continue.
We see injustices and inversions of truth and decency that, if we were to allow them to fill our hearts, would destroy us.  But they will not.
It is with incredible sadness that I recognize the growing alienation from Israel and traditional Jewish values of many young Jews in America, who see themselves as progressives who are able to read out Israel as a core value – and manage to convince themselves that doing this brings them to a higher moral plan, to boot. 
And it is with unending disgust that I see how many in the world respond to Israel:
Our prime minster let it be known this week that Israel will not relinquish the Golan Heights. Historically connected to the Jewish people, it is now an area - developed peacefully for almost 50 years - that is critical to Israeli security.  But world leaders - choosing to be oblivious both to the horrendous security implications of Israel surrendering the Heights and to the fact that there is no more Syria, but only a number of battling factions that would all like to claim the Heights - chastised Netanyahu, telling him this is not Israeli land. The EU led the way here.
On Monday, a terrorist in Jerusalem set two buses on fire by exploding an incendiary device – injuring over 20 people.  Just hours later, the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, addressed a JStreet Conference, saving his harshest criticism for Israel.  Lovely. Whatever we have done in the way of concessions, expressions of good will, has not been enough for him or for his boss, Obama, he told the crowd.  No surprise here.  He said that sometimes the Obama administration has “overwhelming frustration” with Israel’s leaders, who are taking Israel in “the wrong direction.” 
It never is enough: that is the lesson yet to be learned. 
As to that terrorist, Biden said he was “misguided.”
Misguided??  There are no words.     

Credit: zazzle
And the UN?  Its anti-Israel bias is so overwhelming that it is beyond beyond.
The latest outrageous move concerns UNESCO, which in a recent resolution referred to the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – only as Haram Al-Sharif, as the Muslims refer to it, thereby reading out the Jewish connection to the site.  The resolution referred to Jews who visit the Mount as “right wing extremists.”
A battle is growing over Jewish rights to the Mount. Jordan – which has day to day responsibility for the site - was supposed to install cameras to track violence there. But it has abandoned these plans in the face of objections by the Palestinian Arabs, who obviously do not wish to be exposed.  Netanyahu has said that Israel, in favor of transparency, still supports the use of those cameras.
So, we have our work cut out for us. Each and every one of us. On many of these topics I refer to here, I will be writing much more in days and weeks ahead.
The flip side of the above is the way that Israel continues to thrive, despite the problems.
The great majority of Israel’s citizen’s want to be here. In polls, they express a high degree of happiness, because they have a sense of purpose.  Of the 28 nations in the OECD (the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ), Israel has the lowest rate of suicide. 
We have the most moral army in the world, barring none. Do not ever be fooled that it otherwise.
And Jews here make babies – our ultimate expression of hope for the future – as Jews in galut (diaspora) do not. We embrace our children and celebrate them.
Hope is implicit, as well, in the marvels of Israel’s medical and technological advances. 
And in the way that little Israel rushes to help other nations in times of crisis, and offers assistance for their on-going struggles – whether with terrorism or drought or disease.  We truly are “Or l’goyim” – a light unto the nations, who more and more actually admit they need us and appreciate what we do (OK, not the US or the EU, but others). 
And in the shifting relationship we have with some Muslim/Arab countries.
Yes, miracles.
I often say in my postings that there is more going on than I can write about.  Nowhere, my friends, is this more true than with regard to our accomplishments and achievements and good deeds.
So we hold our heads high, and maintain proportion and the long view.  And fight like crazy on behalf of Israel. With contempt for the way the world behaves, but without discouragement.
And now, Pesach approaches and I turn my attention away from these postings for a bit.
Attention I routinely devote to my computer will be devoted instead to my family, and to my 12 grandchildren, sabras and Zionists all, who are my own greatest blessing.  I will post infrequently, if at all, over Pesach.
To each and every one I wish a Chag Pesach Kasher v’Sameach!  May you be uplifted and strengthened by the holiday. 

Credit: dreamstime
I posted a beautiful version of Yehi She’amda recently and said I would repeat it before Pesach.  I do provide Yehi She’amda here, but yet another version, I think even more beautiful.  This one, as the other, is using the music and arrangement of Yonaton Razel.  Don’t miss this!  IDF Cantor Shai Abramson and Cantor Michael Azogui (who is new to me and fantastic here).
Vehi She’amada is from the Haggadah.  It offers us an eternal promise:
“And this is that which sustained our fathers and us.
“That is is not one alone that stood up against us to destroy us.
“But that in every generation there are those standing up against us to destroy us.
“But the Holy One Blessed Be He saves us from their hand
© 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, April 20, 2016 at 04:35PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

April 14, 2016: Where Are We All Going, Part 2

Even as I prepare for Pesach, I want to continue reporting on some of the major issues that are confronting us.  “Some,” as the list of issues is overwhelming.  There is good news regarding Israeli defense capacity, and (at least in some quarters) determination to stand strong.
Every year, the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism  - established by Dr. Irving and Cherna Moskowitz as an “expression of support for people who put Zionism into action” - is awarded to Israeli citizens who have addressed challenges facing modern Zionism in spheres such as education, research, settlement, culture and security.The annual prize totals $100,000.

