April 11, 2019

Dayenu - The Moon

Tonight was a Dayenu moment for Israel - "if we had come so close to the moon but not landed, it would have been enough for us."
Enough for the world's tiniest pinprick of a state, just 70 years in existence and stretched to the limit of its resources just to live out each week surrounded by mortal enemies. What a stunning achievement to get within meters of a lunar landing.
We wouldn't be surprised if at this moment they were giving out candies in Ramallah just as they did with the death of shuttle astronaut Ilan Ramon. Alas, this is what our brothers and sisters have to live with.
But whether it's a World Cup qualifier, or Eurovision, or this moonshot - these are precious moments when the whole country huddles together in bars and town squares holding their breath in anticipation of a moment of national triumph. One big family, rooting for its own.
The sight of that white-bearded Charedi in the control room was really special. So many of them and their womenfolk serve in ways you don't hear about. When you wake up in the middle of the night in your Israeli hotel room and worry about being in the cross-hairs of Iran and our other enemies and wonder who is watching the skies, it's as likely as not that the girl watching the satellite feed is wearing a sheitel.
We are one big family with one unique history of 5,000 years. And our best years are still ahead.
Am Yisrael Chai - Lanetzach !

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April 10, 2019

He fought them on the beaches .....

Where else but Israel would you find a sitting prime minister going down to the beach on election day to tell bathers to get dressed and vote?
Bibi Netanyahu’s blitz on Netanya yesterday tells you all you need to know about the man. He does not accept no for an answer and will always seize the very last chance and opportunity to stop or reverse something he feels is a clear and present danger to the people and state of Israel.
It's that true grit that took him to the US Congress to defy Obama’s sellout to Iran. It’s what took him to Moscow so many times, even after the disastrous downing of that Russian airplane for which all of Putin’s military brass openly blamed Israel. That’s what took him to previously hostile countries to try and build alliances that seemed impossible just 5 years ago. And that’s what took him down to Netanya beach on election day.
After four terms as prime minister of the world’s most talked-about country, Netanyahu could easily retire with enough book deals and lecture fees to pay for a small submarine. But he feels passionately that with Trump in the White House for another two or six years, he is uniquely placed to take advantage of the most special relationship that’s ever existed between the Oval Office and Jerusalem.
In just over two years of Trump’s tenure we have seen the US embassy opened in Jerusalem, recognition of our sovereignty over the Golan Heights, massive sanctions on Iran and cuts in funding to UN and Arab entities engaged in discrimination against Israel and the propagation of incitement and boycotts. There is still plenty of work to do.
Let’s hope the final results put a better shine on the Right. And let’s hope than Bennett & Shaked pass the threshold with the help of IDF votes.

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April 08, 2019

Chevra – Don’t Throw Away Your Trump Card !

I have this movie playing in my head. 

It’s set in a parallel Israel where Olmert actually gave back the Golan to Syria and divided Jerusalem back in 2008 as part of his much vaunted ‘67-borders offer to Abbas.

Fast-forward 10 years and, in my movie, the new US President Trump is chatting to Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Oval Office. “Hey Bibi,” he says. “Shame your guys gave away Jerusalem and the Golan. I’d have let you keep both.”

As an orthodox Jew and religious Zionist, I truly believe that the Almighty has protected Israel from the folly of its leaders. The lesson is that we must hold on tightly to what we’ve got - to all the homelands that we have been blessed enough to liberate and for which brave soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice and for whom their families still grieve.

Remember when Obama shunned Bibi and Barak at that first meeting in his White House? How he left them in a room saying he was off to dinner with his family but to call him if they came up with any ideas (to dismember parts of Eretz Yisrael)?  And how they had to leave by the back door, denied any photo-ops on Obama’s orders? 

I remember that horrible evening. Bibi was not to know that this ‘Ice Age’ would wind up as a two-term presidency. And how it would end with a $150bn lifeline to Iran and Obama kicking Israel under a bus at the UN in his final days of office.

But still, Bibi Netanyahu steered the Israeli ship of state though those stormy seas so that we lived to see the benevolence of the Trump era with our territory intact. Nothing given away. And stronger economically and militarily than ever before.

So, I appeal to Israelis – don’t throw away your Trump card tomorrow.

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April 07, 2019

It's the voters, stupid !

The Sunday Times revelations about the cover-up and tolerance of anti-Semites in Corbyn's Labour Party should come as no surprise to anyone in Britain, least of all its tiny Jewish community of some 220,000 souls.
For over a year there's hardly been a week in which some ugly story of Jew-hating or Jew-baiting hasn't been reported in the press. Nobody can be in any doubt about what is going in Labour.

