There is much to report at this time of political and diplomatic turmoil, but I will follow what has become my custom and start with some brief good news items.
Midway between the Dead Sea and Eilat, in a place called Sapir, in the harsh Arava desert, we find the International Center for Agricultural Training (AICAT). There, undergraduates from across Asia and Africa – from Nepal, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Ethiopia, South Sudan, East Timor, Thailand and Indonesia – come for a 10-month hands-on agriculture work-study program.
Says Hanni Arnon, AICAT director, “Here, where there are very harsh conditions, with geographic isolation, extreme weather, arid soil and a shortage of water — they learn the importance of human capacity. If you want it, you can make a change. We teach that a difficulty is a challenge and you need to find a solution.”
This is a very Israeli attitude, and is what has enabled us to thrive and grow. And how good, that we share this perspective with others.
WoundClot gauze is a flexible and easy-to-handle material made of highly absorbent regenerated cellulose (plant cells). It absorbs about 2,500 percent of its own weight in fluids and forms a coagulating gel membrane with platelets from the blood on the open wound.
“By absorbing blood and enhancing the natural clotting process, this unique gauze stops hemorrhaging within minutes and naturally dissolves – no need for painful removal – within 24 hours…
“The technology was developed at Ben-Gurion University by nanomaterials chemist Shani Eliyahu-Gross and commercialized by Core Scientific Creations, founded in 2012 in Kfar Saba by private angel investors…
“’What is unique about WoundClot is its bio-absorbability and its ability to withhold severe bleeding,’ Core Scientific Creations CEO Yuval Yaskil tells ISRAEL21c.
“’We managed to create a “DNA clock” that breaks down the product when we want it to and not because of saturation. Also, it is the only product of its kind we know of in the world today that doesn’t use compression.’”
The product was developed with the battlefield in mind, but has a host of other uses in trauma situations. It is predicted that someday this product may be in everyone’s medicine chest.
If you have not yet read the piece entitled ”The Palestinian Hoax” by Daniel Greenfield, writing as Sultan Knish, I encourage you to do so.
“…the Palestinian Museum…opened with much fanfare and one slight problem. While admission is free, there’s nothing inside for any of the visitors to see except the bare walls.
“The Palestinian Museum had been in the works since 1998, but has no exhibits. The museum cost $24 million…The Palestinian Museum is open, but there’s nothing inside.”
The museum, says Greenfield, is a metaphor for “Palestine.”
“Over the Palestinian Museum flies the proud flag of Palestine, which was originally the flag of the Iraqi-Jordanian Federation before the PLO ‘borrowed’ it, and visitors might be greeted by the Palestinian anthem composed by Greek Communist Mikis Theodorakis. If it sounds anything like the soundtrack from Zorba the Greek, that’s because they both share the same composer. All of Palestine is so authentically Palestinian that it might as well be made in China. At least that’s where the stained Keffiyahs worn by the stone throwers hurling rocks at passing Jewish families while posing heroically for Norwegian, Canadian and Chilean photojournalists are made. Palestine is an empty building with nothing in it…There’s a flag, an anthem, a museum and all the trappings of a country. But if you look closer, there’s nothing inside. The Palestinian Museum’s chairman, Omar al-Qattan, who was born in Beirut and lives in the UK, said that the ‘Palestinians’ needed positive energy so badly that opening an empty museum made sense. Just think how much positive energy can come from realizing that you have no culture, heritage or history to put in your museum…”
After you’ve read it, you might like to share it. This satirical piece looks at some very stark realities.
Just days ago, there was a rough spot in the coalition negotiations between Likud and Yisrael Beitenu, with dire predictions being made about how it was all going to fall apart. But it was ironed out.
And then came another glitch, as Naftali Bennett, head of Habayit Hayehudi, said his party would not support Lieberman as Defense Minister when the required vote was taken in the Knesset, unless Netanyahu acceded to his demand for a security secretary to be appointed to inform members of the Security Cabinet about complex military issues, and to facilitate their visits to sensitive security sites.
Credit: Gil Yohanan
As I see it, Bennett’s demand was quite legitimate. His concern was two-fold: that sometimes the Security Cabinet is by-passed as the IDF and the prime minister make decisions, and other times the Security Cabinet is ill-equipped to make proper decisions, when they are called upon to do so. He views this matter with utmost seriousness, as lives are at stake.
Many agreed with him, including Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council. Eiland explained:
“…the [Security] Cabinet does constitute the most senior echelon in the country in all matters of state security.
“The relationship between the Security Cabinet and the IDF can be compared to that of a company’s board of directors and the company itself, with the IDF chief of staff serving as its CEO. And though the board of directors does have a chairperson—personified by the prime minister—the most important issues are still decided by the board, and not its chairperson.
“…Cabinet members are usually senior ministers, some of them heads of their own party. These are very busy people, with most of them lacking the preferable security background. The members, however, are responsible for all the important decisions and are expected to learn and know the workings of the ‘company’—personified by the IDF—they oversee and whose actions they must approve. Appointing a military secretary to aid the Security Cabinet in these matters seems like a partial yet highly worthwhile solution to this.”
Inevitably, there is a political aspect that colors everything, and which the Israeli media – like media all over – just love to enlarge upon in great detail. The relationship between Netanyahu and Bennett, as many of my readers may be aware, is hardly warm. Certainly there is reason to believe that issues of ego or power rather than simply concern for the effectiveness of the Security Cabinet may have been involved in Netanyahu’s rejection of Bennett’s demand. The prime minister’s suggestion that a committee be appointed to look into the matter was rejected by Bennett as “spin.” Appointment of a “committee” is sometimes a means for stalling action.
Now, again, there were dire media reports about the coalition being on the verge of collapse; members of the current government rushed to bring the two sides together and prevent disaster. In this regard I was grateful that Herzog declared that his Zionist Camp would not step in to strengthen the coalition if Bennett walked. Had he been willing, who knows how Netanyahu would have responded. As it was, it was necessary for him and Bennett to come to some terms.
When Health Minister Ya’akov Litzman (UTJ) proposed a compromise, Netanyahu rejected it, although Bennett had accepted it.
Then on Sunday night, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Habayit Hayehudi) encouraged the prime minister to accept it. Once Netanyahu did, the crisis disappeared.
The compromise: A committee will be formed to find ways to facilitate transfer of information to the members of the Security Cabinet; they will have three weeks to come up with a solution. In the interim, the head of the National Security Council will be responsible for reporting to the ministers.
So now we have a new enlarged government in place, and a new Minister of Defense. The Cabinet unanimously approved Lieberman in his new position Monday during the day, and at night the Knesset voted approval of Lieberman as Minister of Defense, 55 to 43. Lieberman has been sworn in.
Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Also sworn in last night were Sofa Landver, as Minister of Aliyah, and Tzachi Hanegbi, as Minister in the Prime Minister’s office.
Once he was sworn in, Lieberman resigned his Knesset seat, making way for the next on the Yisrael Beitenu list, Yulia Malinovsky, to enter the Knesset.
And so now is the time to mention – with no little disdain – that the Obama administration has already voiced discontent with our new coalition. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said last week that Washington had “seen reports from Israel describing it as the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history…we also know that many of its ministers have said they oppose a two-state solution. This raises legitimate questions about the direction it may be headed in and what kind of policies it may adopt.”
The response a day later by Minister Yariv Levin – who had headed negotiations for Likud – was entirely appropriate:
“Our relations with the United States are extremely close and strong, but I think that the makeup of the government is an internal Israeli issue. That is how the situation has been in [Israel’s] entire history and I think we need to insist on that.”
Our paramount job is to stand strong for ourselves – if only we will do so. The world is going to say what it chooses to say, in any event.
Last Wednesday, two new members of the Knesset were sworn in: Yaakov Asher, who came in as part of a rotation deal between Agudat Yisrael and Degel Hatorah, and Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who came into the Likud coalition as a result of the resignation of Moshe Ya’alon. It is Glick I want to focus on here.
Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Just as there is hysteria about Lieberman in the government (which is already something of a joke, see below), so is there with regard to Glick, who is called an “extremist.” Why? Because, bless him, he wants to fight for Jewish rights on Har Habayit (the Temple Mount). He has declared himself committed to do what he can to secure the Jewish right to pray on this, our holiest place.
This is what we have come to, that speaking out for Jewish rights should be seen as “extreme.”
In an effort to calm tensions these past months, the prime minister put out an order that MKs were not to go up on the Mount – it was perceived as a “provocation.” Glick, before he was sworn in, went up one last time, which displeased Netanyahu. But Glick said:
“I have no idea when I will be able to return here.
“Know that everything that I do stems from the peace this place represents. I hope that it’s remembered that peace is the name of God, and everything I do for the country, the people and for Jerusalem, is driven by this city, the city of peace.”
Glick advocates not just for Jews, but for the rights of all peoples who are peaceful to pray on the Mount. He reminds his listeners that it is to be “a house of prayer for all nations.” (From Isaiah 56)
As we move towards the ill-fated Paris “peace” conference scheduled for June 3, Abbas is making the most of it – with a series of specifications and demands. If you follow what he said in a talk to the Arab League in Cairo on Saturday, it is possible to see, as clear as clear can be, that there has been no give in PA positions, no compromise. Everything is as it was last year, and the year before, and the year before that.
The “Palestinian state” should be located on all of the land beyond the 1949 armistice line, with perhaps small swaps of land of equal value, and eastern Jerusalem as the capital. There would be no recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
There must also be, said Abbas, a “fair” resolution of the refugee issue, based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948. This is an old demand loaded with dishonesty and subterfuge that they persist in holding on to. It’s a centerpiece of plans to weaken Israel. Resolution 194, according to Arab claims, gives Palestinian Arab “refugees” the “right of return” to areas within Israel that they fled in 1948.