The ceremony for the awards will be held on June 6, in a ceremony at Emek Tzurim National Park in Jerusalem. But the three recipients for 2016-5776 have already been announced, and these “Lions of Zion” most certainly merit mention:
Rabbi Benny Elon

Educator, former minister, a man of vision and deed who continues to strengthen Jewish settlement in and around united Jerusalem, and a trailblazer in garnering international diplomatic support for Israel


Credit: Ariel Jerozolimski
Yehuda Harel
Former Knesset member, the driving force behind settlement on the Golan Heights, who defended and preserved the integrity of the Golan as part of the State of Israel 

Credit: ArielZellman
Caroline Glick
Journalist, senior editor and columnist, founder of the satirical website Latma and active in public advocacy for Israel


Credit: savethewest
It is not only fitting that these three deserving individuals should be honored: The hope is that they will serve as inspiration for many others!
Inbal Kreiss, Deputy General Manager of the Israel Aircraft Industry’s Systems Missiles & Space Division, spoke on Saturday in Beersheva about Israeli defense capabilities.
We are developing some of the the most advanced systems designed to give the fullest and most hermetic protection possible,” she said. (Emphasis added)
As to Netanyahu’s concerns about a nuclear Iran, she said he can count to one before going to sleep each night.  It is the Iranians who “should be worried,” she suggested.
Kreiss, an engineer, heads the development of the Arrow Three, which is designed to “shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere, intercepting the weapons and their nuclear, biological or chemical warheads close to their launch sites.
“In December, Israel conducted its first successful test firing of the Arrow 3, in what the Defense Ministry called a ‘major milestone’ in Israeli missile defense technology.”

Credit: defense-update


A conference of Israeli Jordan Valley farmers was held last Wednesday, attended by a number of representatives of European parties. It was to them that head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council David Elhayani (pictured) spoke:

“They [the European Commission] are demanding that we [Israeli farmers of the region] label agricultural produce. I want to say to everyone who seeks to harm us: Your hope will not be realized….We have no intention of doing what you ask. We will not label our agricultural produce. We are determined to fight this phenomenon and to struggle against this unethical and discriminatory [demand] that has remnants of a dark time.” (Emphasis added)

Credit: Times of Israel



A diplomatic event that took place recently has created quite a stir here:

Just over a week ago, the Saudi king, Salmon, went to Cairo to confer with Egyptian President Sisi.  This meeting was the culmination of 11 years of meetings with regard to demarcation of the maritime boundary between the two states. 

Egyptian President and Saudi King meet in Cairo (Photo: Reuters) 

Credit: Reuters

Subsequently it was announced that the demarcation in the Straits of Tiran would put the islands of Tiran and Sanifir – at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba – in Saudi waters.

Tiran and Sanafir Islands

Credit: BESA Center

Originally, the two islands had belonged to the Saudis, but were transferred to Egypt in 1950.  When Egypt’s President Gamel Abdel Nasser, controlling the area via the islands, moved in 1967 to block the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, it became the casus belli of the Six Day War.  Movement of ships to and from Eilat, at the southern tip of Israel, was and is essential for Israeli commerce.  With victory in 1967, Israel took control of the islands – turning them back to Egypt with the 1979 peace treaty.  Now the islands will again be in Saudi hands.


Israel is formally at peace with Egypt, but this is not the case with Saudi Arabia – and more than a bit of anxiety was generated by the prospect of the Saudis blocking Israel once again in the Straits of Tiran. (See photo below.)  Needless to say, this situation has generated a flurry of news reports and analyses.

However, what became apparent, after the announcement about the maritime demarcation had been made, is that Israel had been notified in writing weeks before this announcement was public and had consented to this arrangement in writing.

What is more, the Saudis committed to honoring the terms of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty:

“Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in an interview that his country would honor the Israel-Egypt peace treaty’s terms as regards the islands. Saudi Arabia won’t negotiate with Israel about the islands, he said, since ‘the commitments that Egypt approved [in the peace treaty] we are also committed to, including the stationing of an international force on the islands. We looked into the matter and we know our legal position. We are committed to what Egypt committed to before the international community.’

