Purim, Politics and the Plague of Coronavirus

Shalom all.

It’s a holiday in Israel, starting tonight. It is the Festival of Purim. Time to take a bit of a break from double-Excedrin headache politics, even though politics doesn’t want to leave us alone. Three former army generals, two of whom made public statements about not being in a government with those who want to see the elimination of the State of Israel, are now willing to ignore what they said and join hands with the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties, some of whose members openly praise terrorists and want to see the elimination of the State of Israel. 

Hey, it’s Purim – a joyful, Biblical festival that commemorates and celebrates God’s intervention and salvation of the Jewish people, who were taken into exile in Persia (the Biblical name of what is now Iran). It is the story told in the Scroll of Esther and reveals God’s working behind the scenes to save the Jewish exiles from a ruthless enemy, who sought to annihilate us (so, what has changed over the last 2,500 years?). But, the holiday today is marred by the outbreak of the coronavirus, which Israel is now referring to as the Plague of Corona.

As of this writing, we have 42 cases of people who tested coronavirus positive. The Israel Ministry of Health has issued a number of guidelines and restrictions, each new one a little more stringent than the preceding one. Tourism has been seriously affected. Airlines have cancelled or limited flights to and from different countries, creating financial crises said to be unparalleled in our short history. The Tel Aviv stock exchange experienced a sharp decline, particularly energy and tourism shares. The IDF has imposed travel restrictions on its personnel and is setting up field hospitals to accommodate soldiers who returned to Israel, who were exposed to the virus while abroad. Passengers on a bus cannot sit in the seat immediately behind the driver and no one is allowed to stand on a bus. If there are no more seats, passengers will not be allowed to get into the bus. 

Only a few minutes prior to the writing of this post, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that all Israelis returning from abroad will need to be quarantined for 14 days. Starting this Thursday, non-Israelis who were in “affected” countries during the last 14 days will have to prove that they are able to self-quarantine, otherwise they will be denied entry. The consequences of such a declaration are far-reaching and unprecedented. It is estimated that some 300,000 people will need to be quarantined. How will such an enormous task be carried out? How will it be enforced? How will it impact on an economy that is already beginning to feel the effects of a slowly increasing awareness of a potential national health crisis? Will the people accept or reject increasing governmental restrictions due to the virus? Will fear over being “exposed” to the virus and the possibility of quarantine cause increased panic buying? 

These and other questions do not have easy answers and we’ll have to see how things are played out. In the meantime, Israel is third highest coronavirus testing countries in the world, surpassed only by South Korea and Italy. Lowest on the list appearing on the data website Worldometer is the United States. Along with the high rate of testing, Israeli medical scientists are working diligently to try to come up with an appropriate remedy.

Oh yeah, we need to remember that we are now at the start of the joyful festival of Purim. It doesn’t matter that the coronavirus has caused public celebrations to be cancelled throughout most of the country. It doesn’t matter that we are told not to congregate in places that have more than 500 people. It doesn’t matter that we are cautioned not to shake hands with anyone, but to keep them almost sterilized. It’s a time to celebrate, as we remember what God has done for us in the past and to recognize that He is more than able to do the same for us today. He helped us to overcome Pharaoh, He can help us to overcome the Hamans of today, whether they are external, dwell among us, or both. 

It’s Purim. Read, remember, rejoice.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Marvin

Win Some, Lose Some – Balancing Power Politics

Shalom all.

With the major focus these days being on the spread of the Coronavirus in Israel and elsewhere, the political establishment continues to play its games of power politics. Does it matter that people are testing positive to the virus, or that multitudes are being quarantined, or that the economy here is facing a potential major crisis? Yes and no. Yes, it matters. But, no, it is not a priority. The only thing that is important for politicians is how to undo what the voice of the people determined in a democratic election. 

How can a small political party, that has only seven seats out of a parliament of one hundred and twenty, determine who can be or will be the Prime Minister of Israel? The question almost boggles the mind, when it has been asked in each of the last three elections here. And the answer is that it is always the same party, headed by the same person, who has come to be labeled as the king maker of Israeli politics.

