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As Mideast borders open, Israel is more isolated than ever

Over the past decade, Middle Eastern countries have viewed their borders as a physical obstacle. The recent warming of relations between Arab states has led to increase in trade, leaving Israel more regionally isolated than ever before.

By Moran Zaga

Israeli soldiers patrol the barrier fence of the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights and Syria near Majdal al-Shams, May 20, 2011. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers patrol the barrier fence of the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights and Syria near Majdal al-Shams, May 20, 2011. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Over the last month, border crossings have opened along both the Jordan-Iraq and Iraq-Saudi Arabia borders, while the border crossing between Jordan and Syria is slated to open soon. Even the crossing between Lebanon and Syria is now accessible, even making it to the news recently after Bashar al-Assad paid a visit to the area for Eid al-Adha prayers, after kicking the Islamic State out of the area.

For the past few years, these crossings have been shut down, after the Islamic State had taken control of several major border regions, stoking fears that the group would spread into neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. The border crossing between Iraq and Saudi Arabia has been shut since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, leading to the severing of ties between the two countries. The last months, however, has seen warming relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, in an attempt to create a strong coalition that would counter the spread of Shia influence in the region.

Many in and outside the Arab world criticize the process of drawing borders in the Middle East — mostly dictated by the colonial powers that previously ruled the area — especially the arbitrary creation of new countries that did not exist previously. Even if these claims are legitimate, the map has not changed since the establishment of these new countries, and the test of time teaches us that Arab states have become accustomed to the borders that were forced on them. Their citizens, moreover, have for the most part adopted the national identity of their new countries. Thus, the important question relates to the significance of these borders: how do these states view them? What role do they play?

The events of the Arab Spring led to a chain reaction of fortifying the borders of the Middle East, North Africa, and even Europe, which dealt with waves of refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War. After years of open borders in the pre-modern and modern Arab world — including during times of conflict and war — the borders of the Middle East have undergone a revolution in the 21st century, when they began functioning as physical obstacles. From Morocco to Yemen, Arab states have been busy marking their boundaries and building fences, while establishing various mechanisms to oversee them.

File photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looking out over the Egyptian border. (Ariel Jerozolimski/POOL/FLASH90)

File photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looking out over the Egyptian border. (Ariel Jerozolimski/POOL/FLASH90)

Israel has also been influenced by this process. With lightning speed, it built hi-tech fences on its borders with Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, despite peaceful relations with the latter two. The role of the border as an obstacle can also be clearly seen in the conflict between Qatar and its neighbors in the Persian Gulf, when they closed their naval, aerial, and land borders as a means of putting pressure on Doha.

These developments reveal a fundamental change in the way we view Arab borders. Arab states use their borders for political means, both internally vis-a-vis their citizens, a well as externally vis-a-vis neighboring countries — similar to Western countries. The process of fortifying or opening border crossings is discussed at great length by the local media in these countries and is at the heart of their political discourse.

Internally, these borders symbolize defense mechanisms and national sovereignty. In Arab states, as in Israel, fortifying borders has been presented as a physical obstacle against terrorism and illegal infiltration, a claim that has led to general support among the public. On the other hand, opening the border crossings is an expression of a sense of confidence and prosperity — precisely how the recent opening of the border crossings in the Arab world has been recently presented.

From a foreign policy perspective, shutting down the border is bold political statement. Similarly, opening borders is a sign of warming foreign relations and a desire for political, economic, and social cooperation. Saudi Arabia, for example, uses its border as a tool to send political messages to Qatar. It first closed its border to the monarchy before opening it for humanitarian reasons, and in order to allow worshippers to cross over to make their pilgrimage to Mecca. In doing so, the Saudis turned the border into a central component of the conflict.

A UN observer looks at a lookout point as smoke rising at a Syrian village near the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights during fights between the rebels and the Syrian army, June 25, 2017. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

A UN observer looks at a lookout point as smoke rising at a Syrian village near the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights during fights between the rebels and the Syrian army, June 25, 2017. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

As Arab borders re-open, Israel is becoming more closed off than ever. The warming of relations between Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia will likely increase cooperation and cross-border relations between the countries. Meanwhile, Israel’s isolation will only deepen.

The difficulty of creating significant touristic and trade avenues with Jordan and Egypt leaves Israel outside the regional economy and prevents it from enjoying an array of opportunities. The opening of the Quneitra crossing with Syria in order to bring in wounded Syrians and allow humanitarian aid — along with cooperation with the Egyptian Army in Sinai — are positive steps, yet they are not an indication of civilian cooperation. There is hardly any foot traffic at Israel’s open border crossings, and the closed borders with Lebanon and Syria are a sign of hostility. It is no coincidence that just two weeks ago, the UN Security Council voted in favor of renewing its presence on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Over the last century, the borders of Middle Eastern and North African countries have not only been the result of political partitions, they have also served as a tool and a new idea that the region must deal with. Most of the states have survived the colonial redrawing of the Middle East, and have even entrenched their new borders. This is why we must focus our analysis on the significance of the very concept and role of the border.

Moran Zaga is a research fellow for the Forum for Regional Thinking, where this article was first published in Hebrew.

