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      Fundamentally Freund
      by Michael Freund
      An alternative approach to Israeli political commentary.
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      Michael Freund is Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which reaches out and assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. He writes a syndicated column and feature stories for the Jerusalem Post. Previously, he served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Israeli Prime Minister´s Office under former premier Benjamin Netanyahu. A native of New York, he holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He has lived in Israel for the past decade.
      Shevat 17, 5769, 2/11/2009

      A Decisive Victory for Israel's Right

      the right received a whopping 50% more votes than the parties on the left. That, my friends, is what is known as a good ol' fashioned landslide
      The results are in, the votes have been counted, and there is no doubt as to the outcome of Israel's elections yesterday: this was a clear and decisive victory for Israel's right-wing.

      Sure, Tzipi Livni's Kadima party may have come out ahead of the Likud in terms of the number of seats that it garnered. And yes, just a few weeks ago, the Likud was leading Kadima by a large gap in the polls.

      But the bottom line is this: the left-wing parties combined got just 44 seats (not including the 3 Arab parties), while the right came home with 65.

      And that number may yet change even more in the right's favor in the coming days, as the votes of the soldiers and security forces are counted as well.

      In other words, the right received a whopping 50% more votes than the parties on the left. That, my friends, is what is known as a good ol' fashioned landslide.

      Indeed, no matter how one looks at it, the left on its own can not form a coalition. Thus, the unavoidable conclusion is that the people of Israel have spoken loudly and clearly. They have rejected the outgoing government and its policies of appeasment, and voted to replace it with a strong, nationalist administration.

      The media, of course, is carefully trying to play down this point, empashizing instead Livni's "victory" and "comeback". But all the spin-meisters in the world can not obscure the reality that the people of Israel have spoken - and they have sent the left packing.

      Shevat 16, 5769, 2/10/2009

      A Priceless Blessing

      I just returned from the polling booth, where I had the privilege of casting my ballot.

      Yes, it is a privilege and we should never take for granted the freedom that we have. As frustrating as Israel's political system is, as infuriating as its government can be, it is nonetheless a priceless blessing that we have to be able to vote freely.

      Would we all be better off if Israeli parliamentarians were accountable directly to their constituency, rather than to a party bureaucracy? Definitely. Would our democratic system work more efficiently if there were a true separation of powers in place between the legislative and executive branches? Of course.

      But as flawed and imperfect as the system is, I still thank G-d that after 2000 years of exile, we have a sovereign Jewish state.

      May it soon live up it to its prophetic promise.

      Shevat 12, 5769, 2/6/2009

      Obama and the Wages of Weakness

      While Obama is expending valuable time trying to entice Iran into a diplomatic dance, the Ayatollahs are plowing ahead with plans to build nuclear weapons
      Barack Obama has only been president for a little more than two weeks, yet America's enemies can already sense a strong gust of weakness blowing out of Washington.

      In a series of unprecedented gestures, beginning with his inauguration speech and culminating in an interview to an Arab television station last week, Obama has virtually pleaded with the likes of Iran and Syria to make nice, cuddle up and, aw shucks, why don’t we all just be friends.

      "I do think that it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are but where there are potential avenues for progress," the president told Al-Arabiya.

      "If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us," he pledged.

      Needless to say, Obama's unwarranted magnanimity was met with a highly predictable response.

      Simply put, Tehran declared victory.

      On Saturday, the official Iranian government spokesman, Gholam Hussein Elham, singled out Obama's offer to talk as proof that America's policy towards his country had "failed".

      "This request means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed," he said (AFP, January 31).

      Is this really the message the West needs to be sending?

      Not surprisingly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad quickly seized upon Washington's newfound lust for conciliation by laying out a new series of preposterous demands to the US President.

      In an address broadcast last week on Iranian state television, he essentially demanded that Obama grovel and beg forgiveness.

      "Those who speak of change must apologize to the Iranian people and try to repair their past bad acts and the crimes they committed against Iran," Ahmadinejad said, conveniently ignoring his own country's decades-long record of taking Western hostages and financing anti-American and anti-Israel terror.

      In the same speech, Iran's thug-in-chief went on to insist that the US must put an end to its military presence around the world, and "stop supporting the Zionists, outlaws and criminals."

      Sure sounds like peace is at hand, doesn't it?

      But just in case the message did not get through clearly enough, the Iranians went ahead and took a series of steps in recent days to further underline just how much their fist remains, as it were, anything but "unclenched".

      The Ayatollahs went out of their way to fete Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Palestinian arch-terrorist Samir Kuntar in Tehran, treating the two murderers of Jews as if they were national heroes.

      And just yesterday, the Iranians demonstrated their increasingly effective ballistic missile technology by successfully launching their first locally-produced satellite into space (Ynet, February 3).

      Needless to say, that technology would come in quite handy should Iran ever decide to fire intercontinental missiles at the very same "Zionists, outlaws and criminals" whom it regularly threatens to annihilate.

      And then, of course, there is Tehran's ongoing nuclear program, which by all accounts is proceeding apace.

      While Obama is expending valuable time trying to entice Iran into a diplomatic dance, the Ayatollahs are plowing ahead with plans to build nuclear weapons.

      A report issued last week by the prestigious International Institute of Strategic Studies in London revealed that Iran will soon have enough low-enriched uranium to assemble an atomic bomb by next year (Daily Telegraph, January 28).

      That means the clock is ticking, loudly and clearly, and the countdown to a nuclear Iran has begun.

      Only instead of acting forcefully to stop it, Washington is trying to talk Iran into changing course. But this is a policy that has no chance of success.

      After all, since the summer of 2006, the UN Security Council has passed at least three resolutions demanding that Iran halt its uranium enrichment program.

      And despite the imposition of increasingly tighter sanctions, nothing has yet deterred the Iranians from pursuing their goal of a nuclear arsenal.

      There is no reason now to think that a few soothing words from Washington will do the trick. Anything less than military force will not prevent Iran from joining the nuclear club.

      Obama surely means well, and hopes to diffuse an increasingly dangerous situation through dialogue.

      But dealing with radical jihadists and state sponsors of terror is not the same as negotiating a compromise on a budget bill in the US Senate.

      Iran and its cohorts neither appreciate nor respect such measures, which only encourage them to harden their stances still further, confident in the knowledge that the US is desperate for some kind of deal.

      Indeed, there is a price-tag for this policy, as radicals around the world will take solace in knowing that they have nothing to fear from an administration that can not, or will not, prevent Tehran from getting the bomb.

      Rest assured, other foes of America will be quick to try and score points, in an effort to squeeze their own sets of concessions out of the new administration in Washington.

      These are the wages of Obama's weakness, and if you listen carefully, you can almost hear the clink of champagne glasses and the sounds of muffled laughter in places such as Tehran and Damascus, as America's foes prepare to cash in.

      In a recent interview with the BBC's Persian service, former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton sensibly suggested that Obama give Iran three months to negotiate an end to its nuclear program or face attack, in order to compel Tehran to end the crisis.

      But Bolton also conceded that there is virtually no chance that such a policy will be adopted, saying that he believed the US had “lost the contest” with Iran.

      “America," he concluded, "will not use military force against Iran and we are headed towards an Iran with nuclear weapons."

      G-d help us all if he proves to be right.

      Shevat 8, 5769, 2/2/2009

      Ehud Barak's Tunnel Vision

      One can only shake one's head in exasperation at Barak's tunnel vision.
      Hamas terrorists continue to smuggle weapons into Gaza via underground tunnels from Egypt, but that hasn't stopped Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak from offering to build the Palestinians yet another tunnel of their own.

      Speaking today at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, Barak proposed that a 48-kilometer long tunnel be constructed between Gaza and Judea and Samaria in order to give the Palestinians "freedom of movement" between the two areas. Barak added that while the tunnel would be under Israeli sovereignty, it would in practice be under Palestinian control.

      One can only shake one's head in exasperation at Barak's tunnel vision.

      Does he not understand the danger that such a tunnel would pose to Israel and its existence?

      Think about it: Hamas would have an easy and straightforward way to smuggle just about anything it wants from Egypt into Gaza, and then from Gaza straight into Judea and Samaria.

      Within a short period of time, Israel could potentially find itself facing the threat not only of rocket fire emanating from Gaza, but also from Judea and Samaria as well. Tel Aviv would quickly become the next Sderot, thanks in no small measure to the obtuseness of Israel's own Defense Minister.

      The sooner this government leaves the scene, the safer Israel will be.


      Shevat 4, 5769, 1/29/2009

      So much for deterrence....

      Time and again, you will recall, our leadership told us that the recent counter-terror operation against Hamas would restore Israel's deterrence... this has proven to be sheer fantasy
      Barely a week has passed since the last Israeli solider left Gaza, and Hamas has already resumed its efforts to terrify the residents of Israel's south.

      This morning, Palestinians in Gaza fired a Qassam rocket which landed near Sderot. It was the second such attack in two days, after they launched a projectile yesterday at the western Negev. And on Tuesday, terrorists set off a bomb which killed an Israeli soldier and left three others injured.

      Time and again, you will recall, our leadership told us that the recent counter-terror operation against Hamas would restore Israel's deterrence by sending a message to the jihadists that the Jewish state would not tolerate attacks on its citizens.

      But now it should be clear that this has proven to be sheer fantasy.

      For if the terrorists had truly been deterred, would they dare to be launching increasingly brazen attacks? If Hamas had "learned a lesson", would they not have turned their efforts to rebuilding the Strip rather than their arsenal?

      Out of weakness, Israel's leaders left the job in Gaza undone when they pulled out a week ago. It is a mistake that will almost certainly come back to haunt us.

      So let's just hope and pray that the residents of the Negev will not have to pay a heavy price as a result.