Analysis from Israel

You couldn’t make this up: As thousands of people in large swathes of the planet, including war-torn Syria, are dying daily for lack of adequate medical care, the one geographic area whose “health conditions” are slated for condemnation at the World Health Organization’s annual conference is, naturally, “the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.” What makes this surreal isn’t just that the above areas enjoy far better “health conditions” than much of the rest of the world. It’s that the Palestinian Authority (Israel’s “peace partner”), together with Syria and other Arab countries, is seeking to condemn Israel at a time when it is actively providing medical services to both Palestinians and Syrians.

The denunciation of health conditions on the Golan is particularly surreal: Syrians in Syria, where medical care of any kind is often simply unavailable, would be thrilled to get the same state-of-the-art care as their brethren on the Golan–where, as in East Jerusalem, Israeli law applies, entitling residents to the same services as all other Israelis.

But thanks to Israel, some of those Syrians actually are getting such care–which is doubtless Syrian President Bashar Assad’s real gripe. Israel has quietly set up a field hospital on the Golan where dozens of Syrians wounded in the civil war have been treated; others, who need more intensive care, have been transferred to regular Israeli hospitals.

Israel has also offered treatment to some Syrian refugees. Just this month, via Israel’s Save a Child’s Heart program, Israeli doctors saved the life of a four-year-old Syrian refugee with a serious heart condition. Similar treatment was offered to three other Syrian children in Jordan who have similar conditions, but their parents refused: Apparently, they fell victim to their own anti-Israel propaganda. Still, the doctors are hoping they will change their minds once the first girl returns to Jordan healthy and happy.

In the PA and Hamas-run Gaza, health care is also far better than in much of the rest of the world, though admittedly not up to Israeli standards. Of course, any deficiencies are their own fault: Both have had complete autonomy in civil affairs for years; Israel can hardly be blamed if they chose to invest in, say, military training for schoolchildren rather than better health care.

But more importantly, they have an advantage most other countries with similar health-care systems don’t: generous access to Israeli hospitals for any problems their own can’t treat. And you needn’t take my word for it: Just this month, after PA Health Minister Hani Abdeen visited Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital, the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported that “30% of the patients who are children are Palestinians.” It also reported that Hadassah is now training some 60 Palestinian doctors, who will then return to serve the PA’s own population.

It’s disgraceful that an otherwise respectable organization like WHO would lend its countenance to a farcical resolution like this. But it’s an excellent lesson in why the positions of the “international community” are often deserving of derision rather than respect–especially when it comes to Israel.

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Israel’s unity government may prove a constitutional time bomb

That Israel will soon have a government is good news; almost any government would be better than the political dysfunction that has produced three elections in the past year. But aside from its existence, there’s little to like about this “unity” government.

The biggest problem isn’t that many important issues will perforce go unaddressed, though that’s inevitable given the compromises required when neither bloc can govern on its own. Nor is it the risk that the government will be dysfunctional even on “consensual” issues like rescuing the economy from the coronavirus crisis, though this risk is real, since both sides’ leaders will have veto power over every government decision.

Rather, it’s the cavalier way that Israel’s Basic Laws are being amended to serve the particular needs of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his new partner, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz.

Though Israel’s Supreme Court wrongly claims the Basic Laws are a constitution, they were never intended as such by the parliaments that passed them. Indeed, some were approved by a mere quarter of the Knesset or less.

But they were intended as the building blocks of a future constitution should Israel ever adopt one. That’s why this handful of laws, alone of all the laws on Israel’s books, are deemed “Basic Laws,” and why each addresses a fundamental constitutional issue (the executive branch, the legislature, the judiciary, human rights, Israel’s Jewish character, etc.).

In other words, though they aren’t a constitution, they do serve as the foundation of Israel’s system of government. And tinkering with the architecture of any democratic system of government can have unintended consequences, as Israel has discovered before to its detriment.

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