The ingredients for a bright future.

I am on my way to Israel to celebrate the 70th birthday of the Jewish state.  Having experienced many of Israel’s birthdays before, when the country was noticeably less mature or prosperous, this birthday is a special occasion.  With all the glory attached to the coming of age, there are also sets of precedents that require caution and good judgment.

The number 70 has meaningful commutations in Jewish tradition.  It recalls the 70-year Babylonian Exile that led to the start of the Second Jewish Commonwealth in 530 BCE.  The return to the Land of Israel occurred through the Charter given by the Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great, allowing Jews who wished to return to “Jerusalem that is in Judah” and build a “House for the God of Heaven” to do so.  Prime Minister Netanyahu, in praising Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, compared him to King Cyrus the Great.  Similarly, President Harry Truman was told that in recognizing the Jewish state, he would become another King Cyrus for Jews everywhere.

Zerubbabel, a descendent of King David, led the first wave of returnees to Jerusalem.  The second wave come with the Scribe Ezra (book of Ezra in the third portion of the Hebrew Bible called Ketuvim).  The third stage of mass return to the land occurred with Nehemiah, a high official in the Persian Empire administration.

The first returnees had to deal with the Samaritans and the Ammonites, in the same way the 19th and 20th century returnees had to deal with the Arabs.  The Samaritans, like the Arabs of later times, were brought into the land of Israel by the Assyrian kings at the end of the Eight Century BCE in place of the Israelites they had deported.  Arabs settled in the Land of Israel following the deportation of the Jews (most but not all) by the Romans in the aftermath of the Jewish rebellion, which ended in the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.

Waves of conquerors of the land of Israel, which the Romans renamed Syria Palestina, settled in place of the exiled Jews.  The name Palestina had nothing to do with Arab-Palestinians of today.  It was named after the Philistines, people related to the Greeks who originally invaded the coastal cities of Israel from the Aegean Sea.  By the time the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, no traces were left of the Philistines.  Under the Arab conquerors and the Ottoman Turkish rule (1516-1918), and especially during the British Mandate (1918-1948), many Arabs from neighboring states settled in Palestine, propelled by industry and jobs created by Jewish pioneers.

There are additional similarities between the returnees from the Babylonian Exile and Israelis today.  Many were “post-Zionist.”  Zerubbabel intended to rebuild the land of Zion, shaping it in the image and glory of the kingdoms of David and Solomon.  Many of the returnees sought to blend with the prevailing cultures of the surrounding nations.  In Israel today, a segment of the population are regarding themselves as post-Zionist.  They seek to be part of the larger world and blend with the prevailing western culture. They are choosing universalism versus Jewish particularism.

In recent decades, Israel as a nation has become largely conservative.  It is evidenced by the electoral majorities of the right-of-center parties’ garner.  Surveys indicate that 65% of the electorate has been voting for parties right-of-center.  The leftist parties, including the Labor Party now called the Zionist Camp, is a fading shadow of its progenitor, the once powerful Mapai (Mifleget Poali Eretz Israel) party.

Under PM Netanyahu, Israel turned away from its socialist past and adopted capitalism.  That, coupled with incentivizing risk-taking, created innovation and prosperity not seen before.

While Israel has become a richer country, not everyone has shared in its prosperity.  The current Israeli government seeks to motivate the ultra-religious haredi community into entering the workforce as well as increasing the Arab sector involvement in the workforce. The current unemployment rate in Israel (April 2018) is 3.8%.  Israel has a far higher employment rate than the average European Union or even the U.S., at 64%.   Israel’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is forecasted by the International Monetary Fund to be $37,485.67 PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) in December, 2018.  In December, 2022 Israel’s GDP PPP is projected to stand at $42,496.31.  In 1980, Israel’s GDP PPP was $7,062.57, meaning that Israel’s GDP PPP grew by over six times.  Italy, with a population of over 60 million, by comparison grew only four times from 1980 ($10,543.69) to 2022 ($44,129.81).  Israel’s innovations in bio-technology, agriculture, medicine, to name but a few sectors, are incredible.  Israeli companies are second only to the U.S. in trading on the U.S. stock markets.

Life has improved for most Israelis not only in economic terms.  A 2016 UN survey showed that the Jewish state ranks 11th in the Global Happiness Index, above Germany, the UK, Italy, Ireland, France and the U.S., in spite of facing wars on a regular basis in the volatile and unstable Middle East region.  Denmark was listed as the happiest nation in the world.

A survey conducted by Israel’s Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University in May, 2017 found that 66% of Arab-Israeli respondents considered life in Israel as being “good” or “very good.”  According to the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) Annual Pluralism Index (April 20, 2017), “90% of Jewish Israelis and almost 80% of Arab Israelis felt ‘comfortable’ or ‘very comfortable’ to be ‘who they are’.  Among Jews the sense of comfort is greater for those who define themselves further to the right on the political or religious spectrum.  Among Arabs, the sense of comfort is greater for those who define their main identity as ‘Israeli’, and lower among those who define their main identity as ‘Arab’ or ‘Palestinian’.

Israel, in 2018, is a stronger state militarily as well in relation to its regional enemies.  Moreover, the threat that Iran poses to the Middle East region as a whole, has brought the Gulf Arabs and Saudi Arabia in particular, to recognize Israel as an “ally” of sorts.  Iran is seen by them as an existential threat, and it is likewise for Israel.  Egypt’s economic weakness has impacted on its potential threat to Israel.  Cairo, much like Riyadh, views Iran and its agent Hezbollah as a greater threat than Israel.  Israel’s military is now larger in manpower, better equipped than ever before, and still highly motivated.  Syria and Iraq, once bitter enemies of Israel, have been incapacitated by civil-wars and internal strife. Hezbollah, the Lebanese based terror organization poses a danger to Israel’s population, but Israel has the means to deal with it, as it has dealt with Hamas in Gaza.

The Talmud attributes the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE to groundless hatred (Sinat Chinam), which was endemic to national Jewish life at that time.  Famed Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, wrote that if the Second Temple was destroyed and the people scattered through groundless hatred, then the Temple will be rebuilt and the Jewish people gather together through Causeless Love (Ahavat Chinam).  As Israel celebrates its 70th birthday, it must be cautious not to repeat the divisiveness of the Second Commonwealth in which groundless hatred and in-fighting brought down the Temple and caused Exile.  Only good judgement and national cohesion will lead to Israel’s bright future.

Originally Posted on FrontPageMag.


Why a Palestinian state would be a disaster for Israel and the region.

Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) CEO created a bit of an uproar among certain Jewish organizations when he stated at the AIPAC conference earlier this month that, “We must work toward that future: two states for two people. One Jewish with secure and defensible borders, and one Palestinian with its own flag and its own future.”  It was a reiteration of last year’s call on the U.S. administration to undertake steps that “Could create a climate that encourages the Palestinians to negotiate in pursuit of the goal we desire: a Jewish state of Israel living side by side in peace and security with a demilitarized Palestinian state.”

There is no question that Howard Kohr’s motives are pure and honorable in seeking a secure Israel alongside a peaceful and demilitarized Palestinian state.  Unfortunately reality dictates otherwise.  At the moment we actually have a need to solve more than a two-state question.  We have a third state question and that is the Hamas ruled Gaza Strip.  Hamas has vowed to fight until the liberation of all of Palestine and the destruction of Israel.  The Los Angeles Times reported (March 1, 2017), “In a shift, the new document (as it relates to the Hamas Covenant-JP), formally endorses the goal of establishing a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, with Jerusalem as its capital, as part of a ‘national consensus’ among Palestinians (this was during the reconciliation process with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority-JP).  While that may be a tacit acknowledgment of Israel’s existence, the revision stops well short of recognizing Israel, and reasserts calls for armed resistance toward a ‘complete liberation of Palestine’ from the river to the sea.”

