Grapevine: Moving on

Digital technology was not yet in vogue, when veteran military correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai for half a century covered wars in Israel and abroad.

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March 6, 2018 21:28
Grapevine: Moving on

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, flanked by Israel Bonds president Israel Maimon (left) and Consul-General in New York Dani Dayan. (photo credit: Courtesy)

After more than 10 years in Israel, Jason Pearlman, who for the past three-and-a-half years has been the foreign media adviser to President Reuven Rivlin, is returning to London to take up the position of deputy director of the right-leaning Henry Jackson Society, an influential British think tank named for the late American senator.

In tandem with the HJS announcement of his appointment, Pearlman publicized his new career move on Facebook and via email, and was inundated with good wishes from media and other contacts.

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Prior to working with Rivlin, Pearlman, 35, worked as a strategic consultant for a range of private and public bodies in Israel and the UK. He has a long-established track record of working with and alongside top-level government and international institutions, and most recently served as a liaison with the White House for the meeting between Rivlin and US Vice President Mike Pence. In addition, he has been a good resource for international media based in Israel and the region.

Pearlman is no stranger to HJS. In his previous roles, he said, “the Henry Jackson Society has been a first port of call for information and research on a wide range of topics. The chance to contribute to this important work is a true privilege.”

HJS founder and executive director Alan Mendoza stated: “The Henry Jackson Society is enjoying a period of significant growth both in the scope of our work and in our impact, helping shape policy and highlight key issues right across the board. We are delighted to have enlisted Jason’s experience and skills to help us continue in this very positive direction.”

While working with Rivlin, Pearlman frequently traveled abroad to address various organizations and institutions, and also addressed visiting groups in Israel. This past week, he’s actually been in Washington.

Before migrating to Israel in 2006, Pearlman worked at the Israel Embassy in London and was media head at the British Board of Deputies. After settling in Israel, he worked at the Government Press Office and helped to formulate strategy for leading political figures, corporations and nonprofit organizations, and even while working for Rivlin continued to advise the Economy and Tourism ministries and the Jerusalem Tourism Authority. In the course of addresses in Israel and abroad, Pearlman has also promoted Rivlin’s unification of four tribes program.

With the help of modern technology, he will continue to assist Rivlin long distance until a successor is appointed, but last week brought his family to formally say lehitraot to the president.

■ DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY was not yet in vogue, when veteran military correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai for half a century covered wars in Israel and abroad for Israel Radio, Israel Television, Yediot Aharonot, Time magazine and Davar. Ben-Yishai, who now works for Ynet, is one of this year’s Israel Prize laureates.

Has also fought in wars and has helped wounded soldiers in the field, even when no longer in uniform himself. He has also been the commander in chief of Army Radio, and took a brief respite from journalism to be the spokesman for president Moshe Katsav. He was arguably the best spokesman that any president has had, because of his experience as a journalist. Journalists who called him for details of an event that they didn’t attend got an immediate detailed oral report, long before the press release was disseminated.

When Ben-Yishai was covering the 1974 war in Cyprus, the only communications links for foreign reporters at one stage were one telephone and one telex line to Jerusalem. Yitzhak Feller, who was there for Israel Radio, and Ben-Yishai, who was there for Israel Television, were the only correspondents who could make contact with their home base. In a show of camaraderie, they received permission from Jerusalem for other reporters to file their stories through the telephone and fax lines to the Israel Broadcasting Authority, which in turn transferred them to the destinations for which they were intended.

■ WHEN PRINCE Harry announced his engagement to Meghan Markle, Rivlin invited him to spend his honeymoon in Israel. Instead, we’re getting his older brother, Prince William, the future king of England. Even though it’s taken the Brits 70 years to allow their royals to come here for any reason other than a funeral or to honor the memory of a deceased royal relative who is buried in Jerusalem, as with anything else, the longest journey begins with the first step.

Actually, William will not be the first British royal to set foot in Israel. Many reports of the upcoming visit omitted the word “official.”

There are working visits, courtesy visits, private visits and official visits. And of course there are also clandestine visits, as was the case with the late King Hussein, before the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. There were unconfirmed rumors that William’s great aunt Princess Margaret, during a visit to Jordan, had quietly crossed the border. His father, Prince Charles, was here for the funerals of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. His grandfather Prince Phillip was here in 1994 to visit the grave of his mother, Princess Alice, and to attend a Yad Vashem ceremony at which she was honored for saving Greek Jews during the Holocaust; and his uncle Prince Edward came on a work visit for the Israel Youth Award programs in 2007.

It should be remembered that many of the world’s royals are descended from Queen Victoria, whose mother was German, as was her consort, Prince Albert. In fact, before World War II, several royals were well disposed toward Germany, even during the Nazi era.

In July 2015, the Daily Telegraph published a photograph of the queen’s uncle Edward VIII giving a Nazi salute on a visit to Germany in 1937. By then, he was already the Duke of Windsor, having abdicated the previous year. The visit was unofficial, but the British royal nonetheless received the full red-carpet treatment and was accompanied by top-ranking Nazis such as Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister; Fritz Wiedemann, Hitler’s personal adjutant; Arthur Goerlitzer, the deputy political leader of Berlin; and Walter Hewel, Hitler’s liaison to Ribbentrop.

Also in July 2015, The Independent, the Daily Mail and The Sun reported on a Channel 4 documentary in which Prince Phillip’s sister Sophie described Hitler as “a charming and seemingly modest man.” There were also photographs of a 16-year-old Prince Phillip in a German funeral procession as one of the mourners for his older sister Cecile, who was killed in an air crash.

Three of his four sisters married German aristocrats who became leading figures in the Nazi Party. One of them even named her son after Hitler. And let’s not forget the photographs of a 20-year-old Prince Harry in January 2005 sporting a Nazi armband on the sleeve of his shirt.

It may all be water under the bridge, but it’s difficult to ignore.

There are some people, especially among British immigrants to Israel, who think that the euphoria over Prince William’s upcoming visit is misplaced, especially in view of the fact that in announcing that he will visit Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Kensington Palace and the British media referred to the latter as the occupied Palestinian territory.

In a tit-for-tat interview with British Ambassador David Quarrey in relation to the visit, Kan 11’s Geula Even-Sa’ar suggested that the Falklands are occupied British territory, although Britain refers to the Falklands as overseas British territory. The Argentine population presumably thinks differently.

Manchester-born journalist Anshel Pfeffer, who used to write for The Jerusalem Post but in recent years has been a columnist for Haaretz, and who also writes for the London-based Jewish Chronicle, downplayed the visit and in last Friday’s Haaretz wrote: “The power of the Foreign Office’s professional diplomats, who routinely vetoed any notion of a royal visit to Israel in the past, is on the wane. The Conservative politicians in government are no longer heeding their considered advice on Brexit and other foreign policy. Prime Minister May and her foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, are both instinctively pro-Israel and hopeful that
Netanyahu can help them in the upcoming negotiations in Washington on Britain’s crucial trade deal (once it no longer enjoys the EU’s umbrella).

“If the price the British government has to pay for gaining some goodwill in the Trump White House is giving Netanyahu the PR coup of being the first Israeli prime minister to host a 35-year-old unemployed helicopter pilot living off state benefits, then so be it.”

Pfeffer, by the way, will be among the speakers at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York next month and will be debating Caroline Glick. As they are not exactly on the same side of the political fence, sparks are expected to fly, and anyone who happens to be in the Big Apple at that time to attend the conference will have a thoroughly thought-provoking and possibly entertaining experience.

By the way, the Brits have denied that the prince is coming to celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary, but as he is due to come in May, perhaps he’s coming to mourn the departure of the British Mandate Authority.

■ ALTHOUGH THERE were women in the First Knesset and in all subsequent Knessets, their ratio has been nowhere near their ratio in the population, and for a long time the only female cabinet member was Golda Meir, who in 1949 was social services minister and labor minister, and kept moving up in the ranks, capping her career with the premiership in 1969.

Other women who served in the cabinet included Shulamit Aloni, Shoshana Arbeli-Almozlino, Ruhama Avraham, Sara Doron, Gila Gamliel, Yael German, Dalia Itzik, who was also the only woman to serve as speaker of the Knesset and as acting president of the state, Sofa Landver, Limor Livnat, Tzipi Livni, Ora Namir, Yehudit Naot, Orit Noked, Miri Regev, Ayelet Shaked and Yuli Tamir. In recent years the Justice Ministry has been dominated by women, with the minister and director-general on the distaff side, along with the president of the Supreme Court, but in politics in general, whether at the national or local level, women are still in the extreme minority, and not necessarily for want of trying.

■ EMUNAH, THE National Religious women’s organization, has named Dr. Ruth Kannai as its Woman of the Year. A second-generation Holocaust survivor who was born with a complicated genetic disease which caused her many orthopedic difficulties, but which she did not allow to impede her career ambitions or to get in the way of her doing civilian national service in the Golan Heights, she proved that willpower can conquer almost all.

She is a family medicine specialist who has worked for more than 20 years at the Clalit Srigim rural clinic located in the Eila Valley. The clinic is responsible for nine villages in the area, and Kannai takes care of the medical needs of the residents from birth to death. This includes childcare services, pregnancy, follow-ups and mental health, and she often visits patients at home.

She works in close collaboration with social workers and mental health services, and develops strong relationships with her patients, thus enabling her to form a clear picture of the family and to prescribe preventive medicine when necessary. She is also an expert in medical ethics.

Born in Bnei Brak in 1965 and currently living in Beit Shemesh, Kannai studied in Israel and the United States and has also taught and mentored in Israel, the US and Europe. She teaches at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She received her medical degree from the Sackler School of Medicine of Tel Aviv University and interned at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Notwithstanding a busy career, she is a devoted wife and mother to her four children. She was one of a long list of outstanding women nominated for Emunah’s Woman of the Year award, but the adjudicating committee considered her to be a model of excellence and the most worthy of the title, particularly because she exemplifies the highest values of religious Zionism.

■ THOUGH HER father was known for a libido that was frequently in overdrive, and she likewise in her younger years provided plenty of fodder for the gossip columnists, it was nonetheless Yael Dayan who 20 years ago pushed through the Sexual Harassment Law while serving as a member of Knesset. Dayan spent part of her Knesset career as chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women. To mark the 20th anniversary of the Sexual Harassment Law, Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacimovich, who chairs the State Control Committee, organized a meeting to examine the extent to which this law is either implemented or bypassed. Among the invitees were Dayan and State Comptroller Joseph Shapira and members of the Rape Crisis Center.

RCC executive director Orit Sulitzeanu said that although the law is not fully implemented, it has made a tremendous difference to public comprehension and attitudes, and has given victims of sexual harassment greater opportunities to complain and be heard.

■ EIGHT YEARS after her aliya, Pnina Salomon, formerly from Teaneck, New Jersey, became the Bayit Yehudi representative on the Zichron Ya’acov City Council. Asked when she became interested in politics, Salomon replied that she had never been interested in politics but had always been involved with community organizations.

As a city councilor who is a native English-speaker who happens to be fluent in Hebrew, she says that what Anglos need most is information. So she took it upon herself initially to translate municipal and community notices into English, and now she’s gone a step further, translating the minutes of city council meetings so that residents will know where their taxes are going. “I’m empowering olim in Zichron,” she says.

In the US Salomon worked as a physician’s assistant in neurosurgery, but in Israel she works part time in a PTA library. Asked whether she intends to run for mayor, she said she would much rather focus on education and general community work. She spends 80% of her time as council member on education-related matters, and 20% in translating material that will be useful to Anglos who have not yet mastered the local lingo.

■ INASMUCH AS women have made tremendous progress in almost every field, gender discrimination still exists – and not only in matters of equal pay for equal work, or selection of a male applicant over a female when they have similar qualifications. It also exists where state’s witnesses are concerned. Shula Zaken went to jail, and Nir Hefetz is getting off scot-free – without even a fine.

■ ONE HAS to wonder whether all the fine detail arrangements made between heads of state and governments include more than just a semi-formal dress code. For instance, when the Netanyahus called at the White House this week to meet with US President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, both Sara Netanyahu and Melania Trump wore soft blue pastels, with Netanyahu in aqua blue and Trump in sky blue. The two women warmly embraced each other before settling down to chat, and the president’s wife also got a peck on the cheek from Bibi. While the two couples posed for photos immediately after the arrival of the Netanyahus at the White House, Bibi as usual held Sara’s hand. The question is: was he holding or hanging on? Melania, who tends to favor a total look, also wore magnificent blue shoes that perfectly matched her outfit. She and President Trump did not hold hands.

■ CONSIDERING THE number of Israelis who were in Washington and New York this week, that particular stretch of American territory could have been renamed the New Jerusalem. Among those who were seen in both Washington and the Big Apple was Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

In New York she attended an event at the residence of Consul-General Dani Dayan, in support of Ayalim, an Israeli NGO established in 2002 to encourage settlement, industry and social cohesion in the Negev, the Galilee and Lod. Ayalim focuses primarily on University students and oversees 22 student villages in Lod, Karmiel, Ofakim, Kiryat Shmona, Yeroham and elsewhere.

At the event, which was under the patronage of Israel Bonds, Shaked spoke of her initial connection with Ayalim, which was 15 years ago, just after she completed her university studies in electrical engineering and was working at Texas Instruments. A colleague told her that he had a friend whose big dream was to establish a student village in the Negev. She thought it was a wonderful idea and wanted to help, but she wasn’t professionally equipped to do so. However, she didn’t forget about the project, and when she and Naftali Bennett became members of the government, she decided to do all that she could to help Ayalim.

Dayan’s guests included both Americans and Israelis, among them Israel Bonds president Israel Maimon. At question time, the Americans voiced concern over the deteriorating relationship between American liberal Jews and Israel. Shaked conceded that while differences are legitimate, Jewish unity is more important.

In Washington, on the sidelines of the AIPAC Policy Conference, at a well-attended event organized by the Strategic Affairs Ministry and the Yesha Council, the umbrella organization representing communities in Judea and Samaria, Bennett, Shaked and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz each stressed the importance of maintaining Jewish settlements in the West Bank. They also promoted rejection of a peace plan that includes the establishment of a Palestinian state.

■ CONGRATULATIONS ARE in order to veteran Jerusalem Post and internationally syndicated cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen, who on March 8 celebrates his 80th birthday. With Passover on the horizon, Kirschen fans may be interested in purchasing The Dry Bones Passover Haggadah, which is user-friendly and has delightful cartoons throughout. This is an especially entertaining Haggada, for those who are not terribly interested in the Seder service and are just waiting for the food. Browsing through the cartoons and reading the dialogue between the characters will be sufficiently absorbing to stave off thoughts of food.

■ A LOT of people were angry this week over the chaos at the entrance to Jerusalem that derived from the start of construction for what is being touted as the largest integrated transportation center in Israel. According to the powers that be at the Moriah Jerusalem Development Corporation, which is in charge of the project, it will take four years to complete. Few projects in Israel get finished within the initially stated time frame, and the four years could drag out to six and even 10.

In addition to the general public, one Jerusalemite who was very angry about the traffic congestion and general discomfort caused to locals and visitors to the capital was Jerusalem City Councilman Arieh King, who in a radio interview said that Mayor Nir Barkat has no right to be at the AIPAC conference in Washington when Jerusalem is in turmoil. King doubts that Barkat will still be mayor by the end of the year, and declared: “He’s leaving all this mess for his successor.”

■ BARELY TWO months after it was made public that Russian-Jewish billionaire and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich was the mystery donor of a $30 million gift to Tel Aviv University, it was revealed that Abramovich also donated $20m. toward a new nuclear medical facility at Sheba Medical Center. A press release issued by Sheba confirmed that the facility is in the early stages of construction, and when completed will be a 2,000-square meter diagnostic and research facility for nuclear medicine, molecular imaging and research. The building will be three stories high. Its staff will specialize in new cancer treatments that are designed to cause the least damage to healthy tissue.

This is not the first time that Abramovich has given a generous donation to Sheba. He has previously supported several other projects, and so far has given the medical center $57m., which is much more than what the average wage earner makes in a lifetime. Abramovich can afford to be generous. Forbes magazine has assessed his fortune to be in the realm of $11.6 billion.
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