Prime Minister Indicted?

The media in Israel is full of the news that the police have recommended to indict PM Netanyahu on bribery charges in two cases.  Note that these recommendations are not binding.  State Attorney General Mandelblit can ignore them, consider them and/or act on them as he sees fit.   The PM in his statement in response to the police recommendations emphasized this.  After more than a year of investigations the police decision is merely a recommendation, no more.

But, it is certainly embarrassing to Netanyahu that this is their decision.  He would certainly have preferred that they simply drop the cases.  However, sufficient evidence was discovered to proceed.  In Case 1000, also called “the gifts affair,” Netanyahu is accused of accepting bribes totalling ca. NIS 1 million in the form of cigars, jewellery and other luxury goods, from two businessmen, Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.  In exchange Netanyahu is accused of carrying out several actions to promote the business interests of these men.  One includes assisting Milchan to extend his visa to the US.

The other instance, Case 2000, involves alleged actions by Netanyahu to aid publisher Arnon Mozes that would have helped his newspaper Yediot Aharonot (latest news), against his main competitor Israel Hayom (Israel today), that supports Netanyahu.  Supposedly in exchange for better treatment in his newspaper, Netanyahu is supposed to have supported a bill to restrict the circulation of Israel Hayom, that is owned by his friend US billionaire Sheldon Adelson.  Netanyahu adamantly denies this charge.  In Case 3000, the so-called “submarine affair” Netanyahu was found not to be directly involved in any bribery.

Since these police recommendations do not have the force of law, actually nothing has happened yet to change the situation.  If Mandelblit does decide there is enough evidence to indict him then things will change significantly.  However, Netanyahu is correct when he points out that during his term in office there have been 15 recommendations brought against him by the police and none have resulted in any indictments.  Netanyahu concludes that the police are “out to get him” but on the other hand, attempts to indict the elected leaders are a feature of some democracies.  Look at what is happening against Pres. Trump in the US over the so-called “Russian collusion” affair, that seems to have not a shred of real evidence.  As far as I am concerned, let Netanyahu enjoy his cigars and whisky, as long as he keeps Israel safe, strong and prosperous.

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Hotovely’s comments about American Jews

The headlines in Israel have been dominated by the remarks of Deputy FM Tzipi Hotovely and the political consequences.   What she said seems to make perfect sense to most Israelis, namely: “People that never send their children to fight for their country, most of the Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan, or to Iraq. Most of them are having quite convenient lives. They don’t feel how it feels to be attacked by rockets, and I think part of it is to actually experience what Israel is dealing with on a daily basis.”  It is a fact that the number of American Jews in the US military is very small and that while American Jews get to express opinions about Israel and what its policies should be, they do not generally understand the politics of Israel and they do not know what it is like to have your children and grandchildren serving in the IDF.

But, her remarks in an interview were immediately pounced on by the liberal left part of American Jewry, namely the Reform and Conservative movements, and used as a bludgeon to attack PM Netanyahu and Israel in general.  Netanyahu’s response was predictable, he forced Hotovely to apologize for her remarks under pressure of termination of her job, but secretly he was probably quite pleased with her for taking the heat of him for his reneging on an agreement over diaspora Jews using the Western Wall for mixed groups.  There is no doubt that Netanyahu is most concerned with his political survival and that means compromising with the ultra-Orthodox Jews to keep his  coalition alive.  Even today Health Minister Yaakov Litzman resigned because Government workers worked on Shabbat to clear railway lines, work that could not be done during the working week.

Anyway, Hotovely apologized and was photographed with American Jewish “lone soldiers” serving in the IDF, who are here in Israel without their families.  Yes, there are some famous Jewish American military leaders, including Admiral Hyman Rickover who developed the nuclear submarines.  And there were many Jewish American leaders who fought against Nazism and Communism, such as Szilard, Einstein and Teller, the father of the American H-bomb.  But, this makes no difference when you consider that American Jews do not live under the same constant threat as Israelis and would not suffer any consequences of their proposals for Israeli policies. When they exercise their free speech to give us advice, they should consider the responsibility that comes with it for those affected by their suggestions.

Israeli experiences

We went to the doctor for our first visit here in Beersheva.  The address given was 6 Rehov Haim Landau.  I put this into Google maps and we got there easily.  Haim Landau Street was essentially a parking lot.  We drove down it, no. 12, 10, 8, and then there was a large metal fence separating the next building that was no. 6.

