Grumpy Reflections on Israel's Descent into Madness

Jeffery Goldberg of The Atlantic is a respected and well-connected American commentator on U.S.-Israel affairs and regional issues such as the nuclear deal with Iran. His access to top Administration officials like President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry is among the best in the business.

When he wrote a few months ago that a senior Administration official had described Benjamin Netanyahu as “chickenshit,” it caused gigantic waves in both Washington and Jerusalem. People in the know take Goldberg seriously.

So what is one to make of his latest effort, which propels the Iranian regime’s attitudes to Jews and Israel into the forefront of the ongoing debate (or virtual war) over getting the nuclear deal through Congress? continue reading…

No less shocking than the deaths of an 18-month-old Palestinian baby and a 16-year-old Jewish girl over the weekend, is the blatant dishonesty of the responses to their killings, from the president and prime minister on down.

“Flames of violence have engulfed our country,” said President Rivlin after an ultra-Orthodox man stabbed six participants in a Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, one of whom later died of her injuries. “Flames which permit bloodshed in the name of the Torah, in the name of the law, in the name of morality, in the name of a love for the land of Israel.”

“Their path is not my path,” the good president added. “Their path is not our path. Their path is not the path of the State of Israel and it is not the path of the Jewish people.” continue reading…

Let’s take Bibi Netanyahu at his word for a moment. Let’s assume that he genuinely believes Iran is hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons and that those weapons really do pose an imminent and existential threat to the survival of Israel.

This week, that threat was removed – or, at the very least, put out of the reach of the Iranians for a very long time. The four most powerful military-economic blocs on earth – the United States, the European Union, Russia and China – reached an agreement with Iran which, as Barak Ravid of Haaretz put it, will “put Iran’s nuclear program in deep freeze for the next 10 years, force parts of it into regression, and leave restrictions on it for a generation.”

The negotiators spent close to two years on the minute details of denuclearizing Iran and concomitantly lifting sanctions. But, important as those details are, they are not the clincher. continue reading…

Dear World

With the UN Human Rights Council having released yet another damning report this week on Israel’s conduct in Gaza, perhaps the time has come for some simple truths?

The first is that Israel is not going to change. It doesn’t want to change, it has no imperative to change and the strength of the settlement lobby is such that it is unable to change. Israel intends holding on to the occupied territories, building settlements and blockading Gaza until we’re all dead or the Messiah makes his entrance, whichever comes first..

The second truth is that there is no internal or regional force – political, diplomatic, military, ethical or whatever – that can force, cajole or persuade Israel to change direction. Anyone expecting change to come from either the Israelis or the Palestinians is deluded.

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In America, another nine people are dead due to the bizarre but widespread belief that instruments of death are in fact instruments of freedom and life. According to the twisted logic of the National Rifle Association, more guns and more public sight of them would have prevented the Charleston church massacre.

It is clear to anyone with even half a primate brain (but living outside America) that the problem is too many guns in too many hands. Underlying that – the real problem – is the grotesque logic of the NRA and its millions of supporters, which in turn is part of a wider, more profound flight from rationality in the U.S.

To put it simply, the most developed and most advantaged of countries is home to some of the most stupid thinking in the world. Stupidity that doesn’t derive from biological incompetence or lack of education, but from a willful denial of centuries of learning, discoveries and accumulated knowledge, dating back to the Enlightenment. continue reading…

There was something vaguely Stalinist about Bibi Netanyahu’s reaction to the drama in Zurich last week – not the arrest of a bunch of venal soccer officials of course (Israelis have a pretty laissez faire attitude when it comes to bribery,) but the last-minute compromise that averted a vote on whether Israel should be suspended from FIFA for restricting Palestinian soccer in the occupied territories.

“The last thing that we need to do is hang our heads and ask where we erred, where we went wrong,” Netanyahu told the cabinet on Sunday (as reported by Haaretz newspaper.) “We did not err, we did not do wrong. We are judged according to standards that no other democracy must face. We do not need to justify ourselves. We just need to say the truth.

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Currently on display in Jerusalem, the Netanyahu Paleontological Exhibition comprises 61 fossils from Israel’s distant past, reassembled with some intriguing deviations from standard bio-geological praxis and one or two highly dubious classifications.

Unfortunately, the Netanyahu collection lacks the usual exhibition notes that would make if a lot more accessible to the layman. Here, in the absence of formal notes, is a quick overview.

Since 1977 (the start of the Begin Epoch,) virtually every paleontological exhibition in Israel has been distinguished by a fly-by-night centrist organism, with the unique qualities of appearing suddenly, doing absolutely nothing and then disappearing just as suddenly. That role is played by the relatively recent (in paleontological terms) Kulanu in the new exhibition.

Kulanu is a simple but multi-celled organism, with only three of its estimated 10 cells having been identified so far – Kahlon, Galant and Oren. Other than having clear indications that the other cells exist, scientists are still in the dark as to their functions. continue reading…

The Israeli coalition government that is due to be sworn in over the next few days is a criminal enterprise.

Its creation was the result of a criminal conspiracy to defraud the public by allocating vast sums of public funds to the coalition’s member parties for distribution to pet projects, as they see fit. Those projects benefit only two of the country’s many population groups – ultra-Orthodox Jews and the settlers.

Such allocations contradict an opinion by the Justice Ministry last February that party-specific funding is both unethical and illegal, because it creates a relationship of dependency between the distributing party and the recipient, leading invariably to corruption.

Such was the case with the Yisrael Beiteinu Party of former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, which is currently under investigation for large-scale graft. continue reading…

Over the past few weeks, as Benjamin Netanyahu has been cobbling together his coalition government, a series of unrelated events has highlighted the true substance of the country that the fourth reincarnation of Netanyahu will be leading, at the head of a reshuffled pack of the same old faces.

It is a nation incapacitated by decades of fear-mongering and brainwashing.

Holocaust Remembrance Day and Memorial Day were sad and somber affairs, as befits the memory of the fallen. They were also artificial and stage-managed spectacles – as befits a country in which memory and commemoration are political tools.

Far be it for Israelis to be left to mourn and commemorate as they see fit. Mourning in Israel is the prerogative of the state, which manipulates such occasions to deliver blunt, emotion-sodden messages. continue reading…

The results from last week’s Knesset election show a country that is virtually evenly split between center-right and center-left (the center-right has a very slight margin,) with the balance of power held by two religious parties. The latter are politically and socially conservative but primarily focused on their own communal interests. If they join Prime Minister Netanyahu’s next coalition, as they are likely to do, the governing center-right-religious bloc will have a majority of some 56%. It will have even more if Yesh Atid, a vaguely left-leaning center party, also joins the coalition.

The reality beneath the numbers is less clear-cut. While it is probably correct to say that the bulk of the center-right is united on the issue of a Palestinian state (they’re opposed to it,) there is no pro-Palestine state consensus on the center-left. Both Zionist Union and Yesh Atid have been nebulous when it comes to the Palestinians, preferring hackneyed and imprecise statements (e.g. “Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital”) to taking a clear stand. It’s probably fair to assume that close to half of the center-left voters do not accept the internationally-defined basis of an agreement with the Palestinians (’67 borders with land swaps, Jerusalem as the capital of both states etc.,) meaning that only a quarter of Israeli voters actually support the establishment of a Palestinian state. continue reading…