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Where Israel & Jewish America Go From Here

timesofisrael.com

The two momentous announcements that took place this month in the space of four days, one in America and one in Israel, might bring a drastic change not only to Israel, but to the Jewish people the world over, especially here in America. These two announcements, though unrelated ‘supposedly,’ seem to this observer not only to be very much related, but also to pose grave questions both to the people of Israel and to American Jews. How the people in both countries will answer these questions, how they will react to the existential problems that they present, might determine the future of the Jewish State, and with it the destiny of American Jewry.

These are major statements, I’m aware of it. So allow me to explain, starting with America, where on November 18—seemingly out of the blue—Secretary of State Pompeo announced suddenly that USA no longer sees Israeli settlements in the West bank as illegal. This short announcement, clearly to my mind another Trump’s ‘assist’ to PM Benjamín Netanyahu, meant to derail his main rival to the premiership, Mr. Benny Gantz, last-minute’s efforts of forming a governing coalition, and to give Netanyahu another boost in his fight to retain his grip on Israel’s political power.

It succeeded, this move, on both fronts (in the short term, anyhow). By doing so it has also reversed the official American long-held policy, according with the Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits an occupied power from transferring its own population into the territory it occupies. It flies in the face of numerous UN resolutions, which see the Israeli occupation as illegal, forbidden the occupier from settling a land. As with the other two ‘assists’ Netanyahu has received from Trump—moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the Golan Heights as an Israeli territory—the European Union, the United Nations, and 99% of all other countries don’t recognize this announcements and resolutions.

What gives then. It gives Netanyahu—who for almost a year now is serving only as a ‘transitional’ Prime Minister, and who has failed to win a majority in the Knesset and build a governing coalition in two consecutive elections—the permission from the super power that America is to continue the occupation, and to put in motion legalizing what is now a ‘de-facto annexation’ of the West Bank, which the Palestinians claim as their future state. Whether he is a Prime Minister in transition for another 6 months, or in a unity government for longer, he’ll make sure these trends, going on since the aftermath of the Six-Day War of 1967, are irreversible for good. Which, in effect, will render Israel an Apartheid state.

How the world, and especially American Jews will react to this development will determine the future not only of Israel, but of the Jewish people at large. Even more so: A second announcement came on November 21 by Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, indicting PM Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. It puts Israel in a critical moment in its short modern history. A critical moment like no other before that puts a big question mark on the future of the state as a democracy. The struggle now taking place in Israel, which will surely intensify in the coming weeks and month, will most definitely transform and determine the country’s future for years to come.

This announcement in Israel, charging a sitting Prime Minister—a first in Israel’s history—of serious crimes, launched Israel into a major crisis. The crisis is between sheer political power and the rule of law. It’s between Netanyahu’s desperate attempt of hanging on to power, at all costs, threatening the rule of law and democracy itself. It’s clear now to all, what was clear to many before: Netanyahu is set on continuing ruling Israel, avoiding prosecution by all means necessary, even if Israel will crash into ruins with him in the process.

Latest polls in Israel show a clear majority of Israeli citizens in favor of Netanyahu resigning as Prime Minister. By law, he doesn’t have to yet. Though by law, he does have to relinquish the four other ministerial positions he currently holds. This is uncharted territory for Israel. For instance, when Netanyahu’s predecessor, PM Ehud Olmart was investigated by the police for such crimes, Netanyahu, his rival for the leadership of the party said this: “A prime minister neck deep in investigations has no moral or public mandate to make fateful decisions for the State of Israel.”

Of course, now that he is the Prime Minister, the longest to serve in this role in Israel’s history, and being indicted already—not just investigated—on much more serious charges, he looks the other way. Blaming the investigators instead. He continues to hold an iron grip on his party, and continues to appoint his cronies (regardless if they are qualified or not) to positions of power in the government. Still, there are some signs of revolt in his party, which will determine much of the outcome.

The leader of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz, which has one more seat in the Knesset than the Likud (Netanyahu’s party), spoke to the nation and offered a most generous solution: A unity government with himself as Prime Minister first. And in two years, should Netanyahu be found not guilty, the coalition agreement will grant him the opportunity to return as Prime Minister for the remaining two years of a government four-year’s term.

It will not happen. There will be blood. Figuratively and (possibly) literally. Which brings me to say this: On both these crucial, critical issues—settlements, occupation, annexation, the rule of law, democracy—American Jews cannot allow themselves to remain on the sidelines. Since the future of the Jewish State as a democracy is now at stake, they cannot allow themselves—they individually, and also their established organizations—to remain quiet. It’s time to take a stand and speak up.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

Will AIPAC Learn From Its Big Mistake?

time.com

I wouldn’t bet on it, though there are signs of progress lately. But first what is, or was AIPAC big mistake? Let me tell you: It placed its loyalty, resources and absolute trust in one leader—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—above all else. Above all principles. Above all morals. Above all other considerations and obligations to its own country, the U.S.A., where the organizations and its leaders live and operate. This duel-loyalty, which AIPAC demonstrated in Netanyahu’s case, and was rightly condemned for, carried with it some responsibility, even if not directly, to the recent increase we are experiencing in anti-Semitism sentiments and incidents, and the rise of white supremacy forces in this country.

How come, you ask, I level such a strong accusation at AIPAC? I’ll answer that by reminding you of AIPAC’s mission, “to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel.” By this standard, they failed miserably when they cooperated with Netanyahu and the Republican Party in Congress against a sitting American President, Barack Obama, trying to subvert his administration’s efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions by striking a deal with it, together with our European allies. Helping and facilitating Netanyahu’s trip to America, and his speech in congress—while the President and Secretary of State were working so hard to accomplish that nuclear deal—was close to being an act of treason: Choosing the leader of Israel over the leader of America, your own country.

But wait, there’s more. I see AIPAC’s unqualified support of Netanyahu—who basically overwhelmed and subverted the organization to his own will—directly responsible, among other forces of course, to the rise of Mr. Trump, his disastrous withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and, together with his American Ambassador to Israel and Netanyahu, the danger situation we find ourselves currently in the Middle East and in Israel. Its support of this Israeli leader—soon to be indicted on some very serious charges—without reservations, without questions, without critical thinking, is at fault here. Whoever is the prime minister, we support him/her they say; whatever is the policy of that prime minister, we support him/her; whatever war they are fighting there, we support it. We are not here to judge; we are here to support.

This is all fine on paper and speech, this unconditional support. Though one may ask what would AIPAC do, how it would react, if a dictator comes along in Israel? If Israel becomes an autocratic state, what then? As indeed many, yours truly among them, thought was Netanyahu and his party’s intent in the last two elections: avoid prosecution and solidify his strongman’s rule, by placing himself above the rule of law. And what if Israel would become, as many do fear—and some insist it already de facto is—an Apartheid sate? What then? Will AIPAC still support that leader, and the country unconditionally? No moral judgments? No regard to the rule of law? To human rights?

Case in point: Bibi Netanyahu. AIPAC didn’t just support him in all his endeavors, therefore solidifying the occupation of 3 million Palestinians; the building of settlements financed mainly by America and American Jewry money for 50 years now, and counting. If AIPAC is indeed in support of a “two-state solution,” as it states on his website, how was it possible that it continuously supported Netanyahu and his policies so diligently all these years? Netanyahu who did all he could—still does, in fact—to create “facts-on-the-ground” that will prevent such a solution from ever happening?

In actuality, AIPAC caved in and served as Netanyahu’s tool of solidifying his rule, agenda and West Bank’s occupation. Working without a moral compass to guide you is a dangerous way to go. And when it comes to the rise in antisemitic incidents and hatred in this country, as I pointed above, these are all contributing factors. The history of antisemitism a is long, painful, and complicated—as I pointed in my February post, titled Anti-Semitism: See Under Hate, Envy, and Israel -–but we cannot allow ourselves to overlook the sentiment, prominent especially in Europe, of animosity toward Israel and Jews for the mistreatment of the Palestinians, and for the failure to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For which AIPAC, with its blindness and policies as pointed above, carries a significant responsibility.

In a Washington Post article (March 6, 2018) by Doug Rossinowin, “The Dark Roots of AIPAC,” he writes that “The group was formed to spin positive PR after Israeli atrocities.” Somehow, I’m not surprised reading that. Though lately there’s a sign that AIPAC may have learned its lesson. Just before the Israeli first-round election in April, when PM Netanyahu announced, in a lame attempt to win a decisive win, that should he win and stay in power his first act would be to annex most of the West Bank—in opposition to international law, and even to the hawkish Trump administration, to the Palestinian aspirations obviously, and to the European Union policy—suddenly, and rarely, AIPAC issued a statement of objection as well. Breaking, in so doing, its golden rule of not ‘criticizing,’ of not ‘interfering’ in Israel’s official policies.

Well… what a major change. Even if on a ‘onetime’ basis for now. But it does signify that AIPAC might have learned from its big mistake, and has come to the realization that indeed, as a political lobbyist organization, it does need to have a moral compass after all. One hopes that, if that’s the case, it might be able to continue its good work by not only supporting Israel and its strong relation with America, but also by not giving more ammunition to the forces of anti-Semitism, and by not dividing further the American Jewish community, which is mostly liberal and democrat, from Israel.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

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