Peace and friendship

Joseph Aaron

Since talk of the Supreme Court is much in the air, just thought I’d mention that if President Obama’s nominee had been allowed to have a fair hearing, an up or down vote, as the Constitution calls for but as the Republicans stole, we would now have four Jews on the country’s highest court.

As you may recall, Obama, way back in February of 2016, nominated Merrick Garland to fill the seat of Antonin Scalia. Garland is Jewish and widely recognized to be an excellent judge. And so if life was fair, which clearly it is not, and if the Republicans had any sense of honor, which clearly they don’t, Garland would have joined Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court, bringing the total of Jews to four. Out of nine justices.

Just thought I’d mention that since we just celebrated the Fourth of July and it’s a good time to remember what an amazing country this has been for Jews, starting with George Washington’s stirring speech at a Rhode Island synagogue and continuing to this very day.

A couple of other things I thought I’d mention. One is that I feel really sorry for Prince William. Poor, poor boy.

Sure, he’s going to be the future king of England, though considering his family’s genes, who knows when that’s going to be. His great grandmother, the queen mother, lived until 101. His grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, is 92 and seems to be doing just fine, keeps doing her queen thing. Then we have Charles, his dad, who is 69 and so might live another 30 years.

Anyway, to his credit, William just became the first member of the royal family to visit Israel. Good for him, good for us and yet another symbol of how accepted Israel is in the world today. More on that later in this column.

Well, it seems that William was so touched by what he saw in Israel that he said he plans to make bringing a “just and lasting peace” to the Middle East his “lifelong project.” Which is saying something, since with his family’s genes, he will probably live another 70 years.

“The visit had a profound effect on the Duke,” according to a highly placed Palace source. “The places he visited, the people he met and the stories he heard have all moved him very deeply.” At the end of the trip, he reportedly told his aides: “This is the start of something new. I will forever honor my commitments to the people I have met.” He said he plans to use his global platform to help the region achieve peace.

Oy, William, thou knowest not what thou is getting thyself into. Trying to bring peace to the Middle East has broken everyone who has tried, no matter how much military or political or diplomatic experience they had. My favorite story along those lines about the long line of envoys and special representatives who have come and tried, is that of Anthony Zinni, a decorated Marine general. When Zinni was given the job, he actually moved to Israel, saying he would not leave the region until he had achieved some kind of deal. This is a tough Marine general. Said he would not leave even if it took years. Well, after a few meetings with the Israelis and the Palestinians and hearing them out and hearing them shout, Zinni left the region after three months, a broken man, fleeing like a little girl. He never returned.

So, good luck there, Prince William. Which reminds me of the pisher who thinks he’s going to be the one to bring peace, to, as his father-in-law said, “make the ultimate deal.” Prince Jared of Kushner, Trump’s top Jew, is saying he will soon unveil his magical peace plan. Of course, he’s been saying that for a year. In any case, as a tease before unveiling his big plan, he gave an interview with a Palestinian newspaper in which he tore Palestinian President Abbas to pieces, aimed tons of criticisms at him. Just like a true diplomat would do.

Look, Abbas is a jerk, has blown it, has not at all served his people, but a diplomat knows insulting him ain’t a great way to get negotiations on your new peace plan off to a good start. And indeed, Abbas has rejected an invitation from Jared to a conference to kick off his peace plan. Gonna be tough to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians if there ain’t no Palestinians there. Yet another brilliant Jared move. And don’t get me started on Ivanka, the Orthodox Jewish defender of women and girls, who posts Instagram photos of her and her children baking hamantashen, but who has not said one word, not one, about the kids, including toddlers, ripped from their mothers’ arms and placed in internment camps.

But back to diplomacy. Now that Trump has met with Kim Jung Un and lavished praise on the murderous dictator, about how funny he is and how smart, and now that Trump will soon meet with Vladimir Putin, a murderous dictator who he will no doubt lavish praise on, all while belittling our friends, the leaders of Canada and Germany and England and more, let us consider how yet again Bibi, our supreme and eternal leader, seems to be following the lead of Trump. I mean, they are like identical twins, both on their third wives, both under criminal investigation, both claiming the media is ‘fake news’ and their country’s law enforcement agencies are filled with crooks and thieves.

Now it seems that Bibi is following Trump’s lead in making kissy face, being buddies with the worst leaders in the world.

In fact, it was just announced that Bibi will be welcoming to Israel Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary in July and Filipino strongman Rodrigo Duterte in September. Two of the most corrupt, evil heads of government in the whole world.

Indeed, as one Israeli expert noted, Netanyahu is “cozying up to authoritarian governments and turning a blind eye to some efforts by their regimes at Holocaust revisionism and anti-Semitic dog whistling.”

Which is why numerous Israeli lawmakers have urged Netanyahu not to host Orban, citing among other things the right-wing Hungarian leader’s campaign against the Jewish Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros, that many considered anti-Semitic

As bad as Orban, who is systematically stripping Hungary of its democracy, is, Duterte is even worse, amazingly corrupt, disgusting in what he says, and someone who sanctions, even participates in, vigilante murders of street children and petty criminals and drug gangs, not bothering with due process or trials.

There is absolutely no reason why the leader of the Jewish state should welcome to a country charged with being a light unto the nations, people like Orban and Duterte. And there are many Jewish reasons not to. Yet, of course, there are those who defend it, using a very outdated rationale. “Israel often has no choice but to maintain ties with unsavory or authoritarian regimes,” said Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “As a country that has found itself isolated by its neighbors and sometimes shunned by Western Europe, Israel has been forced to try and find friends in unlikely places.”

To which I call BS. There was a time it was in fact true that Israel had very few friends in the world and so felt it had no choice but to be friends with anyone who would be friends back. Which is why, to its everlasting shame, Israel maintained diplomatic relations with apartheid South Africa, even selling arms to its regime. For blacks, please remember that apartheid South Africa is what Nazi Germany was to us.

But Israel said it had to have diplomatic relations with South Africa because it had so few countries willing to have ties with it. Okay, we can debate that and there is a point that maybe then Israel did have to hold its nose and have relations with any country willing to do so.

But that was then, this is now. I have a question for you. How many member states are there in the United Nations? The answer is 192.

Next question: how many of those member states of the UN does Israel today have diplomatic relations with? The answer is 161. That’s right, 161 of 192. That’s a lot of countries.

Indeed, the only countries Israel does not have diplomatic relations with are ones that don’t matter or are so clearly evil and disgusting, that it’s better off without them.  The 32 that don’t have diplomatic relations with Israel are the 18 members of the Arab League: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. A further 10 are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Chad, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Mali, Niger, and Pakistan. The rest are Bhutan, Cuba, and North Korea.

So no, there’s no excuse, no justification, for Israel to host Orban of Hungary and Duterte of the Philippines. It is baloney to say that “as a country that has found itself isolated by its neighbors and sometimes shunned by Western Europe, Israel has been forced to try and find friends in unlikely places.”

Israel has diplomatic relations with 161 of the 192 members of the UN, including every major country in the world, including every country in Western Europe, including the Vatican and the European Union, both of whom are not members of the UN.

Daniel Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, said “Israel has long, and justifiably, considered itself part of the club of democracies, as an expression of its self-identification as a Jewish and democratic state. Today, as a wave of illiberalism challenges the democratic world – from America to Europe to Israel itself – there may be temptations in aligning with those who seem to be on the rise: Trump, Putin, Orban, [and] Duterte. 

“While Israel’s unique security and other requirements understandably impel it to develop as wide a network of relationships as it can,” he said, “I think it will want to avoid finding its own democratic identity tarnished by, of its own choosing, aligning less with the club of democracies and more with this very different coalition.”

And I don’t even have space to tell you about the cooperation accord Israel just signed with Myanmar, ruled by a military dictatorship, which is right now engaged in the Holocaust-like genocide of its Rohingya minority.

Yes, Israel needs friends. It has 161 of them. It should not be inviting the likes of Viktor Orban and Rodrigo Duterte to dinner in Jerusalem.

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