Well, it didn’t take long for Avigdor Lieberman, the head of the Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) Party to follow up his endorsement of the proposed legislation to set a term limit for the Prime Minister and to curtail a P.M.’s ability to form a government if he is under indictment. That endorsement was like a re-invigorating shot in the arm for Benny Gantz and his Blue and White Party, as well as for the leftist conglomerate of parties. This morning, Sunday, Lieberman blew wind to his sails as he came out with his five basic terms for joining the next coalition government that he would support Gantz to head up.

The points: (1) minimum income, based on the minimum wage, for pensioners living on supported income and old-age pension; (2) transferring to local governments authority regarding public transportation and operation of businesses on Shabbat; (3) completing the passage of the Draft Law that passed its first reading in mid-2018, that would, in part, cancel exemptions of Yeshiva students, set recruitment targets and impose economic sanctions on Yeshivot that don’t meet those targets; (4) passage of a law allowing for civil marriage [yes, there is no legitimate civil marriage possibility in Israel and such ceremonies can only be performed abroad and then can be registered here]; (5) changing the laws relating to conversion, allowing local rabbis to carry them out [instead of the orthodox, religious establishment]. These are starting points, not final ones.

Within the space of a few short hours, Gantz accepted Lieberman’s conditions, saying: “Agreed. We must move forward.” But, in the language of politics, “moving forward” often means moving backwards, attempting to undo what has been done and to negate the voice of the people that was expressed in the elections that took place last week. So, if Lieberman’s assistance will help to push Gantz over the threshhold to enable him to get the nod from the President to form a government, then one must ask whether Gantz is the one who will really be in charge, or whether the strings of the country will be pulled and manipulated in the background by Lieberman.

What is it that motivates Lieberman, who was once a close associate of Netanyahu, to pull out all the stops to unseat the Prime Minister? According to a report in the Times of Israel, Lieberman claims that Netanyahu was responsible for multiple complaints filed against him and his family with police, prosecutors and tax authorities. Some of the “complaints” were made anonymously while others were said to be made by persons close to Netanyahu. Lieberman was quoted as saying: “It’s clear to me that behind this move are Netanyahu and his lawyer ….”, adding that efforts were made to dig up dirt on him. “By my code this is a sin for which there is no forgiveness, even on Yom Kippur” (i.e., the Jewish Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar). “They should stop sending messengers to me on behalf of Likud — the thought that I will sit with Netanyahu is a fantasy with no chances.” Obviously, the Likud denied any validity to Lieberman’s claim.

For a secularist, Lieberman’s reference to Yom Kippur and saying that Netanyahu cannot be forgiven of his sins against Lieberman, is nothing short of hypocritical. Even though there are some differences in political ideologies between Lieberman and Netanyahu, Lieberman’s own statements reveal that his primary reason for opposing Netanyahu is personal, not political. For him, “The most important thing right now is to ensure [Blue and White party chief Benny] Gantz gets the mandate [to form a government].” 

How exactly Gantz, with Lieberman’s help, is planning to set up a government without the help of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties remains to be seen. But, as we have seen time and time again, politics makes for strange bedfellows. Still, the possibility of getting support from the Joint List has generated opposition within the ranks of Gantz’s Blue and White Party.

The world continues to turn and power politics of misaligned players continue to try to overturn, while the Coronavirus continues to spread in its not so petty pace from day to day and impacts more and more of our population and our national life. National health should take precedence over national prominence. Our priority should be the welfare of the population, not the whims of the political establishment. We are a first-world nation with a third-world mentality. Hatred will not bring about healing. We need an injection of common sense and a spirit of camaraderie. With God, nothing is impossible.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Marvin

The Election is Over, But No One is Smiling

“Still, he has pledged that there will not be a fourth election, although the reasons for making such a statement are anything but clear. He has, however, said that there will be “surprises”, which is not a word that is looked upon favorably in political circles. Lieberman has consistently vowed that he would not help form a government that is dependent upon religious parties (right) or the support of the Joint List of Arab partiers (left). He cannot now back-track on either position, as it would spell political doom for his party and, possibly, for him personally. So, what are the surprises? We’ll have to wait and see.” (TWTW-2 March, 2020)

The statements of Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) Party were made prior to last week’s election, the third in less than a year. When the election was over, his party received seven, presently unaligned Knesset seats, allowing him, once again, to become the king maker of Israeli politics. Only three days after the election was over, after the people of Israel made their voices heard, efforts were underway to undermine the voice of the people, as well as to jeopardize Israel’s democracy and, potentially, its security. 

