Showing posts with label ISRAEL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ISRAEL. Show all posts

Thursday 26 November 2020

Should Diaspora Jews Have a Say in Israel’s Internal Affairs?

The divide between Jews in Israel and abroad has widened. A new Knesset bill could bridge the gap

This is going to be a two-part series, the second installment of which will ask the question “Should Christians Have a Say in Israel’s Internal Affairs?” But it is instructive for our readers to first understand some of the sensitive issues in the relationship between Israel and Jews living in the Diaspora.

Although this is not a new question concerning Israel-Diaspora relations, it has become once again relevant due to a new bill to be proposed in the Knesset. The legislation is being endorsed by Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevitch and sponsored by MK Tehila Friedman, both members of the “Blue and White” party.

The proposed law offers to establish a mechanism making it mandatory for Israeli lawmakers to consult Jewish leaders around the world when making decisions on issues that could affect Diaspora Jewry. While the bill lacks any specifics as to what would constitute the kind of issue that would require consulting world Jewry, its proposal is a significant step toward bridging an ever-widening gap between Israeli Jews and Jews living outside the Jewish State.

Prior to Israel’s independence in 1948, the Zionist movement had always catered and reached out to Jewish communities around the world for support. Diaspora support came in many forms, including financial donations and political lobbying in their local governments. Diaspora Jewish support for the establishment of Israel was so significant during the War of Independence that Golda Meir said herself that Diaspora funding was crucial for the newborn country’s success.

Interestingly, Israel’s Diaspora engagement policies have become a model for other countries around the world interested in courting their own diaspora communities abroad. For example, when Croatia was striving for international recognition in the early 1990s, it established a diaspora lobbying model based on Jewish pro-Israel organizations in the United States. Since gaining statehood, Croatia has also allowed for non-citizen Croats abroad to vote as well as hold seats in its national parliament. Israel is not alone in dealing with the question of diaspora influence in internal affairs.

How much influence should diaspora Jews be given in Israel’s internal affairs?

First, obvious limitations should be noted. It seems absurd that non-citizens, even if they are Jewish, should have any kind of decision-making authority on matters of security, the economy, and any local issue that does not concern the diaspora community. Only Israeli citizens should have the right to determine processes that affect their daily lives and well-being.

In addition, there is a potential domestic threat in allowing for Jews abroad to influence internal affairs. Since Israel’s inception, ethnic tension has prevailed between Jewish and Arab groups in the country. For many Israeli Arab communities living as a minority population in a self-identified Jewish state, citizenship and civil rights are sensitive issues. National belonging is not a given.

Although rare today, Arab citizens of Israel have participated in some of the country’s most deadly terror attacks. Non-citizen Jews having too much say in Israel’s internal affairs is likely to arouse those tensions which have been quite dormant in recent years, due to understandings that an ethnic group abroad is being favored over actual tax-paying citizens of the country.

At the same time, Israel’s entire existence is predicated on its role as the official nation-state of the Jewish people. Thus, if Israel is to remain a country that claims to represent and serve world Jewry, then its leaders must at the very least allow them to voice their concerns and opinions in an official way.

Israel does make decisions on Jewish issues that potentially affect diaspora communities abroad, such as conversion, definitions of who is a Jew, the Kotel (Western Wall), and Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel). For instance, any changes to the Law of Return, which gives the right of Jews around the world to live in Israel, certainly should be made only after consulting Jewish leaders. Although Israel should always retain the exclusive right to decide who is able to cross its borders, Aliyah is based on the right of any Jew to automatically become a citizen of his or her homeland, Israel. Therefore, changing this status in any way has a significant effect on Jews living abroad.

Opening up an official channel for direct discourse and consultation between Israeli and Diaspora Jewish leaders is also beneficial for building understanding and respect in a highly damaged relationship. In recent years, the divide between Jews in Israel and abroad has widened. Young people are on average far less engaged than their parents and grandparents in supporting Israel and an influx of anti-Zionist Jewish organizations such as ‘If Not Now” and “Jewish Voice for Peace” are appearing.

