Thursday, February 26, 2015

Israeli Politics – February 2015

Support is sought to facilitate the work of the Middle East Study Group. Information at

Without the Jews, France will not be France.

When the Jews of France are attacked, France is attacked and the universal conscience is attacked.

French Prime Minister Manual Valls
French Prime Minister Manual Valls
Watch this:

Groups like al Qaeda and ISIL promote a twisted interpretation of religion that is rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world's Muslims. The world must continue to lift up the voices of Muslim clerics and scholars who teach the true peaceful nature of Islam. We can echo the testimonies of former extremists who know how terrorists betray Islam. We can help Muslim entrepreneurs and youths work with the private sector to develop social media tools to counter extremist narratives on the Internet.
President Barack Obama, February 17, 2015

Positive Development: Egypt
Positive Development: Jordan
Positive Development: UN Inquiry Committee
Positive Development: India
Sir Richard Dalton
Obama calls for public debate over encryption
Abba Eban
My New Article
New Books
Monthly Poems

Light Side


In January-February, consistent polls show that Mr Netanyahu will win the elections. A poll published on February 20, 2015, shows that the opposition to Netanyahu will have 59 seats in the coming Knesset, not enough to form a coalition. The center-left is closing the gap with the Likud-right, but just not enough to oust Netanyahu. This is bad news for the peace camp and for all those of us who are yearning for change.

Traditionally, people in Israel vote for the person who seems better suited to protect their physical security. Social-economic considerations are secondary. This is logical. In a country under constant stress and threats of violence, people think first and foremost about their security.

The January Peace Index shows that the rate of Jewish Israelis who think a government headed by Netanyahu is better suited to deal with issues of Israeli security (57.5%) is considerably higher than the rate who view a government headed by the Zionist Camp (also called Zionist Union led by Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog) as better suited to this task (27%). Similarly, a clear majority of the Jewish public (59%) estimates that the right-wing bloc has a better chance to form the government after the elections than the center-left bloc (27.5%). A segment of the Jewish interviewees’ responses to this question shows that among those planning to vote for the right-wing parties, an overwhelming majority are sure that the government will be formed by the right.

Thus the clear sectorial inclination of Israeli-Jews is to put Israel’s security issues in the hands of a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu, and this sector also displays a higher preference for the right-wing political bloc forming the next government. At the same time, a higher rate says the socioeconomic issue will be better handled by a government headed by Herzog-Livni. But security usually trumps all other considerations.
At the same time, Netanyahu’s domestic problems at his home, run by his wife Sarah, is under close scrutiny.  Netanyahu of 2015 reminds of Netanyahu of 1999. Yet again he shows poor judgment and antagonism in human relations. We know what happened in 1999. The public is forgetful but not when disturbing facts are splashed in its face in real time so close to elections. The police are collecting evidence as I am writing these lines. If they will have enough evidence, Mr Netanyahu (or as I started to call him, Mr Nehentanyahu) may need to consider his priorities. He has already hired one of the leading attorneys in the country to consult him on what to say at this delicate time.

It is crunch time for Herzog. He needs to show leadership and prove all those who claim that he does not have the necessary leadership qualities that they are wrong. This is the moment to be seized.


Meretz, Israel Civil Rights Party, is declining in the polls. The writing on the wall is clear: Meretz needs to reinvent itself after the elections, or it will disappear completely. More and more people feel that other parties in the market can pursue Meretz and similar ideas better. Meretz, for years, lacked appealing and strong leadership to move the party forward. The leadership it has had led the party backward.

I wrote that Meretz should strike a deal with the Green movement in Israel. Meretz did not do this. Instead, it was Tzipi Livni who stepped forward and secured a seat on the Zionist Camp for the Green representative.

Positive Development: Egypt

Egypt became the first Arab country to designate Hamas faction Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades as a terrorist group. An Egyptian court that made the designation accused the Hamas faction of launching terrorist attacks to support the Muslim Brotherhood and of killing 33 security personnel in Sinai in October 2014. The court ruling further isolates Hamas politically.

Under President Sisi’s leadership, security coordination and collaboration between Israel and Egypt has greatly increased. Egypt seems unable to control Sinai which  has become a fertile ground for terrorist and criminal activities. This provokes grave concerns not only in Cairo but also in Jerusalem. The IDF has been monitoring activities in Sinai for many years and has a vested interest in collaborating with Egypt in attempt to clamp down those terrorist and criminal activities. It is encouraging to see Israel and Egypt standing firmly on the same side in the fight against terror.