The results of the election, left, right and center-left:

33 – Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) 55 – Center Left – Gantz 58 – Right – Netanyahu 36 – Likud
15 – Joint List (of Arab Parties) 9 – Shas (Orthodox)
7 – Labor-Gesher-Meretz 7 – United Torah Judaism (UTJ)
6 – Yamina (Religious-Secular Right)
7 –  Yisrael Beiteinu

Lieberman ??? Unaligned

And the surprise is now out of the bag. Lieberman’s party made the following statement this past Thursday: “At the recently ended faction meeting, [the party] decided to promote two laws. The first law proposes a term limit for the prime minister. The second law prevents an indicted MK from forming a government.” The significance of those decisions should not be missed. It would now appear that Lieberman is no longer sitting on the sidelines, but is actively taking sides in the political battle that continues to rage after the votes are in.

The proposed legislation, which can only be submitted for consideration after the new Knesset is sworn in, is alleged to be the brain child of the Blue and White Party, together with the two left parties, Labor-Gesher-Meretz and the Joint List. But, if so, then the “surprises” promised by Lieberman are still to be revealed. It is reasonable to presume this legislation is what Lieberman had in mind, but that it needed to be submitted by Gantz et al. in order for it not to be considered the personal vendetta of Lieberman against Netanyahu. It is still on the drawing board, but can become potential draft legislation in less than two weeks. 

But, getting the bill passed is another story and will require Gantz to become the favorite son of the soon-to-be-sworn-in politicos, then to have his chosen nominee to replace the present Speaker of the Knesset, both of which would necessitate his getting the full support of the Joint List, which is somewhat disjointed at the moment, if the three members of the Balad party in the Joint List continue to refuse to sit in a government with Gantz, whom they referred to as “racist”. That would leave the Gantz bloc of center-left and left parties with 59 potential seats, as opposed to the Netanyahu-right bloc of 58. Such a situation would again require Israel President, Reuven Rivlin, to use his discretion to determine which of the two major candidates should be given the opportunity to form a new government. Still, 59 seats would still give the Gantz bloc a potential majority in any vote in the Knesset. 

Gantz and Lieberman are determined to unseat Netanyahu. Up until now, they have not succeeded. Netanyahu is determined not to be removed by political rivals. If he will not continue to be the Prime Minister, it will be either by his own choice or by decision of the legal system.

As noted, the seven votes of Lieberman’s party, if thrown in with the Blue and White bloc, will end his fence straddling and mark his taking sides in the on-going saga and concerted efforts to unseat Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister, who originally had Lieberman’s support some two plus decades ago.

It should be noted that the proposed legislation is intended to become effective only after the “next” election, not this one. If it is so presented and passed, it could withstand a court challenge to its validity, while also constituting a legal obstacle to Netanyahu running in a fourth election – if, God forbid, a compromise is not reached soon and a fourth round becomes inevitable. At present, there is still the political stalemate. The possibility of setting up a minority government still exists, but is not the best-case scenario by any stretch of the imagination.

Enter The Coronavirus

With the spread of the Coronavirus. and its entry into Israel and the possibility of facing an unprecedented health crisis in Israel, one that looms large on the horizon despite efforts being made to curtail it, the politicians will be forced to deal with multitudes of our population being in forced isolation and with the potential nightmares facing the economy. It’s time to put personal animosities aside and make every effort to work together for the sake of the nation as a whole. The people have a long memory and if we are severely affected by stubborn political figures, whose pride and self-interest take priority over the needs of the people, they will be held accountable, in the days to come or at the next visit to the polling stations. May wisdom and compassion move them to work together.

Have a great week.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Marvin

So, who won the election?

Shalom all.

Well, this really IS the land of miracles. And miracles amaze us. Even the media moguls from all sides of the political spectrum were amazed. Why? Because Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving  Prime Minister, is again the front-runner to try to get the nod to set up the next government – for the third time in less than a year. Will he succeed the third time around after failing to succeed the first two times? He is definitely closer to making it happen this time than he was the last two times.

