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Who Are You With?

iheartberlin.de

It is my belief—shared, it seems, with a growing number of observers, scholars, and ordinary folks—that the coming midterm elections of November 2018 would be of importance, and of consequences, unparalleled in our lifetime. Certainly in my lifetime as a citizen of this country, pushing thirty years. While this may sound to some of you as an exaggeration, or as something you’ve heard before in regard to an upcoming elections, I’m going to try and make the case that that isn’t so. That this coming elections are, indeed, crucial not only for the survival of this country as a democracy, but to liberal democracy—as opposed to guided, managed democracy—elsewhere in the world, including in Israel.

Lately, I’ve heard some pundits, and also some people with vast experience in military, intelligence and politics, men and women of quality and impressive credentials, stating that if we—i.e. liberal, democrats, progressives, and even like-minded republican-conservatives—won’t go to the polls this November on mass, and change dramatically the political landscape of this country, namely the congress, then it might be the last free election to be held in this country for years to come. And while this assessment and predicament—unleash the ‘Big Blue Wave’ or else—is a bit overblown in my estimation, the essence of it, and the fear that inspires it, are not.

A couple of months ago I was riveted to a Netflix drama, titled ‘Babylon Berlin’. Produced in Germany, it was one of the best shows on TV I’ve seen in years, and I highly recommend it if you have access to Netflix (not for the faint of heart, though). The story takes place in Berlin in 1929 and on into the early thirties, and while the plot is intriguing and the characters engrossing, and the scenery fascinating, what stood out for me above all was the reality of the depiction of Berlin—the center of cultural Europe at the time—and the political forces at play. Mostly: What made it possible for Hitler and his followers to—democratically!—prepare the ground for the ultimate, disastrous takeover of the country and most of Europe.

Yes, it happened ninety years ago or so in Germany. And yes, so many things are different, in culture and government from here in America. But oh boy, how much they’re also very similar. The ‘Golden Führer’ that is currently presiding and ruling over this country, won’t go down without a fight. And as he has proven already, he won’t give a damn if while fighting, he’ll destroy civility, democracy, and the economic, ecological future of this country. It is therefore of the utmost importance that we will rise for the occasion. The ‘Resistance’—as I pointed out in an article right after the 2016 election—need to be just as fierce. This might be our best chance to turn things around, and clear our skies from this menacing dark cloud. Not only for the sake of this country and its people, but the world at large.

And that includes Israel and the Middle East. Because, as things stand now, continuation of the Trump’s rule in America will mean continuation of the rule of Netanyahu in Israel, Sissi in Egypt, Assad’s in Syria. All these dictators (to various degrees and progress, especially in Netanyahu’s case), are in effect threatening the rule of law and free press. You might reproach me and say: “C’mon man, things have never been better in Israel.” The American Embassy is in Jerusalem; Israel is getting all the weapons the IDF needs and then some; America withdrew its support of the nuclear agreement with Iran, and putting tremendous economic pressure on that country; Egypt and Saudi Arabia are joining the Iran fight and support Israel; economically and even culturally Israel is entering the year of 5779 in a very good shape.

And yet, the other side of the coin is: Democracy in Israel has never been in a worse shape, and Israel’s democracy is now ranked lower in the latest ‘Democracy Index’ compiled by the ‘Economist Intelligence Unit’. Both USA (ranked 21) and Israel (ranked 30) were downgraded from “full democracies” to a “flawed democracies,” together with Botswana (ranked 28). The rule of law is teetering, as proved by the fact that the country’s Attorney General is dragging his feet in issuing a verdict on the Police recommendations to charge PM Netanyahu on bribery and fraud; A ‘Shin Bet state’ is in progress where Israeli citizens and American Jews with opposing views are stopped at entry ports to the country for interrogation, warning, and who knows what’s next, maybe torture.

You might ask yourself, so what? Things are good, otherwise. Well, let me tell you what. First, as the Palestinian issue and conflict has proven since Israel’s independence, it’s not going away anywhere. Ever. It is here to stay. Second, with the death of peace comes war. Whether with Hamas, Hezbollah, or Iran. It’s coming. Third, with the death of the Two-State solution, only one solution remains: One-State solution. And with the rule of Trump in America, and Netanyahu in Israel, that means Israel is in serious danger of becoming an ‘Apartheid State.’ Ruling over other people for more than fifty years, and now also issuing laws making the Arabs and Druze second-class citizens of the state. “The authoritarian/messianic clock in Israel is moving closer to midnight,” wrote Aryeh Cohen recently in ‘Tablet’. It’s up to us, even here in an American elections, to try and reverse that clock’s progress.

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

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Clinton(s) and Israel

Clinton_Netanyahu_Abbas_Mitchell

Clinton_Netanyahu_Abbas_Mitchell

As we are fast approaching the November general election, it seems clear to me – I’ll bet whatever little money I have on this outcome – that unless an unforeseen event/disaster would to occur, Hillary Clinton will win the election and will become the next American President. It is time therefore to try to assess what shape the relation between the new administration and Israel will be, and what change Hillary Clinton might bring to this traditionally strong alliance; an alliance that has been shaken and hurt quite a bit throughout the Obama administration, but still withstood the constant struggle with the Netanyahu government.