The attempted assassination of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah earlier this month in Gaza, put a stop to the reconciliation efforts between Hamas and the PA, which is dominated by Fatah.  Fatah spokesperson and Revolutionary Council member, Osama al-Qawasmi said, “Hamas is fully responsible for this cowardly operation that targeted the homeland, reconciliation, and unity. This cowardly act is outside of our values and national relations, and has repercussions.”  It is clear that even if PA President Mahmoud Abbas should return to the negotiating table, and that is doubtful, Hamas will continue its campaign of terror against Israel.  Hamas is unwilling to give up control of its arms, its rockets, or its mortars, to the PA.

In December, 1998, President Bill Clinton responded to Arafat’s letter.  He thanked Arafat for the move in January of the same year, which allegedly struck out and amended the call in the Palestinian Charter for the destruction of Israel, by the raised arms verbal vote of the Palestinian National Council (PNC).  The Palestinian Charter specifies in Clause 33 as amended in 1968, that the charter can only be changed if 2/3rds of its membership met to vote on the change.  This did not occur.  It is abundantly clear that the PA is still committed to the destruction of Israel, albeit, without openly using the extremist verbiage that Hamas is using.  The continued incitement to violence and terror by Mahmoud Abbas, and the entire educational and informational apparatus of the PA that advocates hatred for Jews and Israel, negates the idea of a peaceful Palestinian state living side by side with the Jewish state of Israel.

The idea that a future Palestinian state would adhere to being a “demilitarized state” is totally unrealistic, especially if we consider the history and nature of Arab regimes. Louis Rene Beres, Emeritus Professor of International Law, has pointed out that even “If the government of a fully sovereign Palestinian state were in fact willing to consider itself bound by some pre-state agreement to demilitarize, in these improbable circumstances, the new Palestinian Arab government could likely identify ample pretext and opportunity to invoke lawful ‘treaty’ termination.

Palestine could withdraw from any such agreement because of what it would regard as a ‘material breach,’ a purported violation by Israel, one that had allegedly undermined the object or purpose of the accord.  It could also point to what international law calls Rebus sic stantibus: permissible abrogation,’ known more popularly as a ‘fundamental change of circumstances.’  If Palestine should declare itself vulnerable to previously unseen dangers, perhaps even from interventionary forces, or the forces of other Arab armies or insurgencies that it could claim might be trying to occupy it, it could lawfully end its previously codified commitment to stay demilitarized.

There is another reason why any hopes for Palestinian demilitarization must remain unsupportable. After declaring independence, a Palestinian government — any Palestinian government – could point to particular pre-independence errors of fact, or to duress, as appropriate grounds for invoking selective agreement termination. In this regard, the grounds that may be invoked under domestic law to invalidate contracts could also apply under international law, whether to actual treaties, or, as in this particular case, to lesser treaty-like agreements.”

Professor Beres pointed out that according to the ‘Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties’ (1969), an authentic treaty must always be between states.”  Beres argues that “any treaty or treaty-like compact is void if, at the time of its entry into force it conflicts with a ‘peremptory’ rule of international law — that is, one from which ‘no derogation is permitted.’ As the right of sovereign states to maintain military forces for self-defense is always such a rule, Palestine would be within its lawful right to abrogate any pre-independence agreement that had (impermissibly) compelled its own demilitarization.

The “2005 Gaza experience,” of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, has taught Israel a painful lesson.  Once it vacates land it will ultimately become a base for terror attacks against its cities and citizens.  With Israel’s major cities within rifle fire of a Palestinian state, not to mention rockets, life inside Israel would become impossible.  Palestinian terror attacks and Israel’s retaliation will serve as an excuse for the future state of Palestine to discard demilitarization.  International guarantees, even by its closest allies won’t have any meaning. Israel learned this lesson following the Sinai Campaign of 1956.  The Maritime powers guarantees (including the U.S.) didn’t prevent Egypt’s dictator, Abdul Nasser, from closing the Straits of Tiran and the Suez Canal to Israeli navigation. The International community did nothing.

A one-state solution in which Israel would absorb about two-million Palestinians as its citizens is not an ideal solution either.  It isn’t so much the demographic threat that it once was, but rather a threat to peace within the country, where two cultures are in conflict.  Perhaps the ideal solution is for the Kingdom of Jordan to federate with the West Bank Palestinians.  Israel would annex area C under the Oslo Accords, where most of the 500,000 Jews live, and the Jordan River would serve as the international border between Israel and Jordan, which would insure Israel’s security.  The Palestinian-Arabs will have a flag (the Jordanian and Palestinian flags are almost identical), a representation in the federated government, possibly a Palestinian Prime Minister (Jordan’s population is already 70% Palestinians), an outlet to the sea (Aqaba if not Gaza) and total religious homogeneity (Sunni-Islam).

Under normal circumstances many Israelis, much like Howard Kohr, would prefer a two-state solution.  But the realities in the Middle East indicate that another authoritarian state (and most likely terrorist state) won’t contribute to stability or peace in the region.  On the contrary, it would serve as a focal point of conflict.  Perhaps in the next few generation things might change, but for now a Palestinian state would be a disaster for Israel and the region.

Originally Published in FrontPageMag.


Might it lead to war?

U.S. voices at the United Nations (UN) and in the U.S. Congress are warning of the dangers of relying on Russia to curb Iran’s incursion deep into Syria, and warning of the treat this poses to U.S. allies, Israel and Jordan.  Yet, the Trump administration seems to consider the status-quo in Syria, (minus ISIS), acceptable, essentially conceding the field to Russia when considering the future of Syria.  In the meantime, verbal combat is occurring between Iran and Israel that might lead to a real war.

Earlier this month, the State Department announced a deal with Russia to expand “deconfliction zones” in southwestern Syria.  It is allegedly designed to keep Iranian, Hezbollah, and Iranian recruited Shiite militias from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen, away from Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan.  But, if the Trump Administration is sincere about stopping Iran’s advance toward the Mediterranean Sea, or preventing a major conflict in the Middle East, it certainly falls short on this score.  Moreover, Russia is using its air power to protect Iranian backed ground forces.  The U.S., on its part, plans to end its involvement in Syria and Iraq once the Islamic State is defeated and ejected from the region. Regrettably, unlike the Russians, who have protected their Middle East allies, the U.S. appears to be abandoning their hitherto allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces, who are predominantly Kurds.  This would allow the dictator, Bashar Assad, whose army slaughtered most of the 500,000 fellow Syrians using outlawed chemical weapons, to stay in power under Russian and Iranian protection.

At the UN last week, Russia vetoed the extension of a UN panel set to investigate Assad’s regimes use of chemical weapons, called the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM).  Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, twitted that “By using the veto to kill the mechanism in Syria that holds users of chemical weapons accountable, Russia proves they cannot be trusted or credible as we work toward a political solution in Syria.”

At a counterterrorism conference hosted by the Hudson Institute in Washington DC, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) (leading member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees) had this to say about the Iranian threat to Israel. “Iran’s aggression against Israel has become much more widespread.  It’s a very dangerous advance that Iran is making through northern Iraq and southern Syria.  Iran is now providing not just rockets, it’s helping build precision-guided munitions factories in Syria, on the border with Lebanon, where Hezbollah can manufacture its own precision-guided munitions to use against Israel.” Cotton added, “We can’t allow the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to have unmolested, resupply lines going from Iran to the Levant.  It is not in the interest of the U.S. to have a revolutionary cause backed with the powers of a nation state expanding its influence throughout the region.”

The Iranian regime may be a threat to U.S. vital interests in the Middle East, as stated by U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, but it is a definitive existential threat to Israel.  Tehran’s threats to Israel are not confined to rhetorical remarks by its leaders. It has now developed capabilities that will enable it to carry out its intentions to “destroy Israel.”  The 2015 Nuclear Deal, which Iran is clearly subverting in various ways, includes developing long-range ballistic missiles and the accompanying delivery system.

Earlier this year, Mojtaba Zonour, a senior member of Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission and a former Revolutionary Guards official, commented that, “Only 7 minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv.”  He also warned that his country (Iran) “would immediately strike Israel if the U.S. makes a mistake.”

Reuters reported (11/18/2017) that Iranian military chief-of-staff General Mohammad Baqeri said that the Islamic Republic would not accept Israeli violations of Syria, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).  Baqeri stated during a visit to Damascus that, “It is not acceptable for the Zionist regime to violate Syria anytime it wants.”

Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on a visit to Israel’s northern border last week stated that, “Israel is prepared and ready for all eventualities.”  He added that Israel will reserve its absolute freedom of action.  He said that Israel won’t allow Iranian bases in Syria, and will not permit southwestern Syria to become a forward outpost against Israel.

Lieberman was accompanied on his visit with Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) Chief-of-Staff Gadi Eizenkot, and senior IDF generals.  It reflects Israel’s concerns over the recent Iranian moves that includes efforts to erect a permanent base on Syrian soil.  Iran, it appears, is seeking to upgrade its threats against Israel, should her nuclear facilities be attacked, hence, an Iranian presence in Syria is extremely dangerous for Israel.  In addition, Israel fears that in the near future, Iran might transfer to Syria advanced anti-aircraft and land-to-sea missiles that will directly threaten Israel’s freedom of navigation and its aircraft.

Behind the warlike declaration delivered over microphones, Israel is investing heavily in worldwide briefings, and in particular, appealing to Washington.  Israeli representatives are explaining to officials the dangers of a permanent Iranian presence in Syria.  Hitherto, the U.S. administration has shown little interest in acting on it.

When the dust of war clears over Syria, Bashar Assad, the butcher of Damascus, will be the winner in the civil war.  The true rulers of Syria will be however, the Russians.  Putin’s diplomats tell every side what they want to hear, including Israel.  It is clear nonetheless that the Russians see their interests coincide with that of Iran.  Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign Minister, confirmed that last week when he suggested that the Iranian presence in Syria is “legitimate.”  On October 16, 2017, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, visited Israel after Israeli Air Force (IAF) planes conducting a photography mission over Lebanon, were fired upon by an anti-aircraft SA-5 battery of the Syrian army. A quartet of Israeli jets took off from an IAF base, and with four precise bombs, made direct hits and destroyed the radar unit launcher and the firing battery.  In meetings with PM Netanyahu and DM Lieberman, Shoigu offered little practical solutions in dealing with Iranian expansionism.

According to the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat, Russia has rejected Israel’s request for a 40 kilometer buffer zone from the Israeli Golan Heights border, but was willing to expand a 10-15 kilometer zone, which will be off-limits to Iranian forces.

The escalating war of words between Jerusalem and Tehran can easily turn from verbal volleys to missiles flying on all sides.  Although none of the parties want to be dragged into a war, the escalating threats and counter threats have their own dynamic force, and wars break out as a result of misunderstandings between enemies.  This is an explosive situation that the Trump administration must not ignore.  It is time for the U.S. to flex some muscle in Syria.

Oringally Published in FrontpageMag.

The Fatah-Hamas Unification

What it means for Israel.

Earlier this month, a new Palestinian unification agreement was signed in Cairo through Egyptian mediation.  It is unlikely to differ much from the previous 2011 agreement between Fatah and Hamas that fizzled away.  In control of Gaza since 2007, Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel without much pretense.  Fatah, the party of President Mahmoud Abbas, would like the Jewish state to disappear in stages, albeit, with internationally sanctioned agreements, and good doses of terror inspired by the Ramallah regime.  Just like a leopard cannot change its spots, the Palestinians cannot discard their deep enmity toward the Jewish state.

Al-Jazeera reported on October 12, 2017 that “Palestinian political parties Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on Thursday, as part of an effort to end the decade-long rift. The announcement comes after representatives from Hamas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) convened in Cairo on Tuesday to implement a unity agreement that was signed in 2011 but not put into action.”

In recent months, Hamas has been under increased pressure to give up its sole control over the Gaza Strip.  The PA has cut the salaries of PA employees living in Gaza, and at the same time electricity to Gaza has been reduced.  On top of that, Israel’s blockade has furthered the power shortages in Gaza.  One of the elements in the agreement signed would allow Palestinian Authority Security forces to control the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, as of December 1, 2017.  This is believed to be a way to end Egyptian closure of the border crossing, and thus allow goods and people to cross into and out of the Gaza Strip.

Western powers, hoping that the reconciliation agreement would signal momentum toward an eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement would have to be skeptical given the existing precedence of Palestinian factions inability to come to terms.  Moreover, in order for a genuine Israeli-Palestinian peace process to materialize into a peace agreement, the agreement has to fulfill two vital conditions.

The first being that the unification of the two factions (Fatah and Hamas) must produce a unified leadership that can speak with one voice, and be empowered to proceed with peace negotiations with Israel.  This objective must be publicly announced by all Palestinian factions.  If, on the other hand, the objective of the unification is to solidify Palestinian opposition to a peaceful coexistence with Israel by allowing Hamas to keep its military arm, and continue its acts of terror by firing rockets at Israel, building tunnels, and commit murderous acts against Israeli civilians, then this unification will lead nowhere but to continued bloodshed.  It will also make it impossible for the international community to seek continued Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The second condition is for the unified Palestinian administration to openly reaffirm all Palestinian commitments regarding Israel and the international community signed at the Oslo Accords and witnessed by the international community.

In the meantime however, none of these condition have been met.  While PA officials seek to “sell” Western powers on the efficacy of Palestinian unification on the peace process, other top PA officials are revealing Palestinian true intentions.  The Times of Israel reported (October 20, 2017) that an official at the Palestinian Mission to Columbia tweeted a quote from former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat calling for the destruction of Israel.  The tweed read, “Our goal is the end of Israel, and there can be no compromises or mediations… We do not want peace. We want war and victory.”

Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar, declared on October 19, 2017, during a speech in Gaza that his terror organization will never disarm, adding that, “Gone is the time in which Hamas discussed recognition of Israel. The discussion now is about when we will wipe out Israel.”

Ynet-News reported that “U.S. President Donald Trump’s special Mideast envoy, Jason Greenblatt, said that if Hamas wants to play a role in any Palestinian government, it must renounce violence and commit to peaceful negotiations with Israel, adding that they must meet the international demands to recognize Israel and accept previous agreements with it.” Greenblatt added that Hamas must accept these basic requirements, which are also the Middle East Quartet’s (UN, EU, U.S. and Russia) requirements.

It is downright naïve to believe that Hamas would renounce violence, or that the PA is truly interested in real peace with Israel.  It is worth remembering that in Geneva, Switzerland, on a cold December day in 1988, Arafat “renounced” violence and pledged to recognize Israel, only to authorize six months later a terrorist attack on Israel at Palmachim beach in central Israel.  This reporter was a witness to Arafat’s coached Geneva pledge in order to initiate a dialogue with the U.S. administration.

The PA has allegedly accepted the key principles outlined by the quartet.  Hamas though, views the Quartet’s demands as conflicting with its position of using armed resistance against Israel (i.e. terrorism), supposedly to end the occupation.  Yet Israel handed over control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians in 2005, exposing Hamas’ uncompromising stance.

