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Netanyahu election tactics cause unease and anger for liberal Jews

By RON KAMPEAS WASHINGTON (JTA) – Two states, pluralism and civil rights could be said to sum up the Israel agenda for mainstream Jewish groups over the past two decades.

 

Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements on the eve of the prime minister’s victory in Israeli elections Tuesday suggests that the government that emerges from current coalition negotiations is unlikely to make progress on any of them.

His 11th-hour campaign tactics have raised significant questions among American Jewish leaders about his commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and equal treatment of all Israelis. And the likeliest coalition government will include haredi Orthodox parties, whose rejection of non-Orthodox streams has been a cause of tension with U.S. Jews for decades.

Though Netanyahu has moved to contain the fallout from his vow that no Palestinian state would be established on his watch and his urging supporters to counter the “droves” of Arabs coming out to vote, for many liberal American Jews, the prime minister exacerbated a deep sense of unease with the direction that Israel is heading.

“I’ll be frank, it’s anger and it’s pain that we feel at having watched the prime minister of Israel use fear-mongering and scare tactics tinged with racism to claw his way to 23 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, the executive director of the liberal lobby J Street, in his address at the opening of the group’s conference here on Saturday night. “I know and I share the anger in this room at seeing the prime minister, in order to save his political life, confirm what so many people already knew — that he is utterly and completely opposed to Palestinian statehood. And then, to watch him shamelessly and cynically try to walk it back in a matter of 36 hours.”

The two largest religious streams in American Judaism, the Reform and Conservative movements, both issued statements last week condemning Netanyahu’s Election Day appeal to Likud voters to head for the polls to counterbalance the votes of Arab-Israelis.

“Because we proudly and unreservedly continue our unflagging support for the State of Israel, its citizens and its values, we must condemn the prime minister’s statement, singling out Arab citizens for exercising their legitimate right to vote,” the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly said in a statement Thursday. “It is incumbent upon Jews around the world to denounce the prime minister’s divisive and undemocratic statement and we do so here.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, called the statement “disheartening” and a “naked appeal to his hard-right base’s fears rather than their hopes.”

Netanyahu moved quickly post-election to contain the damage. In interviews last week with MSNBC and National Public Radio, he insisted that he remains committed to a two-state solution but that circumstances do not allow for one because of Palestinian intransigence and ongoing turmoil across the region. He said his Election Day appeal was meant not to suppress Arab voters, who he claimed were being mobilized by a “foreign funded” get-out-the-vote operation, but only to inspire his own supporters.

Yet Netanyahu’s imagery, and his implication that some voters are to be feared, was unsettling to some in the American Jewish community fresh off commemorations marking the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march in support of voting rights for African-Americans. Both the Reform and Conservative movements sent leaders to join in the commemorations earlier this month in Selma, Ala.

“I feel the same deep distress as all of you, as part of an American Jewish community rightfully proud of those among us who went to the South and took part in the Freedom Rides in the 1960s to fight for the right of all Americans to vote, and now ashamed that the prime minister of Israel would turn the notion of Arab citizens exercising their right to vote into a scare tactic to turn his supporters out at the polls,” Ben-Ami said in his address.

Also unsettling for U.S. Jewish groups was Netanyahu’s apparent equivocation over his commitment to two states, a key rhetorical point for mainstream pro-Israel groups that have long argued that Israel is more willing to sacrifice for peace than its Arab counterparts.

The day before the vote, Netanyahu told the NRG news website that “anyone who would today create a Palestinian state and evacuate territory would concede territory to extreme Islam to attack Israel.” Asked if it meant that as prime minister he would not allow the creation of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu said, “Indeed.”

In a sign of how deeply invested many Jewish groups are in the two-state outcome, several of them embraced Netanyahu’s “clarification” that he still supports a two-state solution — just not right now.

“We welcome the prime minister’s clarification of his position on a two-state solution and a peace agreement with the Palestinians,” the Anti-Defamation League said. Similar statements were released by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Netanyahu seems determined to build a right-wing coalition, which means that the most strident advocates of two states will remain in the opposition. The first party he invited into government is Jewish Home, which rejects a Palestinian state. The Obama administration has signaled it will treat Netanyahu as having abandoned two states until he is able to prove otherwise.

Netanyahu’s outgoing government, in place since January 2013, was the first in decades to keep haredi parties in the opposition. Tensions had been higher between Israel and the U.S. Jewish leadership during Netanyahu’s previous term, from 2009 to 2013, due to concerns over treatment of women by haredi government officials and the non-recognition of non-Orthodox movements.

Unless Netanyahu attempts to forge a national unity government — something both he and the opposition Zionist Union have already counted out — he will need the 14 seats of two haredi parties to secure a safe majority. Those parties, in turn, will likely demand posts at ministries where they will be able to wield power in areas of civil law.

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Features

New website for Israelis interested in moving to Canada

By BERNIE BELLAN (May 21, 2024) A new website, titled “Orvrim to Canada” (https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/ovrim-en) has been receiving hundreds of thousands of visits, according to Michal Harel, operator of the website.
In an email sent to jewishpostandnews.ca Michal explained the reasons for her having started the website:
“In response to the October 7th events, a group of friends and I, all Israeli-Canadian immigrants, came together to launch a new website supporting Israelis relocating to Canada. “Our website, https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/, offers a comprehensive platform featuring:

  • Step-by-step guides for starting the immigration process
  • Settlement support and guidance
  • Community connections and networking opportunities
  • Business relocation assistance and expert advice
  • Personal blog sharing immigrants’ experiences and insights

“With over 200,000 visitors and media coverage from prominent Israeli TV channels and newspapers, our website has already made a significant impact in many lives.”
A quick look at the website shows that it contains a wealth of information, almost all in Hebrew, but with an English version that gives an overview of what the website is all about.
The English version also contains a link to a Jerusalem Post story, published this past February, titled “Tired of war? Canada grants multi-year visas to Israelis” (https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-787914#google_vignette) That story not only explains the requirements involved for anyone interested in moving to Canada from Israel, it gives a detailed breakdown of the costs one should expect to encounter.

(Updated May 28)

We contacted Ms. Harel to ask whether she’s aware whether there has been an increase in the number of Israelis deciding to emigrate from Israel since October 7. (We want to make clear that we’re not advocating for Israelis to emigrate; we’re simply wanting to learn more about emigration figures – and whether there has been a change in the number of Israelis wanting to leave the country.)
Ms. Harel referred us to a website titled “Globes”: https://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1001471862
The website is in Hebrew, but we were able to translate it into English. There is a graph on the website showing both numbers of immigrants to Israel and emigrants.
The graph shows a fairly steady rate of emigration from 2015-2022, hovering in the 40,000 range, then in 2023 there’s a sudden increase in the number of emigrants to 60,000.
According to the website, the increase in emigrants is due more to a change in the methodology that Israel has been using to count immigrants and emigrants than it is to any sudden upsurge in emigration. (Apparently individuals who had formerly been living in Israel but who may have returned to Israel just once a year were being counted as having immigrated back to Israel. Now that they are no longer being counted as immigrants and instead are being treated as emigrants, the numbers have shifted radically.)
Yet, the website adds this warning: “The figures do not take into account the effects of the war, since it is still not possible to identify those who chose to emigrate following it. It is also difficult to estimate what Yalad Yom will produce – on the one hand, anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews and Israelis around the world reminds everyone where the Jewish home is. On the other hand, the bitter truth we discovered in October is that it was precisely in Israel, the safe fortress of the Jewish people, that a massacre took place reminding us of the horrors of the Holocaust. And if that’s not enough, the explosive social atmosphere and the difference in the state budget deficit, which will inevitably lead to a heavy burden of taxes and a reduction in public services, may convince Zionist Israelis that they don’t belong here.”
Thus, as much as many of us would be disappointed to learn that there is now an upsurge in Israelis wanting to move out of the country, once reliable figures begin to be produced for 2024, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that is the case – which helps to explain the tremendous popularity of Ms. Harel’s website.

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Features

Message from a Palestinian in Gaza to protesters: “You’re hurting the Palestinian cause”

Protesters at McGill University

A very brave Palestinian who was willing to put his name to paper and write an article for Newsweek Magazine has exposed the utter hypocrisy of all those students – and others, who have been setting up encampments across the U.S. – and now Canada, too.

You can read the article at https://www.newsweek.com/message-gazan-campus-protesters-youre-hurting-palestinian-cause-opinion-1894313

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Features

The Most Expensive Israeli Soccer Transfers

Eran Zahavi

Even if Israel isn’t known as a world soccer power, it has produced plenty of talented players who have made a living in top European leagues. On more than one occasion, an Israeli international has commanded a rather large transfer fee. But who are the most expensive players in Israel’s history? The answer could be a little surprising. We took a look back to find the most expensive Israeli soccer transfers of all time.

Tai Baribo

In 2023, Baribo made the move to MLS, signing with the Philadelphia Union. The reported fee was around $1.5 million, which is one of the highest transfer fees the Union has ever paid for a player.

Omer Atzili

Throughout his career, Atzili has played for a variety of clubs, including stops in Spain and Greece. In 2023, he joined Al Ain in the UAE for a transfer fee of $2.1 million.

Maor Buzaglo

Now retired, Buzaglo was briefly the holder of the richest transfer deal for an Israeli player. After a couple of successful seasons on loan, Maccabi Tel Aviv paid $2.7 million to rival Maccabi Haifa for Buzaglo in 2008.

Dia Saba

Saba made history in 2020 when he joined Al-Nasr, making him the first Israeli player to play for a club in the UAE. At the time, it was a big deal for relations between the two countries. Al-Nasr also paid an impressive $2.9 million transfer fee for the midfielder.

Tal Ben Haim

On multiple occasions, Ben Haim has been sold for more than $1 million. First, there was his move from Hapoel Tel Aviv to Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2023 for close to $1.2 million. A few years later, Sparta Prague came calling for him, spending $3.1 million as a transfer fee for the winger.

Itay Shechter

During the prime of his career, Shechter was the type of player who warranted a seven-figure transfer fee. German club Kaiserslautern paid a little over $2.6 million in 2011 to bring Shechter to the Bundesliga from Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Daniel Peretz

When Peretz was sold to Bayern Munich, it wasn’t the most expensive deal involving an Israeli player, although it was arguably the most important. He became the first Israeli Jew to play at Bayern, which is one of the biggest clubs in the world. The transfer fee for Peretz paid by Bayern Munich to Maccabi Tel Aviv was around $5.4 million.

Oscar Gloukh

Gloukh is one of the best young Israeli players right now. He already has three international goals in a dozen appearances to his name. Somehow, Gloukh is already one of the most expensive players in Israel’s history. After coming up with Maccabi Tel Aviv, he moved to Austrian giant Red Bull Salzburg in 2023 for a transfer fee of close to $7.5 million. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him top that number one day.

Liel Abada

Abada has been a part of two huge transfer deals in his young career. In 2021, Scottish club Celtic paid $4.8 million to acquire him from Maccabi Petah Tikva. However, that number was topped in 2024 when Charlotte FC of MLS paid a fee of $8 million for Abada.

With Charlotte FC, Abada competes in North America’s top league, facing teams from both Mexico and Canada. Throughout North America, sports betting has taken off in recent years. That includes betting in Canada, where there is a large collection of trusted sports betting platforms.

Eran Zahavi

To date, Zahavi holds the record for the most expensive transfer fee paid for an Israeli player. It’s fitting for Israel’s former captain and all-time leading scorer. In 2016, Chinese club Guangzhou City paid $12.5 million to get Zahavi from Maccabi Tel Aviv. That record was nearly broken later that year when another Chinese club offered $20 million for Zahavi, who turned it down and stayed with Guangzhou City.

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