“But according to Israeli Defense Minister Ya’alon, the coordination with Israel went further. Saudi Arabia agreed to ensure free shipping for all parties through the straits.”  (Emphasis added)

The Red Sea islands of Tiran, in the foreground, and Sanafir, in the background, sit at the the Strait of Tiran between Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images, via JTA)

Credit: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images, via JTA


The Saudis are not yet in full and open diplomatic relations with Israel, and take pains to make this point. But they have moved light years from where they were, and are on the way. It goes without saying that quiet communication is on-going and that at a significant level there has been an Egyptian-Israeli-Saudi understanding that simply could not have happened a few years ago.

As Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman and Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum - in a BESA paper entitled, “Sailing Through the Straits” - observe, what is happening here is “a welcome ray of light, demonstrating the benefits of cooperation and coordination in a region beset by so much violence.”

Lerman and Teitelbaum further comment that:

“...the restoration of sovereignty [over the islands] serves to bolster the Saudi commitment to Egyptian stability – which goes a long way towards explaining the rage expressed by the Muslim Brotherhood at this breach of Egypt's ‘national rights.’ With the need to confront Iran high above all other considerations in the Saudi and Egyptian national security playbook – and in Israel’s – any major step that helps bring together the ‘camp of stability’ in the region under joint Egyptian-Saudi leadership will also serve Israel’s interests.”

Elsewhere it was noted that an infusion of Saudi funds into Egypt accompanied this deal, and this is one factor in stabilizing Egypt. 


The transfer of sovereignty is not immediate, but some years down the road.  Ultimately, it was agreed between Cairo and Riyadh, a long bridge would be built connecting Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai with the Arabian peninsula.


Last week it emerged that plans being cobbled together by the US, Russia and other major parties for a peace agreement in Syria was likely to specify that all of the Golan Heights is Syrian land.  This enraged the Israeli government.  Israel took two-thirds of the Golan in 1967, and in 1981 extended Israeli law to the area, which is tantamount to annexation (although that term is not used).  The prospect of elements in Syria, or the government of Assad, gaining control of the heights that overlook the Kinneret and the Galil is absolutely a recipe for disaster.

Netanyahu has already registered distress about this with Kerry and will be raising the issue with Putin shortly.


Yesterday Netanyahu convened a first-ever symbolic meeting of the Cabinet on the Heights – in the community of Ma’aleh Gamla, ”next to an archaeological site where Jewish rebels stood off against Roman soldiers nearly 2,000 years ago.”

The prime minister said he had told Kerry “that Israel does not oppose current efforts to reach a political agreement to end the Syrian civil war, but that Israel’s boundary line with the country will not change.”

“’I convened this celebratory meeting in the Golan Heights (see photo below) to send a clear message: The Golan will always remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights.’

“The prime minister told the top US diplomat that Jerusalem would not oppose a peace agreement for Syria, ‘on the condition that it doesn’t come at the cost of Israel’s security...i.e. that at the end of the day, the forces of Iran, Hezbollah and Daesh will be removed from Syrian soil.’

“’In the stormy region around us, Israel is the stabilizing factor; Israel is the solution, not the problem.’” (All emphasis added)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu poses for a group picture with his government at the weekly cabinet meeting, held in the Golan Heights on April 17, 2016. (Effi Sharir/POOL)

Credit; Effi Sharir/POOL   

The prime minister also made reference to the fact that this was a Jewish area in ancient times, which the archeological remains of many synagogues attests to.


It is essential, of course, that our government make very clear what our position is with regard to retaining the Golan. But, having reported now on a possible “peace agreement” in Syria, I confess quite candidly that I not only see this as unlikely, I am not sure I even know what they are talking about.  There is a confusing array of factions to be dealt with.

Just three days ago, Jonathan Spyer, whom I consider to be a very astute observer of the situation in Syria, wrote, in “Ready for the Storm” (emphasis added):

The fragile cease-fire declared in Syria on February 27 between regime and rebel forces is in the process of crumbling. Assad’s forces have launched an offensive across southern Aleppo province. Fighting is also taking place in Homs and northwest Hama provinces and east of Damascus. There are reports of regime forces massing for an assault on rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo city.

The cease-fire, in any case, applied to only one of the many conflicts taking place in Syria. It did not extend to the war between Islamic State and the Western-supported, Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces. It did not include the fight between Islamic State and other rebel and Sunni Islamist groups. Nor did it apply to the intermittent fighting between the Kurdish YPG and the rebels, or the Kurds and the regime.”

“...At present, the map of clashing forces in this area is complex.