This consequence was as result, mostly, of the different personalities of the two leaders, and their different outlook on the political international arena. Obama, essentially so, is a peace maker. A compromiser by nature. He won the election in large part on the fact that he objected to the war in Iraq, which Netanyahu supported, and had promised to do anything in his power to end that war, as well as the Afghanistan war, and to disengage America from the conflicts in the Middle East. These were his main objectives, and he has been mostly successful in enforcing this outcome; albeit with some troubling results, and ongoing conflicts.

Netanyahu, on the other hand, who has supported the Republicans in the American Congress and elections, as well as in all other issues throughout the Obama administration’s years in power – at times quite vocally and outrageously – is a different sort of a leader. To begin with, he is not a peacemaker; never was, never will. Peace with the Palestinians, resolving that conflict, is the last thing on his mind. Politically, unlike Obama – very much in the vein of Putin and Erdogan though — all he’s concern with is staying in power, and like these two leaders, if his opponents – remember Rabin? – would have to die and be buried because of that hunger for power, so be it. Because of this, and because of Obama’s preoccupation with Iraq and Afghanistan – but it must be said here, also because Netanyahu is a much more experienced leader — he was able to win most of his fights with Obama, and handily so I might add, except the last one concerning the Iran nuclear deal, in which Obama finally showed some muscles and guts in his fight against the Netanyahu-AIPAC-Republican-Adelson coalition, and has won that battle.

But Hillary Clinton is a different egg. To begin with, personality wise, she seems to be tougher than Obama, and her origin is in fact as a Republican by youth, nurture and maybe by inclination, which all point to personality traits similar to those of Netanyahu. It makes her, therefore, more capable of understanding his ruthlessness, and if found in a clash with him, not to tend to back down so easily as Obama has done. Even more so, she brings to the table her experience not only in the international political arena as a whole, but in the Middle East and with Netanyahu in particular. From the failed Sharm el-Sheikh peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in September 2010, which she had chaired, and which Netanyahu had derailed at the end with the resumption of settlement activity, to her famous clash with him on new housing units to be built in East Jerusalem (her infamous telephone conversation with him was well documented here on this blog on March 17, 2010*), to her instrumental tough stance that brought about a ceasefire in the belligerence escalation with Hamas in Gaza in November 2012. In short, she knows what a tough cookie Netanyahu is, and won’t easily be fooled by him**.

The big question is, would she invest the effort, time and resources in bringing an end to that ageless conflict. I’d say on record here that I think the chances are greater than in the Obama administration that she would. For a number of reasons. First, she is not carrying the burden, and necessity of putting an end to wars with direct American participation. She will be in charge of somehow defusing the turmoil that the Middle East is today. The burden that she carries is her support of the Iraq War in the Senate, and therefore bringing peace to the region might be of added personal challenge and importance to her. Not to mention that the need, internationally, to conquer terrorism and bring stability to this combustible region is of the utmost importance.

Whether she sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as some do, as the cause, or the seed of all the troubles in the region, I do not know. But it is fair to assume that at the very least she sees the enormous benefits – to America, to the region, to the world – from resolving this issue. It is my opinion that she is more equipped mentally, and much more experienced than Obama was to succeed there. Even internally, she might be better situated. She might be less afraid than Obama was of the wrath of the Jewish lobby for one; for second, better situated to deal with hostile Congress; and for third, more concern with the liberal, progressive Sanders-Warren led wing of the Democratic party, urging her to push ahead, and bring about an acceptable solution there. (Somehow, it might even affect a political change in Israel itself finally. Though that’s a different story.)

But here’s the kicker, my friends: Bill Clinton. It is my hope, and prediction too – at least by way of a reasonable possibility – that he not only will influence his wife on the matter, that’s a given after all, but that he will jump right in at an hour of need to help secure the peace. Remember, he was probably closer than any other American leader to bring about a resolution to the conflict with the Camp David Summit of 2000. If not the timing being very close to the end of his second term, and the vise of Yasser Arafat on the one side, who couldn’t see what a great opportunity it was for him and for his people, and Arik Sharon on the other side, who seized the day in Jerusalem in order to sabotage that agreement, it might have been a reality by now. Such a development would be Bill Clinton’s big chance; a déjà vu if ever there was one; for peace and for the Nobel peace prize as well. With the backing of his wife, he just might make it happen.

* Exclusive Transcript of Clinton and Netanyahu phone call Posted on March 17, 2010

** “In March 2009 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Israel. She said that Israeli settlements and demolition of Arab homes in East Jerusalem were “unhelpful” to the peace process. Clinton also voiced support for the establishment of a Palestinian state.” Wikipedia

*** The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

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