Posts Tagged ‘Benjamin Netanyahu’

BIBI, AGAIN

Israelis have given Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu a fifth term. Last Tuesday, his Likud party won 36 of the Knesset’s (parliament’s) 120 seats, main rival Blue & White 35. President Reuven Rivlin will call on Bibi to form a coalition government. So?

Bibi was all about security and Israel as a Jewish state. Last weekend, he promised to extend Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank. That would kill a two-state solution. (Disclosure: It’s long been dead. The Palestinian “right to return” would upend the Israeli nation.)

My cousin Lisa Bennett, who lives in a Tel Aviv suburb, supported her cousin Naftali Bennett’s New Right party. She comments: “The biggest Israeli dilemma is defining the core values of the country.” The overwhelming consensus: Israel should be Jewish and democratic. But what if only one value can be selected? “Ultimately, the majority of the country feels that being a Jewish state remains our top priority.”

Bibi received support from Donald Trump, whom many Israelis love. Trump’s soon-to-be-revealed peace plan, authored by son-in-law Jared Kushner, supposedly will herald a great new era in Israeli-Palestinian relations. (Disclosure: Not likely.)

A week ago, Trump made a “snap decision” to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, taken from Syria during 1967’s Six-Day War. Syrian artillery looked down on Israel’s Hula Valley and fired at will on Israeli towns and roads. The threat from Syrian and Iranian forces would be intolerable. 

But recognizing Israeli occupation of the Golan pending a peace deal with Syria—how will that happen?— is a far cry from making a diplomatic leap regarding sovereignty and igniting the next potential firestorm. More than a self-professed “instant history lesson” is required for an American president to construct a Middle East policy.

As to Netanyahu, the Israeli journalist Shmuel Rosner points out that Bibi has never been wrong about security issues. For example, he opposed pulling out of Gaza. (Disclosure: I did not.) Israelis acknowledge Bibi’s security bona fides, and “this goes not just for voters for the Likud party, or even the right-wing parties that are expected to join Likud in the next government, but even for Blue and White, which largely echoed Mr. Netanyahu’s positions on important foreign policy and national security questions.”

Still, Israelis dislike much about Netanyahu. He may be indicted by attorney general Avichai Mandelblit on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He allied with racist parties and is outspoken in his attacks on Israeli Arabs. And security may be more challenging than Israelis think. The journalist Ari Shavit warns that Bibi has “provided short-term profits at a very high long-term price. Netanyahu’s Israel is mortgaged. And we are going to pay dearly.”

Democracy, as Lisa hints, may be a casualty if Bibi continues attacking Israel’s supreme court and media. His wooing far-right and ultra-orthodox parties positions non-orthodox Jews in Israel and the Diaspora—definitely including women—as second-class. (Disclosure: That includes me as a member of a Reform congregation; the Reform movement is North America’s largest.) All this could widen the pronounced gap between Israel and a significant part of the American Diaspora, often misinformed but legitimately concerned about the rights of Jews—and Arabs. 

So Bibi marches on. My prayer: He won’t march Israel off the end of a cliff.

To respond, click on “comments” to the right just below the title of this post. Then go to the response space at the bottom of the post.

DIRTY LAUNDRY

Jerusalem and the Second Temple fell to Rome in 70 CE. The Sages saw in this event dirty laundry—what Jews didn’t want to talk about. The tragedy occurred because of sinat chinam—baseless hatred. Not of Rome for Judea but of Jews towards each other. Jews around the globe need to take notice. So do non-Jewish Americans.

Today, discrete groups of haredim—ultra-orthodox Jews—maintain great antipathy towards each other. They unite in their distaste—often hatred—for Modern Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and secular Jews—the majority of Jews in Israel and the U.S.

The haredim deny Israelis in the Progressive (Reform) and Masorti (Conservative) movements religious equality. In 1948, David Ben Gurion gave this then tiny group full charge of all religious lifecycle events to bring them into his governing coalition. With their high birthrate, the haredim grew far faster than other Israeli Jewish groups. In Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu’s multi-party coalition, they wield considerable political power. This includes preventing Progressive women from praying at the Kotel (Western Wall) by themselves or with men, wearing tallitot (prayer shawls) and reading from the Torah.

