Against the background of increasingly heated internal opposition, the direction of the Israeli government is becoming clearer.
Depending on one’s political point of view, Prime Minister Netanyahu is either unable or unwilling to resist the internal forces within large sections of his party and coalition, or is proactively pushing his agenda.
Whilst the government has dropped some parts of its original judicial reform proposals, it is currently moving forward on removing the power of the judiciary to be able to use the assessment of “reasonableness” when dealing with decisions by individual cabinet ministers.
This is the focus of the current demonstrations and various refusals to do voluntary reserve duty.
Simultaneously, on other fronts, the government is proceeding with its agenda such as to allow increased settlement construction.
In a widely covered podcast with Lex Fridman, Netanyahu outlined in some detail, his idea of a resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian situation.
Based in part on the Trump Plan of 2020 which left all Israelis and Arabs in situ in Area C, with neither having to move from their homes, but connecting Jewish towns and villages with each other by a series of roads, bridges or tunnels and similarly connecting Arab towns and villages to each other.
And without changing the status quo in Areas A and B where there are no Jewish settlements.
“They’re going to live in enclaves in sovereign Israel, and we’re going to live in probably enclaves there, probably through transportation contiguity as opposed to territorial contiguity.
We can live among Arabs and Arabs can live among Jews.
What is being advanced by those people who say that we can’t live in our ancestral homeland in these disputed areas – nobody says that these are Palestinian areas, and nobody says that these are Israeli areas. We claim them, they claim them. We’ve only been attached to this land for oh, 3,500 years. But it’s a dispute, I agree. But I don’t agree that we should throw out the Arabs, and I don’t think that they should throw out the Jews.”
Regarding the future Palestinian entity Netanyahu said: “People say ‘Yeah, but it’s not a perfect state.’ Okay. Call it ‘limited sovereignty.’ Call it ‘autonomy-plus.’ Call it whatever you want to call it. But that’s the reality.”
The Biden administration continues to attempt to influence the Israeli political situation directly, openly and in a way it would not with other close allies, whilst maintaining or even increasing military and intelligence co-operation with Israel in a two-tier approach.
They are pushing Israel to minimise judicial reform under the slogan of ‘shared vales’ and opposing anything that damages the mantra of the ‘Two State solution’.
The US is signalling support for Israel generally, whilst at the same time showing its displeasure with the government.
This approach is well demonstrated by inviting President Herzog to a meeting at the White House and with the added rare honour of addressing the joint Houses of the US Congress, whilst at the same time, only just now, issuing Prime Minister Netanyahu a belated invitation to meet with President Biden.
This tension in US Israel relations is unhealthy for the relationship and for those watching on who might seek to take advantage of it.
Whilst the US relationship with Israel is crucial, it is important to remember that other countries also have a role to play in international forums such as the United Nations and elsewhere, and every country counts.
What a different atmosphere it was on the Gold Coast on the 3rd and 4th of July when, for the second time only in Australia, over 500 people gathered for the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast (JPB).
The JPB is held in various cities all over the world.
The Breakfast was two days of uplifting emotions, support for Israel, a general feeling that the Jewish People are not alone and in the knowledge that Israel has many friends.
To quote from Albert Veksler who with Robert Ilatov are the world wide co-chairs of these events, and who came from Israel especially for the Australian JPB: “We saw something phenomenal that we haven’t seen before – governments sent their official representatives to the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast Gold Coast: Prime Minister of Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka sent Deputy Prime Minister Gavoka; Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape sent the Minister of Community Development and Religion, the Hon. Jason Peter MP; the Vanuatuan Prime Minister Kalsakau sent the Deputy Speaker of the Vanuatu Parliament, the Hon. Noris Kalmet MP and Jean Baptist Tama MP; the Cook Islands were represented by Minister of the Crown, Hon. Vainetutai Rose Toki-Brown MP and the Solomon Islands were represented by the Hon. Peter Kenilorea Jr. MP.”
Altogether, representatives from 16 nations took part.
Mayor of the City of Gold Coast, Tom Tate, hosted and there were other dignitaries present from Australia as well.
It was amazing to see the coming together of so many Christian Zionist groups at the one event.
The Australian Jewish community participated with a number of attendees of which NSW Jewish Board of Deputies President David Ossip, Dayan of the Beth Din Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, Head of the NSW Rabbinic Council Rabbi Shua Solomon, Jewish Agency and Aliyah Shlicha Orit Elkayam Cohen and myself, on behalf of the Zionist Federation, spoke at the event itself.
Local organisers headed by Pastor Jamie Pryor and Jane O’Neill did a fantastic job in ensuring the JPB was a major success.
Importantly, Israel was ably represented by two members of the Knesset, Ohad Tal MK and Tatiana Mazarsky MK, along with Ambassador Amir Maimon, showing the support and appreciation all sides in Israel have for the JPB.
Indeed, if the demonstration of unity and dialogue and commonality of purpose presented by the two MK’s, one from Bezalel Smotrich’s party and the other from Yair Lapid’s, could be duplicated more widely inside Israel, as well as with the world generally, the situation would be very different.