The writer, a 25-year veteran of the I.D.F., served as a field mental health officer and Commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty, he provides consultancy services to NGO’s implementing Psycho trauma and Psychoeducation programs to communities in the North and South of Israel. Ron is a former strategic advisor at the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria.
This Time Kushner is Right
Ending Palestinian refugee status is good for Israel, good for the Palestinians and good for the refugees.
Recent reports quoting Palestinian officials indicate that US peace envoys seek to eliminate the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. UNRWA is a UN refugee agency exclusively responsible for Palestinian “refugees” worldwide. A few months after the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in order to “take it off the negotiation table,” it seems that US peace envoys led by Jared Kushner are moving toward taking another core issue off the negotiation table: Palestinian refugees.
This time US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law is right: ending Palestinian refugee status will take a seemingly insurmountable issue off the negotiation table, allow for better treatment of the Palestinian refugees and promote the creation and stability of a future Palestinian state.
There are two refugee agencies in the United Nations. The first, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), established in 1950, is responsible for all the refugees in the world, which are estimated at 70 million. The second, UNRWA, established in 1949, is dedicated exclusively to supporting Palestinian refugees, which are estimated at seven million. UNRWA provides, among other things, “education, health care, relief and social services” to residents of Palestinian refugee camps spread across the Middle East. An additional responsibility of UNRWA is to keep track of the number of Palestinian refugees as well as their whereabouts.
The case of the Palestinian refugees is the only case in modern history where the status of refugee is automatically inherited, regardless of whether the Palestinians are still living in refugee camps or were granted national citizenship by another country.
Therefore, while the number of post-WWII refugees plummeted from 60 million to less than five million by 2018, the number of Palestinian refugees grew tenfold, from 700,000 in the 1950s to more than seven million in 2018.
While the great majority of the non-Palestinian refugees from the post-WWII period died from natural causes, were granted citizenship or both, Palestinian refugees transferred the refugee status to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who as of now, are poised to pass it on as well.
With no foreseeable ending to the automatically inherited refugee status, the number of Palestinian refugees will continue to rise, and is expected to exceed 10 million by 2030. As the issue of Palestinian refugees constitutes a main reason that past negotiations failed, forcing it off the negotiation table could possibly contribute to the success of future negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. More importantly, it will benefit all parties involved.
Israel, for security reasons, cannot allow the “return” of seven million Palestinian refugees into the Palestinian Territories, nor into a future Palestinian state. Under no circumstances will Israel welcome a hostile and at times belligerent people into strategic areas that determine the overall security of the country and its society. In addition, in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Israel had to absorb approximately 700,000 Jewish refugees who fled or were expelled from Arab countries. These refugees were granted citizenship immediately upon their arrival and today they are an integral part of the Israeli society.
The Jewish refugees and their descendants, as well as large parts of Israeli society, are not likely to support any Israeli government, much less an international organization, which recognizes the suffering of the Palestinian refugees while ignoring theirs.
Surprisingly enough, the Palestinian leadership would secretly prefer for Kushner’s efforts to succeed, but they cannot express this, as they will lose the little legitimacy they still have. The emotional connection between the Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the Palestinians living in refugee camps across the Middle East has long been dissolved.
The precarious response of the Palestinian leadership when Syrian President Bashar Assad besieged, starved and butchered the residents of the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk reveals how little the Palestinian leadership cares for other Palestinians in the Middle East. Practically speaking, the Palestinian leadership knows that a newborn state with a population of four million people cannot possibly absorb seven million others from all across the Middle East. Forcing the topic off the negotiation table will finally allow the Palestinian negotiating team to abandon that demand and focus on more practical matters.
Palestinian refugees have long been neglected, abused and discriminated against by Arab countries. Other than Jordan, no other country in the Middle East, including Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, has granted citizenship to the Palestinian refugees in their territories. In Lebanon, Palestinians are still denied access to major social and occupational institutions and are prohibited from working as doctors, lawyers or engineers. In Syria, Palestinians are attacked by both Shi’ite and Sunni militias, with no one to protect them. In Egypt, Palestinians suffer from travel restrictions and they are denied basic government services.