The Jerusalem Post (9-6) reported statements by Shlomo Amar, Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, that Reform Jews “… don’t have Yom Kippur or Shabbat, but they want to pray [at the Western Wall]. But no one should think that they want to pray. They want to desecrate the holy.”

Sinat chinam! Jews seeking religious equality very much observe Shabbat (Friday night and Saturday) and Yom Kippur (beginning this year on September 29 and coincident with Shabbat). Their interpretation and observance of the Law is not that of Rabbi Amar and others in the ultra-Orthodox community—who often contend among themselves regarding minutiae. But it is serious, studious and heartfelt, reflecting a love of Torah along with an embrace of the twenty-first century.

Divisiveness also impacts Israel’s political realm. The left has faded. The far-right now abhors centrists, who prefer a two-state solution given sound security guarantees to a greater Israel disenfranchising Arab citizens—or denying citizenship. Despite statements to the contrary, Netanyahu continues to appease the far-right. This while facing allegations of corruption and his wife Sara’s imminent indictment on corruption charges.

The hatred keeps on coming. Bibi and Sara’s son Yair recently posted on Facebook a cartoon using classic anti-Semitic images of his father’s political foes, including billionaire George Soros and former prime minister Ehud Barak. Yair withdrew the meme but not before it elicited praise from American neo-Nazis.

Israel and world Jewry see Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas—among others—as security or existential threats. The challenges they present must be faced with resolve. But Israel confronts an even greater challenge—disunity.

The U.S. exhibits the same dirty laundry. Liberals and conservatives raise fists and shout each other down. Varying groups claim sole knowledge of civic and religious truth. Each seeks to impose its views on the others.

This week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim, offers my favorite biblical verse: “Choose life” (30:19). We possess free will. Using it, we can air our dirty laundry and rid ourselves of its stench. Otherwise, we open ourselves to grave risks as reflected in the words of the cartoonist Walt Kelly’s beloved character Pogo: “We have met the enemy and they are us.”

To all Jews everywhere: L’Shana Tovah—Happy New Year. To everyone else: shalom—peace.

To respond, click on “comments” to the right just below the title of this post. Then go to the response space at the bottom of the post.

JERUSALEM, RAMALLAH & WASHINGTON

Once, a man stacked up piles of dried grass, sticks, branches then logs in a heat-baked land. A friend asked, “What’s with all this fuel? One spark could set the whole area ablaze.” The gatherer said, “Maybe the weather will turn cold. But relax. I certainly won’t start a fire now.” The friend shook his head. “It’s not you starting a fire I’m worried about.”

One week ago, the #UnitedNationsSecurityCouncil condemned #Israelisettlements in the West Bank, 14-0. The United States abstained rather than vetoing the measure. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu lashed out at the Obama administration. “Friends don’t take friends to the Security Council.”

I love Israel. Which is why I say, “Friends don’t let friends stack up fuel for someone else to set on fire.”

On Wednesday, Secretary of State #JohnKerry spoke about new settlements preventing a two-state solution between Jerusalem (yes, the capital of Israel) and Ramallah (capital of the Palestinian Authority). Washington supports a two-state solution. I do, too. An Israel encompassing the West Bank ultimately cannot be both a Jewish and democratic state. A one-state solution eventually will lead to Palestinians lighting a match and possibly causing a major conflagration.

Bibi, in turning to Israel’s far right for political support, continues to kick the can down the road. The can makes an increasingly explosive noise. The world community—hypocrites that so many nations are—will become even more antagonistic towards Israel. Yes, Israel is forging ties with India and China (the latter a member of the Security Council), African and Latin American nations, and Russia (also a Security Council member). It’s renewing ties with Turkey and creating “under the table” relationships with Sunni Arab states. Those are all positives. But Bibi keeps gathering fuel and painting Israel into a corner.

Am I bashing Israel? No way. Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is non-negotiable. Moreover, while the Israeli right remains intransigent about holding on to Judea and Samaria, it’s the Palestinians who turned their backs on a meaningful (read that negotiated, not dictated) two-state agreement. In 2000 and 2008, Jerusalem offered Ramallah East Jerusalem along with modified West Bank borders compensated with land from Israel proper. The Palestinians walked away.

In 2014, Kerry offered what we can surmise to be a similar plan. Jerusalem—read that, Bibi—expressed willingness to talk. Ramallah—P.A. president Mahmoud Abbas—never responded.

