Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Capital Gratitude

May 17, 2018

Chanoch Ne’eman Jerusalem 29 Iyar 5778 (May 14)

Today I am going to walk up from my house to the opening ceremony of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem. It’s in the same place I ordered my new US passport a couple years ago, about a twenty minute walk. Twenty minutes for me to walk, but seventy years for the Embassy to show up, to paraphrase that American Astronaut!

This past December, as I was visiting the US, President Trump made the surprising announcement that the US would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. I felt the great contrast between just one year before, when the outgoing President, just before Christmas,
collaborated to pass a UN Security Council resolution, criticizing Israel for living in the post 1967 parts of her land.

I was amused by our non-Jewish neighbors, in both Arizona and New Jersey, who thought President Trump had made Jerusalem Israel’s capital! I assured them that no, Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital city for the past seventy years! But the odd reality was that America had never formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Why? Ask former presidents. I can only guess because they wanted to assuage the feelings of Arab oil partners, who objected. Indeed, when President Harry Truman recognized the creation of Israel in 1948, it was against the advice and urging of the State Department.

Truman was an independent President. He said “I make American foreign policy.” Mr. Trump may be the most independent President since. I was pleasantly surprised when Mr.Trump replaced his Secretary of State, who had been a former oil company CEO. Oil interests always seem to get their voices into an administration, be it Democratic or Republican. But Mr. Trump seemed to tire of competing with his cabinet, and, like Truman, decided to make foreign policy himself.

Average Americans, like our family’s non-Jewish neighbors, had little problem with Jerusalem being our capital. In fact, in 1995 Congress voted to insist that the State Department move the embassy to Jerusalem, or the next year it would cut funding for all US Embassies by fifty per cent. President Clinton, however, refused to sign the bill until a waiver clause was added, allowing the President to delay implementation every six months, if he chose. And so it was. Every President since 1995 has delayed implementing the Jerusalem Embassy Act. Surprising perhaps, to the average American, but true.

Interestingly, this Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 is an example of a species of legislation whereby the Congress tries to influence foreign policy using its power of the purse – appropriations. The first instance was in 1794, over the Jay Treaty. President Washington had sent John Jay to England, to negotiate a treaty that would keep America out of the war then being fought between England and France. Many Congressmen were upset when they learned of the treaty and threatened to not fund it, though it passed in the end. This balance of power between branches is a healthy element of the American system..

I salute President Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. It is the right time. Critics say – good idea, but not the right time. Critics also said that about the Republican Party’s platform in 1858, which sought to contain slavery. Lincoln said then – You don’t want us to talk about it in the South, you don’t want us to talk about it in the North. Where would you have us talk about it?!

Indeed, any controversial topic will remain controversial so long as someone is willing to controvert it. Bravo to this President for saying what was clear to him, and many others – Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel. Too bad we had to wait for a former casino owner until someone was willing to take a risk for what is right.


The week in review

February 20, 2018

Hanoch Ne’eman Jerusalem 5 Adar 5778

Iran in Syria

On Shabbos Parshas Mishpatim the Iranian forces in Syria sent a military drone into Israel, which Israel shot down. Israel then bombed many sites in Syria, both Syrian and Iranian.

The week before, on Feb. 7th, US troops engaged Assad-side Syrians near Oil Fields in the Deir el Zour region, and reportedly some Russian nationals on the job there helping Syria were killed too. I don’t know if that is related to Israel hitting the Iranians hard this week, but it is an interesting coincidence.

You know the Russians have just about taken over Syria, since they moved in to help Assad stay in power. Syria was always a Russian client state, but now it is “not just a client, but also the President”, to paraphrase an old commercial.

According to A. Pe’er in Hamodia, Israel struck many sites, including ones 185 miles into Syria. Israel destroyed (we hope) Surface to Air missile sites, and attacked Iranian planes on one side of a runway while sparing Russian planes on the other.

