Ariel Sharon Is Missed

6 01 2014

 By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

It seems like ages since Ariel Sharon slipped into a coma from which he never returned, much less as a political force in this earthly world.  Yet, perhaps he was there after all, resting with the knowledge that he was a man of his times, who had shaped and reshaped history.

He was a complex human being who produced seemingly inconsistent policies.  By being the architect of Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank and Gaza, despite Palestinian and international protests, he appeared to be forever at odds with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and thus an opponent of peaceful coexistence between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and lasting peace in the Middle EastHenry A. Kissinger noted some years ago: “For most of his career, Sharon’s strategic goal was the incorporation of the West Bank into Israel by a settlement policy designed to prevent Palestinian self-government over significant contiguous territory.”

However, he came seemingly full circle and withdrew from Gaza and removed Jewish settlers from both Gaza and the West Bank, and returned their lands to the Palestinians.  Like the hard-liner Richard Nixon who opposed communists and their ideology throughout his life, yet opened the door to China, Sharon was an enigma.  Both were skilled chess players; and perhaps Sharon supported expansive settlements merely as a bargaining chip that would be discarded when it served the interests of peace, or no longer had any strategic value.

He seemed to be a pragmatist who concluded that it was in Israel’s best interests to defend only those lands that were militarily and politically defensible, and sacrifice the rest, and to jettison the settlers who had served as pawns in a larger chess game.  By zigging and then zagging, and by being a key player in the establishment of the right-wing Likud Party and then breaking from it to found the centrist Kadima Party, Sharon proved to be an able and skillful politician right up to the end of his career.

He fought in a Jewish militia opposed to British control; and he served in Israel’s war of independence with the Arab states and in subsequent wars, and was considered a war hero by many Israelis.  He was wounded in a battle to break the siege of Jerusalem and carried its effects all of his life, including near blindness in one eye; and he was grazed by a bullet in the head during a battle many years later.

He visited the Temple Mount to emphasize Israel’s claim of sovereignty, outraging Muslims and provoking widespread violence; and he is blamed for the ruthless killing and suffering of countless Palestinians.  Yet, his strength was being more in tune with Israeli public opinion than anyone else.  Ghazi al Saadi, a Palestinian commentator, described Sharon as “the first Israeli leader who stopped claiming Israel had a right to all of the Palestinians’ land.”  He added:  “A live Sharon is better for the Palestinians now, despite all the crimes he has committed against us.”

Like Yitzhak Rabin before him, whose mantle he assumed, history will judge Sharon’s accomplishments and speculate as to what a difference his continued leadership might have meant in the future.  It is certain, however, that Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu is no Ariel Sharon, nor does he hold a candle to Rabin.  Indeed, Rabin’s widow Leah—who was described by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres as a “lioness”—believed it was the climate of hate that Netanyahu created during the election campaign of 1995, which laid the groundwork for a Jew to assassinate her husband.  She never forgave Netanyahu and detested him.[2]

The fact that Netanyahu attained his coveted goal of leading Israel again, after his scandal-ridden previous attempt at it, may have changed the region’s history forever.  He was the nemesis of both Rabin and Sharon, two giants; and his return from political oblivion may still be marked by untold chaos at a time when political and military adventurism and demagoguery are the last things that are needed from the leader of Israel.

It was a fateful day, however, when a born-again Christian and a Jew, one slim and fit and the other decidedly rotund, shared a helicopter ride; and Sharon gave then-Texas Governor George W. Bush a tour over the Israeli-occupied territories.  On that day and in the days that followed, a bond of mutual respect emerged between Bush and Sharon that would survive the roller coaster of international politics.  They were a political odd couple who seemed to instinctively trust each other at a time in history when trust was a rare currency vis-à-vis the seemingly intractable problems of the Middle East.

Trust has been a missing ingredient during much of the political life of Netanyahu, who has been perceived as being untrustworthy by countless Israelis and leaders of other nations.  Indeed, he has served as a foil against which Sharon’s accomplishments may be viewed and measured.  Sharon emerged as the right leader for Israel at the right time, just as Rabin had done before him.  Netanyahu’s presence on Israel’s political scene makes Sharon’s greatness and that of Rabin stand out in bold relief by comparison.

Sharon’s stroke and coma deprived the Bush administration of its closest working partner in the Middle East.  The clock began ticking in the region again; and there have been reports that Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear installations.  I am forever reminded of what a prominent American (who is a Jew and a strong supporter of Israel) told me several years ago: “I have long thought that Israel will not make it, if only because of what are cavalierly called WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and its very tight geographical compression.  All else is immaterial, including the Palestinians, or us, or the nature of Israel’s [government].”

I was stunned by this person’s words, and I have reflected on them many times since.  Henry Kissinger added several years ago: “Far too much of the debate within the Palestinian camp has been over whether Israel should be destroyed immediately by permanent confrontation or in stages in which occasional negotiations serve as periodic armistices.”  I do not subscribe to the notion that anything is inevitable or “written.”  However, it is courageous and visionary men like Rabin and Sharon who have guided Israel through perilous times, when lesser men would have foundered.

Netanyahu campaigned on a hard-line platform that would grant to a new Palestinian state only a fraction of West Bank land; and effectively, he has brought the peace process to a screeching halt because he opposes such a state entirely, whether he articulates it or not.  When Likud suffered a defeat in the Israeli elections, with Netanyahu at its helm, he characteristically tried to deflect blame from himself by claiming that a comatose Ariel Sharon was responsible for the political “crash.”