In a Facebook statement (October 12, 2017), Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote that “Israel opposes any reconciliation in which the terrorist organization Hamas does not disarm and end its war to destroy Israel. There is nothing Israel wants more than peace with all our neighbors.  Reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas makes peace much harder to achieve.  What does it say when you reconcile with a terrorist organization that: seeks to annihilate Israel, advocates genocide, launched thousands of rockets at civilians and digs terror tunnels, murders children, represses minorities, bans LGBT, rejects international obligations, refuses to free Israeli civilians it holds hostage, refuses to return the bodies of Israeli soldiers to grieving mothers and fathers, tortures opposition, and mourns Ben Laden’s death.  Reconciling with mass-murderers is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Say yes to peace and no to joining hands with Hamas.”

It seems that Fatah has capitulated to Hamas rather than the reverse.  Fatah will not seek to force Hamas to give up its “resistance,” a euphemism for terrorism.  According to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) Jibril Rajoub, a member of Fatah Central Committee and former head of the Preventive Security Force in the West Bank, told Al-Mayadeen TV (Lebanon), October 6, 2017, “the Fatah-Hamas unity government will not give up resistance.” Another Fatah Central Committee member, Azzam Al-Ahmad, elaborated on Rajoub’s statements by explaining that Fatah has not changed its principles, which remain “popular resistance, armed struggle, and negotiations.”

The new unification agreement between Fatah and Hamas, which includes admission of Hamas into the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), does not much differ from the previous agreement in its attitudes toward Israel.  The agreement enshrines “resistance,” (terror), and resistance cannot go together with peace.  What makes this agreement somewhat different is Egypt’s role in it.  Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s president, has put his prestige on the line, and both Hamas and the PA know the consequences of failure.  Hamas has been branded a terrorist organization by the U.S., the European Union and Israel.  It has also been an enemy of Egypt’s President el-Sisi by virtue of its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

For Israel, a key question is, in a Palestinian unity government, will PA security forces be able to thwart terrorist attacks against Israel as they have done in the past? Israel’s response to the reconciliation agreement this time has been more measured and cautious, but few Israelis expect the agreement to bring the Palestinians closer to making peace.

Originally Published in FrontPageMag.


Funding Palestinian Jew-hatred.

Turkey’s dictatorial president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent efforts to mediate between the Saudis, their Arab Gulf allies and Egypt on one side versus his Qatari ally (both are staunch supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood) on the other, have failed to materialize.  At the same time, his war of words with Germany, and the European Union’s cold shoulder, has left the arrogant Erdogan with one avenue to make headlines – incite Muslims against Israel.  His crude anti-Semitic incitement has gone hand-in-hand with his posturing as the leader of the Sunni-Muslim world.

Erdogan has called on Muslims to show solidarity with the Palestinians by flooding Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.  He has used invectives against Israel with such words as “racist and discriminatory.” This comes after the Israeli government backed away from a confrontation with the incited Muslim community, and ordered the removal of the metal detectors and security cameras.  The Israeli actions followed a week of Palestinian rioting, and the murders of three Israeli family members by a Palestinian terrorist.  Erdogan declared that, “In our religionand historical responsibility for Al-Quds and the fight of our Palestinian brothers for rights and justice is of great importance to us.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry was quick to respond to Erdogan’s repeated incitement (he previously ranted about a proposed bill that would ban the religious institution from using loudspeakers. Switzerland already banned loudspeakers in mosques.) It called Erdogan’s comments “baseless slander,” adding that, “anyone who systemically violates human rights in their own country should not preach about morality. It’s absurd that the Turkish government, which occupies Northern Cyprus, brutally represses the Kurdish minority and jails journalists, should lecture Israel, the only true democracy in the region. The days of the Ottoman Empire have passed.” The Foreign Ministry statement added, “Israel strictly adheres to protecting full freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims, and Christians – and will continue to do so despite this baseless slander.”

Build Jerusalem Fund

Erdogan’s incendiary remarks, in a speech to his party’s parliamentary group in Ankara, stated, “When Israeli soldiers recklessly pollute the grounds of Al-Aqsa with their combat boots by using simple issues as pretexts and then easily spill blood there, it is because we [Muslims] have not done enough to stake our claim over Jerusalem.” Turkey’s Erdogan is currently the chairman of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Clearly, in Erdogan’s mind, Jews and Israelis are merely dhimmis who should be disciplined by the Islamic Empire, and he considers himself a ‘Sultan’ of sorts.

Israeli political leaders reacted this time to Erdogan’s incitement with unsuppressed anger. Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said, “We have heard voices which attack Israel for building Jewish life in Jerusalem. I must tell these people: For the last 150 years there has been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. Even under the Ottoman Empire there was a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. Under Israeli sovereignty we continue to build Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people.”

Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, went even further in responding to Erdogan’s charges saying that, “Turkey ruled Jerusalem for 400 years under the Ottoman Empire.  It is surprising that Erdogan, who leads a state that occupied Jerusalem for 400 years, wants to preach to us about how to manage our city.  Unlike, during the Turkish occupation, Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty is a flourishing, open, and free city that allows freedom of religion and worship for all.  In recent years, record numbers of Muslims have visited the Temple Mount and held prayers, exercising their absolute freedom of religion under Israeli sovereignty.”  Barkat added, “The connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem dates back more than 3,000 years.  Jerusalem is and will remain, our eternal united capital forever. In every corner of the city, we see Jewish roots – from the time of the First and Second Temple to the Muslim period and the Ottoman conquest.”

Israeli Knesset (Parliament) Speaker, Yuli Edelstein, said, “As long as Erdogan is Turkey’s leader, ties will not be back to what they were.”  Ex-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was more adamant, saying that “Erdogan aspires for there to be Muslim Brotherhood hegemony in the Middle East, and is working toward an Islamic Europe. This should be surprising only to those who ignore the facts.” Former Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, in an interview with 103FM Radio, stated that “We made a mistake by paying damages and apologizing for the Marmara incident.”

Erdogan’s latest attempt to scapegoat Israel with his Al-Aqsa speech comes after his failure to bring an end to the Arab Gulf crisis. In fact, Erdogan’s meddling on behalf of Qatar has cost Turkey a lucrative shipbuilding contract with the Saudis to sell four warships to the Saudi navy, worth $2 billion.  Erdogan’s expedited bill in the Turkish parliament to send Turkish soldiers to a Turkish military base in Qatar, doomed the prospects for expanding Turkish trade with the Arab Gulf states.

It was not only in the Middle East that Erdogan suffered a significant setback…he recently created a crisis with Germany as well. The relationship between the two countries had already soured.  Last March, the German government refused to allow Erdogan and his ministers to hold election campaigns in Germany.  In response, Erdogan accused the German government of implementing “Nazi practices.”  Turkey’s refusal to allow German parliament members to visit their contingent at the Incirlik air base led Germany to move its soldiers to Jordan. Things deteriorated further when the Turkish government arrested a Turkish-German journalist reporting for the German newspaper Die Welt on phony charges, alleging support for a terrorist organization.  Germany also provided political asylum for Turkish generals. Erdogan is holding German nationals in detention as a bargaining chip.

Erdogan’s spat with Israel didn’t advance his standing with Germany, the European Union or with the Arabs.  His anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tendencies were already on display in January, 2009 at the Davos, Switzerland World Economic Forum. At a panel discussion, Erdogan walked off the stage in protest because the moderator ended the discussion.  Yet he managed to say to the late Israeli President Shimon Peres, “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.” He was referring to Israel’s campaign in Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’ missile attacks on Israel. Peres responded by saying Turkey would have reacted the same way had rockets been falling on Istanbul. In May, 2010, a Turkish organized flotilla attempting to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, resulting in Israeli commandos boarding the Turkish Islamist lead ship, the Navi Marmara. Nine violent Turkish Islamists died in the confrontation with Israel, which the Turks provoked.  Erdogan called for Israel to be punished for its “bloody massacre.”

Erdogan assumed dictatorial powers following an April referendum in Turkey, and has jailed at least 47,155people without charges in the wake of last year’s failed coup against his continued rule. A consistently bellicose supporter of the Palestinians, Erdogan has frequently made anti-Semitic remarks, along with veiled threats to the Turkish Jewish community.

Erdogan is providing money to Palestinians to continue their violent demonstrations against Israel, allegedly to “defend” Al-Aqsa. This is a dangerous game the megalomaniacal Erdogan is playing in order gain influence with the Arab masses, ultimately, at the cost of Palestinian and Israeli blood.

Originally Published on FrontPageMag.


Even secular non-believing Israelis considered the hand of God in this war.

June 5th, 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel vanquished the Arab armies arrayed against it.  Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon were the main combatants, but large contingents from Iraq, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Kuwait, Pakistan, Sudan, and the P.L.O. also took part in the war as auxiliaries, by lending aircrafts, tanks, manpower, and logistics.  I was then a young draftee facing a war on an Israeli airbase.

In 1967, Israel had a small population of 2.7 million, while Egypt’s population alone amounted to 31 million.  Syria’s population was at the time 5.76 million, Jordan’s 1.32 million, Lebanon’s 2.175 million, and Iraq’s about 9 million.  The Arab confrontation states alone accounted for about 50 million.  The Arab armies had approximately 465,000 troops, more than 2,800 tanks, and 800 planes.  Israel fielded its regular army of 50,000 in addition to its reserve force for a total of 264,000, almost 10% of its total population.  Israel threw into the fight about 800 tanks and 300 combat aircrafts…just about a third of the Arab aircrafts, and a similar proportion of tanks.

Monday, June 5, 1967 was an unforgettable day.  The Jordanian’s began bombing our base with heavy artillery and mortar fire right after midnight, as we tried to sneak in an hour of sleep between the around-the-clock work, readying our planes for combat.  Their firing positions were eventually silenced by our fighter pilots.  Israel kept radio silence throughout the early hours of June 5th, while squadrons from our airbase and other bases around the country were in route to destroy the Arab air-forces.

At noontime on that fateful Monday, we were ordered to assemble at the parade ground of the airbase. The base commander moved slowly to the microphone, while the tension was mounting among the assembled ranks.  He opened up with “Airmen and women, this is a dramatic day in the annals of Israel’s history. As of this time, the Arab air-forces do not exist.” The moment was unlike any other we had experienced as young adults…the relief, excitement, joy, and euphoria enveloped us all.  We threw our berets up to the sky, much like college kids do at graduation time.  We hugged each other, and silently thanked God for our deliverance.

When the day was over, Israel controlled the skies over all the battlefields in which it fought.  The next day was no less dramatic. Israel consolidated its capture of the Sinai Peninsula.  Tuesday gave way to Wednesday, June 7, which turned out to be the most dramatic and historical event yet.  It was the day Israeli paratroopers liberated the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall, a remnant of Solomon’s Holy Temple.  Ironically, the Israeli government had no intention of moving against Jordan, much less to capture Judea and Samaria and the Old City of Jerusalem.  Israel conveyed a message through the UN to King Hussein to stay out of the fighting.  Nevertheless, Hussein had been persuaded by Nasser, the Egyptian dictator that Egyptian forces were on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.  Nasser pointed to radar dots that showed fighter-planes flying toward Israel, alleging that these were Egyptian planes, and not Israeli planes returning for refueling.

As the fighting in Jerusalem ceased, thousands of Israelis, secular and religious, crushed through the Mendelbaum Gate that separated the Israelis from the Jordanian part of Jerusalem, on their way to the Old City and the Wall.  For the first time in 19 years, Israelis had access to the Old City and the Wall.  And for the first time in over 2,000 years, Jerusalem was once again under Jewish control.

Thursday and Friday, June 8 and 9, 1967, saw fierce fighting on the Golan Heights.  Maj. Gen. David Elazar, head of the Northern Command, begged Defense Minister Moshe Dayan to lift once and for all the persistent Syrian menace against the low lying Kibbutzim along the Sea of Galilee.  Syrian planes attacked Israeli villages in the Galilee, and were summarily downed by Israeli fighter-planes.  Israeli infantry forces (Golani Brigade) moved against well-fortified bunkers and tunnels the Syrians dug on the high ridges of the Golan overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  Bitter hand-to-hand fighting ensued, and the highly motivated Israeli soldiers prevailed over the Syrians, whose officers fled and left some of their soldiers literally tied to their positions.

On Saturday, a day of rest, cease-fire was declared and observed.  The Golan Heights were under Israeli control, as well as the entire Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank and Gaza, and the Old City of Jerusalem.  The miracle of the Six Day War had occurred.  Even secular, non-believing Israelis considered the hand of God in this war.

Our squadron had been confined to base since the early days of May, and it was an incredible, around-the-clock effort on the part of every airman and woman that made the victory possible.  We were exhausted but euphoric nevertheless.  We had seen a miracle in our lifetime.  A week after the war, our squadron, with numerous commandeered army trucks, moved up to Jerusalem to touch the most sacred monument in Judaism – the Western Wall.  We proceeded to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity, and then further on to Hebron and Machpela Cave, where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Leah and Rebecca were buried, an equally sacred place for Jews.

Although each of us carried Uzi sub-machine guns, we did not threaten the Arab population who feared retribution from us.  Had it been the other way around, the Jordanian army would have massacred our civilians and soldiers as they did in Gush Etzion, in 1948, assisted in that task by the Palestinian-Arab mobs.

When our unit finally got passes to leave base, it was an extraordinary scene on the crossroads.  Drivers stopped to give us lifts, and sometimes they competed as to who could pick us up first.  At the same crossroads, high-school girls and their mothers handed out sodas, cakes, and fruit to all uniformed soldiers.  The euphoria in the country was infectious, and it lasted for a while.

Howard Sachar, author of  A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, quoted Yitzhak Rabin, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief-of-Staff during the Six Day War, explaining Israel’s victory in that war: “Our airmen, who struck the enemies’ planes so accurately that no one in the world understands how it was done and people seek technological explanations or secret weapons; our armored troops who beat the enemy even when their equipment was inferior to his; our soldiers in all other branches…who overcame our enemies everywhere, despite the latter’s superior numbers and fortifications—all these revealed not only coolness and courage in the battle but…an understanding that only their personal stand against the greatest dangers would achieve victory for their country and for their families, and that if victory was not theirs, the alternative was annihilation.”

Originally Published in FrontPageMag.


Israel’s enemies know there will be a price to pay for attacking the Jewish state.

Tel Aviv, Israel…

The period that encompasses Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Ha’Shoah), Israel’s National Memorial Day (Yom Ha’Zikaron), and Israel’s Independence Day (Yom Ha’Atzmaut), all occurring this year on April 24, May 1, and May 2 respectively, are considered by secular Israelis as the National High Holidays.  Tourists find in that week of holidays a strong burst of nationalism and pride.  Israeli flags are hung on people’s balconies, windows, cars, and public buildings.  Amazingly, on Yom Ha’Shoah, the entire nation stands still, in silence, while all vehicular traffic comes to a stop, even in the middle of busy highways.  The same feat is repeated on Yom Ha’Zikaron.  A minute of silence is observed nationwide, and it is respected.

