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If America falls, Will Israel Follow?

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“The republic was saved!” So declared Nancy Pelosi, following Biden’s elections’ win. “Welcome back America!” So screamed, with variations, the headlines in Europe. “Long Live Democracy!” Such was the general cry of jubilation among democrats and liberals here and abroad. And yet the assault on the truth by President Trump and his cohorts continues. His refusal to accept the results of the elections, and to accept its consequences, continue unabated. Supported and aided by almost a universal acquiesce and silence from the Republicans in Congress. In short, the battle is yet to be won, it is raging on, with a long winter looming ahead.

While yours truly was indeed jubilant after Biden’s win, he was quicker than most to declare Trump’s actions and inactions, following the elections, a coup d’état. Or, as it actually should be called, a self-coup (since he’s still in power). Other observers, more astute and knowledgeable, followed through with similar assumptions. However, most of these observers and journalists consider Trump just a con man, incapable of executing something more sinister. They believe our institutions, the constitution, and the Army will save us. Inauguration Day will come January 20th and Biden and Harris will be sworn in as new President and Vice President.

Amen to that. Probably so. However, it is clear to me that despite all these voices to the contrary—among them from Trump’s supposed friends and close advisors, insisting that ultimately when the time comes he would leave the White House peacefully—I have strong doubts about that. This scenario doesn’t seem plausible to me. Actually, I see a different scenario in which—yes, very unlikely—he won’t leave the Presidency at all. He is incapable of it, and unable to admitting defeat. He would rather foment his fervent supporters, white extremists all, among whom more than 70% believe—without any supporting evidence—that the election was stolen from him. Fighting in the streets, where his supporters have a clear advantage in arms and ammunition—and in willingness to kill—is not far off. What next: a civil war?

Just saying. Not predicting. But you see, many observers repeat their trust in the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, who declared before the election that the army will stay out of it. It will leave the matter to our political system and politicians. How appropriate. Most observers see that as proof that Trump does not have the army in his corner, and that without the army he cannot succeed in his self-coup. However, Biden and the Democrats also don’t have the army in their corner. And if the army stays neutral, or controlled by the ‘gang’ Trump had installed there at the head of the Department of Defense, of which he is still the Commander-in-Chief, who then will kick the bully out of the White House?

Here’s something you may not know. There is nothing in America’s constitution, or in its history, regarding a situation where a president is refusing to leave the office. Nothing. Point blank. The framers, giving thought and endless talks to every possibility and detail, didn’t realize such a nutcase, such a scenario may one day come to be. So now, if he refuses to leave, what then? If he continues to be regarded as the legitimate president by most of his 70 million voters—who plan a big demonstration in D.C. ahead of the electoral college rollcall—what then? The armed masses in the street will march on, causing havoc. The senate also might continue its silence. And the army will continue its neutrality. What then?…

Complete chaos. Biden had said before the elections, when this possibility was brought up to him, that we have a way of dealing with trespassers. What a nice soundbite. But who will execute the eviction? Under what authority? Trump will be the one still in control of all the buttons. Of all his cronies and criminals he’s put in a position of power, from Attorney General William Barr to Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller. I dread breaking it to you, but this is a highly likely scenario. It will be the end of the republic, and democracy.

Okay, I hear you: I’m blowing things out of all proportions. Got it. But even so, think what would’ve happened had the elections were just a little bit closer. Closer overall, and closer in the battleground states. What then?
While I leave you to contemplate this, I turn my attention to Israel. Over there, the situation is, indeed, not so dire. There is a functioning government (about to collapse?) in place, a Prime Minister in charge—for how many years, oh boy, I can’t remember—and the rule of law, shaky here and there, still apply. The Knesset still functions somehow. However, what looms ahead in Israel, and very soon, is the start of Netanyahu’s trial (delayed to February, as Netanyahu is using Trump’s tactics of delay and dismiss) on charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery, and the future possibility of his culpability in the ‘Submarine Affair’ being thrown into the mix as well.

Now imagine, why don’t you, a Prime Minister in office, the strongest politician in the land, being escort by police into court daily. What the political situation will look like then? How his rightwing supporters in the streets will react? I mean, if Trump is in power here as a dictator (just imagine), nothing will stop Netanyahu from canceling his trial altogether, and by any means possible. At the very least, he will subvert the rule of law to his political power, and in the process might do away with democracy altogether. Just as the thousands upon thousands keep demonstrating in the streets for the last few months are claiming.

Furthermore: Assuming the rule of law holds steady, and the Knesset and Government are still functioning democratically. If the trial ends in Netanyahu’s conviction—as I have no doubt it would, at least in part—who will then take him to jail? Or remove him from power? His people—’La Familia’s’ hooligans—will be in the street, armed too. Or he’d call new elections, which he no doubt might still win, thereafter overruling the courts’ judgments and legitimacy. And that’s that, my friends. The collapse of democracy in Israel as well.

Just a nightmare? A prescient vision? You’ll be the judge; you and the days ahead.