The Wall Street Journal put it mildly in an editorial:  “[Netanyahu’s] attempt to blame a dying and helpless Mr. Sharon for Likud’s drubbing . . . was not a class act.”  Indeed, it was tasteless, opportunistic, and among the reasons why so many people view Netanyahu as being pathetic and demonic—but it was certainly consistent with his treatment of both Rabin and Sharon.

Most Israelis believe at least one of two long-time dreams is unattainable; namely, the idea of a “Greater Israel,” and of a negotiated peace with the Palestinians.  Contrariwise, the Palestinians have steadfastly refused to repudiate their dream of a “greater Palestine,” stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, which—in the words of Yossi Klein Halevi, an Israeli journalist and writer—“would supplant and destroy the Jewish state.”

Halevi further opined: “The settlement movement ignored the moral corruption of occupation and the demographic threat to Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state posed by the forcible absorption of several million Palestinians into Israeli society.”  And he added: “Israel will almost certainly find itself without Greater Israel—and without peace.  . . . Confronted with the possibility of a nuclear Iran committed to Israel’s destruction and with a terrorist state emerging in Gaza and the West Bank, Israelis need the sustenance of dreams.”

President Bush pledged to help create an independent Palestinian state before the end of his second term, which suffered a fatal blow with the loss of Sharon, and ended Sharon’s personal ambition to set Israel’s permanent borders too.  The Times of the UK quoted one official as saying: “It [was] unbelievable.  He was the Prime Minister.  Nothing moved without going through him.  Everything was connected to him and then he faded away,” the official said, with a click of his fingers.

Perhaps the return to business as usual showed the strength of Israel’s democracy and political system, which has been surprisingly stable; or maybe it was a sign that his stroke had not shaken the country to the same extent as the assassination of Rabin.  Or maybe it was simply another reminder of how fame is fleeting, and the public’s attention span is short in Israel and other media-driven societies, especially in the age of 24-hour news cycles.  Yet, Sharon is missed; that much is certain—and I never thought that I would write those words or feel this way.[3]

I disagreed with his settlement policies for many years, believing they were harmful to the settlers who trusted him because ultimately they would feel betrayed; and that such policies were unnecessarily confrontational and antagonistic to the Palestinians.  However, I have missed “Arik,” and I know people in various parts of the world, Jews and non-Jews alike, feel the same way.  He was a giant of Israeli politics.  More than that, he was a lion—albeit a rotund one—God love him.

© 2014, Timothy D. Naegele

Ariel Sharon


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass).  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, which specializes in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.com and http://www.naegele.com/naegele_resume.html).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g.,www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com; see also Google search:Timothy D. Naegele

[2]  See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/israels-senseless-killings-and-war-with-iran/ (“Israel’s Senseless Killings And War With Iran”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/the-madness-of-benjamin-netanyahu/ (“The Madness Of Benjamin Netanyahu”) (see also the comments beneath both articles).

[3]  See also http://world.time.com/2014/01/03/israel-wakes-up-to-ariel-sharon-as-former-prime-minister-nears-death/?iid=gs-main-lead (“Israel Wakes Up to Ariel Sharon as Former Prime Minister Nears Death”) and http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/ariel-sharon-war-of-independence-disengagement-settlements.html (“Ariel Sharon’s decisions shaped today’s Israel”) and http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/01/23/060123fa_fact_shavit (“THE GENERAL”); compare http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/03/ariel-sharon-final-mission-peace-israel (“Ariel Sharon’s final mission might well have been peace”) with http://mwcnews.net/focus/politics/35072-sharon.html (“The Guardian Laments Sharon”)



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12 01 2014
Mary

I am sorry for A Sharon’s death. May he rest in peace.

15 01 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Israel Is A Country That Has Lost Its Bearings, And Is In Search Of A Leader

Netanyahu dead

Ben Caspit, a columnist and political analyst for Israeli newspapers, has written:

A day after Israel’s former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was laid to rest, on Jan. 13 Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon was quoted to have leveled scathing, if not to say crude, criticism at US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“Kerry is messianic,” Ya’alon said in closed conversations (according to Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth’s headline on Jan. 14). “He is obsessive. Let him take the Nobel Prize and leave us be.”

It may have been homage to Ariel Sharon, who served as Israel’s defense minister exactly 30 years ago and specialized in stoking precisely such fires. It is also possible that Ya’alon, who says these things incessantly in closed discussions yet makes sure they don’t leak, may have slipped up. Well, eventually they did leak.

I would venture to say that Kerry probably did not fall off his chair upon getting this report from US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro. He has heard scathing criticism about the “security plan” which the United States drew up in Israel’s interest. Although he has not heard direct personal insults from the Israeli minister, the unfavorable innuendos are nevertheless out there. Ya’alon wants to be Sharon. The problem, however, is that he wants to be the former Sharon rather than the latter-day one. He wants to be Sharon—the man of war, the intransigent and unstoppable politician.

Dozens of world leaders and politicians, chief among them United States Vice President Joe Biden, attended Sharon’s state funeral on Monday, Jan. 13. Eight years after his severe stroke and 10 days after suffering renal failure, Sharon finally succumbed. Israeli officials were convinced that international attendance at the funeral would be limited given the long time since Sharon stepped down from the political and diplomatic map. They were proven wrong.

