Category Archives: Israel

Inflection Point

Question: if an Orthodox rabbi does things that are not particularly “Orthodox,” do those actions then become defined as “Orthodox” because he did them or does he cease to be called an “Orthodox” rabbi? The answer is not entirely clear, even if it should be. Some actions are so egregious that the claim to Orthodoxy would seem to lapse, others cross or skirt the line of propriety, and still others are hailed as courageous innovations by many who are not schooled in Torah and Mesorah.

The question is general and I do not suggest that the above applies to Rav Shlomo Riskin, nor that Rav Riskin should be compelled to resign as Chief Rabbi of Efrat. I, for one, did not even know that his position was held pursuant to the authority of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel; I just assumed he served at the deference of his constituents in the city he was instrumental in founding. On the one hand, a retirement of age of 75 seems about right, if only to reinvigorate the rabbinate everywhere with younger blood; on the other hand, Rav Riskin is indefatigable even at 75, with an energy level that dwarfs that of many younger rabbis and he would certainly remain in Efrat whatever the Rabbanut does. I am among a group of numerous rabbis who admire and respect Rav Riskin for his accomplishments, his personality and his midot, all of which have inspired generations of Jews of all backgrounds including Orthodox. And, for sure, I would not want the Rabbanut passing judgment on American rabbis, so I will not pass judgment on their decisions even as I hope that this matter is resolved amicably and with full respect for all concerned.

Truth be told, no rabbi (and I mean, no rabbi,  from the time of Moshe Rabbenu until today) enjoys universal support and approbation. It is the nature of the profession, and Rav Riskin has begun to stake out positions on the leftist wing of Orthodoxy that has riled up many of his erstwhile supporters, some of his own constituents and perhaps even elements of the Chief Rabbinate. I have no inside information, but I can state with some degree of confidence that, in general, religious mavericks play better in the spiritual anarchy that prevails in America than in the more formalized religious establishments that exist in the State of Israel. Israel, after all, is the Jewish state, and providing that designation with substance has been a controversial endeavor since 1948, if not before.

In the United States, where the government stays out of matters of religious doctrine and where – especially today – the ethos is staunchly secular, few people really care (outside the particular denomination in question) what happens, what changes and what stays the same. If Episcopalians ordain women and Catholics do not, it is well understood that Episcopalians perceive themselves as deviating from tradition to promote a modern agenda and Catholics are clinging to their traditional norms. In our world, we have witnessed a steady erosion of commitment to traditional norms under the rubric of “Orthodoxy” and often emanating from putative Orthodox rabbis. The only recourse is censure from Orthodox Jewish organizations but that has been almost non-existent or ineffectual for reasons best known to them. Thus, the American religious environment is much more hospitable to the culture of “each man does what it right in his own eyes.”

Israel is different, for obvious reasons even beyond the integration of religion and state. Take the conversion issue, which allegedly is one dispute the Rabbanut has with Rav Riskin. (He favors the bill granting conversion authority outside the Chief Rabbinate framework to local rabbinical councils.) In Israel, conversion of a foreigner conveys not only Jewish status but also Israeli citizenship. The latter is clearly a valid concern of government even if the former is not. One can understand why conversion carries with it more than the change in personal status that it does, for example, in the United States; in Israel, there is a national dimension as well. The government – and a national entity, like the Rabbanut –

has to be involved and give its approval. And even conversion of those who are already Israeli citizens should not engender two (or more) standards of conversion – those for Israeli citizens and those who are not. The laws of conversion do not sustain such dichotomies. There cannot be one level of kabbalat hamitzvot incumbent on Israeli citizens who wish to convert and a wholly different one that pertains to non-Israeli citizens who wish to convert. Indeed, do not dual standards constitute a violation of tormenting the convert? Unless we just want to convert every Israeli citizen (just try it on the Muslims!) then the criteria for conversion to Judaism must be based on Jewish and Torah constructs and not nationalistic ones, such as IDF service. Many non-Jews also serve in the IDF.

This must remain so if for no other reason than this: I cannot dictate to the State of Israel who can or cannot be an Israeli citizen but I never agreed to delegate to the Knesset of Israel or its Government the authority to determine who is or isn’t Jewish. Those laws were made by Torah and are the province of the Sages – and not even individual Sages, but the consensus of each generation. Otherwise, the conversion anarchy that used to exist in the United States will find its way to Israel’s shores, if it hasn’t already.

No individual rabbi has the authority to unilaterally change the procedures or requirements for conversion or even to rely on minority precedent that has been rejected by generations of Jews, anymore than he can change Shabbat to Sunday for the convenience of his congregants.

So, too, the phenomenon of female clergy is alien to Israeli Orthodox life and is a hard sell, there even more than here. Indeed, its advocates are disproportionately not indigenous Israelis (i.e., they are disproportionately American) and are simply importing the disorder of American Orthodox life to Israel. Many do not know any better than to say “well, if a rabbi endorses it, it must be fine.” That is an error.

To answer the question raised at the outset requires a little history. As noted here in the recent past, we have been down this road before. Most Conservative rabbis in the early years of the movement were in fact Orthodox, both in practice and even in ideology. There was a time – the 1930s, for example – when more YU graduates went directly to JTS than to RIETS for rabbinical training. There were people who straddled the fence and people on both sides of the fence. That almost never happens today because Orthodoxy grew and became more established, but more importantly, the norms of the Torah world became more settled and deviations from those norms were quickly repudiated.

There were Orthodox rabbis who rationalized the absence of a mechitza in shul; did that then make mixed seating an “Orthodox” practice? There were Orthodox rabbis who rationalized appearing bare-headed in public; did that then make bare-headedness an “Orthodox” practice? There were Orthodox rabbis who favored changing the procedures for shechita, permitting kohanim to marry divorcees, allowing women to count for a minyan and using microphones on Shabbat. The list goes on. We have a vast literature, so there are sources for everything, or almost everything. But none of the above became “Orthodox” practice because they were never widely accepted and were indeed widely rejected, notwithstanding the occasional “source” here or there. (Similarly, one can find singular opinions in lower courts in the US that do not become established law or precedent. The “kosher switch” is a good example of something proposed, almost uniformly rejected but will no doubt live on. Many of the rabbis who promoted any of the above eventually dropped out of “Orthodoxy” because the dissonance in their lives was too much and their acceptance of the Mesorah too tenuous. They became the vanguard of the non-Orthodox movements.