While there are several causes to the increasing divide, a central one is due to prevalent Diaspora perceptions that Israel is only interested in hearing what they have to say when their checkbook is open. The proposed bill has the potential to bridge this gap and restore a strong Jewish attachment to Israel.

Thus, a delicate balance must be preserved between containing local ethnic tensions and bridging the divide between Israeli and Diaspora Jews in order to increase Jewish engagement of Israel. Granting diaspora communities authority in determining substantive local issues such as security and the economy can tilt that balance in a dangerous direction in which a minority already struggling with belonging to the country (Israeli Arabs) may perceive that a non-citizen ethnic group abroad is being prioritized over them. However, Israel can consult Jewish leaders abroad on Jewish-related issues that may directly impact their communities. This both preserves the peace at home and is likely to encourage reconciliation between an increasingly divided Jewish people.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Biden administration will likely seek to make its own stamp on Mideast

 say experts

President-elect Joe Biden speaking in Gettysburg, Pa., on Oct. 7, 2020

Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, states it is safe to assume that the incoming president’s initial energies will be internally focused due to the coronavirus and the economy. In addressing the Mideast, the priority is likely to focus on Iran and the nuclear deal, followed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

(November 9, 2020) U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s yet-to-be-confirmed victory over incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump has ushered in a flurry of questions in Israel over what a Biden-Harris administration would look like and how it would differ from the Obama administration specifically with regard to Israel.

Eytan Gilboa, an expert on American politics and foreign policy, as well as a senior research associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, told JNS the next administration “will differ in certain areas” compared to Obama’s. 

“We should not expect much continuity,” he said. “Every president wants to leave their own imprint.”

Gilboa noted a few points. First, Biden’s top priorities will be domestic: dealing with the coronavirus, interracial relations and the economy.

Second, Biden’s ability to pass legislation will depend on the makeup of Congress and whether the Republicans or Democrats control the Senate.

Third, according to Gilboa, many of the so-called progressives, the radicals, “are anti-Israel and some are anti-Semitic.”

“The question is how powerful they will be,” said Gilboa.


‘A need to change the sunset clause’

While Biden may not necessarily take a hard line against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “the people under him may not be so forgiving, as many are Obama veterans. These people are not very friendly [towards Israel]. The question is how much influence he will give them.”

With regard to policy, Gilboa said, “there will be continuity in terms of all bilateral relations, including intelligence coordination, security cooperation, joint maneuvers and development of missile defense systems. These will continue and perhaps improve.”

Gilboa suggested that Israel will likely need to be concerned about three issues. The first is the United Nations, where Biden is likely to renew American involvement and participation in U.N. international organizations such as the International Criminal Court and the U.N. Human Rights Council. The Trump administration spent four years lambasting the United Nations over its anti-Israel stance, and in 2019, Trump withdrew America from the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The second issue to concern Israel is Biden’s intention to work closely with Europe, which according to Gilboa, could be “problematic on issues such as Iran and the Palestinians.”

With regard to Biden’s approach to Iran and his intention to sign a new deal with the Islamic Republic, Gilboa said Israel should make every effort “to participate in the formulation of a new deal.”

He explained that Biden said he wants to negotiate a new deal with Iran and while Iran thinks it will be similar to the 2015 deal, it won’t. “Five years have passed, and there is a need to change the sunset clause,” he said.

In fact, UNSCR 2231’s section on the arms embargo against Iran already expires this year. United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace has warned that the expiration of the arms embargo “will have immediate destabilizing consequences for Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Israel. Terror organizations like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, the Al-Ashtar Brigades, Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Houthis are the likely beneficiaries of this sunset provision.”

Gilboa said any new deal with Iran “will have to be tougher and include issues left out of the original deal such as the development of ballistic missiles.”

Iran would like to negotiate, said Gilboa, but it insists the United States must abolish the economic sanctions as a precondition to any deal.

Regarding the Palestinians, Biden has said he won’t move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv, though there are reports that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas will insist on it.