We are definitely a democratic country, with democratic institutions and democratically elected officials. It seems that everyone wanted to vote this time around and all of the final votes won’t be in for another day or two. How else could we explain an election victory for a serving Prime Minister who in two weeks time will be the defendant in a criminal trial where he is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate matters? The results of yesterday’s election was a vote of confidence for a right-wing government. But, yesterday’s numbers left Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the rightist bloc two votes short of a majority. So, although he once again pulled a rabbit out of a non-existing hat, Netanyahu still has his work cut out for him. And as for the criminal trial, the legal system has no choice but to treat him as innocent until proven guilty. 

The consequences of choosing a right-wing government will undoubtedly give impetus to the efforts to curtail the power of the Israeli Supreme Court. It is also a message sent to the government that the people, at least those who will enable such a government to be formed, are in favor of establishing sovereignty in Judea and Samaria (what the world refers to as “the West Bank”). It is on the drawing board, but will not be given serious consideration, or consideration at all, if the needed additional Knesset seats are not found at the bottom of Netanyahu’s hat.

But, as the saying goes: “It ain’t over until it’s over.” And it certainly isn’t over. This morning, the right-wing bloc woke up to 59 out of a needed 61 mandates (seats in the Knesset) for a majority. Along with the unexpected, but nevertheless clear, victory for Netanyahu over Blue and White Party’s Benny Gantz, the Joint List of Arab Parties became the third largest political party, garnering 15 seats and making its mark on the political landscape of Israel. More on that for a later post. As of this writing, with some 97% of the votes counted, the rightist bloc lost one seat (from the Likud Party), dropping its total to 58 and the Joint List gained another seat, giving it a total of 16. Netanyahu needs 3 more seats and he needs to get them from the camps of those who fought tooth and nail to unseat him. He will need all of his experience in negotiation to approach political rivals and attempt to turn enemyship into friendship. All of the political contenders are aware of the fact that Netanyahu will have to make it to the finish line, if we the nation is to avoid a fourth round of very costly elections.

Defection from the Center-Left camp, if it comes, will not come cheaply. Position and power will be the starting price and ideological compromise may follow in its wake. Netanyahu needs to come up with his own “Deal of the Century” in order to make it happen.

There are still some three percent of the votes that need to be counted. So far, Netanyahu is still holding the reins of government, even though it is an interim government. He needs to solidify his position before his trial starts in two weeks. Three times the people of Israel have given him a victory at the polls, although an incomplete victory. God forbid that we would have to go through this a fourth time, as there is absolutely no reason to think that the results would be different from what they were up until now. This is the time for the members of the “other” political parties to do some soul-searching and consider making some compromises of their own for the sake of the nation as a whole. We can’t act properly as a nation if we don’t have a functioning government.

Despite it all, the sun will come out tomorrow. “After all … tomorrow is another day.” (Scarlett O’Hara, in “Gone With the Wind”).

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Prov. 16:7) How much more would this be true of a nation, our nation?

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

It’s Election Day in Israel … Again!

Shalom all.

Some of you may recall or be familiar with the lines from the song “Both Sides Now” (Joni Mitchell, 1966): I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down and still somehow, it’s cloud’s illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds at all“.  Having undergone two cataract operations in the last few weeks, I can definitely relate to seeing “clouds” from both sides, from up and down, and illusions flowing from seeing people like trees walking. Maybe the fuzziness and haze that continued for about a week in each eye helped to avoid my reading all the nonsense that was published in the tabloids about the political rivalries leading up to Israel’s election today. 

Yes, the rumours are true. Israel is having national elections today, for the third time in less than a year. In a few hours time, reporters will be scrambling to put out a story about the election and write about the “anticipated” and “unexpected” results. Eleven months ago, neither of the front-runners – Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu of the Likud Party and retired army General, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party – was able to gain a majority of 61 seats and, therefore, neither one was able to form a government, in line with the way things work here.

Accusations continued to fly across the political spectrum, with finger pointing and accusations of wrong-doing on “the other side”. It is the way of politics, oftentimes focusing more on the dirt of the opponent than on the merits of one pointing the finger.