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Paradise Lost — The Ashkenazi-Mizrachi Fault Line

Kibbutz Heftzibah, circa 1970

My childhood village is so far away these days, yet I never really left it. I’ve been aware of this notion, this conundrum for a long time, yet the stories about ‘The Battle Over the Hassi Stream’ between the residents of the city of Beit She’an and the members of kibbutz Nir David—and the beautiful pictures from the ‘Valley of the Springs’ that are decorated these stories—keep driving this point home again and again. This new battle, as if on purpose, seems determined to reopen old wounds and make them fresh once more.

It so happened that in 2012 I published a short story titled, ‘The Kibbutz is Burning’—originally titled ‘The Battle Over the Dining Room’—in which young people from Beit She’an invade my kibbutz, set it on fire, and engage in a life-and-death battle with kibbutz members over the kibbutz’s dining room. And while the protagonist of the story (see under: ‘The Kibbutz is Burning’ on my literary website) is my late father, David—a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, a salt-of-the-earth kind of a person who escaped three labor camps during that war, and a veteran member of that kibbutz—the heart of the story is pounding on the fault line dividing the haves and the have-nots, and the deep yearning to go back to the old ‘values’ that had built the kibbutz.

A kibbutz modeled on the one where I was born and grew up, Hephzibah, which in the glorious pictures of Nir David, with the aquamarine stream running through it, you can actually see on the other side of Gan Hashlosha—or the ‘Sachne’ as we called it back then—nestled under Mount Gilboa. Growing up we didn’t know it belonged to kibbutz Nir David. It belonged to us, all of us, courtesy of mother nature. As kids, we used to walk there barefooted. Swim there day or night, without a care in the world. Only later came gates, fences, guards, paved roads, showers, and restrooms. The magic was gone. Or almost gone.

Which brings me to the current situation in kibbutz Nir David, and the battle over access to the Hassi Stream. I have no idea how to resolve this intractable situation, this clash of wills, though one solution that was suggested in 2015— “to set aside a section of the stream for public use”—seems to me to be taking the right approach needed for a reasonable, decent compromise. However, as reported in The Times Of Israel, it “is still stuck in the planning system.” Wouldn’t you know that?

Strangely, it reminds me of a different kind of clash, here in America, between President Trump and the renowned journalist Bob Woodward. In his latest book, ‘Rage,’ and in an interview Woodward gave recently to ‘CBS 60 Minutes,’ he said he asked the president, “… do you have any sense that that privilege has isolated and put you in a cave, to a certain extent, as it put me – and I think lots of White, privileged people… we have to work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain, particularly, Black people feel in this country?”

President Trump—again, wouldn’t you know that?—responded mockingly, “You, you really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you, wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”

That, indeed, is the problem with some privileged, have-it-all people. For them, it’s my way or the highway. Not only do they lack the capacity to understand the other side, but they also don’t seem to care to understand it at all. It may be—in America as in Israel—that it’s not exactly, or simply ‘justice’ that the under-privileged, the have-nots are asking for but ‘understanding.’ After all, in the case of the citizens of Beit She’an—or the larger population of what used to be called the ‘second-Israel’—what does ‘justice’ really mean?

Certainly not the dislodging, the uprooting of the kibbutz and its members away from the beautiful place they have worked so hard to build and give it to them instead; or as is the case with the Sachne, make a national park out of the kibbutz. Just as in the case of the African-American population of America, what would ‘justice’ be for them? Returning to Africa (as few now do)? Reversing the turning of the wheel-of-history? Give reparations—how much, really?—for descendants of those who died many years ago? (In Germany’s case, reparations are for surviving Jews who were directly affected by the Holocaust.) Take the white people’s money and places away and hand it to them?

No. That’s not justice. That’s more like injustice. What they are looking for, I believe—both in Israel and in America—is understanding. Inclusion. Sharing. Collaborating. Acknowledgment of past grave mistakes. This can be achieved, you see, but not with a president who has no clue as to what hunger—both for food and recognition—is. Not with kibbutz members from the ‘first-Israel’ who may still think that that beautiful stream was given to them by God (not that they are believers)? They were Chalutzim once, pioneers of the ‘Tower and Stockade’ settlements, who received the land—spring-fed warm pool and narrow stream included, a la ‘Garden of Eden’—from the ‘Jewish National Fund.’ The Arabs certainly lived there before them.

Which reminds me of something else, too. The last time I jumped headfirst and swam in that beautiful, paradisical pool, was in the winter three years ago. I visited Israel on the occasion of my mother, also a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, 90th birthday. It was cloudy and cold that January day my brother drove me to the Sachne. I told him I won’t leave the old country without swimming again in my ‘fountain-of-youth.’ We were almost by ourselves there. Us and nature. Like old times. But we had fun galore. And then we sat on a wooden bench and my brother brought his Finjan, his coffee kit, and made us strong cups of black coffee to warm our shivering bones. And as we sipped the coffee and talked, looking at the argentine, peaceful waters while guarded by the rocky Mount Gilboa, paradise—if for a fleeting moment—was found again.

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

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