More worrying for Israel, is Biden’s intention to restore aid to the Palestinians and UNRWA, which could result in the financing of terror against Israel, and he has said he will reopen the PLO mission office in Washington.

“I doubt he will emulate Obama’s obsession with the peace process,” said Gilboa. “I do not see any major peace process or peace plan. I don’t think this is going to happen.”

The third issue that will concern Israel according to Gilboa related to the Abraham Accords that saw Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan agree to normalize relations with Israel. Trump planned to add other countries such as Oman, Morocco, maybe Kuwait, and even perhaps Saudi Arabia. The reason was to counter Iran in the region.

Representatives of Iran and the P5+1 world powers pose for a photo in Vienna, Austria

Biden had applauded the Abraham Accords, but his top foreign-policy advisor, Tony Blinken, has said that the significance of the deals was “a little bit overstating” and noted that Israel had close ties with the countries under the Obama administration as well.

But Gilboa said that Iran will now give the United States an ultimatum. “If given the choice, Biden will choose Iran,” said Gilboa.

For its part, Israel and Arab Gulf state are reportedly moving to help the Trump administration levy a “flood” of sanction on Iran before Biden is sworn in reportedly out of concern that Biden could undo Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic.

‘Israel has changed, and Iran has changed’

So will a Biden administration be more pro-Israel than the Obama administration? Or less?

According to Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, “what was considered ‘pro-Israel’ in Obama’s term is not necessarily seen as ‘pro-Israel’ today.”

“Since Obama’s presidency America has changed; Israel has changed, and Iran has changed, as have the region and the world in general,” she said.

“Furthermore,” she added, “one has to take into account that similarly to American society, Israeli society is divided and multi-faceted with different sectors having completely different perceptions of what it means to be ‘pro-Israel.’ ”

Hatuel-Radoshitzky said that both Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have proven time and again that they are Israel’s allies.

“Among other things, they are committed to maintaining Israel’s QME [Qualitative Military Edge], and they have declared that they will not condition aid to Israel on the Israeli government’s policies vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” she said.

Whether the Biden administration will launch an effort to create a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Hatuel-Radoshitzky agreed with Gilboa, saying that it is “safe to assume that the Biden administration’s initial energies and resources will be internally focused. In addressing the Middle East, the priority will likely be addressing the JCPOA. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will come in only later.”

According to Hatuel-Radoshitzky, Israel should prepare for a Biden administration by making a “proactive effort to establish open and direct communication lines with Democratic Party officials to transform Israel into a bipartisan issue.”

She said Israel should not fear the renewal of Palestinian aid, but should rather perceive it “as an opportunity towards increased US leverage vis-à-vis the Palestinians who will once again perceive the United States as an acceptable mediator.”

Hatuel-Radoshitzky said she believes that returning U.S. aid to UNRWA or returning the United States to the UNHRC or to UNESCO “could play out very positively for Israel if conditioned upon important changes in the way these bodies function. In other words, there is an excellent opportunity to increase U.S. influence in a way that will be conducive to Israel, too.”

Monday 5 October 2020

Trump's COVID-19 was made up to gain sympathy, avoid next Biden debate says Palestinian Authority

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas 

"I’m certain that if [Joe] Biden or any other president rises ‎‎[to power], the first thing that person will do is to declare that the [Trump’s] ‎deal of the century is off the table."

In the official daily newspaper of the Palestinian Authority, Al-Hayat al-Jadida, Mahmoud Abbas ran on Sunday a front-page editorial with the headline “Trump's ‎corona - false claims and expectations,” claiming that the US President Donald Trump may have "fabricated" his coronavirus infection "to win sympathy, and to avoid ‎future debates with his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden."

The fact that Trump’s infection was announced shortly after his debate with ‎Biden “which Trump turned into the worst debate in history” makes it logical that Trump ‎wants to avoid future debates by feigning illness, said the PA newspaper.‎

Palestinian Media Watch published the translation of the piece and shared it with the Israeli press. 