Many delegations attended the funeral, including dozens of foreign dignitaries who listened to impressive eulogies by Biden, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as to eulogies by Israel’s President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. Later that day, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called his Israeli counterpart, Ya’alon, to convey his special condolences. The former Sharon would not have received such honor; the latter one did.

Sharon’s passing swept the international media and not just in the Arab world. Television networks around the Middle East were aflutter, addressing in their headline news the demise of Gen. Sharon, who for dozens of years symbolized Israel’s brute force and power. Yet the passing of the Israeli military and political leader made headlines not only across the Middle East but also around the world, and in almost every language.

What did Sharon have that drew so much international attention? To my mind, the reason is not just his personality. Not only in Israel, but around the world, too, people realize that Sharon’s passing heralds the end of a generation in Israel. The world also recognizes the severe leadership crisis of the Jewish state. Looking to the left and to the right, it sees no new Sharon in the offing. It seems to me that not only Israelis, but others around the world too, miss him or someone of his caliber.

Israel’s incumbent prime minister is Benjamin Netanyahu. In the last elections, Bibi (Netanyahu) took a beating when his Likud Party garnered just 20 seats of the 120-seat Knesset. Had it not been for the last-minute merger with Yisrael Beitenu—the party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, which secured 11 more seats—Netanyahu would have lost the elections despite being a sitting prime minister and despite that he faced no other contender of a high caliber.

Paradoxically, even though he was personally unpopular and although his results in the last elections were disappointing, when Israelis are asked who from among the relevant contenders is best suited to be prime minister, Netanyahu gets the most votes, around 40%. Those lagging behind—Chairman of the Opposition and Knesset member Isaac Herzog, Avigdor Liberman, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni—are only in the single digits.

This has been conducive to a rare political situation. The Israeli public has no appreciation or regard for Netanyahu. They don’t like him, yet are aware of the reality that there isn’t anybody else. Bibi remains alone in Israel’s political ring, and this has been the case for quite some time. And in light of the current state of affairs, it may take quite a while for the situation to change.

Consider the following: Although Israel’s prime minister is a lame duck, there’s nobody really threatening his position. His approval ratings are low as is trust in him. Notwithstanding, there is no other contender poised to replace him.

How did Israel end up in this serious and unprecedented leadership crisis? The answer to this question is complex. During the early decades of its existence, Israel enjoyed the generation of its founding fathers, which is sometimes referred to as “the generation of giants”. It consisted of “the” founding father—the first prime minister David Ben Gurion, as well as Prime Ministers Moshe Sharet, Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan (who served as chief of staff and defense minister), Shimon Peres, and, of course, Yitzhak Rabin. At any given time, there were at least four or five leaders who coveted the premiership and were considered suitable for the job and came close to landing it.

In 1977, when the government switched for the first time from left-wing to right-wing, this reality continued. The Likud Party presented Menachem Begin, who was later followed by the “Likud princes”—people like Sharon, David Levy, Roni Milo, Dan Meridor and former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The Labor Party continued displaying the Rabin-Peres tango, and this group was later joined by Ehud Barak, and at the last minute also by Ehud Olmert, who somehow managed to jostle his way in.

The position had always been up for grabs. There were many contenders, and the top of the pyramid felt tight. While serving as prime minister, Sharon would always describe the hardships of the position. He talked about how tormenting the decisions were and how onerous the responsibility was. And yet, he would add, I see a relatively long line outside of people who want to succeed me.

Sharon’s passing symbolizes the final disappearance of the generation of the founding fathers. The last man standing in this group is Shimon Peres, who is over 90 and is expected to end his term as president of the state in five months’ time.

Peres does not quit. People like him never do. But he is unlikely to return to political life. Netanyahu remains the prime minister and when you look around, it’s hard to single out anyone who could threaten him in the coming elections. Defense Minister Ya’alon is not ready for this yet, and neither is Minister of the Interior Gideon Sa’ar, the most prominent Likud Party politician. Yair Lapid has lost momentum, while Isaac Herzog, the newly appointed chairman of the Labor Party, has yet to gather such momentum. Tzipi Livni has been pushed to the sidelines whereas Minister of Economy and Trade and Chairman of HaBayit HaYehudi Party Naftali Bennett is too extreme. Given Israel’s political map at this time, there isn’t anyone who emerges as a potential prime minister. Everyone is convinced that Netanyahu is past his prime and that it’s hard to believe that he would have another term in office. Stuck and fossilized, he has “lost the touch” (provided he ever had this “touch”). Yet nobody can single out anyone to come in his stead as prime minister. There is no one, however high and low you search.

In addition to the disappearance of the generation of the founding fathers, several other things have taken place here; things that were more planned. Inspired by Netanyahu, Israel’s political establishment had taken steps to block the introduction of new forces.

The most dramatic action was the adoption a few years ago of the “cooling-off law.” In accordance with this law, senior military and police officers as well as senior security officials must undergo a three-year cooling-off period before going into politics. In addition to this three-year period, officers receive another “adjustment” year (during which they remain in uniform and on the payroll with benefits). So what we end up with is a chief of staff, a general or a Shin Bet or Mossad director who are forced to remain out of the political establishment for a four-year period after retiring from their position. In Israeli politics, four years are an eternity. The breakneck speed of events in Israel makes the public forget what happened just two months earlier. Thus, anyone who served as chief of staff four or five years earlier is considered to be distant history.

