This phrase is usually identified as an “old Chinese curse,” while in fact it is neither old nor Chinese in origin. What it is, clearly, is ironic, which is why I am using it: Our “interesting” times are often overwhelming – filled with turmoil and confusion. Oi! Could we do with a bit of “uninteresting” times.
I would like to share some news that reflects back on what I wrote yesterday:
The vote in the Knesset on the “Jewish state” law has been tabled for at least a week and a good deal of the tension has dissipated. Part of the reason for this, I suspect, is that neither Livni nor Lapid – both of whom said they’d leave the coalition rather than support the law – are eager for the new elections that their leaving the coalition might spark. Polls indicate that they would both garner fewer mandates than they have now – which in Livni’s case might mean her disappearance from the Knesset. Talk is cheap. (Although I would not be sorry to see her gone from the Knesset.)
The US State Department did offer its (unsolicited) opinion on the law. A spokesman said: “Israel is a Jewish and democratic state and all its citizens should enjoy equal rights. We expect Israel to stick to its democratic principles.”
Naftali Bennett’s response to this on IDF radio this morning was right on: “I say to the Americans that the affairs of the State of Israel – we will manage. We will have to deal with the implications…and what kind of country we want…This is an internal issue and I think that no one has the right to intervene…”
Of course, the unspoken implication of the State Department comment is that the Jewish State legislation would damage Israel’s democracy.
But look who is unabashedly supporting the “Israel is a Jewish State” legislation: Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest (and an Arab) from Nazareth who promotes IDF service for Christian Arabs in Israel.
He went to the UN recently to say that the only safe place for Christians in the Middle East is Israel.
This amazing man gets it, even if some Jews in Israel refuse to get it. The JPost describes what Father Nadaf wrote on his Facebook page (emphasis added):
”He said that it is ironic that, although the State of Israel defines itself as a Jewish and democratic state, democratic principles are well-founded in law, whereas Jewish principles are not.
”The priest also said that the claim by ‘a small minority, with great influence via the Supreme Court, the media, and leftist academia’ that Israel is ‘a state of all it’s citizens,’ was lovely at first sight, ‘but covers a severe injury to the Jewishness of the state.’”
“’Even the Basic Laws – which the Supreme Court has turned into a constitution, contrary to all internationally recognized practice – where it says that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, have been interpreted to give a clear superiority to the democratic dimension above the Jewish dimension,’ he said.
Nadaf highlighted what he said is the importance of defining Israel as a Jewish state in light of the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to so.
“There is a reason why they won’t recognize [Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people]. They prefer it to be a state of all its citizens, without a national perspective, which would allow them to claim their own national rights in the land forever, including the concept of the ‘right of return.’ In light of this, it is important to clarify in law to the citizens of the state, who maybe have forgotten this, to our neighbors, and to the entire world, that it is not worthwhile for them to err. The Jews have returned home and established their national state. They are no longer temporary residents in the Land of Israel,” Nadaf wrote.
”He noted that all minority citizens living in the State of Israel “enjoy freedom and equality in all aspects, and that for Israel to define itself as Jewish would not pose any obstacle for members of minority groups to live in peace in the country.”
This, I believe, is worth sharing. It carries more weight when a non-Jew in Israel says minorities enjoy freedom and equality in all aspects.
Switching gears just slightly…we now have another proposed piece of legislation that is sparking controversy. Referred to as the Haneen Zoabi bill, it would be an amendment to Basic Law, and states:
“an MK who in a time of war or military action against an enemy state or terror organization offers public support for military struggle against the State of Israel, their term in the Knesset shall be terminated on the day the Knesset decides by a majority of its members and at the recommendation of the Knesset House Committee that the published comments constitute the aforementioned expressions of support.”
The involvement of the House Committee is essential for determining precisely what constitutes public support for an enemy. Netanyahu is in favor of this legislation, but wants to see a supermajority of votes (I’m reading 70) required, rather than the simple majority of half plus one (which is 61).
The legislation has the support of a broad spectrum of MKs, and was proposed by David Rotem (Yisrael Beitenu), who chairs the Knesset Committee on Constitution, Law and Justice.
My response to this is, Mazel Tov! The failure of the Knesset to take action against MKs who are obviously not loyal to Israel has been distressing to many for a long time. Hopefully this situation will now be rectified.
There will be an outcry with regard to this proposal, as well, from the Arab parties and the left. With this outcry will come a certain confusion about what the real issues are. The claim will be that a democracy must permit free speech. But even free speech has limits.
It is instructive to read what Knesset legal advisor Ayal Yinon had to say on these issues less than a month ago. When Haneen Zoabi was banned for six months from all Knesset activity except voting (I wrote about this yesterday), she went to the High Court, claiming that the Knesset has no legal right to sanction an MK for expressing a political opinion.
Explained Yinon: We are not dealing with the expression of unethical opinions, which would be protected by parliamentary immunity. It is rather that Zoabi’s statements violate MKs’ vow to be faithful to the State of Israel and its laws and work for the good of the country.
Let’s see where this goes now. This proposed legislation definitely feels like progress for Israel. I have long felt that this woman should be tossed out of the Knesset. Yesterday I wrote that she said the kidnappers of the boys were not terrorists. But, during our war with Hamas this summer, she also encouraged Hamas rocket attacks and wrote on a Hamas website that they should put Israel under siege. From where I sit that smells like treason.
The bitter irony is that in spite of legal/ethical debates such as those described above, and the democratic protections that are in place, Israel is charged with persecution of its minorities, racism, and “apartheid.” In my view, we’ve put up with too much that is unacceptable, for too long.
