Analysis from Israel

Hats off to the British. Aside from all the other reasons to applaud Britain’s decision to leave the European Union (i.e. democracy, national sovereignty), it has voted to secede from an enabler of Palestinian terror and hate education. And if that accusation sounds harsh, consider what transpired in the EU Parliament on the very day of the Brexit referendum.

While the British were voting, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was addressing the EU Parliament in Brussels. By any objective standard, the visit didn’t start off well: Upon arriving, Abbas immediately rejected a personal plea by the parliament’s president, Martin Schulz, to meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who happened to be in Brussels at the same time. But things quickly got worse when Abbas started speaking.

Abbas’s speeches are always full of anti-Israel slander, and this one was no exception. He accused Israel of “massacring” Palestinians’ “history, heritage, identity and geopolitical entity.” He termed the Israeli “occupation” the longest in history and deemed it uniquely evil, “unlike anything that has happened to any other people anywhere in the world,” to quote one reporter’s live tweeting of the speech (I haven’t managed to find a transcript); in reality, of course, not only have there been many longer occupations, but few conflicts have ever entailed so little bloodshed. He accused Israel of being “fascist” and “racist,” of committing extrajudicial killings, and of turning “our country into an open-air prison.” All this is pretty standard, as was the conclusion, in which he paid lip service to his willingness to make peace with the monstrously evil country he just described.

But even by Abbas’s standards, this speech was exceptionally vile in two respects. First, he accused Israel of responsibility for all terrorism worldwide, ludicrously asserting that “Once the occupation ends, terrorism will disappear, there will be no more terrorism in the Middle East, or anywhere else in the world.” After all, Israel is clearly the reason why Muslims are killing fellow Muslims by bombing mosques, schools, and hospitals in Muslim countries like Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan, right?

Then, he resurrected a medieval blood libel, accusing Israel of poisoning Palestinian wells. Granted, he was speaking in Arabic, and this accusation wasn’t in his prepared English translation; but the simultaneous translator rendered it into English, and Israeli reporters had no trouble hearing it; thus one has to assume it was audible to EU parliamentarians, as well.

So how did those parliamentarians respond? By giving him a standing ovation. In other words, they told him that hurling blood libels at Israel and refusing to meet with its president and would not be penalized, but rewarded.

This, of course, is not particularly surprising. As I wrote yesterday, the PA has been promulgating hatred of Israel through its schools and media for over 20 years now, and throughout this time, the EU and its member states have been the PA’s largest donors; thus the EU has been directly subsidizing Palestinian hate education for over two decades. The EU and its member states are also the main financiers of anti-Israel NGOs, so in that way, too, they’ve been funding anti-Israel propaganda for decades. And it’s no accident that the EU has devoted so much money to this purpose; it’s obsessed with Israel to the virtual exclusion of other foreign policy concerns, as evidenced by a 2010 study of what EU foreign ministers spend their time discussing. That study found the ministers had held exactly one meeting on China, a rising power, over the previous four years – but they discussed “the Middle East peace process” 12 separate times in 2009 and the first part of 2010 alone.

After Abbas refused to meet with him, Rivlin naively said he found this refusal “surprising.”  But it’s not surprising at all when Abbas can be rewarded for it with a standing ovation from the very body whose president personally requested him to hold the meeting. Just as it’s not surprising that Abbas similarly rejected a personal request by France’s then-foreign minister Laurent Fabius to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris in October 2015. Why should he agree when Fabius promptly rewarded his refusal by announcing plans to convene an international conference to force Israel to accede to Palestinian demands and pledged that France would unilaterally recognize Palestine as a state if Israel declined to capitulate? Nor is it surprising that the PA continues to spew anti-Israel hatred, given that doing so earns it lavish EU funding and standing ovations from the EU parliament.

By granting financial and diplomatic rewards to Palestinian rejectionism and hate education, the EU has encouraged Palestinian terror and distanced peace. No self-respecting country should want to be associated with such sorry behavior. Britain is well out of it.

Originally published in Commentary on June 24, 2016

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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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