An Israeli Referendum

 

benjamin-netanyahu-us-congressThey say one should never fall in love with a politician. Ideas, yes, but never the person. They tend to fail and ultimately break your heart. I’ve agreed with that rule and followed it religiously — until the levees broke a few weeks ago.

On March 3, Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress in an historic speech on Iran, Israel, and the future of Western Civilization. I can’t really remember when I last felt such pride. I’m not sure I have ever engaged in that kind of uncensored admiration

It wasn’t merely his words, eloquent as they were, but the fact that my leader of my state had been given this honor and had made Congress rise to its feet no less than 25 times (yes, I did count). I was proud, and I wept as he said that “if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will still stand.” Those words filled my heart and straightened my spine, and as the applause roared I could clearly see the straight red line from where we have been as a people to where we stand today: with each other, with Bibi, having the ear of the world.

I rarely agree with President Obama, but he was right about one thing: that speech helped win yesterday’s election. The controversy surrounding Netanyahu’s address and its content created a backlash that shook the Israeli right to its core and made the Zionist Union run on a populist, anything but Bibi-platform. The buzz over the past two weeks was that Bibi was gone. But with a politically savvy Netanyahu making this the fate-of-the-nation election, the rallying began. Having had low-energy elections in both 2009 and 2013, the early numbers are now telling tales of both a 5% rise in voter turnout as well as the small miracle of Shas and Bayit Yehudi-voters rallying around Likud to prevent a leftist government dependent on the joint Arab list.

If you have followed the Israeli election from the US or Europe, chances are you are surprised or even shocked today, seeing the political balance of the country basically remaining unchanged. After all, the story of the past few days was Netanyahu saying no to establishing a Palestinian state and warning Israeli voters about the left using buses funded by American money to gather and rally the Arab vote. The headlines read outrage, claiming Netanyahu used fear and racism to garner votes — but the result of the election told a different story.

You see, just as New York or L.A. elites don’t represent the average American voter, the regular Israeli is not represented by the Tel Avivian on Twitter, nor by the average lefty Jew in the diaspora. The everyday Israeli is, much like the average American: a realist who prefers security to utopia and action to pretty words. The Israeli public knows that it has no partner in peace and that pursuing negotiations or — worse — a withdrawal from Israeli land as in 2005, could have catastrophic consequences.

This election was not only a referendum on Bibi Netanyahu, but on the tattered peace process. Bibi’s firm “no” surely helped, especially when he was running against an opponent willing to divide Jerusalem, but saying that it was a magic pill mindlessly swallowed by a fearful population is underestimating the intelligence of the Israeli public.

Some would say the election pitted economic issues against national security and that the hawkish Likudniks won. But if you know anything about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you realize that’s not necessarily true. Israelis know that in order to change the cost of living or the price of bread one has to be alive. Bibi, in short, won on a platform of survival.

It’s hard not to feel the slightest bit of schadenfreude today, seeing the outrage from the same political left that yesterday swore alliance to democracy and the power of the people. It seems they don’t enjoy seeing democracy work, merely seeing democracy work in their favor. But perhaps my glee this morning is less about the pitifully bad sportsmanship shown by the left and more about the horrible political instincts shown by President Obama.

I said, a few paragraphs ago, that the speech Bibi gave to congress helped him win this election – but I think Netanyahu’s first thank you card should be sent to Barack Obama. Not only did he allow Netanyahu to flex his muscles internationally by standing up to a petulant American president, but his catastrophic foreign policy showed Israeli voters that the motto for this election wasn’t “anything but Bibi,” but rather “Whatever Obama recommends, do the opposite.”

So, I guess what I am trying to say is: Thanks, Obama.

There are 38 comments.

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  1. user_1032405 Coolidge
    user_1032405
    @PostmodernHoplite

    “On March 3, Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress in an historic speech on Iran, Israel, and the future of Western Civilization. I can’t really remember when I last felt such pride. I’m not sure I have ever engaged in that kind of uncensored admiration.”

    Well said, Ms. Hernroth-Rothstein – I am in no small way envious, as it has been quite some time since I have felt this way about any of the national leaders here in the United States.