“In terms of who controls what, the non-Islamic State rebels control the greater part of the area immediately adjoining the Israeli-controlled Golan. But both the regime and Islamic State are also present in the area. Regime forces control a small enclave at the northern edge of the borderline around the town of Beit Jinn. Further south, regime-supporting forces control the Druse village of Khader, just east of Quneitra.“An Islamic State franchise, the Shuhada al-Yarmouk (Yarmouk Martyrs’) Brigade, meanwhile, holds an area at the southern edge of the borderline, from the town of Tasil down to the Jordanian border.

“Further east, the regime late last year succeeded in cutting and holding a line between rebel forces in Deraa province, and this division of forces remains....”

From this, a peace agreement can be forged?


Spyer looks at Israel’s diligent attempts both to stay out of the war and to ensure that the war does not creep down across the border.  Among the three main groups of fighting forces – the Assad regime and Iranian elements; Islamic State associated forces; and rebel forces both Islamist and not – “Israel has no friends.”  But Israel prefers that the rebels remain dominant in the areas adjacent to the Golan. It is important that the Iranians not develop a platform in the area from which to attack northern Israeli communities.

“ additional consideration exists. The Iranians want to foment renewed insurgency in the West Bank against Israel. Achieving a capacity to transfer weapons to that area via Jordan forms an essential element of that strategy. In turn, controlling the area adjoining the Syrian-Jordanian border in Deraa province is crucial for the realization of this plan.”

It is a joint Jordanian-Israeli goal that a carefully selected and supported rebel presence remain at the Jordanian border as a buffer.

Concludes Spyer:

“Since the collapse of the cease-fire indicates that these storms appear nowhere close to exhaustion, the efforts [by Israel] to ensure their containment through both acknowledged and unacknowledged means are likely to continue.”


Spyer speaks of storms to our north and east but there are the winds of war blowing from Gaza as well. 

Just today, there was a report of a Hamas tunnel that was discovered some 35 meters underground and “tens of meters” inside of Israel.  “The newly found tunnel was a particularly large and complex one; its route stretched along the eastern sector of Gaza all the way to southern Gaza, and crossed onto the Israeli side.”  Information on the precise route of the tunnel – which according to one source opened up near a farming community - and the means used to neutralize it are both under gag order.

This is big news, not only because it is the first tunnel uncovered in Israel since the war in 2014, but because Netanyahu has announced that the discovery was possible because of “a global breakthrough in the ability to locate tunnels."

IDF machinery searching for tunnels

Credit: IDF Spokesperson

The working assumption is that there are others yet to be uncovered, in particular one very large one that the IDF had reported it had intelligence about many weeks ago.  One news broadcast today hinted that the equipment had other (non-specified) uses as well.


There have been multiple incidents reported over the past weeks and months of tunnel construction going on inside of Gaza, with work accidents and at least 11 major collapses that have killed workers – some 20 in all. 

Speculation is that Israel may be somehow sabotaging this work.  I cannot speak to this except to say that these accidents seem to be a new phenomenon.


At this point, Israel is blocking all construction materials that can be diverted to tunnel construction from entering Gaza.


Our preparations for war with Hamas – which is fairly inevitable, although we cannot predict when it will occur – continue with great diligence.  At least one analyst has speculated that it might come sooner than Hamas had planned, because if we have a way now to uncover their tunnels, they should use them when they still can.

What I am reading with some consistency are reports of our greatly enhanced intelligence in terms of what’s going on in Gaza, and our more focused preparations, based on the experiences of the 2014 war. 

But there are also drills, such as the large one that took place last week.

There have been, as well, a series of incursions by Israel some meters into the Gaza strip, with bulldozers, in order to level the land.  This makes surprise attacks less likely and I imagine would also facilitate speedy entry into Gaza with large numbers of military vehicles.

Credit: Ma’an


“A senior IDF officer told reporters [last] Thursday that Hamas is amassing fighters and materiel at a ‘surprisingly’ quick pace in Gaza but that the terror group does not appear to be prepared for renewed direct conflict with Israel in the near future.

“He stressed that the terrorist organization would not again drag Israel into a war, and that any future conflict would be one undertaken at the initiative of the Jewish state.”

Let us hope so!


As I progress in my Pesach preparations, I truly did not want to have to take time for banging my head against the wall.  It’s so exhausting. But, alas, you may yet hear the thumping of my head.  You may even feel inclined to bang your own heads against the wall. Consider (emphasis added):

An agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to cease security cooperation in Judea and Samaria’s Area A may be imminent, a senior security official revealed to Army Radio Sunday.

The deal, which would be sealed ahead of the PA’s visit to the UN to push anti-Israel draft resolutions, would see the IDF pull out of the region after decades of cooperation – and be seen as a major Palestinian victory.