תנועה
Shlomo Cohen, appearing in Israel Hayom Newspaper     2 March, 2020

The public is tired, frustrated and even angry that we are in round three of elections, with a tinge of anxiety that we may possibly be in for round four.

 

Unless there is a major shift in the party faithful (for whatever party it may be), it is not “expected” that the results of round three will be significantly different from the outcomes of rounds one and two. But, then again, this IS the land of miracles. So, we’ll soon know.

Notwithstanding that two weeks after the election Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be facing the beginning of a criminal trial on charges of alleged bribery, fraud and breach of public trust, he remains confident that the voting public will give him another vote of confidence and allow him to remain Prime Minister, a position that he now holds longer than any P.M. who preceded him.

Benny Gantz is hoping for a large voter turnout, similar to what happened in September, when his supporters turned out in greater numbers than the supporters of Netanyahu. A significant voter turnout will undoubtedly shift the scales of the results one way or another.  Gantz has contended that it would be improper for an indicted Prime Minister to form a new government, a move which would weaken democratic institutions and undermine public confidence in the legal system that would allow this to happen.

And then, there is Avigdor Lieberman, the head of the Yisrael Beytenu (“Israel Home”) Party, who had been referred to as the “king pin” in the last two elections, who could have helped Netanyahu to form a right-wing government. Lieberman is the one blamed for the ongoing political crisis. He was the former Minister of Defense under Netanyahu, who resigned following a major flare-up with the Hamas terror organization two years back. The seats that his party won could have supported Netanyahu or Gantz, but he withheld endorsing either of them because of ideological conflicts. Still, he has pledged that there will not be a fourth election, although the reasons for making such a statement are anything but clear. He has, however, said that there will be “surprises”, which is not a word that is looked upon favorably in political circles. Lieberman has consistently vowed that he would not help form a government that is dependent upon religious parties (right) or the support of the Joint List of Arab partiers (left). He cannot now back-track on either position, as it would spell political doom for his party and, possibly, for him personally. So, what are the surprises? We’ll have to wait and see.

What are the possibilities that will emerge in the next few hours? 

1. Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz will succeed to garner enough votes to enable their respects politcal blocs to form a new government. And, in short order, after another few months of unsuccessful attempts to form a coalition government, we would be headed for a fourth round of elections. In such an event, Netanyahu would continue as the interim Prime Minister, while Gantz would be hard-pressed to go back on his campaign promise not to sit in a government with a Prime Minister under indictment. While not winning the election, Netanyahu will not have lost either. With the possibility of still another election in less than six months and a possible serious health crisis because of the coronavirus, Gantz would be pressed to compromise and fulfil one of his campaign slogans of putting the country first.

2. Netanyahu and the right-wing bloc (Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yamina Parties) could together generate enough votes to have a majority. But, he would probably face legal challenges that would cause the victory to be short-lived, unless he can somehow stymie the legal establishment and prevent his ouster.

3. Gantz and a left-wing coalition of parties (Blue and White, Labor, Gesher and Meretz) could gain the most votes, but not enough to form a majority government. Gantz might choose to form a minority government (fewer than 61 seats) without the Joint Arab List of Parties, whose existence will constantly be threatened by Likud and the right. However, this possibility would not appear very likely.

4. Blue and White (Gantz) become the largest party, short of a majority, but the need to form a government to avert another election will press Gantz to compromise with Netanyahu and for a unity government – not ideal for either of the front-runners, but workable. The open question would be whether Netanyahu can remain a member of the Knesset if he is convicted, or if the legal manoeuvring will allow him to keep his position until the next, regularly-scheduled election.

There are, of course, other possible outcomes. We’ve seen them happen in the past, notwithstanding campaign pledges and ideologies “etched in stone”. But, we are not yet at the point when the lion will lie down with the lamb. For now, we continue to pray for wisdom and for a resolution to the political stalemate that has caused our government to be in a holding pattern until one side runs out of gas or we’re given a clear runway for us to get back on track. With the polls set to close shortly, it may be a long night before we know whether we will wake up to another Groundhog Day.