An Israeli F-16 was damaged and crashed in Israel. It was damaged by an anti-aircraft missile. The two pilots got out. Thankfully to Hashem, it came down in Israel and not Syria, and the crashed plane landed in a field.

The Migrant Question

Another big issue this week was the plan of the Israeli Government to extradite many of the illegal migrants. As is known, many thousands of illegal migrants live in Israel. Most come from countries in North Africa such as Eritrea and Sudan. Many of them crossed into Israel before Israel built a bigger fence along the Egyptian border. There are over 37,000 of them here now.

The Government announced it would be helping the migrants to leave to a safe, unnamed third country. It would give them a plane ticket and some money, like $3500. Those who don’t take the deal can be deported.

At the heart of the issue, from both a legal and moral perspective, is the question whether the illegals are refugees or just migrants. The difference, legally, is that a refugee is someone fleeing persecution, and refugee law allows them to seek asylum. While there is Civil War in Sudan and Eritrea, Israel does not think the migrants are here because they are persecuted, rather because it is simply much better and stable here in Israel. In any case, Israel is not trying to send them back, but go to a third country.

Immigration usually helps an economy in the long term. I am in general in favor of immigration. Of course Israel wants to have a Jewish majority, so it can’t open the floodgates. And Israel has, like every country, the right to control illegal immigration.

Rabbi Shlomo Dov Rosen of Yakar in Jerusalem articulated the problem with the current plan: since it is secret, we don’t know if it is safe for them where they are going. They should not, he says, be deported unless we know it is safe. The problem is the third country likely does not want to admit the deal publicly. So we are left in the position of trusting our government. Trust is a beautiful thing, as one of my professors said, but don’t trust anyone. I especially feel that way as our Interior Minister, who is handling this, is Aryeh Deri.


Breath of Fresh Air (Please!)

November 28, 2017

9th of Kislev 5778 Hanoch Ne’eman, Jerusalem

I saw in the news that some mayors complained about air pollution from Arab towns. Yes, there is a big problem of Arab areas burning garbage. In recent days, with the overcast skies, I was suffering from it here in Baka too. And of course when I visit Tekoa, I suffer from it from the nearby villages. As do many places in Israel.

The Israeli EPA does not allow Israelis to do that, but the Palestinian Authority, that monster we created, does.

As Mr. Kushner, Minister of American Innovation and Middle East Peace, prepares to suggest a Peace Plan, I reflect on how we still have many years work ahead of us to try to mitigate the harmful effects of the Oslo Accords. I yearn for fresh air.

And of course, this week is 70 years from the 29 November, 1947 Partition Plan for Palestine, which led to heavy violence and of course it not being accepted or implemented.

Partitions are good for synagogues, but not Israel. Wish everyone understood that.

Welcome to the Game!

March 1, 2017

3 Adar 5777, H. Ne’eman, Israel

The US Special Forces do a raid in Yakla, Yemen (not well known tourist spot), during first week of Trump Presidency.

Kill some fourteen terrorists, some twenty civilians (much higher ration than IDF operations), lose one American soldier, and a 70 million dollar aircraft.

Capture enemy cellphones.

Local women surprise US forces by taking guns and shooting at them also.

Terrorists hide in clinics, schools, and mosques. Use women and children as shields.

Baruch HaBah…  (Welcome to the Game).



Diplomatic failure

February 17, 2017

21 Shevat 5777 HAnoch Ne’eman, Jerusalem

The fact that the outgoing US administration led a coalition to criticize Israeli settlements with a Security Council resolution, is of course, a tremendous diplomatic failure.

One could say it is all the Obama Adm.’s fault, but I differ with that view somewhat. I think that fact that our PM and our Ambassador talk about a Palestinian State contributes to the ability of a President to do that. Because the President can say – “look you admit you are wrong, you talk about a Pal. State, you agreed to settlement freeze, etc. You are just being stubborn and dragging your feet.”