The source of the discrimination against Palestinians living in Arab countries is the misconception that they are living there only temporarily and will soon move to Israel or Palestine. Ending the refugee status will force the host countries to recognize that these residents living in their territories are not going anywhere and should be treated as if they were equal citizens.
The biggest misconception about a negotiable solution for the issue of the Palestinian refugees is that the solution would involve either compensation or a return of the refugees to Israel or a future Palestine. In fact, the real options are either to agree upon compensation or keep futilely negotiating a Palestinian state for another 50 years. Under no circumstances will Israel allow the flow of millions of Palestinian refugees to a future Palestine, much less to Israel, and under no circumstances will the Palestinian negotiating teams waive the right of the refugees to return (even though they secretly despise the idea).
Since the Israelis and Palestinians have already agreed on the other two core issues that come up in every negotiation – security arrangements and borders – ending Palestinian refugee status will dramatically increase the likelihood of successful negotiations in the future. As all parties will benefit from ending Palestinian refugee status, it seems that this time, the son-in-law got it right, and Kushner’s initiative should be taken seriously.
The writer is a PhD candidate at the War Studies Department of King’s College London and the program manager of the Argov Fellows program in leadership and diplomacy at IDC Herzliya.
Natalie Portman epitomizes what’s wrong with Jewish liberals
Now that the dust has settled and pundits have had their say on the issue of being within your rights to be critical of the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, now is the time to understand why being seen to be endorsing the State of Israel governed by Netanyahu has become impossible for Jewish liberals.
Actress Natalie Portman explained her decision to snub the prestigious Genesis prize in Jerusalem, also known as the “Jewish Nobel,” saying that she did not want her attendance to be seen as an endorsement of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She chose to boycott a ceremony which “honors individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields, and who inspire others through their engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and/or the State of Israel.”
Boycotting Israel, questioning the legality of governmental decisions and treating Israel’s democratically elected leader as a pariah, encouraging others by your actions to withdraw their support of Israel, are all strikingly similar in content and in language used by the BDS and anti- Israel movements in America that promote the de-legitimization of the State of Israel, irrespective of Portman’s claims that she doesn’t support the BDS movement.
For too many liberal Jews, Israel in their minds, has become an “oppressor” of rights. They have repeatedly attempted to brand Israel as an intolerant society. Liberal Jews will also be the first to disingenuously claim that they are on Israel’s side.
What seems to escape liberal Jews like Portman is the very composition of democratic life here in Israel. Their understanding is based on recriminations and false accusations suggesting that they can save Israel from itself, if only Israel would adopt their liberal values. The fact that Jews and Arabs all enjoy equal civil and legal rights and are subject to judicial review should they feel that their democratic rights are being impinged always seems to escape their minds. The fact that Israel’s Supreme Court of Appeals has adopted “judicial activism” in its orientation and is at the forefront of protecting the rights of all sectors of the population in Israel also doesn’t seem to hold water for Liberal Jews.
However by dividing Israel into good cop, bad cop, and making out the Israeli Prime Minister and his ruling coalition an amalgamation of Dirty Harry and The Chosen so as to make Israel palatable to liberal Jews is avoiding the real issue at hand. The problem lies - and here I quote the Jewish liberal Peter Beinart - liberal American Jews “are not especially connected to Israel because they are not especially connected to being Jewish".
Supporting an Israel that elects a conservative/right-wing/religious government is messy, complicated, and raises too many questions concerning Jewish identity and Jewish affiliation for liberal Jews, especially if they want to fit in with today's Democratic Party..
We can't love the need to disapprove and denounce more than we love Israel itself.
Yet, when one considers the worldwide movement in recent years to de-legitimize the State of Israel; their aim is not to engage or interact but to undermine and demonize. Their opposition to Israel is not open to reason or good will. In short, their hatred is unconditional. With his being the current geo-strategic reality challenging Israel, than why is it that liberal Jews become so uneasy by expressing unconditional love and support towards Israel?
Had Natalie Portman accepted the Genesis Prize here in Israel, no one would have assumed that she was representing or endorsing Netanyahu or any other Israeli politician. For Liberal Jews many of our debates about Israel have become coarse and divisive, their enthusiasm and eagerness to express tough, critical love towards Israel even when unwarranted and hypocritical has become the accepted norm in how they relate to Israel.
But we can't love the need to disapprove and denounce more than we love Israel itself. For Israel’s supporters, unconditional love and support should be the sentiment that ought to trump all others; the emotion that fuels and gives meaning to our actions. I can challenge my child and rebuke him, but I can never forget to show him unconditional love and support. In their liberal zeal to express tough, critical love of Israel, liberal Jews have forgotten about pure love and unconditional support.
In recent weeks, Noa, a world renowned singer and similiar to Natalie Portman in that she too was born in Israel, Jewish, and known for her ultra-liberal political viewpoints visited Israel to meet with local Israelis who represent the very core of what liberal Jews detest about Israel, and this was her reaction;
This was the most intriguing part for us, the reason we had come to begin with. Finally we could get into the thick of things, listen to the personal story of every participant, learn about their way of life and points of view, including things which are at the core of our differences… and most importantly, discuss our visions for the future of the country we all love so deeply”
I admit, it was challenging. Here were these sweet, generous, warm hearted people…with a huge, seemingly impassable abyss between us. We came out feeling it would take many more hours of conversation and exchange of ideas to scratch the tip of the formidable iceberg of misunderstanding, misinformation and disagreement, to try and melt it some how and find common ground…but we saw great importance in the meeting, as the conversation, even when at times painful and difficult, was honest, respectful and deep”
The only thing we could truly agree upon was our love for Israel and concern for its future.”
As Natalie Portman and her cadre of liberal Jewish supporters fathom the implications of her boycotting Israel and her democratically elected political leadership, I would suggest that she re-think all that has transpired in the past week and ask herself if she wants to be associated with those that defame and slander the State of Israel, as just another “useful idiot” empowering the enemies of Israel or accept the idea that Israel’s complex reality cannot be expressed by one viewpoint nor one dimension. As a complex reality Israel both inspires and infuriates, is filled with joy and sorrow, yet allows us to celebrate unprecedented achievements yet at the same time overcome the challenges awaiting us.
The “Faudalization” of Police Enforcement in Israel
The never ending legal saga with its daily thundering headlines against the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu has in recent days begin to resemble a scene out of Israel’s new hit series “Fauda”. The series is about an undercover elite Israeli unit that operates in the 'West Bank', is named for the Arabic word for chaos, often used by IDF soldiers to describe operational activities in the 'West Bank', and by Palestinian Arabs to depict their daily lives.
Fauda” focuses on undercover operations in the area hunting down members of Hamas, using all means at their disposal. There is, naturally, an absence of due process, personal civil rights and legal recourse because this is a fight against the terrorists who want to murder Israeli civilians.. The goal in this life-and-death case justifies the means, and the result is expected to be nothing less than the complete elimination of the target. The missions operate within a subtext of total immunity, and are judged by their success in carrying out their missions.
One cannot escape the connection between the style and scope this past year of the police investigations against an elected Prime Minister, his associates, and essentially anyone in close contact with Benjamin Netanyahu, and the mindset of the current police commissioner, a former 30 year veteran and deputy head of the Shabak, Israel’s version of the FBI, anti-terror forces, and internal homeland security all rolled up into one; a very powerful, and largely secret organization.
It seems as if the police forces have undergone a transformation, a kind of “Faudalization” within their organizational behavior code and have mobilized all means at their disposal to politically dispose of the elected Prime Minister of the State of Israel. It seems as if the current police investigation against the Prime Minister has been meticulous in coordinating and manipulating accusations and state witnesses to create an atmosphere magnified by the printed, broadcasted, and social media platforms which are desperately hungry for any information that can advance the liberal-left, progressive political agenda to replace Benjamin Netanyahu.
In the “Fauda” television series, which one must remember is not a documentary, operatives are portrayed as thorough in giving only lawful orders and refraining from obeying blatantly illegal orders, without diminishing neither the shoot-to-kill objectives nor the pressure to get kills. The plot allows the viewers to experience the personal perspective of real terrorists with blood on their hands, Palestinian terrorists who are wanted by the Israeli army for years, and the Israeli Shabak hunting them down. At the same time, there are scenes where undercover agents meet with terrorists in which they hug and kiss, they sit together to eat and drink, in a camaraderie that seems to transcend the inevitable tragedy that awaits them. Scenes of interrogations and imprisonment are typified by behavior impervious to judicial oversight.
This week’s revelation of collusion by a judge and an Israel Securities Authority (ISA) public prosecutor in one of the corruption investigations, the so-called Case 4000, and the fact that both were not immediately arresting for blatant criminal behavior, is an eye opener and not only because of the two people involved. The shocking fact is that the Police investigators did not immediately confiscate their cell phones and personal computers to examine whether the suspected collusion didn’t extend to other cases against the Prime Minister, including additional police investigators, judges, prosecutors who are all at the forefront of the legal and investigative witch hunt against Benjamin Netanyahu.
These unelected civil servants, the judiciary, and the police force who were supposed to be Israel’s democratic gatekeepers, have in one giant exposure done more damage to the public’s trust than any of the allegations against the Prime Minister. They seem to be operating within a subtext of total immunity, and are judged by their success in carrying out their mission to force Benjamin Netanyahu out of office.
The correspondence exposed by Channel 10, in which Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Ronit Poznansky-Katz and Eran Shacham-Shavit, the deputy council of the ISA’s investigative department, discussed and coordinated remand periods for some of the suspects in text messages prior to the hearings, will likely damage the current police investigation into Case 4000 and even throw off balance other corruption probes against Netanyahu.
"It is shocking to see the cover-up attempts by the heads of the justice system," wrote Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) in a Facebook post, noting that "if it turns out that civilians were sent to detention in a tainted procedure, in which the decision was made even before a hearing, it is a criminal offense of the harshest degree."
As events unfold at a mesmerizing pace, one cannot easily dismiss the demand that the lengthy investigations into alleged corruption against Benjamin Netanyahu be dismissed since the judicial process has been undeniably tainted. A legal foundation in all Democratic judicial processes deals with the concept of the “fruit of the poisonous tree” This is a legal metaphor used to describe evidence that is obtained illegally. The logic of the terminology is that if the source (the "tree") of the evidence or evidence itself is tainted, then anything gained (the "fruit") from it is tainted as well.
Evidence that has been admitted in court yet obtained by illegal police or judiciary representatives is not admissible.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended himself against allegations by pointing his finger at the apparent collusion between the media, judiciary, and investigative police officers. He has accused them of masterminding a deep-state conspiracy against him. He has labeled negative reporting of him as “fake news” and said that the media is engaged in “an obsessive witch hunt against me and my family with the goal of achieving a coup against the government.”
The prime minister has cast aspersions on the integrity of Commissioner Roni Alsheich. He said police were doing all they could to bring him down, accusing the force of “slander and lies.” This newest expose is bearing him out. And we have barely touched on the judiciary in this article.
The “Faudalization” of Israel’s police and judicial systems is transpiring before our very eyes, stay tuned for the next episode.
Oedipus, rage and the Bibi obsession
Over the past year President Trump has been challenged with a non-stop tsunami of political and media generated reports that have only one goal, it demonize and de-legitimize the Trump electoral success and the current Republican administration. The daily onslaught of accusations and smear campaign tactics have gone after not only the President, but also his family, administration officials such as the White House Spokesperson Sarah Elizabeth Huckabee Sanders, and other political allies associated with the President. Exposing this slanderous campaign has had negligible success in convincing the general public that as consumers of information, they are being fed a steady diet of conspiracy, chaos, and what has developed into a politics of rage.
