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Lost in Gaza


Whatever news stories had been dominating the Israeli media before 8:30 on Thursday morning disappeared without a trace when a gag order was lifted on the case of two Israelis who are missing in Gaza and are presumably being held by Hamas.

The first, Avraham Mengistu, crossed the border fence into the Gaza Strip on Sept. 7 last year, nearly two weeks after the end of Operation Protective Edge, according to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. 'According to credible intelligence,' the official said, Mengistu is being held 'against his will' by Hamas. He added that, 'Israel has appealed to international and regional interlocutors to demand his immediate release and verify his well-being.' COGAT said the second Israeli citizen being held in Gaza is an Arab citizen of Israel. Israeli officials provided no further details. A spokesman for Hamas, Salah Bardawil, declined comment. 'We don’t have any information about it. Even if is true, we don’t have instructions to talk about it,' he said.

Channel 2 television reported that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had been in touch with Mengistu’s parents and that Lior Lotan, a retired Israeli army colonel, was handling negotiations to return Mengistu to Israel. The family had been instructed not to speak publicly about the matter, but that news of Mengistu being held in Gaza had spread through Israel’s Ethiopian immigrant community. Channel 10 broadcast an interview with a man it identified as Mengistu's father, holding up a statement critical of Israeli authorities.

In possibly related news, Israel Radio reports that Hamas leader Khaled Mish'al said Wednesday that a European mediator recently contacted the organization at the behest of Israel and requested information on the remains of two Israeli soldiers believed to be held by the organization since last summer's military operation in Gaza – as well as the release of two prisoners being held in Gaza. The two Israeli soldiers – Hadar Goldin and Oren Shaul – were killed during Operation Protective Edge but their remains were not recovered. They were declared by the IDF as fallen soldiers whose burial place is not known.  

 Mish'al said Hamas will not conduct any negotiations or give any information on the fate of the two dead soldiers until Israel agrees to release Palestinians that were released in exchange for Gilad Shalit and later re-arrested.

At a rally in Gaza on Wednesday marking one year since the Gaza war, the spokesman for the Hamas military wing said that the achievements of last summer's war are still open – foremost among them the prisoner issue. Hamas displayed a mock-up of a dog tag belonging to slain IDF soldier Shaul, alongside two other ID tags emblazoned with question marks.

Ynet, citing a Palestinian Authority source in Gaza, said that Mengistu had been released after Hamas' investigations determined he was not an IDF soldier. According to the source, Mengistu left Gaza and headed to Egypt, via tunnels in Rafah. The source confirmed that Israel turned to Hamas regarding Mengistu, as well as the other Israeli captive, by means of a mediator, but refused to go into detail regarding the second captive, a minor, who is seemingly still being held in Gaza.

According to settler-run news service Arutz 7, however, a senior security source said on Thursday that the assumption is that Hamas is lying about the fate and whereabouts of Mengistu. 'We know that Mengistu was arrested, transferred to Hamas for questioning, and since then all traces of him have disappeared,' the source explained, adding that at this time, there is no negotiation process, but that Israel is continuing to attempt to determine Mengistu’s status and condition.

In other news, the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), has reacted cautiously to U.S. President Barack Obama's reported remarks that the U.S. would not agree to a nuclear deal with Iran that he considers weak or unenforceable. Speaking on Israel Radio, Hanegbi said that the United States has proven that it does not stand on previous commitments, such as demanding the dismantling of Iran's military nuclear installations and removing all enriched uranium from the country.

Hanegbi was reacting to a report that Obama told a group of Democratic senators that there is now a less-than-even chance of a nuclear deal with Iran. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin told the web site Politico that Obama said he thought the chances of a deal were less than 50-50 at this point, and that he wouldn't agree to something he thought was weak or unenforceable. Durbin added that Obama said that if he does come up with an agreement and it meets his standards, he wants the legislators to take an honest look at it and not prejudge.


THE WRONG LESSONS FROM THE SHALIT AFFAIR: Writing in Haaretz, Amos Harel says that the fact that Israel slapped a 10-month blanket gag order into the disappearance on an Israeli Ethiopian in Gaza is a manifestation of a very problematic policy.

"The disappearance of the young Israeli-Ethiopian Avraham Mengistu in the Gaza Strip reflects strange conduct by the state and its security arms from the moment Mengistu entered the Gaza Strip in September 2014, through the tardy permit the court gave to release the information on Thursday.

The 28-year-old Mengistu crossed the fence into the Strip about two weeks following the cease-fire that ended the war between Israel and Hamas went into effect. It seemed that the background to the security establishment's controversial decision regarding Mengistu was motivated by events during the war, particularly the abduction of the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul by Hamas.

But in fact, the roots of the matter might go back even further to the abduction of the soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas in 2006. In all of the Israel Defense Forces’ previous operations in the Gaza Strip, all actions were handled with determination not to repeat the Shalit affair and not to leave 'assets' in Hamas hands that would allow Hamas to conduct negotiations that would put public pressure on the government, humiliate Israel and lead to the release of hundreds of Palestinian terrorists in prison in Israel.

Therefore, when Shaul’s body was abducted in battle in Gaza's Shujaiyeh neighborhood and Goldin’s body in a battle in Rafah, the army made huge efforts on two levels: First, to stop the abduction itself (mainly in Rafah, where the controversial 'Hannibal procedure' was evoked, if not openly declared) and subsequently, to find any shred of proof that would allow the IDF Rabbinate and medical experts to declare the soldiers dead. The goal of these steps was to prevent Hamas from exerting effective pressure on Israel, which would force it to agree to major concessions in exchange for the release of the bodies.

The considerable and not very discriminating use of means of taking a negotiating card out of Hamas hands regarding soldiers is even more serious when it comes to a civilian, not to mention one who crossed the border into Gaza of his own volition, under circumstances that seem somewhat strange. Here, the security establishment’s unholy trinity was put into action: issuing a blanket gag order on all details of the affair through the courts (this, despite a lively discussion on the matter among forums of Israeli-Ethiopians on social media and in some cases, reports on websites abroad); conveying partial details only to the media; and together with that, a disturbing attitude toward the family of the missing man.

There is, of course, inherent tension between the public’s right to know and the desire of the media to report, on the one hand, and the state’s considerations in negotiating with those who are holding an Israeli soldier or civilian, on the other. The public hysteria over the Shalit talks, which were accompanied by cynical actions on the part of the media and politicians, undoubtedly raised the price that Hamas extracted to push through the deal.

There was logic in the decision to sign the Shalit deal, considering the commitment the state showed to its soldiers. But Shalit’s return had a problematic cost: Not only the release of 1027 terrorists, but the freeing of terror experts like Yahyah Sanwar, now a senior figure in the Hamas military wing and other released prisoners who lead Hamas' West Bank branch, which operates terror operations in the region via a special command headquarters in Gaza.

Still, the 10-month long blanket gag order is a manifestation of a very problematic policy. Once again the courts seem willing to too hastily approve the demands of the security establishment, answering its needs fully. Hovering in the background, the color of Mengistu’s skin cannot be ignored, especially in light of the protests of young Israelis of Ethiopian origin over the past two months. Would the security establishment have dared and succeeded in making a similar move if the family were veteran Israelis like Shalit’s, Ehud Goldwasser’s or Eldad Regev’s? (The latter two are the families of soldiers abducted by Hizbollah at the start of the Second Lebanon War in 2006.)

True, there is a difference. Mengistu, as noted is a civilian, who crossed the border of his own free will from unclear motives. It is also known that he suffered from various personal problems. And yet, not only in any other case would the state have found it difficult to spread such a broad smokescreen over the case, but the public silence - and apparently a certain innocence on the part of the family of the missing man - made it possible for the security establishment to deal slowly with the matter and even to delay the first meeting with the family.

According to Mengistu’s brother, no less than two weeks went by before representatives of the security establishment’s negotiating team met with the family and took down the first details about their missing son. If the brother’s story is reliable, this is an inconceivable gap, which directly connects to the problematic judgment exercised by the political and military leadership throughout this affair."



HEAVEN AND HELL: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Guy Bechor says that Israel should inundate the United Nations – which has an unhealthy obsession with Israel – with complains and reports about the actions of Arab governments and organizations.

"We are now entering the fifth year of the Middle East's self-destructive phase, which will continue, it seems, for many more decades. And now is the time to say, once and for all, that the United Nations has become an irrelevant organization for every single country but one. Which country? The only one which is a remnant of the old regional order: Israel. Is the UN capable of achieving anything in Syria? How about Iraq or Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Libya? The resounding answer to all these questions is: No. And that's why the UN is focusing all of its attention and energy on Israel.

By concentrating on Israel, the various bodies that make up the United Nations can create for themselves a sense of usefulness and a feeling that they are doing something important. The greater the failure to deal with the broader regional crisis, the more the UN's obsessions with Israel grows. It has become a farce. The more Arab regimes that fall apart, the more the UN's attempts to point the finger of blame and to shine the spotlight on Israel appear desperate and ridiculous.

Israel is on the defensive. It defends itself before the utterly grotesque entity known, without a hint of irony, as the UN Human Rights Council, which is controlled by dictators; it defends itself before the delusional UNESCO and before the Security Council – where there are some members who do not even recognize Israel's right to exist. So maybe now is the time to change direction? Maybe we should change the regional vacuum into something that will help us? It's time for us to use the UN as an offensive weapon and not just one of defense. It's time to take the battle into the enemy's camp.

From now on, Israel must inundate every single UN body with complaints, reports and information about the destruction that is happening all around us. Every day, our diplomats must submit a fresh complaint, must report something new to the media and must ask the UN to pass a fresh resolution. The sheer quantity of submissions would create a critical mass. Even if none of the resolutions are adopted, the impact on public perception would be immense. We need to embarrass the United Nations, just like the United Nations tries to embarrass us.

Every single day our ambassador to the UN and his team of diplomats should report on how armed gangs affiliated to Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas are making mass arrests, torturing suspects, persecuting minorities; we need to remind the UN on a daily basis how the money it has been sending to the Palestinian Authority for years has evaporated into thin air and how the PA continues its racist incitement against Jews and Israelis. The international community is unaware of these facts and the United Nations is the perfect place to share that information. Again, we don't need to be cautious or circumspect: we have to inundate them on a daily basis, from morning to night. We have to industrialize information.

And what about the atrocities that Iran is committing against the ethnic minorities within Iranian society? What about the steady rise in the number of executions and the persecution of gays? Tehran is also sending its henchmen to wreak death and destruction in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. What about the barrel-bombing being perpetrated in Syria by Bashar Assad's regime? What about the support that both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are giving to Sunni jihadi organizations in Syria and Iraq?

And how come the United Nations is not inundated with complaints and information about Hamas' terrorist activities? What about Qatar, which has been systematically bribing everyone it can in the West – including, according to some reports, the United Nations itself? How about the terrible state of human rights in the Gulf dictatorships? And then there's Tunisia, which has suspended all human rights in the aftermath of the recent terror attack there? This is just a partial list of what Israel must now turn into its weapon.

Israel cannot afford to be on the defensive; we must attack. This will allow Israel, for the first time in its history, to use the UN in the same way that other countries do: as a bargaining chip. We will be able to lower our level of aggressiveness in exchange for a similar promise from the Arab sides – who know only too well what will happen when the international community is told the truth about them. If the Arabs are preoccupied with Israel, let's turn the table and develop our own obsession.

By making the truth known to the UN – despite the fact that it is a shriveled-up and dying body – we can help the international community to recognize what a fortress of democracy and human rights Israel really is, despite the military and political challenges we are facing and despite ISIS and similar groups, which are the products of radical Islam. This way, the international community will recognize which country is like a haven in the Middle East and which countries are not."



THE CONCESSIONS MARATHON: Writing in Israel Hayom, Boaz Bismuth says that Western powers have already made every conceivable concession to Iran and that there's nothing left to give.

"The nuclear deal between Iran and the six Western powers – which was due to be signed on June 30, then July 7 and was then extended by another few days – will reach its final deadline tomorrow. Sources in Vienna claim that there will be no further extension of the deadline if a deal is not reached by tomorrow. But, at the same time, there are those who insist that the talks will continue indefinitely if the sides do not manage to resolve all of their differences. Never-ending talks? I'll believe it when I see it.

The nuclear talks were revived by the Obama administration, in October 2009. At first, the Americans were quite opposed to it. The European troika of France, Germany and Britain was managing the negotiation with the Iranians. Those were different days, when Iran was part of the axis of evil, Washington was waging war in the Middle East and the Islamic State group had still not taken the stage. At the time, the West made it clear that under any deal Iran would be prohibited from enriching uranium.

In the meantime, 12 years have passed. The Middle East has changed considerably, and not for the better. The West folded in every new round of talks: once in Switzerland, then in Turkey, again in Kazakhstan. The Iranians even dragged world powers to more talks in Baghdad. Now in the home stretch in Vienna, the West is out of concessions to make -- yet the Iranians remain intransigent. After all, following the interim deal signed in November 2013, it was clear that sanctions would be lifted, centrifuges would be preserved, and Iran would still be able to enrich uranium.

The talks have been like a marathon. After 42 kilometers, we are now in the final 150 meters – but the truth is that we're exhausted from keeping up with all of the West's capitulations, all of Iran's lies and all of the blindness and hypocrisy of the international community. The Iranians are dictating the pace of the talks. If they want to sign an agreement tomorrow, there would be an agreement. If not – we'll just have to wait until someone decides to put an end to this charade. If the Iranian delegation in Vienna decides to sign, it will return to Tehran just in time for the country's al-Quds parade, which takes place on the last Friday of Ramadan. As every year, the parade will include an exhibit of military hardware. On the missiles that are inspected by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, like every year, will appear the words 'The Zionist Entity.'

Here in Israel, we will be able to take some comfort from the knowledge that Iran's nuclear program absolutely does not and never will have a military element, because if these nuclear talks have taught us one thing, it's that one is always happiest when one believes in fantasies."



DUAL THREATS: Writing in Maariv, Haim Assa explains how Israel can deal with the dual threats being posed simultaneously by Iran and ISIS.

"The sounds of explosions coming from the Sinai Peninsula are a timely reminder for Israel of the war that is raging all around us. It is an open regional conflict, in which there is a new element that we have not encountered before: the ability of ISIS to recruit fighters to its ranks. The bloodthirsty organization which has sprung into the headlines over the past year or so has the ability to recruit volunteers from Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Egypt and even Israel and Europe. These volunteers can form terror cells inside Western countries – and every terror expert knows that domestic threats are the most dangerous. The best way to fight this phenomenon, of course, is to win the battle for hearts and minds. In other words, to deny ISIS its recruitment capabilities.

ISIS and Iran are bitter enemies. Iran is Israel's enemy. And ISIS is also Israel's enemy. So we have to ask ourselves the following question: Which poses a greater threat to the security of the Jewish state – ISIS or Iran?

The main existential threat to Israel comes from ISIS, because of its ability to recruit new volunteers, members and supporters inside Israel and across the Western world. The main tool at ISIS' disposal for recruiting new members is its portrayal of operational successes, often accompanied by displays of almost unfathomable cruelty and horror. The organization then translates this to recruits via social media. This is how the organization creates its sleeper cells in every country that it considers its enemy; it takes advantage of the democratic tolerance of these countries. It's only a short distance from here to the launch of a terrorist campaign and bloody guerilla warfare within the United Kingdom, within France and within Israel. In wars of this kind, fighter jets and tanks are of minimal use, since this is first and foremost of war for perception.

Perception is not the same as public relations or public diplomacy. A war for perception is a much more profound and complex struggle, which includes intellectual elements that force all those involved to adopt new and unfamiliar modi operandi in the fields of military practice, diplomacy, psychology and intelligence. So how can Israel best deal with this two-headed threat of Iran and ISIS? The (partial) answer is three-fold:

Firstly, Israel must establish loose coalitions with contradictory elements within them. One coalition would try to counter Iran and would include Egypt, Jordan and Western countries; the second coalition would focus on tackling ISIS and its main member would be the United States, alongside junior members such as Israel and Iran. The nuclear deal that the six world powers are currently negotiating with Iran could serve as bridge between the United States and the ayatollahs and, by extension, between Jerusalem and Tehran. It's a rickety bridge, to be sure, but it's a bridge. It may sound strange, but this is what the new world order will look like. We will live with contradictions, since this is the only way that we can deal with two overlapping yet different threats.

Secondly, we must find some group or organization that has an independent founding ethos and reasonable military capabilities to tackle ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Israel should form a direct coalition with whichever group it locates. This could be, for example, the Kurds.

Thirdly, Israel needs to focus all of its attention on the war over perceptions. This is our real war of existence and the defense establishment must put as much resources into it as it does into the war on cyber terror. In fact, it is even more of an acute problem that the cyber threat. There are two ways to do this. Firstly, on the operational front, Israel should highlight the failures of ISIS and its weak spots. By doing so, we will create the impression of failure and disgrace, which will reduce the enthusiasm of so many impressionable people who seek to join its ranks. On the psychological level, Israel needs to reduce the sense of self-worthless among potential recruits to ISIS. Self-worthless is a concept in social psychology, which deals with individuals' lack of purpose and self-fulfillment.

This is how Israel can deal with the dual threats being posed by Iran and ISIS."



THE QATARI CONNECTION: Writing on News 1 website, Yoni Ben Menachem comments on the increasingly fraught relationship between Qatar and Egypt, in light of the former's suspected involvement in terrorist attacks on Egyptian soil.

"In the past few days, there have been widespread reports in various Arab media outlets, drawing a direct link between Qatar and the wave of terror that struck Egypt earlier this month.

On July 2, for example, Egyptian television channel El Balad reported on statements by Egyptian security experts, who claimed that the explosives used to assassinate Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat were delivered to Egypt via the Qatari Embassy’s diplomatic mail.

Meanwhile, Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab al-Youm openly accused Qatar of being behind the attack. In a report published on Sunday this week, the newspaper claimed that Qatar funded the terror attack by the ISIS-affiliated terror group Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, which targeted Egyptian army units in the Sinai. According to the report, Qatar also allegedly brought terror operatives from Syria, Iraq and Libya to the Sinai, where they had undergone training for the attack.

The report claimed that Qatar had coordinated the media coverage of the Sinai onslaught in the Arab and international media. For example, Al Jazeera, which broadcasts from Doha and is funded by the Qatari government, provided direct coverage of the offensive against the Egyptian army from the moment it began that day at 7 o'clock in the morning. Its cameras lingered long on the raising of the black ISIS flags in the town of Sheikh Zuweid.

These reports are given additional credence by the rising tension between Egypt and Qatar in recent days. Two days after last week’s attacks in Egypt, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry appointed Mohamed Awad – previously its ambassador to Qatar – to the post of Egyptian consul-general in Mumbai, while leaving the Egyptian embassy in Doha without an ambassador.

The Egyptian ambassador to Qatar was recalled in January 2014 to protest 'Qatar’s interference in Egypt’s internal affairs' and has been waiting in Cairo to be reassigned ever since then. Egyptian political commentators view this step as Egypt signaling its displeasure with Qatar, as well as the fact that Egyptian security officials suspect that Qatar was involved in the recent terror incidents. Although Qatar issued a condemnation of the Egyptian prosecutor-general’s assassination, Egyptians have dismissed this statement as a standard denunciation and nothing more than lip service.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s move is similar to one it made about a year ago when, in light of Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Foreign Ministry recalled Ambassador Abd al-Rahman Salah from Ankara and reappointed him as assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister.

Egyptian-Qatari relations have been tense since Sissi took office about two years ago. Qatar openly supports the Muslim Brotherhood, finances its activity, and provides political refuge to dozens of its leaders who have fled Egypt since the ouster of President Mohammed Mursi. Al Jazeera regularly berates the Sissi government.

The late Saudi King Abdullah tried to reconcile Egypt and Qatar. After his death, six months ago, his successor, Salman, continued these efforts, as part of his attempt to create a bloc of Sunni countries to counteract Shiite Iran’s expansion in the Middle East. However, Qatar has not honored the terms of the reconciliation that the Saudi king stipulated, and Al Jazeera’s attacks on the Sissi government and incitement against him have only intensified. Qatar’s ties with the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared illegal, also continue. A few days ago, the ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, hosted Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi for a Ramadan fast-breaking meal. Qaradawi, one of the senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood who fled Egypt, has a death sentence hanging over him.

Although Egypt has demanded that Qatar and Turkey extradite the Muslim Brotherhood leaders who found political refuge on their soil, they refuse to comply."



ARE DEMOCRATS DESERTING ISRAEL? Writing in The Jerusalem Post, Douglas Bloomfield says that Israel’s problem – not just with Democrats or Americans but Europeans as well – isn’t the message, but the policies of the current government and the arrogance of its leader.

"A new poll making headlines in Israel this week declares that the country 'can no longer claim to have the bipartisan support of America' because Democratic elites have deserted the Jewish state. How credible is this poll? Consider this: it was conducted by a highly partisan Republican pollster who surveyed 802 'highly educated, high income... opinion elites' – not rank and file or members of Congress – that he selected to measure partisan American attitudes toward Israel. Not surprisingly, he also found that Republicans are increasingly enthusiastic in their backing for Israel.

The survey was commissioned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Why would a highly respected, presumably non-partisan organization like JNF order a survey of partisan attitudes toward Israel, and why not pick a pollster with a reputation for balance and non-partisanship? And why send him to Israel to brief political leaders and journalists about his findings? One likely answer: the chairman of JNF is Ronald Lauder, a longtime Republican who is remembered for taking out full-page newspaper ads attacking President Barack Obama for not being sufficiently supportive of the Netanyahu government. In the past five years alone he has given $843,200 to Republican candidates and Super PACs, according to the Federal Election Commission. FEC reports also indicate the president of JNF, Jeffrey E. Levine, gave $20,010 to the Democratic Party in 2011, but none since then.

All the more reason to treat this survey by Republican political consultant Frank Luntz as highly suspect. That’s not to deny that there has not been a growing gap between Republicans and Democrats in their support for Israel over the past several years, but mostly it has nothing to do with 'hostility' toward the Jewish state. Luntz concedes 'policy has something to do' with the drift but his prescription for closing the partisan gap – an 'efficient, effective and unified PR campaign' – is insultingly simplistic and useless.

Israel’s problem – not just with Democrats or Americans but Europeans as well – isn’t the message but the policies of the current government and the arrogance of its leader, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has done more to isolate Israel than any of his predecessors.

Hawkish Israeli security 'rhetoric' appeals to Republicans, Luntz notes, but he recommends the message for Democrats 'underline Israel’s role in protecting human rights and promoting equality.' He misses the message of his own findings. The bottom line is the policy and its implementation, and no amount of polishing by high-priced consultants can fix that.

Among Luntz’s findings: Three quarters of Democratic 'opinion elites' believe Israel has 'too much influence' on U.S. foreign policy; almost half consider it to be a racist country; fewer than half believe Israel actually wants peace with the Palestinians and only 46 percent of Democrats vs. 88% of Republicans consider themselves 'pro-Israel.'

Leave aside the matter of skewing the questions to produce a desired outcome, and look behind Luntz’s message. 'Israel has won the hearts and minds of Republicans in America while at the same time Israel is losing the Democrats,' the Republican pollster told The Times of Israel. 'The Israeli government and U.S. Jews have to focus on repairing relations with the Democrats.'

This is not a simple PR problem, as he suggests. It is much more fundamental. It goes where Luntz and JNF and Lauder fear to tread: the prime minister’s doorstep.

No one has done more to drive Democrats away from Israel than Netanyahu. His partnership with the Republicans to undermine Obama, especially on Iran and peace with the Palestinians, has been a disaster for Israel’s longtime bipartisan support. Many Democrats see in Netanyahu an ally who has no interest in acting like an ally.

Luntz contends nearly half of the Democrats say Israel is racist. He offers no comparison to how they see their own country or any other country. His finding reflects the feeling on the part of many African Americans that Netanyahu’s unconcealed animosity toward Obama and his congressional speech attacking the administration’s Iran policy as disrespecting the nation’s first black president.

Luntz’s findings reflect a GOP strategy designed to use Israel as a wedge issue to increase donations by wealthy single-issue pro-Israel campaign givers, not to attract the GOP Jewish voters, who remain firmly entrenched on the Democratic side of the partisan divide. Republicans have raised a lot of Jewish money in their campaign to transform Israel into a partisan wedge issue, replete with painting Obama as an enemy of the Jewish state, and Netanyahu’s prominent role in that effort has helped turn away many Democrats.

No issue is more critical for Israel right now than the nuclear agreement with Iran, yet Netanyahu has squandered any influence he may have had in shaping the administration’s positions by mounting a full frontal assault on the integrity and intentions of the American president and by colluding with a GOP leadership determined to use the issue as one more weapon in their anti- Obama campaign.

Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid and a former Netanyahu coalition partner said the prime minister’s strident rhetoric and confrontational rather than cooperative strategy on the Iran issue has cost Israel influence in the negotiations. 'His approach led us to a situation in which the American administration isn’t willing to listen to our positions. His approach led not only the United States but also the other five powers involved in the negotiations... not to take into account Israel’s concerns over the deal, concerns which are right and justified.'

Luntz suggests the Democrats are deserting Israel, but a fair-minded analyst might conclude that the reverse may be more accurate. Democrats voted for Obama in large numbers because he promised to end Bush’s costly and futile wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now they see Israel’s government trying to push America into another war it doesn’t want and can’t afford.

Luntz found that fewer than half of what he called Democratic 'opinion elites' believe Israel under Netanyahu wants peace with its neighbors. I suspect the majority of Israelis feel the same.

Republicans may be having great success with their wedge strategy when it comes to pro-Israel big givers, but their efforts are unlikely to change many Jewish votes in 2016, and they are bad news for Israel. Netanyahu cannot afford his legacy to be Israel’s loss of bipartisan American support."




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