Under the terms of the agreement, if the PA security forces fail to suppress terrorist elements within its jurisdiction, the IDF would not be able to help them battle the threat.

“Complaints have been voiced against Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Chief Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai for downplaying the significance of the agreement.

“‘Where the Palestinians operate more, we will operate less,’ Mordechai stated, during a tour of the region last week.

The PA, however, views the deal as a cessation of any and all security cooperation with Israel.” They have been threatening to cease all cooperation for years, although some say this cooperation is crucial to preventing further escalation of terrorist violence.

“Mordecai faces criticism, as well, for downplaying the IDF’s role in quashing the most recent terror wave, while glorifying the relatively minor role of PA security forces in the issue.

“The deal remains to be sealed, and it is unclear whether it will require a formal vote from Israel’s security cabinet..

Other security officials defended Mordechai. ‘The goal is to calm the area,’ the official said, on condition of anonymity. ‘We do not have a problem with it being seen as an achievement for [Abbas].

“...The official further implied that those speaking against Mordechai ‘would prefer that Israel drown in rivers of blood instead of seeing the terrorism subside.’”

Credit: Piscan


Actually, this report has contradictions inherent within it.  If this horrendous agreement were to be sealed it is not altogether clear whether the IDF would be able to go into Area A in active pursuit of a terrorist, or if there were critical intelligence about an attack being planned.

When rumors about this surfaced a number of weeks ago, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot stated clearly that we might let the PA do more, but we would never relinquish our right to enter Area A for security purposes.  And now in this report, Gen. Mordechai is quoted as saying pretty much the same thing.  But this report also indicates that Israel would NOT be able to go in, to help suppress terror elements – which would be a truly bad situation.

Would there not be – should there not be - clarity on this issue?


Allow me to share a few salient points:

The IDF is in Area A every day (actually usually at night) for security operations.  We go in, and come out again – we are not stationed there.  This practice began during the second intifada, when the PA was not combatting terrorism in this area, ostensibly under its civil and military control, and has been sustained of necessity. 

There is no way in the world that the PA security forces can do what we have been doing, if we are out of the picture.

More significantly still – there is no motivation on the part of PA security forces to do what we have been doing. This is not only because the PA lacks – to put it mildly - an enduring desire to protect Israel from terrorism.  The Palestinian Arab culture is hamula (clan)-based.  If someone in the PA forces has a member of the same hamula who is a terrorist, Hamas or otherwise, he will not go after him.  There is a show sometimes of PA actions against terrorists, including Hamas terrorists. But this is an on-again, off-again sort of behavior, depending on political circumstances.

It would not take Hamas long to do the PA in, just as Hamas defeated Fatah in Gaza with ease nine years ago.  The PA has relied on the IDF to protect it against Hamas takeover in Judea and Samaria.  Without an IDF presence, either Hamas would take over, or there would be some kind of temporary arrangement between the PA and Hamas.  It seems fairly likely that there would be a change of some sort in the political configuration of the area. 

If the PA were to be directly threatened by Hamas, it might call for the quick return of the IDF (and perhaps this is what we would see).  Or, it might be taken down by Hamas, in which case the Oslo Accords would truly be at an end, and we would have to battle Hamas more directly and without pretense.  This is speculative at present, but certainly well within the realm of the possible, should this deal go through.


Many of my readers will have already deduced the great likelihood of a link between Abbas’s plans to go to the Security Council and this prospective deal.  We might call this a quid pro quo – giving Abbas something that makes the PA look good in return for his not pressing the issue of “settlements” at the UN, or presenting a somewhat less unpalatable proposal. Or we might, with greater honesty, refer to this as appeasement.

I found the comment by the unnamed “security official” who spoke about those who prefer to see Israel drowning in a river of blood particularly noxious.  In case he hasn’t noticed: it was Abbas, whose PA is now theoretically supposed to act against terrorism, who incited the terrorism in the first place.  Abbas has in recent days been talking “peace,” because for the moment it suits him to do so. But he could turn on a dime again.

And no, the goal is not simply “to calm the area,” at any cost, and for a short interval.  The goal is to retain strength – to have the ability to take out terror and exhibit strong deterrence power.


At any rate, the Shin Bet – headed by Yoram Cohen, pictured – has come out against this proposal, saying that it would make controlling terrorism more difficult.

ISA chief Yoram Cohen

Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90

A statement from the prime minister’s office also seemed to indicate that the IDF would continue to operate as necessary.

Perhaps this plan is the brainchild of just a handful of high-placed IDF officers and will never see the light of day.


Here we are, my friends, at the end of a posting that I already knew was very long – because there is so much to share. 

