First Q & A as a Presidential candidate

The following is the transcript of a press conference held at Manor campaign headquarters, January 28th, 2014

Amit Manor: Ach! od od! Ken! (simultaneous translation: Good afternoon if you would all take your seats so that we can get started. It gives me great pleasure to introduce my uncle and next President of Israel, Ilan Manor)

Ilan: Hello ladies and gentleman, thanks for coming today. First, I would like to thank my two year old nephew for joining this exciting campaign as my campaign manager. I will now take some of your questions.

Reporter: Mr. Manor, do you support same sex marriage?

Ilan: No. In fact, I am adamantly opposed to same sex marriage. But I am also against different sex marriage.

Reporter: Different sex marriage?

Ilan: Yes. I believe that neither gay nor straight people should marry. Marriage has been linked to obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease and I think it's time we as a society fight back against this killer.

Reporter: Do you accept PM Netanyahu's definition of Israel as the Jewish State?

Ilan: I believe that Israel is a Jewish state, but not the Jewish State. In my opinion New York is the Jewish state. Next?

press

(Photo Credit: Maya Karpin. In the picture Manor 2014 campaign manager Amit Manor, reporter from CNN and reporter from Fox News)

Reporter: Would support a peace accord based on the "two state" solution?

Ilan: As I have stated in the past, when elected President I plan to focus more on domestic issues than on foreign ones and that includes the peace negotiations.

But since you asked, I am a supporter of the three state solution: the State of Israel, the State of the Settlers and Palestine. I think Israel should unilaterally pull back from all settlements and let the settlers and Palestinian fight it out amongst themselves.

Reporter: In an interview to the New York Times President Peres said he regrets not doing more to encourage Aliyah to Israel. Do you plan to advocate Aliyha?

Ilan: I'm glad you asked me that question. First, let me say that this country has no greater ally than the State of Israel. As President, I will do all in my power to ensure that Israel has the ability to defend itself. My bond with Israel is unshakable.

I also believe that Jews have done well for themselves in this country. Indeed some of my closest friends are Jews. But you can have too much of a good thing. So no, I do not plan to allow immigration of more Jews to this country. What we should do is pay Jews to immigrate to third party countries like Uganda, the home away from home of the Zionist movement.

Reporter: Where do you stand with regard to Iran?

Ilan: I live in Tel Aviv so mostly to the west. Next question

Reporter: Are you in favor of legalizing marijuana?

Ilan: Yes, as long as it is sold only too asylum seekers and refugees. I don't want it near schools; I don't want it sold to children!

Reporter: Mr. Manor, you say you plan to focus mainly on domestic issues. Can you give us an example?

Ilan: I think the high cost of living, which was a major issue in the last election, needs to be addressed more urgently. I have some very creative ideas that I look forward to sharing with Minister Lapid once I am elected

Reporter: Follow up question. Could you elaborate on these ideas?

Ilan: I can say that they are really good and that there are more than three of them. Next?

Reporter: Mr. Manor you speak of being elected but have you even begun polling to assess what kind of support you are expected to receive?

Ilan: We were going to save this information for later but I can tell you that in a poll conducted yesterday at my campaign manager's toddler I received more the 65% of the votes. I am confident in my victory and in the new horizon now appearing in Israel's skies.

Reporter: With all due respect sir, the President is elected by the Knesset not a toddler

Ilan: Obviously you have never been to the Knesset. Burn!

Amit (campaign manager): Ach! Od! (simulations translation: last question)

Reporter: Do you think that it is safe to elect someone who has been diagnosed as suffering from a mental illness as President?

Ilan: It is true that I suffer from Bi-Polar disease. However, as important as the Israeli Presidency is, it's not like I'm going to have the nuclear launch codes

!I'm Running for President

My fellow Israelis,

Six years ago, one of Israel's most distinguished and respected leaders took the oath of office of the President of Israel. At the time, the Israeli Presidency had been tarnished by the acts of former President Moshe Katzav (Wait for Boo). In hindsight, most would agree that only Shimon Peres could have overseen the task of rehabilitating and revitalizing the Presidency. Now, as the pre-historic Peres Presidency comes to an end, we can only imagine what lies next for this great man. Perhaps he shall seek the Premiership of the Bait Ve Gan retirement home in Ramat Aviv, or maybe he will become President of the Del Boca Vista housing complex. Whatever lies ahead, I am sure all Israelis join me in wishing President Peres and his Vietnamese caretaker, Danda, all the best (Pause for Applause).

When one President leaves office, another must take his place. Some say that Israel's next President should be a woman (Pause for laughter). Others advocate for a veteran politician while there are those who believe that the time has come for a Philippine President, one similar to the X factor winner Rose Fostanes.

But I have a different vision for the Presidency (Look up at the sky and pause). I believe that what we need is a non-Partisan President. Why? Because party politics is about highlighting that which divides us while the Presidency is about finding the things that unite us. Things like our compassion for refugees who find shelter abroad, jokes about Arab Israelis that are borderline racist and non-stop news coverage of military operations.

However, a non-Partisan President is not enough. Given the challenges we face what Israel requires is a young President, a member of the Y generation who will be able to integrate Israel into the league of hipster nations. A bold man who speaks the language of other young world leaders like (make peace sign with right hand) my number one homie and original gangsta' put it up for Barack O!

I firmly believe I am that leader.

So, it is with great humility and a sense of calling that I announce my candidacy for the Presidency of Israel (Wait for loud applause).The Manor family is no stranger to public service. My brother, Oren, is a decorated IDF officer turned fire fighter turned single mother. My Mother was the first and only woman to serve as an IDF tank and my father has spent his life apologizing for Israel. Thus, it should come as no surprise that I too have found my calling in public life.