    • #1
  2. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @AnnikaHernrothRothstein

    It is a wonderful feeling, unironic and pure in nature. I look forward to feeling that way about an American president in January of 2017, G-d willing.

    • #2
  3. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Annika!  Love your insight and the schadenfreude that’s feeding your fine sense of irony:

    So, I guess what I am trying to say is: Thanks, Obama.”

    • #3
  4. The Forgotten Man Inactive
    The Forgotten Man
    @TheForgottenMan

    Never Again!

    • #4
  5. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @AnnikaHernrothRothstein

    Trink:Annika! Love your insight and the schadenfreude that’s feeding your fine sense of irony:

    It’s a glorious feeling to indulge in some light glee :)

    • #5
  6. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Sometimes pride causes tears of admiration. From Bibi’s speech to congress, from his win last night, and from your post today. Proud to be a Jew.

    • #6
  7. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @AnnikaHernrothRothstein

    Thank you Kay! Beautiful words: Proud to be a Jew. It’s a good day.

    • #7
  8. FightinInPhilly Coolidge
    FightinInPhilly
    @FightinInPhilly

    It was a great speech. I don’t follow Israeli politics, but I’ve always felt good about Netanyahu in general. He seemed to get “the big stuff.” As far as your point about never falling in love, well, I’ll admit to being a fan for many many years. My initial reasons were fairly silly, but I’m quite pleased that the instinct was born out to be correct. The initial reasons? I was in high school in the early ’90s, and I had just read a book about the raid on Entebbee, the famous hostage rescue conducted by IDF commandos. Discussing the logistics with my father (a Marine) I lamented that it was so close to being perfect, but for the loss of the Commander, Netanyahu. My dad said, “you know, his younger brother went into politics.” From initial fascination, I’ve always been impressed.

    • #8
  9. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    US gun and ammo manufacturers should be saying the same thing.

    Best to you and your family, Annika and congratulations.

    • #9
  10. user_82762 Thatcher
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Annika,

    Thank you Annika. Well I guess Obama was so annoying that he got the Israeli public to do the right thing. Now if the American public is so annoyed by Obama that they do the right thing in 2016 we’ll be OK. We’ve got a bumpy ride till then.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #10
  11. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @AnnikaHernrothRothstein

    James Gawron:Annika,

    Thank you Annika. Well I guess Obama was so annoying that he got the Israeli public to do the right thing. Now if the American public is so annoyed by Obama that they do the right thing in 2016 we’ll be OK. We’ve got a bumpy ride till then.

    Regards,

    Jim

    I’m pretty sure he has enough annoyance for all of us. Here’s to 2016!

    Regards,

    Annika

    • #11
  12. Boots on the Table Member
    Boots on the Table
    @BootsontheTable

    Regardless of what the political elite or the media wonks say, and, or, believe, remember  the American people, the people in “fly-over country”, will always stand with Israel. They stand with Israel because they know what evil is, they love to fight for the underdog, and they are loving and caring at heart.

    May God bless Netanyahu as he leads your country, and may God bless you for feeling proud of your country.

    • #12
  13. Lucy Pevensie Inactive
    Lucy Pevensie
    @LucyPevensie

    CLARK SUMMERS:

    Well said, Ms. Hernroth-Rothstein – I am in no small way envious, as it has been quite some time since I have felt this way about any of the national leaders here in the United States.

    After the speech, my elderly father, who has never felt any particular attachment to Israel, called me to joke, “Forget Scott Walker.  Netanyahu for President.” Which is to say that the speech moved and impressed even those who felt no pre-existing sense of kinship with Mr. Netanyahu.

    • #13
  14. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    We don’t have many good days, but this one is sweet. There is not enough darkness in the world to hide all our lights. Annika, Kay, all the best.

    • #14
  15. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    Annika Hernroth-Rothstein:

    James Gawron:Annika,

    Thank you Annika. Well I guess Obama was so annoying that he got the Israeli public to do the right thing. Now if the American public is so annoyed by Obama that they do the right thing in 2016 we’ll be OK. We’ve got a bumpy ride till then.

    Regards,

    Jim

    I’m pretty sure he has enough annoyance for all of us. Here’s to 2016!

