Arlene from Israel: Holding Our Heads High

“Holding Our Heads High”

I actually mean this in two senses.  The first is the traditional sense of being proud, and I will share an example of this in a moment.

But then, there is the more metaphorical sense of not drowning in the sea of malice and stupidity that passes for international diplomacy and political action these days.


Credit: Oded Entman

As to the first meaning, I want to refer to the Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) Conference “Towards a new law of war,” which was held this week.  The very last speaker at the end of the conference on Tuesday was Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Chair, Habayit Heyehudi).  His talk was enormously well received because he said a number of things that badly need to be said.

Minister Bennett made three significant points:

1) We must change the battlefield with regard to fighting BDS and delegitimization.  We have to stop obsessing about how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because it is insolvable.  Instead we have to move to focusing on our ability to be a Light Unto the Nations.  This is a strategic shift, as the world needs us.  We have something to teach with regard to technology, medicine, agriculture, providing security while maintaining quality of life, and more.

How about the art of innovation?  We should have a summit on “teaching innovation.”  We are a “start-up nation” because of this capacity for innovation, and the world badly needs to learn how to promote this.  We have an ancient, traditional method of studying texts called “chevruta” – two people studying together with back and forth questions and discussion.  Others need to know about this.  Our youth groups are led by young people, who learn how to be responsible.  In other countries youth groups are led by adults.  Maybe they need to hear about what we do.


2) We must talk about our rights and not just security.  This is our home.  The security argument will last just so long before people will say, if it’s not yours, give it up. But it is oursThe world will respect us if we respect ourselves.

What Bennett said was so important, I will say it again:  The world will respect us if we respect ourselves.

At the same time, we should talk about a solution for the Arabs.  By this he means something less than a state, which he is opposed to.  His point is that we should demonstrate that we have an innovative and workable plan for the Arabs, even as we say that the land is ours.


3) Israel must start fighting delegitimization seriously.  We need an agency dedicated to this, with a serious budget.  We need to devote energy to this, just as we devote energy to security matters.


Before I move to other serious matters, I take the time here to provide a laugh, which we can always use.


The PA’s Mahmoud Abbas was in Saudi Arabia very recently, and, of course brought gifts for King Salomon.  One of these was a framed copy of the Palestinian Post.  According to Elder of Ziyon, dated from August 13, 1935.

Now here is the question: Is Abbas so obtuse that he doesn’t know that the Palestine Post was a Zionist paper, the precursor to the Jerusalem Post?  That prior to the founding of of the modern state of Israel, “Palestinians” referred to the Jews in the land, not the Arabs?

Or is he fully cognizant of the fact that “Palestine” before 1948 was Mandate territory – set aside as a homeland for the Jews and not a state for Arabs at all – but simply counting on it that King Salomon has no clue?


With regard to Abbas implicitly portraying Palestine, prior to the establishment of Israel, as belonging to the “Palestinian people,” allow me to share this (with emphasis added):

The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism.

“For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa. While as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem…”

This is from PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein, March 31, 1977, in an interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw.

Please, bookmark and save this.  Share it broadly.


Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Abbas was in Brussels, Wednesday, at the same time that President Ruby Rivlin was – as both addressed the EU Parliament.  Despite efforts by EU President Martin Schultz to arrange at least a brief meeting between the two, Abbas refused.  Rivlin was prepared to meet, in line with Netanyahu’s “any time, any place” statement.

I have no great desire to see our president meet with Abbas, you may be sure.  What I would hope, in this context, is that it would be apparent who is obstructionist – then the declared willingness to meet would have served some purpose. But I most seriously doubt that this is the case.

It is, I think, time to focus on respecting ourselves.


As to what Rivlin said to the EU parliament – this is a case of his having to hold his head up so as to not flounder in the sea of stupidity and malice that passes for diplomacy.  All in all, I think Rivlin did a respectable job in some good measure. He made his requisite comments about shared values and a history of friendship with the EU and all the rest. But he then came down hard on European attitudes towards Israel in general, and specifically on the French “plan,” which the EU has decided to endorse (emphasis added):

“The attempt to return to negotiations for negotiations’ sake, not only does not bring us near the long-awaited solution, but rather drags us further away from it.”

He described the plan as an inflexible “all or nothing approach

“This paradigm relies on the assumption that the problem which is the crux of the matter in this bloody and painful conflict is simply the lack of good faith on both parts, and that if we [the Europeans] only exert pressure on ‘them’, on us,’ they will adhere to a permanent agreement and to a state of peace.

Credit: consilium-europa

And I interrupt at this point to refer to something international law professor Eugene Kontorovich said during the Shurat HaDin conference: People think if an agreement can be reached, then there will be peace. But the two are not synonymous and one does not automatically lead to the other.  This is what Rivlin is talking about here.  We must regularly remind those pushing for negotiations of this essential fact.