Maybe I am wrong, maybe there is nothing to stop a President on the loose, but I believe it would be much harder for them to do that if our diplomats said clearly – there is only one state here, where all Arabs who are loyal and good citizens enjoy full civil rights.


Now this week, with a new US President, we have this ridiculous meeting between our PM and him, were the new President says “I don’t know, one state, two states, what you folks want!” Not that I expect an American President to know what is going on here much, I expect him to say stupid things, but that our PM keeps playing that game is disheartening and disappointing and sad. These people live in their own world, not the world of reality.

Wearing white

January 28, 2017

2 shevat 5777 HAnoch Ne’eman Jerusalem

My friend told me that the woman who lost in the American Presidential election two months ago attended the inauguration. He said she wore white to express her solidarity with the Suffering Women’s Movement. Well that’s nice, but I couldn’t help thinking that if she had won, there would be not only a lot of women suffering, but a lot of men too. Certainly a lot of both men and women here in Israel would have been suffering because of her.

Perhaps if she really wants to help alleviate suffering, she should have gone into nursing or medicine, not politics. Then she could have worn white every day (though maybe not Ralph Lauren), and really helped people.

Like the old Indian chief used to say, “Beware of wolves dressed like sheep”.

Game Over (SC Res. 2334 no surprise)

December 27, 2016

27 Kislev 5777 Hanoch Ne’eman, Jerusalem

When my grandfather was a little boy in Russia, the Jews of his town would lock themselves in a warehouse on Christmas to protect themselves from their christian neighbors, some of whom were then quite drunk and prone to attack Jews.

This year erev Christmas proved to be a rallying time for the gentile nations of the world, or more specifically the members of the Security Council, to come together on the only thing which unites them: blaming Jews.

But it should come as little surprise, since when you don’t tell the truth yourself, you should not then expect the gentiles to do it for you. For our PM, our ambassadors, and many of our ministers, have for years played this game of talking about a Palestinian State, about negotiations, about housing freezes. One thing Obama and Sarkozy were right about, our PM does have a lying problem. It was only a matter of time before the UN would say with one voice that we don’t have a right to our land.

It’s our job to teach the world why it is important and best for everyone that Israel control all our country, including Judea and Shomron. Time to roll up our sleeves and start doing that, not playing the lying game anymore.


The Royal Kippa

October 24, 2016

published in In Jerusalem and J. Post Metro Section – Chol Hamoed Sukkot 5777

The Royal Kippa

4th of Tishri 5777 Jerusalem – Hanoch Ne’eman

Those of you who know me know I am not someone to make a big deal about a kippa. I generally am put off by questions like “are you kippa seruga or black kippa?” But, nonetheless, I feel obligated to comment briefly on the ceremonial headwear worn here in Jerusalem last week by various “heads” of state  at the Peres funeral .

Prince Charles wearing a Kippah at Peres funeral (Photo by Flash 90)(photo by Flash 90)

For these occasions, PM Benjamin Netanyahu, has, for some time, come equipped with a cute little black knit kippa, secured with a clip, and likely provided to him by Ron Dermer or some other helpful associate.

President Obama and former President Bill Clinton made due with the standard issue black cloth kippot. (No one would expect those anti-settler blokes to don a knit kippa would they?)

But the most interesting kippa to appear at the funeral was that ofCharles, Prince of Wales. The Prince obviously brought his own kippa from home. Now we know these Royals can’t hardly touch anything without putting a crest or insignia on it, but I was still quite surprised, maybe even a british “shocked”, to see Charles with an emblazoned kippa.

What is the meaning of the emblem on his kippa? I don’t think it means he is a alumni of the Hasmonean School in London.

The seal looks to me like three duck heads and some dandelions. Maybe the dandelions are a secret allusion to the “Lion of Judah”, as the British Royal Family allegedly claims their lineage goes back to King David (a trend among gentiles, started perhaps by Jesus). Maybe they also allude to  Royal “dandy-ness”?

