Sunday, April 13, 2014

“Winding Down”

Preparing for the Pesach holiday, just a day away now.  Beginning to turn away from everyday happenings, to focus on ultimate questions, family, and the ritual of Seder.   I will not be posting again before the holiday starts on Monday night.  And I do not know that I will have a chance to post in the course of the week-long holiday. 
I wish one and all a joyous and meaningful holiday:  Chag Pesach Kasher v’Sameach. 
Jewish Passover Traditions
Credit: fhdphotos
I read a commentary the other day, about how we were able to come out of Egypt, with the help of the Almighty, because we had courage to move on, chutzpah (nerviness), this commentator said. This is what our people here, and our leadership especially, require today.
It occurs to me, as well, that we were brought from Egypt to come to Sinai and the Torah, and then to enter the Land.  And now it is our task to hold fast to our inheritance.  Something to be remembered at this time especially.
I ask my readers, please, to refrain from sending me material during the Pesach week.  My time for attending to email will be short, my attention will be on family and other matters.
There is no telling what the “peace process” situation will be by the time Pesach is over.  I had, foolishly, assumed that – while it would ultimately come back to haunt us – we had a reprieve that would last for a while.  But the “doctors” at the US State Department insist on trying to put the patient on a respirator.  In the course of those US efforts, rumor-based headlines are generated that occasionally give one a near heart attack.
Pure logic tells us that there cannot be a resumption of the talks now.  (Although pure logic is not exactly the best yardstick to use in assessing this situation.)  Netanyahu has said unequivocally that we would not come back to the table unless the PA withdraws its applications to international organizations, and Abbas has said, figuratively, that he’d rather die than do this.  In any event those applications have been accepted.
On Friday, Channel 10 News cited Israeli officials who declared that there was “zero chance that an agreement [that would bring the parties back to the table] will be reached in the coming weeks.”           
But then again, other sources hint that something might still happen.  Depends on which unnamed source is being cited and the political orientation of that source, as well as the political orientation of the media site doing the citing.  
What I’m seeing – at least now and please Heaven  may it continue – is that Netanyahu is standing strong, not caving to the US pressure for us to make additional concessions, or back off on our position.  Quite the contrary.  In spite of the disapproval registered by the US, Israel is taking actions against the PA.  
The Israeli action that has most rattled the PA is the decision to withhold some of the tax revenues (customs, etc.) that Israel by agreement collects for the PA and then turns over to Palestinian Arab officials.   We are not going to withhold all revenues – only the amount that Abbas pays to terrorists and their families:  Every Palestinian Arab in Israeli prison because of terror-related crimes receives a “salary.”  See on this – it’s eye-opening.
The money that is withheld will go to paying off debts that the PA has accrued with Israel.  The PA owes $400 million to Israel just for electricity that Israel supplies, per agreement.
So I think this will be splendid, if it really happens. What has galled me no end is that Israel – presumably fearing international condemnation – has not simply stopped supplying electricity to them.  (This is in spite of the fact that electric rates for Israelis were on the cusp of being increased to cover this default.)  My electricity would be cut off if I consistently reneged on paying my bill.
The idea of withholding money to pay these bills was advanced as a sort of “retribution” for the PA having filed with international agencies.  But it shouldn’t have been linked to other PA behaviors, or considered “retribution,” it should have been done because it is necessary and right.
Other actions, such as limiting transfers between Israeli and PA banks are also projected.
The PA – which diverts international donations to “pay” terrorists – is alarmed at the idea that their funds should be cut.  Abbas even made a statement about how this might cause the PA to collapse and there have been charges that what Israel is about to do is “illegal.”
What I observe is the pathological need the international community has to keep the PA afloat, even when evidence of misuse of funds donated abounds. 
According to Palestinian Media Watch, “monthly salaries to prisoners ( which goes to their families) range from 2,400 shekels [about $700] to 12,000 shekels [about $3,500]. The PA economic report listed the prisoners’ salaries as part of the PA general salary budget, which includes civil servants, military personnel and others.”  In other words, terrorists are doing the work of the PA.
There is a correlation between the amount paid per month and the length of the sentence – those who have committed more heinous crimes apparently meriting more monthly. Please, wrap your heads around this fact.  Those Palestinian Arabs in Israeli prisons for non-terror related crimes receive no “salary.”
Additionally, those prisoners who have been released as the part of the deal to bring the PA to the table have received from the PA $2,000 for every year served.  This amounts to tens of thousands per prisoner, because these were all convicted pre-Oslo – we’re looking at $40,000 plus per prisoner for over 70 prisoners or well over $2 million.
Yet, completely ignoring the need for PA fiscal accountability (and we haven’t even mentioned the incredible corruption that puts money in the pockets of PA leaders), State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was able to say on Friday that:
“...We believe that the regular transfer of the Palestinian Authority’s tax revenues and economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been beneficial and is important to the well-being of the Palestinian economy.”
Please keep in mind that, per capita, the PA receives more money in international assistance than any other group or country. 
At least one EU official - European Parliament Budget Committee Chairman Michael Theurer - has finally seen the light with regard PA funding by the EU, the PA’s largest donor.  Writing in the Wall Street Journal last week, he said (emphasis added):
“In its report, issued in December, the European Court of Auditors revealed major dysfunctions in the management of EU financial support to the Palestinian Authority, and called for a serious overhaul of the funding mechanism...
"...the Palestinian Authority is the only body that receives EU funds regardless of its human rights record or economic performance."
Theurer is disturbed by the fact that EU funds are utilized in “paying the salaries of Palestinian Authority officials living in the Gaza Strip, who in fact do not work at all and have not for years since the Hamas takeover in 2007.” He also notes that the salaries paid to the terrorists are five times the average paid by the PA to workers in Judea and Samaria.