It is in between these hallowed holidays that my good friend, Avi Golan, a retired officer in the paratrooper brigade, and currently a licensed Tour Guide, joined me on a tour of Israel’s northern and northeastern border areas.  I was questioning Avi about our personal security as we embarked on the trip.  He assured me that we are fairly safe.  We drove from Nahariyya, on the Mediterranean Sea in northern Israel, eastward along route 89 and passed Mt. Meron, the tallest mountain in the Galilee.  We then turned north along the border fence with Lebanon.  Literally, steps away from us to the north was Lebanon. We came across a United Nation’s observation post just a few feet away and saw their white vehicles.  A few hundred yards farther north was a Hezbollah outpost, with its yellow flag painted on a water tower.  Once again, I asked Avi why they were not shooting at us since they could clearly see us, and he replied, “They know that they would receive devastating fire from our forces that would turn Lebanon upside down.”  Traveling up the road to Kibbutz Menara, reaching the wide observation deck of the Kibbutz, perched high up, the Lebanese border was a few hundred meters away.  We could see the Lebanese villagers going about their business, and we were assured by local Kibbutz members that Hezbollah has a presence in the village.

Although the peace along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon has been preserved now for over a decade, there is no guarantee it will last for another decade.  It is hard to gauge the true extent to which Israel would be able to deter a Hezbollah attack. But for now, Hezbollah’s deep and costly preoccupation in the Syrian conflict makes it difficult for this terrorist organization to precipitate another conflict with Israel.  Moreover, domestic Lebanese considerations preclude it.  Its involvement in Syria and the resultant flood of refugees into Lebanon is putting pressure on Hezbollah not to provoke another war with Israel, at least not at this time.  In fact, Hezbollah has not fully recovered yet from the 2006 war with Israel. Additionally, Hezbollah’s paymaster and arms provider, Iran, has made the preservation of the Assad regime a top priority for now.  It is likely that Tehran’s ayatollahs seek to reserve Hezbollah as a retaliatory force in case its nuclear facilities are attacked by Israel or by the U.S.

The Hezbollah leaders have nevertheless sought to establish a second front against Israel on the Golan Heights.  Israel has managed however, to eliminate a number of key Iranian and Hezbollah officers operating next to the Golan area.  Still, with an annual income of about $1 billion, Hezbollah has been able to increase its missile arsenal from 15,000 to almost 100,000 with millions in annual funding from the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it’s with ties to the Assad regime and increasingly with Russia. Some of these missiles have a ranges of 300 kilometers and can reach most areas in Israel.  Hezbollah has also acquired Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles that have proved to be lethal to Israeli naval ships.

Driving along the border we reached Kibbutz Mishgav Am a bit farther north.  We then swung east towards the Golan Heights, observing Mt. Hermon in the distance on our way to the Druze town of Majdal Shams.  Here, we once again found an observation point a few hundred meters from the border fence with Syria.  We stood at a hill opposite another ‘shouting’ hill belonging to Syria, where Druze families divided by the border used to shout news and greetings at each other. At this place, neither Syrian forces nor Hezbollah terrorists can be seen with the open eye.  In the rugged and mountainous terrain, the border fence is along a patch of green grass with no habitation visible.  Yet, most of the recent skirmishes between Israel and Hezbollah have occurred along the Syrian front bordering the Golan Heights.  Clearly, if Hezbollah decided to take action against Israel, it is likely to come from the Syrian side.

The devastated border town of Quneitra is a likely place for a Hezbollah strike.  It is from this direction, on October 6-10, 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, that 700 Syrian tanks driving westward encountered about 175 defending Israeli tanks, in the battlefield known as the “Valley of Tears.”  It is named so for the many burned tanks and half-tracks left on this battlefield, along with many dead Israelis and Syrians.  We entered the “Valley of Tears” where Lt. Col. Avigdor Kahalani and his crew stopped the Syrian onslaught, destroying 500 of their tanks.  It was truly a heroic act that saved Israel from a Syrian conquest.

As the sun began to set, we drove down from the Golan Heights toward the Sea of Galilee.  We continued through Tzemach and Beth-Shaan, into the Jordan Valley.  Facing eastward, we could see the lights of Jordanian towns and villages.  Peace with Israel has helped Jordan elevate the standard of living of its people.  New hotels and classy restaurants are now to be found not only in Amman or Akaba, but in the northern cities we now faced to our east.

As the evening set upon us, we headed back to the Tel Aviv area.  The next day was Israel’s Memorial Day, a time to remember the ultimate sacrifices made by the defenders of the Golan Heights.  Israel remembered however, all of the men and women who fell in all the wars and terror attacks, and those who served and fell in the pre-independence underground militias.  Those young men and women gave their lives to establish an independent Jewish state, protect its independence, and safeguard their families and friends.  They fought and died in wars and terror attacks forced upon the Jewish state.

It was quiet and peaceful along Israel’s northern borders, but that is only because Israel’s enemies know that the Jewish state is determined and capable of inflicting a heavy price on those who will attack its people.  The Memorial Day observances make it clear that Israelis will not allow the sacrifice of over 23,000 men and women to have been in vain.


The purveyors of “Israel Apartheid Week” haven’t seen the Israel I saw.

Beth-Shemesh, Israel…

Spring is usually when the enemies of the Jewish state hold their hate fest known as “Israel Apartheid Week” on college campuses across America.  Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and their allies perform various acts that allege discrimination committed by the Jewish state against Arabs.  The irony is that these performers of alleged “Apartheid” have not been to Israel, nor have they witnessed everyday life in Israel that this reporter has.  Israel may not encompass human perfection, but it certainly exhibits freedom, opportunity and tolerance seen nowhere in this region of the Middle East and beyond.

On a sunny April afternoon, one among many such days throughout the year in Israel, I walked the Tel Aviv Boardwalk in what is known here as the “Namal” or “the Port of Tel Aviv.” In restaurants that abound on this shorefront of the Mediterranean Sea, families and couples were enjoying expensive meals, others were strolling along the boardwalk.  In the restaurants, Arab women in head scarfs and their boyfriends were loudly conversing in Arabic. Passing by outside were Arab families with their children mingled with Israeli children, enjoying the playground.  None of the Arab families appeared hesitant or uncomfortable in the setting…in fact they seemed totally nonchalant, as if saying “this belongs to me, too.”

In Israel, you won’t find the kind of “banilieues” you can encounter in France or Sweden, where local police won’t enter, and native citizens dare not set foot.  There are however Arab, Druze, and Circassian villages in northern (The Galilee and Golan) Israel, and Bedouin-Arab villages in the Negev (southern Israel).  In the cities, such as Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Arab-Israelis and Jews intermingle without distinction.  Were it not for the occasional and specific head cover worn by Arab women, one would never know who is who or which is which.

Go to a Super-Pharm store in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Beth-Shemesh, and invariably you will find an Arab pharmacist helping you.  At Rambam hospital in Haifa or Kaplan hospital in Rehovot, you are bound to find Arab doctors and nurses, not to mention the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.  Christian and Muslim Arabs are involved in virtually all trades and professions in Israel, including 13 members in the Israeli Knesset (Israeli Parliament), a Supreme Court Justice, military officers, teachers, etc.

This reporter had personally experienced the comfortable, if not perfect integration of Arabs in Israeli society.  As the sun was setting, driving down from the Golan Heights, my friend Avi (a former paratrooper and currently a tour guide) and I stopped at a fish restaurant in Kibbutz Ein Gev on the Sea of Galilee.  After dinner, as we set out to drive back to Beth-Shemesh, it did not take long to discover that our head-lights and brake-lights on our rental car were burnt out and inoperable.  Passing drivers honked to alert us of the problem.  We slowly made our way to a shopping strip in Tzemach, 12 kilometers from Tiberias.  We called the 24 hour emergency road service, and a few hours later a service van appeared.  George, an Arab-Israeli from a central Galilee village showed up to help us.  He was truly a life saver. While waiting for him to show up, we had coffee at Aroma, a national chain of Israeli restaurants.  Next to us were three young Arab couples, loudly laughing and conversing in Arabic.  They were all dressed in chic styles, and clearly flaunting their identity.

