Analysis from Israel

The Anti-Defamation League issued its list of America’s top 10 anti-Israel groups this week. In compiling the list, the ADL used various criteria, including how active the groups are in sponsoring anti-Israel activity, how vicious their slurs against Israel are, and whether their accusations are “balanced with an acknowledgement of Israel’s repeated efforts to make peace with the Palestinians or the legitimate terrorism concerns faced by Israeli citizens,” as ADL National Director Abraham Foxman put it.

While I have no quarrel with either the ADL’s criteria or its choices, the list inspires an obvious question: How can you blame fringe groups like Jewish Voice for Peace for doing exactly what Israel’s so-called “peace partner”–a man feted in capitals the world over, including Washington–does every single day?

The Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, are world leaders in sponsoring anti-Israel activity and promoting boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns. Just this week, for instance, Abbas toured European capitals to urge the EU to step up sanctions against Israel, while the PA took the bizarre step of asking the French government to strip French nationals living in Israeli settlements of their citizenship. A few weeks ago, Palestinian legislators asked the Inter-Parliamentary Union to approve a motion urging national parliaments to boycott Israel. Last month, the PA sent letters to 50 countries urging them to impose commercial boycotts on Israel. And all this anti-Israel activity is taking place while Israeli-Palestinian talks are ostensibly at their height, with negotiators meeting several times a week.

Nor can you beat Abbas and the PA for hurling vicious slurs at Israel. Earlier this month, for instance, the PA’s culture minister granted an award to the author of a poem describing “my enemy, Zion” as “Satan with a tail,” and the PA’s official television station has repeatedly shown children reciting this charming poem. PA officials regularly accuse Israel of disseminating drugs to encourage Palestinian addiction and plotting to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque; indeed, in his UN address last month, Abbas accused Israel of “near-daily attacks” on Al-Aqsa and other religious sites in Jerusalem (in reality, since a 1969 arson attack on the mosque, the only attacks at Al-Aqsa have been Palestinians stoning Jews–see here, here or here, for instance). And this year’s UN speech was tame compared to last year’s, in which he accused Israel of “one of the most dreadful campaigns of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in modern history,” as well as of launching a military operation in Gaza solely to punish the Palestinians’ bid for UN recognition.

Abbas also excels at denying Israel’s “legitimate terrorism concerns.” In last month’s UN speech, for instance, he accused Israel of “relying on exaggerated security pretexts and obsessions in order to consecrate occupation.” The 1,200 Israelis killed in terrorist attacks following Israel’s partial withdrawal from the territories under the 1993 Oslo Accords, like the years of daily rocket launches at Israel after it left Gaza entirely in 2005, are evidently figments of its imagination: Far from being legitimate grounds for concern about security under a final-status agreement, they are mere “pretexts” to “consecrate occupation.”

In short, by the ADL’s own criteria, any list of anti-Israel bodies ought to be headed by Abbas and his Palestinian Authority. The only question that remains is why both Israel and the world are instead dignifying them with the undeserved title of “peace partners.”

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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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