A day in the life of the surreal Jewish state

First time in history that the American Embassy bash was held in Jerusalem.

By
July 4, 2019 21:10
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu attends an event earlier this month marking the first anniversary

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu attends an event earlier this month marking the first anniversary of the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. . (photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR)

Hundreds of people arrived at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center on Tuesday evening to attend the US Embassy’s annual Independence Day celebration. 
 
That the giant 4th of July gala was held two days early was not unusual. Nor was the long list of VIPs from Israel and the United States – among them members of Congress and the Knesset – seen networking at the bar and buffet, or lining up at the McDonald’s and Ben & Jerry’s stands.
 
What made this year’s flag-studded event most notable was its location. As both US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed in their speeches to the cheering audience, it was the first time in history that the American Embassy bash was held in Jerusalem. 
 
The reason for the change of venue was significant. Until last year, when Friedman decided to move it to an air-conditioned locale in Tel Aviv, the party to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence had taken place in the garden of the US ambassador’s residence in Herzliya.
 
It was not the coastal town’s oppressive summer heat and humidity that led to the break with tradition, however. Rather, it was US President Donald Trump’s 2017 official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, and subsequent move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which enabled the welcome shift. 
 
It was thus a particularly happy occasion, and boasted the highest-ever turnout. No small feat, considering the chaos that had erupted in the immediate vicinity and elsewhere, turning travel of any kind into a commuter’s worst nightmare. Indeed, the fact that anyone was able to show up at all was nothing short of miraculous.
 
About an hour before Friedman and Netanyahu took to the stage to address the crowd, hundreds of haredim (ultra-Orthodox) belonging to the extremist “Jerusalem Faction” political movement blocked light-rail tracks and two main streets, as part of a protest against the arrest of a yeshiva student charged with draft-dodging.
 
As if this didn’t create enough of a problem, the minute that Jerusalem Police managed to disperse the demonstration before it got out of hand, protests staged by Ethiopian Israelis there and at several other key locations across the country escalated. By nightfall, they had become full-fledged violent riots.
 
The tire-burning and rock-throwing – usually associated with the ongoing low-intensity Palestinian war of attrition against innocent Israelis – suddenly were being perpetrated by members of a Jewish immigrant community, one whose absorption has been relatively successful in spite of the many hurdles it has had to endure and overcome.
 
The so-called “spontaneous” combustion was sparked by the funeral earlier in the day of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah from Kiryat Haim in Haifa, who was killed on Sunday by an off-duty police officer.
 
By all accounts, Tekah’s death was an unnecessary tragedy. But whether the officer is guilty of “negligent homicide” has yet to be established.
 
The officer told investigators that he had been on the way to a park with his wife and children when he saw Tekah and two other teenagers beating up a younger boy. He claims that after trying to intervene and identifying himself as a policeman, the teens began to throw rocks at him. He says that, fearing for his family and himself, he shot at the ground, but the bullet ricocheted, hitting Tekah in the chest.
 
Though an eyewitness has refuted the officer’s version of events, autopsy results reportedly support it.
 
Nevertheless, the Ethiopian-Israeli community believes that the officer murdered Tekah because he was black. Decrying “racism,” demanding “equal rights” and calling Israel a “police state,” protesters spent the better part of Tuesday night bashing squad cars and terrorizing innocent motorists who were unable to move in miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic. By morning, more than 100 police officers had been injured.
 
On Wednesday evening, the Tekah family called on their community to stop the violence and cease the demonstrations until the end of the shiva mourning period.
 
If attendees at America’s 243rd birthday party were pleasantly unaware of the extent of the pandemonium going on outside as they sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikva” while they basked in the blessed display of mutual admiration between Washington and Jerusalem, they must have had a rude awakening on the (very long) way back to their homes and hotels.


IF THEY were unable to witness the anarchy from the windows of their vehicles, at least they would have been able to hear about it on their car radios.
 
They also would have been able to learn that MK Amir Peretz was back at the helm of the Labor Party, after more than a decade’s hiatus, following his victory in the day’s primary election. 
 
The result of the vote was revealed around the time that Netanyahu was speaking at the US Embassy event, reiterating his praise and gratitude for the Trump administration’s policies, including the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
 
The Ethiopian-Israeli unrest couldn’t have come at a better time for Peretz. It was a perfect issue with which to kick off the current campaign to oust Netanyahu – oh, and to rebuild his own reputation, too. After all, the former Histadrut chairman and social-justice warrior had vowed to eradicate poverty, yet asked for and gladly accepted the defense portfolio – not the finance or welfare ministries – when courted by the Kadima-led government coalition established in 2006. 
 
To make matters worse, Peretz the peacenik was ridiculed during the Second Lebanon War for “inspecting his troops” on the Golan Heights through capped binoculars. Some way to defeat Iran’s proxy. Hezbollah.
 
Ironically, while card-carrying Labor members headed to the polls to elect Peretz – the latest in a string of leaders desperately trying to resuscitate the decimated party and defeat the right-wing bloc, particularly one headed by Netanyahu – the prime minister was busy running the country. You know, by doing things like bombing Iranian bases in Syria.
 
Speaking of which, before setting out for the evening’s July 4th festivities, Netanyahu stopped at the President’s Residence to bestow the Israel Defense Prize on the Mossad operatives who stole an estimated 110,000 documents from a warehouse in Tehran, and on three other brave innovators responsible for the saving of countless lives. 
 
These included three IDF soldiers who exposed and destroyed the Hezbollah tunnels under Israel’s northern border, the developers of the Spice 1000 electro-optical guidance weapons system, and the creators of a crucial, secret Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) project. 
 
Following the award ceremony, Netanyahu posted on Facebook that when he met with Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 25, 2018, he told the US president of his imminent plan to send “our men” into Iran. He recounted that Trump asked him whether such an undertaking was dangerous. Netanyahu replied that the considerable risk involved would be worth taking.
 
“Thus,” Netanyahu wrote, “after the operation, when I brought the main findings that were uncovered in the archive to the Oval Office, [Trump] already knew what I was talking about. I have no doubt that this helped reaffirm his decision to withdraw from the dangerous [nuclear] deal.”
 
Netanyahu continued: “Yesterday, Iran announced that it had crossed the 300-kilogram enriched-uranium threshold, another defiant step in its quest to produce nuclear weapons. Israel will not allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons. Those who threaten us with annihilation, leaders who think in such terms, place themselves in similar danger.”
 
It is this stance that has kept Netanyahu in office for 10 years straight. Though his political rivals blame him for not eliminating Hamas rockets and incendiary balloons – and accuse him of investing more energy in foreign policy than in tackling domestic woes – most of the public understand that Iran is the head of the snake, and appreciates the prime minister’s successful efforts at forging regional ties against the mullah-led regime in Tehran.
 
When the US Embassy fête was over, Netanyahu’s motorcade, made its way, sirens blaring to the Prime Minister’s Residence as quickly as was possible under the circumstances. 
 
But as soon as the motorcade reached its destination, Netanyahu focused his attention on the night’s riots.
 
“We all mourn the tragic death of the youth, Solomon Tekah,” he said in a taped video. “We embrace the Ethiopian community. It is dear to me, dear to all of us. These are not empty words. I know there are problems that must be solved. We have worked hard and need to work harder to solve them. But I ask of you one thing: Stop blocking the intersections. We will solve the problems together through respect for the law.”
 
For Netanyahu, all of the above was just an average day’s work in the surreal state of Israel.


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