Some will ask why him? Why Ilan Manor? To these sceptics I answer why not me!? Granted, religious Jews will view me as a representative of Sodom and Gomorra. But isn't Sodom and Gomorra just a part of Israel as Judea and Samaria. Yes, it is true that I have walked in the valley of loneliness and despair, but only to arrive at the mountaintop of hope. Yes I have swum in rivers of alcohol and liquid acid, but only to arrive on the shores of sobriety.

Sobriety and hope (put fist to chest)- those are the qualities of any true leader.

My fellow countrymen, countrywomen and countrygays,

The Israeli presidency is not about overseeing the Israeli government, it is not about representing Israel abroad and it's not even about trashing Benjamin Netanyahu. It is about one thing and one thing only (raise index finger)- delivering eulogies, finding the words with which to part from this nation's most beloved family members. Shimon Peres was great at this. I will be too.

Israelis, you can expect great things from the Manor presidency yet none greater than my new Tickle Down initiative which, like Bibi's trickle down economics, will help all Israelis of all walks of life. Studies upon studies conducted in Israeli research institutes have shown us that tickling is the best cure for grief. Yet Israel consistently ranks lowest on the OECD tickle scale. As your President I will make it my life's work to include tickling in all eulogies.

Imagine what we can achieve with a President that not only talks us to death, but that tickles us to death. Think of a new, happier, tomorrow.

God bless you all, God bless the State of Israel and may he continue to strike down our enemies with American made weapons of war

(Applause. Music: Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow. Balloons fall from ceiling)

Banning words or banning ideas

Three weeks ago I attended a lecture at Tel Aviv University. The topic of the lecture was an analysis of the manner in which French Jews who have made Aliyah to Israel consume online news. The lecturer began by describing the migration of Jews from North Africa following the end of French colonial rule over Morocco and Tunisia. At this point, a student remarked that “colonialism has not completely disappeared from the Middle East. Some countries still occupy others”.

The class broke out in laughter. The lecturer did not. She stepped forward, raised her arm and said “You said that not me! I did not mean to imply that at all!”

-” I was referring to the Israeli occupa-”

-”I didn’t say that word! You did. Not me. Now let’s move on”.

Like most of my classmates, I was somewhat surprised by the lecturer’s reaction. It was not that she opposed the student’s comment from a political standpoint, nor did she feel the subject matter was irrelevant. She refused to hear the word occupation out of fear, fear that it be known that her lectures mention the occupation.

She was afraid of a word.

I have always believed that fear has no place in the halls of the academia. Academic institutions are meant to serve as sanctuaries of free thought, open discussion, critical thought and above all the desire to question everything- whether it is the manner in which man evolved from the ape, the governing laws of physics or the shape of the Earth.

Occupation, it would seem, is not the only word Israelis now fear. Nazi is another.

Ten days ago, Israel’s ministerial legislative committee agreed to propose a bill outlawing the use of the word Nazi. The bill will also forbids displaying Nazi symbols, displaying symbols related to Germany’s Third Reich, wearing clothing which resembles the stripped uniforms worn by Jews in Nazi concentration camps and wearing a yellow Star of David. Should the law pass in the Knesset, calling another person or group Nazis shall be a  crime punishable by a six months prison sentence and a 100 thousand Shekel fine.

One has to wonder why such a law has been proposed at this time. Is there a wave of neo-Nazi demonstrations in Israel? Are Jewish neo-Nazi groups gaining popularity on Facebook? Perhaps the IAL (Israeli Aryan League) has applied for a permit to march down Rothschild Boulevard on Friday afternoons? Or maybe this is a legislative preemptive strike aimed at preventing Israeli children from dressing up as Nazi commandants on Purim?

According to Itztik Ohayon, the Member of Knesset who proposed the bill, “The rise in neo-Nazi movements using such symbols poses a threat to Jews wherever they may live. As long as Israel does not ban the use of such symbols it cannot expect the same of other countries”.  The rationale behind Ohayon’s bill is the same of many Polish Jewish families- the swiping under the rug rationale. As long as none of your friends know that your daughter is a lesbian, she isn’t gay. As long as we don’t see or hear neo-Nazis, they don’t exist.  Yet Ohayon’s logic is faulty for issues, words and movements swept under the rug always surface with renewed force and with greater support.

Ohayon’s logic is also faulty when it comes to Israel. Are we really supposed to pass laws just so we can tell other nations how to act? Are we really going to outlaw words so we can demand the same of others? Or are we banning words as part of an attempt to exclude topics from public discussion? Are we outlawing words in an attempt to define what we can and can’t talk about?

Words are important. Words matter. Words can move entire nations. We were reminded of the power of words this past week as the US marked the birth of Dr. King, a man whose words’ shaped modern America. Words can also hurt us, words can infuriate us and words can divide us. Yet this is the price we pay for freedom of speech for when we limit freedom of speech we inevitably limit the freedom of thought.

Banning words leads to fear and fear breads ignorance. It is the opposite of enlightenment. It is also what we can expect to find when living under a totalitarian regime, an Orwellian dystopia, not when living in the “only democracy in the Middle East”. We should not fear words and we should not fear open discourse, even when dealing with the most sensitive of topics.

Banning words is just as ludicrous as banning ideas. And just as dangerous.

P.S. Here is a helpful tip- If you still want to call someone a Nazi, try saying “you supporter of a 1939 man with a little mustache!” If you want to say occupation, try saying “I believe we should end the “word that rhymes with constipation” of the Palestinians!”