At the Ruppin Technical College in Emek Hefer, the head of the Practical Engineering Department is an Arab-Israeli named Yunis Dapar.  Shlomo, my brother’s grandchild, who attends the school, informed me that half of his classmates are Arabs.  “On many occasions,” he said, “we go as a group, Arab and Jewish students, to an Arab village to eat in a restaurant.  We are treated well and without distinction between Arab and Jew.”  He added, “In real life, there is not much of a difference between Arab and Jew.”

Waheed, a 35-year old Arab-Muslim Palestinian from the West Bank (Gush Etzion area) has his own construction and fixing company.  Waheed fixed my brother’s porch staircase. During his work, my sister-in-law brought him coffee, and he ate with us in the house during the lunch break.  When he finished, my brother drove him and another Arab worker back to their village.  Given the spate of knifings and car rammings by Palestinians, I asked my brother if he had any apprehension about driving alone with two Palestinian Arabs next to him. His reply was “These Palestinian-Arabs working here are making a nice living, and they are content to keep the peace.”  He then added, “We treat each other as human beings, not as Arab and Jew.” Clearly, on a grassroots level, Palestinian-Arabs and Israelis get along rather well.  It is the Palestinian leadership, as well as the Arab-Israeli Knesset Members, who continue to incite their populations against the Jewish state.

Bet-Shemesh has grown in recent years to become a city of approximately 150,000 inhabitants, situated off the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv super-highway #1, and along route 38.  It is surrounded by the Judean Hills.  Many of its residents are ultra-Orthodox Jews, and English is the second most spoken language. In the Rami Levi supermarket in the city center, I came across Mona, a 30’ish Arab-Muslim woman from East Jerusalem, who comes here daily to work as a cashier.  Other cashiers included a young, black, Ethiopian Jewess, followed by an older Sephardi Jew with a skullcap, and another Arab woman with a white head scarf.  Young supermarket workers sit outside the store on their break, smoking cigarettes. They are a mix of Arabs, along with Arabic-speaking Israeli Jews. They are indistinguishable in their green uniform store shirts, and appear to be a band of brothers, sharing stories and jokes in Arabic and Hebrew.

When I proposed to the store manager that on American campuses, Israel is portrayed as an “apartheid state,” she chuckled. “So you see apartheid here?” she asked.  When I offered to take their picture, Mona, with her Arab and Jewish co-workers were thrilled.  When I asked her how she was getting along with her Jewish co-workers and management, she replied in Hebrew “Baruch Ha’shem” (Thank God).

Rami Levi supermarkets are a reflection of Israel’s diversity and harmony among Arabs and Jews, and an unlikely place for the detractors of Israel to want to see and acknowledge. It seems that the SJP crowd cares not to see the truth about Israel’s diversity and democracy.  Moreover, given the security risks from Palestinian jihadi terrorists, and terrorists from the Islamic State, Hezbollah, and Hamas, Israel is an amazing experiment in democratic tolerance.  In searching for “apartheid” in Israel, I found a reality that even those who are hardened pro-Zionists might not realize.  Israel is truly an open society, a model of tolerance and acceptance, in a region where hate, intolerance, and bloodletting is common.

Originally Published in FrontPageMag.


The NY Times failed to reveal the nature of his crimes, and Barghouti used the hunger strike to advance his standing.

Marwan Barghouti, the convicted terrorist killer, and a contender for the Palestinian leadership, is once again making news.  This time, the New York Times enthusiastically published his Op Ed, leaving out the essential fact as to why he is in an Israeli prison to begin with.  Barghouti is serving five life sentences in prison for helping murder five people and launching a failed suicide bombing.  The five people murdered were Israelis.

In his Op Ed published last Sunday (April 16, 2017) under the title “Why We Are on Hunger Strike in Israel’s Prisons,” Barghouti charged “Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike.”

The hunger-striking prisoners demand that the Israeli prison authorities provide them with additional TV channels, more magazines and newspapers, an increase in family visitation, end to solitary confinement, better health care, and greater access to education.  These extraordinary demands by the prisoners are far-fetched considering that many of the prisoners are convicted terrorist murderers.  The families of Israelis killed or injured by these terrorists believe that these Palestinian terrorists already enjoy many luxuries a lot of ordinary people cannot afford.

The announced hunger-strike by the Palestinian prisoners and the demonstrations by thousands of Palestinians in solidarity with the prisoners is not a spontaneous event, since April 17 is the Palestinian “Day of the Prisoner.”

In his letter to the Times, Barghouti deliberately obfuscated the reason for his severe prison sentence.  He simply wrote: “an Israeli court sentenced me to five life sentences and 40 years in prison in a political show trial that was denounced by international observers.”  Barghouti was convicted by three judges on May 20, 2004 of personal “involvement in the murder of Yula Hen, shot dead at a Givat Ze’ev gas station in January, 2002, and of (the murder) a Greek Orthodox priest near Ma’aleh Adumim in June, 2002.”

The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported that “Barghouti was also convicted of direct responsibility for the murders of Yosef Havi, Elyahu Dahan, and the police officer Selim Barichat, in the shooting attack against the Sea Food Market restaurant in Tel Aviv in March, 2002.

Barghouti was held responsible for sending suicide bombers to detonate an explosives-laden vehicle at the Malcha Mall in Jerusalem. The attempt failed, and the two would-be suicide bombers died when their vehicle exploded prematurely. The court exonerated Barghouti of most of the charges against him. He had been charged with direct responsibility for 37 attacks resulting in the deaths of scores of people.

The prosecution convinced the court of Barghouti’s direct responsibility in only three terror attacks. In most cases however, the court concluded the attacks were carried out at the behest of local leaders of the paramilitary, Tanzim.  Although affiliated with Barghouti, who was the official head of the organization, no proof was brought to link the defendant with the decisions.”   All considered, the Israeli court was quite lenient toward Barghouti.

Barghouti’s arrest and trial turned him into a well-known and popular figure throughout the Palestinian Territories, second only in popularity to President Arafat, and he was increasingly seen as his heir apparent.  Upon Arafat’s death on November 11, 2004, Barghouti called upon Fatah to select its candidate for the Palestinian Presidential election through a process of party primaries. Instead, the Fatah Central Committee nominated Mahmoud Abbas as the Fatah party candidate.  In November, 2004, Barghouti announced that he would run against Abbas for the Presidency of the Palestinian Authority as an independent, but later withdrew his candidacy.  Barghouti’s influence on PA politics has, if anything, increased with his arrest and imprisonment.

The hunger strike engineered by Barghouti is a political ploy carefully planned and organized by him to demonstrate to the Palestinians and all others his mastery both in skill and stature of Palestinian politics.  Barghouti’s timing is not coincidental either.  In prison for 15-years, he has shown little support for Palestinian prisoner hunger-strikes.  So why now? Feeling that Mahmoud Abbas’ time as President is running out, and Abbas’ efforts to curb Barghouti’s influence in the top echelon of Fatah’s leadership more than likely prompted this move and the letter to the NY Times.

While Barghouti holds a top position in the Fatah party Central Committee, his friends and allies on the Committee were removed, thus effectively isolating him. Barghouti expected Abbas to appoint him to a senior post, perhaps as his deputy. However, in recent months, Abbas has done the opposite. He advanced Jibril Rajoub and Mahmoud Al-Aloul, rather than the imprisoned former head of Fatah’s Tanzim militia.

According to the New York Times (4/17/2017), “Polls suggest that Mr. Barghouti, 57, is the most popular choice to replace Mr. Abbas, 82, even though he is serving five life sentences after he was convicted of being a leader of the second intifada, and of directing attacks that led to the killings of Israelis.”