The editorial added that if Trump happens to actually be sick, his illness "will cause ‎[him] to re-examine the erroneous and aggressive policies towards humanity... while he fuels racist extremist ideas, and sides with ‎falsehood against the truth, and with occupation against liberation and freedom."

The irony, PMW points out in its release, is that the PA daily also published on the same page a note coming from Saeb Erekat, the ‎Secretary of the PLO Executive Committee, who told CNN that "President ‎Mahmoud Abbas wishes US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania a speedy ‎and full recovery‏.‏‎”‎

While this editorial was more than insulting and outrageous towards the US President, PMW states, it ended in a more appealing way, saying that "whether or not the US president has caught coronavirus, [the PA] will not ‎analyze this news based on wishful thinking," where the quote “wishful thinking” might be a possible reference to the open hopes of the PA for a Biden election victory that will ‎completely change US policy and end the US peace proposal. 

This was position has been expressed earlier by Erekat 

A position that was made very clear earlier by Erekat, when he said: "I’m certain that if [Joe] Biden or any other president rises ‎‎[to power], the first thing that person will do is to declare that the [Trump’s] ‎deal of the century is off the table because they have issued statements."

Thursday 17 September 2020

Corona Visas for Evangelical Volunteers Leave Catholics Frustrated

Courtesy: HaYovel

But Israel Today confirmed there is no conspiracy to favor Evangelicals over Catholics or Orthodox

Waves have been made in the Israeli media over an Evangelical Christian group managing to secure visas for its foreign volunteers at a time when the country’s borders are closed to non-citizens.

HaYovel is a US-based ministry (though the core staff resides in Israel much of the year) whose primary mission is aiding Israeli farmers in Judea and Samaria (the so-called “West Bank”) during the annual grape and olive harvest seasons. While here, the group’s volunteers are also educated and equipped to become ambassadors for what God is doing in Israel today.

Needless to say, the coronavirus policies that have shut Israel off to all but returning Israeli citizens were a devastating blow to HaYovel’s vision and mission. Or at least, they would have been. Instead, the closure produced what could be seen as a tremendous testimony.

“We were worried about having to shut down the operation since we only had eight of our staff members in the Land. Normally for a harvest season, we get 300 volunteers coming through in addition to staff,” HaYovel’s Executive Director, Zac Waller, told Israel Today. “So we talked to the vineyard owners to figure out a solution, and at one point even considered bringing in a mechanical harvester to complete the mission. We also reached out to our contacts in government, and finally started to see miracle after miracle. In the end, we were able to get 50 volunteers here.”

The use of the word “miracle” here is not an exaggeration. As noted, Israel has closed its borders to all non-citizens. The obvious victim of this policy has been the tourism industry. But no less impacted have been Israel’s small farmers, many of whom rely on foreign volunteers and laborers to tend and bring in seasonal crops. In the best of times, Israel’s government pays inadequate attention to these farmers. So for HaYovel’s petition to get before the right eyes, let alone be considered and approved, is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle.

Even with a Divine hand opening doors, everyone assumed to be shut and locked, this is still Israel. The bureaucracy is thick, and the feet are often dragged. And though the approval for HaYovel’s volunteers came in what many would consider record time for a visa matter, the mandatory quarantine for all incoming passengers still meant they wouldn’t quite get to the vines in time. But then another miracle occurred – the grapes waited for the volunteers.

“We always base the timing of the harvest on the biblical feasts,” explained Waller. “And every year we hit it spot on, but this year the grapes just weren’t ready. They were about three weeks later than normal. But it just so happened that the first day of the red grape harvest was the first day that our volunteers got out of their mandatory two-week quarantine after arriving in the Land. Thank God, it’s just all coming together.”

In addition to being the fulfillment of prophecy (see Isaiah 61:5), the work of HaYovel’s volunteers is crucial to the success of small farmers in the biblical heartland.

“We need volunteers, too!”

HaYovel’s incredible story did not go unnoticed. Sadly, the only bit that the secular Israeli media focused on was how these Christians had somehow sidestepped restrictions under which others have been left groaning.