להבין את בנימין נתניהו

לפני מעט יותר משבוע הלך לעולמו ראש הממשלה לשעבר אריאל שרון. בשעות ובימים שלאחר מותו ספדו לשרון בלוגרים, כתבים, פובליציסטים ופוליטיקאים. אחד מהם היה ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו שהעלה לערוץ ה YouTube שלו את הסרטון הבא. נדמה לי כי דווקא סרטון זה מאפשר לנו הצצה לאמונותיו והשקפותיו של ראש ממשלת ישראל.

הערה לקורא: מומלץ לצפות בסרטון הקצר כדי להבין את הפוסט

 

"אריק היה בראש ובראשונה לוחם ומפקד אמיץ. אני מאמין שהוא היה אחד מגדולי המצביאים שקמו לנו בתקופה החדשה"- המושג "בתקופה החדשה" אולי נשמע מעט תמוה אך כדי להבינו יש לחברו למילה נוספת, "מצביא". המילה מצביא הינה מילה תנכ"ית המתייחסת לאיש צבא המוביל את העם היהודי בעת מלחמה. ראש הממשלה מתחיל את תיאורו של שרון עם מילה תנכ"ית ומסיימו במושג התקופה החדשה כדי להתייחס לשתי נקודות זמן בתולדות העם היהודי: התקופה התנ"כית ושיבת ציון.

בכך מבהיר לנו נתניהו פעם נוספת כי הוא בראש ובראשונה מנהיג ציוני שהרי על פי הנרטיב הציוני מחולקת ההיסטוריה היהודית לשלוש תקופות: ימי התנ"ך עת היינו עם לוחם וגאה בעל ממלכה עצמאית, הגלות ושפלות הקומה של היהודי הגלותי וחזרת העם היהודי למולדתו תוך הקמת מדינת ישראל שלעולם תחיה על החרב. שרון היה, על פי נתניהו, חלק מאותה חרב.

אגב, משפט זה הינו מרתק לאור הדיווחים בימים האחרונים כי ראש הממשלה נתניהו הינו ציוני כה נלהב שהוא החליט לא לשלם מיסים למדינה הציונית ולהעביר כספו למקלט מס.

"בתווך הוא הקים את יחידה 101 בה הוא יצק את היסודות של יוזמה ותגמול במאבק נגד הטרור, יסודות שעומדים לנו גם היום"- משפט זה מסיים את החלק של הסרטון בו מתאר נתניהו את תרומתו של אריאל שרון לביטחון ישראל. התייחסותו של נתניהו לקריירה הצבאית של שרון מהווה כמעט מחצית מן הסרטון כולו ואף כוללת פרשנות למהלכים צבאיים כמו חשיבות צליחת התעלה במלחמת יום הכיפורים. ככל הנראה תיאור זה נועד לבסס את מעמדו של ראש הממשלה כמנהיג היכול לעמוד באתגרים הביטחוניים שנכונים למדינת ישראל.

מעניין שנתניהו מחליט להרחיב דווקא על ימיו של שרון כמפקד יחידת ה-101 ולא על תפקידי מטה ופיקוד אחרים אותם מילא. מבין הסופדים לשרון רבים התעכבו על המהפך האידיאולוגי והתדמיתי שעבר. שרון נחשב בעני העולם הערבי לרב מרצחים שהפך עם השנים לאיש שלום. בעיני העולם הערבי, זה שגם כן צופה בסרטונים של מר נתניהו,  פשעיו המשמעותיים ביותר של שרון הינם הטבח בסברה ושתילה והפעולה בקיביה שנערכה במסגרת פעולות התגמול של ה-101. בכך שנתניהו מתעכב על יחידת התגמולים של צה"ל, וטוען כי תרומתה לתפיסת הביטחון הישראלית מורגשת גם היום, מניף ראש הממשלה אצבע משולשת איתנה אל מול העולם הערבי.

נתניהו, בניגוד לשרון, אינו משתנה עם השנים אלא נותר ממש כשם שהיה- מומחה לטרור שעדיין חי אי שם בעשור הראשון של מדינת ישראל. והרי שפרט לראש הממשלה דבר לא נותר כשם שהיה. נכון שמדינת ישראל יוזמת מזה שנים התנקשויות ממוקדות ביעדי טרור, אך האם היא עוד מאמינה בפעולות תגמול כגון זו שנערכה בקיביה? האם אנו עדיין מפוצצים בתים על תושביהם החפים מפשע בשל אירועי טרור שלא היו מעורבים בהם? קשה להאמין שמי שקורא את המזרח התיכון בעזרת לקסיקון משנות ה-50 יכול להוביל את ישראל במאה ה-21 או להבין את אופיו של המזרח התיכון הנוצר בימים אלו.

"הוא עשה את זה מתוך ידיעה שהעם היהודי חייב להיות מסוגל להגן על מדינתו היחידה בכוחות עצמו למען עצמו"-איראן. חלק זה מהספדו של נתניהו נועד להמחיש את נחישותו של ראש הממשלה לשמור על ביטחון ישראל לאור האיום שנשקף לה להערכתו מתכנית הגרעין האיראנית. משפט זה אף נועד להזכיר לצופים בבית כי "מתקפת החיוכים" של נשיא אירן טרם הורידה את האופציה הצבאית הישראלית מן השולחן.

בשבועות האחרונים נדמה כי ממשלת ישראל נדרה נדר של שתיקה בכל הקשור למגעים בין המערב לאיראן. נתניהו אינו זועק חמס וגם לא "זאב זאב". ייתכן ושתיקה זו הינה תוצאה של בקשה אמריקאית מפורשת לפיה נתניהו ימנע מלחבל במאמצי הדיפלומטיה שמובילה ארה"ב. ייתכן גם שממשלת ישראל הבינה כי משטר הסנקציות עומד לחלוף מן העולם וכי מדינות המערב אינן מתכוונות לוותר על פתרון דיפלומטי לסוגיה האיראנית במידה וכזה הינו בר השגה.

הספדו של נתניהו שודר שבוע לפני שאיראן ניתקה חלק מן הצנטריפוגות שלה והפסיקה להעשיר אורניום לרמה של 20%, כך על פי הסוכנות הבינלאומית לאנרגיה אטומית. הצנטריפוגות בנתז אולי דממו אך לא אלו שבלשכת ראש הממשלה.

"זכרו יהיה נצור בלב האומה לעד"- לא יהי זכרו ברוך. לא מדינת ישראל תזכור את אריאל שרון. לא זכרו יהיה נצור בלב ישראל ולא זכרו יהיה נצור בלב מדינתנו. האומה. מושג גאה להשקפת ראש הממשלה, מושג לאומני להשקפתי. השימוש במושג אומה מאפיין לא פעם מנהיגים פופוליסטיים המנסים לעורר בקרב אזרחיהם רגשות של שייכות הודות לעבר משותף, זיכרון משותף ועמידה משותפת אל מול אתגרים, בין אם אלו אתגרים ביטחוניים. המושג אומה בו בחר להשתמש ראש הממשלה הנו חלק ממאמציו לשכנע אותנו כי רק יחד נוכל לעמוד בפני הסכנות שאורבות לנו. ה"יחד" הוא מעל לכל ומהווה כלי חשוב בטשטוש מחלוקות פנימיות. והרי שראש הממשלה מתעלם מזה שנים מנושאי פנים תוך היאחזות בסכנות שאורבות מבחוץ.

ואף מילה על השלום- רבים מאלו שספדו לשרון ניסו לסכם את חייו. מרביתם נכשלו. לא בשל היעדר כשרון כתיבה או דלות מחשבה אלא משום שלכל ישראלי היה אריק שרון משלו. בעיני המתנחלים, למשל, היה שרון גיבור שהפך לנבל ובעיני השמאל המתון היה נבל שהפך לגיבור. אין עוררין על כך ששרון החליט בסוף ימיו להשיג הסדר מדיני עם הפלשתינאים. לשם כך נסוג מעזה, לשם כך הקים את קדימה. לא ניתן לסכם את מורשתו וחייו של שרון ללא פרק זה.  אך כך בחר לעשות ראש הממשלה שבעצמו מנהל בימים אלו מו"מ עם הפלשתינאיים.

היעדר כל התייחסות למאמצי השלום של שרון מחזקת את תחושתי כי סרטון זה יועד בעיקר לצרכי פנים. כמו שרון בזמנו, נתניהו מתקבל בימים אלו בשריקות "בוז" במוסדות הליכוד וכמו שרון בזמנו נאלץ נתניהו להתמודד עם קואליציה רווית ניגודים. כך שהסברה כי סרטון זה יועד לאוזניים ישראליות, יהודיות, ימניות הינו הגיוני. ייתכן שהוא אף נועד לנפתלי בנט שרק היום הקדים ואמר חלילה וחס לפני שאמר מדינת פלסטין.

אך בעידן של מדיה דיגיטאלית ודיפלומטיה דיגיטאלית מי שחושב שסרטון זה נצפה רק ע"י תושבי ישראל טועה. הוא נצפה במשרדי חוץ ברחבי העולם. הוא נצפה ע"י דיפלומטים ישראלים המשרתים בחו"ל וע"י דיפלומטים מן העולם המשרתים בישראל. גם מחמוד עבאס, ברק אובמה ו גו'ן קרי קראו תקציר של סרטון זה וכולם יכולים להגיע לאותה מסקנה – זהו אינו אדם שנמצא רגע לפני החלטה גורלית על חלוקת ארץ ישראל השלמה. זהו אינו אדם שפניו לשלום.

זהו אותו הנתניהו.

On Google, Dwarfs and Personalization

Many of the people who knew me during my formative years believed I would untimely go into politics. This seemed like a rational conclusion given my interest in politics and current affairs accompanied by highly developed oratory skills. In order to test the feasibility of a political career, I ran for office several times during high school without ever losing an election. As the previous century came to an end, it seemed that the premiership was mine for the taking. At times, I would practice acceptance speeches in my head or draw campaign signs for the 2020 elections on my textbooks.

Ilan Horizon Best

Seeing as how politics is all about appearances, I began leading a very private life, holding back information that could one day be used against me from family and friends. As the digital age came about, I became concerned with my online privacy. I therefore developed the habit of deleting personal or embarrassing emails, opening fake email accounts with which to communicate with people and routinely altering my browsing history.

But as I entered my mid-twenties, running for office seemed less and less likely. First came the boozing than came the smoking. I grew up in the US and was schooled in American politics, a place where such conditions are sure to surface midway through a successful campaign. Suddenly I was practicing a different kind of speech in my head, one which I would deliver with my beard wife besides me. "As some of you may have learned over the past few days, I am a recovering alcoholic and heavy smoker. I am aware that I have not only let down the people of this great State, but I have also let down my family. And for that I am truly sorry".

Since politics was out of the question, I felt that I had nothing to more to hide. I created a file named passwords and saved it on my desktop. I left my browser history intact and stopped caring what emails I write to whom.  It got to the point where I felt that if Google wishes to read my mails, screen my text messages, know my location and monitor my receding hairline via satellite they are free to do so. In fact, as I became acquainted with the concept of personalization, I was hoping companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon would monitor my digital footprints. Suddenly, Amazon was offering me great books the minute I logged on to their website. The instant I entered my Netflix account, I was presented with the most exquisite selection of BBC periodic dramas set in the Victorian age

"I need to know now Sir Ilan, may I grasp your buttocks as we stroll through the country unchaperoned?"