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    COMMENTS

    1. i_like_ike52

      If there isn’t a massive flow of people back and forth across Israel’s borders with its neighbors, its because the Arab states don’t want it.
      In any event, almost all the states around Israel are failed states with disastrous economic conditions, so I don’t think Israel is missing out a lot by not having a lot of trade with them.

      Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          If they have been built without authorization, no problem to demolish them. It is the same everywhere in the world.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You remind me of a parrot.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Harold D

      Very slanted anti/Israel website. Not much truth at all in any of the articles.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Mark

      Morocco is about the only one I’m inclined to visit for tourism purposes. Its connection to the Middle East is rather tenuous.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Ridiculous, Israel has never had so many diplomatic relationships with other countries (Asia, Africa, south America).

      Reply to Comment
    5. Hashmal

      Yes, surely we are missing out on an “array of opportunities” in that cesspool of anarchy and despair known as the Arab world. I mean the borders between some of those countries are opening and Chinese-produced goods and oil can now cross from one corrupt failed state to another. Oh heavens, why can’t we be more like the surrounding Arab states? Things would be so much better if only we would integrate more deeply into the region. Sad. Just sad that we can’t seem to just become another failed state in the Middle East and instead have a flourishing high-tech economy. If only we would trade across the borders with Jordan and Egypt. I mean those countries are widely known as high-quality producers of…

      Reply to Comment
      • Mark

        Pyramids?

        Reply to Comment
      • JeffB

        @Hashmal

        Well just to pick one thing. Jordan is well known as a hug for IT outsourcing. It is developing expertise in selling enterprise applications in: banking, brokerage, pharmaceuticals, energy and renewable energy, telecom and structural engineering IT. Israel has a strong dynamic IT sector that could benefit from outsourcing some of the development jobs.

        Egypt has a wealth of interesting farm products that Israel can’t grow. But on a more serious note, Israel is expanding into fracking and natural gas. Egypt is a big player in petroleum refining and prepping for consumption for the North African market. I can see obvious joint business projects.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Ben

      Isis is in decline, the tide is reversing, the chaos in the surrounding countries is ever so slightly shifting for the better, and the right wing Israelis are not happy about it. Despite every fake sentiment to the contrary. The cheerleaders for Isis, the ones who secretly hope for more terrorism in Europe, are not happy about this.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Lewis from Afula

      Yes, the impoverished, miserable Sharia Law-run failed states such as Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Libya are desperate to trade with us…..
      Hahah hah ah
      Has the author had a stroke ??

      Reply to Comment
      • Joshua Fisher

        And this words comes from a lunatic from a torah-driven religious nutcracker state….#priceless

        Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        Ben, Sharia Law does not need destabiizing – it’s inherently unstable, primitive, backward and self-collapsing all on its own.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Lewis why don’t you have some “Go Isis!” t-shirts made up? On the back it could say “Best of luck in your European campaign 2017, Isis!” That way you can wear your heart on your sleeve. Your sensitive heart. In blue and white colors or Islamic green? Blue and white! Mais bien sûr!

          Reply to Comment
        • King David

          “Ben, Sharia Law does not need destabiizing – it’s inherently unstable, primitive, backward and self-collapsing all on its own.”

          Yeah, inherently unstable, primitive, backward and self-collapsing, just like Halakha and apartheid JSIL.

          Reply to Comment
    8. Batsheba

      Israel is quite an expensive country for tourists so most Jordanians or Egyptians cannot afford it. Also, the prevailing antisemitic racism in these countries is against visiting Israel. The Israeli-Jordanian and the Israeli-Egyptian border crossings are open for everybody.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Yeah, sure, it must be all due to that “antisemitic racism.” I mean, because Israel is not awash in anti-Arab racism, and Israel is not oppressing millions of Palestinians day in and day out in a belligerent illegal occupation, and Israel did not start a bunch of wars. And so why would anyone have any mixed feelings, right? The funniest line is “The Israeli-Jordanian and the Israeli-Egyptian border crossings are open for everybody.” You have a sick sense of humor! Please tell that to the millions of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians and Arab East Jerusalem residents who are not allowed to travel at all or if they do travel will be told upon their attempt to reenter that they have forfeited their “right” to be a resident in Jerusalem, meanwhile no such treatment is ever, ever meted out to Jewish persons…..yeah sure–it must be that “anti-Semitism”…it always is, as we can do no wrong….

        Reply to Comment
    9. JeffB

      I will say I’m a little distressed at the contempt in the comments. You all live in the Middle East. These are your neighbors. On top of the tone the facts are highly inaccurate. Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, Qatar have higher per capita GDP than you do (Qatar and Kuwait by a large margin). In terms of gross GDP Saudi Arabia is almost double your economy with Iran and UAE slightly larger and Egypt only slightly smaller.

      The benefits of a warm rich relationship with the region would be massive. Turkey, Lebanon and Israel are the bridge states between Western European society and the Middle East. There is no good reason that Israeli ports along with Lebanese ports couldn’t play a similar role for the Middle East that the East Coast ports play in the USA economy. The tonnage coming into Israeli ports could be staggering relative to today. A century from now Beirut or Tel Aviv could be listed along with London, New York and Tokyo as a global financial center.

      Obviously the biggest problem that prevents trade is denormalization. The anti-Iranian alliance is creating an incentive for Arab governments to stop supporting and start undermining the supporters of social and economic denormalization. Israel benefits from that process. Israelis should support it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        Yes, we need free movement of people between the Sharia Law dictatorships (with death penalties for gays, apostates, stoning to death for adulterous women and other barbaric practices) and Democratic Israel.

        Yeh Right. What could go wrong?
        The IQ of the followers of 972 mag is amazingly low.

        Reply to Comment
        • JeffB

          @Lewis

          You can start with the regulated movement of goods. Also certainly Lebanon is not a Sharia law dictatorship. Jordan sharia law applies optionally mostly the same as the status of Beit Din in the USA.

          Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        ​Yes, well, but the last thing these folks really want is a well organized, prosperous Middle East. That is, until they’ve completed their mass population transfer and annexation project. Or genocidal-second Nakba project. Then they’ll be all for it. In the meantime they want a weak, divided, chaotic Middle East all the while pretending to complain about it.

        Without discounting the Iranian threat that needs to be held in check intelligently, and I stress intelligently (which the post-Bush, pre-Trump administration was doing nicely) these folks should know full well that Iran needs to play a normal role in the *balance* of power in the region. But the right wing of Israel does not want that balance to happen under any circumstances because they want unchecked Israeli power and territorial growth, and they want relative chaos and weakness all around on the margins of that project. Iran in fact is what ultimately has stopped Isis (Lewis from Afula’s ally) and will hold in check the Sunni extremist mutants that the Saudi’s routinely generate and whose unchecked power Israelis like Lewis from Afula find rather convenient at the moment.

        What these right wing Israeli folks *want* is a disturbed Middle East equilibrium, allowing unchecked Israeli territorial hegemony while everyone is supremely distracted by crazy barbarians who chop off heads and take sex slaves. (Again, Lewis from Afula gives us cheery reports of their supposed unchecked rapine progress through the assimilated-degenerated-multicultural-anti-Semitic- but-pleasantly- non-George-Soros-criticism-delegitimizing wastelands of Europe).

        Reply to Comment
        • JeffB

          @Ben
          Figure I’ll jump on the Iran point and then the regional trade point.
          Senator Obama had written about Iran as a less fanatical semi-democracy with a middle class culture. Potentially a source of stability, a country that didn’t depend on repression. It was his belief that the USA needed to tilt away from Saudi Arabia and towards Iran as the pillar of support. Obama’s goal was not containment it was over the long term expansion of their role. The problem was Iran’s military posture was simply so aggressive and anti-USA that a tilt was under current conditions impossible. President Obama was trying to clear issues so that his successors would have this options. I along with lots of American Jews think the Iranian nuclear deal was a good one. While I’m not sure about Obama’s strategy I think his idea has some merit and laying the groundwork makes sense. This was one of the few foreign policy areas that were serious that the Israeli and the American Jewish community profoundly disagreed.
          Bush-43 I think it is fair to characterize as 3 policies in succession not 1.
          a) A policy of containment before 9/11.
          b) Right after 9/11 a policy of strong cooperation when any serious opponent of Al Qaeda was embraced and America became less risk adverse.
          c) A series of shifts back towards containment and confrontation as the panic after 9/11 fell off and America once agan became more concerned about stability rather than oppossing Al Qaeda at all costs.
          Netanyahu’s handling of this issue in Obama’s term as really interesting in its effects. In going over the heads of American Jews and negotiating directly with Republicans on Iran he creating some alienation between Israel and the Democratic foreign policy establishment. That’s put a lot of pressure on AIPAC, AJC… to maintain the bipartisan consensus on Israel. The UN resolution where Obama went beyond what Americans support probably helped Israel arguably by unifying the Democratic and Republican
          Trump is hated by both the Republican and Democratic foreign policy establishments, I’m not sure what the long term effects of Netanyahu tying himself to Trump this closely are. I think the problems Israel is having diplomatically on the Russian / Iranian / Syrian defenses so close to the border result from Israel trying to negotiate this directly rather than through the American foreign policy establishment.
          That all being said, I think the Saudi / Egyptian / Israeli anti-Iranian military alliance because it is a regional military alliance that includes Israel provides a gateway for Israel’s interegration into the region. That is so much in Israel’s interest it outweighs almost anything else. This alliance becoming a formal alliance I’d see as worth damaging the USA relationship. It puts some pressure on USA Jews, but it is pressure we can take for Israel.
          One thing I think fails to get appreciated in Israel is that Netanyahu is now personally the most popular foreign leaders in the USA. There is no question that if he wanted it, “the Republican Senator from Israel”, can get seats on corporate boards and expensive speaking gigs. The golden post retirement that American politicians get. I haven’t seen Israeli politicians be as financially incentiized as American politicians typically are so I’m not sure if this the game plan or not. He is also likely to retain influence on USA foreign policy even after he loses power in Israel. Which could be quite odd for Israel with a post-Netanyahu government having to deal with a Netanyahu who doesn’t have any theoretical power in the Israeli system while in practice he might have more influence and better connections than the Ambassador or Foreign Minister.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I follow you on Iran, sort of.

            If Bush-43 was intent on promoting anti-al-Qaeda forces then invading Iraq and overthrowing the Baathists was as lame-brained as it comes, and it was, but this is old ground.

            I don’t follow you on financially-incentivized politicians. Netanyahu, it emerges, is as corrupt and grasping and venal as anyone, on a personal and policy level. The financial-incentivization problem with US politicians is, much more than golden retirements, their corruption by the need to raise staggering amounts of campaign finance dollars. The problems of money swamping the system. It is far too simplistic to say “money = free speech.” Or to say “corporations are persons.” The French system of campaign financing would be much better. (And it would be much better to take a Scandinavian attitude toward the corruption of money. Trump should never ever be able to get away with having far-flung business interests overseas while President. Atrocious conflicts of interest that are being given a pass. As with much else with this atrocious, dangerous, psychopathic buffoon of a president.)

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben
            Netanyahu, it emerges, is as corrupt and grasping and venal as anyone, on a personal and policy level.

            Your corruption scandals are much less bad than ours. What your politicians get indicted for wouldn’t even be a scandal here. This is just an area where you are simply better though perhaps excessive.

            The financial-incentivization problem with US politicians is, much more than golden retirements, their corruption by the need to raise staggering amounts of campaign finance dollars.

            That’s a critique that’s is common, including by leftists here. I think it is misguided somewhat. And I would strongly disagree that’s corruption. There is a fundamental tension in all democracy between two conflicting ideas about policy:
            a) Policy should reflect majority opinion on an issue
            b) Policy should reflect majority opinion on an issue intensity weighted

            The right to assemble and petition your elected representatives for a redress of grievances is one the main points in having a democracy. Undifferentiated and poorly thought out public opinion gets turned into specific policy recommendations by lobbies. Voters choose between these actionable policies by involvement. Those lobbies present the policy recommendations to elected representatives. The elected representatives meet with a variety of lobbies reflecting conflicting interests. The lobbies continue to work as intermediaries between elected representatives and the broader population with the grievances to allow for fruitful negotiation and compromise between these conflicting interests. Which finally becomes law and policy.

            The way politicians know which lobbies actually do command meaningful support from interested parties is their ability to move votes or raise money. The system isn’t breaking down because of corruption but because wealth concentration has gotten so out of hand that most of the wealth sits with a small number of people. And before you object that wealth concentration only exists because of lobbies, policies that concentrate wealth do have broad public support they are an example of pure majority rule.

            As for Trump’s corruption we have checks and balances for that in our system. They depend on Congressional enforcement and oversight. The collapse of the Republican party which is the cause of Trump is the cause of our system not being able to properly handle Trump.

            The USA democracy in incredibly robust. One thing our system seems not to be robust against party collapse. The collapse of the Democratic-Republicans almost ended USA democracy. The Whig party’s collapse prevented compromises on dismantling slavery and allowed the tensions to mount which resulted in the civil war. The Federalist party’s collapse happened when our founding father’s were still alive and they had the moral legitimacy to avoid a the ramifications of a crisis. Though it was headed in that way and even with good comprises it did have effects like the Vice President (founder of the Tammany society, what would later be Tammany Hall) murdering the Founding Secretary of the Treasury (guy on the ten-dollar bill), and drove many of the people associated with George Washington (including himself) out of power.

            Contrast that with Israel where party collapse is no big deal. I think you are often far too negative on Israel. This is a great example where Israel easily handles a type of problem that devastates the USA.

            Reply to Comment
    10. JeffB

      @Ben

      On your second issue this didn’t quite make sense. If Israel were inclined to take the PR hit from another round of massive population transfer a full civil war in Syria is about as a good an opportunity as one is going to get. I think the fact that Israel didn’t do it, under those conditions does imply that the right may not have that goal near the top of their list.

      It does appear that Israel benefits from Iranian encroachment, but they benefit because of the bridge building it creates. If one is neither going to do a massive population transfer nor aggressively build bridges it is hard to see how Israel benefits from chaos. Your theory doesn’t make a lot of sense in this regard.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        I don’t follow you on how the Syrian civil war was cover for Bezalel Smotrich and his allies to commit mass population transfer in the West Bank, which they are just itching to do. Believe me, when they have true cover, they will do it. Israel benefits from short to medium term regional chaos in the service of its long game. The Education minister and the Justice Minister are considered popular and mainstream and likeable. They are the pretty face on the surface, masking Bezalel Smotrich, but Smotrich is quite acceptable for Israelis to have in the Knesset. Bennett is Bezalel Smotrich with a more calculating, long term game plan about just what he can get away with and when.

        Bennett’s movement is quite dangerous. It is interesting. An unabashed Judeofascist, Feiglinist transferist like Smotrich is completely acceptable to Israelis to have in the Knesset as an MK but let a German European Parliament chief (Martin Schulz) come and talk about the most basic human rights, about water rights, in the most polite and decent manner and people like Bennett are showboating and hyperventilating about having to hear German spoken in the Knesset, in the most hypocritical, manipulative, Holocaust card-pulling way.

        About population transfer, Tzachi Hanegbi more than hinted at their plans already, about the ‘second nakba’ they are just itching to do if the Palestinians resort to any violence, all the while all nonviolent paths of resistance are ruthlessly shut down. It does not take a genius to see these people allied with Hanegbi are biding their time for creating the perfect, manipulated storm where, under the cover of “the fog of war,” “we had to do it, we had no choice.” And unlike the Serbs, who had no Holocaust card to pull (myths about Prince Lazar opting for the heavenly kingdom in battle on the Field of Kosovo of 1389 didn’t cut it for late 20th Century Europeans) and were not adept at playing the fake victim, the Israelis are incredible experts at that game. And when the time comes, intimidated, manipulated, guilt-ridden Europeans will get queasy about using force on Jewish people to contain the ethnic cleansing Jewish people will be perpetrating. The Europeans had no similar queasiness in regards to Serbian perpetrators. The Israeli right wing has always known how to take advantage of the special pass given Israel:
        https://972mag.com/the-worlds-blatant-double-standard-in-israels-favor/84499/

        In my opinion you project far too much American sense of decency and fair play on these Israeli right wing people in terms of the lengths they are prepared to go to grab it all. And you project American checks and balances and Constitutional safeguards and Supreme Court authority that do not exist. (Kind of puzzling too, your projection of American sense of decency and fair play, coming from a declared Putin-admirer and approver of what was done to the Belorussians and the French Huguenots, but I digress.)

        Reply to Comment
        • JeffB

          @Ben
          In Syria you had a situation where the government had lost control of the border and there were factions like ISIS that would have enthusiastically accepted at least the Muslim Palestinians and new citizens (especially if pared with for them a large resettlement subsidy and possibly weapons). Having plausible deniability, the ability to act freely on both sides of the border, support of the receiving foreign government… That’s as good as it is ever going to get. Yet they didn’t do it.

          As for me and Putin I’m not a Putin supporter. I agree with some of his policies. I don’t demonize. I can comfortably agree with some of a politician’s policies and disagree with others. I can agree with Putin on dance gymnastics, Crimea and Kurdistan while disagreeing with his lying in international relations, bombing Syrian hospitals, the Chechnya genocide and his policy towards gays.

          As for using force Europeans weren’t able to use force against Serbia, which they have much easier access to. That’s why they asked the Americans to get involved. Israel is slightly more powerful than North Korea, that’s a far better analogy to what force against Israel would imply.

          Finally as far as your parties. Let’s look at a situation involving non-voters that doesn’t involve Palestinians the Kotel wall crisis. I’ll rank them from most to least oppressive.

          UTJ – wanted this crisis. Clearly wants to be able to use state power to oppress religious views they don’t agree with. The crisis with American Jews is a feature not a bug for them.

          Likud – Netanyahu knew exactly what breaking his promise would mean. Likud back benchers have been insulting and derogatory.

          Shas – takes a position that American Jews are lying about being offended and this crisis is faked. No clear explanation about what the motive for faking the upset are.

          ZU – Takes the position that this crisis should be resolved for purely diplomatic reasons. Ethically sides with the Israeli position that American Judaism isn’t real Judaism but doesn’t like the diplomatic consequences.

          Yesh Atid – Takes the USA Jew’s position though doesn’t show much depth. Mostly they hate UTJ so an alliance of convenience.

          National Home – Understands the crisis. Defends the moral legitimacy of both sides. Makes strong statements of unity, and attacks UTJ’s unilateralism as having caused the crisis. Unclear about policy but is trying hard to deescalate and establishes firmly that American Jews should have a voice in the Kotel and conversion issue. Has the most difficult situation since this is a group closely aligned with UTJ and closely aligned with USA donors.

          Yisrael Beiteinu – Puts forward a far reaching and constructive proposal based on the USA’s Denver Plan.

          Meretz – Has agreed with and supported the USA Jews for years on their position. An alliance of values.

          The people you would call fascists like Lieberman and Bennett are the most diplomatic in this whole situation. They are the ones not entrenched in their position but showing signs of dialogue.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Yeah sure, what’s a little genocide and hospital bombing and lying in international relations between friends? I mean we still agree on dance gymnastics and Crimea. So why “demonize”? I can comfortably (love that word “comfortably,” JeffB—it says sooooo much about you) agree with him on some things and not others. There’s a good chap. He’s not a totally bad fellow after all, let’s not get carried away now.

            You are something else, JeffB.

            I’m reminded of those Germans who said, “that Hitler, he did some good things for Germany, you know, before he went off the rails, he wasn’t all bad you know…..” There are in fact some people in the AfD party who say similar things nowadays. Politely, of course! But I guess that’s not so bad either, eh? I mean after all, those AfDers take a sensible approach to ‘infiltrators,’ right, and one can “comfortably” agree with them on some things and not others? Without being supporters of course, even though one agrees with select policies? Is that so?

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            Yes Ben. One can agree with some of a politician’s policies without needing to be a supporter. Even the worst politicians have policies that deserve support. Ane one can support a politician and still disagree with some policies. I voted for and donated to Obama all the while believing he was one of the worst presidents we ever had on accounting regulations and really bad on issues of morale in the Federal workforce.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            This is what I mean about your incredible blitheness. Do you listen to yourself? You are effectively equating genocide and bombing hospitals with…bad accounting regulations!!! Priceless.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            I guess we reached the impasse of a core moral distinction. I agree with Aristotle and the tradition that followed considering ad hominem to be an error you consider it to be a virtue. Not sure where to go from here.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ​JeffB, you amuse me. Your reply is evasion by pedantry. Name this supposed ad hominem please? Instead of insinuating there is one where there is not. “Blitheness” is not an ad hominem, it is a description of your positions and the syle in which they are expressed. That is a difference and a distinction. Dressing this up by invoking Aristotle does not improve it. (I have to add: It is rich to be lectured on “core moral distinctions” by someone who asserts (blithely) that Putin’s genocide and hospital bombings are things one doesn’t support but his invasion of Ukraine and his positions on dance gymnastics one does support, one picks and chooses “comfortably.”) I know where to go from here.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            Ad hominem is your belief that one should evaluate policies dependent upon who was stating them. So a Putin policy one would otherwise support should be opposed because Putin is the one suggesting it. That’s as clear cut as it gets in embracing this logical fallacy.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Evasive, slippery and untrue, JeffB. (But what’s new?) I attacked Putin’s policy on bombing hospitals and committing genocide. I did not attack his policy on dance gymnastics. Nor did I attack his person. What you did here was try to deflect attention from the fact that you are effectively equating genocide and bombing hospitals on the one hand with bad accounting regulations on the other hand. That is not an attack on you, JeffB. It is an attack on your policy of equating genocide and bombing hospitals with bad accounting regulations.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “The people you would call fascists….”

            Israeli Minister Shaked Takes After Mussolini
            Don’t call the justice minister a fascist metaphorically, as hyperbole or a provocation – call her that because it’s literally what she is
            read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.811399

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            If Shaked were a fascist the authors of +972 would have been disappeared by now. I’ve had this specific argument countless times where you list off major doctrines of fascism and look at the beliefs of Israeli leaders. The article itself is total nonsense. Believing that laws need the consent of the governed and there need to be mechanisms for the democracy to be supreme over the courts, which is what she is arguing for, is pro-democratic and thus anti-fascist you can get.

            This is an argument between Israelis abusing the word fascist to mean something else entirely.

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          • Ben

            Just nonsense. You reveal historical and political ignorance and it is you that bandies about the word “fascism” cavalierly and inaccurately:
            Signs of Fascism in Israel
            http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.610368

            Sternhell:

            “First, let me say that there are worse things than fascism, and that not everything that is bad is fascist. In Italy under Mussolini, which is the prototype of fascism, probably no more than a few dozen people were murdered by the regime. There were no concentration camps. Art and culture flourished. Before the war, life was highly tolerable, including the life of the Jews, until the promulgation of the race laws in 1938. The percentage of Jews in the Fascist Party was higher than their percentage in the population. And the Italians were not actually responsible for the downturn that occurred afterward in the life of the Jews – not like in France, where the fate of the Jews is totally the historic responsibility of the French, even if they decline to acknowledge it.

            “As I say, there are worse things than fascism. You don’t need that exact definition. For example, people say that if there isn’t a one-party regime, it’s not fascism. That’s nonsense. A party is a means for achieving power, not a means of rule in itself…Democracy crumbles when the intellectuals, the educated classes, toe the line of the thugs or look at them with a smile. People here say, ‘It’s not so terrible, it’s nothing like fascism – we have free elections and parties and a parliament.’…We are arriving at a situation of purely formal democracy, which keeps sinking to ever lower levels.”

            “Democracy rarely falls in a revolution. Not in Italy, not in Germany and not in France with the Vichy regime – which is a crucial thing, because France was a democratic country that fell into the hands of the right wing with the support of the vast majority of the population. It was not the fall of France that generated this ideology. It was the result of a gradual process in which an extreme nationalist ideology took shape, a radical approach that perceives the nation as an organic body. Like a tree on which human individuals are the leaves and the branches – in other words, people exist only thanks to the tree. The nation is a living body.

            “In Israel, the religious factor strengthens the national singularity. It’s not a matter of belief, but of identity; religion bolsters your distinctive identity. It’s essential to understand that without this radical nationalism there is no fascism. …
            —–

            Alpher is dead on target. You should just compare what Sternhell and Alpher say about Mussolini.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Moreover, your characterization of “democracy” as “Believing that laws need the consent of the governed and there need to be mechanisms for the democracy to be supreme over the courts” indicates quite clearly that I am talking about genuine liberal democracy (the American kind, you know, with a Constitution and a Bill of Rights and a tripartite government and a Supreme Court that defends the Bill of Rights with actual authority, and is a strong institutional safeguard against the tyranny of the majority) and you are talking about Feiglinist “popular democracy” and trying to pass it off as genuine liberal democracy. No dice. Feiglin and Smotrich are unabashed Judeofascists, Shaked and Bennett are their pretty, calculating face, and you are a quasi-Feiglinist and don’t know it.

            A ‘truly’ Jewish democracy: On the ideology of Likud’s Moshe Feiglin
            https://972mag.com/a-truly-jewish-democracy-on-the-ideology-of-likuds-moshe-feiglin/62170/

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            You are getting back to name calling again. The specific proposals are not unreasonable. There need to be checks on the courts by the legislative branch. Judicial tyranny is unacceptable. Obviously Israel would benefit from a strong constitution and I hope the Basic Laws get expanded into explicit laws. Which may be what the right finally does.

            The article is a lot of fear mongering. You all (assuming you are Israel, less clear after your comment to Jennifer) have a robust and healthy democracy. You can handle judicial reform without the sky falling in.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ​JeffB, you’re being evasive again, skipping out the back door. It amuses me. You have not engaged a single thing I said. Resorting to calling me a name caller is a sly form of name calling. References to Aristotle notwithstanding. Let’s look at it. Socratically, shall we? What name did I call you, JeffB? Saying that you are “quasi-Feiglinist and don’t know it” is not a name, it is a thought out and argued-for observation of your political position, and came with a link spelling out precisely what is meant by Feiglinist and in what context. Please explain how it is that you are *not* quasi-Feiglinist in your positions. Please read Tomer Persico’s article and base your reply on something substantial in regards to it. When it comes down to it, the themes latent in your thinking and the thinking of other right wing commenters here are Feiglinist-popular democratic. And it’s crucial to hash this out. But interestingly, no one wants to touch it.

            I observe that those confronted on this matter of Feiglinism/”popular democracy” have so far run away from it, have not engaged on this subject. Because, I believe, it reveals to themselves and to us what it is that they are really up to. Because it would require them to examine their positions more deeply, with more rigor, than they want to.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            You weren’t calling me names in this thread, though you often do that. You were calling Shaked names. Your argument was essentially: I called Shaked a mean name as did someone else Therefore she is the thing in the mean name and the policy is the policy of this mean name despite the fact that this policy runs exactly counter to the mean name.

            As for quasi-Feiglinist. Not exactly sure what it means. That author of the +972 also uses a lot of hyperbole, so much that I can’t figure out what Feiglin’s theory is. To have any opinion I’d like a much more charitable and neutral description of Feiglin’s critiques and theories. That’s how I would know if I’m agreeing or disagreeing. What I know of him from sources that make more sense, he supports a Libertarian government with voting rights exclusively tied to being Jewish. Given his strong views on separation of church and state I’m not entirely sure what he means by “Jewish”. He supports a legal residency status for Israeli-Arabs but again with pure church-state separation what’s an Israeli-Arab vs. a Mizrahi Jew? I’d need some more clarity on the details for his definitions before having an opinion on his proposals regarding voting.

            As background in general I’m strongly opposed to having on a long term to having non-citizen residents in the USA. I’m quite happy that the Democratic party has rejected Republican attempts to introduce this sort of policy to the USA as part of work permits. Non-citizen legal resident is an improvement over enemy tied to foreign powers, so in Israel’s case I might think it is a good transitional policy for a generation or two. Israel has a more serious problem with minorities not assimilating than the USA does and so more drastic actions might be appropriate. But I’d want a lot of checks to prevent what starts out as a transitional policy from becoming permanent. In other words it is a plausible least bad option, but there should be no mistake this is playing with fire.

            I completely and totally reject the Labor/ZU’s call for USA and European sanctions against Feiglin because they disagree with his political positions. That was purely immoral on their parts and I’m glad it got no serious consideration.

            I don’t support more extreme forms of Libertarianism here in the USA where they more native and the movement much stronger. In general though I think Israeli society is a bit over regulated. So some shifting towards a more Libertarian policies would be a good thing for Israel. So there he and I probably agree.

            On issues of family life he seems to basically hold to the complementarian position that is rather common among USA politicians. I’m very proud of Communist Israel’s strong feminist history. But that’s a product of a different population than the one Israel has now. So I’d say regret more than opposition.

            On the Islamic Waqf issue I think he confuses sovereignty and ownership. So here I think his argument is just bad.

            I guess I agree with some of his positions and disagree with others. Not shocking. I like almost all the Israeli political factions. You all have terrific parties that make a lot of sense and hold, far far better than the ones in the USA.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ​Please, JeffB, also explain what is “judicial tyranny”? How does the Israeli Supreme court commit “judicial tyranny” when it makes rulings based on, and defending, principles enshrined in Israel’s Basic Laws and founding principles? Be specific. What ruling of the Israeli Court amounted to tyranny? Is “judicial tyranny” merely the frustration by the courts of the tyranny of the majority? Please explain. Spell it out.

            Please explain as well what is meant by “checks on the courts by the legislative branch.” Be specific. As you know, in the United States the legislative branch can pass any laws it likes but the Supreme Court will ultimately decide if those laws violate the Constitution. And the Supreme Court’s decision is then final. An overturned law is a dead law. Case closed. There is no further redress or “legislative check” other than the Congress attempting a different law, which will be again subject to the same judicial review. Do you mean that the Israeli Supreme Court should be subject to a “legislative check” other than this? Because if you say that, you are indeed a backer of the tyranny of the majority and you are indeed taking the position of a Feiglinist “popular democrat” as described by Tomer Persico.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            The #1 issue is that the Judicial Selection Committee having 5 of the 9 members be from the bar. The judiciary branch is not ultimately answerable to the people of Israel. And then there are problems about other appointment committees where judges by themselves have an effective veto. The courts are self appointing. Shaked has been addressing that and I think she is absolutely right. The bar and the judges should perhaps recommend but the ultimate appointments need to be a committee subject subject to full democratic oversight. High Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor letter to Shaked that’s she’s not going to show up to consultations was unthinkable. Contrast that with the USA where ultimately the United State Senate can appoint and can fire any judge. Federal judges, while they have lifetime appointments, understand those appointments are subject to review and they ultimately work for the states.

            Second is the “reasonability standard”. Courts are entitled to decide what is lawful. They are not entitled to decide what is good policy. To have granted themselves that power is way over the line.

            Third the powers of the Attorney General. The courts for good reason are not entitled to decide what are the powers of offices within the elected government.

            Fourth I think Shaked is absolutely right that for the Supreme Court to quash a Knesset law should require all 15 judges and not just the president. The Knesset is the highest body in Israel the idea that overruling them is no big deal is unthinkable.

            Finally in terms of Supreme Court law I think are terrible not recognizing the State’s right to eminent domain; that is that all deeds are ultimately bound in the state.

            That’s a short list but enough for one post.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Would you please also explain, JeffB, what you mean by “judicial reform.” From what you have said so far I do not see how it can mean anything other than what Ayalet Shaked means, and Ayalet Shaked is a fascist. She really and truly is. You have not made even the beginning of an attempt to refute Ze’ev Sternhell’s argument about fascism and Rogel Alpher’s argument that Shaked is a fascist. That is not calling her a name. It is naming what is her actual position. Alpher is in fact taking the term “fascist” seriously. He is not using it as a mere epithet. That was the whole point of what he wrote. Likewise, calling your positions “quasi-Feiglinist” is not calling you a name, it is naming your position.

            Reply to Comment
    11. JeffB

      @Ben

      As you know, in the United States the legislative branch can pass any laws it likes but the Supreme Court will ultimately decide if those laws violate the Constitution. And the Supreme Court’s decision is then final. An overturned law is a dead law. Case closed. There is no further redress or “legislative check” other than the Congress attempting a different law, which will be again subject to the same judicial review. Do you mean that the Israeli Supreme Court should be subject to a “legislative check” other than this?

      That is entirely false the Supreme Court is not final. First off the states have the power to disband the entire federal government in whole or in parts including the courts and thus nullify anything they do. Second the senate owns domain of authority for the courts. They can also fire justices for what they consider to be misconduct. And that is non reviewable by the courts. Third of course the legislature and the states own the ability to amend the constitution a power they have used when they overturned Dred Scott. There are also powers of pardon and so forth that further limit the courts.

      Fourth, and this one is more iffy legally, the legislative and executive branch own enforcement of judicial decisions. The courts can hold a law unconstitutional, the executive can continue to enforce. This happened during the Bush administration with certain decisions regarding the war on terror. The courts ruled against Bush, congress agreed with Bush, it stayed in effect until Obama took office and on one case the court reversed itself.

      Nothing is final in the USA. The people always rein supreme.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        JeffB you’re a hoot. Nothing you have said counters my point about the US Supreme Court’s formal, historical and in-practice powers of judicial review. “Entirely false”? Please.  The Judicial Branch is a co-equal branch of the federal government under the Constitution. Federal judges serve for life on good behavior. They can be impeached by Congress and removed from office if they commit “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but that requires a majority vote in the House of Representatives followed by a trial in the Senate and a 2/3 majority vote to convict and remove a judge. You know very well that the Senate cannot fire a federal judge because it dislikes the judge’s legal opinion. It would have to be for gross misconduct. The US judiciary has far more formal and real life independence than you imply and if Congress overstepped its bounds in that manner it would be overturned by the Supreme Court as an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. And a Constitutional crisis would be provoked. To imply otherwise is to peddle so much disinformation. 

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        ​Of course the Congress can amend the Constitution. And it could “amend” the Constitution to re-introduce slavery and void the Bill of Rights but it would take an unlawful, un-American, un-Constitutional revolution to do it. And the Knesset can “amend” the Basic Laws. But that is the whole point. Shaked is trying to stage a revolution, overturning some basic precepts of the Basic Laws and the Declaration of Independence in order to shift Israel from the liberal democratic vision in which its founders grounded the state to a “popular democratic” Feiglinist basis. That is a revolution, in the direction of Judeofascism. not an incremental reform. That this revolution is taking the form of a coup but of a steady, gradual erosion of democratic norms does not make it less than a revolution–all it does is follow the pattern of the sneaky, creeping, corrosive occupation and settlement ‘enterprise’ in its deliberate, sneaky gradualism. She is entitled to try to stage her revolution and I, and Rogel Alpher and Ze’ev Sternhell are entitled to recognize it for the attempt to stage a neo-fascist revolution that it is. Now I don’t care whether you are able to understand this or you pretend to not be able to understand this.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Correction: “taking the form of a coup” should read “not taking the form of a coup”

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