And that caught the attention of other Christian institutions that likewise run volunteer programs, and who felt that in light of HaYovel’s success, they were being unfairly denied visas by Israel’s Interior Ministry.

“We need visas, too!” read the headline of a letter sent to the Israeli government by The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land.

The Catholic officials said they were “astonished” to learn that American Evangelical volunteers had secured visas, while they have been unable to do the same for volunteers that normally serve at hospitals, schools, and elderly homes that are administered by the Catholic Church.

“We have been repeatedly told that visas cannot be given because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Catholics complained, seeming to suggest that the Israeli government was giving preferential treatment to more pro-Israel Christians.

Waller proposed a simpler answer.

“Agriculture is kind of a special category,” he noted. “Even in times of lockdown, agriculture has got to continue so that the stores can stay stocked. In addition to that, we are living and working in rural areas, aren’t doing tours, we aren’t around a lot of people or going into populated areas. Our risk of exposing or being exposed is minimal.”

Israel Today can indeed confirm that there is no special consideration being granted to Israel-supporting Evangelical ministries in regard to volunteer visas. Many of the Evangelical ministries based in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have had to operate during this period with greatly reduced staff numbers due to the blanket ban on entry visas.

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Israelis Excited to Visit United Arab Emirates

Israel Tourism Minister Assaf Zamir
Israel Tourism Minister Assaf Zamir

One of the “fruits” from the Israel-UAE peace deal should be bilateral tourism.

“We are looking forward to the arrival of UAE citizens in Israel and the day we can fly to visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi. We will not limit the number of tourists from the UAE. The peace agreement creates enormous potential for the Israeli economy and tourism, and we will do everything we can to promote cooperation between the two countries.”

This is what Israel Tourism Minister Assaf Zamir (pictured) said in an interview with UAE journalist Fahd al-Amiri.

Zamir added: “The two countries are geographically close to each other. It’s only a 3-hour flight between Israel and the Emirates. Israelis also like to travel to new destinations… and the amazing achievements we hear about the UAE make [many Israelis] excited to go there.”

The Minister mentioned in the interview that the main Arab countries Israeli citizens can visit are Egypt and Jordan. And there, too, Israelis go only in small numbers of about 200,000 tourists a year. Many more Israelis visit Asian countries, such as India and Thailand.

Segments from the interview:

Can tourists from the UAE visit Jerusalem?

“We want all tourist sites to be open without restrictions to tourists coming from the Emirates, both religiously oriented sites and non-religious. In general, I think all Israel will be open to the Emirate tourists.”

How will direct flights of airlines between the two countries attract more tourists?

“… mainly because … that makes it easier for the tourist to fly and travel between the countries.”

How does Israel see the tourism industry of the Emirates?

“I think Israeli tourists are excited to visit your country because we know that your country is a hospitable country and welcomes tourists from all over the world. In addition to the great beaches and restaurants you have, the unique culture attracts crowds to your country from everywhere.”

What tourism products will the State of Israel offer to tourists from the United Arab Emirates?

“The religious sites all over the country and chiefly the city of Jerusalem… not only the religious sites but also the cultural sites and other historical sites in Israel. In addition, we offer tourists diverse culinary experiences; the city of Tel Aviv and its wonderful restaurants and beaches; Eilat and desert attractions; the Negev, also the Upper Galilee and beautiful Mount Hermon covered in snow.”

Abdullah al-Mohiri, owner of the Golden Eagle Travel and Tourism Agency in Ras al-Khaimah, UAE said that peace and prosperity are two sides of the same coin, and one cannot be achieved without the other. Abdullah expects that the peace agreement will contribute to cooperation with the Israeli side and to the prosperity of all economic spheres, especially tourism, by virtue of being linked to stability in the region.”

On our side, tourism agents in Israel are eagerly awaiting the moment the peace agreement will enter into force. On the one hand, the agents think that many Emirate tourists will want to come to the holy sites in Israel and especially to Jerusalem. On the other hand, they think that the demand of Israelis to fly to Dubai and Abu Dhabi will outweigh the demand to fly to Turkey or Greece.