In March 2014, an Egyptian court outlawed Hamas activities in Egypt, accusing it of smuggling weapons and fighters to Ansar Beit al Maqdis, a group now loyal to ISIS. Egypt is expanding the buffer zone on the border of Egypt and Gaza, in an effort to prevent the flow of fighters and weapons between Sinai and Gaza. Egypt is also said to cooperate with Fatah to support anti-Hamas protests and activities in the Gaza Stip.

Positive Development: Jordan

Israel’s longest border is with Jordan. Jerusalem is carefully analyzing the situation inside Jordan, having a vested interest in seeing the Hashemite Kingdom maintain its reign. King Abdullah II of Jordan is now facing the gravest challenges against his regime and while he and Israel fundamentally disagree on the Palestinian issue, they see eye to eye on the issue of counter-terrorism. King Abdullah needs help and cannot be too picky. Jerusalem has offered a hand and he welcomed it.

As a result of the Syrian civil war, some million Syrians have crossed the border into Jordan. Millions of people have massive influence on the shape of the Hashemite Kingdom. It is quite likely that this massive influx includes elements that are hostile to the regime, wishing to destabilize it. Jordan is known to have very good intelligence agencies but given the size of the problem, they need help. Help is provided by the US and Israel.

All this activity is done quietly across the border. Now, in a show of appreciation, the King has decided to return Ambassador Walid Obeidat to Tel Aviv.  You may recall that, in November 2014, the Jordanian government recalled its ambassador over tensions on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, over which Jordan holds custodial rights. Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed the Jordanian decision, calling it “an important step that reflects Israeli-Jordanian joint interests, first and foremost stability, security and peace.” 

Despite the absence of the ambassador, the Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv remained open. In June 2014 as ISIS expanded in Iraq and parts of Syria, Journalist Yossi Melman wrote, “With the advancement of radical Sunni forces from Iraq toward Jordan's borders, the clandestine cooperation and consultations between Israel and Jordan are increasing.” Neri Zilber of the Washington Institute rightly commented that “there is an unwritten, unspoken kind of Israeli commitment that if Jordan were ever in serious trouble … Israel at a certain point would take action and come to Jordan’s aid. Jordan is a massive strategic asset to Israel.”

To help the King, Israel has increased its economic activity in Jordan, supporting the Jordanian economy. In 2013, over 200,000 Israelis visited Jordan with 18,000 Jordanians visiting Israel. Twenty-four flights per week fly out of Ben-Gurion airport in Israel into Jordan to accommodate relationships and tourism. In December 2013 Israel and Jordan finalized an agreement over water allocation with Israel providing Jordan 8-13 billion gallons per year of fresh water from the Sea of Galilee, while Jordan would deliver the same amount of desalinated water pumped from Aqaba to Israel's Negev desert region.

Positive Development: UN Inquiry Committee

Professor William Schabas who was appointed to head of the UN inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict announced that he was resigning from his post in the wake of more allegations of anti-Israel bias. In 2012, Mr Schabas acted as a paid legal consultant for the PLO. For some reason, he thought when he accepted the appointment that there was no clear reason for him to politely decline the UN assignment due to bias. Now he was made to acknowledge that he is biased against Israel.

Last August Professor Schabas was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to head a group of three jurists investigating alleged war crimes committed during last summer’s Gaza war. UN watchdog UN Watch had called for Schabas to recuse himself from his position due to previous statements illustrating bias against Israel. In 2010 Mr Schabas said the UN should go after the President of Israel, Shimon Peres at the time, for war crimes and in 2013, he stated he would like to see “Netanyahu within the dock of the International Criminal Court”.

This does not necessarily mean that the UN inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict will produce a balanced report. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has condemned Israel more than any other country. Since 2006, out of 103 resolutions, 56 have criticized Israel. No wonder that human rights activists in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Russia, China, North Korea, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe (and please forgive me if I failed to mention other enlightened dictatorships) feel a bit frustrated. Israel is occupying the attention of the UN Human Rights Council to the point of obsession. I do not have specific details about the 56 allegations against Israel. Maybe all of them are warranted. I would, however, expect at least the same number of allegations against any of the aforementioned countries.  

Positive Development: India

modi netanyahu

Israel and India are tightening their relationships. The overwhelming victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Modi, defeating the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance that governed the country for years, has been watched with immense interest in Jerusalem. And, indeed, since Modi came to power, Israel and India have been cooperating on a number of fronts: commercial, scientific, technological, agricultural cooperation and especially military.
On February 18, 2015, Defence Minister Yaalon attended the biennial Aero India show, which is at the center of India's military modernisation plans. The visit came after India unfroze a 2.5 billion USD deal for the purchase of hundreds of Israeli Barak missiles, a deal first signed in 2007 that had since been put on hold over concerns of irregularity. 
Addressing the ties with India, Ya'alon said the bilateral relations "have grown stronger in recent times. I am proud to be the first defense minister who visits here and meets with senior government officials, whose leadership and vision to lead India seeks prosperity and growth.
Ya’alon met with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi who said that "A nation with a strong defence industry will not only be more secure. It will also reap rich economic benefits".
Media reports said that Israel will sell 262 Barak 1 missiles to India over five years, starting December 2015.  Israel is also interested to form joint production of hardware with India.


I do not think Iran will forego its nuclear ambitions. It now seems that the United States decided on a different, more accommodating, course of action vis-à-vis Iran, climbing down from the harsh position it led and created. Reportedly, the US is considering the making of concessions to Iran in return for an Iranian guarantee of regional stability. Iran would be able to keep 6,500 centrifuges if it promises to ensure order in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and other parts of the Middle East. 

The US has decided on changing its course in the face of concrete evidence that Iran has its hands full in interfering in internal affairs of other players in the region, all serving Iranian interests and hamper American interests. We are fully aware that Iran with its proxies (Hezbollah and others) is building a terror infrastructure in South Lebanon and the Syrian Golan Heights.

Iran is increasing its influence in Iraq via Iranian-backed Shia militia groups. Iraq’s current Minister of the Interior belongs to the Badr Corps, an Iranian proxy. The Iranian-backed Houthis seized the Yemeni capital Sanaa in September and forced the resignation of the Yemeni president and the entire government in January 2014.

Sir Richard Dalton

In my role as Director of the Hull Middle East Study Group I was very pleased to host Sir Richard Dalton, who represented the UK in various capacities from 1970 to 2006, serving mainly in the Middle East.  He was Consul General in Jerusalem from 1993-1997, and Ambassador in Libya from 1999-2002.  From 2002-2006 he was Ambassador in Tehran where he played a role in European negotiations with Iran.

Richard Dalton

Sir Richard suggested that in order to create confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian programme in future, all the following may have been agreed, or be close to being agreed:
  • full transparency to the highest IAEA standards;
  • limits on the percentage levels of enrichment (set at the maximum needed for power reactor fuel);
  • reduced stocks of enriched material to be kept in Iran e.g. through export of LEU to Russia for incorporation in nuclear fuel manufactured there for Russian supplied reactors in Iran; no reprocessing of spent fuel;
  • how to fix the Arak research reactor so it produces minimal quantities of plutonium;
  • how to eliminate the risk that the underground plant at Fordow would be used for enrichment for military purposes;
  • and finishing satisfactorily the IAEA’s work on investigating past Iranian R and D on some potentially military aspects of nuclear technology.

But the final agreement must also meet the requirements of the November 2013 guiding document on determining Iran’s enrichment capacity based on its practical needs and on lifting – not just suspending – sanctions. Then there is the duration of the agreement. Iran wants it as short, and the US and its partners as long, as possible, and the pace at which Iran would build up its enrichment capacity by bringing into use more advanced centrifuge models.  There may be a difficult discussion on how Security Council- mandated sanctions would be lifted, given that there is some requirement for Iran to provide assurances on missile developments first. These may be five main sticking points now.  

We thoroughly enjoyed Sir Richard’s company and hope to host him again.

You can read Sir Richard’s paper at

Obama calls for public debate over encryption

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — President Barack Obama said on February 14, 2015 that he probably leans more toward strong computer data encryption than many in law enforcement, but added that he understands investigators’ concerns over the matter because of their need to protect people from attacks.

He suggested having a “public conversation” about the issue because “the first time that attack takes place in which it turns out that we had a lead and we couldn’t follow up on it, the public’s going to demand answers… it’s not as black and white as it’s sometimes portrayed.”