Continued Rivlin, it is “fundamentally erroneous” to imagine that it is sufficient to address the lack of good will between the parties.  For this approach ignores practical considerations:

“Currently the practical conditions, the political and regional circumstances, which would enable us to reach a permanent agreement between us – the Israelis and the Palestinians – are failing to materialize.”


What you are trying to make happen, is not going to happen, Rivlin was telling the Europeans:

“The divided Palestinian leadership, and regional political turmoil [make] reaching any peace agreement with Israel impossible. Hamas, the terrorist group-turned-rulers of the Gaza Strip, [is] committed to the annihilation of Israel.”

There is truth here, but still not full truth.  The full truth is that the PLO is ALSO committed to the annihilation of Israel. The full truth is that we have rights to the land that we will not relinquish in accordance with Palestinian Arab demands.

It’s not politically correct to say this, but this understanding is precisely what we must promote.

Rivlin encouraged the Europeans to have patience, to improve matters through investment rather than divestment, through cooperation rather than boycotts.


Credit: al-akhbar

So what do the members of the EU parliament really think of Abbas? What could they possibly think of him?

On Thursday, he addressed the same gathering that Rivlin had addressed earlier.

He dragged out an outrageous medieval libel (and total falsehood) and begged the members of the European community to save Palestinian Arabs from poisoned water:

“Only a week ago, a number of rabbis in Israel announced, and made a clear announcement, demanding that their government poison the water to kill the Palestinians.”

And he declared that:

Once the occupation ends, terrorism will disappear, there will be no more terrorism in the Middle East, or anywhere else in the world.”

Now there are those who claim that the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict is at the core of Middle East turmoil, which in and of itself is a fallacious notion.  All the radical jihadis are not about to suddenly turn peaceful if the non-existent “occupation” ends.  An Israel-Palestinian Arab deal is barely on their radar screen as they seek to promote the caliphate.

But to speak of this being the case all over the world?  This is so beyond the realm of the rational that it merits no response at all.

What is of concern to me is not what Abbas said, but how the Europeans responded to his words.  They gave him, I am reading, a standing ovation.

Are they that eager to ignore his words and make of him something honorable despite all evidence to the contrary?  Do they hate us that much?

Delusional to the core, they imagine we will accept them as honest brokers, even as they behave thus.  All because, they tell us, a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict is a “priority” for them. .


Credit: hispantv

Someone who assessed this issue with a clear (and non-politically correct) eye this week is Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon, who said that the EU’s policies with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict feel like the “ghosts of a colonial European past coming back to life.”

What is more, he properly pegged the motivation of the EU: leaders, he charged, were cynically exploiting the conflict to deflect criticism and to distract the public from their inability to solve the continent’s genuine and pressing problems.

Right on, Emmanuel Nahshon!  Refreshing.

The EU was offended.


But I am offended by the words of EU President Donald Tusk to Rivlin:

“The European Union is ready back up a peace deal with an unprecedented package of cooperation and support to both sides.”

Does the EU imagine it can bribe Israel to accept a deal that is absolutely not in our best interest?


I wish to mention this only briefly in passing, because – as vile as it was – in the end it is without diplomatic import:

It has been revealed that in 2015, before the last elections, Buji Herzog of the Zionist Camp struck a secret deal with Abbas, presumably to be implemented if he were to win the elections (which thank Heaven a thousand times he did not).  Details of the “deal” – a non-deal because Herzog does not speak for Israel – have been revealed, and include such items as withdrawal from almost all of Judaea and Samaria and the dividing of Jerusalem.

It shows us, sadly, that not all of the stupidity that passes for diplomacy is to be found beyond Israel’s borders.

At first, I pondered what his motivation could be, if he kept the deal secret.  But then his thinking was made clear: He was hoping to prevent an intifada.  Grasp this horror: he would have pushed appeasement to the limit and surrendered half our country to prevent violence.  For shame.  To give up on standing for our rights.  To abdicate responsibility to defend our ancient heritage. And to be be foolish enough to think that an enemy such as Abbas can be appeased, in any event.

May he sink into political oblivion.



Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was on hand in Fort Worth, Texas, on Wednesday, for the ceremony unveiling the first F-35 fighter jet, called the Adir:

Israel will be the first country outside the US to receive these stealth jet fighters, which will be customized by Israel and begin to become operational in 2017.  This plane, and a second Adir. will be brought to Israel in December. I believe Israeli pilots will begin training on the jet in the US later this year.

So far, 33 planes have been purchased – and will arrive in Israel at the rate of six to seven per year; it is expected that more will be ordered.

“Every opinion I have heard says that this is the best jet in existence today,”

said Lieberman, shown below sitting in the new plane.

“It is clear and obvious to us, and to the entire region, that the new F-35 — the Adir — will create real deterrence and enhance our capabilities for a long time.”


Lieberman, of course, was not in the US just for the unveiling of the Adir.  He was there to meet with his American counterpart and deal with negotiations regarding the new American defense assistance package.