Until this law passed, the defense establishment was Israel’s melting pot for grooming leaders. When a country is surrounded by so many enemies and its existence is imperiled around the clock, it is only natural for a military resume to be one of the prerequisites for political success. For years, Israel’s leadership renewed its ranks and human resources through its military: Moshe Dayan, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak, Yitzhak Rabin, Ya’alon. This is just a partial list of senior Israeli politicians who hailed from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). This stream of people was stopped almost overnight.

The law was passed by the political establishment in order to prevent then-chief of staff Dan Halutz from going into politics. In the interim, Halutz became irrelevant in the wake of the Second Lebanon War. Then the law was perceived to torpedo then-chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi from going into politics. However, Ashkenazi also took a serious blow in the Harpaz Affair that keeps rocking the IDF to this day. In addition to these two, many gifted senior officials from the military, Shin Bet, the Mossad (Meir Dagan, for example) and police are unable to go into politics. Everyone is bogged down by the “cooling-off” period. They lose the momentum and the wind in their sails. By the time this cooling-off period is finished, they are finished.

In addition to this defense wall, Israeli politicians who set out against the traditional power centers (the judiciary, for example) were also “targeted.” The chief victims in this case were Olmert and Haim Ramon.

The upshot of what was described in this article is both serious and disconcerting. Toward its 66th anniversary of independence, Israel is losing its bearings. It is required to make fateful decisions, but there is nobody to make them. It needs courageous leadership, but it has no leader. From the outside, Israel appears—mainly by comparison to its neighbors—as an island of stability and security. From the inside, however, Israel is a country that has lost its bearings and is in search of a leader.

See http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/ariel-sharon-benjamin-netanyahu-leadership-crisis.html (emphasis added); see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/the-madness-of-benjamin-netanyahu/ (“The Madness Of Benjamin Netanyahu“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/ariel-sharon-is-missed/#comment-3480 (“The Campaign For Boycotts, Divestment And Sanctions Against Israel Is Turning Mainstream“); but see http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/1/ariel-sharon-israelpalestinepeaceprocess.html (Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator who currently heads the Middle East and North Africa program of the European Council on Foreign Relations: “Sharon didn’t embrace peace, he defeated it“) and http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/01/16/israeli-arab-mk-put-war-criminal-sharon-on-trial-even-if-he-is-dead/ (“Israeli Arab MK: ‘Put War Criminal Sharon on Trial, Even if He is Dead!’“) and http://www.arabnews.com/news/511766 (“Looting Palestine’s cultural heritage“) and http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2014/01/28/photo-presidents-brother-malik-obama-wears-kaffiyeh-declaring-that-muslims-will-destroy-israel/ (“PHOTO: President’s Brother Malik Obama Wears Kaffiyeh Declaring that Muslims Will Destroy Israel“)

Netanyahu has expanded the Israeli Apartheid—which is the moral equivalent of South Africa’s Apartheid—and oppressed the Palestinians from Day One; and he is a foe of any peaceful solution, now or at any time in the future.

He was hated by former Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin—and especially by Rabin’s wife Leah, who blamed Netanyahu for her husband’s assassination. She saw “only doom for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process” with Netanyahu at Israel’s helm; and her views were prescient.

Until Netanyahu is gone, there is no chance of peace.

17 01 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Criticism Of Israel By Germany Is Verboten

Michael Freund has written an article—published in The New York Sun—which states:

With an impeccable sense of timing, the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, arrived in Israel earlier this week, attended the funeral of Ariel Sharon, and then proceeded to browbeat Israel in public.

Speaking with reporters, Herr Steinmeier accused the Jewish state of “damaging” the peace process by building homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria.

In a discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu on the sidelines of Sharon’s interment, he pressed the premier to refrain from additional construction as this “could still disturb the process.”

While I am not familiar with bereavement rituals in Germany, I assume they do not include insulting one’s hosts right after the burial service. Yet, while in Israel, Herr Steinmeier apparently saw nothing wrong in doing just that: exploiting the opportunity to highlight a political issue regardless of how tasteless and unseemly it was to do so.

This is not the kind of behavior one expects from a “friend,” is it?

What is even more offensive about Herr Steinmeier’s exploits is the German government’s historical amnesia, which has left officials bereft of any sense of irony regarding their position on the right of Jews to live in Judea and Samaria.

After all, it was not even eight decades ago that Germany singled out Jews in the September 1935 Nuremberg laws, seeking to cast them out of civil society as a step towards “cleansing” German soil of their presence. Subsequently, in areas under German control, the right of Jews to live where they saw fit was severely restricted.

One would think that in light of this dark chapter in their history, Germans would be extra careful about wading into such an issue and proclaiming where Jews can live, build or raise their families.

That has not been the case.

Indeed, last summer it was widely reported that Berlin had decided to back a European Union initiative that singles out Jewish-owned businesses in Judea and Samaria.

The move is aimed at targeting them for special treatment, which could include the application of unique labels of origin on products produced by Jews in the areas. Needless to say, goods made by Palestinian-run plants in the territories would not similarly be branded.

