Most of you are probably familiar with the phrase, spoken by someone who feels neglected or left out, “What am I, chopped liver?”
Well, broadly I apply this sentiment now to Israel, which has taken a back seat in the focus of my last few postings. (Apply it with a sense of levity, precisely because there is much that is so very heavy.)
Heaven knows that it’s not because I consider Israel in any regard less significant! It is, rather, because the implications of what is currently transpiring in the US are so momentous that I have felt driven to make America my focus of late. Unless Trump retains the White House – or at very least there is a Republican Senate – America is in very deep trouble and traditional American values, already diminishing, are likely to erode dangerously. Additionally, progressive policies under Biden would affect Israel badly.
But here I want to offer a synopsis of some of the major issues we are contending with on this side of the Atlantic.
I begin with what is only peripherally – yet very significantly – Israeli news, but is a source for celebration:
Jonathan Pollard, who served 30 years in prison for passing sensitive US intelligence to Israel, and then was subject to a parole with inordinate restrictions, is now a free man.
It should be noted that the intelligence he provided to Israel, with regard to Iraqi building of a nuclear reactor, was information that the US should have given to Israel, but had not.
It has been widely felt that the way he was treated – with regard to the excessive length of his sentence and the draconian conditions of his imprisonment and then parole – suggest antisemitism.
Jonathan will come to Israel as soon as possible, but is delayed because his wife, Esther, is receiving treatment for an aggressive cancer. Israeli authorities are eager to welcome them here, and have provided assurances that both Jonathan and Esther will receive the finest of medical care.
Two days after his release he said: “The final step to freedom that remains is our return home to the Land and the People we love. God willing, very soon!”
The normalization with the UAE is progressing rapidly:
Abu Dhabi (UAE) Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and President Reuven Rivlin exchanged invitations this past Tuesday; it is not clear yet when the visits will occur.
Meanwhile, Etihad Airways, the United Arab Emirates’ national carrier, has announced that starting in March 2021, it “will launch daily scheduled year-round flights to Tel Aviv.”
And the Educational Hebrew Institute (EHI) has announced that it will launch Hebrew classes on January 3, 2021 at branches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Perhaps most amazingly, Israeli produce is being sold in supermarkets in Dubai in the UAE. See the video that shows this:
This is causing apoplexy among BDS supporters. Who would have imagined that a response to BDS would come from an Arab country? If this is not evidence of a changing world…
Just one day after the Crown Prince was invited here, the first official Bahraini delegation arrived in Israel, led by Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani.
And now it has been reported that next week Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will visit Bahrain, where he will meet with Bahrain Deputy King and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in the capital city Manama
Perhaps the biggest news in the process of growing normalization is the fact that Netanyahu took a secret flight (which turned out to not be so secret) to Saudi Arabia on Sunday. He flew in a private plane and was accompanied by Mossad chief Yossi to a new ultramodern Saudi megacity, Neom, being built on the Red Sea. There he reportedly met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). Secretary of State Pompeo, who was in Saudi Arabia for his own meetings, was present (but declined to comment).
Two Saudi advisors confirmed that the meeting had taken place. They said that Iran and establishment of diplomatic ties were the major topics of discussion, but that nothing of substance had been agreed upon.
Following this, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al Saud tweeted that the Crown Prince had not met with Netanyahu, only with Pompeo.
My take here is that the Crown Prince, who is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia and much more forward-looking than his father, King Salman, still has to consider the king’s position in several regards. He is inching towards ties with Israel – but slowly and very discreetly. At present Saudi policy still calls for a Palestinian state before normalization with Israel.
The impetus to achieve normalization has increased because of fears that if Biden were to become president he would relax US policy on Iran, thus making the connection to Israel ever more important.
The expectation very broadly is that it is a matter of when, and not if.
We’ve moved light years with regard to the dynamics in the Middle East. And it is important to note that these changes would not have occurred without the vision of President Donald Trump.
However all is not sweetness and light, nor should we be so naïve as to think it would be. We are moving on a positive trajectory but still must maintain our guard in several respects.
Last Wednesday, a resolution, called “Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development,” which was focused on the “global accessibility of entrepreneurship,” an issue of huge importance for economic recovery from the pandemic.
It passed overwhelmingly. But a handful of Arab/Muslim countries were opposed. Mauritania, speaking for this group, accused Israel of blocking Palestinian development.
This group, said the Mauritanian representative, “does not believe that Israel as an occupying power is in the position to table such a resolution.”
The UAE and Bahrain – which are both deeply engaged in entrepreneurial ventures with Israel – voted against the resolution, along with Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
This is called playing both sides at the same time.
At the beginning of November, a United Nations General Assembly committee passed a series of resolutions critical of Israel with overwhelming majorities. Israel was charged, among other things, with human rights violations against Palestinians and “repressive measures” against Syrians in the Golan Heights.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain supported all the resolutions critical of Israel.
Among the resolutions that passed was one supporting UNRWA, which remains a force for divisiveness and incitement, and severely undercuts any possibility of peace with the Palestinian Arabs.
Most worrisome was the fact that a resolution – one that passes annually – referred to the Temple Mount only by its Arabic name, Haram al-Sharif.
Charged Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, this was an “audacious attempt to rewrite history” and erase the centuries-old Jewish connection to Jerusalem. And he is one-hundred percent correct. Our enemies are well aware that the Jewish connection to the Mount is critical to our case for legitimacy here.
“As minister of public security,” said Erdan, “I ensured that all religions had access to Jerusalem’s holy sites. During my term, the number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount each year more than tripled. No resolution passed here will stop that process. No resolution passed here will change the eternal connection between the Jewish people and the holiest site of our faith, Har Habayit, the Temple Mount.”
The watchword is diligence, coupled with strong defense of our historical rights.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Celebrations will be limited, but it is always time for gratitude. In fact, when things are tough, that is when we most need to remember all there is to be grateful for.
To all my readers I extend wishes for a happy and meaningful Thanksgiving.