Ramallah will continue to avoid making necessary compromises—Israel also will have to compromise—to achieve a Palestinian state and peace. Moshe Yaalon, former Israeli Defense Minister and military Chief of Staff, presents a sad but cogent reason in Foreign Affairs (Jan./Feb. 2017). “Rejecting Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people means that the conflict is not about borders but about Israel’s very existence.” The Palestinians’ “chief objective has been not to achieve their own national community but to deny the Jews theirs.”

It’s in Jerusalem’s best interest to halt settlement building inside the West Bank and hit the ball squarely into Ramallah’s court. Let the Palestinians find another lame excuse for avoiding negotiations and take the blame they deserve. Removing all that highly flammable fuel will help Jerusalem keep from burning down its own house.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. And Happy New Year. May 2017 bring us all meaningful steps toward healing and peace.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

TRUMP IN 2020

Following George W. Bush’s election in 2000—I voted for Al Gore—I hoped to vote for President Bush in 2004. For the nation’s good, I wanted “W” to prove me wrong. He didn’t. Now, I want to vote for Donald Trump in 2020. That’s a long way off. So let’s look at possible scenarios for 2017.

Russia puts more pressure on Eastern Ukraine and Eastern Europe. With President Trump seeing no American interest at play, Vladimir Putin effectively splits Ukraine and brings the Baltic states back into Russia’s orbit. Disclosure: I’ve long believed that bringing Eastern Europe into NATO instead of guaranteeing its neutrality was a mistake, ignoring Moscow’s long-standing concerns about its “near abroad.”

Marine LePen, head of France’s right-wing National Front party, rides the Brexit/Trump wave to the presidency this spring. France seeks independence within NATO or abandons it. With American approval, Ms. Le Pen leads France out of the European Union and away from the Euro, reasserts France’s control of its borders and strengthens secularism in the face of Muslim public religious/cultural practices. This imposes burdens on business people and vacationers but makes transiting Europe more challenging to Islamist terrorists. Recent attempts at unifying European Union intelligence gathering unravel. President Trump doesn’t care; he doesn’t want to share intelligence.

ISIS collapses as a “caliphate”—this already underway—but Islamist terrorism increases on the Continent. In Syria, Trump lets Russia reestablish Bashar al-Assad’s nationwide rule.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickens the pace of settlement building in the West Bank. President Trump talks about recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Rumors loom of a Third Intifada. Trump amends or terminates the nuclear deal with Iran. In response, Iran backs limited hostilities against Israel emanating from Lebanon, encourages greater Shiite control of Iraq and increases tensions with Saudi Arabia. The Saudis express interest in acquiring or developing nuclear weapons.

A tentative trade war tests the waters with China. Beijing more boldly asserts sovereignty in the South China Sea. President Trump orders the U.S. Navy to stand down. Jitters rack Japan, South Korea and Vietnam, who move closer to China. President Trump broaches removing all U.S. troops from South Korea.

Existing walls along the Mexican border undergo symbolic lengthening—at U.S. expense. Relations chill with Mexico City. Anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. grows more fervent. Washington increases deportations but modestly.

The wealthy enjoy major tax cuts while federal programs are slashed, including environmental protections. America burns more coal. (I was in Delhi, India three weeks ago. The air was awful. Last week it became unlivable.)

Job growth in the Upper Midwest and Southeast remains meager since automation cannot be undone. Obamacare is gutted. Private insurers compete to lower premiums for healthy millennials, raise them for everyone else. Millions lose coverage.

Trump proposes a major infrastructure program. Democrats support it. Republican fiscal conservatives oppose it. Trump supporters take solace in a conservative Supreme Court pick, efforts to ban abortion and overturn LGBTQ rights, and the first draft of a new immigration policy. The stock market rises as does volatility.

I hope most of these scenarios don’t take place—infrastructure projects and an intelligent discussion of immigration being exceptions. Really, I’d love to eat crow so I can support President Trump in 2020. What are the odds?