    Regards,

    Annika

    Now that Benjamin Netanyahu has won the election(I know, in reality it is  Likud that has won the most seats), I’m sure he is looking forward to 2016 as well–along with several million Israelis.

    • #15
  16. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I like Bibi.  This is a leader that recognizes protecting his country from outside aggression is the single most important function of a national government.

    We can argue among ourselves if government should dole out freebies, or if giving cash for clunkers is a good idea, but none of it matters if we don’t protect ourselves against animals that want nothing more to do with us other than to slit our throats.

    The fact that Obama sent operatives to Israel to bus Arab-Israeli citizens to the polls makes me sick.

    On the other hand, Obama presumed that Arab-Israeli citizens would vote against Bibi.  My guess is that the Arab-Israeli citizens want no part in Sharia, particularly the women.  A vote for Bibi ensures that ain’t gonna happen . . .

    • #16
  17. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    I can’t really remember when I last felt such pride. I’m not sure I have ever engaged in that kind of uncensored admiration.

    Although not an Israeli, I am an ardent supporter of democracy/the free market and an unabashed admirer of Western values. I felt enormous pride as well.

    Thanks very much for posting.

    • #17
  18. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    Bibi is the only chance the West has to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program .. Godspeed Bibi

    • #18
  19. user_891102 Member
    user_891102
    @DannyAlexander

    I don’t think this was a Maslow-hierarchy-of-needs-based election.

    Rather it was a “both-and” election, largely because of Moshe Kahlon; everyone knew that Kahlon had bolted Likud over policy differences relating to the economy — but they also knew that his core affinity, and thus his inclinations in joining a coalition, essentially remained/remains in the Likud orbit.

    (Part of this is also not just a policy/ideology affinity thing:  Buji Herzog is a known “country-club” racist vis-a-vis Mizrahi Jews, and the prospect of reporting to him as a cabinet subordinate probably wasn’t exactly exciting to either Kahlon himself or the large mass of Mizrahi supporters of Likud; in a sense, then, to at least some extent socioculturally, this election was a little bit of an echo of the 1977 upset that brought Menachem Begin to power.)

    Since Rubi Rivlin (a Likud stalwart) ascended to the President’s office in Israel, he too was making frequent and serious public statements about the economic situation posing its own form of existential threat.

    When I was in Israel during 06-29 July on a pre-Aliyah “recon” visit, the sense of frustration with the housing crisis (and the general cost of living) remained just as palpable as the stirring, near-wall-to-wall unity among the public vis-a-vis prosecuting the fight against Hamas.

    Bibi is not the object of mass adulation in Israel, his excellent qualities notwithstanding (and even notwithstanding his heroics on 03 March).  Of course, few if any Israeli politicians are loved, at least in their active years.  But in any event, the Jewish State is a center-right country — particularly since waking up from the Oslo-era delusion and the Gush Katif/Gaza pullout lie — so, admittedly with some last-minute GOTV exertions, it reverted to the pragmatic mean.

    • #19
  20. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

     “I was proud, and I wept as he said that “if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will still stand.” Those words filled my heart and straightened my spine, and as the applause roared I could clearly see the straight red line from where we have been as a people to where we stand today: with each other, with Bibi, having the ear of the world.”

    Beautifully stated. I am not Jewish but I felt like I was standing with you and the Jewish people.

    • #20
  21. user_1065645 Podcaster
    user_1065645
    @DaveSussman

    Fantastic perspective and much appreciated.

    Shalom!

    • #21
  22. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    Annika Hernroth-Rothstein:

    Bibi’s firm “no” surely helped, especially when he was running against an opponent willing to divide Jerusalem…

    This subject interests me.

    Annika how important is it to you that East Jerusalem be under Israeli control?   Is that issue a deal breaker for you in the end?   Would you ever be willing to endorse a peace plan with the Arabs where East Jerusalem was not under Jewish control?

    • #22
  23. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Tommy De Seno:

    Annika Hernroth-Rothstein:

    Bibi’s firm “no” surely helped, especially when he was running against an opponent willing to divide Jerusalem…

    This subject interests me.

    Annika how important is it to you that East Jerusalem be under Israeli control? Is that issue a deal breaker for you in the end? Would you ever be willing to endorse a peace plan with the Arabs where East Jerusalem was not under Jewish control?