To reject “change” is not necessarily a sign of stagnation or even “ultra-Orthodoxy;” it is often just a simple act of faith and a submission to G-d’s will. So, too, the passion for “change” is not always rooted in a pure understanding of Torah; sometimes it is influenced by personalities, pressure and outside (even non-Jewish) stimuli.

We are at an inflection point in Orthodoxy as the desire to dilute the Mesorah – think women rabbis, for one, something that was a hallmark of non-Orthodoxy for 40 years – has enormous media support but less popular support, and certainly no support inside the more populous Haredi world. (Personally I wish they would stop the charade of concocted titles and just call them rabbis; people can then accept it or reject it. I don’t think if Carly Fiorina is elected President she will get a different title than that of her male predecessors.) The female clergy has made inroads in some communities, often less committed to halacha generally, and that is certainly understandable; told that the forbidden is now permitted – in this and other areas – people are naturally drawn to experience the new and exotic. This is a weakness of Modern Orthodoxy, and the relative silence of the modern Orthodox organizations is significant in its own way. Endless discussions, think tanks and competing papers usurp the place of clarity and psak. If a lawyer or doctor was as indecisive, each would lose his clients or patients and rightly so. But life goes on and each organization focuses on what is important to it.

I sincerely hope that Rav Riskin resolves whatever dispute he has with the Rabbanut (or vice versa, although I haven’t read an official word of the Rabbanut at all about this matter) and we see the return of the traditional Rav Riskin who has inspired countless thousands of Jews to a greater love, appreciation and observance of Torah. The Jewish world needs his mentshlichkeit, his passion, his goodness and his Torah. We also need his leadership in preventing Orthodoxy from drifting back into the last century.

 

 

In the Halls of Congress

This year’s NORPAC mission to Washington was the largest ever, numbering some 1500 souls who descended on the nation’s capital to lobby for Israel, and at this stage, for the United States as well. NORPAC is the principal pro-Israel Political Action Committee (as opposed to AIPAC, which is a political affairs committee that does not offer financial support to politicians); NORPAC does, and so congressmen freely open their offices to Jewish visitors from the tri-state area. Well over 90% of Congress were personally visited by members of our group.

Actually, they open their offices to everyone. Capitol Hill teems with visitors, lobbyists, and tour groups with varying needs and young staffers with a desire to make an impact, make a difference, make connections or at least hobnob with the mighty and influential. Certainly, most lobbyists are seeking some pecuniary advantage – a bill that advances their interests, an exemption from some legislation that would hinder their causes or something that benefits them personally. NORPAC is unique in that no participant accrues any personal benefit. It’s all for Israel and to promote the US-Israel relationship, and Congress is overwhelmingly – but not uniformly – receptive.

To be sure, there is tension, even trepidation, on Capitol Hill regarding the negotiations with Iran and Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons capability. Few believe that President Obama is capable of effective negotiations, and many believe that he has little interest in preventing an Iranian bomb, as long as it doesn’t happen, as he says, “on my watch.” That is a sorry excuse for statecraft, as the global imperative to stop Iran does not end on January 20, 2017, which, in any event, can’t come soon enough. Republicans demonstrate unconcealed contempt for Obama, but that is largely matched by the Democrats’ ill-disguised contempt. Politicians being politicians, Democrats hitched their wagons to Obama when they thought the going was good, but now see a legacy of devastating electoral defeats, a diminished role for Democrats in Congress, and, not least, a reckless and amateurish foreign policy that endangers Israel, the United States, and other  US allies in the region.

It is not easy being a Democrat in Congress these days. Most want to be on record as both opposing the Iranian bomb and doing everything in Congress’ power to stop it and simultaneously not antagonizing the President. These Democrats are playing hardball. As one Congressman reported, Democrats were threatened by their own caucus that if they didn’t oppose the Pacific trade bill earlier this week, they would be stripped of their committee assignments and none of the proposed legislation would thenceforth be entertained. In other words, defying Nancy Pelosi is an act of political courage and self-immolation, and few politicians have a genuine interest in the latter. The former is generally in short supply.

Parties being parties, this type of pressure always exists on some level but it is usually reserved for major issues – not every single piece of legislation. It is why the votes in Congress are so partisan. The notion of voting one’s conscience on issues has faded. Mr. Smith, call your office. And this reluctance will play a significant role in the deliberations on any Iranian treaty down the road.

It is clear that so much of the negotiations are hype that is attempting to obscure the dissembling and double talk. To date, no one knows what was agreed to in March, as the Obama administration and the Iranians continue to disagree on fundamental issues that were supposed to have been resolved. To wit: will sanctions be lifted immediately (Iran) or over time, based on compliance (US)? Will inspections be open, spontaneous and unfettered (US) or limited, planned, and not at all on military bases (Iran)? Will Iran have to reveal its research and development or not? Will Iran have to close certain facilities or not? Will Iran have to ship its already-enriched uranium to a neutral country or not?

If one wonders what exactly was agreed to with all the hoopla in Lausanne, it is a good question. No one knows for sure. No contract worth the paper it’s written on could possibly contain such fluid, ambiguous and contradictory terms. Some hold that the Iranians are dissembling for domestic reasons (Democrats) and Obama is telling the truth, and others opine that the Iranians are telling the truth and Obama is spinning once again (Republicans). Of course, if everything was worked out – even a framework – there would be no need for advanced negotiations and an agreement with a June deadline. But the fear is – how familiar does this sound? – a treaty will have to be ratified in order to know what’s in it.

Even then, most sane people know that Iran cannot be trusted to adhere to any agreement, and the world’s security is bring entrusted to mad mullahs who easily manipulate an incompetent president, who, for whatever reason, is desperate to have as a legacy an agreement with Iran that allows them a nuclear weapon long after he is gone. In essence, Obama has taken the world from a better place to a bad place, negotiating from a starting point wherein Iran has no bomb and a weak economy suffering from the effects of crippling sanctions to an end point where Iran will have a thriving economy and a nuclear bomb. That is the art of negotiations as taught in the bizarro world. As the US is already providing Iran with billions of dollars in unfrozen assets – in order to “induce” them to negotiate – Iran has already begun subsidizing again the families of suicide bombers and stepping up its support for world terror. One would think that should matter but not to this President.

The good news is that congressmen on both sides of the aisle are skeptical. The bad news is that few see any way around Obama’s end run and the Republicans have little confidence that their Democratic colleagues will have the courage to defy their president. We can hope that Iran is so obstinate that no agreement results, but Obama’s yearning for an agreement is so intense that Obama will likely sign something, anything, and leave the fallout (literally?) to his successors. You can even play that interview now, from 2019. Obama: “When I left office, I had ensured that Iran will not have a bomb. If they have one now, it’s the fault of the current administration. Or George W. Bush.”

Congressman Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) gave us the most time of any Representative. He has his head on straight, has no illusions about Obama, and is worried for the future. He sees a president who just has a different vision for America that almost anyone else in DC, who has no great sympathy for Israel or other American allies and he just hopes that the damage can be minimized. He has the refinement of a true Southerner and the comfortable patriotism of a veteran military man (which, he is, as were his four sons). He was voted the second friendliest congressman, which led me to wonder what he did to lose out to the “friendliest congressman,” in this case Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-Ca). As she is retiring, the title will soon be up for grabs. The competition must be a very subtle affair; you can’t shove your way to the title of friendliest member of Congress.

In truth, it is impossible to visit DC without having more sympathy for the politicians. They work long hours for relatively little pay, they are forced to balance hearings and votes with the avalanche of people who want to meet them, seek out their help or favors, and not to mention the different people who ask for incompatible things. And then at night they have to raise money to finance the permanent campaign to try to thwart those who wish to run against them and find fault with every decision that they make. It is hard to know why someone would want such a job, although I can guess.

In any event, Washington is always an inspiring place to visit, notwithstanding the occasional sordidness of the politics. The gleaming white marble, the impressive government buildings, the Mall and the very layout of the streets reflect power, grace, and the grandeur of a government chosen by free people, still a model for the world. It is still “We the People” who wield the ultimate power, and just showing up and reminding Congress of the importance of the State of Israel to us and to most Americans makes an immeasurable difference. It also safeguards the US-Israel relationship as it navigates the treacherous road past this administration into an uncertain future.

Down to the Wire

Here in Israel, the formation of the government has literally come down to the wire with no clear path in sight. The assumption is that PM Netanyahu will be able to accommodate the “Jewish Home,” his erstwhile “natural” partner. But as noted here right after the election, Netanyahu has often backtracked on pre-election promises, turned to parties with whom he shares no real symmetry of views, and spurned his natural allies. There are so many competing interests and personalities the process is soap-operatic.

Israeli society is split, not evenly down the middle, but with a leftist minority that is substantial enough that the right wing can never win an outright majority, even given its multiple parties. Once again, the mandates were distributed in such a way that the small parties were given disproportionate control over the formation of the government, and each is squeezing the largest party – Likud – for as much as it can get.

The surprise of the week was the resignation of FM Avigdor Lieberman, who took his shrunken party (down to six seats) into opposition. He was an unusual Foreign Minister, to say the least: not really fluent in English, not engaged in the “peace process” negotiations – what one might think is the natural domain of a foreign minister – and subjected to recurrent investigations for alleged misdeeds, most of which amount to nothing. His muted status enabled Netanyahu to serve as his own foreign minister. But Lieberman’s six seats are not indispensable to the formation of the government, his role would not have changed much, and he craves another opportunity: to present himself as the right-wing alternative to Likud. That, too, is odd given some of his past positions in the real world (population and territorial exchanges), but then politics is odd. So why participate in a nominally right-wing government from a weak position when you can carp from the outside that the government is not strong, forceful or right-wing enough? That lays the groundwork for the next campaign, which looks like it will come within a year or two anyway.

The real drama is over the inclusion of the Jewish Home, and here the situation is much murkier. The Bayit Hayehudi is the successor to the parties of the Religious Zionist movement but rightly aspires to national, rather than sectoral, leadership. But it lost ground in the last election after Netanyahu blatantly appealed for the Jewish Home’s voters, asserting that the Jewish Home will definitely be part of his coalition but that he would have no coalition at all if Likud did not win more seats. This appeal worked, and it is clear that Likud picked up 4-5 seats that would have gone to Naphtali Bennett’s party.

What is equally clear is that, as noted here in March, Netanyahu has been known for playing post-election games, that nothing is guaranteed in politics, and that a weakened Bayit Hayehudi is less attractive to Netanyahu. That is indeed what happened, and despite all of his protestations, Netanyahu offered the Jewish Home the rough equivalent of cabinet scraps, construing it as a minor party. Bennett, who had been promised the Defense Ministry and rejected so far for the Foreign Ministry, was appalled. And rightly so: in urging Israelis to vote for the Bayit Hayehudi, I noted that people should vote their dreams and not their fears, and that the added seats for the Jewish Home would strengthen Likud with whom it could unite right after the election. That did not happen.

Worse, the Shas party was given control over the Religious Affairs ministry and the Rabbinical Courts, which would likely result in restorations of policies and practices that were widely panned by the public, both secular and religious, before they were reversed in the last administration. It is further inexcusable that Shas leader Aryeh Deri, a convicted felon, has been returned to government service after serving substantial prison time for taking bribes, as the sentencing judge noted, “in every government position in which he has served.”

What is even worse than the practical dimensions of the loss of the Religious Affairs ministry are the political dimensions. The Jewish Home is still, at its core, a religious party – the Religious Zionist party. Deprived of the opportunity to make a difference in the spiritual lives of the public, it becomes a shell without a core. That is one reason for the Bennett discontent and his persistent threats to go into opposition even if that results in a national unity government or new elections (both of which are likely to occur anyway in due course).

The better reason is that the Jewish Home has suffered in recent years because of the accusation that it is nothing but “Likud B.” In truth, both Likud and Bayut Hayehudi are parallel parties but they are not identical. Likud is a secular party, notwithstanding the presence in its ranks of some religious Zionists. It is a secular party and toes a secular, though traditional-leaning, line. The Jewish Home is a religious party, presumably capable of infusing the public debate with the wisdom of Torah. It would not be the worst thing to have some daylight between the Likud and the Jewish Home so the differences between them are underscored, something which would induce the latter’s voters to stay “Home” come the next election.

If Bennett is offered substantial ministries – Foreign, Education, Justice, for example, in which his party can shape Israeli society, then it is worthwhile to be part of the government. If not, not. What happens if the Jewish Home does not join the government? That is impossible to predict. The Labor party would not remain intact if it joined a national unity government, nor would Likud remain intact. As high-sounding as is the concept of “national unity,” little good comes from it, and governments that have enjoyed great legislative majorities in Israel in the last two decades have made disastrous mistakes. The configurations of parties and personalities are too abstruse to calculate. But to form a new government by bringing in current opposition figures who served in the last government and were fired, precipitating these elections, does not seem to be a very logical approach.

Of course, Bennett will be blamed for entering the government in some reduced capacity, and blamed for not entering the government and engendering either new elections or a center-left government. It seems to me that his best move is either being in opposition if he is offered little or being in the coalition if he is offered something substantial. Either way, he will be able to present his party as a credible alternative to leadership looking forward.

The other interesting phenomenon is the antipathy towards the Charedi party, Yahadut Hatorah. They make few demands, and most of their demands can be met by something the leading party can always trade: money from the public treasury. They unabashedly believe in the welfare state, income redistribution and the rest, and would feel much at home in today’s Democratic Party. Politics does make some strange bedfellows.

They may not be my cup of tea but Netanyahu is being widely lambasted for “caving in to the Charedim” and the Charedim for “blackmailing” the leading party. Which begs the question: why is it that when Netanyahu reaches an agreement with, say, Moshe Kachlon’s Kulanu party, that is perceived as fair negotiations and reasonable compromises but when he reaches an agreement with Yahadut Hatorah that outcome must be attributed to blackmail, pandering and bad faith? The only logical answer is anti-Charedi bias, which is outrageous. They have their voters and their right to be represented. And give them credit – they know how to negotiate and they know how to keep their agreements.

As this is disseminated, the Jewish Home is very close to entering the government with control of the Education, Justice and Agriculture ministries. All three promote basic interests of the party: the spread of Torah education, the reform of the leftist legal system to include more right-leaning, Torah-educated justices (as well having the values of Torah play a more explicit role in Israeli jurisprudence; the left will scream themselves hoarse) and support for the right of Jewish settlement.

That sounds like good negotiations and a good outcome. Assuming, though, that a 61-seat bare majority government is not long for this world, the Jewish Home is well-positioned to make a positive difference in Israeli life and lay the groundwork for the next stage of leadership.

And the merry-go-round continues…

Pesach and Gratitude

In one of the climactic parts of the hagada, we cite the Mishna ( Pesachim 117B): “Therefore  we are obligated to thank and praise G-d for what He did to our fathers and us” – all the wonders and  miracles  that accompanied the Exodus , and we begin  the recitation of Hallel . But then in the blessing that follows, we reverse the order, thanking G-d  who ” redeemed us and our fathers from Egypt. ” Why the change – first,  “our fathers and us” and then “to us and our fathers.”   Why the change?

There is a beautiful story in  the fascinating   hagada of Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon  about Rav Yona Emanuel, late editor of Hamaayan and long-time teacher of Torah in Israel. At his grandson’s brit milah  in 1985, he related a story that he said he had never told anyone before, not even his wife or children.

Forty years earlier , he said, it was Pesach Eve 1945, and  a young Yona Emanuel was imprisoned  in Bergen-Belsen. He had been forced  for a long period of time  to rise early and spend his day at hard labor. He came back exhausted, just like every day, broken already by two years of maltreatment. He was 19 years old. His father was already dead, his older and younger brothers were dead, and his little sister was dead. His mother was barely clinging to life, lying ill in her barracks. In that time, days before liberation, Jews were dying by the hundreds every day of starvation and disease.

That night – Pesach night – he sat at her bedside and recited the hagada. Of course he had no wine  and  no matzot. All  he and everyone around him had  – in abundance – wa s maror. Life itself was bitter.  He whispered the  hagada  to his mother – he didn’t know whether or not she heard it – until he came to th e blessing cited above.  And he said,  “Who redeemed us and redeemed our fathers,” and when he came to these words, the prayer in the blessing,   “just like He redeemed us and our forefathers from Egypt, so too He will bring us to other holidays and festivals that will come upon us in peace, rejoicing in the rebuilding of Your city and joyous in Your service,” he suddenly stopped.

He could not say the words. For the first time, he didn’t believe what he was saying. And he thought to himself: Will any of us live to see “other holidays and festivals?” Will anyone here see the holy city of Yerushalayim? Can anyone even expect to be happy again? He burst out crying, and stopped saying the hagada. Soon after, his mother died.

But now, forty years later, he continued: that night, if only I could have even imagined that I would live to see the land of Israel, together with one sister and two brothers; if only I could have imagined that I would eventually live in a Jewish state, marry and have my own children; if only I could have imagined that forty years later, I would be the sandak at my grandson’s brit in Yerushalayim; if I could have imagined any of that, I would have been able to finish the hagada that night.

Why in the text do we first say “our fathers and then ourselves”   – and then switch the order in the blessing to “Who redeemed us and our fathers ?” When it comes to offering praise to G-d, everything starts wit h the Exodus from Egypt.  Because our fathers were liberated, so in essence  were we. But when it comes to offering thanks to G-d, that has to come from us first – “Who redeemed us and our fathers . ” In every generation, we have to find the opportunities to thank G-d – for our lives and our families, for our bounty and our freedom, for Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, and  for being given the opportunities to live full, productive, peaceful and prosperous lives.

To all but the most pessimistic and dour, we are living in one of the golden ages of Jewish history. We are not without problems – and the world is becoming increasingly more dangerous –  but our problems pale before our advantages, our gifts and our blessings – from  the ingathering of the exiles occurring before our eyes, to  Jewish statehood , to peace and prosperity almost everywhere in the exile , even considering the recent tribulations .

It is that gratitude that should overwhelm us this Pesach, and fill us with a yearning to better ourselves, to enhance our observance of Mitzvot, our service of G-d, and study of Torah.  It should encourage us to say again and again, with feeling and sincerity,   “therefore we are obligated  to thank and praise G-d for all the miracles down to our ancestors and to us; He who took us from slavery to freedom, from agony to joy, from darkness to a great light.” May  He once again – as He did then – take us from servitude to redemption so we may merit in our day the complete fulfillment of the vision of our prophets, speedily and in our days.

A kosher and happy Pesach to all!

 

Cross Eyed

It has finally occurred to me why President Obama’s vision of the world is so skewed. He is cross-eyed,  though not in the physical sense. That is to say, his I’s are crossed and so his world view is distorted.

There is a long and honorable tradition in American history of debating the proper role of the United States in the greater world. Bret Stephens, in his recent book “America in Retreat,” spells out the debate with keen insight. This debate began in Washington’s time and extends until today, and has in different eras spanned both or either major party. In short hand, the two contrasting approaches are those of the Interventionists and the Isolationists.

Isolationists believe that the United States should keep to itself, safely ensconced behind two oceans and only involve itself in global affairs when the homeland or its interests are directly threatened. The US should avoid “entangling alliances” and, in modern lexicon, should not endeavor to be the world’s policeman. (Of course, as Stephens points out, no one wants to live in a neighborhood where there are no policemen.)

Interventionists do not hesitate to project American strength and especially values whenever and wherever it seems appropriate. Freedom, liberty, democracy and respect for individual rights seem to them admirable objectives and countries that embrace these values do not wage war against each other and generally make the world a better place. Interventionists also believe – deep down but often manifestly apparent – that the US is an exceptional society and, notwithstanding its occasional missteps, seeks a stable, prosperous and peaceful world instead of creating an American empire.

Certainly, since World War II, the United States has dominated world affairs, provided a bulwark against the expansion of Communism and even presided over its demise. It has intervened in a number of wars and skirmishes across the globe – usually with some American interest at hand, but often a very loose or fluid definition of an American “interest” – and even more frequently with humanitarian assistance in a case of a natural or political disaster afflicting some country, although not always.

Both Isolationists and Interventionists recognize the world is a very dangerous place and America cannot really hide behind its ocean borders anymore. This is not only because ICBM’s mock borders but also because the global economy is closely linked, and America’s own prosperity would suffer if it shut itself off from other countries. Of course, Isolationists have a much higher threshold to warrant American military involvement overseas.

These are necessarily simple definitions but over the decades and centuries the debate in the US has roughly followed these lines. At various times, Democrats were Interventionists (FDR, Scoop Jackson) and Republicans were Isolationists (Arthur Vandenberg, until World War II; Pat Buchanan). Although there are some outliers today as well, most Democrats tend towards isolationism and most Republicans tend towards Interventionism. All would agree that President Obama was elected in large part because, in 2008, Americans had tired of overseas military operations and favored retrenchment.

These are not just two distinct political philosophies but are also two disparate elements of the American psyche that are often in conflict and sometimes even in the same person. Americans hate injustice and especially genocide (as do all normal people) but differ as to whether there must be an American role in halting either repugnance. Thus, many Americans were horrified by the massacres in Darfur but many of them also felt there was no role for the American military and merely preferred to salve their consciences by “raising awareness” of the genocide but without actually doing much to stop it. “Raising awareness” is a noble venture but disconnected from a plan for action doesn’t save any innocent lives. Lamenting tragedies that can be avoided or minimized is certainly better than being indifferent to them, but not by much. And you can’t have it both ways – you cannot decry Interventionism and at the same time lament the inevitable effects of Isolationism. That, literally, is “dancing between two opinions” (I Kings 18:21).

No one has yet been able to repeal this truism: the only way to stop a man with a gun (or machete) is with other men having more guns. That simple bit of logic does not always permeate the natural do-gooder who has an aversion to war. Darfur is Iraq is Syria is Libya is Srebrenica is Rwanda is Cambodia is the Holocaust, etc. There are too many people who cry “never again” and when “again” happens again will again cry “never again” in a doleful refrain of helplessness and pity.

Obama is a reluctant warrior, to be sure, but here is where his I’s are crossed. He is an Interventionist where he should be an Isolationist, and he is an Isolationist where it would behoove him to be an Interventionist. Cross I’s!

When it comes to Israel, Obama is a brazen Interventionist, attempting to dictate solutions to a long conflict and threatening dire consequences if his will is not heeded.  He revokes prior commitments, pays lips service to Israel’s right of self-defense, exaggerates the plight of the Arabs of the land of Israel and even makes excuses for their brutality and mendacity.  It’s a classic bully tactic, but made especially insufferable because he gives a free pass to real dictators and thugs. If Obama has made a virtue of “leading from behind,” why can’t he employ that same virtue when it comes to Israel? The number of Arab dead in last summer’s Gaza War amounted to fewer casualties than in an off week in Syria, so why the obsession over the former and the disregard of the latter?

Conversely, Obama has exacerbated the suffering of millions across the globe by embracing a neo-Isolationism when American Intervention could make a difference. That American reticence has earned him admiration and respect but primarily from dictators throughout the world. Evil people want nothing more than to be left alone to carry out their acts of evil. The realignments taking place across Europe and the Middle East are rooted in the recognition that Pax Americana is over and America’s role in guiding world affairs to some sense of order – or at least a minimum of disorder – is on hiatus.

Blaming Bush – natural instinct in Obama’s White House – for the current collapse of Iraq is like blaming divorce on the fact that the couple married in the first place. (True; marriage is the leading cause of divorce. People who do not marry by definition never divorce.) Yes, but there are more proximate causes of divorce that need to be explored, and here as well. Bush the Iraq Interventionist was followed by Obama the Iraq Isolationist. There was no continuity in policy and in fact, the exact opposite – a reversal of policy. Hence the current chaos. In all the failed Arab states – Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen – and in Russia’s expansionist ambitions, the hand of Obama Isolationism, of “America in Retreat,” is visible.

It is why Europe’s leaders deride Obama as a “follower, not a leader” and criticize his weakness, and why France, irony of ironies, has taken the leading role in trying to limit US concessions to Iran.

And those are the other set of I’s that are crossed – Iran and Israel. Obama has begun treating Israel like a pariah state, a threat to world order and security and a nation deserving of sanctions and reprobation because it is obstinately trying to cling to its divinely bestowed homeland while simultaneously attempting to create a model Jewish society and bring some good to the world. And for that – Israel is treated like Iran should be treated, with threats, recriminations and public humiliation of its leaders. If Obama could muster even a smidgeon of the deference to PM Netanyahu that he shows when referring to Iran’s Ayatollah – unabashedly – as “Supreme Leader,” then, well, he would be a different person.

At this point, Israel could benefit from a little American Isolationism, and the rest of the world could benefit from a little more American Interventionism. Obama could benefit from uncrossing his I’s and perceiving Israel as the friend and ally of the United States and Iran as America’s enemy. So could we – and so could truth and honor. Something is very wrong when Iran’s Khamanei joins a mob in chanting “Death to America” (just last week) without any discernible reaction from the American President, and pandemonium breaks out and vicious opprobrium are unleashed when Israel’s Prime Minister calls on his supporters to flock to the polls because Arabs are voting in large numbers.

Something is quite wrong – even ugly – in the differing responses to the two events. It is enough to make one’s head spin, another consequence of seeing the world with crossed eyes.

POTUS or POUTUS

POTUS (the President of the United States) is pouting over the re-election of PM Netanyahu. He withheld his congratulatory phone call to Netanyahu for two days. By comparison, Obama called Iran’s Rouhani immediately, perhaps even before the polls closed. Netanyahu received the al-Sisi treatment, another leader who is disfavored by the White House and received the two-day delayed phone call.

There is something perversely delightful in observing the irrational anger in the administration and among Jews on the far left of the political spectrum on Israel’s election results. Granted, millions of dollars were wasted trying to unseat Netanyahu and augment the vote of the Israeli Arabs – some of that, disgracefully, US taxpayer dollars. Watching another’s tantrum is often amusing and it doesn’t seem to abate. The commentators and activists who hide their anti-Israel animus behind their Jewish genes – the Friedman’s, Klein’s and J Street’s of the world – are nearly apoplectic.

It is sort of funny – the irrationality of it all, especially considering the number of dictators and thugs with whom Obama plays footsie – but Obama can still be dangerous.

Now, the threats against Israel are mounting. As predicted here last month, the US will soon recognize a Palestinian state and seek a UN Resolution that enshrines in international law that amputation of the Jewish homeland. Obama is simply using the Netanyahu’s re-election as an excuse to execute one of his cherished goals.

The two pretexts that Obama and the left have seized on were comments made by Netanyahu in the days before and on the day of the election. Last week, he was said to have walked back his support of a “Palestinian” state by saying that such would not happen as long as he was prime minister. For sure, one can see that the ambiguous language used was designed to win him votes from right-wingers who otherwise would have voted for the “Jewish Home.” If one parses his words, Netanyahu was not saying that he was “against” a Palestinian state, but rather that such would not happen while he was prime minister – not because he personally opposes it but because the conditions he placed on the creation of such a state would not occur while he is prime minister. There are no Arab interlocutors who would agree to a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Add to that the radicalization of the Middle East, now well under way, that has brought radical Islam to the gates of Israel – and the dominance of the genocidal Hamas in Gaza and ISIS just over the border – and anyone with sense realizes that conditions are not ripe for the creation of an irredentist Arab state in Israel’s heartland. Big shock.

But that statement sent the White House into paroxysms of rage. Rather than attribute the statement to a campaign ploy, Obama went into rhetorical overdrive, and his minions began threatening Israel with dire consequences. How ironic – how drippingly cynical is it – that Obama, of all people, is complaining about the effect of misleading rhetoric. Apparently what Netanyahu should have said on the eve of Election Day was this: “If you like your peace process you can keep your peace process.” Indeed, keep it.

Netanyahu’s Bar Ilan speech from 2009 in which he unilaterally reversed a campaign pledge (hey, there’s a tactic Obama could appreciate) and endorsed a Palestinian state was a mistake, but a tactical mistake. Netanyahu today operates based on a formula that much of the world – even much of the Arab world – tacitly but never explicitly supports: favor the establishment of a Palestinian state in theory but not in practice. From my perspective this too is a mistake – you don’t offer your divinely-given patrimony to others because you are effectively renouncing your rights to it – but at least it has strategic value. Indeed, that tactic has worked for five years, as the hatred of the Palestinians for Israel is so intense and unhinged that they have repeatedly rejected the two-state fantasy.

But the diplomatic outrage itself is so contrived as to be farcical. Conventional wisdom is that Israel has walked back from the Oslo Accords and refused to implement the clause calling for a “Palestinian” state. But – note this well – the Oslo Accords did not guarantee or even offer the Arabs of the land of Israel a second “Palestinian” state. (Jordan remains the first.) Yitzchak Rabin opposed a Palestinian state, and he thought – perhaps foolishly – that he could thwart those desires by offering self-rule and Israeli withdrawal.

Nor is support for a “Palestinian” state long-standing Israeli or American policy – exactly the opposite. Until two decades ago, the mainstream of Israeli politics – both Likud and Labor – opposed a Palestinian state. In the 1970’s, none other than Shimon Peres himself equated the creation of a “Palestinian” state with the destruction of Israel. So did Golda Meir, Yitzchak Rabin, Menachem Begin and of course Yitzchak Shamir. It was a sign of bad faith, fatal to the electoral hopes of any Israeli politician. It was assumed that a second “Palestinian” state would lead to Israel’s demise.

Israeli politics has changed but the basic equation remains the same. The assumption of the 1970’s is as true today as it was then. There is not a shred of evidence indicating otherwise, notwithstanding the pronouncements of Israeli politicians or the blathering of the liberal left in the American Jewish community.

American diplomacy also opposed a Palestinian state for decades. Jimmy Carter publicly opposed a Palestinian state (in private he was adamant about it, and was studiously ignored by both Begin and Anwar Sadat). Ronald Reagan was opposed, as was George Bush I. Bill Clinton was opposed, at least until the Israeli left started to weaken and permeate Israeli society with their weakness. It was George Bush II – with the acquiescence of Israel – who officially endorsed a Palestinian state on June 24, 2002 – the same letter in which he endorsed the retention of Israeli settlements in any agreement. As noted here, that part of the letter was renounced by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. So, tantalizing question, why can the Americans change their minds about paragraph seven of the letter and deem it no longer binding, but Israel cannot do the same about paragraph three of the same letter?

Some questions are only answered by references to double standards and anti-Jewish bias.

Support for a Palestinian state is therefore a relatively new diplomatic phenomenon. More importantly, the Arabs of the land of Israel have consistently rejected this offer – most notably from Ehud Barak in 2000 and Ehud Olmert in 2007. Spend one day in law school, and you will learn that an offer that is rejected is construed as revoked. Israeli concessions do not remain on the table for eternity and certainly not embarrassing concessions that trifle with the sanctity and inviolability of the land of Israel. Finesse it all you want with diplomatese, but it is quite reasonable to maintain that that Israeli offer has been withdrawn in light of the new and catastrophic strategic environment in the Middle East.

Arabs: you didn’t accept the offer when it was made – repeatedly – so that house you wanted was sold to the settler down the street.

The second Obama pretext was Netanyahu’s Election Day warning to his constituents that Arabs are voting in “droves” and his supporters must get to the polls. Racist? Hardly. It did frustrate the Obama team’s efforts to so discredit Netanyahu that his base would stay home; hence the feigned anger. But, hey, that’s hardball politics, with which the Obama team is very familiar. Those who equate producing photo ID’s at the American voting booth (by the way, the law in Israel!) with suppression of the black vote (!) cannot in good faith claim that a call for one’s voters to vote because one bloc inimical to Israel’s national interests is voting in large numbers is racist.

And wasn’t Obama the one who told a black audience (August 14, 2012) that if Romney was elected, they would “put y’all back in chains?” No, it was actually Joe Biden, but Obama’s White House said that they saw nothing wrong in Biden’s remark. And he’s complaining about Netanyahu exhorting Likud voters to vote? It is difficult to stomach a White House that uses self-righteous, phony outrage as a fig leaf for its Jew hatred. Both are execrable.

What is as clear as the hostility of Barack Obama to Israel is the panic among liberal American Jews. I recall quite well being pilloried for my public opposition to Oslo by liberal Jews and their organizations for “opposing the will of the lawfully elected government of Israel.” Hmmm… Will these same Jews and their organizations now defy President Obama – risking their invitations to the White House, photo ops and other perks – by supporting the duly elected Prime Minister of Israel? Will they lovingly embrace – as they should – a Foreign Minister Naftali Bennett?

Or will they persist in their defense of Obama?  That Jews can be fooled is obvious. That Jews allow themselves to be fooled is even more obvious. That some Jews beg to be fooled is obvious and sad.

It is crunch time for Jewish identity in America. The Reform and Conservative movements have already denounced PM Netanyahu. The Orthodox organizations are still strangely, sadly silent. The land of Israel is under attack, and the people of Israel – and its leaders – have been marked by this administration as global enemy number one. How will those Jews respond? With cowering and double talk, or with pride and outspokenness?

If the latter, then the Netanyahu re-election could not only be good for Israel but it could also spark a revival of Jewish identity and a deeper connection with Israel among all Jews, especially those whose bonds with Jewish life are fraying. That itself could hasten the process of redemption, the only clear and certain way out of the morass.

Until then, let POTUS be POUTUS – but let Jews state firmly and unequivocally that the land of Israel was given to the people of Israel by the G-d of Israel, and no president or prime minister can change that.

Winners and Losers

Only in Israel could a party that wins less than a quarter of the popular vote could be construed, as one headline put it, as having “cruised to victory.” But such are the vagaries of the Israeli political system that the Likud won, in the Prime Minister’s own words, a “great victory.” Who are the winners and losers?

The biggest winner was clearly PM Netanyahu, a resounding personal triumph that also served as vindication of himself, his unfairly beleaguered wife, his decision to challenge Barack Obama, speak to Congress and confront the American people with the reality of their President’s feckless foreign policy, and his political skills. It was a classic come-from-behind victory, as the polls showed him lagging behind his Labor rivals until the very end. And he succeeded not by broadening the popularity of the Likud, but by bringing out his base to vote and poaching votes from the parties that are his ideological brothers, such as the HaBayit Hayehudi (“The Jewish Home”) and Yisrael Beteinu (”Israel is our Home”). (Even their names sound alike, although their constituencies are very different.)

And Netanyahu succeeded in that by scaring his base and others into believing that a Labor government would endanger the country, a traditional Likud tactic that, despite being two generations old, is not necessarily untrue. When he repeatedly implored voters to “come home,” he did not mean the “homes” that the two parties mentioned above represented but the Likud home. It worked.

Of course, be careful what you wish for. Forming a government might not be as simple as it seems. Netanyahu has natural allies but those natural allies have diverse and sometimes intractable and irreconcilable demands. Each of them is smarting under what are in essence – if we just crunch the numbers and not digest the spin – poor electoral showings. The Likud will be the main party, and deserves at least half the cabinet seats. The other parties will be left scrambling to remain meaningful, find a place at the end of the table, and try to have some influence on policy and statecraft. And they will have some influence but little power, and even that will dissipate if Netanyahu dangles the reed of a national unity government with the Labor Party (a.k.a., the “Zionist Camp) whether now or in the future.

The biggest loser was not Yitzchak (Buji) Herzog. He is young enough to remain a viable candidate for the next decade or so, notwithstanding the ephemeral nature of Israeli politics, and he did succeed in reviving what had been a dormant, declining party. (Fortunately Buji Herzog will most likely not sit in the same cabinet with Boogie Yaalon, or things might get confusing.) The biggest loser was Barack Obama who made enormous efforts to unseat Netanyahu, did what he could to bolster the Herzog campaign, and sent over campaign staffers and money. He failed; his quasi-endorsement of the “Anyone But Bibi” approach worked as well as did his endorsements of Democratic candidates in the November 2014 elections. Call it the “reverse coattail” effect.

There were other winners.

A strong Israel. For the second consecutive election, the “peace process” played almost no role in the voting. No one thinks peace is on the horizon, and few think that even negotiations are imperative. Certainly the Arabs can ratchet up their relevance through terror but it seems as, at least for now, the Israeli public has been sufficiently burned in the last 15 years that it has little interest in or patience for talk of withdrawals, another partition of the land of Israel, and signing ceremonies on the White House lawn.

That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, and for that possibility Jews must be vigilant. Netanyahu’s tactic in his last term worked quite well, and that too is a traditional Likud ploy: bring in a left-winger as Foreign Minister or negotiator in order to mollify the international community and buy time. Menachem Begin did it with Moshe Dayan, and Netanyahu did it with Tzipi Livni. The alternative – candor – is a rarely used device in diplomacy, and will surely bring on Israel the wrath of the international community, the EU, the American President, leftist American Jews, potential anti-Israel UN resolutions, sanctions, etc. We will get a clue as to which approach Netanyahu will take in whether or not he walks back his rejection of a Palestinian state and who is his choice for Foreign Minister or lead negotiator with the Arabs.

Yesh Atid. How can a party that lost more than a third of its seats and will likely be in opposition be considered a winner? Firstly, because it survived, which is an uncommon fate among these boutique third parties that spring up in every Israeli election, but primarily because it has set itself up as the home of the secular Israeli who wants a decent economy rooted in capitalism, personal freedom and a de-emphasis on the “peace process.” In other words, Yesh Atid – and to some extent, Labor – has just about put Israel’s far left (Meretz) out of business. The party that is most associated with surrender to the Arabs, possesses a blame-Israel first mentality, and is the favorite of the State Department and liberal American Jews, was actually in danger of disappearing entirely from the electoral map and barely qualified for the Knesset. Outside the Israeli media, where it has disproportionate support, Meretz does not resonate with the Israeli public.