Jews have seen the likes of Corbyn come and go in every generation and we will be expressing that very truism two weeks from now at our Seder tables. 
But we British Jews need to zoom out and take in the bigger picture - the much more worrying picture.

That is the bitter reality that this toxic party and its hateful and discredited leader is still consistently ranking level with the Conservatives in current election polling. 4 of the 6 most recent polls had them tied or within the margin of error. The Daily Mail's Deltapoll at the end of last month gave Corbyn's party a lead of 5 percent !

This should tell us a lot more about the great British public than it tells us about Corbyn & Co. 

So, when we do sit down to Seder this year, there will hopefully be more meaning to 'Next Year in Jerusalem'.

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April 02, 2019

It Has To Be Bibi

Whatever your party preference in the upcoming Israeli election, there is no denying that Bibi Netanyahu is one of the most experienced and formidable leaders on the world stage today. 
Elected three times and now approaching a record-breaking 10th year in office it’s hard to name a world leader that comes anywhere close in terms of eloquence, charisma, political savvy and the courage to speak truth to power. Against the advice of what Menachem Begin used to famously deride as ‘Jews with trembling knees’ Netanyahu went to Washington to oppose Obama’s capitulation to Iran and got no less than 26 standing ovations in the US Congress for his trouble.

Now, seriously - can you visualize Gantz doing that?

Benny Gantz deserves our respect and admiration as a fighter and leader of the IDF, but as a prime minister he is way out of his league. It’s not as if we’ve had much success with military brass in the prime minister’s chair. Yitzchak Rabin was totally out of his depth when dragged into the Oslo disaster by the politically savvy Peres, whom he famously called an ‘inveterate schemer’. Then there was Ehud Barak, who in a term of less than two years had offered 97 percent of the West Bank to a terrorist organisation and surrendered South Lebanon to Hezbollah.  And it’s Ariel Sharon we have to thank for the fiasco in Gaza that torments Israelis until today.

How could such great generals fail in this way?  Simply because the army is a hierarchical system which is totally antithetical to Knesset politics. Gantz was used to waking up in the morning knowing that he had a general staff, brigades and divisions at his beck and call.  By contrast Bibi is used to waking up to find that his coalition partner has walked out and left his government hanging by a thread. Gantz is used to being saluted and obeyed by his staff who know their place, whilst Bibi has to deal with heavyweights like Avigdor Liberman and artful dodgers like Arye Deri who will seize on any weakness to further their own agendas. Working 18-hour days on the knife-edge of coalition politics is what put the steel into the leader that now stands for his fourth term.

And it’s that same mettle that you see deployed against the corruption allegations brought against Netanyahu. Putting aside the pettiness of cigars, champagne and media favours, the most serious case being talked about is the submarine affair in which even the police and justice departments admit Bibi has absolutely nothing to answer for. But then we have seen so many of these political corruption cases make a big noise and then quietly fizzle out. Remember the 7-year persecution of Liberman which came to nothing?  Worst of all are the incessant police leaks which totally discredit the justice system.

And consider how soldier Sharon responded to his own scandals as compared to politician Bibi.  The Cyril Kern Affair and the Greek Island Affair both rocked the Sharon family, but the left-wing media gave them a pass – saying that they had to “protect Sharon like an etrog” so long as he would make good on the Gaza disengagement and evict 8,000 Jews from their homes. For Bibi Netanyahu it would seem the Lahav 433 police unit is chickenfeed compared to the cut and thrust of coalition politics and he has been saying consistently: bring them on!

In spite of all this, many are saying: we’re tired of Bibi – it’s time for a change already!  I would invite such people to look around the world and be careful what they wish for. Obama came offering ‘hope and change’ and what did he deliver?  In France they wanted an anti-Sarkozy and first got a doddering Hollande and now a feckless Macron. In Canada they threw out the great Stephen Harper and got landed with Trudeau, an airhead with false eyebrows.

Israel is truly privileged to have one of the world’s most formidable and experienced leaders at its helm and there’s nothing that counts for more in this world than experience. His stature has grown in Africa, Asia, South America and now amongst Arab leaders. Look at the body language in meetings with Putin on really tough issues affecting their vital national interests.  Moreover, Bibi has had to deal with three US presidents and, in the process, some very awkward Secretaries of State. 

He now has a unique relationship with President Trump, his first family and a dream team of Bolton, Pompeo, Greenblatt and Friedman.  If there’s anything worthy of protecting like an etrog it’s exactly this status quo.

So - come April 9th  - voters should be very wary of throwing out Bibi with the bathwater.

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