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. Let’s give thanks to all our veterans today. And check in next week for a political suggestion whose time has come.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

GENOCIDE—FACT AND FANTASY

On August 1, The Movement for Black Lives issued its platform. The group represents a coalition of 60-plus organizations calling for equal treatment for African Americans in the criminal justice system and rebuilding Black communities. Among the platform’s statements: “The US […] is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.” Around the same time, the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party issued an equally outrageous statement. What are the facts?

If the writers of the MBL platform had any idea what genocide entails, they’d think twice. (Perhaps they did: I just checked the platform, and the genocide reference seems to have been removed, although solidarity with “Palestine” remains. Fact: If Israel sought to slaughter the Palestinian people, it would have done so.

Fact: On May 6, France24.com reported that Palestinians engaging in the “Knife Intifada” had to date staged more than 350 attacks on Israelis leaving dead 34 Israelis and nearly 200 Palestinians. Understand that these Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers, police and the occasional armed civilian, who responded to the attacks. Does this constitute an Israeli strategy of genocide? I’d more of a case that it doesn’t, but the idea is so bizarre that I won’t waste my time writing more words on this matter and your time reading them.

But I will turn to an August 4 report in The New York Times: “Fatah Makes Incendiary Claim of Killing 11,000 Israelis.” Fatah, the political party headed by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, made an ugly boast in Arabic on one of its official Facebook pages. As writer Diaa Hadid reports: “’For the argumentative … the ignorant … And for those who do not know history,’ begins the Facebook post, ‘The Fatah movement killed 11,000 Israelis.’” The Fatah website had previously made the same erroneous claim in August 2014, according to the Times.

Is this the norm on Fatah’s part? Writes Hadid, “Mr. Abbas, who succeeded Mr. Arafat, has repeatedly said he supports nonviolent resistance against the Israeli occupation. But Fatah has historically championed armed resistance as a central tenet of its doctrine for the liberation of the Palestinian people.” Given the Facebook post, which side exhibits genocidal tendencies?

Fact: The situation between Israel and the Palestinians is not optimal. Tension and violence mar what passes for peace. Thankfully, the situation isn’t worse. Hopefully, it will get better. I’ve stated before and I’ll state now that I believe only a two-state solution will end these hostilities. But I’ll also emphasize that while Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will drag his feet as long as he remains in office, Palestinian leadership (let’s not even mention genocide-oriented Hamas in Gaza) digs in its heals to avoid negotiating a realistic two-state agreement.

As to The Movement for Black Lives, I support Black Americans (and Black French and Britons) being treated equally in every phase of life. I’ve always supported that. I always will. And where help is required, it needs to be given. But I will not support MBL in any way.

Fact: The issue does not involve Israel. Fact: Israel is not committing genocide. Fact: Doing nothing but muddy the waters by self-righteously defaming a nation, its people and their supporters will not move forward this important matter of social justice. Thinking that it will represents pure fantasy.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. And give a fact a break today.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

IF IT BLEEDS IT LEADS

There’s a saying about local TV news: If it bleeds it leads. Car crashes, fires, train derailments, toppled building cranes and, of course, shootings all sell. Most national media aren’t all that different. Maybe that’s why we haven’t heard much lately about Syrian refugees.

Weeks ago, refugees and migrants dominated the media. Drowned bodies—particularly that of a young boy—appeared on TV daily. So did images of squalid camps, blocked border crossings and more fortunate people cramming trains to Germany. But that was then. This is now.

We’ve had another mass killing—this one in Southern Oregon. Floods ravaged South Carolina. Mudslides hit Southern California. And the presidential campaign continues. Donald Trump boasts. Ben Carson dissembles. Republicans point fingers at Hillary Clinton’s server. Still, Tuesday’s Democratic debate focused on issues and pulled outstanding ratings. Israel might again dominate the headlines, but Palestinians haven’t stabbed, shot and run over enough Jews yet to draw sufficient blood and thus major media attention.

Getting back to refugees, you’ll find updated news and commentary on the Internet, but you have to look. Yesterday, Reuters (Yahoo News) reported on talks between the European Union and Turkey to stem the refugee flow to Europe. The New York Times online posted a similar article although you had to scroll. Moreover, the printed San Francisco Chronicle ran a small page-four article (Associated Press) on refugee kids in Berlin schools.