    I’ve been watching the “peace process” my entire life.  Talk about the triumph of hope over experience.  Why would anyone believe that the Palestinian Arabs want real, lasting peace with Israel?  Didn’t it tell you something when they elected Hamas as their government?

    My impression is that the goal of the controlling majority of the Palestinian Arabs was, is, and always will be the destruction of Israel.  From time to time, they may seek temporary cease-fires, especially since Israel can crush them in any fight.  Why should the people of Israel tolerate this?

    The UN partitioned the territory of Palestine in the late 40s.  Israel accepted the partition; the neighboring Arabs did not.  They’ve fought war after war after war, and Israel has always won.

    It’s time to consider treating the Palestinian Arabs the way the world has treated every other refugee group for the last 70 years.  They need to find new homes in other countries.  This surely can’t be too hard, as they generally share a common language, religion, and culture with the Arab nations stretching from Morocco to Iraq.

    Why hasn’t the “global community” implemented this obvious and simple solution?  I think there are three major reasons:

    (1) Many (probably most) Arab Muslims cannot bear the thought of permanently losing territory near the center of the Dar Al-Islam.

    (2) Many Arab Muslims and Western Leftists hate the Jews.

    (3) Many Western Leftists view the world through a twisted, self-hating, anti-colonialist lens, and consider Israel to be an evil colonial power.

    I realize that what I suggest is harsh.  But the terms of defeat need to be harsh to those who lose a war, or everyone involved will have to fight the same war over and over, generation after generation.

    • #23
  24. user_891102 Member
    user_891102
    @DannyAlexander

    #22 Tommy

    Speaking for myself, and as one who has in the past lived in Jerusalem (in the Kiryat Moshe area, near the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva and the Jerusalem Central Bus Station), I have to ask you:

    Have you ever lived in Jerusalem?

    I don’t even couch the question in terms of rival historical and religious claims (notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming strength of the claim of one particular side).

    I simply want to you consider the question you just posed from the ground-truth perspective of security — Jewish security, since the onslaughts are withstood almost entirely by one side.  In other words, why would anyone even pose the question?

    A division of Jerusalem will not be part of any peace deal, because it *cannot* be a component of such an accord.  Even in the event that the deal included a Palestinian commitment to demilitarization.

    Why?  Because to date, enough savagery and butchery has already been perpetrated against Jews via comparatively low-grade weaponry — and in a Jerusalem that is nominally under Israeli sovereign security control, mind you — such that what would transpire following any division of Israel’s capital is all too chillingly easy to predict.

    The city is as much a patchwork of villages as anything; the vaunted East/West dividing line is not nearly as straightforward a bifurcation as some would have you believe.  Sure, the whole area is hilly and the aforementioned patchwork of villages makes it frankly a pain in the tuchis to get around — but bottom line, the distances from neighborhood to neighborhood are negligible.  Determined Palestinian revanchists (i.e., a goodly percentage of the Arab population) would turn the entire city into an abattoir in no time.

    I would encourage you to read this book, since the author provides an excellent analysis of the Jerusalem divisibility topic — yes, bits and pieces of the book are dated, but on the whole its pertinence is both enduring and compelling:

    http://www.amazon.com/Right-Exist-Moral-Defense-Israels/dp/1400032431/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426747473&sr=1-3&keywords=yaacov+lozowick

    And yes, to anticipate your rejoinder, the author places his analysis of the Jerusalem issue squarely in the context of the offers Ehud Barak attempted to press on Yasser Arafat.

    It doesn’t figure in the above book, but I would add that by the same token, Ehud Olmert’s late 2008 proposal to Abu Mazen (several years after the above book’s publication) doesn’t work as a counterexample either:  Olmert’s profound corruption — verified in his subsequent court conviction(s) — was obvious to anyone with eyes to see, and that his corruption supplied the chief motive force in his attempt to save his political and legal skin (and concomitantly curry favor with the fashionable-Left media) was equally obvious.  Barak may have lost overall public support for his Jerusalem offers by 2001 (and then his office) due to erosion in his ideological legitimacy — but Olmert lost both support and office by 2009 due to erosion in his moral legitimacy.

