Getting a grip on Israel’s future
With apologies to an old bread commercial, you don’t have to be Jewish to marvel at what is happening in Israel. And to be nervous.
The ancient land is bracing for both historic celebrations and escalating Arab violence. Throw in the possibility there will be more Iranian rocket attacks and the week ahead is shaping up as an extreme metaphor for the good, the bad and the ugly of Israel’s modern existence.
Monday brings the belated fulfillment of an old promise — that the United States would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. President Trump’s decision makes good on his campaign pledge, and shames prior presidents who made the same pledge but went wobbly when they got to the White House.
Trump’s recognition that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital confirmed a reality widely understood by both Arabs and Jews but that foreign governments denied out of fear that acknowledging the truth would spark Palestinian violence. As if the bomb makers and knife wielders needed an excuse.
Giving veto power to the heckler has never worked anywhere, and it certainly didn’t work in Jerusalem. Palestinians were offered their own state repeatedly in the last two decades, but neither Yasir Arafat nor Mahmoud Abbas could ever get to yes.
Instead, violence was always their default position, and as Friday’s latest installment of scheduled mayhem along the Gaza border illustrated, little has changed since 1948.
Which brings us to Tuesday, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. The odds against its reaching this milestone often seemed prohibitive, but Israel today is a powerhouse, economically, culturally and militarily.
It also enjoys increasing ties with some of its Arab neighbors — a sign not of love, but of common enemies. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others share with the Jewish state deep apprehension about the rise of the Islamist ideology and the apocalyptic aims of Iran.
These new alliances notwithstanding, America remains Israel’s most reliable ally, and the Trump administration is proving to be the most pro-Israel ever, a fact that confounds and distresses many liberal American Jews.
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump will lead the American delegation to the embassy ceremony, and Jerusalem is awash with huge street banners thanking the president.
The pro-Trump enthusiasm includes a commemorative coin featuring his likeness next to that of an ancient Persian King, Cyrus the Great.
The Old Testament credits Cyrus with allowing captive Jews to return to Jerusalem from Babylon 2,500 years ago and rebuild Solomon’s temple. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is among those comparing Trump to Cyrus, a linkage evangelical Christians also embrace.
Alas, the current kings of Iran represent an existential threat to Israel. The president’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the feckless nuclear pact is very popular in Israel, but Iran’s mullahs used the decision as an excuse to launch rocket attacks from Syria.
The Israeli response was swift and deadly, which led to condemnations from the usual suspects that it was dangerously disproportionate. In fact, what is really dangerous is that Iran’s forces in Syria are aiming their weapons at Israel now that they have mostly subdued the opponents of Syrian butcher Bashar al Assad.
Similarly, Iran’s other terror ally, Hezbollah, has amassed a rocket arsenal in Lebanon targeting Israel.
These developments lead many analysts to conclude that the tit-for-tat shadow war between Israel and Iran could become a full-scale conflict. Those blaming Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal for changing the dynamics have cause and effect backwards.
The real cause is that Iran has grown increasingly belligerent, with its government threatening to destroy Israel. Those actions and the funding of terror groups in Yemen to attack are proof that the nuclear pact backfired.
Instead of leading Iran to become a peaceful global citizen, the deal enabled the mullahs to use their cash windfall to fund their missile program and proxy armies.
Trump’s plan to reimpose economic sanctions offers some hope that Iran will curb its military spending, but a major obstacle is that most European governments, which barely tolerate Israel, are more interested in appeasing the mullahs. They also don’t want to spoil the profitable party that Europe’s multinational companies are enjoying from trading with Iran.
If all that weren’t trouble enough for Israel, the Palestinians promise to protest both the embassy move and the anniversary celebrations. That means throwing grenades, burning tires and flying burning kites across the border. Leaders of Hamas, the terror group running Gaza, are urging tens of thousands to smash through the security fence along the border.
The escalation is likely to reach its climax Wednesday, when Palestinians hold their annual “Nakba Day” or catastrophe protests. They see the creation of Israel as the greatest disaster to befall them, and Arab leaders in both the West Bank and Gaza are encouraging massive turnout.
Israeli Defense Forces are adding reinforcements across the country in anticipation of what officials predict will be extensive and violent demonstrations.
If past is prologue, much blood will be shed needlessly, yet nothing will change. Israel is not going anywhere, and only when Iran and the Palestinians come to that conclusion will peace have a chance.
Won’t be ‘sidelined’
The quote of the week comes from Gina Haspel, Trump’s nominee to head the CIA. Unfairly battered over her tenuous connection to waterboarding terrorists more than a dozen years ago, she fired back at carping Democrats:
“After 9/11, I didn’t look to go sit on the Swiss desk — I stepped up,” she said. “I was not on the sidelines. I was on the front lines in the Cold War, and I was on the front lines in the fight against Al Qaeda.”
Reader Mark Connolly doesn’t like the quota system City Hall is using to diversify schools, but he has little patience for protesting parents on the Upper West Side. He writes:
“They voted for Mayor de Blasio. They would vote for him again because they vote for this garbage over and over.
“This is why my wife and I are sacrificing much to have our girls in Catholic school. We are devout Catholics, but they are not in Catholic school for the faith. They are there to avoid nonsense like this.”
‘Low’ down on NY pols
Chalk up another banner week for New York’s Sleaziest.
The jury verdict finding former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver guilty on all counts caps a week where Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned in disgrace after women told the New Yorker magazine that he slapped and punched them.
Other revealing moments came when there was squabbling over who would investigate Schneiderman and who would temporarily replace him. Howls of public protest were so loud that the pols backed off, or at least said they would.
Words to the wise: trust what they do, never what they say.
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