Rosh Hashana begins next Monday evening, and it seems unlikely that I will write again before then. And so, I now wish all a Shana Tova: May it be a sweet year of many blessings!!
I also wish to thank all who write in response to my posts. It is not always possible to answer everyone, but I appreciate hearing from you.
Prior to his meeting with Biden, Prime Minister Bennett gave an interview to the NYTimes. I want to begin by looking at what he said then, as it provides a measure of insight into his thinking.
“I call it the good-will government. There’s a new dimension here — coming up with new ways to address problems, being very realistic, very pragmatic, and being reasonable with friends.”
“Realistic.” “Pragmatic.” Couple this with “Good will” and what we see is that he recognizes that he cannot move Biden on major security issues such as Iran, but is ready to embrace Biden anyway, because that is how he perceives “being reasonable with friends.”
I would suggest that this means we don’t have a prime minister working on behalf of Israel.
Consider this, in striking contrast:
According to an earlier NYTimes report, when Netanyahu was prime minister and Biden came into office, he “scaled back Israel’s intelligence cooperation with the United States.”
Why? According to US and Israeli sources, “to prevent the Biden administration from curtailing its covert military operations aimed at obstructing Iran’s nuclear program…
“The report said the reason for the policy change was Netanyahu’s distrust of Biden and the feeling in Israel that his administration was inattentive to Jerusalem’s security concerns.”
So, we need to ask – but should not expect honest responses – whether Bennett truly trusts Biden and is confident that he will not attempt to curtail Israel’s covert military operations.
Essentially, these questions are rhetorical. Biden paid scant attention to the security needs of his own troops in Afghanistan. It would be the height of foolishness to expect him to pay attention to Israel’s security needs. But hey! There is good will.
But let’s move on to another issue: In the NYTimes interview, Bennett also said, “This government will neither annex nor form a Palestinian state, everyone gets that. I’m Prime Minister of all Israelis, and what I’m doing now is finding the middle ground — how we can focus on what we agree upon.” (Emphasis added)
This is a disingenuous statement. He will hew to the (frozen) middle ground nor because he represents all Israelis, but because he heads an untenable coalition that includes the right-wing (New Hope), the left-wing (Meretz), and an anti-Zionist Arab party (Ra’am). He needs to step carefully because he cannot afford pull-out by any faction: He is thus rendered fairly impotent on political issues (except of course where honing friendship with Biden is concerned).
But let’s look more closely for a moment at the “neither annex nor form a Palestinian state” statement.
In the past, Bennett had declared himself to be “right-wing,” and that being the case, I would have hoped he might have referred to the fact that he won’t “apply sovereignty” – the proper term. We cannot “annex” land that is already ours according to international law and long-standing tradition.
I’m a stickler on this point. Words matter a great deal and people need to be reminded time and again. This is particularly important at this juncture.
But beyond this, we see that Bennett’s statement is very broad: it does not address either Israel’s rights to settlement expansion in Judea & Samaria, or illegal Palestinian Authority building in Area C (an Israeli-controlled portion of Judea & Samaria).
Yet these are particularly critical issues.
Just recently there was talk from Bennett about “natural growth” in the communities of Judea & Samaria: schools required for new children born to families, new houses for children of those families when they are grown and married, etc., but no movement into Judea & Samaria from outside.
This idea was apparently floated to appease Biden. But many on the right, such as Yossi Dagan, Samaria Regional Council chairman, spoke out vociferously against this proposed policy (emphasis added):
“…the Prime Minister’s role is to promote what is good for the State of Israel, and construction in the heart of the country is what is good for the State of Israel.
“The public in Israel expects there to be a construction boom in Judea and Samaria. We will not accept a situation of restricting construction as is being done now.”
By yesterday (August 31), however, the charge was that there is a building freeze:
Yisrael Gantz, chair of the Binyamin Regional Council, in Samaria, took a delegation from the Knesset’s Land of Israel Lobby on a tour of illegal Arab construction projects in the Binyamin district.
“Gantz (not to be confused with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, about whom you will see information below) said that the government was ignoring Arab land grabs across Area C – the 60% of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli administration – while granting virtually no building permits to Jews.
