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Netanyahu: Don't Lecture Us on Democracy


Sunday morning, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu deflected criticism by the left against support of the Citizenship Law, which would require prospective citizens agree to support Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. He said that the left "has no business lecturing us on democracy and enlightenment.

"There is no other democracy in the Middle East and there is no other Jewish state in the world," Netanyahu said. "This is the basis of our existence, and anyone who wants to join us must understand this."

Israeli Cabinet Approves Controversial Citizen Loyalty Oath

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jer4usalem) & Ha'aretz

Israel's Cabinet approved a controversial loyalty oath Sunday that requires new non-Jewish citizens to pledge allegiance to a "Jewish and democratic" state. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the oath reflects the essence of the State of Israel. Critics countered that it would widen the existing gap between Jews and Arabs.

Netanyahu told the Cabinet that many in the world are trying to blur the connection between the Jewish people and their national homeland. He said Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and there is no other Jewish state in the world. "Those who wish to join us must recognize this," he said.

The bill, which must be passed by parliament to become law, is largely symbolic because it only applies to new citizens. But Israeli Arabs, who make up 20 percent of the population, and who tend to identify with their Palestinian brothers, describe the loyalty oath as racist.

Israeli-Arab parliamentarian Ahmed Tibi said his people should not have to pledge allegiance to a Jewish state that practices discrimination. He believes the bill could have an impact on Middle East peace talks. "The Arab states should demand from Israel that any agreement with Israel should include total equal rights for the Arab citizens of the State of Israel."

The loyalty oath is also linked to an Israeli demand in peace talks that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinians have refused on grounds that it harms the rights of Israeli Arabs, and of Palestinians who seek to return to their former homes in Israel.

Twenty-two ministers voted in favor of the amendment, including most of Likud. The divided cabinet spent hours deliberating Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman's proposed amendment to the Law of Citizenship ahead of the vote, including a proposal by Ne'eman himself that the pledge apply to Jews and non-Jews alike.

Defense Minister and Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak warned earlier Sunday that he would vote against the amendment unless the cabinet agreed to include in the draft an allusion to Israel's Declaration of Independence. Neither of those amendments was included in the final draft passed by cabinet.

As Talks Failure Looms, Obama's Trip to Israel a Matter of Timing


President Barack Obama will visit Israel, and it is only a "matter of timing," according to Politico website's Ben Smith, who quoted White House advisor David Axelrod. "The timing is important in terms of, how we can maximize that visit in a way that's most constructive?" Axelrod was quoted as saying in response to a question posed to the president by Elie Wiesel.

A visit may be Obama's "ace up his sleeve" as his Middle East peace initiative has ground to a halt and is causing tension within Obama's administration, according to Laura Rozen of Politico.

Recent reports indicated that Obama has performed an end-run around the State Department and Middle East envoy George Mitchell, whose relations with the Netanyahu government are far from warm. Instead, he has put his trust in Dennis Ross, a veteran negotiator who was involved in the failed Oslo talks and who enjoys a better rapport with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

It was Ross who presented Israel with an unwritten proposal that Netanyahu extend the freezing on building new homes for Jews for another 60 days in return for guarantees: the Palestinian Authority and Israel would have to decide on final borders for a new PA state, the United States would not back a United Nations resolution on talks with the PA for one year Israel, and the Obama government would recognize Israel's security needs in the Jordan Valley and elsewhere.

Regardless of Netanyahu's reaction, which is not known, the president's deploying Ross undermines Mitchell's position, Rozen wrote. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has enjoyed general approval by Mitchell for the PA's demands, in line with long-time State Department policies against a Jewish presence in all of the land restored to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.

Rozen reported that one sign of the friction in Washington is the expected departure of Mitchell's top aide, Mara Rudman, who reportedly has differed with Ross. "The question asked by the [Middle East] parties is, `Who is actually formulating the policy? Who is the conceptualizer here?'" former deputy Middle East Quartet envoy Robert Danin wondered.

He told the Council on Foreign Relations last week, "The best I can answer is, it is President Obama. I don't think anyone inside State or the National Security Council is actually the conceptualizer other than the president himself. He seems to be the one who is driving" the policy.

The "peace talks" ball may become a time bomb for Obama. The Arab League threw the issue back into his lap Saturday, declaring that it would give him one month to pressure Israel to extend the 10-month building freeze that expired September 26.

Recent polls have dashed any hopes by the Obama administration that the Opposition in Israel can force Netanyahu to form a new coalition with Kadima, whose leader Tzipi Livni stated last week that she favors renewing the freeze in order to renew direct talks with Abbas.

Netanyahu and other coalition leaders have pointed out the freeze originally was intended to have the same result but that Abbas balked until the building moratorium nearly expired.

Latma TV: 'Obama's Underwater Fantasy'


The Latma political satire group has come up with a new commentary on American efforts to pressure Israel into more concessions to the Palestinian Authority, one that promises to be as bitingly funny as the others in its repertoire. The satire features a mime of Obama, who says Israel can be safe--if it lives under the sea.

"The talks with the Palestinians are once again facing a crisis," announces tongue-in-cheek lead news anchor Ronit Avrahamof Shapira in the latest offering, posted over the weekend. No, that's an item from last week," corrects her co-anchor Elchanan Even-Chen.

"Ahh, wait... "No, it's from a month ago," Shapira responds, glancing down at her copy. "Here, this is from today," Even-Chen says, holding up the script to show her.

"Thanks," Shapira murmurs. "The talks with the Palestinians are once again facing a crisis," she resumes. "The United States is applying pressure on both sides, both on Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. Good day to President Barak Obama."

Thus begins "Obama's underwater fantasy," a musical extravaganza sung to the tune of Disney's "Under the Sea," the musical panoply in the animated movie, "The Little Mermaid." The newest Latma TV clip, which focuses on U.S. pressure on Israel to encourage the PA to remain in the talks, appeared October 8 on the YouTube self-promotion video website.

"Mister Obama, it's always the same story. They threaten to leave the negotiating table and you pressure us to give in. Why only us?" the news anchors ask Noam Jacobson, the actor posing as President Barack Obama.

"Because it doesn't help to pressure them," the Obama character replies. He goes on to explain, "This world is too dangerous for you. You need a safe place. I just want to see you happy. And I have a great solution!" He suggests Israelis can be safe and happy if they live under the sea, where there is no water shortage.

Shepherded along by executive producer Shlomo Blass and editor in chief Caroline Glick, Latma has produced numerous wildly popular satires over the past year, each pulling hundreds of thousands of hits in their various versions.

Missionary Convicted of Striking Jewish Man


A Christian missionary who did not "turn the other cheek," but rather struck a Jewish man in Arad, who was demanded that the missionary not film him, was convicted Sunday of assault and causing damage to his victim. Sentencing will take place at a later date.

According to the complainant, the missionary was filming the scene in the Arad business center, while he and a partner distributed missionary materials. The victim demanded that the missionary not film him as passed through the center, but the latter refused.

An argument broke out between the two, and at one point the missionary stuck the victim hard across his ear, dislodging and damaging his hearing aid. In court, the victim said that he had wanted to ensure that people did not mistake his appearing in the film the missionary was apparently preparing as support for their activities. After several witnesses spoke up for the victim, the court convicted the missionary.

Israeli Orchestra to Play Music of Wagner, Hitler's Favorite


An Israeli orchestra plans to play the music of Wagner, a favorite of Hitler, at a German festival in Bayreuth, despite incorrect reports by Israel's mass media that the performance has been cancelled.

Wagner's music is considered taboo, and Holocaust survivors' groups have led a long-time protest that has prevented Wagner's compositions from being performed in Israel. Wagner himself also held strongly anti-Semitic views and once wrote that Jews were only capable of producing money-making music and not works or art.

The ban on his music by Israeli performers has also been upheld outside Israel, but Wagner's great-granddaughter Katharina had planned to visit Israel this week to officially invite the orchestra to perform the music at a Wagner festival in Bayreuth in southern Germany. She told the London Guardian that she wanted the Israeli orchestra to play at the German festival in an attempt to "heal wounds," but she cancelled her trip to Israel after a protest followed a report in the media which incorrectly stated that the performance also was cancelled.

"The only thing that has changed is that she cancelled her visit to Israel," Israel Chamber Orchestra spokeswoman Merav Magen Lelie told Israel National News. "This is the first time Wagner will be performed by an Israeli orchestra." he Israeli orchestra's musicians are free to opt out of participating, and none of the rehearsals will take place in Israel. Lelie said that so far, all of the orchestra's members intend to perform in Bayreuth.

She pointed out that opposition to Wagner's music by Holocaust survivors and their relatives is not universal. She said that the chamber orchestra's music director Roberto Paternostro's grandparents were murdered in the Holocaust. Several years ago, he rediscovered his Jewish roots through his mother, who had married a non-Jew.

Opposition to performing Wagner's works is widespread. Ephraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was quoted in the Guardian as saying, "Wagner cannot apologize. It's a closed book. There is no way of making up for his anti-Semitic writings."

Holocaust survivor Noah Klieger told the Germany news agency Deutsche Welle last week, "Wagner was the father of the theory of the races; he was the first one to claim that there was a master race - the Germans – and a low-class race - the Jews. He was the first to explain this in writing.

"We don't need reconciliation with Wagner. We have reconciliation with Germany. We have nothing against the new German generations. I go to Germany very often.... But Wagner is the same Wagner - whether it's today or 100 years ago, it's the same Wagner with the same theory…. He was one of the greatest composers ever, but this has nothing to do with his theories."

Nearly 20 years ago, catcalls and a large-scale walkout met Israeli musician Daniel Barenboim's attempt to lead the Berlin State Opera in a performance of part of Wagner's music.

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