For us in Israel, all this is “nothing new under the sun”. The American experience of the unprecedented demonization and de-legitimization of a democratically elected head of State has been with us for the past two decades in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been repeatedly re-elected time after time, despite the oppositions and media generated smear campaigns that are aired daily. For years we have had to endure a lynch atmosphere in which all of the media seem like an endless series of firing squads all aimed in the direction of Benjamin Netanyahu. What is it that has created this relentless politics of rage and hatred? What can explain this “kill the beast” atmosphere in our streets among demonstrators? How can one explain that regular upstanding citizens who normally exhibit normative behaviors have been transformed in a vicious mob who fan the flames of rage and hatred against a democratically elected leader, his wife, and his children? Political pundits have been unable to sufficiently explain this deep primal hatred that has permeated the public discourse trampling every accepted norm and the basic concept of fairness and the democratic idea of innocent until proven guilty.
The answer my friend is not ‘blowing in the wind’, but can be better understood by examining the psychological roots of rage and anger. First a few examples: Johnny Depp’s “joke” about it being time to assassinate a president again; Actor Corey Stoll calls his participation in a “Julius Caesar” adaptation that leaves the Trump-like leader soaked in stage blood his method of “resistance.”; Kathy Griffin thought it would be amusing to hold up a fake Trump head covered in blood, duplicating a horrific ISIS-style propaganda video; Madonna shared how she considered blowing up the White House shortly after President Trump took office; Director Rob Reiner called for an “all out war” on Twitter to “resist” the Trump administration. The common thread in these examples is the primal hatred and need to dispose of the “head” of the extended American family nation.
Oedipal rage according to Freud, represents a deep feeling of aggression and desire to dispose of a parental figure. In today’s politically charged atmosphere, rage and aggression have become acceptable forms for expressing opposition and the desire to replace the “head” of a nation. Little if any effort is made towards clarifying the destructive aspects of this and the inevitable spillover into our daily routine. Not only do I want to dispose of the “head” of the nation, but this destructive primal rage also encompasses those that support him, those that represent ideas and values different than my own, and lastly those that are unlike myself. This rage, this hatred of President Trump or Prime Minister Netanyahu permits us to keep alive the idea that everything is really much more simple, if only these leaders would go way either voluntarily or if necessary by force This rage allows us to convince ourselves that if only we yell louder, and beat up on our heads of state a little harder, if we break their political bones than everything would revert back to the falsely intoxicating effect of the Obama period when we were inundated with reports that gave us the feeling that the spread of radical Islamic ideology was nothing more than an extension of the American civil rights movement and that the regressive and largely dysfunctional economic performance of the Obama administration was good for America. This intoxicating taste had become nothing more than a drunken stupor blurring reality and the real successes of the first year of the Trump Presidency that in an objective analysis would be undeniable.
The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has lead Israel to become a world leader of innovation, a nation at peace with the majority of the Muslim Sunni nations, a country where the life expectancy is one of the world’s longest, and affordable healthcare and education for average citizens. In America, after the first year of a totally unexpected Trump Presidency; domestically, the passage of the tax reform bill is already resulting in increased economic activity and the repatriation of companies, reserves and jobs, just as promised during the election. The burden of regulation, vastly increased under Obama, is being steadily lightened. The Trump administration is anything but politically correct, and that is a good thing, considering the damage done by political correctness over the preceding Obama years. As far as foreign policies; rather than attacking friends and allies and supporting enemies, the reverse is now the situation. The global community understands that America is the leader of the free world, and should be recognized as such.
President Trump understands that to succeed you must resonate strength, and defend your turf and principles. No level of primal rage by the Democratic Party, the media, and progressive opponents will change the direction of the Trump Presidency. Those that continue to be immersed in a politics of anger, in a politics of rage will slowly find themselves representing no one but themselves. They will cease to be relevant to the American public.