I was about to close, when terror struck here in Jerusalem: As evening approached, a device planted on a bus in south Jerusalem exploded.  The bus – which went up in flames -was empty, but a second bus – Egged #12 – was passing by as the explosion occurred and took the hit, also catching fire.  At least 16 people have been injured – one report says 22, two in critical condition.

One of the buses on fire (Photo: Yarden Laytner)

Credit: Yarden Laytner

Police originally called this a terror attack, and then backed off, saying the investigation was not complete. What reportedly gave them pause was the fact that the bomb exploded on an empty bus.  But who knows – the timer of the explosive device might have been off; it might have been set with the expectation that there would be people on the bus when it detonated. Egged asks, “What else could this be?” Indeed.

What clinched it for me was the testimony of the director of the emergency care unit at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, where some of the wounded were brought:

Some of the victims’ wounds, he explained, were “from nails and bolts that penetrated their bodies. It gives the impression of wounds from a terror attack."

Ah yes.  I know of this from previous attacks years gone by. Those who perpetrate such attacks are purely evil.


There are two immediate speculations  with regard to the timing of this attack.  One is that it is only days before Pesach, and often terror strikes then. The other is that it followed the announcement of the Hamas tunnel that was uncovered.  It will become clear in due course.

I want to put this out, and hopefully will write once more before Pesach.


Perhaps this fits now:

Rabbi Lazer Brody playing a very calming flute:

Just close your eyes and listen.


© 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, April 20, 2016 at 01:33PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

April 14, 2016: Where Are We All Going?

It’s a huge question with no easy answers. But this posting is going to start with the good stuff, which we find in some considerable measure here in Israel.
You have read numerous times about the Legal Grounds Campaign, which I co-chair with Jeff Daube.  We have just put out an Interim Report, describing our exciting programs.  It has been sent to supporters, and thus some of you may have already seen it.  But if you have not, I encourage you to do so, here:
If you would like this report in an email format, for sharing with others (which I encourage!), or have questions, or want more information, please contact me directly.
The fact that we have legal rights in Judea and Samaria and an organization fighting for those rights is no small matter.  Stand with us in this work, please!


New Wave Research recently conducted a poll of 11th and 12th grade Israeli high school student for Israel Hayom.  The results are marvelously encouraging (emphasis added):

Some 85% said they loved Israel, and 89% said they saw their future in Israel. The popularity of the Israel Defense Force was also evident: 88% said they planned on enlisting, and more than 50% said they believed the IDF was the most moral military. Some 65% endorsed the saying, "It is good to die for our country," attributed to Zionist icon Joseph Trumpeldor. Almost 60% said they subscribed to right-wing views, with 23% saying they were centrists. Only about 13% said they considered themselves left-wing.

What is behind Israeli youngsters' great love of their homeland? The respondents said the best thing about our country was the sense that we are one big family and our tendency to close ranks in times of crisis.”
This is our future.
On Monday, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems unveiled the Drone Dome. This is a system designed to detect and neutralize hostile drones“used by terrorists to perform aerial attacks, collect intelligence, and other intimidating activities.”

“Drone Dome has 360-degree circular coverage and is designed to detect, track and neutralize drones classified as threats flying in no-fly zones.” It has a very fast response time.

Drone Dome 

Courtesy Rafael
Just one more addition to our ever-growing arsenal of defensive equipment.
This is neat: A secret wedding was performed on Har Habayit (the Temple Mount) recently.  It would have caused the Wakf no end of apoplexy had it been known. See details here:

Temple Mount

Credit: Temple Institute
Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of UK forces in Afghanistan, spoke about Israel when addressing a Gatestone Institute gathering in New York recently:
“I don’t believe there can be a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel wants to live in peace, but what the Arabs want is its annihilation.”
Kemp, referring to the Jewish State as “an outpost of strength,” said that the IDF had a “unique morality,” and that “when Israel fights, it stands in isolation.”
The colonel believes that Israel “should initiate an offensive strike on Iran, whose nuclear program it has the capability of delaying.”

Col. Richard Kemp, addressing the Gatestone Institute. Photo: Raymond Hamlin.

Credit: Raymond Hamlin
I found disturbing, however, Kemp’s comment on Minister of Defense Ya’alon’s and Chief of Staff Eizenkot’s condemnation of the solder who shot dead a subdued terrorist before the facts were known:  Their condemnation came, he said, out of their awareness of the “continual and unjust international pressure on Israel, no matter what it does.”
In fairness, perhaps he felt obliged to support top Israeli military leaders.  But there is a contradiction inherent in what he said.  If we are attacked no matter what we do, we should not be attempting to appease the ever-judgmental international community.  It’s a no-win situation in which we risk weakening ourselves.  I worry about this state of mind in Israel’s putative leaders.
No one realizes what is going on better than the soldier who did the shooting himself.  Indicted for manslaughter now, he recently said:
“If he [the terrorist] actually had a bomb belt and he detonated, what would have happened?  How many would have been killed?...
"Only because they're afraid maybe of the papers and what the world will say [they act] to clean the hands of the IDF, [and say] that the soldier didn't act properly." (Emphasis added)
Turkey, under the Islamic stewardship of Prime Minister Recep Rayyip Erdogan, is no friend to Israel.   

Turkish President Recep Rayyip Erdogan. Photo: Wikipedia.

Credit: Wikipedia
The cordial diplomatic relationship that existed between Israel and Turkey in prior days is not going to be restored under current conditions.  And yet, each nation has motivation for trying to re-establish ties.  Whenever I read about negotiations taking place, I become uneasy, lest our government concede matters that should not be conceded, and fall into a situation that might come to no good. 
Last week, the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced that the two countries were “finalizing rapprochement,” and I thought, “Uh oh.”
But earlier this week, a spokesman for the prime minister declared that there would not be a final rapprochement until Israel lifted the maritime blockade of Gaza.
Well then, as this is not about to happen, perhaps there is no need for immediate concern...
Mahmoud Abbas – as I had indicated recently – has switched tactics, in several respects. All of a sudden, he’s against violence, presenting to the world the face of the “good guy.” He is also attempting the international route once again:
It has been confirmed that he has circulated a draft resolution which reportedly condemns Israel’s construction in the “settlements” to some members of the Security Council.  His ultimate intention, according to some reports, is to convince the Security Council to set a three-year timetable for Israeli withdrawal from those “settlements.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s response was that this resolution would make peace less likely:
"The Palestinians teach their children everyday that the settlements are Tel Aviv, Haifa and Acre," said Netanyahu. "Abu Mazen’s [Abbas’s] actions will push peace talks further away. The only way to advance peace is through direct talks and Abu Mazen is hiding from that."
Abbas is currently on tour – to Turkey, France, Russia, Germany and the US - attempting to garner support for his resolution.  He apparently plans to be in NY (ostensibly for another reasons) when a session of the Security Council is scheduled - Friday, April 22, the eve of Pesach.  At that time, as I understand it, he plans to deliver a speech, following which, he would circulate the proposal.


Credit: Telegraph (UK)
Key here, my friends, is the position of the Obama administration, which has the ability to veto this resolution in the Security Council.  Representatives of the government have been playing it close to the chest, offering little in the way of indication as to what Obama might decide to do. There are reports that he might decide to abstain on the vote, but we do not really know yet.
Apparently, one reason US government spokespersons are reticent to discuss the matter is because there is no clarity on precisely what the resolution will say – they have been refusing to discuss ‘hypothetical” proposals still in draft form.
Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman sort of/kind of brought a bit of clarity to the matter today.  He said that the door is “firmly shut” against any resolution the US considers biased against Israel.
Oh.  Although this is being interpreted as meaning the US will veto, what Toner said is not exactly the same as saying the US is opposed to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict via the UN rather than negotiations.  Now we just have to speculate on what Obama and Kerry would consider a biased resolution.
Alan Baker, International lawyer and Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, had an op-ed in yesterday’s JPost, called “The indecisive and confusing state of the Palestinian leadership.”
Suffice it to say that Baker writes that everyone is utterly confused by the Palestinian [Arab] leadership because of the mixed messages it is sending out.  According to him, the draft to the Security Council under discussion calls for renewed negotiations.
Maybe it’s so convoluted that it refers to negotiations and enforced withdrawal both, which would really make no sense.
I do not advocate cutting Obama any slack here – by all means possible the message should be conveyed to him that it is essential to veto this resolution.
But it is comforting to know that Baker, in an in-house JCPA interview, said that the resolution would not be binding on Israel in any event.  Should the Obama administration decide not to veto it:
The resolution will have no basic effect...If the resolution isn’t mandatory according to the seventh chapter of the UN Charter – and no Middle Eastern resolutions have been adopted according to the seventh chapter – it can’t lead to sanctions.” (Emphasis added)

Amb. Alan Baker. Photo: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs/Screenshot.