In Gaza there is depression and hopelessness. Ordinary Gazan are tired of the sacrifices they are demanded to make on behalf of their Hamas rulers.  They yearn for peace with dignity.  Similarly, in the Palestinian Authority domain, civil society is stifled, the leadership lacks legitimacy, and there is little political, social or economic progress. The Trump presidency in the U.S. is seen here as another blow for Palestinians.  It is in such a climate that Barghouti feels himself to be the “deliverer” for the Palestinian people.  He has been seen, moreover, by many Palestinian political parties as a “natural” successor to Mahmoud Abbas.

Al-Jazeera reported (4/13/2016) that “Palestinian rights groups, parliamentarians, and party officials have launched a global campaign to nominate Marwan Barghouti, a prominent Fatah leader serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison, for a Nobel Peace Prize.”

Barghouti’s ploy to advance his return to the political central stage through the prisoner’s issue depends on Israel’s Prison Authorities and its political leadership.  Should Israel comply with the prisoners’ demands, Barghouti’s position as rightful successor to Abbas will be strengthened.  It will demonstrate his ability to bend the Israelis.  If, on the other hand, Israel refuses to give in, Barghouti would have caused unnecessary hardship for over a 1,000 prisoners.

One party that surely comes out the loser in this episode is the New York Times, which through its neglect to mention Barghouti’s crimes, was compelled to write an editor’s note saying: “The article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted.  They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization.  Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.”

Originally Published on FrontPageMag.



As relations between the European Union countries and Israel are getting cooler and more tense, Israel’s relations with India, a future superpower, is getting warmer and stronger.  Last November, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin received a very warm welcome reception on his state visit to India.  Increasingly, the government of India and its people are moving closer to Israel.  For the first time in history, India’s Prime Minister is scheduled for an official visit to Israel to commemorate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.   Meanwhile, the Indian Defense Ministry announced it has contracted with Israeli arms company Rafael, to supply India with anti-Tank missiles, at a cost of

$1 billion.  The Indian government is also considering purchasing pilotless attack planes from Israel.

India and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1992, but when New Delhi was led by the Congress Party, the relationship was cold and reserved.  Things changed in 1998, when the People’s Party of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the national election.  The BJP-led coalition known as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) formed the first non-Congress government in India under the Prime Minister (PM) Atal Bihari Vajpayee.  Vajpayee has been a warm friend of Israel.  In September, 2003, Ariel Sharon was the first Israeli Prime Minister to officially visit India.

Rediff-India Abroad reported on August 27, 2003, “Israel in recent years has emerged as a strategic partner of India in the latter’s fight against terrorism.  Israeli sensors are being used along certain portions of the Indian border in Jammu and Kashmir to plug infiltration. A few Israeli experts are working with the Indian Army in fine tuning these sensors.  India has also bought unmanned aerial vehicles and a long-range radar system that is part of the Arrow Ballistic Missile Defense System from Israel, and is expected to soon acquire the airborne early warning and control system Phalcon from Israel.  Israeli equipment is also being used in the upgrade of MIG-21 fighters.

In the civilian sector, there are several major joint projects between Indian and Israeli companies. The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Israel Aircraft Industries have a program to jointly market HAL’s Advanced Light Helicopter in the international market.  Israel is also expected to train and equip a 3,000-strong commando team, a project that is believed to be the idea of Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani. These commandos are likely to be stationed around the country to react swiftly to terrorist strikes. The cooperation would be taken to a higher level, an official in the Ministry of External Affairs said.”

The 2014 major victory of the BJP over the Congress Party, and the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister ushered an even warmer approach toward Israel.  PM Modi was familiar with Israel as the Chief Minister of Gujarat State from 2001 to 2014.  Modi sent 600 Indian farmers from Gujarat to Israel to attend the Aggrotech Exhibition in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry had wisely initiated a long-term policy of developing technological and agricultural ties with Asian states, especially with India. Since Israel is a leading world power in agricultural innovation, it has built model farms throughout Asia (and India) and invited farmers from the region to come for studies in Israel.  One such farm was set up in Gujarat, with Chief Minister Modi being deeply impressed.  The Israeli contribution to Gujarat economic success propelled Modi to become PM of India.  He thus remembered that what was good for Gujarat may be good for India.  To add to Modi’s already positive image of Israel, PM Netanyahu was the first foreign leader to congratulate Modi on his 2014 electoral victory.

Something in the nature of mutual respect and admiration developed between Netanyahu and Modi.  They twittered congratulations to each other while at the UN Annual General Assembly Summit (New York) of 2014.  India has become so important to Netanyahu that he would not excuse members of his narrow coalition of 61 (before Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu Party join his government) to travel to Europe, but would allow them to go to India.

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Agriculture and technology sectors notwithstanding, in the security (counter-terrorism) and defense sector, the relationship between Israel and India is flourishing. The Indian government contracted with Israel’s defense industry to purchase a medium-range aerial defense system, to be provided to the Indian army, worth approximately $2.6 billion.

Professor of International Relations at London’s King’s College, Harsh V. Pant wrote a (2/12/2016) column in the Daily O titled “Modi deserves credit for ending India’s hypocrisy with Israel.” His sub-title was “It’s time Tel Aviv gets the recognition it deserves from New Delhi.” Pant pointed out that, “Despite representing a nation that is one of the biggest victims of cross-border terrorism in the world, our esteemed members of Parliament (a cynical reference to the opposition party members) have had no compunction in equating the actions of a liberal democratic Israel with the murderous extremism of a terrorist organization such as Hamas.”

Pant goes on to say that “In contrast to the back channel security ties that existed before the normalization of bilateral relations, India has been more willing, in recent years, to carve out a mutually beneficial bilateral relationship with Israel, including deepening military ties and countering the threat terrorism poses to the two societies.  India has also begun denouncing Palestinian suicide bombings and other terrorist acts in Israel.  India is no longer initiating anti-Israel resolutions at the UN and has made serious attempts to moderate NAM’s anti-Israel resolutions.” Professor Pant added, “India is the world’s largest buyer of Israeli weaponry and was Israel’s third largest trading partner in Asia in 2013, just after China and Hong Kong.  Israel has been a good friend of India but Delhi continues to be shy of demonstrating its friendship. At crucial times, when India needed Israeli help, it got it unreservedly. An open relationship with Israel serves India well and it’s time Tel Aviv gets the recognition it deserves from New Delhi.”

India openly recognized the importance of its relations with Israel when India’s President Pranab Mukherjee visited in 2015.  He was invited to address a special session of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) Plenum.  Mukherjee remarked that “The modern period witnessed our parallel struggles against British rule. Our leaders adopted different methods but were inspired by the same human values and ideals… We admire the will and resolve you have shown in building your nation under difficult circumstances.”  Mukherjee added, “The Jewish people have always been an integral part of India’s composite society.” He then thanked Israel for “rushing critical defense supplies in 1999.”  Mukherjee ended his remarks by saying that India’s “consistent policy has been to build a strong, substantive and mutually beneficial relationship with Israel. We will continue to do so through high level visits and exchanges so that India-Israel relations are accorded the utmost priority. As we approach the 25th anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relations, we both seek to expand the vision of our future partnership.”

Israel’s President Rivlin reciprocated by visiting the largest democracy in the world in November, 2016.  In his meeting with PM Modi, the latter said: “Two and a half decades of our friendship has brought rich dividends for both our nations. It has also strengthened voices of peace, stability and democracy globally. Your visit provides an opportunity to break new ground and shape new contours of our partnership.”

Following his meeting with PM Modi in New York, PM Netanyahu described Israel’s relations with India as “The sky is the limit.” Israel’s pivot towards Asia, and India in particular, is now apparent.

Originally Published in FrontPageMag.