In order to increase the effectiveness of my personalization, I even thought of writing Google weekly updates regarding my adventures, habits, likes and dislikes. "Dear Google, this week I read the first and last chapters of the Quran (It’s a doozy!), accidentally stumbled upon a website called sexydwarfs.com. I also deliberately explored Iran's twitter account. Talk to you next week, Ilan".

Then something strange happened.  As I stopped logging onto news websites, and settled for the news updates delivered by my Facebook feed, I felt like I was missing out on a lot of information. Even more strange was the feeling that nothing "caught my eye" anymore. There were no articles offering insight into worlds I am unfamiliar with and no interviews introducing me to new authors. As I was limited to what Facebook thought I wanted to know, the freedom to explore strange new worlds was lost. I soon learned that Ignorance is the opposite of bliss.

This led me to wonder if the age of personalization is not also the age of the information bubble. Recently I learned that Google not only monitors my online activity, but it even personalizes my search results  meaning that when I search for Egypt on Google I get completely different results than any of my friends. This means that crucial information may be omitted from my search. Even more troubling is that most people don't know their information is screened and do not bother to look up the same topics elsewhere.

So what personalization really means is that each one of us gains a different understanding and a different view of the world we live in. Some might never learn about the Arab spring while others may never hear of the Central African Republic. Therefore, a personalized world is also an ignorant one. And even in the age of algorithms, personalization and the internet, taking an active role in our world necessitates hard work. We thought we could finally be lazy and have the world brought to our fingertips. We were wrong.

TED movies always begin with the caption "ideas worth spreading". I thing this idea qualifies. For more on the age of the information bubble, watch and spread the TED movie below.

Mind the gap

As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted be a businessman. To me, it meant being somebody in a world full of nobodies. At the age of six I failed to recognize Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" as an allegory and thought it to be a social manifesto. Greed was good, happiness did come in shopping bags and Gordon Gekko was much cooler than Michael Jackson. For my seventh birthday my family bought me my first three piece suit and a James Bond attaché case knowing full well I had no interest in race cars.

Thus, when my parents informed me that we were relocating to the United States I was unable to curb my enthusiasm. I jumped up from my chair and to my mother's surprise began dancing the Hora. Finally I had the opportunity to leave Israeli socialism behind and feel the warm embrace of America's capitalism. Here was my chance to live in the birthplace of Ronald Reagan, Ewing oil and trickledown economics.

Five months later I found myself living in an affluent, white Jewish suburb and attending a private Jewish day school. America proved to be everything I had hoped for. The year was 1994 and while cable television had just arrived in Israel America's cable providers offered a selection of 180 different channels. Supermarkets were packed with goods and candies that Israelis could buy once a year when SuperSal, an Israeli supermarket chain, celebrated "America week". My new town was even home to one of the largest malls in the East coast- the King of Prussia mall. And his royal highness offered shoppers every brand-name in the world. Compared to Jerusalem's Center One, this was a palace of joy; a dome of excitement and a temple of consumer delight.

It was morning in America, and I was there to enjoy it.

But after my initial excitement wore off, I began to see flaws in America. The streets of Philadelphia were filled with homeless people spending their nights on municipal benches. When I asked one of my school friends why so many people slept in the streets he said that some made a lot of money by begging, others were too lazy to work. Yet I still couldn’t understand why the world's richest country would be content with its citizens freezing to death on cold winter nights.

Then I began watching the CBS Monday night movies which usually told the story of regular Americans who went bankrupt because they had cancer and could not afford treatments. When I asked my mother why Israelis didn't share the same fate she told of me of universal healthcare, a concept I soon learned was un-American. During commercial breaks from NBC's "Must See TV" I was yelled at by Alan L Rothenberg "The Injury Lawyer" who informed me that I too had someone to sue and a fortune to make. But above all there was the overwhelming violence. The channel 6 ten o'clock evening news would always begin with a murder or even two. By the time I had left Philadelphia, the term "drive by shooting" became as familiar as "be kind rewind".

This was not the America I had seen in Reagan's campaign ads nor was it the America I had so admired. Disillusioned by the American dream I was ready to go home.

Much has changed since the early 1990's. Israel now has its own fair share of limousines and billionaires. Huge supermarkets fill our cities with never ending aisles of sodas and laundry detergents and Israeli shopping malls are home to the world's most exclusive brands, brands which my mother refers to as "Gucci Shmucci". Local supermodels like Bar Refaeli make headlines throughout the world and Israeli TV shows are formatted for American audiences.

Yet while the gap between Israel and the US has narrowed substantially, we have forgotten to mind the gap. Like the United States, the gaps between the rich and the poor in Israel have expanded over the past two decades as have the gaps in education and affordable healthcare. Like America, Israel has seen a steady increase in the number of families with two wage earners living under the poverty line. Israel is also a more violent place then it once was as social solidarity is "out" and survival of the fittest is "in". The current popular "ism" is not socialism or Zionism but venture capitalism.

We have adopted much from America but have not done so selectively. Now is the time to stop and ask ourselves if America is the supermodel we wish to resemble and if we are willing to pay the price that comes with being America. I for one am not.

הצאר איווט

מאז ומעולם דמה איווט ליברמן לצאר רוסי. כמו הצארים של המאה ה-19, לליברמן אין סבלנות לתהליכים דמוקרטים מייגעים. לדידו, נכון היה לשנות את שיטת הממשל בישראל לשיטה נשיאותית אם לא אוטוקרטית, כזו שתזכיר את רוסיה של ולדימיר פוטין. מפלגתו של ליברמן, ואופן התנהלותה, מייצגים את האופן הלא דמוקרטי של הדמוקרטיה הישראלית. כמו ש"ס ויש עתיד, מפלגתו של ליברמן היא מפלגה של איש אחד. אולם בניגוד ל יש עתיד של יאיר לפיד, בישראל ביתנו לא טורחים אפילו להעלות מצג שווא של התנהלות דמוקרטית או חופש מחשבה. איווט קובע מי בפנים ומי בחוץ, מי יתמודד לכנסת הבאה ומי יישאר בבית, מי לחיים ומי למוות. על פיו, ועל פיו בלבד יישק דבר.

מפלגת ישראל ביתנו הולכת אחרי ליברמן בעיניים עצומות בתקווה שליברמן הולך עם עיניים פקוחות.

רצונו של ליברמן לכהן כשר חוץ בממשלות ישראל מעלה לא מעט תהיות. מראהו הכבד והתנהגותו המאצ'ואיסטית מלמדת כי ליברמן רואה עצמו כאיש של מעשים ולא איש של דיבורים. אין לו הכוח להתעסקות הדיפלומטית המתמדת בניסוחים מדוקדקים של הסכמים ובנייה איטית של מערכות יחסים עם מדינות העולם. ליברמן הוא דוב הרוסי וככזה הוא בוטה ואגרסיבי. כשהתייחס ליחסי ישראל עם מדינות אירופה אמר כי "צריך להגיד לאירופאים בצורה הדיפלומטית הברורה ביותר: תפסיקו לבלב במוח". כשהתייחס ליחסי ישראל ומצרים אמר כי במלחמה הבאה נכון יהיה להפיץ את סכר אסואן.

בעוד שליברמן עלה ארצה עוד בשנות ה-70, נדמה כי הוא מעולם לא התנתק רגשית מאימא רוסיה. מזה שנים תומך ליברמן בחיזוק הקשרים עם רוסיה והפחתת התלות הישראלית במעצמות המערב. בשנת 2009 אף מונה איווט לשר האחראי על ה "דיאלוג האסטרטגי עם הקרמלין", דיאלוג שמעולם לא הבשיל לכדי מערכת יחסים קרובה בין שני המדינות. אך הדבר לא מונע מאיווט לייבא ארצה את הלאומנות של ולדימיר פוטין. כך, בראש מעייניו של שר החוץ הישראלי נמצא הכבוד של מדינת ישראל. אם רוסיה היא מעצמה אירופאית, אזי בעיני ליברמן ישראל היא מעצמה מזרח תיכונית, אחת שצריכה לעורר יראת כבוד בקרב שכניה. כשר חוץ הורה ליברמן לשגרירי ישראל שלא להתרפס בפני העולם משום ש "למושגים כמו כבוד לאומי, יש חשיבות רבה בהשפעה על מעמד ישראל בעולם".

מצא את ההבדלים: איווט הצאר והצאר ניקולאי השני

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וכמו הצאר ניקולאי השני, אין לאיווט חיבה יתרה למיעוטים החיים בקרבו. מבחינת שר החוץ, המיעוט הערבי הישראלי היה ונותר חשוד בהיותו גיס חמישי. ההזדהות של מיעוט זה עם הפלשתינאים מהווה מבחינת הצאר איווט סכנה לשלום ישראל, סכנה גדולה יותר מן הטרור. "הבעיה שלנו היא אחמד טיבי וברכה", אמר ליברמן, "הם יותר מסוכנים מחאלד משעל ונסראללה. הם פועלים מבפנים, הם פועלים באופן שיטתי להרוס את מדינת ישראל כמדינה יהודית".

בעוד שבעבר הזכיר איווט את הצאר הרוסי, הרי שהשבוע החל להתנהג כמו צאר רוסי. בנאומו בפני כנס השגרירים של משרד החוץ הבהיר השר כי לא ייתמוך באף הסכם שלום שלא יכלול חילופי שטחים ואוכלוסיות. כמו ניקולאי, איווט החליט כי בכוחו לא רק לשלוט על עמים אחרים אלא אף לקבוע את גורלם. כמו האוטוקרטים של המאה ה-19, החליט הצאר על דעת עצמו לשרטט מחדש את גבולות מדינתו ועל פי פקודת הצאר יש להתחיל מיד בשינוע המוני של אוכלוסיות שלמות ממקום אחד לאחר, ממדינה אחת לאחרת, ממדינתו שלו למדינתם של אחרים.

כל שחסר כעת זה הגולאגים שיאכלסו אותם.

אך פה המקום לציין גם את ההבדלים שבין איווט לצאר. שלא כמו ניקולאי איווט עדיין מחויב למעמדו כשר חוץ ועדיין חייב למצוא חן בעיני קהל הבוחרים הפוטנציאלי שלו. לכן עושה הוא שימוש במכבסות מילים שלא היו קיימות ברוסיה הצארית. כך הוא עושה שימוש במושג חילופי אוכלוסיות. אבל מה המשמעות של מושג זה? האם במאה ה-21 עדיין מחליפים אוכלוסיות כאילו שהיו קלפים של צבי הנינג'ה? ואם כן, האם יש מדרג כלשהו? אולי אוכלוסייה אחת שווה יותר מאחרת. "תן לי חמש מאות הומואים ואתן לך עשרים לסביות. הן הרי קשוחות יותר".

ומי היא אותה אוכלוסייה? האם אנו עתידים להעתיק את מקומם של יוצאי ברית המועצות בחילופי האוכלוסיות הללו? הם הרי מתורגלים לכך שהאוטוקרט שולח אותם לעזאזל. או שמא מדובר שוב באותם ערבים חשודים ומסוכנים? ואם אכן מדובר בערבים המסוכנים, אז הרי שלא מדובר בעסקת חליפין אלא בטרנספר, בשינוע כפוי ולא רצוני. למזלנו, הזמנים השתנו , ולאוטוקרטים של היום אין את חופש הפעולה שהיה לאלו שפעלו במאות הקודמות. כיום גם למיעוטים יש זכויות, אפילו למיעוט הערבי במדינת ישראל.

שר החוץ מחשיב עצמו היסטוריון וטוב היה אם יזכור את לקחי ההיסטוריה. עמים כבושים קמים על כובשיהם. אימפריות נופלות. ואפילו צארים מודחים מן השלטון.

Has the world forgotten about Syria

On Monday, Israel's Channel 10 news aired a newscast prepared by Arab affairs correspondent Zvi Yehezkeli dealing with the ongoing civil war in Syria. The piece, which was part of a larger segment of newscasts summarizing 2013, was a familiar mélange of violent scenes, clichés and worn out slogans. Yet it delivered a simple message- the world has forsaken the Syrian people. According to Zvi, following Bashar Assad's agreement to surrender his chemical weapons stockpile, the nations of the world turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the Syrian regime and to the plight of the Syrian people.

While the newscasts' message was effective, it was mistaken. The world has not forgotten about the Syrian people. On the contrary, some of the most powerful nations in the world have placed Syria at the top of their foreign policy agenda. One such nation is the United Kingdom.

If one wishes to understand foreign policy in the 21st century he must turn his attention to digital channels. Nowadays, most Foreign Offices view social networks and online social interaction as an integral part of diplomacy. Digital diplomacy, which refers to the use of social platforms in order to engage with foreign publics and governments, has become statecrafts' the new frontier. Over the past two years, digital diplomacy units have been established in foreign offices spanning the globe and the United Kingdom is no exception. In fact, the UK is one of the most "social" nations in the world with its Foreign Office tweeting or posting on Facebook every few hours.

In the past month, the UK's Foreign Office twitter account has been devoted mainly to the Syrian crisis. Foreign Minister William Hague and Prime Minister David Cameron have repeatedly tweeted that they view the ousting of Bashar Assad as the only possible solution to the Syrian civil war. To this end, the members of the "London 11" convened in the London three weeks ago to discuss which actions can be taken to hasten a political transition in Syria.

Foreign Office tweets also show that British officials now routinely visit Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon in an attempt to assess the scope of the Syrian refugee crisis which currently includes over one and a half million Syrians. Like the Stark family, the Foreign Office is well aware that "winter is coming" and with it a looming humanitarian crisis amongst the refugees.

The UK's commitment to resolving the Syrian crisis goes far beyond tweets and harsh statements. Over the past few months it has donated some 500 million Pounds (over two billion Shekels) in aid to Syrian refuges in addition to blankets and heating equipment.  The Foreign Office has also launched a gift matching program, featured on its Facebook profile, with a commitment by the British government to match the funds raised by UK citizens. This is the reason why on Dec 18th British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that his country can be proud of the aid it has offered Syrians and called on other nations to "step up to the plate".

I agree with Zvi that we are unlikely to see an international coalition willing to forcefully oust Bashar Assad. I also agree that the reluctance of world powers to intervene and end the Syrian civil war is morally reprehensible as over the past year Assad has proven that he is an efficient mass murder even without his much talked about chemical weapons. Yet I disagree with Zvi that the world has forsaken the Syrian people. What is needed now at the very least is a commitment of funds and resources by many nations, not just one, in order to avoid a deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the Syrian refugee camps.

The UK should not stand alone in this struggle.  We should all stand with it.

Me, Myself and My Shrink

Me: Do you think we're crazy?

Myself: Absolutely not darling. I think we're quite the rage.

My shrink: If we look at the past few months, and how you've been feeling, I think that the diagnosis of mood disorder was right. I also think it is time to try new medications

Me: I'm pretty sure this guy is saying we're crazy

Myself: Well he's just another know-it-all Jew, darling

Me: Why is it that you have a British accent?

Myself: Haven't the faintest idea. Now chop chop! Let's leave this ghastly room and go back to the club

My Shrink: Do you think you are ready to commit to treatment?

Me: Wow. That sounds harsh. TREATMENT. I think we are about to get neutered

Myself: Sorry darling wasn't really paying attention. I'm thinking about what we shall wear to tonight's little soiree

Me: Well do to try to keep up. This concerns you to. I'm pretty sure these medications he keeps bringing up are really about you

Myself: In what way?

Me: The end of the affair. Off to the guillotine for you

Myself: End of the affair? You mean the bugger's after my head?

Me: Bingo!

My Shrink: The medications are not going to change you. On the contrary, they're going to allow the real you to come out. You will be able to enjoy a new kind of stability and your life will no longer be a cycle of ups and downs

med

Myself: Oh this is so boring. I feel like shooting myself. No pun intended

Me: I get the same urge every few months

Myself: But that's the price my dear. No downs-no ups! And we do love those ups don't we?

Me: Hell yeah!

My shrink: Over the past year, you have experienced two episodes of depression, one almost costing you your life. You might not remember it now that you are feeling better but I remember those weeks and months when you couldn’t even get out of bed and go to work. When you felt buried alive- you're words not mine

Myself: I say this chap belongs in the loony bin not us! We simply chose to spend a few weeks in the country recuperating from the strain of belonging to high society. Even we need a break from all that jazz

Me: I'm not sure eating in bed for a whole month constitutes a trip to the country. Besides, you're never there for the bad days. You always seem to fade away and the other guy comes along

Myself: You mean the gloomy Frenchman?

Me: Yup

Myself: I hate the Frenchman. That overbearing accent and "what does it all mean" rubbish

My Shrink: Perhaps it's also time we speak about your alcohol consumption…

Myself: That's it! Get up

Me: What?

Myself: Get up and leave now. This Heb has gone too far. I won't have it.

Me: You do know we're Jewish right?

Myself: Speak for yourself dear. I'm with the Church of England

My Shrink: How many times have you been drunk this past month?

Myself: Define drunk?

My Shrink: Ended up on a bench in the street or woken up in the bathroom

Myself: The bathroom? The bathroom? It's called the wash closet. I say this joker is a philistine. Have we seen his credentials? Are we sure he is a Cambridge man?

Me: I need to give an answer

Myself: Well one can't take these matters to heart. So we tend to have the occasional one too many drinks. Life's too short my dear. Before we know it the Germans might be at it again

Me: I really wish you would live in the now. Anyway, I'm going to say more than ten times

My Shrink: I think that you might be an alcoholic

Me: I'm getting nervous over here

Myself: Where was this chap when we were in the trenches? Eh? Where was he when we were storming Gerry in the Somme? Sitting in that leather chair passing judgment on us. You know, I don’t even buy into this Psycho mumbo jumbo. Didn’t that Freud fellow have a go at his own mother?

Me: You're right. We are not alcoholics. We're drunks. And there's a difference. Besides, we chose to be drunks. It’s a conscious decision

Myself: Here here. Finally some common sense

My Shrink: I know that you are worried that without the highs you're writing will suffer. But I have learned over the years that one's talent doesn’t fade. It finds its way past the medications and reappears more vital than before

Myself: Did he…Is he…I say old chum you're not buying into all this are you?

Me: Well he has got a lot of experience

Myself: Loads! He's ancient. Quite the antiquarian's delight

Me: And this has always been about the writing hasn't it?

Myself: My dear, without me you are bound to lose your wit, sarcasm and dry humor. Your writing will be as amusing as that Dershowitz fellow who keeps seeing Anti Semites in his sleep

My Shrink: I suggest you try the medications for a few weeks and see how you feel. You might discover that the pros outweigh the cons. I truly believe these medications will save your life

Three weeks after taking the medications

Myself: Vake Op! Vake Op!

Me: Who are you?

Myself: I um Hanz, the spezialist un I huve come to insure productivity un efficiency in your wife

Me: Wife? I have no wife Hanz. I'm hoping to find a husband

Myself: Your wife! You are about to start a new wife!

Me: Oh life. Well where do we begin?

Myself: Get out of ze the bed! Schnell!

Death of a Salesman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has always prided himself on being a gifted salesman, one able to market the problematic Israeli product to both sympathetic and hostile audiences. Like most gifted salesman, the Prime Minister has even developed a routine consisting of catch phrases like "if it looks like a duck, if it walks like duck, if it quacks like a duck, then what is it?" and easy to comprehend diagrams such as the cardboard cutout of a nuclear bomb he held during his address to the United Nations General Assembly.

However, like another famous salesman, Arthur Miller's Willy Loman, Netanyahu often suffers from vivid flashbacks acting as if we were still living in the previous decade, a decade in which America was willing to commit resources to military campaigns in the Middle East and Europe reluctantly tolerated construction in Israeli settlements.

This past November, as European, American and Iranian leaders took to the stage in Geneva for an historic photo-op, Netanyahu's wartime rhetoric seemed out of pace with the world. When world leaders spoke of compromise, he spoke of appeasement; when the world spoke of mutual understanding Netanyahu spoke of mutual assured destruction and as the world looked to the future Netanyahu remained fixed on history.

The gifted salesman delivered a 2001 sales pitch to a 2013 crowd.

Death-Of-A-Salesman-Playbill

But times have changed. The US and Europe have accepted that fact that Iran will become a nuclear threshold state. No charismatic speeches, amusing diagrams or carefully worded Tweets will change that. The world has also had enough of Israeli construction in the future State of Palestine, and no hollow promises to make historic compromises will change that.

When a salesman has lost touch with the times, he soon finds himself out of touch with his audience and no longer able to sell his product. Such is the case with Benjamin Netanyahu who like Miller's protagonist now finds himself relying on his children. The first, former athlete Biff, is currently portrayed by the husky Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman who is tasked with selling Israel to Eastern Europe and Russia.

The second child, Happy, portrayed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livney who is happy as long as she gets to play peacemaker, is charged with placating European audiences by promising immediate progress in the negotiations with the Palestinians. The Europeans don't trust Mr. Netanyahu and don’t abide by Comrade Lieberman. Thus Mrs. Livney has become the Prime Minister's liaison to all things European. Such was the case when Livney was charged with reaching an agreement with the EU regarding Israel's participation in the multinational Horizon 2020 scientific research program.

Two weeks ago, Netanyahu seemed to experience a brief moment of clarity. When addressing the Saban Forum, the Prime Minister made two important remarks. The first, stating that the negotiations with the Palestinians would prove futile if Iran were to reach nuclear capability. Until now, the Prime Minister has been adamant in his refusal to link between the Iranian issue and the Palestinian one. Secondly, in his address Netanyahu adopted a softer tone on Iran reiterating more than once that he shares President Obama's hope that the Iranian nuclear program will be dealt with by diplomacy rather than by military force.

It is unclear whether these statements represent a change in policy or simply a change in language. Perhaps Netanyahu is willing to make true progress with the Palestinians in return for a tougher stance towards Iran by the International community. It is also possible that the Prime Minister wishes to introduce his own terms for a peace accord with the Palestinians before the US introduces its own peace plan forcing him to make concessions he is not willing to make.

Or maybe it is all a matter of phrasing. Maybe Netanyahu understands that audiences are no longer buying into his old polices and doctrines and that his sales pitch must be digitally re-mastered for new audiences. What is certain is that if Netanyahu wishes to remain Israel's official salesman, he must find ways to reconnect with the audiences he once knew so well. What is also certain is that unlike Willy Loman, the Prime Minister believes that his days as a gifted salesman are far from over.