‘Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ (Deuteronomy 1:13)

“Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll [a]in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his [c]countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:18-20)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

The “Deal of the Century”

Shalom all,

The long-awaited Peace Plan (“the Plan) of President Donald Trump was revealed this evening (7:00 p.m. Israel time). President Trump was accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as both men entered the hall and delivered their presentations to repeated applause and standing ovations. There was a lot of name recognition, position recognition and nation recognition, as part and parcel of the introductory and closing remarks of both President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During the course of his presentation, Trump stated to a very receptive audience: I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems.”  

The Plan itself is a multi-page document, which is attached. It appears to be presented in the form of a business agreement, stating how each side would benefit from it and what are the requirements, particularly from the “Palestinian” side, to establishing statehood and receiving recognition and support from the United States. It contains territorial division maps and a lot of historical and social explanation, as well as what could pass for an economic business plan. The essential content and terms, referred to by both Trump and Netanyahu in their speeches, are to be found in different locations and some of them are expressed plainly. That does not mean that all that glitters is gold. In the rush to “make a deal”, we may not fully apprehend what are the short-term and long-term pitfalls that are hidden in the document.Trump’s Peace Plan

Trump expressed that it is the best plan that was ever presented in an attempt to bring about an end to the Israeli-“Palestinian” conflict. Netanyahu said he is willing to embrace it and enter into peace negotiations with the “Palestinians” on the basis of that Plan.

A lot was said, some points were laid out, others remain to be read, interpreted, argued over and worked out. The aspects of the plan that were expressed are clear. The written language will take some time to understand, to digest and, if accepted, to implement. Acceptance and implementation are the two problem areas. Opposition has already been expressed by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the President of the “Palestinian” Authority (P.A.), as well as by the leadership of Hamas. Within an hour of the conclusion of the Plan’s presentation, Abu Mazen said to his advisors: “I never pushed myself to die, but I am prepared to die for my nation.” Earlier, he said that “Jerusalem is not for sale, the conspiracy will fail.” In one of Israel’s Hebrew dailies today, Abu Mazen was quoted as saying that in the few remaining years of his life, he would not want to be considered a traitor. That is, he would not depart from the ways of his predecessors, who refused to come to terms with the State of Israel that would necessitate a recognition of it. He would rather die as a martyr than be remembered as a traitor. In typical fashion, his threats are like clouds without water. However, there is widespread outrage within the P.A. over the terms and conditions of the Plan, which was rejected by the P.A. long before the details were released. Demonstrations have already started in the streets of Gaza and Ramallah, and ambulances arrived at different places to treat some of those who were injured while taking part in the demonstrations. In addition, before the television broadcast was over, the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem issued a security alert and travel advisory.

The major points include some of the following, that is part of the proposed two-state resolution of the conflict:

1. Jerusalem will continue to be the undivided (emphasized by Trump) capital of the State of Israel;

2. Israel will agree to the establishment of a “Palestinian” state, whose capital will be in parts of East Jerusalem and whose area size will be approximately double its present size;

3. Establishment of the “Palestinian” state is conditioned on guarantees of security conditions for Israel;

4. The various parts of the “Palestinian” state will be connected by roads, bridges and tunnels;

5. The establishment of the “Palestinian” state is conditioned on the “Palestinians” ending their terrorist activities and taking steps towards self-government, including recognising man’s dignity and human rights, freedom of the press and setting up reliable institutions without corruption;

6. The Hamas terrorist organization is to be disarmed and Gaza is to be completely demilitarized. This is a non-starter, as the very basis of its existence is to eliminate the State of Israel;

7. The “Palestinian” refugee problem is to be resolved “outside the State of Israel”;

8. The P.A. is to cease brain-washing school children and teaching them to hate. This is like asking the leopard to change its spots;

9. All of the settlements in Judea and Samaria will be annexed by, and made part of, Israel;

10. Israel will freeze new, settlement construction for a period of four years, in exchange for the U.S. recognizing all of the settlements in Judea and Samaria;

11. The Jordan Valley will be annexed by Israel, giving the country complete security control west of the Jordan River. This will not sit well with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and could jeopardise the “peace treaty” that exists between Israel and Jordan;

12. Religious sites are to remain accessible to all faiths;

13. The status quo is to remain regarding the Temple Mount.

There are, of course, other aspects to the Plan, which will not be discussed at this time, including financial considerations that are intended to be beneficial to the “Palestinians”.

The Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza, one of Iran’s proxies, wasted no time in denouncing the Plan, calling it both “aggressive” and “nonsense”, adding: “The ‘Palestinians’ will confront this deal and Jerusalem will remain a ‘Palestinian’ land.” 

The Israeli cabinet will also meet this coming Sunday to vote on applying Israeli sovereignty over the settlements in Judea and Samaria.

There is no denying that President Trump’s presentation was very pro-Israel. This was clear when he stated, in part: “It is time for the Muslim world to correct the mistake they made in 1948 when they chose to attack and not recognize the State of Israel.” However, he took time to express concern for the “Palestinian” people and indicated that the Plan is designed to help them achieve their potential. The Plan and the way it was presented goes far to remove the incentive of the “Palestinians” to refuse its terms. But, as in the past, the likelihood is that the “Palestinians” will pull out all the stops to cause the Plan to fail. Somewhere along the line, there will be an attempt to twist what was offered to them into an accusation against Israel.

There is reaction to the Plan on the Israel side, as well. Some ministers object to the establishment of a terror state in the heart of the country and to the giving away of Israeli territory. One Member of Knesset said that the Plan is “light and darkness mixed up”.

When it was Netanyahu’s turn to speak, he was all smiles and thankful to Trump and everyone else who was involved in the preparation of the Plan. His presentation was overly “schmaltzy” (excessively complimentary) and he bent over backwards to say how much he was in favor of the Plan and would work to implement some of it immediately. His statement that he was willing to negotiate with the ‘Palestinians” on the basis of that Plan goes contrary to his earlier promises that a “Palestinian” state would not be established on his watch.

What is clear is that the “Deal of the Century” needs to be carefully studied and its implications fully understood. This will not be an easy task. In the final analysis, I am doubtful that the Plan in its present form will be fully acceptable to any of the parties involved. For Israel, there are dangers in allowing a “Palestinian” state, or any enemy state, to exist in its midst. A simple glance at the map of Israel and the proposed division should speak for itself. Some things are so evident that trying to make the obvious explicit will only confuse matters.

Then there is the aspect of Prime Minister Netanyahu being willing to give away what has been entrusted to the nation of Israel by the One who has established us as a people. (Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:7-8; Deut. 1:8). There will be a serious accounting for dividing God’s land (see Joel 3:2).

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7) If this is true on an individual level, how much more true would it be on a national level? Woe to us if our ways are NOT pleasing to the LORD. A piece of paper, however lengthy and detailed it may be, will not create the conditions for a lasting peace. Only a changed heart will accomplish that.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Seventy-five years ago…

Shalom all.

Seventy-five years ago, the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp was liberated. With each passing year, the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles. In a handful of years, there will be no more survivors. Our responsibility to the future: Remember the past and learn from it!

Last week, an impressive list of world leaders gathered at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, in Jerusalem, as part of the Fifth World Holocaust Forum. In addition to representatives from Israel, the participants included U.S. Vice-President, Mike Pence, and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prince Charles of Great Britain, French President Emmanuel Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and European Council President Charles Michelas, as well as the presidents of Bulgaria, Romania, Finland, Georgia, Cyprus and Bosnia and Herzegovina, just to name a few.

Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, spoke to the world leaders at a special reception and urged them to “stand united in the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and extremism, in defending democracy and democratic values. This is the call of our time. This is our challenge. This is our choice.” The words are inspiring and the encouragement is absolutely necessary. Is our generation able to learn from the past? Does it want to learn from the past? Or will we put our hands over our ears, our mouths and our eyes, symbolically saying we will “hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil”? When our hands are removed, will we again allow evil to reign supreme and continue to tear our world apart?

During the past year, so-called “hate crimes” have increased world-wide. Incidents of anti-semitism have become daily events. The historical record exists. The Holocaust happened. Six million Jews were killed as part of the Nazi plan to rid the world of all Jews. Amazingly, in our day, some still try to blame the Jew for every evil under the sun. And along with that, hatred increases, anti-Semitism increases, violence increases and there are widespread attempts to deny that the Holocaust happened. For others who acknowledge the Holocaust, there is an attempt to downplay the role that nations played in cooperating with the Nazis. Poland enacted laws making it a crime to accuse that country of active involvement in the murder of Jews during World War II. That created a political rift between Israel and Poland – a rift that still exists and is not easily healed. 

