Last I wrote, I titled my posting “Danger: Within and Without.” I began with dangers that lurk within, which I suggested pose the greatest threat to Israel.
Fervently do I wish that the one issue I discussed in that posting – a reluctance of our left-leaning Supreme Court to stand strong on law and on Israel’s rights – constituted our sole major internal threat. But of course this is not the case, and there is much more that requires examination. More to which I will return.
Now, I want to look at dangers from without because they loom so menacingly. It is important to note, however, the two are very often intertwined: It is not just a question of menacing dangers from the outside but also of how we respond to and handle them.
Last night, in my Jerusalem apartment, I slept with all of my windows shut tight and the air conditioner on, and still there was the smell of smoke that closed my throat. That’s because an enormous fire was raging in the region south of Jerusalem.
For two days it blazed, fueled afresh by winds after it was thought to be under control. Thousands of people had to be evacuated from their homes, and there were houses that were destroyed. Five thousand acres of forest burnt up, and it will take decades to replenish it. At one point, as the fire made its way towards Jerusalem, there was talk of the possible need to evacuate Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem. Thankfully that turned out to not be necessary, just as we can be thankful that there was no loss of life. The goal now is to extinguish the many lingering hot spots and smoldering locations that might flare again with winds at night.
“A senior firefighter in the fire department stated on Sunday evening that the fire had broken out as a result of a deliberate act of arson and added that the investigation into the incident is only in its infancy.”
Once started it spread rapidly in the hot dry conditions.
This raging fire struck me as a metaphor for much that is going on around us.
Worst is the horrendous and shameful departure of US troops from Afghanistan. Horrendous and shameful, not for the decision to leave, which might (perhaps) be justified under certain circumstances, but because of the way it was being done, without regard for allies that were abandoned.
Biden acted precipitously to stop sharing US intelligence with the Afghani army, pulled air support, and called in the contractors that had serviced Afghani planes. He literally made it impossible for the Afghani army to proceed, when they depended upon these things, and then he duplicitously charged the army with lacking the will to fight.
We should note well who this man is.
Wrote Jonathan Tobin earlier this week (emphasis added):
“Americans will get over the humiliation they may feel about the disaster in Afghanistan. But allies like Israel must draw conclusions about the decline of the United States as a world power…
“Washington is giving every indication that it is a declining world power drifting into an incoherent and ineffective stance against Iran’s terrorist threats and nuclear ambitions, as it has done in Afghanistan.
“That leaves Israel and its Arab allies more dependent on each other than ever. And it must force them to think of the necessity of both acting on their own without the United States, as well as to consider reaching out to other powers like Russia and China even though their intentions are far from benevolent and cannot be trusted.
“This creates a formula for a far more dangerous world than it would be if the United States were led by people who understood the dangers and were focused on protecting U.S. interests…”
Tobin, as others are doing, draws parallels between what is happening in Afghanistan now and what happened with the US withdrawal from Vietnam. But I want to note that it is my understanding from what I have read elsewhere, that this is much worse, that back in 1973, the US did more for S. Vietnamese allies than what is being done to protect Afghani allies now:
“Taliban militants are reportedly conducting door-to-door searches in Kabul looking for Afghan government officials, military members, and others who worked with the United States and other western countries.”
There are video clips of panicked Afghanis clinging to planes so as to not be left behind.
Essentially, however, Tobin is on the mark, and it’s scary as hell.
When things heated up, Biden was on vacation in Camp David; shockingly, his press spokesperson Jen Psaki took a vacation at the same time and was not around to answer questions either. This was a perhaps unprecedented instance of failure to take responsibility. In a show of cowardice, Biden then did a brief press conference regarding the situation and left the room without taking a single question.
Before the Taliban entered Kabul, there were pleas by American authorities for them to spare the US embassy. (Some reports have it that the embassy will be destroyed on September 11.) Biden instructed embassy officials to destroy US flags so that the Taliban could not utilize them for negative PR.
The Middle East is decidedly less safe today, with the fall of the government of Afghanistan and the exceedingly vicious Taliban declaring intention to establish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They are in possession of billions of dollars’ worth of highly sophisticated military equipment that had been provided to the Afghani army by the US.
The question is whether the Bennett administration has the clarity to recognize and the courage to acknowledge the shifting dynamic with a failing US. On this score there is plenty of room for worry. One thing we do not need right now is a Bennett administration sucking-up to Biden. And yet there are signs that this is what we are seeing.
What is to be gained by pleasing a weak, unreliable, and unsupportive US administration that is still bent on a deal with Iran?
In recent weeks, Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, David Elhayani, chairman of the Yesha Council, among others, registered a complaint that the government was not convening the Supreme Planning Council and promoting construction throughout Judea and Samaria.
When Bennett did give the go-ahead for a Council meeting, so that construction could be officially advanced, it was for 2,000 housing units, instead of the 3,000 that had received professional approval and were already on the list. Bennett had removed 1,000 units from the list.
Reportedly, “the reason for the removal of the housing units is the opposition of the Biden Administration, which is in its first year…Bennett wishes to avoid tensions with the US President ahead of their first meeting.”
But to please the Biden administration, we would have to do NO construction in Judea and Samaria! Following the announcement about the 2,000 units to be constructed, a US official, unidentified, was quoted as saying that “We believe it is critical for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and fundamentally undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution.
“This certainly includes settlement activity which will make achieving a two-state solution much more difficult. It’s critical to advance steps that will promote calm and reduce tensions.” (Emphasis added)
This position on the part of the US government is beyond infuriating, and it is one to which I will have to return time and again going forward.
Israel has rights in the land, and does not need US approval to build. But to exacerbate the situation there is the fact, blatantly staring us in the face, that the Palestinian Authority constantly exacerbates tensions with incitement, support for terrorism, and more. Yet the US will not hold their feet to the fire. Always and ever, demands are made only on Israel. (That is, except for the Trump administration, which I miss more painfully every day.)
I note here that the Biden administration is apparently not coming down harder on this because it does not wish to see this government fall, which would incur the risk that a right-wing government might replace it. What an intricate political dance this is!
Bennett knew that he had to announce the building before meeting with Biden, as once he did it would be more difficult still to do so.
One more piece of information here with regard to Israeli positions in Judea & Samaria: Along with the 2,000 units for Jews to receive approval for building, there was a decision to grant the Palestinian Authority permission to build 1,000 units in Area C.
How did this horrendous decision come about? When negotiations were being held for formation of our current government, there was a push by Yamina and New Hope for formation of an administrative body that would handle the illegal building by the PA, funded by the EU, being done in Area C. But Benny Gantz, Defense Minister, insisted that he would handle it under the Ministry of Defense.
Good old Benny Gantz has now given permission for these units to the PA.
Next time I write, I will look at the situation with regard to Gaza, and Lebanon.
Now I want to close with some good news items:
Three Israeli universities — The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Weizmann Institute of Science, and the Technion- Institute of Technology – have been listed as being among the top 100 universities in the world by the 2021 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU)’s evaluation of higher education institutions.
“The Israeli head of mission in Dubai, Ilan Sztulman, and his wife, Jackie, celebrated the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates with the arrival of their fifth child, Mia Sztulman Starosta Lembert.
“Mia is the first Israeli citizen born in the UAE.”
Read here about a voluntary clinic in Israel that treats wounded wild animals and releases them back to the wild:
I was particularly eager to include this because of the sadness of contemplating wildlife that perished in the fire I described above.
We do what we can, may we have the strength to continue.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.