So we parked and tried to find an entrance thru the fence, but there was none.  So we walked around the building out to the street on the other side that was the main road Golda Meir Street.  There was a small shopping center there, but no sign of a doctor’s office.  We asked in the pharmacy but he didn’t know.  So we walked back to the car and drove all around the building and parked at no 6.  But there was no sign of a doctor’s office there.  So I called them. And she said they were in the clinic on Golda Meir Street.  So we walked around the building back to the shopping center and there next to the pharmacy we saw a sign saying “Asia” in Hebrew and in Russian.  That was the doctor’s office.  When we finally got there they were very nice and the doctor was pleasant, an older man who spoke English.  I didn’t get the impression that he was a great doctor, but he looked at our files on the computer and we chatted and he said no need for any changes and that was that.

I went to the gym Holmes Place, that is in fact an English chain.  It is just across the street, a few minutes walk from where I now live and it has a pool.  The exercise machines were bigger and more intimidating than the ones I am used to from my friendly gym in Netanya.  I had to bring a lock to secure a locker.  I put the key in the pocket of my shorts.  After exercising I undressed and went into the pool and then into the jacuzzi.  When I left the jacuzzi I realized that the air bubbles in the jacuzzi had caused my shorts to “blow up” and the pockets had become inverted.  With horror I realized that there was no key in my pocket. I envisaged having to call someone to cut the lock open on my first visit there.   I rushed back to the jacuzzi and fiddled around in the bubbling water where I had been sitting and there it was  –  the key – saved!

Aliyah and Terrorism

Aliyah is the general term in Hebrew for Jews to move to Israel.  It literally means “going up” since the Holy Land is supposed to be on a higher plane than the Diaspora.  Around Netanya one cannot help but notice the huge influx of French people.  French is now the predominant language spoken in the town center and there are many French-style bistros, patisseries, and charcuteries around town.  The price of apartments has gone up and French people are buying stores and restaurants and making a go of it.  These are people who have had enough with the rising anti-Semitism in France, mainly fueled by Islamic hatred.

Similarly in a poll carried out by the British Campaign Against Anti-Semitism in 2015-7 and recently reported on Sky News and the Jerusalem Post, about 31% of British Jews said they had considered or are considering leaving the UK (most for Israel), about 39% said they no longer felt safe in the UK, 59% said they felt the Government was not doing enough to protect them and a full 83% agreed that the Labour Party is anti-Semitic.  One woman interviewed said she had recently experienced an anti-Semitic incident for the first time and she was now planning to move to Israel and she said she expected a major outbreak of violent anti-Semitism in the UK within ten years.  This is against a supposed backdrop of a 9% decrease in anti-Semitic incidents in the past year.

But, also let’s face facts, European Jews from relatively civilized countries would not be coming here en famille unless they expected they could make it in a relatively affluent country, which Israel is.  We have all the makings here, a growing young population, an industrious and innovative people and also a large lower class of unskilled workers (the Arabs).  Yes, the US has its Blacks and Mexicans, the EU has its Muslim immigrants and Israel has its Palestinians.  Most of them would be happy if Israel could set up companies on the West Bank and then they wouldn’t have to travel for hours to jobs in Israel.  But, the intransigence of the Palestinian political elite prevents that.  They still resort to crude terrorism, even though they will never achieve their goal of destroying Israel.  On the contrary, the upsurge of Islamic-inspired terrorism in Europe is helping to strengthen Israel.

Netanyahu’s legal problems

All leaders in the Western world are subject to continuous invasive scrutiny by the press, especially if they are right-wing, since the media is predominately liberal.  This is true of Pres. Trump in the US,  PM Theresa May in the UK and PM Netanyahu in Israel.  In Netanyahu’s case the investigators have come up with several potential cases that have been headlined ad nauseam for months.  Here is a list of the potential cases:

  1. The Submarine Affair:  This involves the sale to Israel by Germany of several submarines, but the lawyer David Shimron, who represented the Israeli buyer, is now known to have received a large kick-back from the German company Thyssen-Krupp.  It also turns out that the lawyer is also Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, thus throwing suspicion on him, although until now he has not been implicated in any wrongdoing.
  2. Case 1000, which involves Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, who was supposedly asked to purchase luxury items for Netanyahu and his wife.  In this case the amount of goods involved amounts to several thousand dollars.
  3. Case 2000, in which Netanyahu is accused of concocting a deal with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the mass-circulation daily Yediot Ahronot, to ensure positive  reporting about himself.
  4. Bribery and corruption: There was another case involving payments by American Friends of Likud that benefited Netanyahu.  His Chief Adviser at that time Ari Harow, who has been implicated in several suspected cases of bribery and corruption, has been reported recently to have turned State’s witness.  Although this must be presumably against his former boss, Harow has gone public to deny that he would give any incriminating evidence against Bibi.