In an interview with Reuters last month, the European Union envoy to the Middle East, Andreas Reinicke, warned that if the latest round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians fails, the EU would speed up its plans to slap labels on Jewish-made goods from Judea and Samaria.

The hypocrisy behind the labeling crusade is all the more apparent when one considers that no such campaigns are being contemplated for other “disputed territories.” Hence, there is no European demand to label Chinese products made in Tibet, Russian items manufactured in Chechnya, or Spanish goods from Catalonia. It seems that only when matters involve the Jewish state do European liberals insist on such measures.

This is not merely duplicity, it is discrimination pure and simple.

In the case of Germany, such a stance is especially outrageous, and the government of Angela Merkel should be ashamed of itself for going along with it. Whatever one may think of the peace process and the two-state solution, it should be obvious that treating merchandise and construction differently simply because the person who owns the factory or built the house is a follower of Moses rather than Muhammad is an act of bigotry.

In light of its own ignoble record during the 20th century, Germany and its leaders have a special responsibility to be exceptionally sensitive to such issues, particularly when they relate to Jews.

No one is suggesting Germany is planning a second Holocaust, but the country must show greater awareness regarding the painful irony at work here.

In 1936 a board game called “Juden Raus” (“Jews Out”) became popular throughout the Reich. Players would move figures representing Jews toward “collection points” from which they would be deported to the Land of Israel. “If you manage to see off six Jews,” the game instructed, “you’ve won a clear victory”.

Sadly, Germany is once again playing a similar game, albeit with one difference. Whereas previously the aim was to send Jews away to Israel, now their goal is to compel us to leave parts of it.

But I have a bit of news for Ms. Merkel and her colleagues: no one, especially not Germany, has the right to tell Jews where they can or cannot live.

In 1945, the Jewish people crawled out of the ovens of Europe and succeeded in reclaiming our ancestral homeland.

Regardless of what Berlin might think or say, we are not about to give any part of it away.

See http://www.nysun.com/foreign/german-aide-in-demarche-at-sharon-funeral-echoes/88549/

With all due respect to Mr. Freund, the central thrust of this article is patently absurd. Next year, it will have been 70 years since the end of World War II and the defeat of Hitler’s Third Reich.

After what the Jews lived through during the Nazi Holocaust, they should be particularly sensitive to the plight of Palestinians, but many are not. As I have written:

[W]hen Israelis are perceived as having morphed into their ancestors’ Nazi oppressors (e.g., by instituting “Apartheid” vis-à-vis the Palestinians), the world is quick to condemn—perhaps too quickly at times, or maybe not quickly enough at other times.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/israels-senseless-killings-and-war-with-iran/; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/the-madness-of-benjamin-netanyahu/

Indeed, it has been asked by a prominent American Jew about the treatment of Palestinians:

Is this how I wanted to be treated when I was a minority in another people’s country?

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/israels-senseless-killings-and-war-with-iran/#comment-1825

A growing number of Jews and non-Jews in America and elsewhere in the world believe that Netanyahu and his ilk have been damaging the peace process by building more settlements. Such sentiments are not unique to the German foreign minister. Indeed, they undergird the efforts of Barack Obama and John Kerry to bring about a viable two-state solution, which Netanyahu has opposed consistently.

He was hated by former Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin—and especially by Rabin’s wife Leah, who blamed Netanyahu for her husband’s assassination. She saw “only doom for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process” with Netanyahu at Israel’s helm; and her views were prescient.

Also, the funeral of Ariel Sharon brought together representatives of countries around the world; and it was a unique opportunity for them to discuss issues of importance, both publicly and privately. Surely, the German foreign minister was not alone in this regard.

20 01 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Israel’s Maginot Line?

The New York Times has reported:

After a Katyusha rocket fired from Lebanon landed in Israel last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hezbollah, the Shiite militia, and its Iranian backers. But Israeli security officials attributed the attack, as well as a similar one in August, to a Sunni jihadist group linked to Al Qaeda.

That disconnect is representative of the deepening dilemma Israel faces as the region around it is riven by sectarian warfare that could redraw the map of the Middle East.

Mr. Netanyahu and other leaders continue to see Shiite Iran and its nuclear program as the primary threat to Israel, and Hezbollah as the most likely to draw it into direct battle. Still, the mounting strength of extremist Sunni cells in Syria, Iraq and beyond that are pledging to bring jihad to Jerusalem can hardly be ignored.

As the chaos escalates, Israeli officials insist they have no inclination to intervene. Instead, they have embraced a castle mentality, hoping the moat they have dug—in the form of high-tech border fences, intensified military deployments and sophisticated intelligence—is broad enough at least to buy time.

“What we have to understand is everything is going to be changed—to what, I don’t know,” said Yaakov Amidror, who recently stepped down as Israel’s national security adviser. “But we will have to be very, very cautious not to take part in this struggle. What we see now is a collapsing of a historical system, the idea of the national Arabic state. It means that we will be encircled by an area which will be no man’s land at the end of the day.”

Mr. Amidror, a former major general in military intelligence, summed up the strategy as “Wait, and keep the castle.”

Israeli leaders have tried to exploit recent events to bolster their case for a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley, a sticking point in the United States-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians. In a speech this month, Naftali Bennett, head of the right-wing Jewish Home party, ticked off violent episodes in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon, and concluded sarcastically, “A really excellent time to divest ourselves of security assets.”

Mr. Bennett, who opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, might seize on any excuse to undermine the talks. But Israeli officials, and analysts with close ties to the government and security establishment, said the argument also had traction in more mainstream quarters. The deterioration in Iraq, which borders Jordan, has revived concerns about vulnerability on Israel’s eastern flank.

“From the Straits of Gibraltar to the Khyber Pass, it’s very hard to come by a safe and secure area,” Mr. Netanyahu told reporters here on Thursday. “Peace can be built on hope, but that hope has to be grounded in facts,” he said. “A peace that is not based on truth will crash against the realities of the Middle East.”

Michael Herzog, a retired Israeli general and former peace negotiator, said that “what you hear in Israeli government circles” is that the regional chaos “highlights the need for solid security arrangements.”

“The U.S. accepts the basic Israeli argument that given what’s happening in the region—suddenly jihadists are taking over Syria, and there’s no telling what will happen elsewhere—there is a legitimate cause for concern,” said Mr. Herzog, who has been consulting with the American team. “How to translate that into concrete security arrangements is something the parties are right now coping with.”

Israeli security and political officials have been unsettled by the rapid developments on the ground and in the diplomatic arena in recent weeks. Washington’s gestures toward Iran, not only on the nuclear issue but also with regard to Syria and Iraq, underscore a divergence in how the United States and Israel, close allies, view the region. At the same time, Saudi Arabia, which shares Israel’s concern about an emboldened Iran, is financing Sunni groups that view Israel as the ultimate enemy.

More broadly, the intensified fighting has convinced many Israelis that the region will be unstable or even anarchic for some time, upending decades of strategic positioning and military planning.

“Historically, Israel has preferred to have strong leaders, even if they’re hostile to Israel,” said Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, citing President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as an example.

“It’s a problem without an address,” Mr. Spyer said of the Islamist groups often lumped together as “global jihad.” “Israel always likes to have an address. Assad we don’t like, but when something happens in Assad’s territory, we can bargain with him. These guys, there is no address. There is no one to bargain with.”

Maj. Gen. Yoav Har-Even, director of the Israeli military’s planning branch, said in an interview published this month in the newspaper Yediot Aharonot that global jihad had already “taken control of some of the arms warehouses” in Syria and established a presence in the Golan Heights. He called it a “central target” of intelligence efforts.

“I don’t have, today, a contingency plan to destroy global jihad,” General Har-Even acknowledged. “But I am developing the intelligence ability to monitor events. If I spot targets that are liable to develop into a problem, I take the excellent intelligence that I am brought, I process it for the target and plan action. And I have a great many such targets.”

Since the Arab Spring uprisings began in 2011, there have been two main schools of thought in Israel. One argues that the instability in the region makes resolving the Palestinian conflict all the more urgent, to provide a beacon on an uncertain sea. The other cautions against making any concessions close to home while the future of the neighborhood remains unclear. The camps have only hardened their positions in response to the recent developments.

“The most important lesson from the last few weeks is that you cannot rely on a snapshot of reality at any given time in order to plan your strategic needs,” said Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, who recently rejoined Mr. Netanyahu’s team as a freelance foreign policy adviser. “The region is full of bad choices. What that requires you to do is take your security very seriously. And you shouldn’t be intimidated by people saying, ‘Well, that’s a worst-case analysis,’ because lately, the worst is coming through.”

Efraim Halevy, a former director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, views the landscape differently. Iran’s involvement in Syria and Iraq could distract it from its nuclear project, he said. Hezbollah has lost fighters in Syria and faced setbacks in its standing at home in Lebanon. Hamas, the Palestinian militant faction that controls the Gaza Strip, has been severely weakened by the new military-backed government in Egypt and its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria’s military capacity has been greatly diminished.

“If you look all around, compared to what it was like six months ago, Israel can take a deep breath,” Mr. Halevy said. “The way things are at the moment, if you want to photograph it, it looks as if some of the potential is there for an improvement in Israel’s strategic position and interests. It’s more than ever a see and wait, and be on your guard, and protect yourself if necessary.”

See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/world/middleeast/region-boiling-israel-takes-up-castle-strategy.html; see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maginot_Line (“Maginot Line”)

Will Israel’s “Castle Strategy” prove to be its Maginot Line of defenses—thought and hoped to be impregnable, but proven to be porous and strategically ineffective?

Time will tell.

9 02 2014
Max

Just stumbled across your blog from the comment you left at the WSJ article on Sochi. I have to say I’m amazed at how on the one hand you denounce Putin as a killer dictator-for-life while at the same time producing a gushing obituary for Ariel Sharon! You evidently have been taken in by the nonsense that his token withdrawal of Israeli settlers from a few patches of stolen land, amounted to a serious policy for peace. But aside from that, have you forgotten his terror bombing of Beruit for several weeks in 1982 when clearly marked schools, hospitals were deliberately and mercilessly destroyed? An atrocity in which tens of thousands were killed? Can you imagine how the New York Times would treat a deceased gentile who had perpetrated the murders of tens of thousands of Israeli Jews? Do think he wouldn’t have been branded with the mark of Cain for the rest of his life and that every lurid detail of his crimes would be repeated endlessly?

9 02 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Max, for your comments.

First, they are fair, well written and thoughtful.

