Harold Halpern on Israeli Law and Politics

OPINION: US, West must do more to help Ukraine (March 23, 2022)

Ukraine needs boots on the ground to survive. So will the United States and NATO reconsider its decision and confront Russia?

For months American intelligence knew of the possibility that Russia was planning to attack Ukraine without justification. President Joe Biden warned Russia that if it attacked it would suffer sever sanctions that would impair the Russian economy. But at the same time Biden promised the American public that we would not put boots on the ground or planes in the air.

Our threat of sanctions did not deter Russia; it attacked Ukraine.

Ukraine is putting up a valiant fight – it is suffering death, casualties and destruction while attempting to protect its very existence. But there is no end in sight and as Ukraine pleads for military assistance, the decision to rely on sanctions without a military presence is now under question.

Those who question the decision believe it gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a pass to attack. They believe it reflected the weakness of America and other NATO nations. And they believe it could lead to more Russian aggression.

This view has been voiced by Natan Sharansky, the legendary human rights activist who fought for the right of people in the Soviet Union, and particularly those in Jewish communities, to emigrate from that repressive country during the 1960s and 1970s. For his actions Sharansky was convicted in 1977 of treason and espionage, and he was sentenced to 13 years of forced labor – much of which was spent in solitary confinement.

In 1986, Sharansky was released and allowed to go to Israel as part of a prisoner exchange, and he later became a member of that country's parliament and governing cabinet. He is a statesman in the true sense of the word.

In a recent interview with Tablet magazine, Sharansky said this: “From my time among criminals in prison, I know (that everybody) has his knife, but not everybody is prepared to use it. Putin believes that he is willing to use his knife and the West isn’t, that the West can only talk, even if it is physically stronger.”

Sharansky added that Putin is "especially feeling the weakness of America" – in large part because the United States has shown its distaste for military engagement by withdrawing from Afghanistan and Iraq.

"(Putin) really believes he is the strongest leader," Sharansky said, "because he is ready to threaten nuclear war and his enemies are not. He is willing to use his knife.”

The fear of the United States and the West that a world war with nuclear weapons will ensue if they fight alongside Ukraine has left Ukraine alone to fight for not only itself, but also for the whole free world. If the war continues, and if Ukraine is unable to defend its independence, the United States and NATO may need to get off the sidelines.

Failing that, Putin may feel free to attack Estonia, Latvia and/or Lithuania – all of which, like Ukraine, are former Soviet republics that only secured their independence upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

During a mission to some Baltic states in 2017, I and 10 others met with then-President Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia, a small country that borders Russia. During our meeting, Kaljulaid asked us this question: “Will the United States honor its obligation to defend us, a tiny nation, as provided in Article 5 of the NATO agreement?”

That question is sure to be raised again if the United States and the West don’t protect the independent sovereignty of Ukraine, which is a large and vital democracy.

(Read on heraldtribune.com)

Harold Halpern: Israel walking a political tightrope as Russia wages war against Ukraine (March 5, 2022)

I can’t remain silent as Russia attacks Ukraine. I have read many columns analyzing the causes of the war, including claimed policy errors of our government after the breakup of the former Soviet Union (FSU) and President Vladimir Putin’s insatiable quest to restore the FSU and re-establish Russia as a great power in the world. So, too, have I read much about the potential future effects of this war.

I have many Zoom sessions with knowledgeable friends, some of whom have served in the diplomatic corps. Whenever we get to sharing thoughts on the causes of the war, my brother Ralph redirects the conversation. The causes of the war, he reminds us, are for the historians. We must deal with the issue of “what should be done now and what are the outcomes we can foresee.”

So, I’ll adopt that limitation as best as I’m able. President Joseph Biden has made it clear beyond a doubt that the United States will not send military forces of any kind to Ukraine. This has been off the table since Russia’s threat to attack was apparent. This limited the deterrent effect of all other actions we may take. This was a political decision, the rationale for which is that Ukraine, not a member of NATO, is not assured we will come to its defense as we are obligated to for NATO members, including the smaller states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It has been suggested that this is an inadequate justification. One merely need look to South Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, where we aided with strong military forces to save the nations from war and to protect our interests as well as to the two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Vietnam alone almost 60,000 American military lost their lives.

Our president has avoided discussions of these prior wars in making this decision to assure Americans, who are tired of distant wars, that we will not have body bags bringing back our dead, which all public polls show is the public’s strong point of view. Moreover, he doesn’t want to engage in war with Russians for fear of it escalating into a world war. So, this decision also will be left to historians.

President Biden has brought unity in the European Union, in NATO and many countries of the world, to condemn Russia and to invoke serious economic sanctions on Russia, its banks, political leaders, including Putin, and its oligarchs, which will seriously impact its economy. The consensus is that this will, by itself, not deter Russia in its military quest to conquer Ukraine and overturn its democratically elected government.

The consequences, as well as their scope, are uncertain. In the near-term Russian citizens will significantly suffer. Many of their children, husbands, and friends will be killed and wounded. The sanctions have already reduced the value of the ruble, making food and all necessary goods more expensive and reducing their ability to import needed daily items, and the stock market has collapsed. Soon the economy will decline and standard of living seriously impaired.

Tom Friedman of the New York Times wrote on March 2, “Every day that Putin refuses to stop we get closer to the gates of hell.” Surely that is so for Ukrainians. TV reports graphically show the horror. By the time you read this Russia may have toppled much of Ukraine. The consensus is that Putin will not stop until Ukraine is conquered, and a puppet government installed. Then begin the guerilla actions of the Ukrainians to return to freedom in a broken country.

Europe will suffer as they are dependent on Russian natural gas and petrol. There is not enough in the rest of the world to make up for the loss. Today these items are not sanctioned as the damage to European economies will be greater than the benefit of sanctions.

The danger is Russia will increase the prices or use it as a political tool. The Europeans will be sitting on a tinder box as there very well might be a renewal of a cold war with Russia. And one must ask, will Russia attack tiny Estonia and/or Latvia and Lithuania, bordering Russia, and test the United States and NATO which are treaty bound under Article 5 to come to their defense?

The world is interconnected, and all will suffer consequences from the war. But let me write a few words about the potential impact on Israel.