These speculations  occur to me because I remember stories of how the British aristocracy used to circumcise their boys on the eighth day. And, of course, there is the hackneyed myth that the word “British” comes from the two hebrew words “brit” and “ish”, meaning “man of the covenant”.

Or perhaps the seal was made especially for the occasion, and the three ducks represent Peres, Rabin, and Arafat receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994? Who knows?

In any case, the Royal Kippa was certainly for me a different kind of buzz.

I read afterwards that Prince Charles took the occasion of being here in Jerusalem to visit the grave of his paternal grandmother, Princess Alice, who is buried under the Greek Orthodox Convent on the Mount of Olives. Visiting the graves of one’s family was certainly a very appropriate thing to be doing a few days before Rosh Hashana. In fact, many of the local old-time Jerusalemites were doing just that the same Friday.

In sum, I must conclude that Prince Charles definitely had the most scintillating skull-cap, the koolest kippa, at the funeral. One can easily say a lot of negative things about the Royal Family, but one thing you can’t say is they lack style.

We the People?

August 14, 2016

10th of Av, 5776, Hanoch Ne’eman, Yerushalayim

I had an interesting class with visiting Professor Jeffrey Dunoff from Philadelphia this semester , about issues in International Law. In one of the classes, Prof. Dunoff said “when did I give the government the right to speak for me in this matter? Oh yes, the Constitution says, “We the People.., but wait, I don’t remember anyone asking me my opinion about that…”

Indeed, often governments and elected officials take it upon themselves to say and do things in the country’s name which they have not asked permission from the people to do.

For example, my Israeli government, in the person of the Prime Minister and the Ambassador to the United States, has recently taken actions which recognize the Lesbian and Gay Communities. That is certainly their right to do as private individuals, but I resent them doing so in the name of Israel.

It is fine and proper to endorse and support the full civic rights and protections for all citizens, including homosexuals. However, recognizing them as a community endorses them as a lifestyle, and I do not think that is within the purview of a government official to do. As a comparison, I do not think it would be proper for the Prime Minister to send greetings to the thief community, or the Drug User Community, and tell them that they are fully accepted in Israel, as he did recently with the gay community.

Likewise I think it would be improper for the Israeli Ambassador to America to welcome a delegation of tax-evaders to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, as he recently did with the LGBT community, rainbow flags abreast the Blue and White.

Of course I recognize the desire and need for politicians to seek the favor and votes of various interest groups, but that is something I believe they should do in a private capacity, for example attending the dinners of these groups and telling them how much they love them. But when speaking in an official capacity, they should refrain from endorsing practices which many people find morally improper and do not want endorsed.

Again, protections of individual civil rights yes, group endorsement, no.

A thief is also entitled to full civil rights, but his lifestyle should not be condoned. (Again, if a politician wants to condone it as a private individual, that is his right, but not in the name of the country).

I was also therefore distressed to learn that the Israeli Ministry of Tourism dedicated over ten million shekels to encourage gay tourism to Israel.

I think the whole ministry of tourism is superfluous actually, and do not think tourism is a legitimate government activity, but it especially irks me that they are spending public money to encourage gay tourism.

I hope to focus in future posts on the negative effects of government tourism promotion, including the human rights abuses in Cuba, and Israel’s misguided entries into the Israeli hotel business.



still cold turkey

July 19, 2016

13 Tammuz 5776 Hanoch Ne’eman Israel

The fact that there was an attempted coup d’etat in Turkey less that 48 hours after my post criticising Israel’s renewal of diplomatic relations, (ostensibly for the sake of of selling Turkey gas, and giving $20 million to her for “compensation” for the deaths of nine people on the flotilla, when Turkey should be compensating us for attacking our peace-keeping forces), only reinforces my conviction that the move was ill-advised, and will prove detrimental to us, as I stated in my original post. 🙂