    • #24
  25. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @AnnikaHernrothRothstein

    Tommy De Seno:

    Annika Hernroth-Rothstein:

    Bibi’s firm “no” surely helped, especially when he was running against an opponent willing to divide Jerusalem…

    This subject interests me.

    Annika how important is it to you that East Jerusalem be under Israeli control? Is that issue a deal breaker for you in the end? Would you ever be willing to endorse a peace plan with the Arabs where East Jerusalem was not under Jewish control?

    Hi Tommy,

    a divided Jerusalem is a deal breaker for me, and the more time I spend in Jerusalem the more sure I become of that. It saddens me, but I have no doubt that in the case of Jerusalem it’s give an inch, lose a mile, and furthermore I am sure that it benefits the arabs to live under Jewish control (as a recent poll clearly stated).

    • #25
  26. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    Danny and Annika,

    The reason I ask is that I have a theory about East Jerusalem – that control of it is truly the divide between Jews and Arabs and nothing else actually matters.

    For several years I have tested the theory by asking Jews and Arabs the above question, and without fail, both sides tell me there will be no deal without their side controlling East Jerusalem.  Both sides tell me that.

    I wrote a column about Jerusalem Corpus Separatum awhile back. I hope you will both read it before responding. While I admit my theory was not supported in the Ricochet comments for the most part,  I say again my own informal polling on the issue has proved it out.  It proved out again in both of your answers to the question.

    I’m not pressing any solution.   I’m only noting that despite protests to the contrary, East Jerusalem being in control of one side or the other is why there is no peace there.

    • #26
  27. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Tommy De Seno:I’m only noting that despite protests to the contrary, East Jerusalem being in control of one side or the other is why there is no peace there.

    No, the reason there is no peace is that neither side has proven capable or willing to impose its peace on the other. There are lot of famous territories that were once fought over–one side wins, the other loses, that’s how it ends.

    • #27
  28. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    Titus Techera:

    Tommy De Seno:I’m only noting that despite protests to the contrary, East Jerusalem being in control of one side or the other is why there is no peace there.

    No, the reason there is no peace is that neither side has proven capable or willing to impose its peace on the other. There are lot of famous territories that were once fought over–one side wins, the other loses, that’s how it ends.

    Then test my theory.  Ask every Jew and Arab from the region the question I ask.

    What prospect for peace can there be if both sides won’t cede this issue?

    • #28
  29. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Tommy De Seno:

    Titus Techera:

    Tommy De Seno:I’m only noting that despite protests to the contrary, East Jerusalem being in control of one side or the other is why there is no peace there.

    No, the reason there is no peace is that neither side has proven capable or willing to impose its peace on the other. There are lot of famous territories that were once fought over–one side wins, the other loses, that’s how it ends.

    Then test my theory. Ask every Jew and Arab from the region the question I ask.

    What prospect for peace can there be if both sides won’t cede this issue?

    If the Arabs cede to the Jews, there will be peace, if the Jews cede to the Arabs the Jews will be dead. The last time the Arabs had control of East Jerusalem (1948-1967) the Arabs drove out or killed all the Jews, and destroyed their synagogues. Homes they had lived in for centuries. At the moment it is mostly under Israeli control and only the Arabs are causing trouble. Instead of asking people their opinions, knowing in advance each group will prefer their own, why don’t you read Caroline B. Glick’s book, The Israeli Solution. She explains in detail why Jerusalem cannot be divided. The fact you constantly query the validity of the Jews being in control of their own Capital City, indicates to me you are pro muslim. How about we let the Israelis come over here and divide Washington D.C. in half, one half for secular or religious Americans and one half for Muslims, citizens or not.

    • #29
  30. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Judaism vs Humanism

    Quote from an article in this morning’s American Thinker by Deborah C. Tyler

    To be a Jew is to fulfill a unique moral obligation among the nations. It is to be overjoyed that God chose the Jews to receive and preserve an eternal moral code, given directly in human language to an illumined Jew called Moses, and that the Jewish people would be restored to Israel when God returned to walk as Man amongst men. This is not myth or legend, it is Judaism.”

    Humanism replaced Judaism as the spiritual orientation of academia.

    http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/03/judaism_vs_humanism.html

    • #30

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