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March 8, 2019     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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March 8, 2019

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PAGE 8A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 8, 2019 By Israel Kasnett (JNS)--Israeli Prime Min- ister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to cut a deal with Bayit Yehudi, and its subse- quent temporary union with right-wing political parties National Union and Otzma Yehudit, has created a politi- cal storm, being called "foul" and worse by some. And with others calling it a "reprehen- sible political party with rac- ist roots" and an "anti-Arab group," a number of Jewish American organizations have come out against the deal involving Otzma, which they consider an extremist and racist party, and which they don't want to see as part of any possible future government coalition. Otzma Yehudit is an off- shoot of the late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane's former Kach Party, which was banned from the Knesset because of its racist views and push for the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel. But is the merger as bad as it is hyped up to be? According to Yonatan Free- man in the political-science department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, "This is a technical kind of join-up. It's about the polls, not the policies," he told JNS. Freeman explained that this union with Otzma Ye- hudit was a necessary move by Bayit Yehudi because it has been sinking in the polls. Freeman emphasized that Netanyahu never actually called for Otzma Yehudit to join up with any specific party, but that he simply wanted to unite the right due to a fear that in the upcoming April elections, Israel may see a higher percentage of people voting for parties that may not pass the threshold, which would ultimately be a waste of important, potentially game- changing votes. Still, not everyone cares about the reasoning behind Netanyahu's decision. The Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement, AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, theAnti-Defama- tion League, the Jewish Com- munity Relations Council of Boston and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, among others, have all expressly stated their objections in one way or another against any potential political merger or deal. The American Jewish Com- mittee angrily wrote that the views of Otzma Yehudit "do not reflect the core values that are the very foundation of the State of Israel." The 13 principles that make up the party's platform show that it's not entirely what it is being accused of, and that while some of its points are deeply problematic for many, it still represents views held by those who vote for main- stream parties. Some believe that it may have made more sense to cre- ate a pact with the New Right Party led by Naftali Bennett, but Netanyahu is known to have a longstanding beef with his former chief of staff and, according to some reports, is working to undermine Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked before the elections. Bennett himself has come out against the deal, saying, "people who see Kahane as a model are unworthy of sitting in the Knesset, but those who undermine Israel are, too." Later, in response to the left's reaction to his comment, he clarified his words and said, "I reject the demand of the left to prevent representatives of Otzma Yehudit from run- ning for the Knesset, while relying on Arab parties that undermine the existence of the state." Either way, Netanyahu understood that the fracture within the right has hurt the country for many years, and he realized he needs to unify it in order to counter the new momentum by the Blue and White union by Israel Resilience party head Benny Gantz, the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, and Yesh Atid Party head Yair Lapid. 'An attempt to get back in the middle' In general, American Jew- ish and pro-Israel organiza- tions have stood by Israel's side throughout the years without getting heavily involved, if at all, in internal politics. So why now? According to Freeman, there are two main reasons. The first is that America is now in the beginning stages of a heated election season. And AIPCA, he explained, is con- cerned that the perception of Israel as being too pro-Trump might influence how AIPAC is perceived as well. "This is an attempt to get back in the middle," Freeman said of AIPAC. The second reason, he noted, is that a good number of Israelis are fretting over the separation that exists between the Jewish Diaspora and Israel, and are clamoring for an easing of tensions. AIPAC sees this as an op- portunity to bridge that divide and get involved in Israeli domestic politics, even in a minimal way. But according to Freeman, "when push comes to shove, this will not affect [Israel's[ relations with AIPAC," though it might influence it in two ways. First, the type of discus- sions and talking points may change. Second, internally in America, there might be a backlash from Jews who don't agree with all of Israel's policies. Jonathan Rynhold, the deputy head of the depart- ment of political studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, emphasized to JNS that Netanyahu did this for politi- cal reasons and not ideologi- cal ones. Rynhold believes that Ne- tanyahu made the move because he is desperate due to a possible a pending indict- ment against him for charges of corruption, as well as the political threat presented by Gantz and Lapid. "The Netan- yahu of five years ago would have decried this [inclusion of Otzma Yehudit] as terrible." He firmly believes that the OtzmaYehudit representative will not "have direct influence and probably not even direct representation in the next Knesset." Freeman agreed and sought to allay the fears of many, assuring that "they won't be setting policy." C receives reco: Owned by Renee Friedman- Goldstein, FASTSIGNS of Orlando--Central, now entering its 33rd year as a business, was recently recog- nized at the 2019 FASTSIGNS International Convention for various achievements. FAST- SIGNS of Orlando--Central received the CEO Circle Award for the third consecu- tive year, which recognizes the top 25 centers with the highest sales volume in the U.S. and Canada between Oct. 1, 2017 and Sept. 30, 2018. They also received a Mentor Recognition Award, which recognizes a seasoned franchisee who serves as a mentor to a new FASTSIGNS franchisee for the first six months of operation. "We are excited to be rec- ognized as a top performing center in the FASTSIGNS network of over 700 locations in nine countries worldwide," said Renee Friedman, Owner at FASTSIGNS of Orlan- do-Downtown. "This award reflects our entire team's hard work and dedication to helping businesses and orga- nizations solve their visual communications challenges in our community every day." FASTSIGNS of Orlando-- Central was also recognized for their extensive work with four distinct organizations in the Orlando community as % GUTTER PROTECTION % FASTSIGNS of Orlando Central team receiving the CEO Circle Award at the 2019 FAST- SIGNS International Convention from FASTSIGNS International, lnc.'s CEO, Catherine Monson (far right). Also pictured (l-r): Doc Ecker, Derrick Ruiz, Kris Lepicier, Kayla Brat- ager, Richard Goldstein and Renee Friedman-Goldstein. part of FASTSIGNS' "Show Us How You Care" philanthropic initiative. Friedman and her team have received this honor for the third year in a row. In 2018, the team at FAST- SIGNS of Orlando actively participated in efforts with Friends of Down Syndrome, RAISE, Big Brothers Big Sis- ters and Curebowl, providing a wide range of products and services to each of the four organizations touched by their philanthropic efforts. FASTSIGNS of Orlando-- Central sponsored the Cin- derella Ball for Friends of Down Syndrome, which is the largest fundraising gala of the year. The FASTSIGNS team attended the event, donated signs, provided signage dis- counts and volunteered their time visiting the campus. The center also stepped in as the first corporate sponsor for RAISE, an organization that provides paid, supported employment at partnering agencies and transition to employment into the com- munity. The teamvolunteered time and attended multiple events hosted by RAISE, do- nated signage and provided social media support. In addition, FASTSIGNS of Orlando--Central became the official marketing and signage partner for Big Broth- ers Big Sisters and donated signs, volunteered time and provided signage and social media support. And finally, the team became a sponsor for Curebowl, an annual American college football bowl game played in Decem- ber of each year at Camping World Stadium in downtown Orlando, Florida. This event is named to promote aware- ness and research of breast cancer, with proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The FASTSIGNS team attended this event as well as providing signage and social media support. "The team loves working with these nonprofits; it truly makes a difference working for a bigger cause and giving back to our community," said Friedman. "We especially love when we are able to attend the events as a team and really see it all come together and the impact it makes. There is so much goodwill that comes from giving back to all these wonderful charities that sim- ply can't be measured. " Friedman has been an early adopter and advocate of the Show Us How You Care arena of FASTSIGNS International, Inc. as she has continually spearheaded efforts since to actively make a difference in her community through her business. "We thank our customers for their support and look forward to further helping companies of all sizes achieve their goals using comprehen- sive signs and visual graph- ics," Friedman said.