Tuesday 1 September 2020

Even Arafat’s Wife Accepts Israel-UAE Normalization

Speaking to Israeli media, Arafat’s widow says she knows secrets that could bring down the Palestinian Authority

The Palestinian Authority is finding itself increasingly isolated in its fierce opposition to the announced normalization between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Only Iran and Turkey have joined the Palestinians in loudly opposing this move toward peace.

In fact, even the widow of none other than Yasser Arafat, the man who made a career of trying to destroy Israel, has publicly accepted this dramatic development or at least is telling other Palestinians to stop opposing it.

After fellow Palestinians reacted to the news by publicly burning UAE flags and pictures of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Suha Arafat took to Instagram to apologize to the Emiratis and their leader:

“I want to apologize, in the name of the honorable Palestinian people, to the Emirati people and their leadership for the desecration and burning of the UAE flag in Jerusalem and Palestine and for insulting the symbols of the beloved UAE country. These is not our morals, nor our customs, nor our traditions. The difference in opinion does not spoil the friendship. I tell our people to read history well to know how the UAE, past, and present, supported the Palestinian people and the cause. I apologize to the people and leadership of the Emirates for any harm done by any Palestinian to this generous and kind people who have always welcomed us.”

Now she’s under fire from Palestinians who see her, too, as a “traitor.”

“There are instructions to turn me into a traitor and these instructions come from the head of the president’s office,” Suha said in an interview last week with Israel’s Kan TV news.

She said the man who is after her is PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s private secretary Intisar Abu Amara, who Suha revealed is quietly controlling the Palestinian Authority behind the scenes.
Arafat’s widow went on to criticize the Palestinian Authority under its current leadership for falling into the trap of opposing the UAE peace deal as if the Palestinians don’t also cooperate with Israel.

“If Yasser Arafat were alive he’d go to Mohammed bin Zayed and [appeal for help in dealing with] Netanyahu,” she explained. “But to go and say an Arab country is a betrayer? Enough with the slogans. We collaborate with Israel, with the Shin Bet, and Mossad. Who are you kidding?”

Suha concluded the interview with Israeli media by threatening to expose deep, dark secrets about the current Palestinian leadership if they don’t back down in their attacks on her.

Red flags raised

That there are secrets dark enough to bring down the Palestinian Authority if exposed to its citizens should raise some pretty big red flags for anyone trying to birth a sovereign Palestinian state under that leadership.

The idea of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is that the Palestinian state it establishes should not only live in peace with Israel but be fully democratic and wholly self-sufficient. A true partner for a better future. If it’s going to end up being a hopelessly corrupt haven for armed gangs that’s entirely dependent on the goodwill of Israel and Jordan to stay afloat, then what’s the point?

Pipe down

Suha Arafat’s rare outspokenness on this issue also reveals the deep concern of Palestinians who are able to look past the propaganda and understand the risk posed by insulting the rich Gulf states.

The UAE in particular does not take kindly to criticism of its leaders.

Israel’s N12 news portal reported that Saudi Arabia had privately warned the Palestinian Authority to restrain its reactions, especially rallies atop the Temple Mount decrying the Israel-UAE deal. Burning UAE flags and referring to the Emirates as “traitors” could do irreparable damage to the Palestinian cause, said the Saudis.

Jordan is said to have issued a similar warning over concern that the Palestinian rallies could be seen as a threat against any Emiratis who take advantage of the new peace with Israel to visit the Temple Mount, which Jordan officially oversees.

But from the Muslim Brotherhood to Saddam Hussein to Iran, the Palestinians have a history of backing the wrong horse and putting themselves on the outs with the rest of the moderate Arab world.

It’s no surprise that they are doing the same thing now.

Friday 28 August 2020

‘Angel mom’ dropped from RNC lineup after promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy

Mary Ann Mendoza was scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night.