The current situation is producing rumor and innuendo, much like in the US against Pres. Trump.  Some rivals in Likud are already preparing themselves to challenge Bibi. But, the extent of the evidence against the PM and the lack of seriousness of some of the supposed charges leave the situation so far up in the air.  On the other hand, it was a similar situation of several seemingly not so serious cases that ruined the career of former PM Olmert, who became the first Israeli PM to go to jail. Notably there is also a case pending against Sara Netanyahu for petty use of government services for private purposes.  All this smacks of political character assassination.

Leftist Misrepresentation of Israel

Many years ago I read books by liberal Jewish writers, such as Arthur Koestler (“The Thirteenth Tribe“), Philip Roth (“Goodbye Columbus“), Norman Mailer (“The Human Stain“) and many others.  They were all more or less left-wing ideologues who represented a widely held view that there are two kinds of Jew, the intellectual leftist diaspora Jew, who is always against persecution of minorities, and the tough aggressive Israeli Jew, who is always fighting the poor Palestinian Arabs.  To put the difference into one word, the diaspora Jew was good, while the Israeli Jew was bad.

It seems to me that unfortunately the Jewish diaspora has swallowed this falsification hook, line and sinker.  It is about as true as most anti-Semitic caricatures. For example, “all Jews are rich,” this was a canard that I particularly resented, since my family were dirt poor and when I was growing up in the East End of London, we sometimes didn’t have enough to eat;  or “all Jews are Communists,”  many Jews in Eastern Europe were Communists, but most Jews who were small business owners were certainly not; or “Jews are not athletic,” what about the many Jews who were prohibited from representing Germany in the 1938 Olympics, or Mark Spitz, who won 10 Gold swimming medals, and Aly Raisman, female American gymnast.

If you look at Israel’s representation in intellectual pursuits, any Jew should be proud. For example, Israel is the leading country in the world (including the USA) in the area of cyber security.  This doesn’t come about by accident, but results from many years of Israeli/Jewish focus on computer technology, mathematical analysis and software development.  Also, Israel for its size has won many more Nobel Prizes than predicted based on population alone (just as for Jews generally), for example, Ciechanover, Hershko, Aumann, Schechtman, and in literature we have Amos Oz and David Grossman (both notably leftist).

So to summarize, this distinction between diaspora and Israeli Jews based on left-wing ideology is nothing more than a fiction.  But, I for one am very glad that Israel does have many tough Jews who are prepared to fight for their rights, as well as being able to discuss it intelligently.

Tourism in Israel

I am always looking for places to take visitors, especially those that have been here many times. Then I am always amazed to find that they haven’t been to some of the most obvious places.  Some of my favorite tourist sites are:

  • Caesarea – wonderful Roman and Crusader ruins, excellent video presentation and a nice place to eat lunch by the shore
  • Appolonia – also formerly a Roman port near Herzliya, with extensive Crusader castle remains
  • Tzippori – excellently preserved Roman houses and mosaics, in Galilee near Nazareth
  • Beit Shean – the best preserved Roman city in Israel, quite amazing
  • Haifa – the view of the Bahai gardens and the city from the Carmel is spectacular
  • Tiberias – a lovely city and the view from Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) at night is unbeatable, especially on a dinner cruise
  • Masada – take the cable car and spend time wandering around the historic site
  • Jerusalem – so many places to see in Jerusalem, especially the Old City, the City of David excavations, the underground passages at the Western Wall, and much more
  • Akko – don’t miss the underground Crusader city that was buried by the Muslims
  • Tel Aviv – Neve Tzedek, the old train station, Jaffa and the restored Sarona area
  • Netanya – the cliff-top walk with its amazing wooden constructions
  • Beersheva – Tel Beersheva, the Negev Brigade memorial and the Air Force museum
  • Mitzpe Ramon – view the incredible Ramon Crater, visit the museum, and then descend into it
  • Eilat – sun and fun on the beach

WIth all these wonderful places to visit (and many more) no wonder April broke a record for visitors to Israel with 350,000 in one month and this year 2017 will likely be the largest number ever.   Compare this to nearby Syria.  Would you rather be an Israeli or an Arab.  Tourism is always better than terrorism.