MIDEAST MIRROR 29.05.15, SECTION A (ISRAEL)
Most Israeli newspapers lead their weekend editions with today's scheduled vote by FIFA on a Palestinian proposal to eject Israel from world soccer over its alleged discrimination against players and coaches. Yedioth Ahronoth describes it as 'Judgment Day' for Israeli soccer. Israel Hayom quotes Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warning that ousting Israel from FIFA would lead to the 'collapse' of the governing body of world football.
'The attempt to hurt Israel will destroy FIFA,' Netanyahu told journalists at his Tel Aviv office. 'If you start with one country, then you move to another, and that would spell the end of this organization (FIFA),' said Netanyahu. He noted his meeting in Jerusalem last week with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who opposes the move to expel Israel. 'I told Blatter that if he will allow suspending Israel, it will pave the way for the collapsing of FIFA,' Netanyahu added.
Haaretz, which does not lead with the FIFA story, reports that, Israeli officials met with FIFA officials until late Thursday night in an effort to draft a compromise proposal that would prevent the association’s Friday vote on the Palestinian proposal to ban Israel. The proposal consists of concessions Israel is offering the Palestinians in soccer-related issues.
According to the source, Israel offered a four-point proposal that addressed most Palestinian grievances.
1-Palestinian players and coaches will receive special documents to facilitate their travel from Gaza to the West Bank and abroad.
2-Israel will ease restrictions and promote soccer-related projects in the West Bank, including the construction of a stadium and other facilities.
3-Israel would cover the costs of tax and customs for sports equipment imported by the Palestinians to the West Bank via Israel – predominantly via the Ashdod seaport.
4-A joint committee comprised of representatives from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and FIFA would be formed and would convene monthly to address day-to-day issues and any problems that arise.
The source said Blatter welcomed Israel’s proposal but stressed it would need the approval of Palestinian soccer chief Jibril Rajoub before removing the vote on banning Israel from FIFA’s slate. The source said Rajoub acceded, but added another demand – that FIFA ask UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon to issue a decision within three months on whether the five Israeli teams based in West Bank settlements were within Israeli territory. Meanwhile, two female protesters interrupted Blatter's opening address to the conference, waving red cards at FIFA representatives and chanting 'Israel out!' before being escorted out of the hall by security guards.
Haaretz, leads with a report by Zvi Bar'el on ‘Hizbollah’s war of survival,' in which he reports on the Lebanese organization's change in tactics, which includes recruiting Palestinian fighters to its ranks and establishing Christian units.
In other news, all the newspapers report that France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says he will travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories in June to try to revive the peace process and persuade all sides to accept a French UN Security Council resolution that would set parameters for talks. 'We are for a two-state solution. We need to ensure Israel's security that's obvious. There is no peace and security without justice for the Palestinians, but let's be frank justice hasn't been given to the Palestinians,' Fabius told France Inter radio.
France recently handed a working document to Arab League countries in preparation of a Security Council resolution that would set a timeframe and the exact parameters of new peace talks between Israelis and the Palestinians. 'I will go ... to Egypt, the Palestinian territories and Israel to speak to their leaders,' Fabius said. We want the negotiations to restart between the two sides and that these negotiations be put within an international framework.' Aides to Fabius said the visit would take place ahead of a final round of nuclear talks between major powers and Iran at the end of June.
Elsewhere, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that Israel should initiate steps to end the conflict with the Palestinians. Speaking to Army Radio, Barak suggested that if the PA refuses to reach a settlement to the conflict, Israel should take unilateral steps to establish a Palestinian state. Israel and the 'moderate Arab world', as he put it, have a mutual interest in reaching a compromise. 'The center of this common interest is radical Muslim terrorism and Iran's hegemonic and nuclear intentions,' Barak said, but added that 'there is no chance' that this cooperation can take place without Israel showing its willingness 'to seriously discuss the Palestinian issue.'
'I know Abbas and I know his heirs; I suggest we should try to solve it with them, and if not – to seriously consider the unilateral steps that are required to create a situation of no return of a disengagement from the Palestinians,' he continued. He suggested that Israel 'marks a border inside the land of Israel that includes the settlement blocs and all of Jerusalem’s neighborhoods, the military presence along the Jordan River that meets Israel’s security needs. On the other side an independent Palestinian state will be established.'
Finally, Reuters – citing sources on both sides – reports that United States defense aid to Israel is likely to increase after 2017. A current package worth $3 billion a year expires in 2017. A U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said negotiators were close to a new deal that would bring annual payouts to $3.6/$3.7 billion on average. An Israeli official, who also declined to be named, put the expected aid at between $3.5 billion and $4 billion. 'The United States is trying to douse the fires after our flare-up about the Iran deal,' the Israeli official added, referring to negotiations on Tehran's disputed nuclear program.
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Ben-Dror Yemini says that the Israeli left has been conditioned to reject anything that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu proposes – and, in so doing, it is missing as many opportunities as Palestinians.
"In a meeting a few days ago with EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu proposed holding a series of talks about the 'settlement borders.' Gilad Erdan, whose new titles make him one of Israel’s six foreign ministers, added in response that 'the negotiations with the Palestinians will involve territorial concessions.'
Like with any proposal linked to Netanyahu, the regular choir broke out into its well-known chorus: He's fooling everyone; he doesn't mean it; it's simply another move to buy time; he's deceiving us again. Interestingly, when Netanyahu says something in the opposite vein, the likes of the statement: 'There won't be a Palestinian state during my term in office,' he becomes the most trustworthy individual who truly means every word he says – even if the statement came in the heat of the election campaign and was designed to attract voters right of the Likud.
Why the hell is Netanyahu viewed as a con artist only when he says something that rings of moderation? And how come those very same leftists tell that every rejectionist statement from Mahmoud Abbas is made 'for domestic purposes,' only, whereas every moderate statement is 'proof that the Palestinian leader wants peace' and should be taken seriously?
The settlement enterprise is the biggest bone of contention between Israel and Western leaders. They believe that Israel is expanding and stifling any possibility of a Palestinian state. This isn't true. The expansion is taking place primarily within the large settlement blocs. Netanyahu's proposal comes to resolve the ongoing disputes with Europe and the United States. After all, the Clinton peace plan, the Geneva Initiative and Olmert's proposal all include settlement blocs. So why does construction in Ramat Shlomo, which will never be ceded under any peace arrangement, spark responses that sound like we are dealing with settlement building in the heart of Jenin?
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ran back and forth between Ramallah and Jerusalem. He prepared a draft proposal, which wasn't very different to the Clinton plan. Netanyahu appeared inclined to respond positively to most of its clauses. He didn't agree to the division of Jerusalem.
At a crunch meeting at the White House on March 17, 2014, Abbas and his team rejected the offer – in the exact same way that the same Abbas rejected Ehud Olmert's offer in 2008; and in the exact same way that Yasser Arafat rejected Clinton's proposal in late 2000. Tzipi Livni, in all fairness, made it clear that the talks mediated by Kerry didn't fail because of Netanyahu, but primarily due to Abbas. The moderate, so very moderate, Palestinian leader has already said no, and will continue to say no, to any and every proposal that does not include the right of return en masse.
Against this backdrop, the Zionist left should have seized on Netanyahu's initiative to determine the 'borders of the settlements.' In light of Abbas' positions, and also due to the current geopolitical situation and the make-up of the new Israeli government, there is no chance of securing a peace deal. But there is a chance to adopt measures that would ward off the disaster of one big state. And the most important step in this direction is to put a stop to the expansion of the settlement enterprise.
It can be done – because in the framework of the talks with Kerry, Netanyahu agreed to a Palestinian state covering more than 90 percent of the West Bank. Netanyahu's consent came under pressure; it was forced out of him; but he gave it. Thus, a dialogue is possible. There is room for an important step. And when the danger of a takeover of Judea and Samaria by one of the Jihadi offshoots, like Hamas, subsides, we can move on to additional steps. But if nothing is done, if the stagnation persists, then the horrific vision of a single state will begin to take shape.
It turns out that the Palestinians aren't the only ones to miss every opportunity; the new Zionist left, as opposed to the Zionist left of yesteryear, would rather stick with political cattiness than afford a chance, albeit a small one, to taking a step in the right direction."
ECONOMY FIRST: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Nahum Barnea says that, for most Palestinians, economic prosperity comes before the struggle for nationhood.
"The Palestinians are sending us mixed messages. In Zurich, Jibril Rajoub, known to his friends in the Shin Bet as Gabriel Regev, is trying to get Israel booted out of FIFA. In Jordan, Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas is complaining bitterly about the behavior of the Israeli government, but, at the same time, he talks about the need for increased economic cooperation, since the situation in the West Bank is dire and people are desperate.
One military source I spoke to this week tried to help me get things straight. The defense minister, the chief of staff and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories support a more liberal policy, he told me. They have been encouraging the establishment of Palestinian industrial zones in Jalami, Qalqiliyah and Tarkumiyeh, all three of which are adjacent to the seam line; in Jalami, construction work has already begun; irrespective of what bus lines they use, more and more Palestinian laborers are allowed to enter Israel to work; and the Palestinian leadership understands that Israel wants to help strengthen the PA.
PA-sponsored terrorism is on the decline. The Palestinian security forces are nipping all terror cells in the bud. Over the course of the past year, they have helped to rescue no fewer than 538 Jews who accidentally found themselves in Area A. That's an impressive number and its contribution to maintaining the quiet is obvious.
There are almost no shooting attacks and there are zero suicide bombings; there are, however, vehicular attacks and stabbings. People with tough personal back backgrounds hear a sermon in their mosque, see a film, read a tweet or a status on social media – and decide to carry out an attack. The IDF tried to profile these spontaneous terrorists: is there a pattern, do they use the same language? Thus far, they have been unable to piece together a useful profile.
The main concern among Israeli defense officials is what happens in the fall, after the negotiations with Iran are over, during Ramadan and the Jewish High Holy Days. On the ground, the Palestinian Authority is getting weaker – and that is a major worry for the IDF. I asked my source to explain why. The main problem is the refugee camps, he said. The PA is totally absent from them. The second problem is the intermediate generation in Fateh, which does not believe that it will ever assume leadership roles in the organization. The older generation has refused to convene meetings of the organization's leadership for good reason. The third problem is the opposition. Mohammed Dahlan invests the money that he gets from Dubai in refugee camps in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, in helping orphans and in funding weddings. Abu Mazin sees him as the enemy. The fourth problem is the youth. They are on a knife's edge. The only ideology that they can identify with is the struggle against Israel.
But, in the meantime, the need to exist is overcoming everything else. The economy comes first and then the struggle for nationhood.
The head of the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division, Tamir Yadai, was recently on a tour of Hebron. He was greeted by a delegation of 50 traders, who didn't say a word about the occupation, the peace process or the settlers on the town's controversial Shuhada Street. Their main concern was the commercial potential of the town. They followed him from factory to factory. At a mattress factory, he asked which Israeli company they were manufacturing for. They showed him a part of the plant where there were labels for several different Israeli companies. Take your pick, they told him."
GOOD AS GOLD: Writing in Makor Rishon, Amnon Lord says that the appointment of Dore Gold as director general of the Foreign Ministry is a turning point in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's tenure, since it will allow him to hit the reset button on Israel's foreign policy.
"There are several appointments which could turn out, in retrospect, to be turning points in Binyamin Netanyahu's tenure as prime minister. One of the most obvious of these was the appointment this week of Dore Gold as director general of the Foreign Ministry – even though he has the personality, skills and knowledge to be foreign minister, rather than in a senior position in the civil service.
This is the kind of appointment that everyone must agree is good for the State of Israel and good for the Foreign Ministry. The scorn and disdain with which some elements in the media greeted the appointment are nothing short of infantile. Even some of the country's top commentators, it seems, don't always do their homework. They proved that they know nothing about one of the most important contributors to the debate over Israeli strategy and foreign relations.
Gold is one of those people who do not see Israeli foreign policy and strategic issues through the very narrow prism of Ramallah. Ramallah and the Palestinian Authority are now a marginal issue in Israel's diplomatic universe. The Palestinian issue has become a festering cesspit of stagnant water. There's no progress there. The Palestinians have missed their historic moment. And it's not because Dore Gold is a rightist and not because he opposed the Oslo Accords from the outset.
Gold is an expert in international relations who thinks big. His vision is global. He knew what he was saying when he told reporters that he sees 'protecting the interests of the State of Israel' as the main task he faces in his new position. This is the kind of statement one expects from someone who understands the power of the state, its place in the family of nations and what contribution Israel can make to other countries – including our closest neighbors and potential allies who are further away geographically. Gold is an expert on Saudi Arabia and has written several books about the country and its ruling royal family. Presumably, his expertise is not limited to academic issues and he will have a significant contribution to make to the blossoming relationship between Israel and its potential allies across the Middle East. Like Saudi Arabia; the most powerful member of the Sunni axis.
Anyone who has been keeping a close eye on Gold's career also knows that his opinion and analysis of certain events is often sought out by Arab commentators and officials. His books, for good reason, are translated into Chinese. It is vitally important for Israel's interests that the director general of the Foreign Ministry is seen by the international community as someone who has the trust and ear of the prime minister. This has not always been the case in the Foreign Ministry since Netanyahu's return to power in 2009. In fact, this is the first time that Netanyahu can start to implement a change in Israel's foreign policy and can start to use it – for a change – to advance the Jewish state's strategic and global interests.
Israel's consul-general in New York was recently asked whether it was appropriate for an organization like J Street to participate in a pro-Israel rally in the city. He replied that he unreservedly supports the left-wing group's participation. This is the sort of thing that proves that the Foreign Ministry is still the same body that is was 25 years ago, when its policies were influenced by the Labor Party, by Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, Uri Savir and, more recently, by Alon Liel."
FOREIGN BODIES: Writing in Maariv, Shlomo Shamir says that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has done untold damage to Israel's Foreign Ministry and says that he is lucky that cooperation and coordination with the United States continues despite his handling of the relationship.
"Over the years, Israeli prime ministers have – to put it mildly – never been their foreign ministers greatest admirers. They have jumped at every opportunity to prove that they determine the country's foreign policy. They especially liked to show the world that they were in charge of Israel's relationship with the White House and that they are the address for any and all dialogue with the U.S. president.
Some prime ministers managed to conceal the distance between them and their foreign minister; others maintained a façade of propriety and politeness in their relationship with the foreign minister, allowing him and his officials to spearhead Israel's initiatives and proposals on the global stage.
Ironically, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – who decided to keep the foreign ministry for himself and could have rebuilt its reputation, positioned himself as the main driving force behind the country's foreign policy and revitalized its authority – has broken all records. He downgraded its standing, insulted its officials and – most ironically – has denigrated the once-exulted position that he now holds.
By appointing Tzipi Hotovely as deputy foreign minister, by creating a new position of minister responsible for relations with the United States, by appointing Dore Gold as director general of the Foreign Ministry and by dividing up the powers of the ministry between several ministers, Netanyahu has doomed it to extinction and thwarted any hope that it will be able to initiate, influence and spearhead Israeli foreign policy. He has emasculated the very body that is supposed to represent Israel on the international stage.
Israel is facing many serious challenges at the United Nations. It is likely to face increased confrontations with the European Union. Bearing this in mind, it is impossible to overstate the scope and extent of the damage that the prime minister has done to the standing and power of the Foreign Ministry.
It appears that Netanyahu is unaware – or has elected to remain unaware – of the extent of the crisis in relations between him and the U.S. president. He does not, it seems, plan to make any special effort to rebuild that shattered relationship.
Judging by the appointments he has made since being reelected, it is clear that Netanyahu's sole purpose was to surround himself with people who already share his worldview and who will not bother him with dire predictions regarding future clashes with the European Union and will not upset him by telling him about all of the anti-Israeli resolutions being brought to the Security Council. Most importantly of all – they won't trouble him with working papers about the Palestinians or – God forbid – the peace process.
Silvan Shalom is a talented individual. As foreign minister, he spearheaded moves that improved Israel's presence at the United Nations and its working habits. But in his new position as responsible for relations with the United States, Shalom has very little chance of successfully rebuilding relations between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.
One of the main obstacles in Shalom's path is Israel's ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. Obama's closest advisers refuse to have anything to do with Dermer, who, since arriving in Washington, has become a diplomatic embarrassment and a major cause of damage. Unfortunately, as long as he remains ambassador, the newly appointed 'American Relations Minister' will not be able to do his job.
If Shalom were to ask for a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the answer would be yes. But when he is asked about an Israeli initiative for the resumption of talks with the Palestinians, all Shalom would be able to do is report to Kerry on his own talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas and Saeb Erekat. After all, any new Israeli initiative for peace with the Palestinians is under the authority of the prime minister.
When it comes to security and cooperation with the Obama Administration at the UN, Shalom will also be similarly ill-equipped to do anything. That, after all, is the realm of National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen and his American counterpart, Susan Rice. Despite the tension between Netanyahu and Obama, the Cohen-Rice channel is still working in a positive atmosphere and has made practical progress. One example was the American move to thwart Egypt's attempt to force Israel to sign up to a treaty calling for a nuclear-free Middle East. That is entirely down to the close cooperation between Rice and Cohen.
Senior Western diplomats believe that the United States will veto the French Security Council resolution aimed at advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and will continue to protect Israel. This is despite Israel's right-wing foreign policy, despite Netanyahu's recent appointments and despite the bizarre way that he's split up all of the traditional roles of the Foreign Ministry. The Americans are continuing with their current policy, whereby they are the sole mediators in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and whereby the Security Council has only a marginal role to play. How long this will continue is anybody's guess."
ALONE AT THE TOP – BY DESIGN: Writing in Haaretz, Yoel Marcus says that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu feels more secure in his position than ever before, since there are no talented people threatening him and he is certain he will prevail over Obama.
"What happened this week between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat over the Jerusalem portfolio in the cabinet proves once again that the prime minister is a man without inhibitions. Barkat claims that Bibi broke a promise to leave the post unfilled so Jerusalem’s affairs could be coordinated directly between the prime minister and Barkat as mayor. 'So what if he promised?' one might ask, in a contemporary variation on the late Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, who was quoted as saying that he promised but didn’t promise to keep his promises. 'He’s not allowed to promise?'
We have a country that is going downhill and a prime minister whose brakes have failed. Nothing interests him other than serving out his full four-year term as prime minister. He’s a man with no shame who is capable of scaring the public with his dramatic pre-election warning that Arabs were going to the polls in droves. And then once he got himself reelected, he also had no problem saying that he 'didn’t intend to be racist.' In any event, one time he is in favor of a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians and the next time against.
And in his ongoing cultivation of himself as leader of the nation, here and there you deceive a little and frighten people a little. Mayor Barkat believed Bibi and got burned as a result. Benny Begin, too, swallowed Bibi’s words of flattery, and Bibi needs Begin. There is no substitute for Begin as a standard bearer in the cabinet for the legacy of his father, but suddenly Netanyahu made Benny Begin redundant around the cabinet table. It’s crowded at the top.
So 'no problem,' as they say on the street, they either throw Benny Begin out or make minister without portfolio Ofir Akunis the ambassador to the United Nations. Let’s hope Begin stands up for himself because he’s the only one who can teach Bibi a lesson. What could Bibi do to him? Order the staff to remove him from the cabinet room?
What’s happening here is much more significant when it comes to the nature of the 'profession' of being an Israeli leader. Even though the term 'seat' has been sacred in our political life since the establishment of the state, there has been a real change recently in everything having to do with terms and rotations in office. On kibbutzim and in the army, there is no such thing as a job for life. Both the head of the Intelligence Corps and the head of the kibbutz cowshed are replaced every three or four years. That’s good for the country. Why? Because at a certain stage people begin to be overly enamored with themselves, with their whims, those loyal to them and with their own mistakes. And that’s dangerous.
What happened to Bibi? Thanks to two factors, he has managed to consolidate his standing as long-time ruler: 1) Thanks to a law requiring a cooling-off period before army brass could enter politics, he plugged the pipeline leading from the Israel Defense Forces into government. Figures such as Ariel Sharon, Yitzhak Rabin, Moshe Dayan, Ezer Weizman, Ehud Barak, Shaul Mofaz, Yitzhak Mordechai, Haim Bar-Lev and Motta Gur would no longer find their way home via a privileged government job. 2) He has taken control of law enforcement in the country. At one time the Police Ministry, as it was called, was simply reserved for a so-called Sephardi politician. Now the Israel Police fulfill an important political role. The police pay close attention to every important political appointment from the president on down, from Avigdor Lieberman to Gabi Ashkenazi. The last public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovich, objected to extending the police commissioner’s term to a fourth year, but Bibi cajoled and acted and the commissioner stayed. No one is parachuted in from above anymore by surprise.
Bibi feels more secure in his position than ever before. There are no talented people threatening him, and he is certain the methods he has selected will enable him to prevail over U.S. President Barack Obama and even Yedioth Ahronoth owner Noni Mozes. On the other hand, his is a leadership approach without leadership, statesmanship, graciousness on the part of the victor or majesty. It’s negative leadership, a bull in a china shop. Instead of bringing people together, he sows division, he reigns by fear. His is a Foreign Ministry without a foreign minister and with drab Tzipi Hotovely as deputy minister and Dore Gold as director general. The empty minister’s chair is what will be making the decisions and Bibi can now fly on an official state aircraft custom-built for him with two bedrooms.
His gatekeeper was supposed to be Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon, the finance minister, but Kahlon has stumbled on his first step. He laughed all the way to the helm of the Finance Ministry, but in politics, he who laughs is he who laughs last. They say it will be Bibi, because at the last moment, he will tempt Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog to join a government of national unity. But Herzog, who starred in a documentary about his campaign, has now finished off his future prospects career with coarse street language.
Bibi may be arrogant, but sooner or later, the prime minister will be – mark my words – Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid."
THE RACISM SMOKESCREEN: Writing in The Jerusalem Post, Evelyn Gordon says that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's much-maligned Election Day comments have been misreported: the prime minister wasn’t targeting Israeli Arabs, she argues, but foreign-funded NGOs.
"Two months later, that Election Day warning refuses to go away. Just last week, U.S. President Barack Obama condemned it yet again; even actress Natalie Portman has joined the party. Yet Binyamin Netanyahu’s infamous remark has been widely and deliberately misconstrued by the simple expedient of omitting its second half.
Granted, the first half – 'Arab voters are coming to the polls in droves' – was indefensible. Especially now, when Israeli Arabs are more interested in integrating than ever before, politicians should be encouraging this trend, not alienating them by painting them as enemies. But politicians nearing the end of an exhausting campaign often slip up and say stupid things they don’t really mean. Netanyahu retracted this part of the statement immediately. And in practice, his last two governments have invested heavily in Arab integration.
In contrast, he never retracted the statement’s second half; instead, he doubled down on it. Because that part wasn’t a slip of the tongue, but something he really meant – and which resonated deeply with his voters.
So what did he actually say? Here’s the initial statement: 'Arab voters are coming to the polls in droves. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses.' And here’s his subsequent clarification: 'There’s nothing illegitimate about citizens voting, Jewish or Arab, as they see fit. What’s not legitimate is the funding, the fact that money comes from abroad from NGOs and foreign governments, brings them en masse to the polls in an organized fashion, in favor of the left, gives undue power to the extremist Joint Arab List, and weakens the rightist bloc such that we’ll be unable to form a government.'
In other words, he was concerned about bolstering JAL, and legitimately so: Many of its MKs are indeed extremist (think Hanin Zoabi). But primarily, he was outraged that foreign governments and NGOs, via the Israeli NGOs they fund, were blatantly trying to influence the outcome of Israel’s election. And his voters shared that outrage, for three reasons.
First, it’s an affront to any citizen of a democracy to have foreigners trying to sway his country’s election, because it eviscerates democracy’s most fundamental right: the right to choose the government that rules you, rather than having it imposed from outside. Nor is this sentiment unique to Netanyahu voters: Israeli Druze were similarly outraged when Lebanese Druze leader Walid Junblatt urged them to vote for JAL. The community’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Moafaq Tarif, demanded that Junblatt 'respect the right of Druze in Israel to vote as they please,' because they’re 'an inseparable part of Israeli society' who 'enjoy freedom of expression and freedom to do as they please.' Similar comments came from Druze supporters of both Labor and Likud. But this sentiment resonates doubly with Netanyahu’s base, because it contravenes not only basic democratic rights, but also Israel’s raison d'être. The Jewish state was created precisely so that Jews could finally control their own fate instead of having it controlled by others.
Second, foreign intervention stirs age-old Jewish fears, because the non-Jewish world’s track record on protecting Jews is lousy: See the Holocaust, Inquisition, Crusades, pogroms and expulsions from country after country. Even many Jewish holidays commemorate failed attempts to annihilate the Jews (including Passover, Hanukkah and Purim. Consequently, this fear is ingrained in the psyches of all but the most secular Jews, and certainly in Netanyahu’s voters, who tend to be more traditional. So when he talked about 'money from abroad' and 'foreign governments,' his voters instinctively heard this as 'people who don’t have our best interests at heart.'
Third and most important, however, was the track record of these foreign-funded NGOs themselves. Many Israelis would instinctively oppose anything these NGOs support, because they demonstrably don’t have Israel’s best interests at heart.
Take, for instance, B’Tselem, the Israeli NGO most frequently cited by the infamous Goldstone Report on the 2009 Gaza war. The Goldstone Commission was unabashedly created to be a lynch mob. First, it was set up by the viciously anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council, whose only country-specific permanent agenda item is condemning Israel. The HRC has condemned Israel 61 times since being established in 2006, compared to five for Iran, one each for ISIS and Boko Haram, and zero for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Hamas. Second, the commission’s explicit mandate was to investigate Israel alone, not Hamas. Finally, the very resolution that established the commission had already declared Israel guilty of war crimes, including deliberately targeting civilians. The commission’s job was merely to provide 'evidence' for that predetermined conclusion, and it duly produced a report so biased that its own lead author later repudiated it.
Thus no NGO with Israel’s best interests at heart should have cooperated with Goldstone. But B’Tselem didn’t just cooperate; it eagerly plied the commission with anti-Israel libels liked inflated civilian casualty figures (compare its figures to this). Indeed, as B’Tselem unblushingly admitted in January, whenever it’s uncertain whether casualties were civilian or combatant, it labels them civilian – then accuses Israel of excessive civilian casualties.
Or take Adallah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Its stated goals include eliminating Israel’s Jewish majority by relocating millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees to it. That’s an explicit provision of Adallah’s proposed 'Democratic Constitution,' which even terms this a necessary condition for an 'equal and democratic' society. In other words, Adallah deems Israel an undemocratic, apartheid state unless it agrees to voluntarily self-destruct.
Nor are B’Tselem and Adallah unique; they are merely two of dozens of similar organizations – all virulently anti-Israel and all funded mainly by foreign governments, either directly or via foreign NGOs. As NGO Monitor reported in 2011, European governments spend more money 'promoting civil society' in the Mideast’s only democracy than they do in all other Middle Eastern countries combined – $75 million to $100 million a year.
This is what truly concerns Netanyahu’s base. It’s why his last two coalitions tried to pass legislation limiting foreign funding for NGOs, and why his current coalition is expected to try again. And all the talk about Netanyahu’s 'racism' has merely served as a smokescreen to obscure this very real problem."
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