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Is Israel Next?

carnegieeurope.eu

There’s a new world order currently in the making, and Israel might be the next country to join this growing club. I’m talking about the assault on liberal democracies by autocratic regimes and leaders throughout the world, most dangerously and significantly in Europe, where the clash is more acute. We have, on the one hand, the old guard: Russia and China (and of course, North Korea and some other smaller countries). The interesting things about Russia and China are three-fold. First, both countries flirted with ‘true’ democracy for a while and are now back to full-fledged autocracy. Second, both countries very much want to be part of the big world, do not hide anymore behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ or the ‘Great Wall.’ They are, if you will, modern theocracies. And third, both leaders were elected ‘supposedly’ by democratic elections (and so was Hitler), and maintain civil appearance and modus operandi.

Let me explain what I mean by modus operandi, since I regard it as the most significant trend. It’s a characteristic most defined by Putin, but also by Jinping, that I find most modernly striking and disturbing. Here goes: They dress nicely in suits and ties; they speak quietly and normally, like you and me; they go about their business very civil-like. No more Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, Castro or Amin; they’re no longer dressed in uniform, army or otherwise; they give no funny salutes, or wear many medals on their chests; not even public mass executions, concentration camps or gulags. No, everything is done business-like, modern-like, stealthy. But the effect and results are. More or less, the same.

And now come the imitators. The managed-democracies, actual-autocracies wannabes. First among them, very Putin-like, Erdogan of Turkey (and in Syria Assad, of course). Second is Duda of Poland, and third, close behind, Orban of Hungary, who just won ‘reelection’ for the third time. These men are all dictators in disguise, modernly attired, with good speaking manners. Some observers see Czechia coming to the fold soon enough, with Italy playing—with Italian style and flare—not far behind. And of course, who can forget that here in America we have our own semi-despot in the form of President Trump. An admirer of the above-mentioned leaders who, should the opportunity present itself, and should the American democracy prove fragile enough, will establish autocracy here in a heartbeat.

Then we have Israel. And Netanyahu: a twin-like leader of Putin and Erdogan, still operating in an Israeli democracy of old, though with disturbing signs for the future. Let’s set aside for now all the other signs and attributes of a strong leader, long in power, good orator, who know how to play the media to his advantage, who blames everybody else for his troubles, and knows how to win elections, using every trick in the book. But in Netanyahu’s case, all these elements being true, there are some new, different elements that make his case unique, and to Jews the world over, liberal or not, very ominous.

So here, to spell it out, one possible scenario. Netanyahu, who still exists in a liberal democracy, Israeli style, is operating under the darkening cloud of police investigations (quite several of them) against him. On some charges, bribery, graft, and the like, the police already concluded the investigation with recommendations to indict. (Others, with severe possible criminal doings, are still under police investigation.) So the ball is now in the hand of Attorney General Mendelblit, a crony and appointee of Netanyahu, who is supposed to rule in the next couple of months whether to indict the Prime Minister in the court of law.

Should he decide against such indictment, all hell might break loose in the Knesset and the streets. However, Netanyahu would claim victory, would say ‘I told you so: These were all lies, manufactured by the police who are out to get me.’ It will be easier for him then to engineer the closing of all the other ongoing investigations, and should he decide to go to new elections, win them big, as all the polls are indicating. In this scenario, he’ll be able to continue his rule in the disguise of fully operating liberal democracy, but with even more power in his hands, and without the cloud of any more police investigations.

The more interesting—and in a way, troubling—scenario is what would happen should the Attorney General would decide to indict Netanyahu. Under the current Israeli law, a minister in the government must resign under such pending indictment. But there’s no word about what the Prime Minister’s obligation is in such a predicament. (A previous PM, Ehud Olmert, resigned in similar circumstances and, indeed, ended up in jail.) Now, should Netanyahu not resign, and continue business as usual, other parties in his coalition, most probably Kulanu, might leave his government. And therefore, as in the other option, early elections would be the solution.

But in this scenario—i.e., a leader of a main party running for reelection while not only under police investigation, but possibly going to court soon—if Netanyahu wins the elections again, as the polls currently are also indicating, and be able to form a government (no problems there, I predict) it would be a clear indication that the Israeli public rather have him in power, even as a criminal, because of what they perceive as his ‘strong leader’ persona. This is not a certainty, but can only be prevented I believe if a strong, united center-left party will be formed, with Labor and Yesh Atid as one body-politics.

Fat chance, I say. And in any case, should Netanyahu win, it would give him an almost unlimited power. Unlike any leader in Israel history, including Ben-Gurion. The rule of law, already under threat, will be a major casualty, with the next one to go being the Israeli liberal democracy as we knew and loved it, warts-and-all.

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

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Scoop of the Year: Proof of a Collusion

theweek.com

The post you are about to read—friends and foes, left and right—is a bit unusual. Unusual for this blog; unusual for this blogger; and unusual for you the reader. If you will join me for the ride, however, I believe you’ll be rewarded handsomely. And in the most unusual of ways. But first, let’s start with the word ‘scoop,’ which among other meanings and usage, is described in the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary simply as “information especially of immediate interest.” For the purpose of our post here, at this time, this description will suffice. As for how convincing a case I’ll be making, and how newsworthy it’ll turn out to be, you’ll be the judge.

You may ask yourself also: What business does this blog have—a blog dedicated normally to the politics and culture of Israel, America, American Jews, and the interaction between these three entities—to the question of a possible ‘collusion’ between the Trump campaign and presidency, and Putin’s Russia? Well… let me tell you. Because it all starts with a new book, written by a well-known Israeli investigative journalist, Ronen Bergman, titled ‘Rise and Kill First, The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.’ The book is getting rave reviews for its “authoritative and exhaustive history of Israel’s targeted killings of its enemies, the most robust streamlined assassination machine in history,” (Washington Post, January 26), and asks “at what point does violence in the name of self-defense become an end in itself, so addictive to its practitioners… that it undermines the very values it is meant to preserve?” And yet, though this book is serving as our springboard here, it—and the important questions it raises—is not really our business today.

What our business is, here and now, concerning an interview given by the book’s author—who’s highly regarded for his deep knowledge and inside sources of Israeli intelligence—to the NPR program ‘Fresh Air with Terry Gross,’ on January 31. And especially a segment, an exchange towards the end of that most interesting interview (conducted that day by Dave Davies), which is very much related to the question we are probing today, and which is also, to my mind, the business of every person living and working in this land. For that purpose, since you might have missed that interview (which you can probably still find on the NPR website), here’s a short transcript of part of it—limited and condensed (not altered though) to the crux of the matter at hand—as related to our investigation:

Bergman: “… a group of American intelligent officers, in a regular meeting with their Israeli counterparts, just before Trump was elected, and before the inauguration, they suggested that the Israelis stop giving sensitive materiel to the White House. They said we are afraid that Trump or someone of his people under leverage from the Russians, they might give sensitive information to the Russians, who in their term will give that to Iran… And the Israelis were shocked… that the Americans will say something of that kind about their chief in command, about their president… Few months after that, it turned out that all the predictions that the American have made to the Israelis as warnings… everything came to be true! And President Trump apparently gave secret information, and I know the nature of that information: it is indeed delicate, and very, very secret.”

Davies: “… You know of specific information that the U.S. shared with the Russians that is not being revealed publicly and that you are not revealing publicly?”

Bergman: “The nature of the information that President Trump revealed to Foreign Minister Lavrov is of the most secretive nature. And that information could jeopardize modus operandi of Israeli Intelligence.”

Davies: “You are referring to something we don’t yet know?

Bergman: “Most of it we don’t yet know.”

Well, if that’s not a collusion, I don’t know what a collusion is. If that interview is not a proof of it, then I don’t know what proof is. Or what kind of proof is still needed. Worst of all: If that’s not an admission of the leverage the Russians have had, and are probably still having, on President Trump—”under leverage from the Russians,” Bergman said—then I don’t know what leverage is. And therefore, as in the beginning, I will resort again to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, which defines ‘collusion’ as a “secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose.” I’m not a legal expert, far from it, but for our purpose here, exposing the possibility, if not the certainty of collusion—and conspiracy, complicity, involvement, agreement, knowledge, all words associated with collusion—this will do. And the rest is history.

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

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