JCPA screenshot
If the above item is worrisome, the following is stomach-turning:
The Palestinian commission for Prisoners, the Palestinian Prisoners Club, and member of the Palestinian Legislature are launching a “world-wide campaign” to nominate Marwan Barghouti for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Barghouti is a terrorist – a Fatah terrorist, it should be noted, from the Tanzim, Fatah’s so-called militant wing - who is sitting in Israeli prison, serving out five life sentences for terrorist murders.  And that’s just the acts they were able to nail him on – he orchestrated many more terror attacks and was a key instigator of the second intifada.
The Nobel Peace Prize??
Of course, Arafat, who was also a terrorist, received the prize, but that was ostensibly because he turned “peaceful” when he signed on to Oslo.  On what basis are they suggesting this low life should be nominated?  A massive campaign is said to be in the works, with the involvement of international media.
As I understand it, there is hope that if Barghouti’s release can be secured, the release of other terrorist murderers in Israeli prisons would not be far behind.  Apparently we’re holding a bunch of really great people in our prisons.
Avi Issacaroff, writing in the Times of Israel, presents a more troubling scenario regarding Barghouti:
A small group of people close to Marwan Barghouti has reached an agreement with Hamas and Islamic Jihad leadership regarding a “comprehensive plan” to jointly campaign against the Israeli “occupation.”
“The plan includes unprecedented steps within the framework of what is dubbed ‘nonviolent resistance’...The goal is to force Israel out of all areas beyond the pre-1967 lines via a nonviolent intifada coordinated by a unified Palestinian leadership under Barghouti...”
Secret meetings have been held in recent months in which in which four “Fatah officials” - all considered senior members of the Tanzim during the 90s and three of whom are known to be personal friends of Barghouti – participated.  They have met with Hamas officials, including Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas politburo in Doha, Qatar.
The intention is to institute this plan after Abbas has left the scene: Barghouti would run for the PA presidency and everything would proceed under his leadership.  The Oslo Accords and all cooperation with Israel (notably security cooperation) would be cancelled.  There would then be only a “peaceful resistance” via such acts as blocking all roads in Judea and Samaria or destroying infrastructure in the communities of Judea and Samaria.  (This is peaceful?)


Marwan Barghouti never goes away. This is not the first time it has been proposed that he run for the PA presidency from his prison cell. What happens is that he is represented as a “hero” who has suffered at the hands of the Israelis while fighting the “occupation.” Black becomes white and white, black. It works because the international community is ready to accept that black is white, and white is black.

See here a picture of a mural that existed (I don’t believe it is there now) outside of Ramallah, representing Barghouti as the “Palestinian’s Mandela”:

File: A Palestinian child stands in front of a mural of jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti at the Kalandia checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem. (Kobi Gideon/Flash 90)

Credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90

The assumption that Barghouti would win a PA presidential election (which might indeed be the case) perhaps tells us everything we need to know about the Palestinian Arab electorate. They have been conditioned by the PA leadership – first Arafat and now Abbas – to venerate terrorists, after all. 

I report this not to cause undue anxiety but rather to promote watchfulness.  We are reminded once again about Palestinian Arab deviousness, and, yes, ingenuity. Anything but a sincere effort to build a productive and genuinely peaceful state. 

This “plan” is full of holes, starting with the fact that it is predicated upon interparty cooperation – which historically never holds up. Sooner or later they are at each other.  We know that within Fatah itself there is dissention and division, and as it is, only four Fatah members have participated in the meetings. There are prominent members of Fatah who are eager to succeed Abbas.

In addition, there is some foolish assumption that the hands of Israeli security would be tied because the protests would be “peaceful.”  But if they imagine we would sit still while the infrastructure of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria was uprooted, they had best think again.


I have long been troubled by the fact that Barghouti has had too much prominence from within his prison cell.  He has given interviews to the media via his attorney, and at one point – do not believe that this is still permitted to him – used a cell phone.

What is required here is enormous stringency on the part of the Israeli government in terms of how this man is handled.  Bottom line: he is a murderer many times over, and sits in prison because he has been sentenced by a court; he should  never be released.


Reports are that terrorism is way down, and where terrorist acts are concerned, this is the case.  But I must mention that there are regular reports of planned attacked that were prevented or blocked because of good intelligence or swift action.  Today, two terror attacks – a knifing in Judea and an axing in the Old City of Jerusalem – were thwarted within minutes of each other.


We’ve looked at enough regarding “where we are all going” for one posting. The news does not stop, and the head begins to spin.

I close with this amusing item from an astute Elder of Ziyon:

“Hewlett Packard is one of the companies always targeted by Israel-haters, because it does business in Israel and for the IDF.

”In a new video showing off their high-tech military skills, masked Fatah terrorists are seen in a room using HP laptops.
“So what do self-respecting BDSers do when they find out that their freedom fighters are using the equipment that they demand everyone to boycott?”

Credit: Elder of Ziyon
Sim Shalom, with IDF Cantor Shai Abramson:
What better a prayer that the Almighty will establish peace, goodness, blessing, life, grace and mercy.


© 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 14, 2016 at 03:07PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint