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April 19, 2019     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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April 19, 2019
 

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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 19, 2019 By Eric R, Mandel (JTA)--After the smoke clears from this conten- tious Israeli election, which amounted to a referendum on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's tenure, it appears that Netanyahu will again be asked by Israeli President Rivlin to form the next gov- ernment. How did he win again? As Israel's former U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren said, "Our economy is excel- lent, our foreign relations were never better, and we're secure we know him, the world knows him--even our enemies know him." Unlike American voters, most Israelis choose secu- rity and stability over the unknown. In this election that was Gen. Benny Gantz and his new Blue and White party, which featured sterling security credentials among those headlining the ticket. Gantz's strategy highlight- ed Netanyahu's corruption scandals, which apparently resonatedwith enoughvoters that his party received over 1 million votes, the most ever by a Israeli political party-- except for Likud, also in this election. However, the nation--and particularly its youngest voters--have moved sharply to the right following the second intifada in the early to mid-2000s, prioritizing secu- rity over domestic concerns. Paradoxically, compared to Americans, young Israelis lean more to the right than older generations because they came of age during and after the violent Palestinian uprising. This is what enabled Ne- tanyahu to keep his job. The prime minister is perceived as a steady hand in turbulent wa- ters: Israel is surrounded on all sides by growing threats of radical jihadism--Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood. Netan- yahu is trusted on what he considers the No. 1 threat to the survival of Israel, the revolutionary theocracy of Iran. Netanyahu has also been a very pragmatic leader, successfully managing Is- rael's many conflicts. He has skillfully avoided a war with Hezbollah and Iran despite targeting hundreds of Iranian and Hezbollah positions in Syria and Lebanon over the past few years. And even with pressure from his own base to be more aggressive with Hamas, Netanyahu has avoided un- dertaking a major operation to overthrow the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip. He knows it would be a disaster if Israel conquered the coastal strip and became responsible for the lives of its 2 million residents. Under his unprecedent- edly long tenure, Israel has become more secure, with significant economic ad- vancements and diplomatic achievements, especially in forging relations with the Arab world and Africa. Many observers said that couldn't happen unless there was peace first between the Pal- estinians and Israel. Netanyahu was the first Israeli prime minister in 24 years to visit Oman. Last year he met with an Emirati ambassador--a meeting that Business Insider said "sheds light on one of the worst-kept secrets in the Arab world: the quiet ties between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors that are increasingly com- ing out in the open as they find common cause against mutual foe Iran." But what may be the most important legacy of this elec- FLORIDA EWISH NEWS Amir Levy/Getty Images Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, greet supporters during his victory speech in Tel Aviv, April 10, 2019. tion may be the annexation debate over the West Bank. Will Netanyahu really annex some or all of the disputed territories? Was his promise to the faithful just more hy- perbole, or was it a signal that the window of opportunity to act is now, as President Donald Trump may be gone from the scene in less than two years? The annexation debate is complex, and it is legitimate for Israel's security estab- lishment to discuss which disputed territory beyond the Green Line is indispensable for Israel's security interests. Proponents of the status quo and those for disengagement should join the debate. American Jewry, which is as liberal as Israeli Jewry is conservative, has legitimate criticisms of Netanyahu. He reneged on his promise to expand the egalitarian space at Robinson's Arch next to the Western Wall, and the Israeli government has failed to recognize Conservative and Reform Judaism--the movements that the major- ity of American Jews belong to--as equally legitimate to Orthodoxy. However, the hyperpolar- ized politics of America have blinded many American Jews, who don't realize the real harm they do to Israel and themselves in siding with those whose criticism veers into delegitimization of the state. After the euphoria and depression of the 2019 Israeli election results subside, we'll be left with something ex- traordinary to be celebrated by all Israelis and Americans: Israel's vibrant democracy again elected new national leadership in a peaceful vote. Israel is a beacon of Western democratic and Jewish val- ues-and whether you love or hate Bibi Netanyahu, Israel is still a miracle at 71. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media. Central Florida's Fastest Growing Segment of the Jewish Community Advertising Deadline: 22, MORE INFORMATION, 407-834-8787 By Ron Kampeas LAS VEGAS (JTA)--Presi- dent Donald Trump ques- tioned traditional Jewish support for Democrats in a stem-winding speech to Jew- ish Republicans. "How did you support President Obama, how did you support the Democrats?" Trump said Saturday address- ing the annual Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas. "We didn't," the crowd replied, twice. "You guys didn't, probably you guys in this room didn't," he said. Jewish voters have for decades favored Democrats in elections, usually by sub- stantial majorities of about 70 percent. Trump received a hero's welcome, with speaker after speaker noting his shifts in Israel policy, accommodating the hawkish policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Ne- tanyahu. Among Trump's policy changes popular with this crowd: Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, pull- ing the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal, ending U.S. funding for Palestinians and recognizing Israeli sover- eignty over the Golan Heights. "That the President chose to be with the RJC today proves just how committed he is to the needs of the Jew- ish community," CEO Matt Brooks said. "We will reward that commitmentwithvictory in 2020!" The last time Trump spoke with the RJC, at a candidates' forum in 2015, it did not go so well. Trump in that forum told Republican Jews he was not popular among them because he could not be bought. Despite the warm welcome, there were awkward moments on Saturday in Trump's hour-long speech, which he devoted to noting his differ- ences with Democrats. He mocked asylum seekers and said of refugees, "Our country is full, can't come, I'm sorry," earning only mild applause. Jewish groups have generally favored generous refugee al- lowances. He also addressed the RJC audience in the second person at odd moments, referring to Netanyahu as "your" prime minister, and noting what he said was the unexpected success of his reimposition of tariffs on major trading partners: "Maybe you could explain that to some of your people who say 'Oh we don't like tariffs'." It's not the first time that Trump has called Netanyahu "your" prime minister in addressing American Jews, and the American Jewish Committee scolded Trump on Twitter. "Mr. President, the Prime Minister of Israel is the leader of his (or her) country, not ours," the tweet said. "State- ments to the contrary, from staunch friends or harsh crit- ics, feed bigotry." A Democratic congress- woman, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.--whom Trump mocked in his speech--has come under fire from Repub- licans and fellow Democrats for her invocation of the dual loyalty canard. On another occasion, Trump said failing to defeat Democrats in 2020 would endanger Israel--again, us- ing "your." "If implemented, the Democrats' radical agenda would destroy our economy cripple our country and very well likely leave Israel all by yourselves," he said. "The Democrats have even allowed the terrible scourge of anti-Semitism to take root in their party and their country," he said. The Jewish Democratic Council of America scoffed at Trump's claim to the Jewish vote, saying that itwas hewho was tainted with associations with white nationalists. "Polling demonstrates that Trump's presidency has only solidified the fact that the Democratic Party has been-- andwill remain--the political home of the American Jewish electorate," said the JDCA director, Halie Soifer. "This is because Trump's policies and rhetoric are antithetical to Jewish values and because anti-Semitism has increased to unprecedented levels due to Trump's divisive words, poli- cies, and willful blindness." Vice President Mike Pence also addressed the forum, as did a number of leading GOP lawmakers in Congress.