PBS and NPR provide updates and context on key issues, but their well-educated markets are relatively small. Attaining numbers demands violence and tragedy. Cable news eagerly devotes coverage to such matters, repeating clips and comments over and again given much airtime to fill and often scant information. The networks have little time for background and context. For example, the CBS Evening News runs eight-and-a-half minutes of commercials in a 28-minute broadcast, which always concludes with a heartwarming story.

Of course, there’s print media. But most Americans don’t pick up a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Economist, Weekly Standard, Atlantic or Foreign Affairs. Yes, some read these online. But many don’t read newspapers and magazines at all other than those at supermarket checkout stands.

I mentioned network TV news. Competition from cable news remains intense, so the networks experiment with quasi-sensationalism. Recently, CBS weeknight and 60 Minutes anchor Scott Pelley appeared out of control as he challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin kept cool. Pelley came off as the bully. Charlie Rose, known for his calm, respectful demeanor, seemed almost to leap from his chair when he interviewed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I’m not a fan of Bibi, although this has nothing to do with my support for Israel’s security. Still, Bibi remained tranquil and thoughtful—and looked very good. Not so, Charlie. I suspect that new instructions have come down from CBS HQ: be serious journalists again, not advocates or provocateurs.

The media plays a crucial role in helping Americans make decisions. It doesn’t play it well when it dwells on the latest violent act, often marked by sound bites, inflammatory comments and inane commentary. As the classic TV show The X Files put it: The truth is out there. If Americans look for it, they’ll find it. That is, if they want to.

The blog will take off on October 23 and return on October 30.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

IRAN: NOW WHAT?

The Iran deal is done—at least until Congress votes on it. President Obama will veto a “no” vote, and overriding that veto will be difficult. So what lies ahead? We can only speculate. But I do have a warning.

First, let’s look at some possibilities. We’ve bought time, but following the ten-year agreement, Iran—unless a younger generation abandons revolution—may rush to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran’s holding a nuclear threat over Israel, the Middle East and American policy is unsettling. Some think tank inhabitants believe we can live with a nuclear Iran. Until we get there, it’s all theory.

Before the agreement ends—perhaps well before—Sunni Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and perhaps Egypt, may seek to develop their own nuclear weapons. Make no mistake. A proxy war in the Middle East now pits Shiite Iran against Sunni Saudi Arabia. Yet nations have much in common. They’re Muslim. They fund extremists. And they consider each other apostates.

Regrettably, lifting sanctions and unfreezing Iranian assets will enable Tehran to fund more terrorism, increasing its backing for the Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shiite groups in the Gulf and probably Hamas in Gaza. President Obama admittedly focused solely on the nuclear issue. We have our work cut out.

Now let’s examine reality. Peter Beinart—a liberal who supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq then later saw its folly—rejects the theory of American omnipotence (The Atlantic online, July 14). We may be the world’s most powerful nation, but power is relative. We cannot dictate terms to other nations which, while not as strong as us, are formidable regional powers capable of great harm. The administration of George W. Bush set out to remake the Middle East with the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein. Lovely theory. Ugly results.

Unfortunately, saber rattling comes easy. Restraint—particularly when the United States is so potent militarily—poses a major challenge to those who think we can use force with impunity. (Side bar: we are friendly with Vietnam following a war, which cost us more than 58,000 lives; there’s always hope.) Sober commentators like Roger Cohen (New York Times, July 16) point out that the Iran deal does not bring us into the best of all possible worlds. But no one offers a better alternative.

What would have happened had we foregone deal making and ratcheted up sanctions? Would Iran really have given up its quest for the bomb? Remember the bomb drawing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu held up at the United Nations in September 2012? Although tough sanctions were in place, Iran was thisclose. But Bibi and his cabinet didn’t unleash the Israeli Air Force.

Look, I’m no pal of the ayatollahs. They and the Republican Guard are odious hate mongers. Their anti-Israel and anti-America rhetoric constitutes a thin ploy to distract Iranians from their deprivation of human rights and Iran’s regional aggression. But Peter Beinart correctly notes the limits of American power and the delusional nature of “American exceptionalism”—to wit, we know it all and can do no wrong.