The EU Parliament had been scheduled to vote on recognizing a Palestinian state today, but that vote has been tabled for two weeks. Not a whole lot of time. Reasons given for the postponement include dissension within the EU on the language of the resolution; opposition to the resolution by some member states, most notably Germany; and intense lobbying for postponement that has been done by Israel. It is hoped that the two weeks will provide time for convincing some additional states to oppose the resolution.
According to the Ma’an News Agency, PA Foreign Minister Riyad ha-Maliki said Monday that there would be a delay in bringing the issue of Palestinian statement before the Security Council – both because the Council was preoccupied with Iranian issues and because the support of member states had not been secured.
Yesterday, according to the Wafa News Agency, ha-Maliki denies this and says they are proceeding.
When they figure out what they’re doing, they can let us know.
Sweden passed a resolution recognizing a Palestinian state last month, prompting Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman to angrily recall the Israeli ambassador to Sweden. After Sweden indicated its desire to sustain a relationship with Israel – and it became clear that the Swedish government took the position it did for internal political reasons – the decision was made that we will allow our ambassador to return at the end of this week.
The parliaments of Britain, Ireland and Spain have passed non-binding resolutions urging their respective governments to recognize a Palestinian state. The parliaments of France, Denmark, and Slovenia will be voting similarly before long. But so far no other nation has actually voted to recognize the state.
From a legal perspective, these votes are without impact. Remember that the PA simply does not fulfill the qualifications for a state. But there are political ramifications.
Meanwhile, at a Fatah conference in Ramallah yesterday, Abbas stated, at the end of a speech he delivered, that:
“It is a moral, national and religious right to defend Al-Aqsa and the places holy to Islam and Christianity. Our people oppose the thieving attackers who are supported by the government of Israel…We are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for Al-Aqsa and for Jerusalem.”
I want you to note how the PA now enfolds “Christianity into its references to holy places, as if it is the protector of Christians. A mockery.
I supported the decision of the Netanyahu government not to take Hamas out entirely this summer. I was convinced that there are too many other directions in which to focus, too many other places in which we might need to devote our troops and equipment in battle, to allow us to become too mired in Gaza in a long-term draining battle. Not that I would not have wished it could have been possible. It seemed to me a question of military pragmatics, triage if you will; although I do confess that I had wished we might have done more damage than we did before quitting.
But now come reports that are troubling. There is no question that Hamas is re-arming – for example, testing rockets by launching them into the Mediterranean.
There are claims that Hamas is also rebuilding tunnels into Israel. This would be troubling in the extreme. You want to say, surely the military is on top of this. Fervently would I hope so, but nothing is certain. It might be that the military – still very concerned about what might explode to our north – is studiously ignoring Hamas at the moment, figuratively speaking.
I write this now to call my readers’ attention to this issue (“interesting times,” huh?). But also because of two articles I want to share:
Mosab Yousef, the son of Hamas leader Sheik Hassan Yousef, worked for the Shin Bet for 10 years. Now he has come forward with a plea to take out Hamas before it gains strength via rebuilding.
“I say these things because you cannot escape from reality. You cannot escape from [Hamas militarization] with temporary solutions. You have to address the Hamas problem by pulling it up from the roots, once and for all.
Yousef called the ceasefire agreement “fundamentally flawed”: “This is, first and foremost, an ideological movement. Thus, there is no concept of negotiations or compromise with it.”
This is absolutely true. If Hamas refrains from attacking us, it is because it suits them to refrain, or because of Israeli deterrence, not because of a commitment it has made.
What caught my attention here was that Yousef also said that taking on Hamas again now would lead to reduced tensions in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. Food for thought, for there is no question but that Hamas is fomenting terrorism. Not that I really believe for a moment that Israel will act in this direction now, even if Yousef is analyzing correctly.
Then, please see this article by Khaled Abu Toameh, “Hamas: Rebuild Gaza or We Attack.”
“The only option Hamas faces, therefore, is to attack Israel again as a way of ridding itself of the severe crisis in the Gaza Strip and the growing frustration among the Palestinians living there. Hamas’s biggest fear is that this frustration will be translated into disillusionment with its regime. That is why Hamas is now seeking to direct the anger on the Palestinian street toward Israel.” (Emphasis added)
However you look at it, it seems to me, there is extreme turmoil in Gaza, and insufficient deterrence for us to depend upon.
Last Friday, Hamas called for one more “day of rage,” although I believe it fell a bit flat (thank Heaven).
At the same time, the grieving families of the four rabbis killed in Har Nof put out this notice:
”The widows and orphans of the four men who were slain in the Jerusalem synagogue massacre this week issued a letter calling for national solidarity and unity:
”With broken hearts, drenched in tears shed over the spilt blood of holy men – the heads of our families.
”We call on our brethren wherever they are – let us come together so that we may merit mercy from Heaven, and let’s accept upon ourselves to increase love and comradery, between each individual and each community.
”We ask that every person accept upon himself on this Sabbath Eve …to set aside the day of Shabbat as a day of unconditional love, a day during which we will refrain from words of disagreement and division, from words of gossip and slander.
”May this serve to elevate the souls of our husbands and fathers who were slaughtered while sanctifying God’s name.”
Compare and contrast, please! Time and again I am left in awe of the noble spirits of those who have lost loved ones to terrorism. We are, without question, a special people.
And THIS, my friends, is the good news for today.
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