Obama Stanford

Law enforcement officials say encrypted data could hamper criminal investigations by putting potentially useful information off-limits. Privacy advocates disagree.
Obama said companies like Apple are “properly responding” to market demand because people, including him, want to know that their private communications remain so.

Apple’s iMessage platform, for example, offers end-to-end encrypted text messages, unlike traditional text messages. That encryption likely means the only way police can see those messages is by obtaining a user’s iPhone. Apple has sold hundreds of millions of devices that use iMessage.

Obama said he wants to “narrow the gap” in the differences of opinion over which has more value: privacy or safety. He said people who favor airtight encryption also want to be protected from terrorists.

“There are times where folks who see this through a civil liberties or privacy lens reject that there’s any trade-offs involved, and in fact there are,” said Obama, who still uses a protected BlackBerry for non-official communications. “It may be we want to value privacy and civil liberty far more than we do the safety issues, but we can’t pretend that there’s no trade-offs whatsoever.”

For the past nine years I have been writing a book on confronting the dark side of the Internet. It balances one against another two important values: freedom of expression and social responsibility. The book calls for open conversation and debate on ways and means to strike a balance, incorporating deliberative democracy mechanisms that involve the public. The book concludes by offering a new paradigm Internet for the future called CleaNet ©. CleaNet © will be sensitive to prevailing cultural norms of each and every society and will be clean of content that the society deems to be dangerous and anti-social. No cyberbullying, child pornography, hateful bigotry, criminal activity and terrorist material will be available on the new Net. Netusers, with the cooperation of ISPs and web-hosting companies, will together decide which content will be considered illegitimate and unworthy to be excluded from CleaNet ©.

Abba Eban

Abba Eban If you are interested in Abba Eban, The British National Archives at Kew have new information, never published before, about Eban. A real gem for those in the field who are working on British intelligence relating to the former Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs.

My New Article

Countering Hate on the Internet
Annual Review of Law and Ethics, Vol. 22 (2014), pp. 431-443.

The article appears in a special volume dedicated to Sharon Byrd. May her soul rest in peace.

I met Sharon in 1996 in Bellagio, one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Sharon and I had a few conversations. She had faced quite a few challenges in her life. Not all people around her were as Kantian as she was, kind, pleasant and polite. Later on, she edited a volume that was the result of our Bellagio workshop. Sharon was professional, responsible and a joy to work with.

On Sharon, see

All that is necessary for the triumpth of evil is that good men do nothing.
Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)

Hate speech is designed to threaten certain groups publicly and act as propaganda for offline organizations. Hate groups use websites to share ideology and propaganda, to link to similar sites and to recruit new converts, advocate violence and to threat others. The aim of this paper is to analyse the ways hate mongers are utilizing the Internet, and to ask what can be done to counter their activities. The paper discusses the targets of hate on the Internet and offers practical proposals to address this increasing problem and fight against it.

Keywords: Hate speech, Internet, bigotry, Nethate, ISPs, social responsibility, Aristotle

The article can be downloaded from SSRN: Cohen-Almagor, Raphael, Countering Hate on the Internet (December 29, 2014). Annual Review of Law and Ethics, Vol. 22 (2014), pp. 431-443. Available at SSRN:

New Books

Amy Wilkinson asked me to disseminate information about her new book and I am happy to oblige:

So excited to share the news! My book The Creator's Code will launch on February February 17th!  It's based on 5 years of research and 200 interviews with today's top entrepreneurs including the founders of Tesla Motors, SpaceX, LinkedIn, Chipotle, Spanx, Under Armour, eBay, Airbnb, Dropbox, JetBlue, Zipcar, and many others. (More info here.)

Amy Wilkinson - The creator's code 

I'd be ever grateful if you could help spread the word:

Please preorder a hardcover of The Creator's Code ( and Amazon reviews matter tremendously! 

Buy the book for your business or team! Simon & Schuster can offer special discounts if you are interested in bulk orders.

Tweet about it!  Here are some sample tweets that might be helpful:

·  Imagine you could know what makes the top 200 entrepreneurs successful. You don't have to imagine. Get the book #CreatorsCode -tweet

·  Learn the secrets of 200 top entrepreneurs to create & scale your own ideas! Read #CreatorsCode -tweet

·  Apply entrepreneurial insights as a leader in any organization w/@amywilkinson 's new book #CreatorsCode. Pre-order now!  -tweet

·  @amywilkinson takes your startup to scale with 6 skills Get #CreatorsCode  -tweet

Please sign up to be on the book Launch Committee.  I'd so value your help!

My heartfelt gratitude to you for moving these ideas in the world. 


From Amazon, : The Creator’s Code reveals six skills that make creators of all kinds of endeavors breakthrough. These skills aren’t rare gifts or slim chance talents. Entrepreneurship, Wilkinson demonstrates, is accessible to everyone. The book’s insights provide core guidance for success in the new world of work.

“Creators is the inspiring story of the men and women who are changing our world. Amy Wilkinson has cracked their code and given us all ways to join their ranks. This book is a game-changer and a life-changer.” (Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence)

"Based on 200 interviews with entrepreneurs, this book helps explain the skills needed to be a successful innovator. It's a great guide filled with smart rules for both starting a business and bringing it to scale." (Walter Isaacson)

“Amy Wilkinson promises brilliant insight and delivers. If you’re an entrepreneur or a corporate executive working to stay ahead of the curve, read this book ASAP!” (Joanna Barsh, McKinsey & Company director emeritus and author, Centered Leadership)

“A leading talent of her generation, Amy Wilkinson has poured five years into wresting secrets of success from 200 top entrepreneurs and then boild what she learned into six essential skills. The result is a fresh, insightful book.” (David Gergen, professor of Public Service, codirector of the Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School of Government)

“The shelves groan with books written by entrepreneurs claiming to reveal their unique formula for success. But I like Amy Wilkinson’s more comprehensive, analytical approach. She’s interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs, and from that stack of data has distilled the skills that allowed them to rise to the top. The good news? These are skills that anyone can develop. The added bonus? Wilkinson has a ton of great stories and she tellsthem well.” (Daniel H. Pink, author of To Sell is Human and Drive)

The Creator’s Code provides a roadmap for the next generation of entrepreneurs. Amy Wilkinson’s insights about entrepreneurship, in combination with stories of successes and failures, serves as an inspiration for those looking to create and build new businesses.” (Steve Case, cofounder of AOLand Chairman of UP Global)

“This book isn’t armchair rumination. It’s required reading for anyone lookingto build the next big thing.” (David Kelley, cofounder of IDEO and the Stanford d.School)

“Great entrepreneurs make complexity simple. Amy Wilkinson has done just that. This book offers invaluable clarity on the messy process of building a breakthrough business. An inspiring read for those who will shape the future.” (Matt Cohler, general partner at Benchmark)

"Impressive." (Publishers Weekly)

Monthly Poems

A Calendar of Sonnets: February
Still lie the sheltering snows, undimmed and white;
And reigns the winter's pregnant silence still;
No sign of spring, save that the catkins fill,
And willow stems grow daily red and bright.
These are days when ancients held a rite
Of expiation for the old year's ill,
And prayer to purify the new year's will:
Fit days, ere yet the spring rains blur the sight,
Ere yet the bounding blood grows hot with haste,
And dreaming thoughts grow heavy with a greed
The ardent summer's joy to have and taste;
Fit days, to give to last year's losses heed,
To recon clear the new life's sterner need;
Fit days, for Feast of Expiation placed!

Helen Hunt Jackson

Our Life and Four Seasons

Birth years and spring days
how it all begins to liven up
we see the light of day
and spring begins to lighten our days

Summer days and younger years
days are longer and we are stronger
summer blooms with the warmth of the sun
we bloom with knowledge and love

The fall and mid age
Fall arrives and tries to hold on to the warmth
of the summer
we try to hold on, to our youth and knowledge
fall felt the heat of summer
and then starts to feel, the cold freeze of winter
Mid life seen the joy of youth and hopes
to see the old age of wisdom


Old age and winter
our steps are shorter
and so are the days
winter will end and so will we
to a new beginning and in time
to the holy land
forever and ever amen

Vasco M. Resendes

Light Side

One-liners on the Internet (Part 2):

A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.

My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you're ugly too.

Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.

Jesus loves you, but everyone else thinks you're an asshole.

I like work. It fascinates me. I sit and look at it for hours.

I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.

Some people hear voices.. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.

Hallmark Card: "I'm so miserable without you, it's almost like you're still here."

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


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