Israel has positive relations with both Ukraine and Russia. There are 1 million or more Russian-speaking Israelis who largely came from the FSU between 1990 and 1999. This makes a natural affinity with the culture of the two countries.

Israel imports from Ukraine mostly foodstuffs with 50% of its wheat coming from Ukraine. The war and its ensuing consequences will make wheat scarce and more costly. Egypt and middle east counties will similarly suffer. Additionally, Israel’s high-tech firms rely on about 20,000 Ukrainian employees. Their continuing status with Israel is in doubt.

Israel’s relations with Russia are more in the geopolitical realm. Russia is filling the American vacuum in the Middle East and is successfully propping up the government of Syria. But at the same time Iran is supporting Hezbollah, a terrorist proxy in the Mideast committed to destroying Israel. Israel regularly bombs military storage facilities and deliveries of weapons coming from Iran to Syria. Russia and Israel have arrangements not to interfere with Israel’s missions.

Israel has a tightrope to walk not to offend Russia but at same time join the West in condemnation of an aggressive war. It has tried to stay quiet by providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine but not weapons or armaments. It unenthusiastically joined in the UN’s condemnation of Russia but even that angered Putin. He lashed out telling the world he doesn’t recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.

Most important, Israel must maintain excellent relations with the Unites States, its principal supporter, and be true to its own value of justice. As a small country this is vital for its survival.

(Read on heraldtribune.com)

Harold Halpern: Israel suffers from false accusation of 'apartheid state' (February 17, 2022)

I planned to write about Israel’s medical and technological developments that benefit the world and about its first responders who immediately rush to countries dealing with sudden humanitarian crises. It’s a wonderful, upbeat, feel-good story. But the repeated claim that Israel is an apartheid state causes me to postpone my intended column.

Israel is a nation of 7 million Israeli Jews from more than 100 countries and 2 million Israeli Arabs, some Christian but mostly Muslim, together with several other religious groups. All are citizens with full and equal rights.

Israel’s Proclamation of Independence on May 14, 1948, provides, "Israel will (develop) the country for the benefit of all …; will be based on precepts of liberty, justice and peace; … will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship education and culture. ..."

These provisions are not just empty words. They have been implemented by the Basic Law (constitutional equivalent) of Human Dignity and Liberty adopted by the Knesset (Israel Parliament). In significant part it states, “Fundamental human rights in Israel are founded upon recognition of the value of the human being, the sanctity of human life, and the principle that all persons are free; these rights shall be upheld in the spirit of the principles set forth in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel.”

The Supreme Court of Israel has unequivocally decided in a number of cases that the provisions for Human Dignity and Liberty incorporates the right of equality and has stricken down laws that infringe on that right in a variety of circumstances, including LGBT and gender equality, right of Palestinians working in Jewish settlements in West Bank to receive equal pay, and in a variety of other situations.

The 20% of Israeli non-Jewish citizens have full voting rights. Arab citizens have been elected to every Knesset, sometimes more or less, than the currently held 14 seats.

One of the Arab parties, Ra’am, headed by Mansour Abbas, is a crucial member of the current government which could not have been formed without his and the Knesset members of his party’s vote for Naftali Bennett as Prime Minister.

Arab Israelis have served on the Israel Supreme Court as well as on lower courts. These Courts have been stalwart in their independence and in protecting democracy. Arab Israelis have served in Israel’s diplomatic corps. A third of the students at Haifa University are not Jewish and Arab and Druze citizens are well represented at other universities. Arab doctors and nurses are a third of the medical profession working side by side with Israeli Jewish doctors and nurses. Almost 50% are the pharmacists in Israel.

Those who proclaim that Israel is an apartheid state because of its occupation of the West Bank and its actions in Gaza ignore history. Israel did not seek the West Bank or Gaza.

The Arab nations rejected the United Nations partition of Palestine into both a Jewish state and an Arab state. They attacked Israel in May 1948 right after it declared its independence. To the shock of the world, Israel, with less than a million Jews, defeated all the Arab armies. The war ended with Jordan in control of eastern Jerusalem, the West Bank and Egypt of Gaza. Neither ever offered the Palestinians a separate state.

From 1948 until 1967 Israel was the victim of terrorist attacks. In 1967 Egypt with Syria and Jordan provoked war against Israel seeking its destruction. Israel defeated their armies in the Six-Day War and reunited Jerusalem and held the West Bank, Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai. The Arab countries refused to negotiate peace or recognition of Israel. Instead, Israel was again unsuccessfully attacked on Yom Kippur 1973 which ultimately led to Peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan and the Oslo agreements with the Palestinian Authority.

The Oslo agreement of 1995 divided the West Bank into Areas A, B and C. Areas A and B, the Palestinian villages, towns and cities of about 2 million, are under Palestinian Authority control, subject to Israel security rights. Until a final agreement is reached Area C, in which about 400,00 Israelis live, mostly close to separation line, is under total Israeli control by military government in accordance with international law.

In 2000 the PA, after rejecting an Israel peace offer negotiated by President Clinton, launched a second intifada against Israel with suicide bombers and terrorists lasting until 2005 killing and injuring thousands of Israeli civilians. Israel constructed a separation barrier which has greatly reduced attacks. Israel must be continually vigilant to keep itself safe from terrorism emanating in the West bank.

Israel left occupancy of Gaza in 2005 and turned it over to the PA to govern. It was overthrown by Hamas which proclaims it will destroy Israel. To protect itself Israel controls the borders of Gaza except the southern, which is controlled by Egypt; but internally Hamas runs the government. It repeatedly engages in attacks on Israel by missiles and incendiary balloons. In May of this year, it shot more than 4,000 rockets on Jerusalem and southern Israel. Israel is forced every few years to control and deter these actions by bombing military and weapon facilities frequently placed by Hamas in civilian areas. Israel warns the civilians before bombing to take cover.

Abbas, the Arab Israeli head of Ra’am, in response to a question at a Washington D.C. online event in February, rejected the word “apartheid” to describe relations between the Jews and Arabs in Israel.

The facts belie the accusation that Israel is an apartheid state. Israel is not a perfect democracy, nor is any country, but it is working to fulfill the democratic aspirations of its Proclamation of Independence while protecting its citizens.

(Read on heraldtribune.com)

Harold Halpern: Updating a letter to a Jerusalem friend (January 22, 2022)

Dear Stu,

A Jan. 11 opinion column by Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times caught my attention. The headline read, “Biden-Cheney 2024?”

Friedman favorably quoted Steven Levitsky, an American political scientist and co-author of “How Democracies Die.” America, he told Freidman “is facing an existential moment.” Friedman then asked if Biden-Chaney is a “crazy idea?” “Not at all” was the response. Levitsky described Biden-Cheney as a “blow-your mind Israeli-style coalition with Democrats” necessary to fulfill the overriding goal to save “our democratic system.”

Friedman recognizes that to achieve a ticket with both a prominent Republican and prominent Democrat each will have to put “on the shelf many (cherished) policy goals." This political fusion, Freidman opines, will create “a small (democracy) and a national unity “that enables more Republicans to leave the Trump cult – without having to …become big-D Democrats.”

(Continue reading)


Israel's fear, and response, if Iran develops nuclear capability (December 11, 2021)

It's been a while since I wrote about the nuclear agreement of July 14, 2015, between Iran, the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. Its ostensible purpose was to prohibit Iran from developing a nuclear weapon by limiting its enrichment of uranium, and to provide with for periodic inspections of nuclear sites to assure compliance. Sunset provisions in the agreement, however, allowed Iran to increase enrichment of uranium in 2016, which reduced breakout time to less than 12 months.

In return for Iran’s promises, economic sanctions were lifted, and frozen assets were released.

The agreement had no provisions limiting Iran’s financial and weapons support of its terrorist proxies, Hezbollah in Lebanon, bordering Israel on the north, and Hamas, bordering Israel on the south in Gaza, as well as guerillas fighting in Yemen, threatening its neighbor Saudi Arabia.

(Continue reading)

Harold Halpern: A call for action and compromise to achieve a 'more perfect Union' (November 26, 2021)

The season of Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas is a time for thankfulness and to shine a light into our lives and the lives of our fellow citizens.

Except for native Americans, we are all immigrants living together in a country that brought forth the first democracy. We all share the aspirations of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

The preamble to the Declaration reads, "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed … with Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness …”

And the Constitution preamble states, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility … and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity … do establish this Constitution.”

This constitution set forth the powers and limitations of government with checks and balances to prevent a dictatorship with a Bill of Rights protecting our individual freedoms including speech and religion.

The founders wrote that they were creating a “more perfect Union,” not claiming it to be “perfect.” Compromise was required to achieve the goal of uniting all the states into one United States.

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Harold Halpern: The Promised Land of Israel belongs to all of its citizens (November 4, 2021)

The New York Times on Oct. 26 carried a front-page column by Patrick Kingsley entitled “Whose Promised Land? Journeying Across a Divided Land.”

Kingsley spent 10 days traveling in Israel and interviewing a handful of Israelis from which he concluded that Israel is a fractured society.

Israel, he wrote, was not a “melting pot … that blended diverse communities into a single Jewish state,” but rather like an unsolvable jigsaw puzzle – "a collection of incompatible factions, each with its own priorities, grievances and history.” 

Let me paint the picture of quite a different Israel. Israel’s Declaration of Independence, proclaimed on May 14, 1947, is a clarion call for democracy providing that “The State of Israel … will be based on precepts of liberty, justice and peace … (and) will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens without distinction of race, creed or sex …. We call upon the Arab inhabitants of the land to play their part … with full and equal citizenship …"

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Harold Halpern: Israel in delicate position between US and China (October 14, 2021)

I previously wrote that President Joseph Biden recognizes that the differences over the West Bank between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are too broad to bridge. Instead of trying to negotiate an overall agreement, he urged both Israel and the PA to do nothing, which makes a two-state agreement more difficult in the future. To facilitate an agreement in some indeterminable time, he strongly expressed his desire that they take actions to mitigate the tensions.

The President’s request is compatible with the Israeli’s government’s desire to shrink the West Bank disputes.

In furtherance of this policy Israel has provided the PA with economic aid and issued more work permits for Palestinians to work in Israel. The PA and Israel, despite their broad differences over the terms of a two-state solution, work together for their mutual benefit against terrorism emanating particularly from Hamas, a common enemy which in 2007 violently overthrew the PA government in Gaza.

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Harold Halpern: Time for a new beginning (September 14, 2021)

The Jewish High Holy Days began on the eve of September 6 with Rosh Hashana and culminate on Yom Kippur on the eve of September 16. Rosh Hashana is the date of the beginning of the world in the Jewish tradition and the date for the beginning of each new year. It is is a time of inner reflection on the past year, a period of atonement and a promise for self-improvement. The Holy Days reach their crescendo on Yom Kippur, a full day of prayer and renewed commitment to live a righteous life. The concluding service reflects the spiritual concept that the Gates of Heaven have been kept open to hear our final prayers and supplications.

“Un Buen Principo” was the greeting for the new year from American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists President, Robert Garson to the organization's members. These three words – in Ladino, the language of the Jews of Spain before their expulsion in 1492, known today by many descendants – capture the essence of the Holy Days: “a new beginning”, a new opportunity to improve our ways and contribute to the well-being of ourselves and all humankind.

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What does US withdrawal from Afghanistan mean for Israel's defense? (August 25, 2021)

I am writing this column in Elul, the Hebrew month during which we take time to reflect on our past year’s actions seeking forgiveness before the Jewish High Holidays starting with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, commemorating the anniversary of the creation of the world and the day on which the world is judged for the coming year.

Initially I thought it would be good to speculate how those who were present at Mount Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments, for the whole world, would react to the modern state of Israel if we transported them there today. Surely Israel would for them be the indisputable proof of God’s existence – God’s modern miracle. They would not understand the skepticism of today. Would they not look about in awe at the human condition, the desert in bloom, the ease of travel, the plenty of food, the cures of illness and say in unison, without our doubt, we have again witnessed the power of God!

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Education bends arc toward equality, dignity, justice (August 3, 2021)

In my last column I wrote about my celebration of our Declaration of Independence and the pursuit of equality and dignity for all people. I quoted Martin Luther King Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I continue with this thought now.

In 1947, 75 years ago, in seventh grade, I was a contestant in the annual Richmond Speaking competition held for Buffalo public school students. We were required to deliver a memorized speech. Mine was written by my father. I don’t remember much of its content except the stirring phrase, “We are not hyphenated Americans, we all are Americans.”

Historically this term was used beginning in the 1890s through the first half of the 1900s to disparage disfavored Americans of different nationality, religion, place of origin or color as if they did not fully share American values. My Dad would have no part of this discrimination and made that clear in my speech.

We have made much progress in the past 75 years in overcoming discrimination and promoting equality and dignity among all Americans but still there is much to do to eliminate discrimination and hatred.

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A reminder to be proud of democracy and the pursuit of equality, dignity (July 4, 2021)

My July 4th began, as does every Sunday since the pandemic, with a Zoom session with cousins from around the world. We had cousins join us from Canada, Argentina, Israel and France.

Our chatting began with a discussion about our Declaration of Independence and its promise that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed … with certain unalienable Rights … among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness … That Governments (derive) their just powers from the consent of the governed …”

All of my cousins share in common that our grandparents or great grandparents were emigrants from the Russian Empire seeking the promise of freedom, liberty, equality and dignity.

We then moved on to each country represented in Sunday’s Zoom.

Canada on July 1 celebrates Canada Day in recognition of its right of self-rule on July 1, 1867.

The French have their Bastille Day holiday on July 14, celebrating a major turning point in the revolution on July 14,1789, leading to its First Republic.

On Nov. 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to establish a Jewish state in its ancestral homeland. Israel’s Declaration of Independence, proclaimed on May 14, 1948, provides that Israel’s government “will be based on precepts of liberty, justice and peace” and “will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens without distinction of race, creed or sex; and calls upon its Arab inhabitants to play their part in the development of the country “with full and equal citizenship."

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A letter to Jerusalem on areas of common interest (June 9, 2021)

Dear Stu: It’s time to share my thoughts about a new government, which may soon be in place unless there is a last-moment defection by one or more former supporters who are under intense pressure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to return to the fold.

This last election, as were the last three elections, was all about Netanyahu and not about issues. He was opposed not only by left and center parties but also by two former supporters: Naftali Bennett, leader of Yamina, and Gideon Saar, leader of New Hope, both right wing parties. The disparate parties were unified by the desire to end Netanyahu’s reign of 12 years.

Not to be misunderstood, Netanyahu’s opponents recognized that he presided over a strong economy, resisted attacks on Israel’s policies and existential right to exist, secured the Abrahamic agreements with United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, all Muslim countries, and kept the country safe from terrorism. However, the change group argued that any success of Netanyahu paled in face of his personal failings as a corrupt and divisive leader under criminal charges.

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Extreme factions escalate Arab-Israeli violence (May 20, 2021)

In my last column I wrote that there were riots in Jerusalem and other cities as Ramadan was coming to a close. The given reason for the riots was that the Israelis were attempting to evict Arabs from their homes in Jerusalem and interfering with their prayers on the Temple Mount and preventing social gatherings.

From the Israeli perspective, Ramadan and prayers at the Mosque frequently produce troubles at the Temple Mount and the social gathering afterward at the Damascus Gate of the “old city.” Frequently the end of Ramadan has resulted in disturbances. Israeli security was present to prevent rioting.

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Netanyahu, a new prime minister, or a fifth election? (May 14, 2021)

After Israel's fourth election in the last two years, Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister for the past 12 years, has been unable to obtain the support from 61 (a majority) members of the Knesset (parliament). The election was not fought on ideological differences but on the question of being for or against Netanyahu.

The opposition parties include right wing, former Netanyahu colleagues, the center, and the left. Among themselves there is a great diversity of political positions. Their common desire is to end the reign of Netanyahu. They believe that Netanyahu is morally corrupt reflected by his trial on charges of bribery and breach of trust.

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Fourth Israeli election in two years brings more uncertainty (April 7, 2021)

Israel’s fourth election in two years was held on March 23. The players are on the stage, but they don’t know if they will stay.

Sixty-one Knesset members must agree upon the prime minister.

Four political parties with compatible right wing platforms won 52 seats last month with members committed to vote for Netanyahu; six parties, with mixed right, left and center agendas, united in opposition to Netanyahu and elected 51 members; and the undecided three parties, two being Israeli parties, and one right wing party, together secured 17 members.

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Halpern: Domestic and international issues confronting Israel (March 15, 2021)

I am asked frequently to identify the domestic and international issues confronting Israel. I will address these questions in today’s and in a following column.

COVID-19 is on everyone’s mind. Israel acted promptly in taking protective measures in locking down its businesses, schools and places of gathering. But public pressure and politics steered the government to open too soon. This led to spikes of illness and death and on-and-off again government-ordered closures and openings. As a result, many Israelis lost confidence leading to protests and refusal of many to adhere to wearing a mask and avoiding public gatherings.

Israel is in the midst of an increase in virus illness and hospitalization, mainly from the British variant, which likely will lead to another closure.

The good news is that Israel has sufficient vaccine and is doing an excellent job of vaccination, which should result in a return to more normalcy in a fairly reasonable time.

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President Biden's approach to the Middle East (February 12, 2021)

President Joseph Biden has gotten off to a running start since he was inaugurated on Jan. 20.

His administration already has announced a good number of their policy desires, not only domestically, but internationally. Overall, we can say that Biden desires to return to an active, reliable role with our allies and to participate constructively in international forums.

President Biden has pointed the direction in which wants to go in relations with Israel, the Palestinians, Iran and the Middle East. The single most pressing issue is relations with Iran. While President Biden and many of his appointees were involved with the Iran nuclear agreement (JCPOA) of 2015, he recognizes that the circumstances have significantly changed since then.

After the JCPOA, Iran continued to support terrorist surrogates in Lebanon and Gaza, threatening Israel as well as aiding terrorists in Yemen, endangering Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Gulf states. Moreover, Iran broke its obligations to fully comply with its inspection and disclosure requirements.

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Israel faces new elections in March with an uncertain outcome (January 8, 2021)

In the midst of trying to control the COVID-19 virus and its economic damage, unemployment and high increase in poverty, the Knesset – the parliament of modern Israel – could not agree on a budget for 2020 and 2021.

This failure caused an automatic dissolution of the Knesset and new elections in March 2021, which will be the fourth in two years. The existing government, with Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, will serve as a holdover, with limited powers, until a new government is in place.

The government, now dissolved, was sworn in on May 20, 2020. It was a so-called unity government consisting of members of Likud, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the Blue White party led by Benny Gantz, two religious parties and members of small parties.

The coalition was fragile. Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz trusted the other. This was reflected in a coalition agreement that gave each veto power over the other. It was in reality a two-headed government.

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Biden’s policies in Israel not expected to surprise (November 27, 2020)

I am most often asked how President-elect Joseph Biden’s policy will impact Israel.

The president-elect has made it clear that controlling COVID-19, restoring our economy and civility is his first priority.

Regardless of any success in reducing angry rhetoric, his domestic agenda of change and reform will be met with strong opposition in our divided government.

Biden has more leeway in the formulation of foreign policy. The president-elect will decide which policies to continue and which to replace. This is particularly true with issues affecting Israel that generally have bipartisan support.

In the last four years, President Donald Trump’s administration altered the landscape of Israel and the Middle East.

The Trump administration accomplished this change by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving the embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing the sovereignty of Israel over the Golan Heights, proposing a peace plan for the West Bank with Israeli sovereignty over 30% of the area and brokering normalization agreements between Israel and Arab United Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

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Former Middle East ambassador sees changed landscape (November 4, 2020)

Dennis Ross, who served in diplomatic roles in the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, says the figurative terrain in the Middle East has changed considerably in recent months.

“The agreement with the UAE has changed the landscape of the Arab nations,” Ross told me during an interview Wednesday, referring to the United Arab Emirates and its normalization of relations with Israel.

The push from the UAE put a stop to the Israeli plan for annexation of 30% of the West Bank and advanced UAE interests. The agreement was the UAE’s idea, Ross emphasized, which then was facilitated by the United States.

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Normalized relations between Israel and United Arab Emirates a game-changer (August 25, 2020)

In my column of Aug. 3, I wrote that Israeli and U.S. inaction stalled annexation in the West Bank. Now we know why.

On Aug. 13, President Donald Trump made the surprise announcement that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel had agreed to “full normalization of relations.”

This is a major milestone. It is the first time an Arab nation has entered into full relationship with Israel that is based upon “peace” for “peace.” Agreements with both Egypt and Jordan were based upon giving up land for peace.

Until the agreement with the UAE, all other Arab nations refused to normalize relations until Israel resolved the Palestinian question in the West Bank.

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Inaction by Israel and United States on West Bank (August 3, 2020)

In my last column on June 30, I wrote that despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated call to begin the process to incorporate the Jordan Valley and West Bank settlements into Israel proper, we could not count on that happening.

There was much international opposition as well as opposition from the Israeli left and right for, of course, different reasons. The left and some of the center feared serious repercussions, and some of the further right feared this suggestion from the Trump Peace Plan would mean acceptance of a Palestinian state, which they reject.

Now it is early August. Talk of action has almost disappeared. Some say that President Donald Trump is too engaged to give Netanyahu a green light with coronavirus infections rising and his campaign for reelection underway.

On the Israeli side, Netanyahu is also burdened with a second and more serious wave of the virus and large daily protests for his and his government’s handling and failure to provide financial relief to its citizens and businesses. At the same time, he is engaged in defending himself against criminal charges with a trial to resume in January.

Others claim that rather then being overwhelmed by the coronavirus and the public reaction to it, Netanyahu and Trump primarily used the promise of incorporating portions of the West Bank into Israel to buttress their standings with their base with no intent to proceed, particularly in light of international protest, fear of uprisings and domestic disagreement.

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Halpern: Letter to a Friend in Jerusalem (June 29, 2020)

Dear Stu:

Time to catch up. I appreciate your sending me current articles to make sure I am up to date.

I recently wrote in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune about the mutually exclusive Israeli and Palestinian narrative claims to all of Israel and the West Bank.

Simply stated, the Palestinians view the Israelis as invaders without entitlement, and the Israelis view that they have returned home to their land to which the Palestinians have no claim.

This conflict has led to three wars by Arab nations to remove Israel from the map: 1948 upon Israel’s Declaration of Independence ; 1967, in which Israel beat back the Arab armies and in process acquired the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Golan Heights and the Sinai; the Yom Kippur war of 1973 in which Israel successfully defended itself.

After the ’73 war, Egypt and Jordan made peace recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt.

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The conflicting narratives of Israelis and Palestinians (June 22, 2020)

On Yom Kippur Oct. 6,1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel without warning. The surprise initially left Israel reeling. The Arab world celebrated the demise of Israel.

However, Israel regrouped, and with material aid from the United States went on the offensive and succeeded in turning back the attack.

Egypt’s initial success enabled it to proclaim a victory, which is celebrated as a holiday.

Egypt’s perceived victory enabled President Anwar Sadat to sign a peace treaty with Israel on March 26, 1979, and obtain the return of the Sinai. This was followed by a peace treaty with Jordan on Oct. 26, 1994.

Subsequently, Israel annexed the Golan Heights, unified Jerusalem into one city and withdrew from Gaza.

Today, Israel’s existence is threatened by Hezbollah on the north and on the south by Hamas in Gaza, both supported by Iran, seeking the destruction of Israel.

Israel continues to occupy the West Bank. Efforts have been made to reach a two-state solution for 20 or more years.

The Oslo Accords, 1993 and 1995, between the Palestinian Authority and Israel divided the West Bank into Areas A, B and C. Areas A and B are controlled by the PA (security by Israel in Area B) and Area C completely by Israel. These accords expressed the hope that a final agreement could be reached.

In a summit meeting with President Clinton in July 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Chairman Arafat of the PA 90% of the West Bank, subject to Israeli control over security. It was not accepted. Arafat, in addition to land, wanted to secure the right of return of millions of descendants to Israel of former Palestinians.

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Halpern: The conflicting narratives of Israel and Palestinians (June 16, 2020)

Early this year, President Trump released his peace plan to settle issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, or PA.

The plan requires a give and take on both sides. Israel could incorporate all settlements with a total of 450,000 settlers in the West Bank, as well as the Jordan Valley. In return, Israel is required to accept a Palestinian State for the 2 million Palestinians on the remaining 70% of the West Bank, with Israel in charge of all aspects of security.

The parties have four years to negotiate all details, during which time Israel cannot enlarge or develop new settlements.

The PA announced the deal was an illegal taking of the Palestinian’s property and dead on arrival. It refused to negotiate with the United States or Israel. It canceled all agreements with the U.S. and mutual security protection understandings with Israel.

Jordan condemned any unilateral Israel action and expressed concern that violence might break out if Israel proceeds.

The Arab League joined in the opposition.

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Sarasota attorney: Will coalition government last in Israel? (May 14, 2020)

I have been writing this column on Israel for almost a year. During all this time, Israel was unable to form a government. Two elections failed to produce the required majority. Benjamin Netanyahu continued to act as a carryover prime minister with limited power.

The third election on March 2 produced a similar deadlock. The Likud coalition of parties led by Netanyahu could not get the 61 Knesset member votes to form a government nor could the Blue and White coalition led by Benny Gantz.

It appeared Israel was headed to a fourth election in the midst of the coronavirus.

Gantz averted an election by breaking his promise not to serve with Netanyahu while the prime minister was under indictment on serious criminal charges. This was required, he claimed, by the urgent need for a government to deal with the virus and other critical issues. His party’s 15 votes were needed for the 61.

Gantz’ action drew praise as an act of courage for the good of the country and was condemned by others as a breach of a promise to rid the country of Netanyahu.

Gantz lost 21 members of his coalition, 16 of whom were members of his Blue and White party. The coalition has 72 members of the Knesset and the Opposition 48.

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Israeli coalition agreement: compromise or sell-out? (April 22, 2020)

Last week, I wrote that an agreement for a coalition government was hanging by a thread.

Benny Gantz’s mandate to form an agreement expired. By law any member of the Knesset could form a government if 61 members signed off in agreement. Benjamin Netanyahu, on behalf of Likud and its coalition, and Benny Gantz, on behalf of Blue White and its coalition, continued negotiations.

If a deal was to be made it had to be almost immediately. The Knesset was about to be called into session to consider legislation to bar Netanyahu from serving as prime minister while under indictment.

Regardless of the outcome of the proposed law, there was little or no chance of any member coming up with 61 signatures to form a government. The law then required a fourth election within a few months. The public didn’t want to again go to the polls in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Likely Netanyahu and Gantz didn’t want to chance the uncertain outcome of another expensive election. On Monday, an agreement to form a unity government was signed by the two men and a fourth election was avoided.

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Sarasota attorney: Thread of hope that fourth Israeli election can be avoided (April 17, 2020)

I had hoped this column would discuss issues facing a new unity government in Israel, but negotiations have broken down. Instead, I will discuss the purported reasons for the failure as well as the next steps in the process of forming a government.

President Reuvan Rivlin designated Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue White Party, the opportunity to obtain a commitment for 61 votes from the newly elected Knesset to become prime minister.

Gantz abandoned his refusal to sit with Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Likud and its coalition, while Netanyahu is under indictment for criminal charges as prime minister. Gantz said he was forgoing his promise because the country needed a government to deal with the coronavirus and could not wait on a fourth election.

About 20 members of Blue and White agreed. The rest — about 13 or so — refused and left the party willing to sit as a part of the opposition.

Gantz had 28 days to reach a negotiated deal with Likud to resolve the issues facing the country, appointments to the cabinet and rotation of the prime minister between Netanyahu and Gantz. The issues are complex with significant differences requiring compromise.

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Sarasota attorney: Israel finally has a government (March 26, 2020)

In my last column, I wrote that the coronavirus might be the ingredient to propel a unity government in Israel.

It happened not immediately but after both the Right and Left-Center failed in their separate efforts to going it alone.

The Israeli public was dead set against a fourth election. A functioning government put together in a constitutional manner saved Israel’s threatened democracy.

Benny Gantz, the leader of Blue-White, made a decision on Thursday that was an act of courage. For the good of the country, beleaguered by the ravages of the virus, the always-present threats to Israel’s existence and the urgent need for a functioning government, Gantz agreed to serve with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

This decision was despite his deep-felt belief that Netanyahu should not continue while under indictment. Gantz knew that two party leaders would leave his coalition and enter the opposition, blowing up his Blue-White party. And yet he acted for what he felt was for the better good. About 20 members of his party will join him as part of the new government that will have a solid majority numbering in the mid-70s.

The government will be Likud, Gantz faction, the two religious parties and Yamina.

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Sarasota attorney: Coronavirus might aid formation of Israeli government (March 17, 2020)

The coronavirus has put the world in uncharted territory. We don’t know its duration or full impact. Ironically, it may be the impetus to resolve the inability of the political parties in Israel to form a government after three deadlocked elections in the past year.

The March 2 election saw a few changes, but not enough for the Right coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu or the Center-Left coalition led by Benny Gantz. The Right parties won 58 seats and the Center-Left 40 seats. Sixty-one are necessary to form a government and select a prime minister.

Two unaligned parties won seats. Yisrael Beiteinu won seven seats and the Joint List of Israeli Arabs won 15.

Initially, Netanyahu celebrated victory — he assumed he could peel three disenchanted members away from the Center-Left. The celebration turned to distress when the three unhesitatingly rejected all overtures.

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Sarasota attorney: Is Trump plan last chance for Palestinian state?

I haven’t written in a while. I was waiting to see if there was any change in the deadlock within the Israeli political parties. It appears unlikely.

As recently reported by the Herald-Tribune, the polls are projecting that neither the Right, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau, or Center-Left, lead by Benny Gantz, are getting a majority of seats.

This means no new government unless: 1. There is a greater voter turnout for the Right giving it enough seats. 2. Yisrael Beiteinyu, led by Avigdor Liberman, casts its votes for Netanyahu (unlikely). 3. Yisrael Beiteinyu casts its votes for Gantz and participates in a minority government dependent on Israeli Arab coalition outside of government voting to block its dissolution (uncertain). 4. The coalition of Left-Center and Right with Gantz as PM rotating with Netanyahu, if he is acquitted. Or 5. Netanyahu making a deal on criminal charges in return for resigning from the Knesset.

In the meantime, Netanyahu, with support of the United States, keeps the peace plan up front. There was full public publicity as the map makers from U.S. arrived in Israel. The maps are a precondition of U.S. approval of annexation of settlements and Jordan Valley. Netanyahu promises to please his base that annexation will take place as soon as the maps are completed.

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Sarasota attorney: What is the impact of the peace plan on the Israeli election (February 4, 2020)

The U.S. and Israel elections are connected.

On Jan. 28, the Israeli Knesset was to consider Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for immunity from prosecution on criminal charges. Most Israelis opposed immunity. Netanyahu withdrew his request because he didn’t have the votes.

Immediately, the criminal charges for bribery and breach of trust were filed, starting the criminal proceedings.

Netanyahu continues his campaign for election, denying all charges.

The prime minister seeks to distract from this issue. He has renewed his promise to annex the Jordan Valley. Given the violence in the Middle East, Israelis agree that the Jordan Valley is essential to Israel’s security along its eastern border. In a political ploy, Netanyahu asked his principal opponent, Benny Gantz, to join him in supporting annexation. Gantz did, but to distinguish his position, he said his agreement was subject to international consent.

Netanyahu attacked Gantz on his equivocation.

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Sarasota attorney: Will maneuvers in Israel change the election results? (January 20, 2020)

In my last column I wrote that the third election effort to form a government in Israel on March 2 looks as if it will again be indecisive with neither Benjamin Netanyahu or Benny Gantz able to garner a coalition of the necessary 61 Knesset seats.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz continue to maneuver to improve their chances.

Before discussing what they have been up to, I am making a detour to share my feelings about a sold-out concert on Jan. 12 at the Opera House. Azi Schwartz, world class cantor, treated us to an emotionally uplifting night with Hebrew songs of prayer and classical and Broadway music. This was a perfect antidote to the anxiety of recent hate crimes and anti-Semitic acts decried by the editorial board of the Herald-Tribune.

Now, back to what Netanyahu and Gantz and their coalition partners have been up to since the failed election of last September.

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Sarasota attorney: A third deadlocked Israeli election leads to deal-making (January 7, 2020)

Retired Sarasota attorney Harold Halpern writes about the possible outcomes of the upcoming March election, the third effort to form a government.

Editor’s note: This is a letter that retired Sarasota attorney Harold Halpern, a board member of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, wrote to a friend in Israel.

Yes, I am well. I have been sorting out the significance of the Israel failure in two elections to form a government. Part of the explanation is the Israeli Parliamentary system.

You vote for a party slate and not an individual. A party needs to obtain only 3.25% of the total vote to get proportional representation in the Knesset. This makes it easy to form a political party. The result is multiple parties. In the history of Israel, no party has won a majority. Every government has been formed only by putting a coalition together.

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Sarasota attorney: A letter of concern about the future of Israel in deadlock (December 9, 2019)

Retired Sarasota attorney Harold Hallpern sent this letter to a friend in Israel, writing about the potential outcome of the government deadlock in that nation.

Editor’s note: This is a letter that retired Sarasota attorney Harold Halpern, a board member of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, wrote to a friend in Israel.

Letter to Stu:

I haven’t written for a while as I was waiting to see how things played out during what may be the final efforts to form a government. As the end time is fast approaching, I write to let you know how things appear from here.

The members of the Knesset have until this coming Wednesday to gather 61 member signatures proposing any of its members to give a try to form a government. If the signatures are not obtained, a third election is mandatory. If obtained, there will be two more weeks of negotiations to avoid the election.

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Sarasota attorney: Israel on a precipice (November 22, 2019)

Retired Sarasota attorney Harold Halpern lays out the current perils in Israel and the possible solutions, many which would require an act of courage.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill: Democracy is messy, but there is nothing better.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s holdover prime minister, has been charged with committing three crimes: accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust. He is the first sitting prime minister to be charged with criminal conduct.

Just hours before the charges were made against Netanyahu, Benny Gantz announced that he was unable to secure 61 Knesset member votes necessary to succeed Netanyahu as PM.

Now Israel is in a 21-day period in which any member of Knesset may secure 61 signed votes to form a government. Under Israeli law, Netanyahu continues until a successor is chosen, he resigns or replaced. If no one secures the 61 votes an election — the third in a year — must be held.

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Sarasota attorney: Whither now for Israel? (October 30, 2019)

This past week I and two colleagues spoke to an attorneys group in New York City and to a Jewish Federation of West Massachusetts-sponsored event in Springfield, Massachusetts, about Israel. Both were interactive sessions. Here are their questions and our answers.

Q. Are there divisions in Israeli about the role of religion?

A. Yes, over the control the orthodox Jewish rabbinate has in compelling enforcement of Sabbath rules against public transportation and closure of business and entertainment.

There is a divide over the Orthodox rabbinic control over conversion, marriage, divorce, burial solely in accord with its rules to the exclusion of other streams of Judaism and prohibition of civil marriage.

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Sarasota attorney: Ray of light hard to see, but it’s there in Israel election (October 8, 2019)

The newly elected Knesset met in its first session on Sept. 3. On the face of it, no solution to the deadlock in forming a government was on the horizon. Neither the meetings, held before the opening of the Knesset, between Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Likud, and Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue-White, nor the meeting of Netanyahu with Avigdor Liberman, leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, produced any results.

President Reuben Rivlin, as is the custom, opened the first session with presidential greetings. He pleaded with the parties to compromise and to form a broad national unity coalition.

“This is a time of emergency for Israel security, Israel society and Israel democracy. Only a unity government would allow us to breathe a little bit and heal” our divisions, Rivlin said.

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Sarasota attorney: Netanyahu’s gambit to remain Israeli PM (September 23, 2019)

My recent columns indicated that the Israeli elections were too close to call.

Now the official Israeli Knesset election reports are just about complete. The contest is between Likud lead by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a coalition of parties of the right and the Blue White party lead by Benny Gandt and coalition of center- left parties.

Likud won 31 seats and its coalition 55-56 seats. Blue-White won 33 seats and its coalition 43 seats. The uncommitted Israel Beiteinu party, led by Avigdor Lieberman 8-9 seats and the Joint Arab List party, led by Ayman Odeh 12-13 seats.

Sixty-one seats are required to form a government and select the prime minister. Netanyahu is short five to six seats and Gantz is short 18.

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At issue in Israel’s election battle (September 10, 2019)

As the Sept. 17 elections to fill seats in Israel’s Knesset, or parliament, approach, multiple parties are seeking to maximize their vote to secure their share of in the proportional allocation.

The major contestants are Likud led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in coalition with other right parties and the Blue White party, led by Benny Gantz in coalition with other center left parties. Despite coalitions, each party wants to maximize votes to enhance its bargaining position in negotiations to form a government that requires at least 61 votes of the 120-member Knesset.

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Sarasota attorney: Strategies shaping Israeli election (September 4, 2019)

In my last column I wrote about the impact of the new government on Israeli policies.

The latest is that 56 Knesset seats for the Right coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and 55 seats for the Blue White coalition headed by Benny Gantz and nine Knesset seats to Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party. Sixty-one votes are required to select a prime minister to form the government.

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Sarasota attorney: Impact of Israel election on policies (August 26, 2019)

Over the past several weeks, I wrote about issues of concern not only to Israelis but to Americans. Now I write about the potential impact of the Sept. 17 election on many of those issues dependent on which group forms the government, the right led by Likud or the center-left led by the Blue and White.

Democracy: The election between the right and center-left is expected to be close. If the right wins, the government will include Ayele Shaked, the head of the United Right, who was the Minister of Justice in the last government. She severely criticized the Supreme Court of Israel as too liberal and too willing to invalidate the will of the people by declaring government actions unconstitutional. She proposed to politicize judicial appointments, to limit the areas in which the court could act and to permit the Knesset to override the court’s decisions. If the proposals were to become law, they would weaken the court’s independence and ability serve as a check on actions of the government ⁠— a weakened democracy.

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Sarasota attorney: Is Netanyahu’s time coming to a close? (August 15, 2019)

Israel’s next Knesset, its parliament, will be elected on Sept. 17, 2019.

A word about the process. There are 120 members in the Knesset. Each political party, or parties if they decide to run jointly, selects a slate of candidates. The voters vote for their preferred slate and not for any individual candidate.

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Sarasota attorney: Is a two-state solution in Israel possible (August 1, 2019)

Many have suggested that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians could be resolved only by the “two-state solution.” However, all efforts to reach this solution have failed during the last 70 years. Nahum Barnea, an Israeli prize-winning journalist, told a group of us during a recent visit to the Middle East that “there is now no solution to the West Bank.”

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Sarasota attorney: Israeli court protects democracy (July 18, 2019)

The Israel Supreme Court consists of 15 judges who serve until age 70 and are selected by a professional, nonpolitical-controlled committee. Early on, after the establishment of the state of Israel, the Supreme Court decided, following the precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court, that it had the power, authority and duty to determine whether actions of government and or laws of Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) were constitutional. This power, this authority, is the basic fundamental check to ensure democracy is not threatened (click link below to continue reading).



Sarasota attorney: Are American and Israeli Jews Drifting Apart? (July 10, 2019)

In this column, I am writing about the relations of American Jews and Israeli Jews. Before doing so, I have a minor correction to my last article. Area B of the West Bank is controlled by the Palestinians except for Israeli control over security. Area C is controlled completely by Israel.

American Jews and Israeli Jews today come from two different backgrounds. Jews in America grew up in a society giving the greatest opportunity they ever enjoyed — despite shortcomings on the way. Jewish prosperity stems in part from the liberal democratic order that permitted this freedom. Jews as a minority are protected by this liberal order. So many Jews want to protect this order.

Israeli Jews in contrast are a majority. Many are preoccupied with majority rights and view liberal democracy protection of minorities impinging on majority rights.

And of course Israel’s very existence for its 72-year current history still is threatened by its surrounding neighbors, which tests the tenets of democracy as those in the United States have been tested in times of stress during our wars.

These differences lead to some stress in the relationships, particularly from younger generations. Many American Jews of the liberal order are skeptical of Israeli commitment to peace with Palestinians. However, many Israelis have negative feelings about criticism from U.S. Jews who are not living in threatened conditions. They also are upset that most American Jews supported the Iran agreement, which they felt endangered their survival (click link below to continue reading).



Sarasota attorney: Tackling issues of the West Bank, Golan Heights (July 5, 2019)

I begin writing this column from the lounge at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport awaiting our flight to return home. We have had a rich experience engaging with leaders of diverse backgrounds and opinions on vital topics. Now I am finishing this column on my flight home. There is recent speculation that Israel may annex a portion or all of West Bank and the Golan Heights. Each presents a different legal analysis. We explored the legal issues in our dialogues. There is a divide between right and left.

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Sarasota attorney on visit’s discussion of BDS and religious pluralism (July 1, 2019)

I turn now to BDS, a serious effort in the U.S., Europe and the world to damage the status and economy of Israel and in the U.S. to turn students, universities and others away from support and business dealings with Israel. On college campuses, BDS presses to boycott and divest and sometimes intimidates Jewish students. On the economic front, no significant damage has been done, but the stress on Jewish students can be severe.

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Questions about democracy in Israel, the basis and status (June 27, 2019)

On July 19, 2018, the Knesset adopted a Basic Law entitled “Israel — The Nation State of the Jewish People,” which declares that Israel is the state of the Jewish people and sets forth the state’s symbols and capital as the undivided Jerusalem, Hebrew as its official language with Arabic having special status, and affirms its connection with the Jewish people and encourages settlement as a national value.

The new law incorporates that portion of the Declaration of Independence that iterates Israel is a Jewish nation, but raises the question whether it impinges on the portion of the Declaration that declares in powerful words that Israel shall be a democratic state and shall extend equal rights to all citizens including Arabs and minorities (click link below to continue reading)



Sarasota attorney off to Israel to hold diverse dialogues (June 20, 2019)