The Netanyahu Government’s True Colors

8 September 2016

What do a former Israeli State Prosecutor, a former head of Israel’s Security Services, the publisher of Israel’s most renowned newspaper, and Israel’s ambassador to Switzerland have in common?

Until earlier today, the answer was that they were all appearing together at a conference, entitled “Is Israeli Democracy in Danger?” in Zurich hosted by NIF’s Swiss affiliate. But now, Ambassador Jacob Keidar has announced that, contrary to his previous commitment, he will not participate in the event.

The ambassador cites the title of the event and the fact that it’s being organized by NIF-Switzerland as the reasons for his change of heart. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson also claimed that Keidar’s decision to cancel his participation was not a result of any instructions he received from the ministry in Jerusalem.

These are dubious claims. But regardless of who ordered the Israeli Ambassador to Switzerland to boycott the conference, it is a disturbing precedent.

Unfortunately, it is in line with the modus operandi that Israel’s hardliners have adopted: do everything possible to discredit those who don’t agree with the direction the current government is taking Israel. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about Israeli patriots who have devoted their lives to service of country – like the Ambassador’s former co-speakers NIF president Talia Sasson, former Shin Bet security service head Carmi Gillon, and Haaretz editor-in-chief Amos Schocken. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about Israeli activists who push for human rights, shared society, and social justice. And it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about liberal Jews who love and support Israel but worry about where it is headed.

If you dare to disagree, you are persona non grata in the eyes of too many at the highest levels of Israeli leadership these days.

Unfortunately, this defensive crouch and boycott mentality don’t help Israel at all. Quite the contrary. What we see here is that, instead of shaping public opinion, Israel’s Foreign Ministry is allowing political point scoring to trump good public policy. In doing so, the ministry is damaging Israel’s reputation in the international community as a democratic, tolerant, and pluralistic country.

Healthy democracies invite robust debates on critical issues–they don’t boycott them. The New Israel Fund will continue to create spaces for people who care about Israel to come together and chart our course toward a better future for the country we love. We will work for this future together with those who join us on September 18th in Zurich. We will work for this future with those who took part in our other recent conferences (including no less than US President Barack Obama and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin). And we will work for this future with all of you.

Israel is too important to let the Netanyahu government have the last word.


  1. I have known Daniel for a few years now and can honestly say he loves Israel with a passion but wants her to straighten out her path to the one envisioned at the State’s creation. Sometimes it seems like a no win situation. But we push forward and realize we have an awesome responsibility to those who will follow us in the future.

  2. See my remarks in the Haaretz English edition of today. In essence it says that before too long any event not organized by the government and/or its extreme rightwing and orthodox parties will be labelled as antisemitic and anti Israeli. Even J-Street is now an anti Israeli (not yet antisemitic) according to the Israeli propaganda media, I am joining Mich in saying “Stay on course, NIF!!!”

  3. מי למעלה, מי למטה
    יום פרסונה, יום נון-גרטה
    ראו איך צמח ‘האפרוח’
    מוטת כנפיו גדלה בהרבה
    הוא לא סתם, נובחים השתולים
    הוא היה סוכן ק.ג.ב.
    צריך עכשיו דחוף לחבל בפגישת הפסגה
    כי חס וחלילה נובטת תקווה,
    לא פה בירושלים, אלא שם במוסקווה.
    זה לא טרמפ או איווט שטוו שם קשרים לאללה
    זה אותו ‘האפרוח’ ששאג מרמאללה.
    לכן זרחה באדום כתבה מופלאה ‘בהיום’
    שאיש לא יעז עוד לחלום
    על בואו הקרוב של ‘שלום’.

  4. The fundamental problem I have with NIF is the presumption that the Israel-Falasteenian conflict is resolvable by actions of amity and good will. Yes these help, but cannot generate a solution. The conflict between the two sides is based on the true and core beliefs of each side that they are the wronged party. For the Jewish side the only solution is acceptance of Israel and the Jews as we are, with total cessation of all enmity. For the Falasteenian side the only solution is turning the clock back to pre-1948 or even earlier. Obviously neither are possible, and a win-win situation is not in the cards. Nor is a compromise such the two-State solution, since even today there are three Falasteenian de-facto countries: the PA, Gaza, and Jordan. Any full fledged State of PA alone or PA+Gaza has insufficient territory and resources to be viable. Only an integral PA+Gaza+Jordan State has a chance, and the Hashemite rulers of Jordan would quickly be liquidated, hence they are quite adamant in refusing the idea.
    Is there no solution?
    Yes there are solutions (note the plural), but the NIF has not had the vision to include such options in its menu of ideas. Among them are 1) strong economic development of Jordan using Medstream waters to create a string of settlements in the Jordanian arid eastern areas, whose economy would be based on agrotech utilizing Israeli little-water desert agriculture. Such a project would be a magnet for underemployed Falasteenians of all education levels. All they would need do is shift loyalty to the Hashemite Kingdom, and from then on live healthy, proud productive lives.
    2) Wait for the next upheaval of Nature created by the global warming, that would cancel support from other sources too busy to be concerned with the claims of the Falasteenians. For sheer sake of survival, an accomodation with Israel could be reached, for everybody’s benefit.
    3) Accept that the natural state of MidEast politidcs is by a large number of small, independent tribal fiefs of a variety of ethnicities. A politics of shifting alliances calmed by the necessities of making a living exploiting God’s munificence of oil. Plus a return to agriculture using solutions as described in (1) above. In former Syria and Iraq the qanats need to be revived or equivalent water distribution systems created.
    Note that neither (1) nor (2) demands a cessation of hate on part of the Falasteenians. That emotion is now an unerasable part of their culture, and will continue for as many generations as we can see ahead. We will need to live with this. Perhaps at this level the NIF will be able to bring about some amity.
    The biggest accusation by the Falasteenians against Israel is that the Jews are land-grabbers. The biggest deflater of that contention was the evacuation of Gaza. The biggest element of proof that the Falasteenians would never be content with whatever they could get other then maximum demands, is the rule of ‘Hamas and its unabated warfare mentality and actions. No peace party there.

    As for the contention by the Israeli left wing that the Netanyahu government is anti-democratic, to be accepted at face value it needs to be evidenced by a surge of popular embrace of the left wing parties. I do not see that happening, nor do I forecast such development. To gain some popularity the Israeli Left needs to reinvent itself quite completely.

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