Benny Gantz, Contender for the Israeli Premiership, Harks Back to an Older Political Style

After announcing his decision to enter politics as the head of a new party, the former IDF chief-of-staff Benny Gantz avoided the press and made few public statements. He is nonetheless poised to be the major challenger to Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming elections. Contrasting the taciturn Gantz to the eloquent Netanyahu, Neil Rogachevsky sees the former as a throwback to an older sort of Israeli politician:

Gantz seems to represent the return of an Israeli character type never totally absent but long repressed under the Netanyahu regime: the silent general. This figure, often bred on the kibbutz and politically more at home with the Labor party, thinks talk is cheap and detests the deal-making and prideful clucking of civilian politicians. He values simplicity, even austerity, in personal style. He is the kind of person who naturally cringes when he hears details about the Netanyahu family’s luxurious life in the seaside town of Caesarea. (Gantz alluded to this in his big campaign speech.) It was with such kibbutznik-warriors in mind that the late French historian François Furet memorably dubbed Israel “a new Sparta, agrarian and military.”

If there is any Israeli political figure Gantz recalls, it is not a figure from the right but the late Yitzḥak Rabin, himself a war hero and chief-of-staff who then went into politics. Though now remembered for his impassioned but rather convoluted pleas for peace before his assassination in 1995, Rabin actually detested political rhetoric and never bothered to articulate a policy agenda. Much like Gantz, Rabin did not hesitate to threaten enemies with brutality. Benjamin Netanyahu, by contrast, prefers to argue against Iran through reasoned speeches on television and addresses in international forums.

Silent generals have done much to protect Israel since 1948. Yet, given recent history, there are good reasons to be skeptical about their approach to politics. Rabin’s inability or unwillingness to articulate, in concrete terms, his approach to the peace process with the Palestinians led to much bewilderment, leaving Israelis unprepared for the diplomatic and military challenges that ensued. The late Ariel Sharon, another “strong, silent” general/prime minister, refused to tell even his closest advisers his reasoning behind removing all Israeli settlements and troops from the Gaza Strip in 2005. . . .

Other than releasing a television ad bragging about prior damage he inflicted on Hamas, Gantz has so far been extremely short on specifics about his views of the Palestinian question, Iran, and other challenges. To his credit, he has said concretely that he aims to improve the overburdened hospital system. But can such vagueness lead to victory? And will it lead to successful government?

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Read more at American Interest

More about: Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Yitzhak Rabin

European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

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More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians