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.


The international campaign to defeat PM Netanyahu in this week’s elections is remarkable if only for underscoring the world’s obsession with Israel, a country with half the population of the Netherlands and a quarter that of Peru. Will all the problems in the world – even just the Middle East – be resolved if Israel is more pliant, surrenders more land and compromises its security? Will Israel’s disappearance – Heaven forefend! – slake the thirst of this generation’s Almohades who wish to impose their violent world view on everyone? The answer, of course, is not in the least, which then leaves the world’s obsession with Israel as attributable to simple Jew hatred and a fundamental irreconcilability with the existence of the Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people.

Thus, money is pouring into the coffers of the leftist parties – or at least promoting their views – by the millions of dollars from Europe, from America and even from the US State Department, which shamelessly is providing US tax dollars for a get-out-the-(leftist only)-vote in Israel under the guise of an organization called V-15.

It is nothing less that eerie that the tactics in Israel’s elections so parallel those in the United States and that is not complimentary. Consider: Israel’s left, led by MK Buji Herzog, is enjoying the services of some of President Obama’s campaign staffers. Herzog himself said on Israel television last week that “Yisrael rotzeh shinui. Yisrael rotzeh tikvah.” Or, in a familiar language, “Israel wants change. Israel wants hope.” It was hard to believe. There it was, “change and hope,” those tired clichés of the two Obama elections. (At least Herzog was creative enough to switch the order.) Will Israelis fall for that? Their electorate has always been fickle, flitting left to right to left to right to left to right in election cycles for almost forty years.

Consider: The campaign against Netanyahu uses as its slogan “Anyone but Bibi” (“Rak lo Bibi.”). Indeed, that is the slogan of the V-15 campaign, which claims to be “bi-partisan,” but how bi-partisan is blatant support for the left? The shallowness is staggering but the point is to bombard the news media with negativity about Netanyahu, blaming him for sundry and all (lack of affordable housing, lack of peace, Iran’s bombs, even the price of chocolate desserts, etc.) It is insane, but it seeks to accomplish the goal that Obama achieved in his two campaigns: so besmirch the opponent that the voter that would ordinarily lean his way and might vote instead stays home and sits out the election. If you make your opponent seem like such a scoundrel that any reasonable person would be embarrassed to vote for him, you have gained a strategic advantage. But moral people do not conduct themselves like that.

Hence the silliness of the investigations and accusations against the Prime Minister and his wife – and others disfavored by the media – all candidates from the right: Russians from Yisrael Beitenu, right-wingers like Baruch Marzel, and others find themselves suddenly under investigation, details leaked to the media. It is very similar to the fate of NJ’s Senator Bob Menendez whose courageous opposition to Obama’s surrender to Iran has found him under investigation for corruption on old and previously-investigated charges. It is a shameful use of the judicial system in both countries but why have to defeat an opponent at the polls if you can silence him through threats of indictment? It must be right out of the Saul Alinsky playbook.

And that over-the-top abuse compares quite unfavorably with the Herzog scandal of 2000 in which he avoided prosecution in an illegal campaign funding case by pleading Israel’s version of the Fifth Amendment, what is today, unsurprisingly, a non-story in Israel. But Herzog is construed as part of Israel’s royalty – father was president, grandfather was Chief Rabbi, uncle was FM Abba Eban, and so on.

Consider as well the media going all out to defeat Netanyahu. What is stunning is the difference between the way Netanyahu’s speech before Congress was depicted here and in Israel. Here, numerous commentators compared him to Churchill, and several have noted how both Congress and the public have become more engaged in the debate since. In Israel, it was largely depicted as a catastrophe, as “shattering” the special relationship between the US and Israel, and as leaving Israel alone in the world and abandoned to its bitter fate. What a distortion of reality! Israel’s esteem with much of the American public grew measurably after the speech, Netanyahu’s approval ratings here are higher than Obama’s (there was even a “Netanyahu for President” bumper sticker marketed), and the public is duly alerted to the Iranian threat. Israelis should know that, according to a poll last week, an astounding 84% of Americans thinking the pending deal with Iran is a “bad” one (65% favor using force to stop Iran.)  The speech was deemed here to be one of the greatest examples of statesmanship in modern times. You wouldn’t know from watching the news on Israel TV, whose leftist commentators mostly displayed uncontrollable grief and pain – probably because they feared it would give Netanyahu an election boost. It didn’t, perhaps because of them, and perhaps because of another reason.

As always, Israel’s right-wing is fragmented into several different parties. It is not that they are all identical in their thinking, but rather that the differences between them do not justify the existence of so many parties seeking votes from the same sector of the population. In truth, the Likud has never been a stable right-wing party, and as is sadly known, has surrendered more of the land of Israel to the Arabs than the left-wing parties have. Indeed, “Labor proposes and Likud disposes” has been a reality for almost four decades. Part of the right-wing fragmentation is the “Mi Barosh” syndrome – who will be the leader, the top dog, the number one? That is why so much of the discord is personal – especially among the religious parties – and so little based on ideology.

There is an interesting debate going on in right-wing circles as to which party should win the votes of their natural constituency. These calculations have been broadened to include other dynamics. Thus, we read regularly (I’ll use letters instead of party names), that if you vote for A, you will really help B. But B says if you vote for A, you will help C. D and E say they will not sit in a coalition together with F or G, and C says it hopes to entice both D and F into the coalition, or perhaps E and G. Meanwhile, H just wants to get enough votes to qualify, but it will not sit with D, E, F or G. J does not think K should even have the right to sit in the Knesset. You need a doctorate in mathematics to figure it out, and even if the numbers then make sense, the ideological odd fellows expected to coexist make no sense at all. And the big surprise of the election might turn out to be the Arab vote, which, if their turnout increases, might gain them 15 seats in the Knesset.

The real problem is that Israel remains hopelessly divided in its politics, and no coalition can expect to have any longevity or stability.

All the complaints about “income inequality” (how painfully familiar is that?) and the housing shortage and lingering poverty in certain sectors are all meant to obscure the fact that Israel is one of the economic success stories of last decade, averting the economic collapse that afflicted the US and many European countries. There are literally dozens of measures enacted by the government in the last two years that molded Israel’s prosperity and helped the working poor as well. But the desire in Israel remains strong to have small, sectoral, narrowly-focused parties just interested in bringing home the bagels for their voters, and that negatively affects the sensibilities of the voters.

That being said, if I could vote (shame on me!), I would vote for “the Jewish Home.” It had many accomplishments in its two years in government, especially Naftali Bennett, successfully overhauling many troublesome parts of the economy and in the Religious Affairs bureaucracy. The contention that voting for Bennett hurts Netanyahu and could deprive him of the ability to form a coalition is not implausible, but nor is it entirely persuasive. On balance he has done a fine job as Prime Minister, considering all the challenges, some of them insoluble, and all the demands, most of which cannot be satisfied. But he has also shown a tendency to veer left (two-state solution, settlement freeze, release of terrorist prisoners, etc.) and the suspicion lingers that a smaller Bayit Yehudi and a larger Likud will lead Likud right into a National Unity government with the left that excludes the right-wing parties, including Bayit Yehudi. In essence, a split of Likud 21 and Bayit Yehudi 15 is a much better breakdown than Likud 24 and Bayit Yehudi 12, because in such a scenario, Bayit Yehudi remains a factor instead of being a non-factor.

More to the point, I always think it wiser to vote one’s dreams and ideals rather than one’s fears. Certainly, Israel is better off with Netanyahu as prime minister rather than Herzog, but Israel in the past has suffered under both Likud and Labor governments, despite the fact that the Likud rhetoric is always more pleasing. The question then becomes: whose vision of the Jewish state is more profound and substantive? The answer is the Jewish Home, because it is the party that wishes to implement the Torah system in a modern state. To have that voice silenced or muted would be a tragedy, and therefore it is the natural home for supporters of the Religious Zionist ethos. (I write this with full understanding that there are fine Religious Zionists on the Likud and Yachad lists, and the support of esteemed Rabbanim for Jewish Home and for Yachad.)

Yet, with all the machinations, analyses, and multiplicity of parties, the winner is likely to be stalemate. Moshiach, where are you?


On a related issue: Nothing seems to rile President Obama more than people doing to him exactly what he does to others. One case in point stands out this week. Forty-seven Senators, all Republicans (surprise!) sent a letter to Iran that any agreement worked out between the US and Iran that is not approved by US Congress and is merely an agreement with Obama will not necessarily be honored by the next President or a future Congress.

That sent Obama into a tizzy, comparing those Senators to the “hard-liners in Iran” who also do not want a deal. (Keep an eye on combat veteran and freshmen Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas, who retorted, cutting through the diplomatic gobbledygook and wishful thinking, “everyone in Iran is a hard-liner.”

And yet, among the first acts of President Obama, through his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was to nullify the intent and commitments made in a letter sent by President George W. Bush to Ariel Sharon. Sharon had spelled out his plan to expel Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria and completely withdraw Israeli forces. In exchange for which, Bush committed that the US would recognize the legality of settlements and cease insisting on a withdrawal to the 1967 lines, Here, in pertinent part, is the paragraph in question in the letter from Bush to Sharon:

“As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.”

    That is an American commitment. Well, PM Netanyahu was told soon after taking office in 20009 that as far as Obama and Clinton was concerned, that was merely a private letter from Bush and did not bind them at all. This has enabled Obama to force Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 armistice lines, again. Certainly, Sharon did not perceive it in that vein, and who knows if absent that commitment he would have surrendered Gaza?

Iran –be forewarned. This administration believes that the word of prior presidents need not be kept. Perhaps the next president will feel the same.

Linking Purim and Pesach

(The following was first published on March 4 on the front page of the Jewish Press.)

The year 5775 is sandwiched between two leap years, each of which contains an extra month of Adar. In those leap years, and despite the fact that most authorities maintain that the “real” Adar is the first one, the holiday of Purim always falls in the second Adar, so that even in a leap year Purim and Pesach are separated by a month.

Why do we always celebrate Purim in such close proximity toPesach? Why must they always be linked in time?

The Talmud (Megillah 6b) explains, in the name of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, that it is “preferable to juxtapose [one] redemption to [the other] redemption.” (The Yerushalmi states unequivocally: in order “to juxtapose [one] redemption to the [other] redemption.”)

In other words, the two redemptions – the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt and the salvation of the Jewish people from the genocidal designs of Haman in the story of Purim – are naturally related and require commemoration within the same period of time.

On the surface, though, the two redemptions could not be more dissimilar. Pesach is a Torah-based holiday whose fundamental observances are rooted in Torah law; Purim is a rabbinic holiday whose laws and customs are grounded in the rabbinic tradition.

    Pesach commemorates the establishment of the Jewish people through deliverance from Egyptian bondage at the very beginning of the biblical narrative, forty years before we entered and conquered the land of Israel; the story of Purim comes at the very end of the biblical era while we were ensconced in exile between the eras of the two Batei Mikdash. In the Jewish calendar, Pesach falls in the very first month of Nissan; Purim is celebrated in the very last month of the year.

And there is this most critical distinction between the two holidays: during the redemption of Pesach, the liberation from the slavery of Egypt, the Jewish people were completely passive. Miracles abounded and the Hand of Hashem was open and revealed to all. The few acts that we did – such as the designation and slaughter of the Korban Pesach – were prerequisites for redemption in the sense that they qualified those offering the sacrifice as members of the holy nation about to be redeemed. We departed “in haste,” objects of the national destiny that Hashem fashioned for us, beneficiaries of His “mighty Hand and outstretched Arm.”

By contrast, the redemption of Purim was almost the antithesis of that of Pesach. The Jews of Persia, led by Mordechai and Esther, took control of their own destiny. The miracles that took place were subtle and concealed, hidden within the natural order of politics and statecraft.

The protagonists of the salvation utilized their wisdom, ingenuity, and knowledge of human nature in order to manipulate Haman to his death by execution and King Achashveirosh to reverse – or at least revise – his decree of extermination against the people of Israel. When the day of the decree arrived – Adar 13 – the Jewish people, downtrodden in a persistent exile that seemed like it would never end, rose up in their righteous might to subdue and vanquish their enemies.

It was a role reversal, not only from the forced limitations of exile but especially from the passivity of Pesach. On Pesach – the seventh day – we were told that “Hashem will fight for you, and you will be silent” (Shemot 14:14). On Purim, Hashem remained in the background, with no explicit reference to Him even in the megillah, the chronicle of the account, and the Jewish people seized the moment and the day, defeated our enemies, and prepared the way for the building of the second Beit HaMikdash.

* * * * *

The stories of these redemptions could not be more different. Why, then, did our sages underscore that the celebrations of both festivals had to be contiguous in time?

The people of Israel in Egypt were a nascent nation. We were Hashem’s firstborn but incapable of orchestrating or even sustaining our own existence. We were infants who required the nurturing of a loving Parent. Sunk to the 49th level of impurity, we were barely distinguishable from the pagan nations with whom (and to whom) we were enslaved.

The sojourn in the wilderness reinforced this sense of helplessness and vulnerability. We relied on Hashem directly for our food and water, for our protection from the hostile elements that surrounded us, both human and natural. We survived only by virtue of Hashem’s miracles.

When we entered the land of Israel, the era of open miracles began to recede, and slowly – at times hesitantly and painfully – we took control of our own destiny. We had to sow, plant, reap, harvest, build and develop, and defend the land against an endless series of would-be invaders. The scales of hishtadlut (individual or national striving) tilted on the side of our own efforts, bolstered by our faith in Hashem and our fidelity to His law.

In the land of Israel we began to live natural lives, implementing the full complement of Torah law that pertains to every area of life. There were constant reminders of Hashem’s governance of our national lives – especially when sin precipitated a protracted period of conquest (several centuries, in fact), temporary military setbacks, and even times of extended foreign occupation that always ended with a return to Torah observance.

Despite the vicissitudes in our fortunes occasioned by the varying levels of commitment to Torah and mitzvot, we had indeed embarked on a new era in which we were primarily responsible for our destiny and realized – to inconsistent degrees – that our residence in and possession of the land of Israel were utterly dependent on our spiritual commitment.

Nevertheless, the age of open miracles of the Egyptian experience, coupled with the passivity of that redemption, was a distant memory – not a practical guide for modern life but a catalyst for self-determination and independence.

The terrible blow of the churban, the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, stunned the Jewish people. They were hastily turned into helpless refugees, humbled, degraded, persecuted, and homeless. And rather than arouse themselves, seek to eliminate the exile, and return home in accordance with the revealed prophecies, they became complacent and soon embedded themselves in the Babylonian and then Persian exiles.

The story of Purim was a wake-up call that exile is meant as a punishment – a temporary punishment – and that Hashem’s plans for His people find their fulfillment only in the land of Israel.

But something else was required to extricate ourselves from the Persian morass and threat of extermination from a mad Persian dictator (strange how things never change): a desire to seize our destiny and take the initiative in bringing about the salvation.

For sure, Mordechai (one of the local leaders of the Jewish people and a member of the Sanhedrin) was perceived as an alarmist who was exaggerating the threat. Others blamed him for the rupture in good relations that (they assumed) had heretofore existed between the Jews and the host country because he had criticized the Jews who attended the king’s banquet and refused to kowtow to his mercurial minister.

They chose not to see – even this never changes – that the crisis was orchestrated by Hashem in order to elicit from His people repentance, prayer, and increased Torah observance. What was unique about this episode in Jewish history was that, as the sages put it, the arousal came from below.

As such, it would be fair to say that Pesach and Purim reflect two different models of salvation that are possible – the redemption that comes from Above in which our participation is negligible, and the redemption that comes from below, from our own resourcefulness, without which redemption would not come, or, at least, would come in a different way according to Hashem’s will. Thus, when the season of redemption comes upon us every spring, we have before us these two archetypes of redemption.

That analysis, though, omits one crucial factor: that the era of open miracles is behind us and was only meant to be part of the early development of our fledgling nation.

“And I will descend to rescue them from Egypt…”(Shemot 3:8). Divine miracles are a “descent,” a compromise, an intrusion in the laws of nature that Hashem created and with which He governs His world. Passivity was necessary to effect the Exodus from Egypt – a people long mired in slavery cannot be expected to act as free men capable of vanquishing the world’s most powerful empire – but passivity, submissiveness, compliance and reliance on others can never be the foundation of an independent nation, and it certainly cannot ensure that freedom to pursue one’s national destiny can be preserved. For that, our nation has to be strong – strong-willed, strong-minded, strong in its military capacity, and, above all, strong in its values, national character, and connection to Hashem.

* * * * *

In effect, the progression in the Jewish calendar from Pesach to Purim mirrors the progression in our historical development. We began as dependents of Hashem, His first-born and special creation, and we were sustained directly from His hand. But in the land of Israel and thenceforth we became responsible for our own destiny. That does not mean, chas v’shalom, that Hashem is now uninvolved; it does mean that His miracles are hidden and His Providence more subtle.

Sometimes we can see it up close but more often it is possible in retrospect – especially how a browbeaten, demoralized, and exploited people rose up from the ashes, revivified its desiccated bones, and unexpectedly – dare I say miraculously – recreated its national life after a gap of nineteen centuries, an act without precedent in history and unforeseeable to anyone who was not immersed in the ancient vision of the prophets of Israel.

The Hand of Hashem remains visible to anyone who wonders how we were able to survive in the inhospitable climates of one exile after another – and how our immediate ancestors were able to spearhead a renaissance of Jewish national life by confronting the world’s empires and overcoming their objections (even temporarily) to Jewish statehood.

In exile, we remain in the salvific mode of Purim, in which we are the actors and wherein we succeed when we follow the blueprint for statecraft, nation-building, and self-defense delineated for us in the Torah, the words of the Prophets, and the Talmud. Truth be told, the temptation to return to the reactive approach of Pesach is always alluring, especially now. The dangers are that pervasive and the hope for redemption that remote. We cannot let that happen.

With Jew hatred on the rise across the world; with communities in fear and Jews concealing their identities lest they be attacked in the street; with Israel and world Jewry targets of fanatical Muslims who yearn for supremacy over the Jews and elimination of the Jewish state; with the Western world, especially including the United States, unsure of its path and reluctant to embark on a global campaign to eliminate the jihadi threat before it acquires the capability to cause even greater harm; and with this generation’s Persians obsessed with acquiring the weaponry to carry out their ancestor Haman’s final solution, it is very tempting to want to revert to Pesach mode.

We should lose that temptation, which, in any event, has never worked out well for us in the exile. All of history, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has written, is “a movement from acts done by God for the sake of human beings to acts done by human beings for the sake of God.” It is a story of the progression from the redemption of Pesach to the redemption of Purim. Our generation is both blessed with capabilities and uniquely placed to move Jewish and world history to its majestic culmination.

This still begs the question: if Jewish history is a progression from the redemptive modality of Pesach to that of Purim, then why must “[one] redemption be juxtaposed to the [other] redemption”? It should be enough to celebrate Purim, the redemption of our time!

The answer is that, indeed, in the future redemption “the end of our subjugation to the nations [i.e., the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty] will be primary and the exodus from Egypt secondary” (Masechet Berachot 12b). But the problems of the world will be so enormous and the depth of the brutality and evil so extraordinary that divine intervention will be necessary.

“As in the days when you left Egypt, I will show you wonders” (Michah 7:15). The era of open miracles will again dawn, just likePesach. If we do our share with determination and without fear, we will be worthy of eliciting the Divine response that will bring about the complete redemption in our days. “In Nissan we were redeemed and in Nissan we will be redeemed” (Rosh Hashanah 11b).


Bipartisan Frays

PM Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress was a brilliant tour-de-force, timely, powerful, emotional and determined. It was enthusiastically received. It exemplified leadership in a way that Americans have not seen for years and for that reason alone would discomfit President Obama. Netanyahu became only the second foreign leader to address Congress three times (Winston Churchill was the other) and given the fact that Netanyahu lives in Israel, his three speeches contrast quite sharply with the mere ten or so times that Obama – who lives down the street – has addressed Congress. The relative numbers also speak volumes about each man’s attitudes towards Congress – Netanyahu’s admiration and Obama’s disdain. And given the stakes, those Democrats who boycotted – and only Democrats boycotted – and hid behind explanations that range from flimsy to reprehensible should be ashamed.

Start with the flimsy – the accusation that the speech was a “political stunt” and therefore without substance. Such could only be raised by a political lackeys unfit to serve in a position of influence, because it implies both that the Iranian threat is not real and that Obama is well-situated to protect America’s interests. They must explain why people should not take seriously Iran’s repeated declarations of its intent to annihilate Israel and its construction of intercontinental ballistic missiles that would enable its nuclear weapons to target the United States, and not just Israel. And those Jews who disappeared revealed again that their identities as progressives and Democrats are stronger than their identities as Jews and Americans. They are well represented in some of the liberal organizations that pretend to defend Jewish interests but essentially are just branches of the Democratic Party.

The reprehensible also stands out – the boycott by the entire Congressional Black Caucus whose reason for existence seems to be to keep racism alive by finding it everywhere and anywhere. Thus, Netanyahu’s address to Congress was deemed by them an insult to America’s black president, necessitating their boycott in Obama’s support. Are they serious?  (In the end, Charlie Rangel came anyway after saying he would not attend. Good for him.)

There is a political dimension to the speech because it took place against the will of a sitting president with radically-different (not to mention, radical) views on America’s role in the world and as leader of the free world than is customary in the United States. Certainly Speaker Boehner was interested in reasserting the Congressional role in foreign policy rather than have the President marginalize Congress again, and credit him with not caving under the pressure brought to bear. But this started not with Boehner and Netanyahu but with Obama dispatching British PM David Cameron (also in the middle of an election campaign, by the way) to lobby Congress a short time ago against the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran if the talks fail. Why must Congress listen to Cameron and be deprived of listening to an opposing foreign voice, that of Netanyahu? That is a good question, and Boehner gave his answer quite compellingly. A co-equal branch of government can indeed have a mind and will of its own.

Much has been made of the harm allegedly caused to the “bipartisan” support for Israel. This is a sensitive area filled with truths, half-truths and mythology. It is important to note that not everyone who boycotted is necessarily anti-Israel; some are just timorous hirelings beholden to Obama, but some are anti-Israel. AIPAC went to great lengths over the last few days to strengthen the notion of bi-partisan support for Israel, as did the PM in his speech. Such is true, thankfully so, but needs to be nuanced a bit. Things are not the same as in the past, all protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

The distinction seems to be as follows: bipartisan support for Israel is a Congressional phenomenon but it is no longer a grass roots phenomenon. Support for Israel in Congress is quite strong, and Israel counts among its most passionate devotees members of both parties. But it is clear to any observer that among the grass roots, support for Israel among Republicans is substantially higher than it is among Democrats. The recent Pew study bandied about in the media in the last few weeks bolsters this assertion: among Republicans, 77% of respondents favor Israel’s cause over the Palestinians. Among Democrats, only 39% support Israel. That is a substantial difference. Republicans are twice more likely to support Israel today than are Democrats. That is a staggering figure that Jews should not deny – nor for which, as some might, blame Israel.

One need only recall the 2012 Democratic National Convention whose platform at first omitted the boilerplate statement that “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.” When a horrified Democratic establishment realized the glaring omission, they hastily proposed such a clause which was then voted down by a voice vote. Shocked at the mutiny of their own delegates, it was voted on again through another two voice votes. To most observers and listeners, the “no” votes against the resolution drowned out the “yes” votes. It wasn’t even close, but the aurally-challenged former Mayor of Los Angeles, convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa, “heard” that the “yeses” had prevailed. (He was a good sport about the whole thing, keeping a straight face throughout.)

What has happened to the Democratic Party? Simply put, the activist base of the Democrats and the grass-roots are dominated by the George Soros wing – far-left, anti-American, internationalist, and anti-Israel. They are the ones who vote in primaries, they are the ones who donate money and they are the ones who serve as delegates. The one-dimensional media obsess on the split between the Republican establishment and the grass roots Tea Party but the far greater divide in American politics is between the mainstream Democrat and the George Soros-base. At least among the Republicans, all believe in a strong America, in American exceptionalism and on most fundamentals. The chasm amongst Democrats is much greater.

That is why Soros leftists such as John Yarmuth, Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren boycotted the Netanyahu speech. They and others will usually say the right things, sort of, but then act in ways that are harmful to Israel.

As it stands now, Congressional Democrats remain overwhelmingly supportive of Israel, but the Soros wing is gradually making inroads. That wing has already captured the White House (Obama is an acolyte) and its candidates are slowly trying to infiltrate Congress as well. If it happens – in many places, fear of the Soros candidates has been a boon for Republicans and that has limited their successes – the reality of bipartisanship will be undone. That might happens sooner than one thinks, as other Soros candidates are poised to capture Democratic strongholds in the coming two years. Those Soros affiliates will cause tzoros for the Democratic Party and for America.

And then liberal Jews will be left with nostalgia – Harry Truman’s recognition of Israel, JFK’s sale of Hawk missiles to Israel, and the long-time support for Israel among Congressional Democrats when they were in the majority. Certainly most presidents – of both parties – have been well-disposed to Israel, and support for Israel has never been considered controversial or politically risky. Not so anymore. Kudos to our own Senator Bob Menendez (D) who has stood up to the White House on a number of issues, come under tremendous pressure and pushed back – as in his forceful speech at AIPAC the other night castigating the sellout with Iran. He could become this generation’s Pat Moynihan and has won the admiration of lovers of Israel and America on both sides of the political divide. Time will tell whether or not his kind of Democrat is a dinosaur.

Time will also soon tell us the fate of Binyamin Netanyahu. Cast in the Churchillian role of warning the Western world about the dangers of fascism – Nazi fascism for Churchill and Islamofascism for Netanyahu – the PM gave a Churchillian speech, passionate and evocative, that framed the issues of our time in a memorable way and included rhetorical touches that will also endure. But he would do well to recall that Churchill won the war –and then ignominiously lost the next election. The “grateful” British people voted him out of office just two months later forcing Churchill to depart the Allied postwar conference at Potsdam.

Apparently, not everyone appreciates true leadership…until it is missing and until it reappears in a new guise. Only then do we realize the enormous potential impact of the strong leader – to accomplish, to inspire, to wage war against the forces of absolute evil and to prevail against all odds. The US Congress, in its warm embrace and enthusiastic reception of PM Netanyahu, showed that it both recognizes true leadership and will stand firmly with Israel in the shared struggles ahead. The Obama administration, having crudely mocked Netanyahu’s courage last year, saw both courage and resolve. Notwithstanding the administration, the alliance and friendship between the United States and Israel is as strong as ever.

And, proud Jews stood a little prouder, with the spirit of Purim in the air.

Happy Purim to all!

Abbas Unclothed

This week we were witness to a rare “the emperor has no clothes” moment. A federal court jury in New York City held the PLO and the Palestinian Authority liable for sponsoring, orchestrating, encouraging and financing acts of terror in Israel against Americans. These intertwined terrorist entities were ordered to pay $218M in regular damages, which under US law is trebled to more than $650M, to the victimized families. Once and for all, the official representatives of the “Palestinian” people were adjudicated to be terrorist hoodlums, something that anyone with eyes, ears and brains always knew but which was suppressed by the political and media elites for legal, political and diplomatic reasons.

And after the decision that vindicated a host of innocent Americans, Jews and non–Jews, and partly compensated them for the horrific pain and suffering they endured, the State Department had ……”no comment.” No comment?! How curious. And how unsurprising.

Under US law, funding to the PA must be halted if the PA is deemed to be a terrorist entity. The President has to certify annually that the PA is not a terrorist entity. All presidents since the 1990s have duly certified this fiction, which everyone knew to be false. This has enabled the PA to receive around $400M annually in our tax dollars, money which (in addition to feathering the nests of Arafat, Abbas and their cronies) we now know has been paid to terrorist prisoners and families of suicide bombers. In effect, our tax dollars helped underwrite these evildoers who exploded themselves on buses, streets, pizzerias, schools and shopping malls. It is sick, vulgar and horrifying.

And here’s what is equally sick, vulgar and horrifying: our tax dollars will continue to be provided to these two entities, as if the trial did not take place, as if the decision was not rendered, as if these organizations were not held liable, and as if the terror did not happen, is not happening and will not happen in the future. As if the current PA has no connection to the PA of a decade ago. As if current dictator Mahmoud Abbas was not the deputy to the murderous Arafat and was uninvolved in funding terror. As if Abbas did not personally approve payments to terrorists in the last decade, including some of the terrorists whose deeds were on trial in the federal court of New York’s Southern District.

In fact, the PA was found liable in the matter of Sokolow et al v. the PLO and PA specifically because the governing agencies of the PA were directly involved in sponsoring and funding terror and terrorists, and creating an environment in which terrorism was (is) not only acceptable but laudable. The PA leadership, the jury found, promoted terrorists, increased their salaries, paid their families a healthy wage, honored dead terrorists by naming town squares and summer camps after them, and generally incentivized terror.

I attended the defense summation last week (close friends of mine were among the plaintiffs), and the PA lawyer was certainly game. In essence, his argument was that the money paid to the terrorists was not an inducement to terror, the job promotions were not limited to the terrorists and the suicide bombers acted on their own (perhaps purchasing the suicide vests over the counter at the Ramallah shopping mall). He asserted, probably truthfully, that these terrorists would have acted even without the inducements, and under the principle of respondeat superior, an employer is only liable for the acts of his employee if the employee is acting within the scope of his employment and in furtherance of the objectives and goals of the employer. And of course, he claimed, these terrorists were not acting pursuant to PA doctrine but were rather free agents, moved by personal considerations. Even the fact that many terrorists – and behind the scenes organizers – were PA police officers was minimized or excused.

The jury rejected those contentions completely. The terrorists were acting in a way that promoted the objectives of their employer, who even compensated them or their families for their diligence in dismembering innocent shoppers and bus passengers. They knew that their superiors approved of what they were doing (especially when, um,  the superiors were involved in the planning). The PA could no longer hide behind its traditional fictions such as the ritual denunciation of terror to Western but not Arab audiences, the shell game of the creation of “new” terrorist groups with unusual names and acronyms (same thugs, different titles) and the fabricated attribution of terrorist acts to this or that alleged provocation. It was all planned, coordinated, executed and paid for by those two organizations and their derivatives, and with the connivance of too many others who preferred to look away rather than accept reality.

The defendants were found liable on every count. Finally.

This is a diplomatic earthquake.  It exposes the hollowness – again – of the failed and humiliating Oslo process, backed by more Israelis and American Jewish leaders than one cares to remember. The premise for two decades of the peace processors – American, Israeli, and European – has been that the PA wants peace, loves peace, has renounced terror forever and wants to be a civilized nation among the family of nations. That premise has been shattered as – what many of us have long known – a complete and utter hoax, an act of self-delusion among its proponents, especially many American Jews and most American Jewish organizations. Sadly, they will not be dissuaded by this decision. After all, the State Department had no comment, and therefore the decision has no practical application. To them. In the world of reality and truth, as opposed to the world of fantasy, falsehood and photo ops, it matters greatly.

What’s next? There will be appeals and further legal maneuvers. The U.S. government can step in at any time and save the PA’s skin, absolving it of its financial responsibility and announcing – when it decides to comment – that the decision related to the “old PA,” but the new PA, all good ‘ole boys, has nothing to do with that or them. The PA is already claiming to be on the verge of bankruptcy, not a great surprise for an entity that has no natural resources, no functioning economy, has been propped up for years by the West’s blackmail payments, and whose primary export is terror. (Israel this week temporarily suspended the provision of electricity to two major Arab towns for failure to pay their electric bills. Another Israeli anomaly: the Israeli taxpayer has been subsidizing its enemies’ electric needs for almost two decades.) The US government would have to allow PLO and PA assets (especially real property) to be attached.

The PA will do everything in its power and use every threat and gambit it can to avoid paying this new debt to the victims of their craving for terror.  And diplomats – stripped of the fig leaf that the PA is a civilized entity ready for statehood – have had their foundation torn out from under them. Well, that is true unless they deny what has happened, and continue to have no comment.

Not coincidentally this week, the Obama administration has doubled down in its antagonism towards Israel. The attempt to suppress PM Netanyahu’s speech has become obsessive; after all, it’s just a speech. Susan Rice, dispatched by the Obama administration (does it sound like Valerie Jarrett?) to lie about the causes of the Benghazi attacks, was irate, criticizing Netanyahu for “destroying” the US-Israel relationship, clearly an exaggeration  but something for which presumably she believes neither she nor her bosses have any – any – responsibility. How dare Netanyahu argue against the planned annihilation of his people! The nerve of those uppity Jews.

She, too, probably has no comment on the jury decision. Will she, the National Security Advisor,  recommend the designation of the PA as a “terror entity,” as common sense would demand in the wake of the verdict? Nah, the enemy is in Jerusalem, not Ramallah. It is best to ignore the jury ruling in New York.

One thing seems increasingly clear: Obama will recognize a Palestinian state before his term ends, either through a UN resolution or on his own initiative, or both. Snipers at Israel will attribute it to his poor relationship with Netanyahu, but the signs are already clear and a Netanyahu defeat in the elections will only hasten it, even as a victory will not forestall it for long. And when Obama does, his Jewish acolytes will continue to fawn over him and dote on his every word and gesture. But, his is not the final word. What happens in Israel will be decided in Israel – not in Washington and not by Obama.

What’s Obama’s biggest fear about Netanyahu’s forthcoming speech to Congress? It is not just that the Prime Minister will oppose the pending sellout to the Iranians; let Obama make his case why he thinks it is a good deal. But Obama’s greatest fear is that Netanyahu will be gracious and statesmanlike, showering praise on Obama for what he has done for Israel and critiquing the dangers implicit in abandoning the US commitment to prevent a nuclear Iran. Netanyahu will sound like a leader, a stark contrast to the pettiness, and verbal and legal thuggery, that the Obama administration has routinely employed against its perceived enemies, domestic and foreign. Netanyahu could wind up more popular – in America, at least – than Obama is, as the nation is yearning for leadership and an assertion of American exceptionalism.

It should frighten all Americans that the Obama administration has spent its last six years empowering every American enemy across the globe and alienating every ally. Israel is in Obama’s cross-hairs for several reasons, but primarily because Obama sees Israel as the impediment to the United States’ rapprochement with the Arab-Muslim world that Obama imagines will bring “peace in our time.”

It is strange that the loquacious Obama, like his State Department, has had no comment on the verdict in New York, and all because it does not fit his narrative of events, past and future.  But good people do not forget the reign of terror of the evildoers and forever extol the virtues of those who fight the good fight trying to thwart them. The Jewish people especially have a long memory – certainly this week we do – of the Amalek of old and of the Amalek reborn in our generation, and what has to be done in order to defeat it and redeem the world. The tide of history is on the side of Mordechai and Esther – those unafraid to speak truth to power and will vigorously defend the interests of the Jewish people.


Of Course!

Of course PM Netanyahu should address Congress on the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran and the ongoing threat of Islamic terror. If not him, then who? If not now, then when?

For one reason, Netanyahu will be in Washington anyway for the AIPAC Policy Conference. That, too, is on his agenda notwithstanding its proximity to the Israeli elections. There is a second reason as well: while Netanyahu is the probable winner in those elections and therefore will head the next government, that is by no means assured. The election campaign – as tawdry and sordid as it is – has changed no minds. Israel’s electorate is as ideologically frozen as the New Jersey tundra this winter, and the outcome will be based on the obvious: turnout of one’s supporters, as it invariably does. The percentage of Israelis actually voting in elections has steadily declined over the last two decades and is slightly above the poor participation rate in the United States. The notion that Netanyahu is coming here in order to win votes is risible. But who knows if a Prime Minister Herzog – not the strongest personality in the country – will project the same resolve or even deign to oppose an Obama whose campaign team was dispatched from the US to get him elected? It might be the last time that Netanyahu has a chance to sound the alarm.

There is a third reason why he should come and speak, and was right in accepting Speaker Boehner’s offer to become only the second foreign leader – Winston Churchill was the other – to address a joint session of Congress three times. Who will alert Congress and the American people to the clear and present danger of a nuclear Iran and the epidemic of Islamic terror – Barack Obama? He is preternaturally incapable of even uttering the phrase “Islamic terror” and has no plan to thwart the Iranian nuclear program. Obama, in just the last few years, has eviscerated the effect of two decades’ worth of diplomacy, UN resolutions and the sanctions regime that was weakening Iran, all in exchange for nothing.

Obama has two goals, both of which have combined to make him the weakest American president in the last half-century, and perhaps in the last century: he is determined not to send any American troops abroad to fight in a war of his choosing (becoming the first President in generations to accomplish that “feat,” and completely oblivious to the cost to American and human life, and world stability, now and in the future); and, he has no objection to the Iranians acquiring a nuclear capacity – as long as they don’t do it on his watch. In essence, he wants to kick the can down the road, pacify the Iranians with the carrots of trade and sanctions relief, and threaten the Israelis into inaction. Obama is today the mullahs’ best friend, and through passivity has allowed Islamic terror – of which the Iranian bomb is just one facet and future tool – to proliferate, all while he denies it really exists.

No wonder Obama reacted apoplectically to the Congressional invitation. (The lie that his minions proffered – that the White House was unaware of the offer until after it was extended and accepted – has already been exposed by the NY Times.) It was the breach of protocol – that wasn’t. No matter.

There are two issues that Netanyahu will raise that threaten to undermine the Obama plan: one is the imminence of the Iranian threat. The pending deal essentially leaves Iran with the capacity to enrich at will and produce a weapon at the time of its choosing, even assuming that it will adhere to any limitations placed or to an inspections regime. The current president, Rouhani, who headed the Iranian negotiating team over a decade ago, admitted lying back then in order to build new facilities, conceal them from UN inspectors, and continue enrichment surreptitiously. If necessary, they will lie again, except for this: Rouhani has been quite open that nothing will deter Iran from obtaining a nuclear capacity and any agreement will have to recognize that right.

Contrast his candor with Obama’s repeated assertions that he will not let Iran acquire a nuclear weapon – this from the same person who said “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”; who said there is “not a smidgeon of evidence of scandal” at the IRS; and who does not believe that Islamic terror even exists.

Netanyahu will burst that bubble and acquaint Americans with the dangers that an Iranian nuclear capacity poses to them and not just Israel and that the deal now pending will make Iran a nuclear power within a short time. Better to state that publicly – loudly and clearly – before the deal is finalized than do it after the deal is formally reached when such opposition by Israel’s leaders will be perceived as a frontal attack on the American President.

There is a second aspect to the Obama disenchantment with Netanyahu of which Americans should be aware. At present, Obama has no intention of bringing an accord with Iran to the US Senate for approval. He wishes to bypass Congress – again; immigration reform, anyone? – and shape US foreign policy on his own. He doesn’t care about constitutional limits; his attitude since he became president is to do what he wants and let the courts sort it out, which takes years.

Netanyahu’s address to Congress essentially re-asserts Congressional supremacy in treaty-making but, more importantly, Congressional relevance in foreign policy. It would be extremely hard for Obama to ignore Congress after Netanyahu has roused them – even subtly – in asserting their constitutional prerogatives. If I had to choose, I would suggest that this reason plays more of a role in Obama’s current disenchantment than the first, and even more than his visceral dislike of PM Netanyahu.

Allegedly, Netanyahu is being “punished” by being denied an audience with President Obama. Well, some people are glad they are not meeting. Would that they never meet again! Those meetings have never gone well for Israel, and they are always accompanied by the expectation that Israel will provide some concession in exchange for the great privilege of sitting down with the most hostile president to Israel in memory. It’s no honor, no privilege, and no good comes out of it. Sometimes a curse is actually a blessing in disguise.

Many suggest that Netanyahu’s visit threatens a rupture in US-Israel relations. Hogwash. The US-Israel alliance and friendship is not based on Obama – or even on Netanyahu – but on the American people’s recognition of justice. A poll this week showed support for Israel among Americans to be four times greater than for the Palestinian “cause,” and a majority supporting Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. And given Obama’s unpopularity in Israel – despite the way Israel’s media elites fawn over him – a confrontation with Netanyahu can only benefit Netanyahu, even if he doesn’t seek one.

Worse, Americans are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with Obama’s stewardship and America’s declining role in the world. It is not just Obama’s bizarre refusal to underscore the problem of Islamic terror; that is just part of the pro-Muslim bias that clouds his thinking about world affairs. Consider: when Muslims (in America) were killed recently, they were killed – as per Obama – because they were Muslims. When blacks are killed, they are killed because they are black. But when Jews are killed, or Christians are killed, across the world, they are killed because they were “random folks” caught in the web of some never-to-be-named “violent extremists.”

Thus, to combat Islamic terror of all stripes and varieties, this is the Obama track record: Boko Haram and its kidnapping, raping, murdering and pillaging – nothing (except for a twitter campaign, for what that is worth); Syria and Iraq – next to nothing. ISIS – a barrage of verbiage, even with Americans being tortured and murdered. Al Qaeda – reborn. Afghanistan – pending withdrawal, which will again empower the Taliban. Yemen – fall of that country to Muslim radicals. Libya – the same. Some of these groups are themselves rivals but they all share one thing in common: they are not Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians or Shintos. And the enemy remains unnamed.

At a certain point, this denial moves from the realm of willful blindness into the realm of pathological blindness. And we have moved from an inability to state the truth openly – because of fear or other reasons – to an inability to state the obvious with clarity.

How many innocent heads have to roll in the Middle East before the United States reasserts its indispensable role as a force for good in the world?

Let Netanyahu come as the voice of reason and leadership, and let him sound the alarm. Those Senators who forever proclaim their love for Israel – Schumer and others – let’s see whether their Jewishness and love for America exceeds their fear of Obama and commitment to the Democratic Party. If they find an excuse to absent themselves, they should be called to account. Now is crunch time, time for Jews to move past empty expressions of support for Israel by a host of politicians and demand forthrightness, courage and action.

Those who are unwilling to face the truth and prefer to be ensnared in Obama’s tangled web will have to answer for their poltroonery. Let Netanyahu come, and let lovers of Israel, America and truth show their support for him, and for combating this generation’s greatest foe.