Reports that had come out in recent days indicated that closure was imminent.  But that is not quite the case – unless you consider November “imminent.”  Lieberman says negotiations are in an advanced stage and moving well.  Maybe, and maybe not…

The US election is in November, and the question is whether the deal will be done before then.  Reportedly, Netanyahu – who is ultimately in charge of the negotiations – is still not certain he wants to finalize with Obama.  Among those advising him not to do so is former Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren.


And what has become apparent is that there are several serious issues that are holding up matters from the Israeli side.  I allude to them briefly here, with a promise to keep an eye on them as we move along:

According to an article by Eli Lake, as reported in Algemeiner, Obama wants to remove the provision in the deal that permits 26% of the funds supplied by the US to be spent for military development in Israel (with the majority of the funds being turned back to the US for purchase of equipment there).

Elliot Abrams, commenting on this report, observed that:

“We know from recent comments by [former US Defense Secretary] Leon Panetta that Obama has never been a supporter of maintaining Israel’s QME [Qualitative Military Edge]. This is another fact that undermines the claim that he’s so great for Israel’s security. It should be obvious that undermining Israel’s defense sector undermines its security.”  (Emphasis added)

Abrams said he was unsurprised by Obama’s reversal of policy, because his claims of unwavering support for Israel “have always been baseless.”

I note here that there are military analysts who advocate that Israel move towards military independence with domestic development of military equipment (although it seems we are too far gone in terms of being enmeshed in deals with US military contractors to make this alternative viable now).


Caroline Glick similarly has deep concerns about Obama’s desire to block Israel’s ability to spend a percentage of US military aid – she says 25% – on Israeli military development. This would have a seriously deleterious effect on Israeli military independence:

Agreeing to this, she says

“would be tantamount to an Israeli agreement to concede its military independence to the White House for a fistful of dollars. Without the independent capacity to develop and produce defense systems, spare parts and munitions, Israel will be unable to take military action without White House approval.”

According to Glick, it is this issue that moved Oren to advise the prime minister not to take the deal.


Oren, Glick tells us, feels there is another major concern as well: the deal would deprive Israel of the ability to go to Congress for supplemental assistance, should a crisis arise.  Israel would be frozen into the deal that was signed (which at least in theory would incorporate the sort of assistance that in previous deals might have been requested as supplements).  And this is a problem because it is Congress that is Israel’s biggest supporter in the US.

I find all of this interesting, because previously I wrote about how it was being said that having a deal locked in provided long-term security for Israel, without the uncertainty of having to appeal to Congress annually, which generated problems with planning.  Was this just spin?

The bottom line here is that Obama is not to be trusted, and that it is likely far better to deal with his successor, whomever that will be.  We will not do worse, and might do a good deal better.


I want to visit the issue here of the horrendously unjust parole terms being endured by Jonathan Pollard (shown below with his wife, Esther, leaving the court house) since his release from prison last November. There is nothing we can do about it, as it is my understanding that his legal team believes public protest might be counterproductive.  The matter is in their hands – there is a hearing on the matter in process.

Credit: Reuters

Put simply, the parole terms for Jonathan are draconian and unreasonable:  He has a curfew and cannot be out after 7 PM or before 7 AM; cannot leave New York; must wear an electronic bracelet that impinges upon his observance of Shabbat; cannot access the Internet; etc. etc.

All this, it is claimed, because he is in possession of information from 30 years ago that is still classified, and he has the potential to do damage to the US by passing this information.  Never mind that many experts say that there is nothing relevant that he might pass (even if he wanted to) with regard to information that is 30 years old.

But there is another factor here that seems to me to make a mockery of this entire process:  If he were to stay within New York, and go out only during permitted hours, could he not – were he inclined to and if he really had information of value – still pass information?  Could he not sit at a café and whisper in someone’s ear?  How do the terms of his parole prevent this? And, if they do not, what is it all about?  Other than virulently anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment and a determination to punish.

See an article on the issue here:


I close with a good news piece about a law to be passed here in Israel that is a reflection of who we are:

This past Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation gave its blessing to legislation in process that would exempt people over 80 from having to wait in line in public places such as movie theaters, concert halls, supermarkets, banks and post offices.

The bill was initiated by Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, who said:

“[This] is our duty as a society, even without enacting laws.  And I have no doubt that as a result of the law, the issue will become a societal norm, making such legislation unnecessary in the future.”

Referring to a precept from Leviticus 19 —

Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly” — Gamliel said this should be the guiding principle of a “healthy, tolerant society that knows how to respect and appreciate its elderly, and exempting [octogenarians] from standing on line is the minimum that we can do for them.”

It is such things that make us hold our heads high.


I know, I know, I have shared this song in a couple of different versions recently. But it feels SO appropriate – as it tells us to hold our heads up high and strikes an optimistic note for the future – that I want to share it yet again:

“When you walk through a storm…”

With wishes for a Shabbat Shalom.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.


If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


“We Have Legal Grounds” –




With wishes for a Shabbat Shalom.

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