Please, my friends, the myth of the poor suffering Palestinians, who are deprived because of the Israeli “occupation,” persists.  Utilize this information about PA funds broadly in setting the record straight. Share with others, do talk-backs, write letters to the editor, etc.
According to the Times of Israel:
“... unnamed senior Israeli official, quoted by Channel 2 on Friday night, asserted that it was Kerry who was to blame for the breakdown [in talks]. ‘He’s responsible for the crisis,’ the official reportedly said. This was because Kerry inaccurately told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel would be willing to release Israeli Arabs in the fourth group of prisoners, when Israel had not agreed to do so. There was also a difference between the sides about how many prisoners would go free. The secretary had months to try to resolve the discrepancies but failed to do so, the report said.” (Emphasis added)
It is crystal clear why Kerry proceeded in this fashion: he gave the PA what it demanded, assuming that in due course he would be able to pressure Israel to agree.  Bravo for us that we didn’t.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, the Obama administration waged a “secret media war” against Israel after talks fell apart.  They “sought to lay the groundwork for Israel to take the blame for talks collapsing by peddling a narrative to the Israeli press claiming that the Palestinians were outraged over Israeli settlements...This paved the way for Secretary of State John Kerry to go before Congress...and publicly blame Israel for tanking the talks.
“...The primary source of these multiple reports has been identified as Middle East envoy Martin Indyk and his staff...” (Emphasis added)
This should comes as no surprise – anyone who has been following the situation over the years knows full well that Indyk is no friend to Israel. Nor should we think that this is an isolated incident.  The name of the “negotiations” game is pressuring Israel in one way or another.
I knew that the PA has been refusing to sit directly with Israel in negotiations. But I have just learned that it has been thus since November – that’s more than half the allotted time for these talks.  Their negotiators insist on dealing with US officials only.  A farce.  Kerry cannot be truly hopeful that anything good can result from such a situation.  It’s all a matter of appearances.
Indyk has now returned home for the week of Pesach.  (It’s painful for me to acknowledge that he is a Jew.) 
I begin our holiday grateful that no catastrophe has ensued, and yet am careful not to be naïve about what may yet happen. To our prime minister, I can only say Chazak!  Chazak!  Be strong, be ever strong!
I mention here only in passing that, not unexpectedly, this “negotiations” situation has placed some strains on the coalition.  This is both with regard to Naftali Bennett (head of Bayit Hayehudi) threating to leave if Israel releases Israeli Arab prisoners, and parties on the left making similar threats if “peace negotiations” are not advanced. Avigdor Lieberman (head of Yisrael Beitenu) is making noises about separating from the Likud in due course and aiming for the position of prime minister down the road.
What I hope to be able to do after Pesach is focus on other issues. Too much time and too many words have been devoted to the “negotiations” nonsense.  Around us, chaos abounds and the dangers increase.
Nothing, but nothing, is more serious than the matter of the negotiations the P5+1 are holding with Iran: Appeasement rules the day.  Poison gas has been used in Syria again, with each side accusing the others.  Rockets have come now and again from Gaza and the situation in Egypt is unsettled, to put it mildly.  All these situations require attention in my writing. 
Among the dangers that I see is an erosion of genuine democracy in the US. 
Shame of major proportions accrues to Brandeis University in the instance I address here.  Brandeis was scheduled to give an honorary degree at commencement time to Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, best-selling author and human rights activist, now living in the US. 
Ayaan Hirsi Ali condemns AAP proposal to
Credit: FreedomsPhoenix
But under pressure from groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Students Association, the offer was withdrawn. Both groups, reports Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism, have documented roots in the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Hirsi Ali, born and raised into a Muslim family, renounced her faith and chronicled her reasons why in two best-selling books. She has been targeted for death by radical Islamists, including in a note pinned onto the body of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh after he was shot and stabbed to death on an Amsterdam street.
“The two collaborated on a short film, ‘Submission,’ which was critical of the way women are treated in Islam. Hirsi Ali has made many statements critical of the religion, and her foundation works to protect women from physical abuse like honor violence, genital mutilation and forced marriage.
“Such a life, such a dedication to improving women's lives, is deserving of an honor like the one Brandeis planned. But the school reneged, issuing a statement which said it could not fulfill its promise due to ‘certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University's core values.’"
So much for free speech in America, when that speech is critical of Islam. 
What makes this more horrendous is that Brandeis gave the same award to radical leftist anti-Israel playwright Tony Kushner (NO relation).  When Kushner’s political views were called into question, the response of then-president of Brandeis Yehuda Reinhartz was that:
“Mr. Kushner is not being honored...for his political opinions. Brandeis is honoring him for his extraordinary achievements as one of this generation's foremost playwrights, whose work is recognized in the arts and also addresses Brandeis's commitment to social justice.”
And Hirsi Ali did not deserve recognition for her extraordinary commitment to social justice??
With the holiday of Pesach approaching, and its themes of freedom, this feels all the more distressing and reprehensible.
Is there good news? Sure enough.
Pesach is upon us, with it messages of hope and redemption.
A very special song for Pesach – my very favorite - is this rendition of V’hi She’amda, arranged by Yonaton Razel and sung by Razel and Ya’akov Shwekey:

The words are from the Pesach Haggadah: “This is what has stood by our fathers and us: For not just one alone has arisen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One blessed be He, saves us from their hand!”
Lazer Brody ( calls this the Eternal Promise. “It conveys a very timely message for the Jewish people: He who stood by our forefathers stands by us to deliver us from the hands of our enemies in every generation.”
On a lighter note, but carrying the same theme, is this neat Pesach song video by a group of young boys:
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