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 constitutional crisis has been postponed, not resolved

After years of leftists crying wolf about democracy being endangered, Israel finally experienced a real constitutional crisis last week. That crisis was temporarily frozen by the decision to form a unity government, but it will come roaring back once the coronavirus crisis has passed.

It began with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s refusal to let the newly elected Knesset vote to replace him as speaker and culminated in two interventions by the High Court of Justice. I’m one of very few people on my side of the political spectrum who considers the court’s initial intervention justifiable. But its second was an unprecedented usurpation of the prerogatives of another branch of government, in flagrant violation of legislation that the court itself deems constitutional.

Edelstein’s refusal, despite its terrible optics, stemmed from a genuine constitutional concern, and was consequently backed even by Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon, who had opposed Edelstein many times before and would do so again later in this saga. The problem was that neither political bloc could form a government on its own, yet the proposed new speaker came from the faction of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party that adamantly opposed a unity government. Thus whether a unity government was formed or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s caretaker government continued, the new speaker would be in the opposition.

But as Yinon told the court, speakers have always come from the governing coalition because an opposition speaker can effectively stymie all government work. And once elected, he would be virtually impossible to oust, since 90 of the Knesset’s 120 members must vote to do so. An opposition speaker would thus “hurt democracy,” warned Yinon. “We’re planting a bug in the system, and this, too, undermines our constitutional fabric.” That’s why Edelstein wanted to wait, as Knesset bylaws permit, until a government was formed and could choose its own speaker.

Yet despite this genuine and serious concern, the fact remains that a newly elected majority was being barred from exercising its power. Moreover, it had no parliamentary way of solving the problem because only the speaker can convene parliament and schedule a vote. Thus if you believe majorities should be allowed to govern, the court was right to intervene by ordering Edelstein to hold the vote.

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