Second, I respectfully beg to differ with the conclusion that my article above constitutes “a gushing obituary for Ariel Sharon!”

I despised Sharon for a very long time, blaming him for the settlements and countless atrocities. My “change of heart” came only after he withdrew from Gaza, forcing Israelis out at gunpoint if necessary; and he began a withdrawal from the West Bank.

It was these actions that I was saluting in my article. No one knows whether they constituted a “token withdrawal,” as you and others suggest, or the beginning of a broader policy shift. Regardless, they represented a significant policy change that I applauded, and endorse today.

Third, as recognized in my article above:

(1) He visited the Temple Mount to emphasize Israel’s claim of sovereignty, outraging Muslims and provoking widespread violence. . . .

(2) He is blamed for the ruthless killing and suffering of countless Palestinians.

(3) Ghazi al Saadi, a Palestinian commentator, described Sharon as “the first Israeli leader who stopped claiming Israel had a right to all of the Palestinians’ land.” He added: “A live Sharon is better for the Palestinians now, despite all the crimes he has committed against us.”

At no point do I even remotely suggest that Sharon was a saint. He was not. He was a very able military commander on behalf of Israel . . . and a “politician.”

Fourth, I began the article above when Sharon lapsed into a coma, from which he never returned. I reviewed it many times before he died, and before my article was published here. I might have changed it significantly, but I did not. My feelings about Sharon are summed up in the following words:

Sharon is missed; that much is certain—and I never thought that I would write those words or feel this way.

I had hope for Israel under Sharon . . .

Fifth, Russia’s dictator-for-life Putin is a brutal killer; and the world needs to recognize him as such.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden have chosen to do so, and they should be praised for their decisions.

For the American president or vice president to attend the Olympics in Sochi—where Putin has a dacha—would be the moral equivalent of attending Hitler’s Olympics in Berlin.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/#comment-3232 (“Obamas, Biden Boycott Killer Putin’s Winter Olympics In Russia”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/#comment-3627 (“Ukraine Is On the Verge Of War And Putin Is To Blame”) (see also the article itself, as well as the other comments beneath it)

Putin is Stalin’s heir; and Stalin was responsible for the deaths of more than 30 million men, women and children—his own countrymen—including millions during the collectivization of the Soviet farms in the 1930s. Also, as the Soviets moved through Germany at the end of World War II, they raped at least two million German women in what is now acknowledged as the largest case of mass rape in history.

Putin came to prominence as a KGB operative in East Germany—or the DDR, as it was known before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Erich Honecker’s government—which was one of the most repressive regimes in the Soviet Union’s orbit, or the Evil Empire.

Putin’s own repressive regime must be boycotted now. Indeed, it is laudable that neither Obama nor Biden are attending the Olympics in Sochi, which sends a strong message to the world.

Also, the world must never forget that Putin left the Olympic games in Beijing and traveled to the Georgian border, where he personally directed the Russian military assault against Georgia and the killing of Georgians.

This is only a small part of the atrocities that he has committed, which are discussed in my article about him and the comments beneath it that are cited above.

A colleague of mine in the U.S. Congress told me when Putin came to power that he was a “smoother” version of Stalin; and my friend’s words were prescient.

11 02 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

The Campaign For Boycotts, Divestment And Sanctions Against Israel Is Turning Mainstream

Boycott Israel

This is the conclusion of the UK’s Economist:

ONCE derided as the scheming of crackpots, the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, widely known as BDS, is turning mainstream. That, at any rate, is the fear of a growing number of Israelis. Some European pension funds have withdrawn investments; some large corporations have cancelled contracts; and the American secretary of state, John Kerry, rarely misses a chance to warn Israel that efforts to “delegitimise” and boycott it will increase if its government spurns his efforts to conclude a two-state settlement of its conflict with the Palestinians. Israel, says Yair Lapid, Israel’s finance minister, is approaching the same “tipping point” where South Africa found itself in opposition to the rest of the world in the dying days of apartheid. “Let’s not kid ourselves,” he told a conference of security boffins recently in Tel Aviv. “The world listens to us less and less.”

BDS has begun to grab the attention of some of the world’s largest financial institutions. PGGM, a big Dutch pension fund, has liquidated its holdings in five Israeli banks (though the Netherlands’ largest has affirmed its investments). Norway’s finance ministry has announced that it is excluding Africa Israel Investments and its subsidiary, Danya Cebus, a big building firm, from a government pension fund.

The campaign is drawing support from beyond northern Europe. Romania has forbidden its citizens from working for companies in the West Bank. More churches are backing BDS. An American academic association is boycotting Israeli lecturers. The debate turned viral after Scarlett Johansson, a Hollywood actor, quit her role as ambassador for Oxfam, a charity based in Britain, in order to keep her advertising contract with SodaStream, an Israeli drinks firm with a plant on the West Bank.

Mr Lapid, who favours a two-state solution, reels out figures to show how sanctions could hit every Israeli pocket. “If negotiations with the Palestinians stall or blow up and we enter the reality of a European boycott, even a very partial one,” he warned, 10,000 Israelis would “immediately” lose their jobs. Trade with the European Union, a third of Israel’s total, would slump—he calculates—by $5.7 billion.

Anxious to hold on to their markets, Israel’s businessmen are increasingly backing the peace camp. The names on a recent advertising campaign in its favour included such luminaries as the head of Google in Israel. Hitherto they had usually preferred to stay out of politics.

Israel’s government is divided over how to react to the BDS campaign. The finance ministry has temporarily shelved a report it said it would publish on the possible consequences of BDS. But Israel’s press and ministerial addresses are increasingly full of worried references to it.

Some Israelis argue that this publicity merely feeds the BDS campaign, others that isolation has benefits. Israel’s position as a hotbed of hi-tech start-ups is due in part to decades of circumventing Arab boycotts. A French arms ban in the 1960s sparked the development of its weapons industry, helping to catapult Israel into fourth place in the world’s league of arms exporters. And if the West turns its back on Israel, there is, they say, the east. Relations with India have warmed of late, and those with China are getting closer. The economy minister, Naftali Bennett, a sceptic of the peace process, recently toured the Far East, saying he was bringing a “light to the gentiles” by way of Israeli business. But Mr Bennett is in a minority on BDS: his colleagues are a lot less sanguine.

See http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21595948-israels-politicians-sound-rattled-campaign-isolate-their-country (“Israel’s politicians sound rattled by the campaign to isolate their country”) (emphasis added)

This is what the regime of Netanyahu and his lackeys has wrought, which was predictable . . . and may get decidedly worse.

17 04 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

WORLD WAR III HAS BEGUN: JEWS ORDERED TO REGISTER IN EAST UKRAINE

Putin is Hitler

As Russia’s brutal dictator-for-life Putin’s aggression spreads from Georgia to Crimea to East Ukraine and beyond, one knew that it would be merely a matter of time before Jews were targeted. And now it is happening.

USA Today has reported:

Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to “register” with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Ukrainian and Israeli media.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website.

Donetsk is the site of an “anti-terrorist” operation by the Ukraine government, which has moved military columns into the region to force out militants who are demanding a referendum be held on joining Russia. The news was carried first by the Ukraine’s Donbass news agency.

The leaflets bore the name of Denis Pushilin, who identified himself as chairman of “Donetsk’s temporary government,” and were distributed near the Donetsk synagogue and other areas, according to the reports.

Pushilin acknowledged that fliers were distributed under his organization’s name in Donetsk but denied any connection to them, Ynet reported in Hebrew.

Emanuel Shechter, in Israel, told Ynet his friends in Donetsk sent him a copy of the leaflet through social media.

“They told me that masked men were waiting for Jewish people after the Passover eve prayer, handed them the flier and told them to obey its instructions,” he said.

The leaflet begins, “Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,” and states that all people of Jewish descent over 16 years old must report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and “register.”

It says the reason is because the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta, a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement that fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, “and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk,” a name adopted by the militant leadership.

The leaflet then described which documents Jews should provide: “ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.”

Consequences for non-compliance will result in citizenship being revoked “and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property.” A registration fee of $50 would be required, it said.

Olga Reznikova, 32, a Jewish resident of Donetsk, told Ynet she never experienced anti-Semitism in the city until she saw this leaflet.

“We don’t know if these notifications were distributed by pro-Russian activists or someone else, but it’s serious that it exists,” she said. “The text reminds of the fascists in 1941,” she said referring to the Nazis who occupied Ukraine during World War II.

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, the oldest pro-Israel group in the USA, said the leaflets should be seen in the context of a rising tide of anti-Semitism across Europe and the world, and that it should prompt a strong response from the White House.

“This is a frightening new development in the anti-Jewish movement that is gaining traction around the world,” Klein said.

Michael Salberg, director of the international affairs at the New York City-based Anti-Defamation League, said it’s unclear whether the leaflets were issued by the pro-Russian leadership or a splinter group operating within the pro-Russian camp.

But the Russian side has used the specter of anti-Semitism in a cynical manner since anti-government protests began in Kiev that resulted in the ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Russian former president Viktor Yanukovych. Russia and its allies in Ukraine issued multiple stories about the the threat posed to Jews by Ukraine’s new pro-Western government in Kiev, Salberg said.

Those stories were based in part on ultra-nationalists who joined the Maidan protests, and the inclusion of the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party in Ukraine’s new interim government. But the threat turned out to be false, he said.

Svoboda’s leadership needs to be monitored, but so far it has refrained from anti-Semitic statements since joining the government, he said. And the prevalence of anti-Semitic acts has not changed since before the Maidan protests, according to the ADL and the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, which monitors human rights in Ukraine.

Distributing such leaflets is a recruitment tool to appeal to the xenophobic fears of the majority, “to enlist them to your cause and focus on a common enemy, the Jews,” Salberg said.

And by targeting Donetsk’s Jews, they also send a message to all the region’s residents, Salberg said.

“The message is a message to all the people that is we’re going to exert our power over you,” he said. “Jews are the default scapegoat throughout history for despots to send a message to the general public: Don’t step out of line.”

See http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/04/17/jews-ordered-to-register-in-east-ukraine/7816951/; see also http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4510688,00.html

Crimea and Ukraine must become Putin’s abyss, or far far worse. He is a malignancy that must be excoriated. He needs to share the fate of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, now.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/#comment-4467 (“THE END OF PUTIN IS DRAWING NEAR”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/#comment-4448 (“WORLD WAR III”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/#comment-4452 (“Decimating Putin: America’s Financial Neutron Bomb”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/#comment-4010 (“Putin Must Be Terminated”)

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