I’m glad the White House hasn’t trumpeted “peace in our time.” And I hope that the deal’s critics won’t advocate, “nuke the bastards.” The future is murky. Living with uncertainty is a rough challenge. Get used to it.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me—July sale priced at $15 plus $3 postage if required—or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

FOUR TOUGH TRUTHS

In the movie A Few Good Men (1992), Jack Nicholson is the Marine colonel commanding the U.S. base at Guantanamo. He famously tells a court martial, “You can’t handle the truth.” Given Tuesday’s election in Israel, last November’s American Congressional election and the state of the world, a number of regrettable truths confront us.

Truth #1: The victory of Israel’s Likud party, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, is scary. Likud won 30 of the Knesset’s 120 seats—hardly a mandate. The problem? Trailing in the polls, Bibi played to the worst fears and prejudices of the rabid right, warning that Israeli Arabs were voting (legally) in big numbers. He also said that he would never allow a Palestinian state—after long accepting a two-state solution given a partner on the other side. (Frustrating truth: Mahmoud Abbas was never that partner.) Yesterday, Bibi backtracked. He’s been misunderstood. He favors a Palestinian state under conditions that guarantee Israeli security. I do, too. But can anyone believe Bibi? His campaign rhetoric sent a statement to Jews in Israel and the Diaspora, as well as to the world community: “We can hate as much as they do.” Oh wait. Just kidding.

Truth #2: The American political system isn’t working on the national scale—and needs an overhaul. President Obama seems out of touch to too many Americans. (Age-old truth: you can’t please all of the people all of the time.) His vaunted communications skills are way overrated. Worse, Congress makes a mockery of our democracy. Republicans detoured around the president and welcomed Netanyahu to speak before Congress in great part because they, like Bibi, pander to the far right. Allied truth: Money talks. Says who? The Supreme Court. Corporations have as much right to speak out as people. Only lots more cash. (Do I hear the Koch brothers wheezing in approval or is that Sheldon Adelson?) Grating truth: Many Republicans oppose the president because a Black man (defined in the U.S.A. as anyone with a drop of Black blood) sits in the White House. Mr. Obama can change his policies. He can never change his genetics.

Truth #3: Democracy may not always be the answer. How has it done in Iraq? Shiites continue to suppress Sunnis in a continuation of a religious conflict going back 13 centuries. Turkey’s Islamist president Tayyip Recep Erdogan has turned democracy into a sham. Iran’s elected officials, including the president, fall under the thumb of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei. And would you really praise democracy in Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood? Nasty truth: enlightened autocracy might work better in some cases. That’s the position of the noted journalist/scholar Robert Kaplan in his recent book, Asia’s Cauldron. Kaplan cites the incredible flowering of Singapore under Lee Kwan Yew and Malaysia under Mahathir Mohamad (whom Kaplan nonetheless recognizes as an anti-Semite). And no, I’m not a fan of Vladimir Putin, elected by, but hardly accountable to, the Russian people. By the way, he’s wonderfully satirized (and wonderfully played by Lars Mikkelsen) in this season’s Netflix hit House of Cards.

Truth #4: The Giants will not win the World Series. It’s 2015, people—an odd numbered year. The Giants just don’t do that. Joyful truth: they’ll still help take our minds off Truths 1–3.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me—$20 plus $3 postage if required—or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

DEAR BIBI

An open letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Bibi, times remain challenging. As an ardent supporter of Israel, let me respectfully offer a few comments. Because while you’re correct that a significant segment of Palestinians promotes the destruction of Israel, the best strategy Israel can adopt is that of a peace seeker. Before you throw your hands in the air, note that I didn’t say victim.

Let’s start with the recent murders at Jerusalem’s Har Nof synagogue. Five Israelis—four Jews and one Druze—were killed. It was heinous. Hamas’ supportive comments and Palestinian distribution of candies to celebrate reflect grave moral impoverishment. But destroy the homes of the murderers? Bar Israeli-Arab citizens from their construction jobs as the mayor of Ashkelon did yesterday? And build new settlements while we’re at it? That won’t stir the cauldron and bring more violence? Israel won’t look as mindless as many Palestinians do on a daily basis?

Yes, you want to show leadership. But when you embrace the right, you don’t lead. You follow. You say you support a two-state solution, as do I. Why not speak out when Economy Minister Naftali Bennett promulgates his plan to offer Palestinians limited autonomy, not a state—and only in part of the West Bank?