Nevertheless, at a ceremony at the notorious Auschwitz Concentration Camp marking the 75th anniversary of its liberation, Israeli President Rivlin made it very clear that while many Poles fought against the Nazis, it is also true that “many … aided in the murder of Jews.” Polish President Andrzej Duda also spoke, stating, in part: “Distorting the history of World War II, denying the crimes of genocide and the Holocaust as well as an instrumental use of Auschwitz to attain any given goal is tantamount to desecration of the memory of the victims whose ashes are scattered here…The truth about the Holocaust must not die.” He did not try to deny what happened, but he did try to avoid Poland’s responsibility for it, keeping with the present Polish narrative that the genocide against the Jewish people was “perpetrated here [in Poland] by the functionaries of the Nazi Third Reich”, which also targeted Poles, as well as Jews and others and that Poles were forced by the Nazis to carry out crimes against the Jews. 

Respectfully addressing the responsibility of Poland during the war, Rivlin appropriately said: “Nazi Germany was the one who initiated, planned and carried out the genocide of the Jewish people in Poland, as well as in other places, and it bears full responsibility for its actions … [adding] We also remember, in great horror, that it received significant aid in its murderous actions throughout all of Europe, and this too requires accepting responsibility.”

During my recent trip to Poland this past September, I was specifically asked whether I blieved that Poland also bore responsibility for the deaths of Jews during the Holocaust. When I answered “yes”, it generated a number of discussions and attempts by locals to negate that many Poles acted voluntarily and wilfully in aiding the Nazis. I mentioned, as a case in point, what the Poles did to the Jews in Jedwabne  including the incidents mentioned in the book “Neighbors“, which is also available on Amazon.

Speaking at the gathering at Yad Vashem last week, Germany’s President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier again publicly acknowledged Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust, stating, in part: “Germany’s historical responsibility will not expire…We want to live up to it — and you should judge us on it.” He added: “I wish I could say that we Germans have learned from our history once and for all, but I cannot say that when hatred is spreading…I stand before you and wish I could say that our remembrance has made us immune to evil…Yes, we Germans remember. But sometimes it seems as if we understand the past better than the present.” 

His admission and confession gave impetus to the historic apology yesterday (Sunday) of Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, on behalf of the Dutch government, saying “Too little protection. Too little help. Too little acknowledgement.” He was referring to Holland’s failure to protect her Jewish citizens from Nazi persecution. He added that officials of the Dutch government willingly carried out orders of the German occupiers and failed to act when “a group of fellow citizens was singled out, excluded, and dehumanized under a murderous regime.”

I am all in favor of apologies for wrongs committed. If one messes up in public, he should “fess up” in public. But, if the apology is not followed by action and behavior that gives meaning and significance to the apology, then it is nothing more than a verbal attempt at public appeasement. Countries and organizations have apologized for their actions and shortcomings towards the Jews, both during and after WWII. And now, we are seeing, and experiencing, an ugly re-emergence of Jew hatred and anti-Semitism (which never disappeared), even within the halls of different governments. Their mouths remain unchecked. Their behavior remains unpunished and their deadly poison continues to spread. How much is “enough”?  History is being perverted by individuals and organizations that deny the Holocaust, an effort that is “a vile assault on the memory of the six million Jews murdered by Nazi Germany and its accomplices, a depraved twisting of the anti-Semitic knife. We must be unstinting in our efforts to keep the memory of our lost relatives – and the historical record – alive.”

If you are offended by what appears in the social media, say so. But, first ask yourself why you are offended by it. If you are offended by gross distortions of facts by public officials, whose salaries are paid by the public, say so. If historical truth is important to you, say so. But, make the effort not to offend in return.

The classic text attributed to Martin Niemöller is still valid today:  

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: “If this fixed order departs from before Me”, declares the LORD, “then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever.” (Jeremiah 31:35-36)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin