September 19, 2018

Netanyahu Spokesman to Take Time Off In Response to Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Screenshot from Twitter.

David Keyes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign media spokesperson, is taking some time off in response to allegations of sexual misconduct, the Times of Israel reports.

As the Journal has reported, New York state senate Democratic candidate Julia Salazar accused Keyes of sexually assaulting her in 2013, an allegation Keyes denied. But the Times of Israel found 11 other women who accused Keyes of inappropriate conduct:

Besides Salazar, one other woman who spoke to The Times of Israel accused Keyes of “physically aggressive” behavior that could be considered sexual assault. According to this woman’s account, he kissed her against her will and tried to undress her, and she had to use force to extricate herself from his embrace.

The other women described encounters they found either aggressive, offensive, overly flirtatious or otherwise inappropriate.

Additionally, Wall Street Journal reporter Shayndi Raice tweeted that Keyes is a “predator”:

Keyes has denied the allegations, but announced in a statement on Thursday that he was taking some time away from his position.

“In light of the false and misleading accusations against me and in order not to distract from the important work of the prime minister, I have asked to take time off to clear my name,” Keyes said. “I am fully confident that the truth will come out.”

N.Y. State Senate Candidate Accuses Netanyahu Spokesman of Sexual Assault

Screenshot from Twitter.

Julia Salazar, the democratic socialist New York state senate candidate who has faced questions over her claims of Jewish ancestry, is claiming that David Keyes, the foreign media spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sexually assaulted her.

In a statement, Salazar said that the media was about to out her for her sexual assault claim:

Keyes has denied the allegations.

“This false accusation is made by someone who has proven to be repeatedly dishonest about her own life,” Keyes said in a statement. “This is yet another example of her dishonesty.”

The Daily Caller has reported that Salazar fits the description of a woman accusing Keyes of sexual assault in 2016 and that she deleted Facebook posts accusing Keyes of sexually assaulting her. The Daily Caller report also notes that “two journalists from The Intercept and one who currently works at The Atlantic” looked into Salazar’s allegations, but ended the investigation because “Salazar would not cooperate.”

As the Journal has reported, Salazar has claimed that her father is Jewish, a claim that was contradicted by her brother. Salazar then said that she took a conversion class, but never had a b’nai mitzvah. She is now claiming that she underwent the full conversion process.

Additionally, Salazar has said that she is an immigrant from Colombia, which she later backtracked on when members of her family said otherwise. Salazar’s family members have also contradicted her statements that she grew-up in a working class household.

Citizens Union, a good-government organization, rescinded their endorsement on Tuesday when they discovered that Salazar gave them inaccurate information on her academic resume. Salazar recently admitted to The New York Times that she did not graduate from Columbia University despite information from her campaign suggesting otherwise.

United States to Shut Down PLO’s D.C. Office

REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that they would be shutting down the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s office in Washington, D.C., the latest in a series of steps taken by the administration to crack down on the Palestinian Authority.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said they were making this move because “ the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

“To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a US peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise,” Nauert said. “As such, and reflecting congressional concerns, the administration has decided that the PLO office in Washington will close at this point.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded the move in a statement.

“Israel supports these actions that are meant to make it clear to the Palestinians that refusing to negotiate and attacking Israel in international forums will not bring about peace,” Netanyahu said.

According to the Times of Israel, Abbas is furious with the decision and will say “some very undiplomatic things” against Trump at the United Nations General Assembly.

Palestinian Authority officials told Israel’s Channel 10 that Trump is “an enemy of the Palestinian people and an enemy of peace.”

“The American president is encouraging terror and extremism with his policies that could lead to violence in the region, which will explode in the faces of Israel and the US,” the officials said.

According to Jewish Virtual Library, the PLO was initially formed in 1964 with the stated goal of the destruction of Israel and Zionism through violent means. The group has committed numerous acts of terror, including the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985. The terrorists murdered a Jewish man, Leon Klinghoffer, who was confined to a wheelchair during the hijacking.

Even though the PLO renounced terrorism in 1993, former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat incited intifadas against Israelis, as has Abbas, Arafat’s successor.

MP Corbyn Attended 2014 Ceremony Honoring Munich Terrorists

Screenshot from Twitter.

After pictures emerged over the weekend of Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn attending a wreath-laying ceremony honoring the Palestinian terrorists behind the 1972 Munich massacre at the Summer Olympics, Corbyn admitted on August 13 that he attended due to his desire to end terrorism.

Here are the pictures from the 2014 ceremony in Tunisia that were unearthed by the UK Daily Mail:

Initially, the Labour Party denied that Corbyn had taken part in the ceremony, claiming instead that he was at a memorial honoring 47 Palestinians that died in a 1985 airstrike in Tunisia. However:

But Corbyn is now admitting he attended the memorial for the 1972 Munich terrorists, although he’s claiming that he “was actually involved in” in the laying of the wreath.

“I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident everywhere, because we have to end it,” Corbyn told Sky News. “You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is by a cycle of dialogue.”

Corbyn’s explanation was not enough for Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, whose husbands died in the massacre, as they pointed out to Jewish News that Corbyn has yet to visit “the graves of our murdered fathers, sons and husbands.”

“For Mr Corbyn to honour these terrorists is the ultimate act of maliciousness, cruelty and stupidity,” Spitzer and Romano said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out against Corbyn for attending the 2014 ceremony:

Corbyn responded:

Netanyahu’s reference of Corbyn’s Israel-Nazi comparison appears to be in regards to a clip of Corbyn in 2013 stating at the Palestinian Return Centre that the Israeli “occupation” in the West Bank is equivalent to the “many people in Europe who suffered occupation during the Second World War, with the endless road blocks, imprisonment, irrational behavior by the military and the police.”

According to Jewish Virtual Library, 11 Palestinian terrorists who were part of the “Black September” faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) committed the 1972 massacre. Five of the terrorists initially took nine of the Israeli Olympic athletes hostage, demanding that Israel release 200 Arab prisoners in exchange for the hostages.

The plan was for the Germans to have hidden gunmen to kill the Palestinian terrorists when they came to release the Israelis at a NATO airbase, but there was just one problem – the Germans had been anticipating five Palestinian terrorists, but eight had shown up. The Germans still attempted to kill the Palestinian terrorists, but in the midst of the fight the terrorists murdered all nine of the Israeli hostages.

H/T: UK Independent

Knesset Passes Bill Proclaiming Israel As Jewish Nation-State

Photo from Flickr.

The Knesset passed a bill on July 18 that declares Israel as a Jewish nation-state, which has resulted in blowback from some Jewish groups.

The bill, passed by a margin of 62-55 with two abstentions, recognizes Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people,” Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and establishes the Hebrew calendar as the country’s official calendar.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the bill as a victory for Israel and Zionism.

“Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, that respects the individual rights of all its citizens,” Netanyahu said. “This is our state — the Jewish state. In recent years there have been some who have attempted to put this in doubt, to undercut the core of our being. Today we made it law: This is our nation, language and flag.”

Some Jewish groups have argued that the bill undercuts Zionism, alleging that the bill will ruin relations with Arabs.

“The measure downgrades Arabic from its longstanding status as one of Israel’s official languages to one that has ‘special status,’” the American Jewish Committee (AJC) said in a statement. “This not only directly affects the 21 percent of Israel’s citizens who comprise the country’s largest minority, but it also would appear to work against the government’s ongoing efforts to encourage the use of Arabic, given Israel’s location in the Middle East.”

The AJC added that the law could result in “Jewish-only communities” in Israel.

“We respectfully ask the Government of Israel to clarify these and other questionable elements of the bill, and to reaffirm the core principles and values that make up the very foundation of Israel’s vibrant and admired democracy,” the AJC said.

Rob Long: Hollywood Writer Talks Trump

Award-winning Hollywood showrunner Rob Long talks about happiness, craziness and, of course, Donald Trump.

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Housing Law Is Counter to Israel’s Spirit

REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Update: On July 18, the Knesset passed the Basic Law.

Fifty years ago, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was enacted. Commonly known as the Fair Housing Act, it prohibited various forms of discrimination “in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin,” according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Since then, HUD has been monitoring trends in racial and ethnic discrimination in rental and sales markets. According to the most recent survey, conducted in 2013, while housing discrimination is illegal, in practice, it unfortunately exists: “(w)hite homeseekers are more likely to be favored than minorities. Most important, minority homeseekers are told about and shown fewer homes and apartments than whites.”

A case in point happened in 1973, when the Justice Department sued a management corporation and its president, Donald Trump, for alleged racial discrimination against Blacks who wished to rent apartments in the New York city boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. When Trump started making noises about a potential presidential run in 2012, rapper Snoop Dogg quipped: “Why not? It wouldn’t be the first time he pushed a Black family out of their home.”

Seriously, in the United States housing discrimination is prohibited by law and generally condemned by public opinion. In Israel, on the other hand, housing discrimination might not only become a practice, but officially allowed by law.

If all goes well for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then next week the Knesset will pass the Basic Law: Israel as the state of the Jewish people, which he had designated as one of his priorities. That Israel doesn’t need such law is besides the point. The world knows that Israel is a Jewish state, and whoever doesn’t recognize it will not be impressed by this law or another. The main problem with this law is that it shatters the already fragile Israeli democracy.

At the crux of this controversial bill lies article 7b., which says “the state can allow a community composed of people of the same faith or nationality to maintain an exclusive community.” That this idea has already been dismissed by the Israeli Supreme Court two decades ago didn’t deter the initiators of this bill. In 2000, Chief Justice Aharon Barak ruled on the case of the Ka’adans, an Israeli-Arab couple who had been refused permission to buy a plot or home in Katzir, a Jewish cooperative settlement in northern Israel. “We do not accept the conception that the values of the state of Israel as a Jewish state justify discrimination by the state between citizens on the basis of religion or nationality,” wrote Barak in his landmark ruling.

Likkud Minister Yariv Levin called the Ka’dan ruling a “disgrace” and “the destruction of Zionism.” Now, as one of the initiators of the new Nation-State Law, he serves his revenge. And if the Supreme Court insists on holding such discrimination illegal and unconstitutional? No worries, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is already advancing the “overriding clause,” which will enable the Knesset to override Supreme Court decisions.

As always, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin stepped forward to save Israel’s soul. In an impassioned letter he sent on July 10 to the joint Knesset and Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, he implored members of the Knesset (MKs) to re-examine the repercussions of the specific article: “I also ask for us to look inward, into the depths of the Israeli society: are we willing in the name of the Zionist vision to lend a hand to discrimination and exclusion of a man or a woman based on their origin?”

President Rivlin, who always knew how to reconcile his ardent Zionism with his liberal view, went on to warn the MKs that discrimination will not be limited to Arabs: “The bill before you allows any group, in the broadest of terms and without any monitoring, to establish a community with no Mizrahi Jews, Haredim, Druze and members of the LGBT community.”

What Israel needs in order to strengthen its Jewish character is more Jews who would seek to make the Jewish state their home. The way to accomplish that is by aspiring to become what the prophet Isaiah called “light unto the nations,” not by passing discriminating laws, which only undermine Israel’s democracy and tarnish its name.

Uri Dromi is the director general of the Jerusalem Press Club. From 1992-96, he was a spokesman for the Israeli government.

Episode 94 – Bibi: The Man Behind the Myth

Photo: World Economic Forum

Few figures in Israeli politics, or in global politics for that matter, arouse such extreme levels of both antagonism and diehard support as the man the world has come to know as Bibi. Benjamin Netanyahu was the inheritor of a long dormant dynasty known as the Revisionist movement which eventually developed into the Likud, Israel’s current ruling political party.

Every human who rises to such levels of fame and infamy, becomes to a certain degree, mythological. But not too many people know the story of the man behind the myth. Today, by many, Bibi is seen as the inexorable protector of Zion, the ultimate diplomat, the only man fit to lead the Jewish people. By many others, he’s forgone all ethical and moral boundaries and is destined to doom our nation. But before Benjamin Netanyahu was all these things, before he was Prime Minister of Israel, he was a kid, enchanted by his older brother Yoni, he was a furniture salesman, a two time divorcee, he was Ben Nitay studying architecture at MIT.

Today, embroiled in corruption allegations and staving off a world of condemnations, it’s hard to see Bibi as much else than transcendent good or evil. But that won’t stop us from trying.

Anshel Pfeffer has been a journalist for the Israeli Daily, Haaretz, since 2014 and has recently published his biography titled “Bibi: the turbulent life and times of Benjamin Netanyahu”

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We’re very excited to be joined today by Anshel Pfeffer to discuss the man, the legend, Bibi.

Anshel’s book on Amazon and his Twitter

Netanyahu to Headline AJC Forum

REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Pool

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be among the leaders headlining the American Jewish Committee (AJC)’s Global Forum on June 10-13 in Jerusalem.

According to a press release, the AJC forum will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of the state of Israel, the first AJC forum to be held outside of the United States. Netanyahu will be the forum’s keynote speaker. Other speakers will include Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Affairs Ministry Legal Adviser Tal Becker.

The forum will also feature discussions on a one-state solution versus a two-state solution on the Israel/Palestine conflict, Iran and relations between Israel and the Diaspora as well as honor past world leaders such as former President Harry Truman and former prime minister of Greece Costantinos Mitsotakis.

The AJC will be handing out two Moral Courage Awards to Sandra Samuel, who saved the life of a two-year-old during the 2008 Mumbai bombing and the Galilee Medical Center’s leadership for providing treatment to Syrians caught in the crossfire of the country’s civil war.

“We enthusiastically are coming to Israel, to the capital city of Jerusalem, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Israel’s rebirth, and to demonstrate by our presence our deep solidarity with, and enduring support, for Israel,” AJC CEO David Harris said in the press release. “The 2,100-plus attendance is way beyond our most optimistic projection, underscoring the strong ties between Israel and the AJC global community.”

Netanyahu Hammers Iranian Regime for Inhibiting Country’s Silicon Valley Potential

Heidi Levine/Pool via REUTERS

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a new video on May 31 criticizing the Iranian regime for inhibiting the country’s Silicon Valley-esque potential.

Netanyahu began his video by declaring that the Iranian people are “among the most gifted and successful people in the world.”

“In Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs of Iranian heritage are among the founders and CEOs of Uber, Ebay, Dropbox, and many other outstanding companies,” Netanyahu said.

And yet, Iran is an impoverished nation thanks to the regime in Tehran.

“Iran’s dictators plunder the country’s wealth. Isn’t it a shame that Iran doesn’t invest in its people?” Netanyahu said. “Instead, they divert tens of billions of dollars to their nuclear program, to the spread of terror around the world, to their aggression throughout the Middle East. Meanwhile, the Iranian people are the ones that suffer.”

Netanyahu concluded the video by stating that hopes that the day will come where the Iranian people “don’t need to go there to build the most successful companies in the world.”

“Imagine Iranian and Israeli entrepreneurs working together, in Iran and Israel, for the betterment of all humanity,” Netanyahu said. “That’s my hope. That is my vision. And that can be our future.”

The full video can be seen below:

H/T: Times of Israel

What’s Happening in Jewish L.A. May 25-31: Paul Simon, Iftar and More

FRI MAY 25
“RECONSTRUCTIONIST TOUR OF ISRAEL”

Arkady and Ella Serebryannik andMark Bregman discuss “What We Learned on Our Reconstructionist Study Tour of Israel” with University Synagogue Rabbi Arnold Rachlis. The Orange County residents met with Israeli leaders, gained insights into the state of the government as Israel turned 70 years old and observed the secular-religious divide in Israel. Interview and Shabbat services 7–8:30 p.m. University Synagogue, 3400 Michelson Drive, Irvine. (949) 553-3535. universitysynagogue.org.

“A JEWISH-MUSLIM PARTNERSHIP FOR SHABBAT AND IFTAR”

Temple Judea congregants, their Muslim guests from the Pacific Institute and Claremont School of Theology professor Philip Clayton celebrate Shabbat and iftar, the meal that breaks the fast during Ramadan. The celebration continues on Saturday morning with a conversation on how to improve the world through understanding and knowledge. 7:30 p.m. Friday, 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Friday night, adults $20, with accompanying children free. Saturday morning free. RSVP required for both sessions. Temple Judea, 5429 Lindley Ave., Tarzana. (818) 758-3800. templejudea.com.

“THE LAST SCHWARTZ”

“The Last Schwartz.”

Judaism appears to be all that the dysfunctional Schwartz family members have in common in this play, but it isn’t clear whether it will unite or further divide them. Herb Schwartz and his wife, Bonnie, remain childless after five miscarriages while Gene’s girlfriend is planning an abortion. Norma’s husband has not spoken to her since she called the cops on their son for smoking pot. Their father has died, nobody is in charge and the Schwartz family appears to be foundering. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Through July 1. $40. $35 for groups of 10 or more. $25 for students and teachers. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica. (310) 392-0815. wcjt.org.

“THE CHOSEN”

This acclaimed stage adaptation celebrates the 50th anniversary of Chaim Potok’s classic 1967 novel, “The Chosen.” Set in Brooklyn in 1944, this coming-of-age story follows two observant Jewish boys who come from very different homes. When Reuven is injured by Danny during a heated baseball game, a unique friendship is born. As the boys grow to manhood, they are forced to learn important lessons about each other, their fathers and themselves. The resolution is highly emotional. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. $40. $30 for seniors. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 663-1525. fountaintheatre.com.

SAT MAY 26
“NETANYAHU: A POLITICAL LIFE”

Rabbi Tal Sessler.

In the fifth and final presentation in Sephardic Temple Rabbi Tal Sessler’s monthly series, “Shabbat Lunch and Learn: Great Israeli Lives,” his subject is “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: A Political Life in Progress.” Previously, Sessler spoke on “David Ben-Gurion: Statesman, Founding Father, Universal Genius,” “Menachem Begin: Survivor, Fighter Hawkish Peacemaker,” “Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Peacemaker, Political Martyr” and “Shimon Peres: Poet, Worldly Statesman, Pragmatic Dreamer.” After 8:30 a.m. Shabbat morning services. Free. Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 475-7000. sephardictemple.org.

SUN MAY 27
HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR TALK

Henry Slucki.

Holocaust survivor Henry Slucki, a native of Paris who came to the United States by himself as a boy, recounts the frightening experiences he and his family suffered while moving around to elude the Nazis. When the Slucki family reached Barcelona, Spain, his Polish-Jewish parents made the painful decision to send him by himself to America as part of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s initiative to save refugee children. After the war, Slucki moved to Los Angeles, where he grew up to be a professor of behavioral science. A Q-and-A follows
the discussion. A docent-led tour kicks off the day at 2 p.m. Discussion 3 p.m. Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, 100 S. The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 651-3704. lamoth.org.

“ISRAELI MUSIC, THEN AND NOW”

Declaring that changes in Israeli musical tastes the past 70 years reflect the transforming nature of Israeli society, Mark Kligman, the Mickey Katz Endowed Chair in Jewish Music at UCLA, traces the evolution of the Israeli music since statehood was won in 1948. Kligman, who is also a professor of ethnomusicology at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, enhances his talk with audio and visual samples intended to accent Israel’s shifting musical preferences. Dinner, 6 p.m., program, 6:45 p.m. $15. Temple Ramat Zion, 17655 Devonshire St., Northridge. (818) 360-1881. trz.org.

TUE MAY 29
“THE MIRACLE-WORKING EARLY PROPHETS AND THE JEWISH
SOCIAL CONSCIENCE”

Join Rabbi Rachel Adler at Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC) for a deep dive into the Elijah and Elisha narratives in the two books of Kings to examine questions of charisma, characterization and social ethics. Participants look at the role gender plays in these narratives and why women are often the recipients of miracles. Adler is the Ellenson Professor of Modern
Jewish Thought at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Part of a series. Adler’s notes will be posted on the BCC website. 7–9 p.m. Free. Beth Chayim Chadashim, 6090 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 931-7023. bcc-la-org.

WED MAY 30
“BENNY GOODMAN: AHEAD OF HIS TIME”

Legendary bandleader Benny Goodman’s music comes back to life thanks to acclaimed clarinet soloist Ken Peplowski. The member of Goodman’s final ensemble performs music from Goodman’s famous 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, which elevated jazz and sparked serious conversations about race, politics and music. The UCLA Jazz Orchestra and an alumni ensemble from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz accompany Peplowski in this celebration of a musical revolutionary and the King of Swing. A pre-concert panel discussion begins at 6 p.m. Concert 7–10 p.m. Free. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.  (310) 825-4761. RSVP at schoolofmusic.ucla.edu.

THU MAY 31
NEWGROUND IFTAR

Join NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change for the organization’s annual iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan. NewGround describes this evening as one of the largest gatherings of Muslims and Jews in the United States. The night celebrates, supports and amplifies the work of NewGround’s 2017-18 Professional Fellows, a group of approximately 20 Jews and Muslims who have spent the past several months discussing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Dinner is Halal certified. Kosher meals available upon request. Food will not be served until after 8 p.m., as this is an event that celebrates the month of Ramadan. Plan accordingly. Program begins at 7 p.m. $40. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 3663 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. newground.nationbuilder.com.

“HARVEY MILK” BOOK AUTHOR

Harvey Milk.

To commemorate the American Library Association’s LGBT Book Month, and in conjunction with National Gay Pride Month, the Burbank Public Library welcomes Lillian Faderman to talk about her new book, “Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death.” The book explores how the progressive politician and gay icon’s activism connected to his family history and Jewish identity. 7 p.m. Free; book available for purchase and signing. Buena Vista Branch Library, 300 N. Buena Vista St., Burbank. (818) 238-5620. burbank.lib.ca.us.

“WHITE ELEPHANT ARCHIVE, SETTING NO. 3”

Award-winning multimedia artist Eduard Freudmann presents a personal, one-man production focusing on the legacy of the Holocaust from the perspective of a third-generation descendant living in Austria. In an effort to understand his family members’ silence about their Holocaust experiences, Freudmann turns to his family archive, which includes poems written by his grandfather while imprisoned in concentration camps. Freudmann’s performance conveys the impact of trauma across generations. A Q-and-A follows the performance, which is made possible by the Austrian Consulate General Los Angeles, the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria and the Federal Chancellery of Austria. 7 p.m. $15, members and full-time students, $20 general. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.

“ISRAEL AT 70: LOOKING BACK AND LOOKING AHEAD”

Professor Dan Ben-David, president and founder of the Shoresh Institution and senior faculty member of the Department of Public Policy at Tel Aviv University, discusses Israel’s history and future. In 2010, Israeli newspaper Haaretz included Ben-David on a list of the country’s 100 most influential people. 7 p.m. registration, 7:30 p.m. lecture. Free; donations accepted. Seating limited; RSVPs urged at info@beverlyhillsjc.org. Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 276-4246. beverlyhillsjc.org.

HAVE A DATE WITH A JEW AND A MUSLIM

Enjoy iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan, and conversation between Rabbi Adam Kligfeld and Haroon Moghul. Kligfeld is senior rabbi at Temple Beth Am. Moghul is the Fellow in Jewish-Muslim relations at Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. 7:15 p.m., break the fast at 7:55 p.m. RSVP by May 28 at tbala.org/iftar. Presented by the Rembaum Institute and the Shalom Hartman Institute. $15. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353. tbala.org.

Letters to the Editor: Reviving Judaism, Middle East and Diaspora

Reviving Judaism

For 30-plus years, the Conservative movement has not seriously addressed why younger Jews have left this branch and its philosophy.

As writer Steven Windmueller assesses the situation, one of his ways is to build from the bottom (“Reinventing Liberal Judaism,” May 11). I did this in the Philadelphia area 30 years ago, but the elders did not support it.

In less than nine months, we grew a 30-ish crowd from 10 to 60, including their families.

This is the only way to introduce Judaism to those who resist and to listen to the younger population so that the institution provides for their needs.

Baby boomers must give way to the needs of the millennials or Conservative Judaism will not be viable in the near future (10 years).

Warren J. Potash, Moorpark


Insight Into Torah Portion

I would like to thank the Journal for publishing Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ Table for Five commentary in the Journal’s May 11 issue. It provides deep insight into the parsha. However, the rabbi goes much further, enunciating simply and clearly God’s role and rights as the creator of the universe and in consequence, linking core principles of Judaism to these rights. It is, for me, an unforgettable “teaching moment,” beautiful in its simplicity, clarity and importance.

Hopefully, the Journal will provide more of Sacks’ commentaries and insights in the future. Table for Five is one avenue to accomplish this, but I am sure the Journal has others. We need them.

Edward Gomperts, Glendale


Complex Issues in the Mideast

I read the May 4 edition of the Jewish Journal with great interest. As a non-Jew, I was happy to read the Leon Wieseltier view that “the merit of a view owes nothing to the biography of the individual who holds it” (“Should American Jews Criticize Israel?”).

So here goes. I read in Rick Richman’s story (“The Second and Third Israeli Miracles”) that the Palestinian Arabs have rejected six offers of a state. My question is: How many of these offers would have stopped settlement in the West Bank and dismantled the settlements and removed the settlers?

And the other question: Suppose California were occupied by, say, Mexicans. How many Californians would have supported the “offer of a state” that would leave more than half a million Mexican settlers in hilltop strongholds and withheld a slew of powers over the economy, security and policing?

Christopher Ward via email

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed Iranian duplicity with respect to Iran’s nuclear program, he was preaching to the converted. This is much ado about nothing, since the P5+1 took Iranian mendacity into strict account when fashioning the inspection regime that is part of the Iran nuclear deal.

The nuclear agreement with Iran that slows its development of atomic weapons is a bad accord for many reasons. President Donald Trump is right to force the issue now. He does not need a primer on Iran and its penchant for lying. The president has decided it is better to scrap the agreement altogether and re-impose sanctions, or try to amend the agreement as our allies prefer.

Brian J. Goldenfeld, Woodland Hills

I would strongly encourage journalists to emulate the unflinchingly centrist style of Michael Berenbaum’s recent column (“Pity Mahmoud Abbas,” May 11). Most who criticize the Israeli government’s approach to the conflict with Palestinians tend to forget or ignore just how awful and intransigently anti-Semitic the leadership is on the other side. And most who decry the wrongs of Abbas or other Palestinian leaders tend to forget or ignore the suffering of the very people they lead.

If only we could stop being so one-sided in our rhetoric and attitudes, we might lessen the number of people so brainwashed by the “left” that they forsake the need to defend Israel from her truest enemies, or so brainwashed by the “right” that they forsake the need to prevent Israel from emulating said enemies.

Michael Feldman, Los Angeles

I am very confused. It feels like if I support Israel’s existence, then I am supposed to be pro-current administration (i.e., President Donald Trump), which I definitely am not! But if I support peace and freedom for everyone in the Middle East, I am supposed to do that by opposing the “occupation” of the West Bank and by supporting activities and groups that all lead to Hamas — a group defined as working to destroy the Jewish state.

All my left-wing friends support “anti-Zionism,” which translates to pro-Hamas, but they insist that they like Jews and will defend the rights of Jews. My right-wing friends (yes, I have some) support the idea of a Jewish homeland but they support many other things that I find odious.

Strange bedfellows, no? I want to find a place in the middle. I think maybe we should move the homeland to Antarctica but someone will surely accuse us of oppressing the penguins.

Lynne Bronstein, Van Nuys

Notwithstanding his fighting words in a recent mosque sermon that Tel Aviv and Haifa will be totally destroyed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami should sit down and shut up. Israel’s air force did serious damage to Iranian military installations in Syria last week in retaliation for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard assault, seemingly launched against the advice of Russia and their Syrian hosts, when it fired 20 rockets at Israel.

Sadly, the murderous threats emanating from imams in mosques all over the world, that Israel/America/Jews must be destroyed, have a “blowback” effect in making Muslims who are innocent of such hatred look like extremists. One might hope that the moderates would be able to suppress those imams who preach hatred from their pulpits.

Maybe they’re too afraid, or worse, maybe they don’t want to. It’s difficult to know which, but also easy to feel compelled to defend against vile religious leaders who can’t seem to be shut down by those who wail about Islamophobia.

Desmond Tuck, San Mateo


Less Shouting, More Listening

I read on the Journal website “Pro-Palestinian Protesters Attempt to Shut Down Israeli Speakers and Fail” by Aaron Bandler, and I agree totally with the reporter. I believe that the Palestinians’ chanting was unacceptable. I think it was great of UC Irvine’s Students Supporting Israel to point out that they would show their perspective and not keep silent. Also, they said that they will continue to make the voices of the pro-Israeli students heard. That shows peace, not hate, which is what the world needs.

Eliyaou Eshaghian, Tarzana


Israelis in the Diaspora

This is another in a long line of letters disputing wild, unsourced journalistic estimates of Israelis living in the Diaspora, which Danielle Berrin has repeated as “more than 1 million” (“Wandering Israelis,”  April 13).

The most trusted demographic estimate done by Pew Research in 2010 was 230,000 Jewish emigrants from Israel living in other countries, with the most, 110,000 in the U.S. This aligns with my 1982 published estimates for Israeli emigrants in the U.S. and about my estimate of 25,000 living in and around Los Angeles.

Fun fact: Using Berrin’s source data from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics of about 2.2 million flying abroad in a six-month period, and the U.S. nonimmigrant Israeli entry estimates for roughly the same period, fewer than 1 in 10 Israeli tourist flyers eventually landed in the U.S. As we are all learning, visiting or immigrating to the U.S. is a pain.

While the Los Angeles Israeli community has become much more organized, now raising tens of millions of dollars yearly through the Israeli-American Council (IAC), in the 36 years since a realistic estimate of numbers has been published, I have not found any evidence that the number of Israelis has changed substantially from being about 1/20th of the Los Angeles Jewish community.

Pini Herman, Beverly Grove

(This letter originally appeared in the April 20 edition.)

Berrin responds: Pini Herman asserts that my column includes “wild, unsourced journalistic estimates” regarding the number of Israelis living in the Diaspora. This is untrue. While it is difficult to estimate the exact number of Israelis living in the Diaspora for a variety of reasons, the upward trend is clear. Estimates from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the prime minister’s office and a Pew Study suggest the number could be as low 300,000 and as high as 1 million. Just last week, Newsweek reported that from 2006 to 2016, more than 87,000 Israelis became U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, according to data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This is up from 66,000 from the previous decade. For a long time now, rumors of a so-called Israeli “brain drain” have permeated public discourse. In 2011, Foreign Policy ran a story headlined “The Million Missing Israelis.” Last August, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency wondered, “Can Israel bring home its million U.S. expats?” Many of these articles examine the ways the Israeli government has tried to stanch the brain drain by enticing the best and brightest Israelis back home, sometimes through ad campaigns or initiatives like the 2011 I-CORE program, a $360 million initiative to lure Israeli scholars back to Israeli universities. According to Newsweek, “Results were so underwhelming that the program was ended after three years.”

None of these facts is wild or unsourced; we ought to pay attention to the trend suggested by even inexact statistics.


CORRECTIONS

A story about the death of Rabbi Aaron Panken (“Remembering Rabbi Aaron Panken,” May 11) mistakenly reported the date of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion New York ordination ceremony as May 7, two days after Panken’s death. The ceremony was held May 6, one day after his death.

An item in the May 11 edition of Movers & Shakers incorrectly identified Tanya Waldman as the co-director of Witness Theater: Voices of History. Her name is Talya Waldman. Also, a photo caption accompanying the May 1 Israel Bonds luncheon mistakenly identified Marlene Kreitenberg as Ruth Low.

A headline on a Q-and-A with Rabba Sara Hurwitz failed to include her honorific (“An Orthodox Woman in the Time of #Metoo,” May 11). The Journal regrets the oversight.

U.S. Embassy Officially Opens in Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claps his hands during the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Israel May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

After years of politicians pledging to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem, the move officially happened on May 14.

In a video message, President Trump told attendees of the ceremony celebrating the Jerusalem move, “Exactly 70 years ago the United States under Harry Truman became the first nation to recognize the State of Israel. Today, we officially open the United States embassy in Jerusalem. Congratulations. It’s been a long time coming.”

Trump also tweeted:

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, praised the president for following through on a campaign promise.

“While presidents before him have backed down from their pledge to move the American Embassy once in office, this president delivered,” Kushner said. “Because when President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it.”

Kushner later added, “Jerusalem must remain a city that brings people of all faiths together.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the opening of the embassy made for “a glorious day.”

“President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history,” Netanyahu said.

“In Jerusalem, King David established Jerusalem as a capital 3,000 years ago,” Netanyahu said. “King Solomon later built the Temple, and over 2,000 years later, we got to hear the sentence ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands.’ We are here in Jerusalem, and we are here to stay.”

Netanyahu proceeded to thank Trump “for making the bond between us stronger than ever” and proclaimed that the Jerusalem move brings the prospect of peace closer to reality.

“You can only build peace upon truth, and the truth is that Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years,” Netanyahu said. “May the opening of this embassy spread the truth far and wide.”

Among those in attendance included Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Lindsey Graham, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Letters to the Editor: Iran Deal, North Korea and Natalie Portman

U.S. Scraps Iran Nuclear Agreement

Let’s start with the proposition that Iran is a very bad actor. Let us also agree that without vigorous monitoring, Iran will not strictly adhere to any agreement. That being said, it is a terrible mistake for President Donald Trump not to recertify the Iran nuclear accord.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent dog-and-pony show was long on accusations but short on specific evidence. The binders and computer discs onstage with him aren’t proof that Iran is failing to honor its responsibilities under the nuclear deal. What Netanyahu and the various authors of the commentaries and articles that support scrapping the accord conveniently overlook is that there is a large element in the Israeli intelligence/military establishment that while acknowledging it’s not a perfect accord, it is working and is good for Israel.

It is also interesting to note the other signatories to the Iran nuclear accord say Iran is honoring its obligations. The only naysayers are Netanyahu and Trump.

Andrew C. Sigal, Valley Village

Kudos to the Jewish Journal for exposing the secrets and lies of the Iranian nuclear deal. The cover story would be enough to tell it all (“What Happens Now?” May 4). Dayenu. Beyond that, the articles describe in detail the lies that were foisted on Americans that were particularly painful for American Jews.

David Suissa gave some Trump haters and, in particular, Jewish Trump haters something to think about (“Why Tyrants Must Hate Trump,” May 4). Admittedly, Trump is brash and a rude tweeter. When it comes to foreign tyrants, as Suissa stated, Trump is just what the doctor ordered. As much as we all value decency, for 16 years the United States got burned by two very decent presidents — first by George W. Bush’s trillion-dollar fiasco in Iraq, and then by Barack Obama’s naïve deal with Iran that empowered the world’s biggest sponsor of terror.

We need somebody like Trump to stare them down and back out of the disastrous Iran deal if Iran does not make further concessions.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills


The North Korean Dilemma

I disagree with David Suissa’s assessment in his column “Why Tyrants Must Hate Trump.” If President Donald Trump’s bluster had worked with North Korea, then it would have stopped testing its long-range ICBMs right away. Instead, despite Trump’s threats, they continued testing until they had proven to themselves that they had a missile that could reach most of the United States. The North Koreans offered to talk only after they had tested enough missiles to prove that their missile program was ready. Listen to the speech that Kim Jong Un delivered to his own country. This was his original intent.

Rabbi Ahud Sela via email


The Natalie Portman Issue

In her column (“Portman’s the Messenger, Not the Problem,” April 27), Danielle Berrin introduces the premise that the effect of Portman’s rejection of the Genesis Prize will lead to increased Jewish disunity on congregational matters, including political problems. Berrin warns that one of the problems is the collapse of peace talks and the promise of a two-state solution.

I have three questions for Berrin.

Does Fatah want a two-state solution?

Does Hamas want a two-state solution?

Does Hezbollah want a two-state solution?

Bernard Schneier, Marina del Rey


How American Jews View Israel

Danielle Berrin claims to rely on, but fundamentally misunderstands, Leon Wieseltier’s advice that the merit of a view “owes nothing to the biography of the individual who holds it” (“Should American Jews Criticize Israel?” May 4).

Wieseltier did not invent this notion. It is his way of restating the classic fallacy of the ad hominem attack: A good argument can’t be refuted because the speaker is bad. Nor can a bad argument be improved because the speaker is good. I have no doubt Berrin has deep love for Israel. But that does not mean her opinion has any merit just because it comes from a good place.

No, what Wieseltier is saying is that an argument — and criticism — must be judged solely on its own merits. What nuanced and insightful advice does Berrin offer for the complex military and diplomatic conundrum Israel is faced with? What is the “truth” that Berrin claims her “holy chutzpah” impels her to tell Israel? I honestly would like to know, but I’ll gladly take the advice of someone who may not love Israel as much as Berrin but has answers to challenges such as: the military land-bridge Iran is constructing through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to threaten Israel; the tens of thousands of Hezbollah missiles aimed at Tel Aviv; the tunnels being burrowed under the desert to snatch Israelis in their sleep; and the diplomatic and propaganda war waged against Israel by the United Nations, the European Union and nearly every American university campus.

Perhaps Berrin’s Israeli friend really meant that Israel does not want for critics but that if you are going to criticize, don’t assume that your love substitutes for sound analysis. Contrary to Berrin’s claim, film critic Pauline Kael was not respected “because everyone knew she loved” movies. Many people love movies. Kael was respected because she was a true expert on movies.

But even Kael wasn’t good at making movies. What Israel really needs, more than well-intended critics, is smart, practical and realistic solutions to massively complicated problems.

What is the role of love in all of this? If Berrin’s love for Israel drove her to develop these kinds of solutions,

I’m sure everyone, especially her Israeli friend, would be very grateful. But love alone, Wieseltier teaches, does not a helpful opinion make.

Ben Orlanski, Beverly Hills


Leftism’s Misguided Values

Karen Lehrman Bloch’s compelling column “The Golden Calf of Leftism” (May 4) exposes a new crisis among American Jews.

We’ve all been shocked by the increase in Israel-bashing and anti-Semitism at Democratic rallies, leading to feminist organizers’ recent praise of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. But many Jewish Democrats still support former President Barack Obama’s white-washing of Palestinian rejectionism, terrorism and contempt for Israel. Some Jewish feminists support Linda Sarsour, despite her anti-Semitism and reported endorsement of Sharia law. Wealthy Jews, many in the Hollywood community, are bankrolling Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions promotion.

It’s a cruel irony that while thousands of French Jews make aliyah to escape rising Muslim terrorism, Jewish “progressives” are abetting the terrorists and condemning Israel, the victims’ only refuge.

Rueben Gordon via email


History Lessons in the Journal

Thank you, Jewish Journal and David Suissa for your excellent publication.

I know a “lot” about Israeli and Jewish history up until about 70 B.C.E. I knew very little after that. Therefore, a few years ago, I decided to learn more about Jews and Israel today. I’d like to be as familiar with you and your culture as I am with my own English-American culture.

Recently, I discovered the Journal: It’s like Christmas, my birthday and Yom HaAtzmaut (a term I learned in the Journal) rolled up into one. Every article I read — even the advertisements — is interesting, informative and educational.

The one major problem I have with the Journal is that I’m not finished reading it before the next issue comes out. Oy vey!

Jerald Brown, Sylmar

Netanyahu Praises Trump For Exiting ‘Disastrous’ Iran Deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou/Pool

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised President Trump for exiting from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, denouncing the deal as “disastrous.”

In a video, Netanyahu said that Israel “opposed the nuclear deal from the start.”

“Rather than blocking Iran’s path to the bomb, the deal actually paved Iran’s path to an entire arsenal of nuclear bombs,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu added that the deal increased the chances of war, pointing to Iran’s increased aggression in the Middle East, the ramping up of their ballistic missiles program and the increased attempts to conceal their nuclear weapons program since the implementation of the deal as evidence of this.

“If you leave all of this unchanged, all this combined is a recipe for disaster, a disaster for our region, a disaster for the peace of the world,” Netanyahu said. “This is why Israel thinks that President Trump did a historic move and this is why Israel thanks President Trump for his courageous leadership, his commitment to confront the terrorist regime in Tehran and his commitment to ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, not today, not in a decade, not ever.”

The full video can be seen below:

WHAT HAPPENS NOW: Comments On Netanyahu’s Iran Speech

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30, 2018. REUTERS/ Amir Cohen

On April 30, less than two weeks before President Donald Trump was to decide whether to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood in front of a huge cache of files, computer discs and a large screen of graphics at a news conference in Tel Aviv, and accused Iran of lying for years about its efforts to build a nuclear weapon.

You must admire the people in charge of gathering information for Israel. You must admire the fact that they can show you thousands of documents from within the Iranian archives. And as you admire these creative, bold and daring intelligence gatherers, you also must consider the fact that they say they have documents that you don’t. They say they have information that no one else could gather. They know Iran well enough to obtain half a ton of copied secret documents from inside Iran and ship them to Tel Aviv. Maybe this also means that their sense of what Iran was doing, where it might be going, what its ambitions are like, are better than yours and mine. If these people tell you that Iran is cheating, if they tell you that the nuclear deal doesn’t work, you ought to listen. Agree or disagree, but listen carefully and humbly. There is very little chance that you know better than they do.

Timing is everything. Netanyahu tried and failed to prevent the Iran nuclear deal by addressing Congress in early 2015. It was a controversial move. Many of the speech’s opponents alleged that the prime minister’s main motive was political, that his true audience was Israelis (the election in Israel was held a few weeks after that speech). In a phone conversation I had with the prime minister not long after that speech, he defended his decision to go to Washington, D.C. This was an important enough issue in Israel for him to utilize all possible means, he said, and if that made then-president of the United States Barack Obama unhappy, then so be it.

The timing was off. Obama had no intention of giving up. Perhaps he thought he had a deal worthy of a second Noble Peace Prize. Then-Secretary of State John Kerry perhaps hoped to earn his first. Netanyahu gave a strong speech, but not strong enough. One could only speculate: Would Netanyahu have be more successful had he showed Congress then what he revealed this week?

What did you think about Netanyahu’s presentation on Iran? Most likely, this depends less on the material shown (shocking intelligence, but no evidence that Iran is violating the current nuclear pact), and more on your established opinion about Netanyahu and the Iran deal.
Search the internet and try to guess in advance what each person, pundit or leader is going to say about the presentation. In most cases, if you are familiar with the views of these pundits and leaders, you can skip the comment or the article. You know what they’re going to say (I assume some readers might say the same about this article).

Would more evidence of Iranian malfeasance make a difference? Sure, if Israel had rock-solid proof of recent Iranian violations (if it has such information, Netanyahu did not reveal it). But even then, people always could argue that there’s no proof the documents are real, that Netanyahu’s word isn’t worth a dime, that Israel — and most other countries — were wrong on Iraq’s WMD.

So did Netanyahu change many minds? He surely achieved two objectives: showing Israel’s intelligence prowess, and making Iran a main topic of conversation, for at least a day or two.

If these people tell you that Iran is cheating, if they tell you that the nuclear deal doesn’t work, you ought to listen.

He also annoyed some leaders, but then, many leaders are easily annoyed by him. Some of them were quick to point out that the information discussed by Netanyahu on April 30 didn’t include anything that wasn’t previously known about Iran. The question is: Known to whom? Netanyahu’s presentation clarified things that experts already knew but that politicians didn’t always know and that the public might not have been aware of.

Reportedly, the files concerned an Iranian nuclear weapons program called Project Amad, launched in 1999 and shelved in 2003.

The question remains: Can you alter the opinions of world leaders by showing them information — whether it is old, new, repackaged or re-explained? Are world leaders capable of admitting an error?

The deal with Iran was a mistake made in haste. But let’s be realistic: Do you think Obama changed his mind this week if he watched Netanyahu’s news conference? Do you think Kerry did? Timing is everything. Information — evidence — is hardly as important. Many Americans blame President Trump for bringing about the age of fake news, yet what Netanyahu showed us earlier this week is proof that the Iran deal was fake news. It was fake news produced by people more sophisticated than Trump, and thus more successful in selling their make-believe diplomatic achievement to a receptive audience.

It will take time to assess the impact of Netanyahu’s dramatic revelation. But some things are clear:

Netanyahu was well coordinated with the Trump administration when he staged his news event. He spoke on the phone with Trump two days before the presentation. He met with the newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the day before the presentation. The Trump administration was not taken by surprise. It was well informed, and it was ready to respond — as Trump did half an hour after Netanyahu went off the air.

What was the exact plan? Maybe Trump told him: Give me something to work with; give me something with which to pressure the Europeans. Maybe Trump told him: I can’t convince the Europeans — you try. Maybe Trump told him: I am going to do what’s right; it would be helpful if you can give me some more ammunition.

Can the Europeans, Russians and Chinese, all of which signed the agreement with Iran, be convinced?

I am skeptical and here is why: They knew all along that Iran cannot be trusted. They knew its leaders were lying. They knew it had an earlier, established nuclear weapons program. They were cynical when they hailed the deal, and there’s no reason for me to think that they aren’t cynical now. They decided to compromise with Iran not because they think it is a country of great values and respected leadership. They decided to compromise with Iran because they see economic potential and because they think Iran — and its belligerent behavior — is not really their problem.

I’d like to think that Trump is going to change all this, but this is far from assured. Trump can dump the deal and then lose interest — which isn’t a good outcome. He can maintain the deal — possibly with cosmetic changes to save face — which isn’t a good outcome. He can begin a process of pressuring Iran, and then lose the 2020 election and be replaced by a less vigilant leader — which isn’t a good outcome. The battle against Iran is long, and to win it, the United States or Israel must be persistent and must have a strategy. News conferences, speeches, statements, impressive intelligence achievements — all these have a role in this long battle. But no speech can win this battle.

Do you think Barack Obama changed his mind this week about the Iran deal if he watched Netanyahu’s news conference?

To Israel’s credit — if one believes the unconfirmed reports by the non-Israeli media — it is not merely talking. The same day as Netanyahu’s news conference, suspected Israeli strikes hit Iranian targets in Syria. This was not the first, second or third time Iran was the recipient of a clear message: Its military presence in Syria will not be tolerated.

Israel has made that clear in public statements and to foreign dignitaries including, in recent days, European leaders who were trying to understand why Syria is suddenly becoming such a hot potato. Israel told even the Russians that it is dead serious about not allowing an Iranian presence in Syria. A senior diplomat told his counterpart: We will not let Syria become a second Lebanon. In Lebanon, Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, has thousands of rockets ready for use against Israel. This is hardly convenient, but since the war of 2006, the Israel-Lebanese border has been relatively stable and quiet. Israel has no interest in having to watch a second front to the east, this time not held by Iran’s proxies but rather by Iran.

Again, only time will tell if the Iranians got the message and decided that the benefit does not justify the cost — or maybe it’s the other way around: They got the message and are getting ready to up the ante.

What will Iran do if Trump scraps the deal? What will Israel do in response to Iran’s response?

What Netanyahu revealed was amazing, and also somewhat disappointing.

He told us that Iran is lying.

He proved that the official Iranian position was based on a pile of untruths.

Did we not know?

Netanyahu did not have a smoking gun. It’s disappointing but should be acknowledged. So, if you are still in the business of believing the Iranians — oh, they lied for three decades, they lied up until mid-2015, but now they are telling the truth and nothing but the truth — I would urge you to stay away from banks, insurance companies and flea markets. You are clearly easy prey for con artists. Still, Netanyahu can’t show you evidence that they are lying now. Or maybe he can:

Netanyahu did prove that Iran is still lying about its dishonest past. What he didn’t prove is that it’s lying about the present.

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30, 2018. REUTERS/ Amir Cohen

What Netanyahu revealed was amazing, and also somewhat disappointing.

If one wants to be suspicious of Netanyahu’s motive, it’s not impossible to do. The speech was made on the first day of the summer session of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Netanyahu stole the show. While other politicians were dealing with petty maneuvers, he presented himself as a man of action, determination and big things.

If he has no choice but to call for early elections — because the coalition can’t compromise on issues such as drafting the ultra-Orthodox, or the conversion bill, or the Supreme Court bill — he now will do it as statesman. If his coalition partners were toying with idea of testing his power, they now will have to reconsider.

These are tense days in Israel. Pundits and politicians rush to the microphones to calm down the public, which of course has the opposite effect. If times were truly calm, there would be no need for such appearances.

Remember Israel Independence Day? It was just a week ago. Remember Passover? Four weeks ago. May is here, and with it a mountain of worries:

Will moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, a positive and welcome decision by Trump, ignite protest and violence?

Is Israel ready for the main show in Gaza on Nakba (Palestinians’ Day of Catastrophe) in mid-May, when thousands likely will again attempt to cross the border?

What will the president decide to do with the Iran deal, and what will be the repercussions of his decision?

How will Tehran and Damascus respond to attacks on sites in Syria? What will Iran do if Trump scraps the deal? What will Israel do in response to Iran’s response?

If you are just an observer, you should fasten a metaphorical seat belt as you prepare to watch a possibly dramatic show. If you live in Israel, fastening a seat belt is less an expression and more a statement of sober fact: Fastening a seat belt is what you do to save lives.

Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.

Lies and More Lies

President Barack Obama tweets his first tweet from the Oval Office, May 18, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

So, the Iranians lied.

So did the Obama administration.

On April 30, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that in a stunning intelligence coup, the Israelis had somehow obtained 100,000 files from Iran’s secret atomic archive in Tehran. The files showed that Iran had ardently pursued nuclear weapons for years, lying about it all the while; that they had then failed to turn over the information showing the extent of their program during negotiations over the Barack Obama administration-pushed Iran deal; and that they had hidden those files in a secret warehouse with the obvious intent of reviving their nuclear program the minute they can get away with it.

According to Netanyahu, Iran “is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear weapons program.” Furthermore, Netanyahu claimed that nuclear development “continued … in a series of organizations over the years, and today, in 2018, this work is carried out by SPND, that’s an organization inside Iran’s Defense Ministry.” The head of Iran’s earlier nuclear program currently heads the SPND.

Advocates for the Obama administration have come forward to contend that there’s nothing new here — that everyone knew Iran had been lying about its nuclear program. But when the deal was signed, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Iran would have to disclose past military-related nuclear activities: “If there’s going to be a deal, it will be done. … It will be part of a final agreement.”

Other advocates say that Israel’s intelligence would be damaging to the Iran deal — but those nefarious Jews made it up. According to Tommy Vietor, former Obama National Security Council spokesman, “After years of bashing U.S. intelligence agencies for getting Iraq wrong, [Donald] Trump is now cooking up intel with the Israelis to push us closer to a conflict with Iran. A scandal hiding in plain sight.”

The Obama administration played propagandists for the Iranian government.

So, to get this straight, Vietor is claiming that Israel “cooked up” the intelligence information to bluff America into war — as always, it’s the devious Jews. Furthermore, Vietor is claiming that Trump went along with this Israeli manipulation. Also, the Iranians are complying with the terms of the awful deal. This from a key member of the same administration that admitted in print to having deceived the American public about the Iran deal. Former Obama national security guru and professional fiction writer Ben Rhodes bragged openly about lying to Americans regarding the supposedly more “moderate” Iranian leadership seeking a deal.

Here’s the reality: The Obama administration, desperate to cut a deal with the Iranian government, played propagandists for the Iranian government. They fibbed that the Iranians had gone moderate; they lied that the only alternative to their rotten deal was war; they signed a deal that gave Iran enormous quantities of cash to use for terrorism, and that did nothing to rein in Iran’s ballistic missile program. Finally, they looked the other way as Iran lied about its maintenance of secret nuclear information.

And yet we’re supposed to believe their protestations now?

The Iran deal was garbage from the start. It was a way for Obama to declare triumph in the region even as the world’s worst terror sponsor pursued utter carnage from Tehran to Beirut. Whether Trump kills the deal at this point is of secondary import — the Trump administration knows that the deal is dead, and it’s just a question of whether to declare it so. The real question is why the same international community that accepted Iran’s word should be trusted to verify Iran’s compliance.

The simple answer: They shouldn’t. The Iran deal was an outgrowth of motivated thinking, not evidence-based policymaking. The only question now is whether it’s too late to stop the Iranians from finally achieving their dream of placing Israel and Saudi Arabia within the radius of Iranian nukes.

Ben Shapiro is an author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of “The Ben Shapiro Show” podcast.

Arms Control Expert: Netanyahu Speech ‘Extremely Important’

Screenshot from Twitter.

Dr. Emily Landau, a senior research fellow and head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) told reporters in an April 30 conference call that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech was “extremely important.”

Landau stated that while Netanyahu didn’t necessarily provide anything new, it provided “a lot of information and a lot of flesh in regards to Iran’s work in the past on nuclear weapons programs.” For instance, Netanyahu’s speech accentuated the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s “damning” 2015 report about Iran’s ambitions to develop nuclear weapons that the P5+1 nations swept under the rug.

Consequently, the fact that Iran has never had to answer for their nuclear weapons program means that pertinent information on the latest developments of their weapons program is not available. But what Netanyahu revealed on April 30 provides concrete proof that Iran was lying in their repeated denials of developing nuclear weapons.

“People should be standing up and saying no that’s a lie,” Landau said, adding that “breaking that false narrative of nuclear innocence is important.”

Landau then pointed out that the IAEA was never allowed to interview Dr. Mohsen Farkhrizadeh, the scientist who lead Iran’s Project Amad program to develop nuclear scientists continued to lead the regime’s efforts at nuclear development under the guise of “scientific knowhow.” She argued that the fact that Iran kept information on their nuclear weapons “in an orderly program” shows that they were never serious about nixing their program.

Therefore, the goal of Netanyahu’s speech was to show “the extent to which Iran has lied and cheated and deceived the international community in the nuclear realm for decades.”

“To think this deal will cause Iran to back away… like it’s on very, very shaky ground,” Landau said.

Landau also pointed out the speech was an “implicit message that Israel has access to inner workings inside Iran.”

Landau highlighted some of the flaws in the deal, including the “convoluted” provisions of the deal regarding IAEA since they can only go to “declared nuclear facilities.” The deal also didn’t cover Iran’s ballistic missiles program.

Despite the deal’s flaws, Laundau thought that the ideal course of action going forward is to “strengthen” the Iran deal since it would be difficult to negotiate a new deal altogether.

“Iran needs to get the message that American and Europe are not happy with a lot of Iran’s activities,” Landau said.

Netanyahu EXPOSES Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions In Speech

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened the week with a bombshell of a speech on April 30 that exposed Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

Netanyahu told the world that Israeli intelligence was able to smuggle 55,000 files and 183 CDs from Iran that prove beyond a reasonable doubt that despite Iran’s repeated denials, the country has always sought to develop nuclear weapons and never strayed from that goal, even after the nuclear deal was forged.

“I’m here to tell you one thing: Iran lied,” Netanyahu said. “Big time.”

In a slideshow presentation that was only “a fraction” of the intelligence the Israelis had uncovered, the files showed that from 1999-2003, Iran had a secret operation called “Project Amad,” which the files described as “a comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons.” The project’s stated goal was to develop five nuclear warheads with 10 kiloton TNT yields, the equivalent of five Hiroshima bombs on missiles, per Netanyahu.

Project Amad was broken down into five elements: designing nuclear weapons, developing nuclear cores, building nuclear implosion systems, preparing nuclear tests and integrating nuclear warheads on missiles.

“These files conclusively prove that Iran is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear weapons program,” Netanyahu said. “The files prove that.”

Netanyahu added that facing international pressure in 2003, Iran shelved Project Amad but continued to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of “scientific knowhow” led by Dr. Mohsen Farkhrizadeh, who had also led Project Amad, as well as a lot of the same personnel who led Project Amad.

Additionally, Iran continued their uranium development at the Frodow Uranium Enrichment Facility, which was hidden underneath the mountains so Iran could continue its development of nuclear weapons under the radar.

The Iran nuclear deal allowed Iran to keep Fordow running, so long as they came clean about their nuclear program. But the uncovered files showed that Iran had told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2015 that they “denied the existence of a coordinated program aimed at the development of a nuclear explosive device and specifically denied the existence of the Amada Plan.”

“Why would a terrorist regime hide and secretly catalogue their nuclear files if not to use them at a later date?” Netanyahu asked.

Netanyahu proceeded to slam the deal as “based on Iranian lies and Iranian deception.”

As Netanyahu had explained earlier in the speech, after the deal was implemented in 2015, Iran moved its secret nuclear files to a secret location in Tehran that only very few Iranians and Israelis knew about. It was from this location where Israeli intelligence was able to smuggle the nuclear files.

Netanyahu explained that the deal basically paves the way for Iran to develop a nuclear bomb, as it allows for Iran to enrich unlimited amounts of uranium after a certain date. The deal also doesn’t address Iran’s ballistic missile program at all, and the consequences of this are seen in Iran continually expanding its missile program.

“This is a terrible deal,” Netanyahu said. “It should never have been concluded.”

Netanyahu pointed out that President Trump will soon make a decision on whether the United States will exit the Iran deal.

“I’m sure he will do the right thing,” Netanyahu said.

Portman’s Words Matter

Photo by Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

In “Portman-gate,” this week’s scandal of sorts, acclaimed Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman has been variously praised as a hero for speaking truth to power or vilified as a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) dupe. She is neither.

It is a cautionary tale of irresponsibly wielding the political power of celebrity in the digital age, and unwittingly sending a powerful message that, apparently, is contrary to the intended message.

As nearly everyone knows by now, Natalie Portman announced in a statement issued on April 20 that she would not travel to Israel to accept the 2018 Genesis Prize. In the original announcement, her spokesperson stated that “recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.” The prize was to be awarded by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The blogosphere erupted. Portman was praised from the left as a truth-telling hero, and vilified from the right as embracing the BDS movement. So she issued a new statement, apparently intended to clarify her actions. “I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu,” she said. “I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance,” but “the mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values.”

Still unclear, at least of this writing, is whether or not Portman feels “comfortable participating in public events in Israel.”

Hopefully, Portman will further clarify her stance, and will announce her intention to re-engage in Israeli public life. But the damage is done. Most will ignore the successive clarifying press releases issued by her people and will regard her simply as the Israeli-American superstar who now despises Israel so much she can’t even go there.

Most … will regard her simply as the Israeli-American superstar who now despises Israel so much she can’t even go there.

Portman, however, is no predictable anti-Israel agitator. To the contrary, her lifelong connection with Israel is bona fide and documented. She’s a native Israeli, born Neta-Lee Hershlag in Jerusalem. She directed and starred in the Hebrew language film adaptation of Amos Oz’s novel “A Tale of Love and Darkness.” She has long vocally opposed Netanyahu’s policies, once noting that she found “his racist comments horrific.” Still, she has previously criticized those who utilize their celebrity to “shit” on Israel. “I don’t want to do that,” she said.

Yet, that is precisely what her original announcement did. It quite clearly signaled that she was boycotting Israel, at least for the time being. That incendiary but remarkably imprecise statement was unabashedly hypocritical. Portman is, after all, also a fierce critic of President Donald Trump. Yet, she is hardly retreating from public events in the United States. Rather, she has been a fixture at the women’s marches, and has participated in the robust anti-Trump protests. She has not retreated from the Hollywood awards scene either, and it’s a safe bet to assume that she won’t decline to accept an Oscar next year because she is distressed about “recent events” in the Trump administration.

Portman states unequivocally in her latest clarification that “I am not part of the BDS movement and do not endorse it.” She may deny that her actions give support to BDS, but she’s wrong. They do. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti said that “this latest rebuff to Israeli cultural events and accolades, coming from an Israeli-American superstar, is arguably one of the strongest indicators yet of how toxic the Israel Brand has become, even in some liberal circles in Hollywood. I can sense our South Africa moment coming closer.”

And on the other end of the political spectrum, Knesset member Rachel Azaria of Netanyahu’s coalition partner Kulanu party gets it, too. She sees Portman’s cancellation as “a warning light.” “She is totally one of us, identifies with her Judaism and her Israeliness,” Azaria said.

Celebrities of Portman’s stature have a responsibility to carefully vet the wording and reasoning of public pronouncements that they know will have significant impact. Those who love Israel but wish to criticize the government must remember: Tailor your public criticisms accurately and carefully, but don’t inadvertently give aid and comfort to those who deny the very legitimacy of the Jewish state.


Stuart Tochner is an employment attorney in Los Angeles.

The Portman Snub: A Calm Assessment

All sober analyses must begin with simple facts we can all agree on.

Fact: Actress Natalie Portman agreed to visit Israel to receive the Genesis Prize, often called the “Jewish Nobel.” Terms were set, the date was set, and organizers were preparing. Portman appointed a person to be in charge of allocating the prize money to organizations in Israel that work to empower women — organizations of her choosing.

Fact: The Academy Award-winning actress then canceled. Her explanation remains vague. She indicated her decision was related to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s participation in the event. But she knew all along that he was coming. The actress’ representative said that “recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” but didn’t specify which “recent events.” Is she snubbing Israel over the Gaza unrest, over the fate of recent non-Jewish immigrants, over Israeli Supreme Court battles, over Netanyahu’s hair style? I assume it’s not the latter but I don’t know what it is. Maybe she’s got something up her sleeve that we didn’t take into consideration. Maybe when the case is laid out it will seem more convincing than it is now.

These are facts. If you doubt these facts — if you think she never wanted the prize, or if you think she did have clear explanation of her motivation — there’s no reason for you to keep reading this column.

Now we move from facts to analysis, which must include three main questions: 1) What was Portman’s objective? 2) Did she meet her objective? and 3) What was the price for meeting her objective?

Because we agree that Portman never provided a clear explanation for her decision, we must try to guess her motives. Possibilities include: 1) She didn’t want to visit Israel; 2) She didn’t want to stand next to Netanyahu; 3) She wanted to protest one of Israel’s policies;  4) She wanted to change public opinion in the United States; 5) She wanted to change public opinion in Israel;  6) She wanted to please certain friends or fans. And the list can go on.

Portman made Israelis even more suspicious of liberal Jewish Americans.

Because her motive is unknown, it’s difficult to determine if she accomplished her goal. Portman, who holds dual Israeli and U.S. citizenship, won’t visit Israel nor stand next to Netanyahu. Maybe she changed some minds in the U.S., but about what is unclear. Some people are using her decision for their agendas — one assumes it’s about Gaza, another that it’s about non-Jewish immigrants. Portman’s decision didn’t seem to change the opinion of Israelis on any of the debatable subjects. But it’s possible that, thanks to her, more Israelis are now convinced that relying on the support of Jewish Americans would be a mistake. And yes, we can assume that a certain circle of friends is now satisfied — but perhaps there also also friends who are now angry.

What was the price we all pay for her miscalculated (my term) decision? Although alleging she is against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Portman assisted those wanting to boycott Israel. She became a role model for those wanting to see U.S. Jews and Americans in general alienate Israel — a trend that could put Israel at increased risk. She made Israelis even more suspicious of liberal Jewish Americans, lowering the chance that they will ever heed the advice of those like Portman.

Portman’s cancelation enraged some Israeli politicians. Most of them aren’t policymakers, and they are merely utilizing Portman as a political punching bag. Netanyahu, to his credit, didn’t run with this issue (as of this writing). Portman deserves a harsh rebuke, but Israel will gain nothing from picking a fight with the popular actress. In fact, it ought to examine whether Portman’s move was deliberate, vicious and a first in a planned campaign — or whether it was truly a miscalculation.

Portman should have done her homework before insulting Israel. Israel would be wise to do its own homework before it insults her back.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.

Portman’s Blunder? She Said Yes.

Natalie Portman must be a conflicted soul. In 2015, she told the Hollywood Reporter she was “very upset and disappointed” by the re-election of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was very much “against” him, but that she didn’t want her criticisms to be “used by adversaries of Israel.”

Two years later, in November 2017, Portman was selected by the Genesis Prize Foundation to be its fifth laureate, receiving a grant of $1 million to donate to charitable causes.

As part of the vetting and selection process, Portman was made aware that the prime minister’s office and The Jewish Agency for Israel were partners in the project. She was told the prime minister (whom she disliked so much) would attend the ceremony. His participation was apparent in numerous pictures from previous galas.

Nevertheless, when she received the award, she released this statement:

“I am deeply touched and humbled by this honor. I am proud of my Israeli roots and Jewish heritage; they are crucial parts of who I am. It is such a privilege to be counted among the outstanding Laureates whom I admire so much.”

Last week, five months after making that statement, Portman changed her mind and announced she wouldn’t attend the ceremony in Israel.

A representative said that “recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” and that “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.”

What happened in five months to cause her to change her mind and publicly shame Israel? Well, we know what didn’t happen — Bibi and Israel did not change their stripes.

After a public outcry, caused in part by the vagueness of the statement, she released a second statement via Instagram, saying that she “chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony.”

The focus on Netanyahu created another public relations problem for Portman: She always knew Bibi would be part of the ceremony. She knew this was a prime minister event as much as a Jewish Agency event as much as a Genesis event.

So, what happened in five months to cause her to change her mind and publicly shame Israel? Well, we know what didn’t happen — Bibi and Israel did not change their stripes. It’s still the same Bibi she dislikes and the same Israel of her “roots” and “heritage.”

In other words, there is no good, rational explanation for her global ambush of Israel. Portman knows the power of celebrity. She knows that Genesis picks famous people precisely because of their outsized influence to bring positive change to the world. She knows that Israel is already one of the most maligned countries on earth, and that her actions, as she once said, can “be used by adversaries of Israel.”

She knows all that, and she still chose to use her fame to nourish Israel’s enemies. This may be why Portman has received so little support for her decision, even among many Bibi critics. She allowed her disdain for one man to cloud her judgment about a whole country.

If Portman was so concerned about appearing to endorse Netanyahu, she had no business saying yes in the first place. But once she said yes, if she didn’t want to appear to insult a country she claims to love, she had no business saying no.

This is not about criticism of Israel. Portman has every right to criticize Israel — everyone does. There’s probably more public self-criticism going on in one day in Israel than in the whole Middle East.

But Portman didn’t criticize Israel — she boycotted the country. Her action communicated to the world that she’s so turned off by Israel she can’t even live up to her commitment to attend a ceremony in the country. By shutting out Israel, she also shut out nuance and complexity, advancing the one-sided, tired, Israel-hating narrative that puts all the blame on the Jewish state for whatever goes wrong.

If Portman was so concerned about appearing to endorse Netanyahu, she had no business saying yes in the first place. But once she said yes, if she didn’t want to appear to insult a country she claims to love, she had no business saying no.

I can think of one silver lining in this debacle. All the attention on the Genesis Prize means that more attention will be given to the real purpose of the initiative — how to use the prize money to make the world a better place.

Contrary to what many people think, it is Genesis that has the final say on how the prize money is allocated. The laureate only chooses the category, which this year is advancing women’s rights and equality.

In the summer, Genesis will announce grantees in Israel. In the fall, it will announce grantees in North America. With the help of matching funds, the Genesis Prize Foundation hopes to grant up to $3 million this year to help empower women’s causes.

How ironic. The country Portman insulted will follow through on its commitment to help some of her favorite causes. Maybe by Rosh Hashana she’ll release a third statement saying “I’m sorry” and “Thank you.”

Celebration, Commemoration and Disappointment

This year it has been an odd holiday season for many Jews. The joy of our celebrations has been marred by disappointment as we ponder the holidays’ themes and their implications for the world around us.

Our commemorations of suffering and slavery and then freedom ought and are meant to resonate in our activities in the real world.

As we celebrated Passover, we are instructed to feel as if we, ourselves, were slaves in Egypt. [Deuteronomy 24:18, “Always remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God redeemed you from your slavery”]. The Passover Seder had us metaphorically re-experience the exodus—we consumed its symbols (the bitter herbs of slavery and Matzah, the unleavened bread eaten while fleeing) to make dramatic and personal the challenges and the implications of the journey from slavery to freedom.

The eight-day Passover festival has been supplemented by contemporary Jews with three more commemorations on the Jewish calendar, the first addition in more than a millennium.

Today we recollect the Holocaust, the annihilation of six million Jews with Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). One week later Jews observe Israel’s Memorial Day and the sacrifice of its soldiers who defend the right of the Jewish people to be free. It is followed immediately by the celebration of Israel’s Independence Day – this year its 70th.

Most Yom HaShoa commemorations reference the indifference of the world to Jews and Jewish refugees. As the man who would become Israel’s first President, Chaim Weizmann, said in 1937 (eleven years before the creation of the state) the world was then divided “into places where the Jews could not live and places where they cannot enter.”

In the context of celebration and commemoration, with four holidays whose themes intertwine around freedom, moral responsibility and action we witnessed the prime minister of Israel reneging on an agreement with the United Nations. A pact that would have provided refuge in Israel, Europe and Canada to thousands of Africans who have sought asylum in Israel from persecution and violence and who face the threat of death if they are forced to return to their homelands.

Israel is a sovereign state that has the right and obligation to take care of its own, thirty-nine thousand refugees in a nation the size of Israel is not without issues; but the arrangement with the UN and other nations including Canada, Germany and Italy was a viable and fair resolution to the crisis. Yet Prime Minister Netanyahu cancelled the agreement within hours of endorsing it at the behest of right wing allies.

It is difficult to square our traditions and religious admonitions with the expulsion of desperate immigrants into a world where not only their freedom may be denied, but also their lives taken.

Some will commemorate the Holocaust today to largely teach that the “whole world is against us and only an empowered Jewish people that can defend itself will offer security and safety.” That is one lesson that can be drawn from the tragic events of seventy-five years ago; but surely not its only one.

The Holocaust is also a story that happened to a distinct people that has become a shared universal paradigm which speaks to human conscience. It ought to inspire active moral values, enlarge the domain of human responsibility, elicit compassion, and command respect for universal human rights and dignity. That was the core of the Jewish message transmitted by the survivors and by those millions of others who have become witnesses to their witness.

That message ought to be reflected in Israel, envisioned as a beacon to the world, a place that would not only give substance to Jewish nationalism and chauvinism but also to Jewish values. Values that reflect the Biblical injunctions on how to treat the stranger and the sojourner.  Having been history’s “wanderers” we should comprehend the real-world impact of ignoring the Bible’s noble commands.

Those values were diminished by the Prime Minister of Israel and those who pressured him to abrogate the agreement he had reached to resettle the thousands of African refugees.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Netanyahu was not alone in diminishing history’s lessons and values. For on the very day that coincided with Easter and Passover the President railed against our strangers and sojourners. He demeaned foreign born children in our midst who have lived in America and are American in every sense of the term, save their citizenship papers.

Our holidays are marred by leadership who have ignored the lessons of history and the season and acted in ways as our tradition decried.


Dr. Michael Berenbaum, is the Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust at American Jewish University. David A. Lehrer is the president of Community Advocates, Inc. (www.cai-la.org) a human relations agency in Los Angeles chaired by former mayor Richard J. Riordan.

Netanyahu Nixes U.N. Agreement on Refugees After Initially Supporting It

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a news conference at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem April 2, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on April 2 that he would be supporting an agreement with the United Nations on resettling African refugees, only to rescind his support hours later.

The agreement would have resettled 16,250 refugees to various Western countries like Canada and Germany while thousands of others would be allowed to temporarily stay in Israel so long as they are moved out of Tel Aviv. Netanyahu at first hailed the agreement as the best possible solution, but after meeting with activists opposed to the agreement, Netanyahu flipped.

“Despite the mounting legal and international limitations, we will continue to act with determination to exhaust all of the options at our disposal for expelling the infiltrators,” Netanyahu said on April 3.

Before Netanyahu initially agreed to the U.N. agreement, Israel’s solution to the 38,000 refugees from Sudan and Eritrea who had entered the country illegally was to offer them $3,500 deport them to what was believed to be Rwanda or Uganda or to their country of origin. Israel’s Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on this policy, putting deportations on pause indefinitely.

In a April 2 Facebook post, Netanyahu wrote that Rwanda was pressured by the European Union and the George Soros-funded nonprofit New Israel Fund to not accept Israel’s proposed solution.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) spokesman William Spindler told Agence France-Presse (AFP), “We continue to believe in the need for a win-win agreement that can benefit Israel, the international community and people needing asylum and we hope that Israel will reconsider its decision soon.”

The U.N. agreement did not seem to be popular among Israelis, as 47% said they disapproved of it while only 34% approved of it in a poll by Israel’s Channel 10.

As Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick has explained, the refugee issue stemmed from an influx of migrants pouring through an open border that Israel shared with Egypt 2007-2011. Israel began constructing a fence to seal off the border in 2012 and it was completed in 2013, causing the number of African migrants entering the country to decline to the point where none entered in 2017.

However, the spike in migrants caused crime to increase in Tel Aviv, Glick argued.

“Sexual offenses in neighborhoods with high percentages of African migrants were 3.5 times higher than in their rates in the general population,” Glick wrote. “Violent crime was 2.5 times higher. Robberies occurred six times more often.”

Glick added, “A survey of area residents taken by the Israeli police in 2015 showed that only 38 percent felt secure outside their homes after dark. Only 43 percent felt safe in their homes after dark.”

Adelsons Pledge $13 Million to IAC

From left to right: Yehoram Gaon, Haim Saban, Shawn Evenhaim, Dr. Miriam Adelson, and Sheldon Adelson. Photo by Idan Ozeri-Tal.

Pro-Israel mega-donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson announced at the Israeli-American Council (IAC) Los Angeles’s 10th Annual Gala on Mar. 18 that they would be donating $13 million to the pro-Israel organization.

Miriam Adelson made the announcement toward the end of the evening at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, when people in the audience were announcing their pledges. The Adelsons’ pledge was by far the largest of the night.

“The IAC has achieved remarkable progress in advancing its historic mission,” Sheldon Adelson said in a statement featured in an IAC press release. “We are deeply invested in the organization’s long-term success and its vision of a coast-to-coast community with Israel in its heart. This is an investment in the future generations of Jewish Americans and the State of Israel.”

The IAC Board of Directors praised the Adelsons in the same press release as being “among the great Jewish leaders of our time.”

“Their bold vision, passionate leadership, and unmatched generosity have been an inspiration to all of us, and have propelled the IAC’s rapid growth and great success,” the statement said. “We look forward to partnering with the Adelsons in the years ahead to further the rapid growth of our community and our donor base, working together to make a historic impact for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”

Another major pledge announced at the gala was $1 million from Haim Saban, who had previously withdrawn his support for the IAC in 2015. At the time, a spokesman for Saban issued a statement to The Forward that read, “Haim Saban is focused on a range of philanthropic activities to promote pro-Israel advocacy and tackle efforts to delegitimize Israel. In the near term, Mr. Saban is also concentrating on the Friends of the IDF and the Saban Forum, both of which have major events in the next few months.” At the gala, Saban said he was inspired by the IAC’s recent conference in Washington D.C. to support the organization again.

In total, the IAC raised over $16.5 million at the gala.

The gala was celebrating 10 years of the IAC’s existence and how it has blossomed into the fastest-growing Jewish organization in the country, with notable landmarks including the organization’s first event in Washington, D.C. in 2014 and hosting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in 2017. IAC programs such as IAC Bina and IAC Gvanim have helped bring the Israeli-American community together and help them connect with their Israeli and Jewish identity and the IAC has worked with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to implement anti-Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) legislation.

IAC Chairman Adam Milstein told gala attendees that the IAC’s growth has been due to a “strong nationwide movement” that is “rooted in our unequivocal love and support for our Jewish homeland, the state of Israel.”

“Our unwavering support for the state of Israel strengthens the Jewish community unlike any other American organization,” said Milstein.

The keynote speaker at the gala was Rabbi Avraham Infeld, an influential leader and teacher in the Jewish community worldwide. Infeld focused his address on how 250 years ago, Jews understood that being Jewish wasn’t necessarily being part of a religion, but being a part of a people. Today, thanks to modernity, a lot of Jews view Judaism as solely a religion instead, and it has been to the detriment of the community at large.

“We are living in a period in which the concept of a Jewish people has almost been forgotten,” Infeld said, later adding that the Jewish people “have become very divisive, very divided and understanding ourselves in different ways.”

Infeld said that “the IAC has an amazing job to do” to help ameliorate this issue.

The gala also featured a performance from Israeli singer Yehoram Gaon and a video message from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We’re winning,” Netanyahu said in the video. “Israel is winning. Israel has never been stronger.”

Netanyahu told the IAC, “Thank you for everything that you’re doing” and urged them to keep up the good work.

Report: Israel 11th in Happiness Rankings

Photo from Public Domain Pictures.

The United Nations (U.N.) released their latest country happiness rankings on Mar. 14 and placed Israel at 11th, the same spot it’s been in for five years.

The countries in the top 10 were Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia, in that order. And given that these happiness scores are likely overstated in these Scandinavian countries, Israel’s happiness levels could be ranked even higher.

The United States was ranked 18th – a marked decline from previous years – while the Palestinian territories were placed at 104th. Iran wasn’t far behind at 106.

The report based its rankings on “GDP, social support structures, healthy lifestyles, social freedom, generosity and the absence of corruption,” among other factors, according to the Algemeiner.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox News host Mark Levin on Sunday Israel’s ranking was all the more impressive given that young people in the country were ranked fifth on the happiness index.

“They have a real confidence in the future, and that’s because I think they appreciate and… I know that’s what drives me and animates me: How to ensure that the Jewish state has a permanent future of security and prosperity… and peace if we can get it,” Netanyahu said. “The people of Israel I think do identify that.”

It’s not hard to see why there is such happiness in the Jewish state given the country’s thriving startup nation and respect for various freedoms that make it akin to the United States in terms of culture and values.

Read the full report here.

Netanyahu Gets ‘Cold Feet’ on Dismantling Government

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, March 11, 2018. REUTERS/Oded Balilty/Pool

After talks of possibly dismantling the current coalition government, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly got “cold feet” over it and reached a coalition compromise agreement to keep the government intact.

According to the Times of Israel, the compromise involves a vote on a bill that would exempt ultra-Orthodox Israelis from military service in exchange for a vote on the 2019 budget for the Israeli government that would avoid early elections from occurring before 2019.

The conscription bill would initially be drafted by a member of parliament, giving the Yisrael Beytenu faction the opportunity to uphold its promise of voting against the bill. Later on, the Defense Ministry will draft a conscription bill that is more suitable to the coalition at large and combine it with the current bill.

“I said yesterday I’d make a supreme effort to prevent elections… I promised, and I have kept that promise,” Netanyahu said at the Knesset on Mar. 13.

Netanyahu also told his opponents, “If there were elections, I’d be back standing here, and you’d be back to interpreting me over there. The public trust in us is huge. Now we’re going back to work.”

The conscription bill advanced in the Knesset by a vote of 59-38; in mid-April the Knesset is expected to take up the Defense Ministry version combined with the current bill.

Netanyahu reportedly agreed to the compromise because his own party, the Likud Party, told him that they wouldn’t go along with any effort to dismantle the coalition. Some had accused Netanyahu of trying to disband the coalition in order to call for early elections before the attorney general has a chance to indict him over allegations of corruption. The allegations have yet to be proven.

Is This the End for Bibi?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Jim Hollander/Reuters

Israeli columnist Ben Caspit has not always had good luck with timing. In 2013, he penned a book about former Prime Minister Ehud Barak — his second. The first book was published in the late 1990s, when Barak still seemed fresh and promising. Caspit worked hard on the second book so that, among other things, he could correct the adoring nature of the first book. The second one, “Stealth,” was highly critical.

“Stealth” made some headlines and met with modest success, but the timing was clearly off. In early 2013, a new government was formed, and Barak, after many years as defense minister, was no longer a part of it. Caspit’s well-aimed ammunition was spent on a political corpse. The 76-year-old Barak is still with us, of course, and still makes waves occasionally, but very few Israelis believe that his dream of a comeback — which many suspect he still harbors — is a realistic one.

Caspit may have better luck with his latest book, “Netanyahu: Biography” (published in English in July under the title “The Netanyahu Years”). It has been Israel’s No. 1 best-seller for a few weeks now, as its protagonist, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, battles for his political survival and, possibly, his freedom.

“I realized there is a potential for a perfect storm,” Caspit told me recently in Los Angeles. Originally, the Hebrew version was supposed to be published first, but American publishers decided to publish the English version last year. Caspit’s Israeli publisher had a more flexible schedule that allowed it to time publication to coincide with news developments. The strategy proved successful — “More than I could ever imagine when I started working on the book four years ago,” Caspit said.

If Netanyahu serves the remainder of this term as prime minister, the book’s back cover reminds readers, he will become the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s short history.

Timing is everything. It’s true for books as it is for investigations and journalistic scoops. In the past three weeks, Israelis have had to stay alert if they wanted to keep pace with developments in the Netanyahu investigations. Every week, there is new scandal. Every week, there is new angle. A few weeks ago, the police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for allegedly taking illegal gifts from wealthy people, such as Arnon Milchan, and attempting to trade favors with the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, a popular newspaper usually hostile to the prime minister.

Netanyahu fought back. Police recommendations do not impress him, and he will wait for the decision of the attorney general. Or maybe he will wait even longer, for a final decision by the courts. Until then, Netanyahu reminds his base, he is under no legal obligation to step aside, quit or suspend himself. Suspicions and allegations aside, he is innocent until proven guilty. He also has the support of the people — the many citizens who voted him in as prime minister for a fourth term and, according to polls, likely would elect him to a fifth.

The public had barely digested the police recommendations when new allegations arose. The latest case alleges Netanyahu worked to benefit an Israeli tycoon who controls a communications empire in exchange for positive coverage on one of the tycoon’s news sites. Then, another bombshell hit the news when Netanyahu’s former close confidant, Shlomo Filber, decided to become a state witness against his former boss. Filber was Netanyahu’s right-hand man in the Ministry of Communication. If there is a black box in which the secrets of the Netanyahu-tycoon relationship are hidden, Filber is the most likely person with the key.

So, the prime minister is done, right? Some pundits were quick to eulogize him, and they have strong arguments. Still, Netanyahu survives.

A series of polls has shown that the public still supports the current coalition and has no inclination to replace it with another. Netanyahu’s coalition partners have no incentive to topple their hold on power, and for now stand behind him. And even the media got off Netanyahu’s back for a few days this past week after a report of a problematic exchange of text messages between a prosecutor and a judge involved in the tycoon case. Their texts, exchanged in advance of court hearings, were caught by a reporter who photographed one of their cellphone screens. Obviously, their foul equips the Netanyahu camp with a new set of rhetorical arrows, enabling it to assert that the justice system is guilty of bias.

For three days, Israelis had to consider the implications of this prosecutor-judge communication — the text was more an irresponsible banter than anything else. For three days, the focus was not on Netanyahu, but rather on the justice system and its faults. The prime miniter could take a breath. Next week, he will be in Washington, enjoying another respite from the pursuing investigators. The police are asking to interview Netanyahu, but he has an elusive schedule. Today is not good; tomorrow might be problematic; next week, he’s traveling; the week after, who knows?

Netanyahu is buying time. Maybe he’s hoping to get more information before being questioned; maybe he’s strategizing before making his next move. There is a positive aspect to all of these revelations: the prime minister doesn’t seem tired, he seems ready for a fight, energetic, uncompromising. But the negative aspect is obvious: Netanyahu’s many affairs will cast a shadow over all political developments in the coming months. They will be a diversion. They will make politicians edgy and the public weary. They will raise suspicions that government officials are more concerned with survival than anything else. They will frustrate Netanyahu’s rivals and supporters and hence make the public discourse even nastier than it is now.

The prime minister is done, right? Some pundits were quick to eulogize him, and they have strong arguments. Still, Netanyahu survives.

And as Israel moves forward, it can expect a constant stream of news, scandals, leaks, revelations, maneuvers and spin — accompanied by the constant underlying question: Will he survive? Will he become the longest-serving prime minister?

A week ago, Haaretz editor Aluf Benn declared “the final days of Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule.” Benn is one of Israel’s wisest writers and, as usual, he made a solid argument predicting Netanyahu’s demise. Benn made a similarly solid argument in December 2010, foretelling the expiration of Netanyahu’s second government under a similar headline: “It’s over for Benjamin Netanyahu.” Indeed, new elections were called, but two years later. And now, more than seven years later, the “It’s over” prediction is still waiting to be fulfilled. Surely, it is only a matter of time. Netanyahu, like all politicians, and all humans, will not stick around forever.

The opposite argument, made by Bret Stephens at The New York Times, is also not foolproof.

“For all of his flaws, few have done it as well as Bibi, which is why he has endured, and will probably continue to do so,” Stephens wrote. His assessment of the prime minister’s achievements is fair, and his contemplation of public opinion — Israelis do not see a worthy heir to Netanyahu — is solid. But Israel is still a country of shifting political ground. The fact that Netanyahu has the support of his partners today doesn’t mean he will have it tomorrow.

Netanyahu is hardly beloved by his peers. Within his own Likud party, some of the ministers are eager to see him gone. He has dominated the party for many years, and a generation of young and promising leaders await their turn. The coalition is also edgy. The Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennet and Netanyahu have tense relations. Finance Minister Moshe Cahlon left the Likud Party because of Netanyahu. The Charedi parties are loyal to the prime minister, but they expect to be rewarded. Such rewards — the Charedis recently demanded legislation exempting Charedi youths from serving in the Israel Defense Forces — complicates relations between the Likud party and most of the country (the Charedi parties are highly unpopular with non-Charedi voters). Such rewards strengthen Netanyahu’s main political rival, Yair Lapid, whom the Charedis consider an archenemy.

To sum up, look at the fundamentals. Netanyahu’s options are few when it comes to the police and the justice system: They have witnesses ready to testify against him, recordings, documents, and the legal right, time and resources to keep investigating him. Netanyahu can slow them down, he can divert public attention, he can discredit the people investigating him, but stopping this train is beyond his power. This train is moving forward, and it is carrying a heavy load of toxic material.

But this legal train is not the only train on track. The political train is much faster and more agile. As long as the political calculations of Netanyahu’s coalition partners remain as they are today, he can survive. He can work to stabilize the coalition and wait patiently for the slow legal train — it might take a year or two before it reaches its next dangerous junction: the attorney general’s decision. Netanyahu can pre-empt a decision by calling for a new election, in the hope that reaffirmation by the public will make it more difficult for the attorney general to put him on trial. And, of course, he can try to forge a deal: trade his political future to escape a trial and possible conviction.

As disappointing as this scenario might be for pundits in need of catchy headlines, for a public in need of political stability, for coalition partners in need of political clarity, for international players in need of a reliable partner, no one knows how Netanyahu will play his cards. Like most politicians, Netanyahu is used to keeping as many options open as possible until emerging circumstances force him to act. For now, no major decision is required.

So, is the end of Netanyahu near? I know you want an answer, and I do, too. But as I write this, only one thing is clear: Netanyahu survived yet another stormy week.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.

Arnon Milchan: Hero or Anti-Hero?

FILE PHOTO: Israeli producer Arnon Milchan of New Regency Productions is shown in Los Angeles in this June 7, 2005 file photo. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/File Photo

Israeli author Meir Doron, who co-wrote an unauthorized biography on Arnon Milchan, was surprised to hear that the renowned Hollywood producer had been implicated in a bribery scandal involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Feb. 13, Israeli police recommended bribery charges be brought against Netanyahu and Milchan. The allegation? That Milchan gave Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, almost a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of expensive gifts, including pink Champagne, cigars and jewelry in exchange for billions of dollars in tax breaks.

Doron, who moved to the United States in 1989, co-wrote a biography on Milchan published in 2011 titled  “Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan.” The book delves into Milchan’s double life as an arms dealer and a covert agent while producing movies starring the likes of Julia Roberts (“Pretty Woman”) and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith”).

Speaking with the Journal at his Encino home, Doron said he felt the allegations against Milchan were incongruous because it was the State of Israel that taught Milchan the art of bribery.

“Milchan was one of Israel’s most assertive and effective secret agents,” Doron said. “For years, he had given bribes in the millions to people in power, agents and state officials in order to advance Israel’s interests.”

“Arnon Milchan was one of Israel’s most assertive and effective secret agents.” — Meir Doron

Jewish Journal: Given your high opinion of Milchan and everything he did for the State of Israel, what was your immediate reaction to the bribery allegations?

Meir Doron: When I heard that they were talking about cigars and Champagne, I [thought those were ridiculous charges]. Really? Those are bribes? I wouldn’t have been surprised if he sent Netanyahu and his wife on a private yacht around the world, though. That’s how Milchan operates. It’s also how most producers operate in Hollywood. Milchan was always the wealthiest one in the group, the one who paid for everybody around the dinner table. It’s natural that when a wealthy friend comes to visit, he brings an expensive gift. Milchan did the same with other leaders he met throughout the years.

JJ: Do you think other Israeli leaders like the late President Shimon Peres, whom Milchan was also close to, received bribes?

MD: I have no doubt Peres, Yair Lapid and anyone else who was at the top of the government received benefits and gifts from Milchan.

JJ: But it’s only the gifts that Netanyahu received that are under scrutiny.

MD: These are things that are connected to inside politics in Israel. It started in the 1960s, when Milchan inherited a bankrupt company from his father. He learned pretty quickly how to navigate the Israeli bureaucracy in order to get special licenses, import and export credentials, and exceptional tax preferences. It was the key to his financial success.

JJ: So you think Israel should turn a blind eye to the allegations against Milchan because of everything he did for the country? 

MD: I think Israel owes it to him. He did more for Israel than any other Israeli politician. He also did more than any security personnel that serves today in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) or in Israel’s Security Agency.

Bibi’s Media Obsession

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks during an inauguration ceremony for a fortified emergency room at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, southern Israel, February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was always obsessed with the media. He was always at war with the media. He always put the media market at the top of his list of needed changes. For a politician (as Americans must know), fighting the media is not a bad strategy. But Netanyahu did not just fight it — Netanyahu strived to use his power to redesign the media market to his advantage. With one hand, he fought the media that was critical of him; with the other, he nurtured a media that could glorify him.

Fighting the media is not always a virtuous strategy, but also not always a condemnable one. Netanyahu had many good reasons to suspect that the established media was against him — and had reasons to assess that fighting back will buy him support among the people.

Things got murkier, and more problematic, when Netanyahu was actively using his influence and power as the prime minister to get himself a more adoring media. Murkier, because it is not always to separate a legitimate policy preference (to have a more open media market) from a less legitimate private interest (to have a media that writes adoringly about Netanyahu). Problematic, because Netanyahu, as the prime minister, can find ways to reward the media that writes adoringly about him and punish the media that remains critical of him.

Of course, almost all politicians reward media outlets they like (by giving them scoops, by leaking information to their journalists) and punish those they dislike (by denying them information). But Netanyahu went beyond that — or so the police suspect. He rewarded the tycoons that own the media by carving rules and legislation to serve their financial interests. That’s the essence of Case 4000 — not to be confused with the two cases against Netanyahu that made headlines last week (on Feb. 20, another case was added to the mix: an alleged attempt by a man close to Netanyahu to appoint a certain attorney general in exchange for closing an investigation against his wife, Sara).

The criminal aspect of this new case will be more difficult to prove.

Case 4000 is simple: A tycoon, Shaul Elovitch, owns many businesses in Israel, among them a very popular news website, Walla. The police argue that in exchange for positive coverage on this website, Netanyahu used his power as the prime minister, and as the minister of communication — a position he insisted on keeping himself — to benefit Elovitch. One example: Netanyahu allegedly used his influence to override antitrust claims to make Elovitch eligible to take over the satellite cable provider Yes.

There are things that will be easy to prove in this case. As far back as 2015, Haaretz investigative reporter Gidi Weitz convincingly demonstrated that Walla was highly favorable to Netanyahu. But that is not a crime. Any owner of any media outlet makes rules for his company, and if this particular tycoon decided that his media company will have a certain political flavor, it is not yet a matter for the police to investigate.

The criminal aspect of this new case will be more difficult to prove: Was there a clear quid pro quo? Did Netanyahu help a tycoon (and hurt the public) to get positive coverage? Proving that Netanyahu assisted Elovitch is not enough. He might have assisted him for good reasons, because these were proper deals in line with his policies. There needs to be proof that Netanyahu aided Elovitch for bad reasons, that he aided him in order to get positive coverage.

Fighting the media is not always a virtuous strategy, but also not always a condemnable one.

But what if Netanyahu had good and bad reasons? What if he can demonstrate that his decisions were all in line with his policies — and still a suspicion remains that the positive coverage gave him the extra incentive to work for the deals? Like many such cases, a lot depends on interpretation, on weighing the evidence. But in this case, unlike many such cases, the outcome will not be something that concerns only the suspects, because the outcome is a public matter. It could topple a government. It could ruin a ruling coalition.

Last week, the police recommended to change Netanyahu in Cases 1000 and 2000 (another case involving Netanyahu and his relations with the media). The prime minister pushed back and got what he needed — more time. His coalition partners agreed to reserve judgment until the attorney general makes the ultimate decision whether to charge the Netanyahu. They did not yet change their minds, but the prime minister knows that they can quickly do it.

So, on the one hand, Case 4000 is just another straw in a large pile of many straws. On the other hand, it could be the straw that breaks Netanyahu’s back.