Kulanu. This cycle’s boutique third party has just enough seats to be able to determine who will be the next Prime Minister, but is such a hodgepodge of diverse personalities that it is unlikely to survive another election cycle unless it does something dramatically well. Its leader, Moshe Kachlon, was a disgruntled Likudnik, and is poised to become the new Finance Minister. Fine with me (!), but what matters more is which economics he chooses to follow. If he goes the populist route – price controls or ceilings, special favors, handouts, increased welfare, etc. – then he will win temporary support but annul Israel’s remarkable economic gains of the last decade. Does he really buy into the current American bugaboo of “income disparity”? The term itself is a red herring because it is almost impossible to make the poor wealthier unless the wealthy become wealthier as well. Unless…you just confiscate money from the wealthy in the form of higher taxes, which leaves the wealthy with less to invest, fewer jobs for the middle class, but more money for the government to hand out. This is Obama’s income redistribution fantasy and does result in more equality – as in Churchill’s definition of the virtue of socialism: the equal sharing of miseries.

If Kachlon goes the more logical route – e.g., tax incentives to builders to construct affordable housing, waiving the VAT for first-time home buyers – then he will have done as great a service to the public  as he did in lowering the price of telecom services when he last served in government, and he will have a brighter political future.

And there were clear losers. The other losers were the small parties now gasping for relevance, the fate of all parties with mandates in the single digits. All spin aside, the “Jewish Home” took quite a hit. Perhaps it was inevitable that its voters would be cannibalized by the Likud, but that is politics. The skilled campaigners are able to attract voters from beyond their parties’ base, especially if their message is broad and appealing enough. Naphtali Bennett is a skilled campaigner and he will be around in Israeli politics for decades to come, and for good reason. But his campaign became too distracted – why, in a moment – and the persistent accusation that he had turned the “Jewish Home” into Likud B eventually took root: many of his voters voted for Likud A. That can and should change.

What went wrong is correctible. In theory, Bennett’s desire to head a national, rather than a sectoral, party is both sound politics and good ideology. The Torah should not be the possession of a small group of Jews but of every Jew, and no one is better equipped than the party of Religious Zionists to oversee the implementation of Torah ideals in a modern state. In practice, though, Israel remains a very parochial society. All of Bennett’s efforts to lure Tel Avivians for vote for him failed. The gimmick of placing (and then recalling) a secular soccer celebrity on the Knesset list to win secular votes also failed, and admittedly so. The mistake was a traditional one in politics: the winner must always first secure his base and only then expand it into other segments of the population. That was not done here, and so many natural Bennett voters assumed that their major interests could be safeguarded by Likud.

In principle, Bennett’s yearning for a large mixed party makes sense, and perhaps will eventually resonate with the public. But the current state of the Israeli body politic deems it premature.  Rather than competing for the Defense or Foreign Ministries (Bennett would be fantastic as Foreign Minister), HaBayit Hayehudi will be fortunate to retain the Religious Affairs Ministry and have Bennett perhaps stay on as Minister of Economic Affairs. If Netanyahu is as grateful as he should be, he will award the “Jewish Home” a third ministry as well.

Going forward the better approach for the Jewish Home will be to demonstrate how the wisdom and beauty of Torah betters all members of the society – spiritually, morally, personally and economically – and then people will naturally gravitate towards it as the home of Jewish values, rather than just a “home.”

The bigger problem for Habayit Hayehudi, that again cost them and other parties votes, was the terrible disunity in the religious voting public. The Yachad (“Together”) party of Eli Yishai simply need not have existed (don’t you love how groups that are founded on discord choose for themselves names that reflect harmony?). It was a vanity party of disparate individuals joined together because they were dismissed from other parties. It won enough votes to deprive the Religious Zionists and right-wing parties of several Knesset seats – but not enough to make it into the Knesset. A terrible shame, if not a disgrace.

That friction had other untoward consequences. Other parties would serve the nation well by disappearing. Shas exists as a vanity party that only sows discord and racial friction, not to mention the ethical struggles of its leader. It is proudly parochial in the worst sense of the word – provincial and narrow-minded. The originally Russian-flavored Yisrael Beteinu lost much support and really should no longer exist. It would make sense for Avigdor Lieberman to fold his party into Likud once and for all.

And the ironically-named United Torah Judaism took no position (!) on security or diplomatic issues and only wanted money and special treatment for its constituents. What is astonishing is that it remains with the same number of Knesset seats after almost 40 years, despite the much-ballyhooed increase in its numbers. Either Charedim do not vote as they are told, vote for other parties, or just do not vote. The latter seems to have been a factor here, as the disarray in today’s Charedi world between factions in Bnei Brak and Yerushalayim prompted the rabbinical leader of the Yerushalayim to advise his followers to sit out the election. So much for Daas Torah… Instead of potentially making a difference, they did nothing, except make a powerful statement about something, precisely what remains a mystery.

What is the benefit of unity? The United Arab List won 13-14 seats and is now Israel’s third largest party, a tribute to Israeli democracy although not such a blessing for Israel’s existence. Their dissimilar elements joined forces in a way that the religious or right-wing parties did not. There is an obvious lesson in that. Here is one consequence: the number of Shomrei Mitzvot (said another way, MKs who define themselves as “Orthodox Jews”) in the new Knesset fell to 28 from a high of 39 in the last Knesset. It just became harder to get a minyan for Mincha in the Knesset…

Some present Knesset members did not win re-election and will be missed. “Jewish Home” MKs Orit Strook, Avi Wortzman, and Shuli Mualem were credits to their party, the Knesset and the nation, and Yesh Atid’s MK Dov Lipman was courageous, thoughtful and resolute, a Kiddush Hashem in ways known and unknown. All should be blessed with continued opportunities to serve the Jewish people.

The election coverage again highlighted the different perspectives from the US and in Israel. In the US, much was made of Netanyahu’s retraction of his support for a “Palestinian” state, something which had little leverage in Israel, and the Netanyahu-Obama confrontation played almost no role in Israel either. In the end, people voted for a better country, a safer country, a more prosperous country, and a more Jewish country.

All in all, it sounds very reasonable. Let’s pray that it stays so.