“’First of all, we need to talk about Israeli sovereignty, and if there isn’t any, then we need construction in Judea and Samaria, and we’ll judge that by actions not words. As of today, just 14 housing units have been approved for the Binyamin district out of 2,000, and that is a freeze.
“’Aside from the fact that we aren’t building in Judea and Samaria and we’re freezing the area, the other side is building quickly. There is the “Fayyad Plan”…which is funded with almost a billion dollars per year and employs 650 workers.
“’State land is being taken over and there is no one on our side fighting for Area C. If we don’t wake up in time, we are liable to lose large parts of this beautiful country.
“’The government of Israel needs to govern, to protect the territory, to ensure that there is no hostile takeover of large swaths of land, as there is today. Additionally, we need to permit construction on state land, to expand the settlements as needed and we have plans that are ready that need to be approved immediately.’”
This is a very serious business, my friends. Not new, but growing worse now. It is clear that pressure from the Biden administration exists, and that Bennett is seeking to be accommodating here.
After the Land of Israel Lobby tour, MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) spoke out (emphasis added):
“Right now the situation is such that it is hard to believe that it exists in the State of Israel: There is a freeze in Jewish settlement, thousands of approved and legal units do not receive final approvals, while on the other hand there is a very massive development of Palestinian illegal construction and this is very strategically worrying for the future of settlement in Judea and Samaria…
“I am very experienced in politics and when I am told there is nothing to worry about, I start to worry. When there is a government that says it is suffocating the settlement or when there is an American government that says it will not permit to move even a stone, we know how to fight it. When it is all sweet talk but you see a different picture in the field, I am very worried.”
And now for the last item for this posting regarding government actions. Talk about being worried:
Just hours after Bennett’s return from Washington DC, Defense Minister Benny Gantz paid a late night visit to Ramallah to meet with Mahmoud Abbas of the PA. It was done, we are being told, because Israel will be making a series of goodwill gestures to the Palestinian Authority.
We are back to this again??
The questions are obvious, and they are not new:
Why is ISRAEL expected to make the gestures?
What reciprocal gestures will the PA be making? (Rhetorical question)
Explained Gantz: Steps must be taken to build trust between Israelis and Palestinians. “Neither we nor the Palestinians are going anywhere tomorrow morning.”
Trust he wants us to have, for the man who insists he’d rather have his people starve than cut off the salaries to terrorists in Israeli prisons, or to families of terrorists?? He refers to them as brave resistance fighters, you see.
There are several “gestures” that Israel will apparently be making – if this is not stopped – but the most outrageous is a 500 million NIS “loan” to be provided to the PA. “The funds will be taken from tax funds Israel has withheld from the PA to protest what Jerusalem calls its pay-for-slay policy, by which Palestinian terrorists and their family members receive monetary stipends.”
Gantz’s argument is that the PA is in fiscal trouble and if it is strengthened it can serve as a better bulwark against Hamas acting in Judea & Samaria.
Since the argument is that this will increase security for Israel, Bennett is on board; he discussed it with Biden in Washington. (Ah!) And Bennett gave the nod to the Gantz-Abbas meeting. (Well, of course.)
More questions: Is it not obvious to Bennett and Gantz that one of the reasons the PA is in trouble is because of the pay-for-slay expenditures? And has it not occurred to them that some of this money will end up in the hands of terrorists?
This meeting was the first one in over ten years between a high Israeli official and Abbas. Gantz insists that this was only to address security and economic issues and was in no way intended as a precursor to peace negotiations. So then, it is being asked, why couldn’t the meeting have been held at a lower level? And why on PA territory in Ramallah and not a neutral location?
Not only are members of the government on the right angry at Gantz, but also on the left – because they would have wanted to participate in this meeting. (They, of course, would see it as a precursor to peace talks.)
So we are in for hard times, and must remain strong, fight strong. We will prevail. This I believe with all of my being, although I cannot track the path.
So here’s the good news for today. Pomegranates are a main symbol of Rosh Hashana and ripen just in time for the holiday. I am providing here 10 great reasons to love the pomegranate.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.