Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Corona madness in Israel?

 

Like many other nations, Israel is losing control of new corona cases. New cases skyrocket. 

If you remember, by the time the corona virus had begun to strike in ernest, back in early May, 2020, some experts speculated that this pandemic might actually evaporate--or, at least become controllable--when hot weather settled in (here). Such experts believed that it was likely that a corona-respiratory virus won't survive in high heat. Instead, they suggested, such viruses thrive in the cold. 

Some experts disagreed (ibid). This plague was all new to us. So we all settled back--and hoped or despaired for our future based upon how optimistic or pessimistic we were.

Worldwide corona numbers between May 1, 2020 and September 22,2020 tell us what has really happened to the survivability of corona viruses during hot weather. Worldwide, there were 3,321,771 corona cases on May 1, 2020;  by September 22, 2020 (after a summer of heat), that total had grown to 31,808,253. That represents an increase of something like 988%. 

This virus didn't slow or die in the heat of summer. It grew. 

Israel is warmer than many places on earth, and its corona numbers reflected the new reality (that the corona grows in heat, not recede): on May 1,2020, Israel had a total of 16,004 cases. By September 22, 2020, Israel had 200,041 cases--an increase greater than 12 times. Israel, warmer than many places, had a rate of increase that was more than 20% greater than the world average.

The numbers appear to prove the assertion that, because Israel is warmer than most places, its corona case totals were greater.

This dramatic increase in Israel's new case numbers partially explains the lockdown fever Israeli officials now exhibit.  Perhaps six days ago, these officials established a new--but 'partial'--lockdown, one that would carry forward through the holidays (for a total of three weeks). In theory, this 'partial' lockdown would allow some of the economy to remain open while at the same time would create a public environment where the spread of the virus would be reduced--by reducing the opportunities for people to interact with each other. 

It didn't appear to convince anyone. Few Israelis liked it. Some in Israel practically howled in protest. Some in the media played up that howling reaction. 

Now, just three days after the new lockdown was announced, lsraeli officials report 6,782 new cases (for September 22nd). This was a dramatic increase over past 'new cases' records. It was also a record high.

Officials declared, Things weren't getting better in Israel. Things were getting worse. The virus was spiraling out of control.

There are now rumors of a far more severe--and complete --lockdown. Coming soon! Perhaps Wednesday afternoon (September 23rd)!

Suddenly, Yom Kippur was at risk. Yom Kippur is the Jews' most solemn and serious holiday on the Jewish calendar. In Israel, Jews of all persuasions literally flock to synagogue on Yom Kippur. But, suddenly, there was talk of prohibiting all synagogue prayer for Yom Kippur (Monday, September 28, 2020). Israelis were shocked.

There was a second shock in the news--at the same time synagogues would be shuttered, rumors suggested, public protests would not be touched or limited. Apparently, the government was not afraid to end all public prayer for Jews. Just as apparently,  the government seemed afraid to prohibit public protests, especially those against the hated Benjamin Netanyahu. 

It seemed madness: Israel was about to impose a massive set of public restrictions--with a loophole. The restriction was, no public prayer for Yom Kippur. The loophole was, a 'yes' for public protests.

In the end, some version of common sense may prevail: indoor pubic prayer may indeed be prohibited. But outdoor public prayer, with social distancing and total number-per-location installed, might be allowed. We'll find out soon enough.

What would happen with public protest? We still wait to see what, if anything, the government will do.

 But all of this prayer-protest discussion, serious as it is--especially for religious Jews--is only a distraction. The real madness over corona had to do with an obvious oversight: new case numbers were indeed soaring; but new deaths number were not.

No one has talked about this. No one mentions it.

Again, look at the numbers. Worldwide, on May 1, 2020, total deaths from corona stood at 234,404. Compared to the-then total of new cases (3,321,771), this total death number meant that  app 7.06% of those who had contracted corona had died. 

By September 22nd, the total worldwide death figure had grown to 975,809. When compared to the updated total case figure for September 22, 2020 (31,808,253), we see that, as of September 22, 2020, a total of only some 3.07% of all cases of corona had resulted in death.

The lesson was clear. Since May 1, 2020, more people worldwide had gotten the corona--a lot more, some 28 million more. But the death rate from these corona cases had been cut by half. Put simply, more were getting the virus. But fewer were dying. By September--the end of summer--the total dead-from-corona had plummeted worldwide by 50%.

That means nothing?

In Israel, the corona numbers tell a similar tale. By May 1, 2020, some 16,004 in Israel had gotten the virus. Of this number, 223 had died (this number is not a misprint). That is, only 1.39% in Israel who had gotten the disease had died.