It hurts me to disagree with Naftali. He’s my cousin Maxine’s nephew. I certainly understand Naftali’s concerns. But his plan sounds reasonable only if you’re an Israeli. A one-state strategy will only provoke continuation—and escalation—of the conflict. Not that I believe that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, is an effective peace partner. He doesn’t have the beitzim—or as they say in Spanish, cojones.

And you? You’ve said Israel is willing to make major concessions for peace? What concessions? Why not announce them and let Abbas struggle to respond? Why not show the world, including many of Israel’s friends expressing doubts, that Israel is willing to walk the bilateral walk?

Why play up to rightists like the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson? At a recent Israeli-American Council gathering, he took the position that Israel can freely ignore the rights of its Arab population in the present or an expanded state. “So Israel won’t be a democratic state, so what?” Adelson said. Really?

Look, Bibi, I’m not suggesting that Israel compromise its security. Hitting back at Hamas last summer? I supported you. Preventing Jews from praying on the Temple Mount (security personnel even took a pair of candles from my wife when we went there) to keep order regardless of how one-sided the Muslim position? Prudent.

But let’s make sober choices in response to attacks rather than flailing wildly. Make clear to the world the truth it often willfully dismisses—that Israel is a boon to the global community, and that when we say we want peace, we mean it.

I’m not naïve. World opinion alone won’t safeguard Israel. But leveraging world opinion instead of circling the wagons can help. Over a century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt said, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” That’s wisdom worthy of the Talmud.

I’ll be taking off for Thanksgiving weekend. My next post will appear on Friday, December 5.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

SILWAN

A newspaper article from decades ago concerned the wise, heroic act of a teacher in a tough Chicago high school. I wish I could personally tell the story to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu.

A student pulled a gun. Let me be clear. No one has the right to bring a gun into a school. The teacher entered the scene but didn’t threaten the student. He knew that might set the student off. So he said, “Let me hold that for you.” The student, seeing a way out, surrendered the weapon. The teacher’s considered words prevented a possible catastrophe.

Israel faces a similar situation in East Jerusalem. Let me be clear. Israel has every right to exist. Moreover, I defend Israel’s right to strike back at Hamas and other terrorists with whatever force it deems necessary. But the Israeli government’s strategy regarding East Jerusalem—the Silwan neighborhood in particular—seems self-destructive.

Silwan, which borders the southern portion of the Old City, is thoroughly Arab. I’ve been driven through Silwan several times, so I’ve had tires, if not feet, on the ground. Some right-wing Israelis have moved to Silwan to establish a “substantial” Jewish presence in Arab East Jerusalem (as opposed to the huge Jewish suburbs in areas annexed by the Municipality of Jerusalem). Recently, Jews purchased several residences through an Arab intermediary and entered them under cover of darkness.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Jews in Silwan number 500. The Arab population is 50,000. So the Jewish presence is anything but substantial. Yet the right seeks to settle enough Jewish residents to void Arab claims on Silwan and the rest of East Jerusalem. Bibi and the right insist that Jerusalem, East and West, is and will remain the undivided capital of Israel. They see Jewish residents invalidating any claim on East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

The right-wing position represents a fantasy that keeps tensions high. Arab East Jerusalem is just that. Jews lived there in the past, yes. But Palestinians once lived in West Jerusalem. That’s also the past; they won’t be returning. We should remember the past but more important live in the present with an eye on an attainable future.

Let me also be clear. Arab/Palestinian violence in response to the situation is wrong. On Wednesday, an Arab resident of East Jerusalem drove his car into a group of people at a light-rail stop. He killed a three-month old Jewish girl. That’s monstrous. Bibi’s response condemned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for making incendiary statements about Muslims defending the Noble Sanctuary (Temple Mount to Jews). Bibi may be right. But his self-righteousness has not helped matters.

Does it make sense to toss a lighted match into a barrel of gunpowder? The teacher in Chicago might have been “right” to threaten the student, but he chose to defuse the situation. Yes, East Jerusalem has been part of Israel (though two previous Israeli prime ministers offered it to the Palestinians and were rebuffed) since the 1967 Six-Day War. And Arab residents of East Jerusalem take advantage of generous Israeli social benefits. But as to Silwan, this Israeli government’s approach remains needlessly heavy-handed. Cornering the market may pay off. Cornering an opponent risks disaster.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.