Resolution 194, however, is just a recommendation from the General Assembly, without any weight in law. That is, there is no “right” conferred on refugees by virtue of the resolution, and no obligation levied against Israel. What is more, the reference to “return” was only one alternative mentioned in the resolution. What the Arabs did is to focus on a portion of one phrase, rather than the entire document. Over the last 65 + years, Arabs who fled during the war have been sustained, via UNRWA, in a refugee status, rather than being absorbed into the various Arab countries where they found themselves. Even “refugees” who acquired citizenship elsewhere are still counted as refugees, as are their descendants. I did a good deal of writing about this years ago, and nothing of significance has changed since I first wrote.
In addition now, Abbas, clearly confident of support from the international community, has added stipulations: if negotiations are re-launched, there should be time-caps set and a monitoring committee for following whatever is agreed upon. And he would like NATO troops in Judea and Samaria.
And what do we have? Lieberman, newly sworn in last night, immediately declared in a joint statement with Netanyahu that he supports the recent efforts to promote peace in the region that have been advanced by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. This is not an embrace of Abbas, and not endorsement of the French plan. No.
But it is a statement that reflects Netanyahu’s penchant for showing how willing we are to “make peace.” Netanyahu is facing pressure from France and the US government, and the EU. And I haven’t even mentioned yet the maliced meddling of the so-called leaders of the Jewish Policy Forum, who are preparing a paper to submit to the next president on how to pressure Netanyahu for concessions. So, it is, first, I suspect, a “reassurance” that we’re not obstructionist. And a way to reduce the horrendous pressure.
It is also, I think, a counter to Abbas’s demands regarding negotiations, and perhaps a diversion to weaken French influence – sort of a splitting of the playing field. At the time the French announced their initiative, the Arabs declared that the responsibility for pursuing an agreement rested with them. An undermining of the plans of the haughty French might be constructive.
Broadly speaking, this approach envisions an opportunity for us to improve our relations with Arab neighbors – something that the prime minister is always talking about. It is fraught at one and the same time with possibility in terms of strengthening our ties with the relatively moderate Arab states, and with danger, lest we concede what we should not in an effort to consolidate our interactions with them.
The initiative here is obviously that of Netanyahu. News sources called this a “surprise,” and I would say so. A shock might be more like it. But this was hardly a spontaneous action. According to the JPost this morning, Tzachi Hanegbi, who tilts to the left, was brought into the prime minister’s office so that he might work on this. What does “working on it” mean?
Even as I report on possible motivation for what Netanyahu is doing – which is not to my liking – I am able to consider the possibility that there might be some method to this madness.
Perhaps we need to also keep in mind that Netanyahu knows that a “peace deal” is beyond the realm of what is possible. He knows that Abbas is making his maximalist demands and will never come to terms. We absolutely should not count on the Arabs to save us, but they have, many times, and he may be counting on this again. And so, he might make his (potentially dangerous) gestures, to show the world how serious and magnanimous we are, but count on it, that in the end not much will change.
This turn of events is clearly also intended as an indication that Lieberman will be a “team player,” for he speaks of “positive elements” in the Saudi plan (if re-negotiated). What was discussed in the coalition negotiations? Choosing the time of Lieberman’s swearing in to make this announcement was deliberate, I have no doubt. Yariv Levin’s comments aside, with everything else, this is designed to allay fears in the world that Lieberman is a “crazy extremist.”
I feel the unease, and can clearly hear the laments: But Lieberman was supposed to be right wing! Let us watch… It is very early, and there are yet so many unknowns. As I said, “Choppy waters.” So complex. So difficult. Hold tight.
My own position: even if Lieberman turns out to be less than we might have hoped, Ya’alon had to go. A man who compares one of our soldiers to ISIS, as he did, and encourages military insurrection against the government, cannot be Minister of Defense.
In my last posting, I wrote about the fact that for an interval of six weeks no cement – intended for housing construction – had been permitted into Gaza because some of it was being diverted by Hamas for tunnel construction, but that now it would be permitted in again. I scoffed at the idea that the new regulations in place – such as more PA monitors on the scene – were going to make a difference. And that was before I had the latest information:
Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold speaking at a United Nations World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul indicated that Hamas was diverting 95% of the cement allowed into Gaza for civilian purposes, in order to utilize it for terror.
Ninety-five percent. The new stipulations will have close to no effect on this.
And so I ask: What is wrong with us? What sickness is this that we have to show how nice we are, even when there is evidence that what we are doing is damaging to our nation?
The most important lesson we as a nation still need to learn: to stand first for ourselves. I do not believe it can be said too often.
What better to do now than pray for the welfare of the State of Israel:
“Send Your light and truth to Israel’s leaders, ministers and officials.”
May we see better days ahead.