By September 22, 2020, a total of 200,041 Israelis had gotten the corona. Of this number, 1,313 had died. That is, by the end of summer, 2020, less than .00656 percent (or, app 2/3s of one percent) of Israelis who had gotten corona had died. Israel's deaths vs total cases had also plummeted by half. 

Israeli officials are nevertheless freaking out! Too many cases, they cry. Too many are getting the virus, they shout. 

But no one is looking at the lethality of this disease--that is, how many deaths there are; and right now, the death rate is half what is was in May, despite the dramatic rise in cases.

This should be reason to celebrate shouldn't it? The effect of the virus is lessening, isn't it? 

Yes, finally, we should be able to breath a little easier, right? A less lethal virus means we can be less afraid, right? We can open up the economy a little more, right? 

No. That's wrong. We must shut everything down! 

This is madness.  

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Rosh Hashanna, 5781



On  Friday night, September 18, 2020, Jews around the world will begin the two-day celebration called, Rosh Hashanna--known in English as, the Jewish "New Year".  This Holiday is one of the three most observed holidays on the Jewish calendar--Rosh Hashanna, Yom Kippur and Pesach.


Rosh Hashanna is a holiday that attracts the attention of most every Jew. In Israel, few neglect it.

For the Jewish people, Rosh Hashanna is not a secular holiday. On Rosh Hashanna, no one counts down to midnight to shout 'hurray' as the old year ends and the new year begins. Instead, this is a religious holiday. It is a day for reflection, repentance and prayer.

It is also a Day of Judgment. It is a time when all--individuals and nations--are judged. Our prayers tell us that on this Day, HaShem, our G-d, decides for the coming new year who will die and who will live; who will be successful and who will fail; who will be troubled and who will be calm; who will be sick and who will be healthy; who will be at war and who will live in peace, etc.

It is a day to think about the kinds of bad outcomes we could face in the upcoming year--outcomes that could destroy us. Perhaps this is why we pray: to request from the One above to grant us good outcomes for the new year, not bad.  

We pray to avert an evil decree against us. We pray for joy, not sorrow, for triumph, not humiliation. 

This is why we dip our bread into honey--to symbolize our hope for a sweet year. It is why we eat sweet foods during this holiday--to give ourselves a taste of the sweetness we hope will be ours. 

Most of the year, mankind  busies itself attempting to control human life. Our government, our health-care system, our nation's economists all focus on controlling our lives--presumably, to make our lives better. But on Rosh Hashanna,  we step back from this attempt to control. We turn to HaShem, our G-d, to declare that, truly, only He is in control--not the government, or the politicians, or our government bureaucrats, etc.

This year, as Rosh Hashanna 5781 approaches, it is perhaps easy to accept that man is not in control. This Rosh Hashanna, it is perhaps easy to understand how little control we have--because we struggle so helplessly against a Corona pandemic that threatens to overwhelm us.

Look at Israel. Look at Europe. Look at the US. Look around. Does any government know how to control this plague? How many have died? How many more will shortly die? Everywhere you look, the situation is the same: governments stumble to get control of the Corona, citizens turn out in the streets to protest how their governments can't control it--and all of us suffer some kind of deprivation, restriction or limitation.

All over the world, people die from this disease--while other people, sometimes inexplicably, survive it. This disease is out-of-control. Man is helpless. We know it. 

We see this truth, don't we? We see who dies, who lives; who suffers, who does not suffer--and we have no control. 

On Rosh Hashanna, our prayers tell us the truth: it is HaShem--not Man--who controls who will live, who will die, who will falter, who will strive forward, who will be uplifted, who will be cast down.

Facing this, we will pray. We will hope for Mercy. We will certainly pray for our safety. We will pray to survive because, suddenly, this Corona has taught us we don't control anything.

Every day, the news tells us how people get corona and survive, and how people get it and die. Every day, the news pounds us with the truth we see in our Rosh Hashanna prayers: who will die, who will live; who will be devastated, who will be saved. 

This is our Rosh Hashanna, 5781. It is a time of Judgment. It is indeed a time to pray.

May your prayers be heard. May HaShem answer those prayers. May He answer all our prayers. 

This year, may we all truly be inscribed into the Book of Life.








Sunday, September 13, 2020

Could the UAE-Israel accord destroy Mahmmoud Abbas' Middle East 'veto'?



When Israel, the United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced some four weeks ago that the UAE and Israel would sign a peace deal, many pundits saw this announcement as representing a tectonic shift for the Middle East. The UAE is only the third Arab country since 1948 (after Egypt and Jordan) to sign a peace deal with Israel. Indeed, the UAE will be the first Arab country to choose peace with Israel in 26 year, since Jordan signed a treaty with Israel in 1994.

This deal is big. It could change the entire political dynamic of the Middle East. With Iran working to develop nuclear weapons so as to  dominate the Middle East, an Arab-Israel peace Accord could place the nuclear-tipped Israel as the key player in a new Middle East "united defense pact" (against Iran). 

If that political change happens, it would be one that centers around what the Middle East calls, 'normalization'. 'Normalization' may not mean much to you.  But to the Middle East, it means everything--because Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has made it 'everything'. 

Abbas has repeatedly demanded that there never be any Arab normalization with Israel. 'Normalization' means two things to Abbas. First it means economic cooperation. For Abbas, any official cooperation with Israel is unthinkable because it would mean an explicit recognition that Israel exists. 

That's the second important thing about 'normalization'. To cooperate with the Jewish state means to Abbas that you accept Jews as a legitimate people in the Middle East. Normalization with Israel means you can establish 'normal' ties with Israel. That, for Abbas, is unacceptable. 

Because normalization means cooperation and recognition, Abbas has worked hard to control Arab dealings with the Jewish state. He has created an anti-normalization war against Israel--and he has organized his Arab allies to support him in that effort. 

For Abbas, any talk of 'normalization' with Israel by an Arab country is a "stab in the back to Palestinians" (here). He has never tolerated 'normalization'. He will never tolerate such talk.

Therefore, for Abbas, this UAE-Israel deal is dangerous. Abbas maintains such tight control of the Arab world's stance towards Israel that he is said to hold a virtual veto power over any peace arrangement anyone in the Middle East could attempt to make with Israel (here). The UAE-Israel peace  deal now threatens that veto power.

When the UAE deal was announced, pundits, policymakers and politicians outside the Arab world speculated that once the UAE broke the Abbas veto, other Arab nations would follow. Some suggested names include Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Sudan and Bahrain. Would any of these Arab nations be next to normalize with Israel? 

Well, if any other Arab nation actually did that, Abbas could be shown up for what he is--a bankrupt, isolated, tinpot despot trying to control several modernized, wealthy Arab nations who are now more afraid of Abbas's friends in Iran than of Abbas's so-called 'veto'. 

All that is needed to humiliate Abbas are two or three other Arab nations to sign deals with Israel. Will that happen? 

It's only been about four weeks since the UAE-Israel deal was announced. For the Middle East, a month is a little too quick for such seismic changes. 

Nevertheless, during the week of September 14, 2020, when the UAE and Israel are scheduled to join US President Trump at a ceremony in Washington, DC to sign their Accord, they won't be alone. The Persian Gulf state of Bahrain has--just days ago--stepped up to normalize ties with Israel. Bahrain will, therefore, join Israel, the UAE and Trump in Washington (here).

In less than four weeks, two Arab nations stand ready to normalize official ties with Israel. Will that be the death of the Abbas veto over Arab ties with Israel?

Stay tuned. This peace story isn't over. 
  





Thursday, September 10, 2020

Is Israel's covid 'crisis' more a mistake than a crisis?



Israel's media elite say Israel has a covid crisis. Five months ago, that wasn't true. Five months ago, most everyone in Israel was content to follow Netanyahu's covid decisions. We even celebrated those decisions.

Today, that's not the case. Today, there is a real question whether or not Israelis will be compliant if a new national lockdown is required.

In April, 2020, when the Israel's covid was less than two months old, Israel was lauded for how it controlled the covid pandemic. Now, less than five months later, that's no longer true. Today, many in Israel believe what we've got here is a failure--to stay healthy and to control covid.

Those Israelis already angry at Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blame him for what they say is a corona debacle. These 'anti-Netanyahuers' are up-in-arms. For example, on July 18, 2020,  police outside Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem had to use water cannon to disperse protesters who had come into Jerusalem to protest against the Prime Minister for both his alleged corruption--and to protest against his "handling" of the corona "crisis" (here). Less than a week later, many in Israel (76% of Israelis) believed that Netanyahu had "failed" to manage the "corona crisis".

Those protests continue. Sometimes, they're in the streets nightly.

In April, 2020, Netanyahu's management of the pandemic sent his poll number through the 'roof'--to almost 70% approval (here). By July, his poll numbers had dropped to 34% (here). By Sept, some 65% of Israelis (here) were reported unhappy with Netanyahu's handling of the pandemic (here). 

While there is no doubt plenty of people to share the blame for our corona mess, is this 'crisis' really the result of Netanyahu suddenly losing all of his management skills in less than 120 days? Or, is the apparent chaos we see the result of something else--a corona "mistake"--and not Netanyahu?

I think you'd be wise to give this potential "mistake" a good hard look. It might explain why Israel has had its surge of corona cases.

The first hint that some kind of mistake--or, perhaps, error of thinking-- might be in play here was a news story that appeared in the US, in August, 2020, in The New York Times (here). This story suggested that as many of 90% of US corona positive results might contain such insignificant amounts of corona DNA as to be non-contagious (ibid).

The culprit, the article reported, was something called a lab 'amplification cycle'. This lab 'cycle' process could be the real reason Israel sees such a corona case increase in Israel--not government (or Netanyahu's) alleged newly-found incompetence.

My sources tell me that Israel uses a corona test called the RT-PCR (here). This test begins with  a swab sample taken from one's nose or throat. The swab then goes to a lab, which then tests the swab for corona DNA (here).

In order to help detect the virus's DNA, the lab 'amplifies' the sample taken. That is, the lab enlarges the sample. The larger the amplification, the easier it is to 'see' the virus DNA. Samples can be enlarged several times. It will be enlarged until virus DNA is found.

The larger the DNA 'load' on the swab, the easier the corona DNA is to spot--and the fewer amplifications needed to spot it. Once corona DNA is found,  the testee whose swab is being tested is declared 'positive' for having corona.

I believe I can give you an example of how amplification works: when I write this blog, I can choose to type in the smallest typeface.

Or, I can amplify to this size

Or, I can amplify to this size.

Or, I can amplify to this size.

Or, I can amplify to this size.

As you see, the more I amplify, the greater the size--and the easier for you to read. In theory, at least, this is how the corona test works. It amplifies the DNA on the swab. The greater the amplification (magnification), the easier the DNA is to see.

Now, what happens if the corona DNA found on the swab only shows up after the lab has amplified the sample 30 or 35 times? Is that corona DNA strong enough to mean the person tested actually has a contagious case of corona? Or, has that corona DNA been, essentially, magnified so much that only the smallest amount of DNA ends up being found; is that amount medically significant? Indeed, is such a small amount of DNA potentially non-contagious? (see this video; wait for the :50 mark): 




The Times article pointed out that the US 'amplifies' its individual samples up to 40 times (Israel news reported that the US amplifies app 34 times here). Israel, by contrast, appears to amplify its corona DNA  samples up to 37 times to detect corona DNA (here). Not much different.

The US reports 6,549,771 total corona cases since the beginning of the pandemic, in January-February, 2020. Israel's total-cases-since-inception adds up to 143,049. 

Do these totals reflect how widespread the corona pandemic has been? Or, do they reflect how sensitive the corona RT-PCR tests are? Has anyone even asked this question?

Shouldn't we know how much magnification of corona DNA is necessary in order to find viable/ contagious corona? Actually, do we know at all at what point such magnification means that the corona DNA found becomes too small to be 'dangerous'/contagious? 

We don't have answers to these two question. So far as I can tell, no one has a clue. 

Some experts say DNA amplified more than 30 times may not be viable. That is, amplifying corona DNA more than 30 times could reveal corona DNA that is "inactive, dead, or clinically insignificant' (here). The results, they suggest, could be a false positive. They even suggest that in the three states studied in the US it is possible that 90% of corona positive results could have been based on corona DNA too small to be medically important. 

Yes, that 90% figure is the result of studying only three states. But the population of those three states is still more than twice the population of Israel. 

In Israel, could amplifying our DNA samples up to 37 times play a role in the recent corona surge? Is this why we've recently seen such a surge of positive results? 

Shouldn't we be asking this question?

When a person tests positive for corona, s/he and his/her family--and, often, friends--must go into isolation. They cannot work. They cannot earn money. They cannot go to school, if of school age.

As we have all discovered, when enough people are pulled  out of circulation for up to two weeks, the economy stumbles. Personal financial situations are damaged. 

Maybe--just  maybe--Israel's corona crisis isn't Netanyahu's fault. Remember, Netanyahu is not a lab technician or lab scientist. He relies on 'experts' to give him the advise he needs to act. If those experts tell him that 37 DNA magnifications are absolutely necessary for every age range, how would he know how to respond?

He wouldn't.

Has anyone looked into this question--for every age range?

Perhaps we should stop throwing stones at this government over this particular issue and take a closer look at how Israel actually tests its corona swap samples. Perhaps we should:

--ask Israeli scientists to tell us first how many times a corona DNA sample is amplified in Israel, for every age range

--ask Israel's scientists to tell us at what point amplifications  begin actually to yield false positives--for every age range

--ask Israel's scientists, based upon a study of our test results since March, 2020, how small can corona DNA be and still remain powerful enough to kill--for every age range

Of course, there are other questions, including: shouldn't Israel's scientists issue a standard lab protocol for amplification, so as to protect us all from being victimized by what might turn out to be a false positive?

These questions are not definitive. They are suggestive. They are not exhaustive. But they seem to be more useful than political invective. Maybe we should be asking more questions about this corona--and cut back on the political condemnations. At the very least, we might all end up with healthier blood pressure numbers.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Aliyah-versary!



Once upon a time, in August, 2010, my wife and I boarded an EL AL airliner. Before that 2010 moment--beginning five years earlier, in 2005--we had decided to emigrate to Israel. We had decided to make aliyah. 

For us, aliyah was not a difficult decision. We were older. Our children were grown. We were ready.

But it still took five years to reach that August moment when, finally, we boarded that airliner. At that moment in 2010, my "bride" of 39 years was delighted. After literally 39 years' effort, she had finally convinced me to move to Israel.  

We left America. We would start a new life. 

Now, August, 2020, my 'bride' and I celebrate again our aliyah anniversary. We've been here ten years! 

In 2020, my wife and I have something else to cheer. This year, we have celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary. We look forward to many more such celebrations. I truly believe it is fair to say we are today happier than we've ever been. We feel fulfilled.

What a grand feeling!

We are particularly happy right now because, once we had made aliyah, we have both lived to see a miracle: since that August plane ride in 2010, all of our children have made aliyah, too. 

Now, each child has a new life. Each is settled.  Each has a job. Each is part of the land we call, Israel.

We even have a granddaughter who serves in the IDF. We am very, very proud of her. 

My wife and I feel especially happy to live in Israel these days because, despite the political problems Israel faces in 2020, life in Israel looks to us to be far safer and more wholesome than a Jewish life in America. 

The America we left in 2010 was indeed a land of quiet. But the America of August 2020 is not quiet. It is instead aflame with riot, looting and burning cities. 

We thank our G-d, HaShem, that we live in the world's only Jewish state. We live in a place where even non-religious Jews will tell you, Shabbat shalom. We live in a place where even non-religious Jews know when is Yom Kippur and when is Succot. We live in a place where even non-religious Jews often--very often--understand how our G-d, HaShem, protects us.

To give you a just a brief taste of our family's joy living in Israel--and to share our joy at having made aliyah in the first place--I will show you a brief video of someone else's aliyah anniversary--his 36th.

That 'someone else' is Jacob Richman. He lives in our community. He runs a community chat room which helps and informs many of us 'anglos', especially those whose Hebrew-language facility isn't the best. 

Jacob Richman made aliyah in August, 1984. He has just posted a video to celebrate his 36th aliyah anniversary.

This video interests me for two reasons. First, it captures a feeling shared by many who have followed him to Israel. Yes, his aliyah experience may have been a long time ago. But, as this video suggests, that one moment in time means something special to him. Even after 36 years, Jacob Richman still feel joyous enough about his aliyah to want to celebrate it. 

My wife and I share that joy. We understand it. After ten years, we still remember the excitement of our own aliyah experience. Those memories are still fresh, still exciting.

The second reason for me to be interested in this video has to do with its contents--its pictures. These pictures of streets, homes, store displays, bus-signs, holiday store-displays and holiday parades are all about our streets, our buses, our stores and parades, etc. They are about the daily (and the holiday) reality of our life here. Even though these pictures were taken by someone else, they are still, nonetheless, pictures of our experience, too.  

I smile when I see these pictures. They remind me of happy  memories.

By the way, the picture you will see at the very beginning of this video, in the upper left-hand corner of the video's opening, is Jacob Richman, the video's creator.

Enjoy: 


Thank you, Jacob Richman, for sharing this video (it comes from here).

I have one afterthought. Please realize, dear reader, that being an immigrant in a new land is not easy. The language is different. The business culture is different. How work gets done is different. School is different. Your neighbors are different. The food is different. Laws are different.

To a new immigrant--and even to a ten-year 'veteran'--these differences can be difficult. They can cause frustration. 

But I wish to tell you that Israel has 'magic'. It's a magic of daily miracles--the kind of little miracles that make life easier. Then, of course, there's the biggest 'little miracle' most of us experience: over time, we become 'Israeli'. 

So, dear reader, I say this to you. Don't be afraid to join us. Don't be afraid of the stress of aliyah. Come. Come home. 

Pick up. Pack up. Become part of Israel's national Jewish enterprise. Experience for yourselves the joy of aliyah. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Regarding Netanyahu: when you lie, you will get caught



In the almost-six months since Israel's last national election, the political enemies of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been working overtime to sell to Israeli voters the idea that Netanyahu wants yet another election soon, something most Israel hate to think about. These anti-Netanyahu enemies have repeatedly labelled Netanyahu as a corrupt, selfish and  self-centered leader who is more interested in  himself than in Israel.

The argument against Netanyahu is that he doesn't like the current unity government. He hates it. He's so self-centered, he wants to rule alone--at the top, all by himself, without having to share anything with anyone, least of all Benny Gantz. 

Therefore. these enemies claim, Netanyahu wants to put Israel through a fourth, expensive election in less than two years. They said he wants to end having to serve together with Gantz, and (irrationally) believes another election will help him win enough votes to rule without Gantz. Moreover, these people say, Netanyahu will stop at nothing until he gets that fourth election.

This has been an enduring story. It's got "legs". It always seems to attract clicks on online news outlets. But it is a lie. 

We know this "ongoing Netanyahu saga" is a lie because of what happened over a single 24-hour news cycle between Sunday night, August 23, 2020, and Monday night, August 24th.

Monday, August 24th was to be a momentous day. This day was the deadline for the two "unity" leaders (Gantz and Netanyahu) to agree to complete a new fiscal budget--or, alternatively, to agree to a 100-day extension for budget talks. But if there was no budget passed by 11:59 pm on the 24th, and there was also no agreement reached to extend the budget deadline, then, according to a March/April 2020 mutual pact between Gantz and Netanyahu, a new, fourth-election-within-two-years would be automatically triggered. It was this triggering mechanism that Netanyahu was accused of trying to, well, trigger.  

By late afternoon of the 24th, there was no agreement on anything: just hours before a fourth election would be triggered, there was no budget--and no agreement to extend budget talks. Each man accused the other for the impasse. 

Israel's elite media has repeatedly accused Netanyahu of being the one man responsible for this impasse. This media has insisted that Netanyahu was the one man in Israel who really, really wanted a fourth election. Why? For just one reason: to win more time as Prime Minister, so as to keep pushing off the day he'd go to jail (he's scheduled to go on trial for corruption in January, 2021). Their assumption about Netanyahu has always been he is guilty until proved innocent.

How, exactly, Netanyahu would push off his legal 'destiny' by forcing another election? That wasn't clear. Indeed, the explanations offered for this scenario were often complex--and not always particularly straight-forward. 

But few readers care about clarity. These days, only headlines counted. Therefore, the accusation that Netanyahu wanted another election was sufficient to anger voters against Netanyahu. 

Besides, what did Israelis need to know? Netanyahu was a devious crook, wasn't he? That's why he was going to trial, wasn't it? How much more information did voters need in order to realize that the underhanded Netanyahu plotted to provoke another election? 

This was such a good story, it convinced an increasing number of voters to turn against Netanyahu. But then, this election-lie unraveled. It took less than 24 hours to fall apart.

Lies are like that. Once cast into the sunlight, they melt. 

The unraveling of this lie began Sunday night, August 23rd. At 10:37 pm that night, it was reported that Netanyahu announced he had accepted the compromise solution proposed by MK Zvi Hauser, of the Derech Eretz Party (here). That compromise was designed so that both Gantz and Netanyau could feel comfortable extending budget talks. Since Netyanyahu was the recognized villain in this fourth-election story, his acceptance should have been the end of the story, right? 

Netanyahu, the villain, had accepted the terms of a compromise agreement. A fourth election had been--at least temporarily--avoided. Surely, that was good news, right? 

Wrong. Once Netanyahu said he accepted the compromise agreement, his unity partner, Benny Gantz, did not respond. He remained silent. If Gantz remained silent, a fourth election was still possible.

How did the press handle Gantz's silence on the compromise? The press gave Gantz a pass. The press continued to blame Netanyahu for the still-looming fourth election. 

Keeping Netanyahu on page one as the villain of this story at this moment should have been a clue that, perhaps, the villain here wasn't Netanyahu. After all, after 10:37 pm Sunday night, the ball was, as it were, in Gantz's court. If he didn't accept the compromise agreement, the new election would be his fault, right? 

No. Netanyahu was still the villain. A fourth election would still be his fault. 

You see, Netanyahu's enemies in the media didn't drop their animus towards Netanyahu. Instead, they pushed the idea that, even though Netanyahu had indeed accepted the compromise, he did so only because he was selfish (here)!

The accusation now was, sure, Netanyahu had accepted the compromise. But he'd done so only because this particular moment didn't appear to him to be perfectly right for tearing apart the unity government (here) for his own, personal (and selfish) reasons (ibid). 

Some two hours after this last attack, Gantz's Blue-White Party piled on--and lashed out at Netanyahu with its own anti-Netanyahu lie: a Blue-White declaration went out "challenging" Netanyahu to fulfill his previous promise (to keep from provoking a fourth election) by accepting the compromise plan to delay (extend) the budget talks (here). The headline for this challenge seemed malevolent: it said, in essence, "Make good on your vow".

The inference of this headline was simple: Netyanyahu was once again lying. He had vowed not to let the government fall (by allowing new elections). But he was now about to renege on that vow!

Do you see the problem here? Netanyahu was no longer threatening to 'break his vow'. He had already--some 15-17 hours earlier--kept that vow by accepting the compromise offered by MK Hauser (here). 

The optics of this Blue-White "challenge" was to beat on Netanyahu. It shouted that "Netanyahu-was-the-liar-who can't-be -trusted". Given the fact that Netanyahu had undercut this headline by more than 15 hours (above), the headline was clearly fake news at its most vulgar. 

It was also disgraceful because when this fake "challenge" was issued, Gantz still had not accepted the compromise. This meant that, at the moment his Party was, essentially, smearing Netanyahu's reputation, it was Gantz's continued silence about the compromise which threatened to provoke the dreaded fourth election.

Israel's media was completely silent about this. The media still bashed Netanyahu for 'threatening' to push Israel to another election. 

In the end, Gantz caved. He announced he'd tell his Party Members to support the compromise. He did that about 22 hours after Netanyahu had accepted, just 3 1/2 hours before the deadline.

Gantz behaved exactly the way he and the media were accusing Netanyahu of behaving. It had been Gantz---not Netanyahu--who had dragged Israel to a point beyond the proverbial eleventh hour before acting to forestall a fourth election. 

The lesson here is simple. When you lie about someone and refuse to stop lying, you will get caught. In this instance, Gantz--and the media--got caught. 

There's a second lesson here: Gantz is a problem in this 'unity' government. Gantz is no innocent here.  He lies. Worse, he lies about his unity partner. 

Indeed, it is possible, because of how Gantz lies about Netanyahu, that Gantz may be the bigger problem. He lies even after the fact, shamelessly denying that the truth is already known. In fact, it now appears that if Gantz doesn't get his way, he is capable of suggesting there could be blood spilling "in the streets" (here).

Really? This man wants to be Prime Minister?

Stay tuned. This horror show isn't over.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

What? Peace with a far-away Arab nation in place of Jewish sovereignty?

(Last update: August 21, 2020)


On Thursday, August 13, 2020, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surprised everyone. With no advance-notice, Netanyahu announced he will sign a Peace treaty with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a wealthy Arab nation more than 1,200 miles distant from Israel (here). 

While this deal is designed to bring many benefits to Israel (here), it also appears to have some unadvertised surprises. We know at the very outset of this deal about one such surprise: Israel has promised to "suspend" declaring sovereignty over parts of Judea-Samaria (ibid). Right now, we don't yet know if there will be other 'surprises'.

This "suspension" of sovereignty is viewed by many on Israel's Right as a betrayal (here). Repeatedly during his career, Netanyahu has promised the Right many things--more settlements, education benefits, religious benefits--and sovereignty for Judea-Samaria. But with each of his Right-wing promises, Netanyahu fails to deliver. 

For so many Right-wing Israelis, this new Israeli commitment to 'suspend' sovereignty is no suspension at all. It will be, they say, permanent.

As a consequence of this new Peace deal, Netanyahu--the one man in Israel responsible for putting sovereignty on 'the table' in the first place--is now being viciously condemned as a liar and a traitor. He has betrayed the Israel's Right to make Peace with what nation? Where?

Rightists in Israel are livid. Once again, Netanyahu has not fulfilled an election promise (here). 

This latest betrayal may be the Right's proverbial last straw: now, some on Israel's Right join with Israel's Left to call for Netanyahu's ouster (here). He must, they say, be replaced (here). 

But then, Netanyahu has also said sovereignty is not off "the agenda" (here). Will the Right believe him?

Too many on Israel's Right say, no. They don't believe him. 

Netanyahu doesn't have a lot of friends on the Right, right now. But I for one will not judge him so harshly--at least, not at this moment. There are two reasons to say this. I'd like to share those reasons with you.

First, sovereignty is more than a political issue. It's also a religious issue. Indeed, it's one of the religious road-markers Jews need to see happen if we, the Jewish people, are to move forward to secure our Final Redemption. 

The problem is, sovereignty has not been a hot topic for any of Israel's most important leaders. In fact, it's actually been a topic our politicians pretty much never discuss.  

The prevailing political position in Israel has been that sovereignty can't be done. There are too many questions:  what would the 'Palestinians' say? What would such a unilateral Jewish declaration do to our region? 

What would the EU say? What would the UN say? What would the US say?

For so many of Israel's politicians, there are simply too many negative consequences with sovereignty. Avoiding sovereignty has been much easier than embracing it. 

Of course, that creates a Jewish Destiny problem. We don't move forward to our Destiny when we fear sovereignty. 

However, more than a year ago, everything about 'sovereignty' changed. Netanyahu introduced it into the April, 2019 election (here). If you elect me, he'd said, I will declare sovereignty over parts of Judea-Samaria after forming my new government (ibid). 

Even though Netanyahu hasn't been able to form his (Right-leaning) "new government", he kept sovereignty in his electioneering for the next two elections. Such constant talk of sovereignty has meant Israel sovereignty is now center-stage. It's been that way for more than seventeen months. It's still in the news (here). We are no longer afraid to talk of it.

Who put sovereignty on the table? Netanyahu. Who got Israel talking about it over three national elections? Netanyahu.  

This is the gift Netanyahu has given to the Jewish people. It is he who made sovereignty 'talk-able'. It is he who 'talked it up'. 

He has fulfilled the historic role an Israeli leader needs to fill for the Jewish people to move towards its Destiny. He has made sovereignty "discussable".

Moreover, Netanyahu didn't just put sovereignty before us. He did a more important service: his actions held up a mirror to us. 

As a recent poll suggests, Israelis are not ready to jump into sovereignty (here). Almost 77% of respondents to a poll taken just days after the UAE-Peace deal was announced say they prefer the UAE deal to sovereignty (ibid). Only 16.5% chose sovereignty over the UAE deal (ibid).

For the Jewish people to enjoy their Final Redemption, there must be sovereignty over our ancient Jewish national homeland. But there must also be unity. That much is part of our Redemption Heritage. But in Israel today, if less than 17% of Jews agree that unifying our national homeland under Jewish sovereignty is important, then we lack the unified voice necessary to create that sovereignty--and its consequence, moving closer to Redemption. 

This Netanyahu-UAE deal has made this lack of unity clear. Yes, everyone in Israel has now heard enough about sovereignty to have an opinion about it. But that deal has also shown us that Jewish Israel prefers peace with a far-away Arab country to sovereignty over our ancient national homeland. 

Netanyahu has shown us we've got a lot of work to do. Like it or not, the Jewish collective isn't ready for sovereignty.  

The second reason this Peace-suspend-sovereignty deal doesn't anger me as much as it angers some is based upon something we learn from our Heritage--from our Talmud. There, we learn that, each day, we should remind ourselves that everything that happens in our world happens because of our G-d, HaShem. Put another way, we learn that nothing ever happens to us without G-d's knowledge, approval or permission! 

Therefore, Netanyahu did what he did with G-d's knowledge, permission--or, approval. Do you really believe Netanyahu suspended sovereignty in exchange for a Peace deal with the UAE without G-d's knowledge? He may have pulled a 'fast one' on us, the human citizens of Israel--but do you truly believe he also pulled a 'fast one' on HaShem, our G-d? Of course not. HaShem knew exactly what Netanyahu would do.

Do you think Netanyahu has the power to suspend sovereignty without G-d's permission? Of course not.

If you have a problem with the apparent failure of sovereignty, then your problem isn't with Netanyahu. It's with--G-d forbid--HaShem.

Truthfully, as a religious Zionist, I don't worry about Netanyahu. I've got my own Redemption issues to worry about. If I really want Redemption to come, Netanyahu's behavior doesn't affect me one bit. What affects me is me. 

If I want Redemption to come, I have to worry about my own actions, not Netanyahu's. I have to correct myself, not someone else.

HaShem has a Plan. We all know that. We just don't know the  modern details of that Plan. When we see Israel's leader make a deal to secure a treaty in exchange for "suspending" sovereignty, we need to step back, not to attack the leader who did this, but to marvel at how it is HaShem--not a Prime Minister--who controls the twists and turns of history.

That's what is happening here. HaShem is asserting his Power over us. We are outraged?

As you consider this Peace deal, you might wish to remember what the Jewish Prophet, Yeshayahu, said when he spoke of "the end of days" (Yeshayahu, 2:2). In Judaism, this 'end of days' refers to the days preceding the Final Redemption--or, alternatively, to the Redemption itself. What did Yeshayahu say about "the end of days? He said, that's when the nations "will beat their swords into plowshares" (ibid, 2:4).  

At our Redemption, there will be Peace. Nations will stop making war. They will convert their weapons into plows.  

Could this UAE-Netanyahu-Peace story actually suggest that this "end of days" Peace process is about to begin? Is that what this deal is all about?

Stay tuned.