As Americans come out in huge numbers to challenge the illiberal policies of President Donald J. Trump, they should be mindful of developments in and emanating from another increasingly illiberal democracy: Israel.

In power in Israel for nearly a decade, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political partners have focused their energies on one goal above all others: expanding settlements and securing permanent Israeli control over territory occupied by Israel in 1967. In pursuing this “Greater Israel” agenda, Netanyahu has governed according to a political ethos that has much in common with that of Trump, starting with the belief that political might makes right; that laws, courts, and public institutions exist solely to serve those in power; that the media and activists are the enemy; that hasbara (Hebrew for “propaganda,” often akin to “alt-facts”) trumps facts; and that democratic norms like “rule of law” and “checks-and-balances” are for suckers.

Americans should pay attention to Israel not merely for the many lessons it offers about how illiberalism can take hold in a free society. They should pay attention because the same “Greater Israel” agenda that has eroded Israeli society is today poisoning America’s democracy.

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The more Netanyahu hitches his wagon to the White House, the more he and Trump resemble each other, the more American Jews will actively resist both.

Israel’s newly adopted, patently unconstitutional “Regularization Law” further distances most American Jews from the government of Israel and the State of Israel. 

It does so by further underscoring the similarities between Israel’s leadership and U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign of constitutionally controversial executive orders. It thus further deepens the sense of dissonance in the minds of American Jews regarding the U.S.-Israel relationship. 

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Israel’s “Entry Bill”: What It Is and What It Means

What is the “Entry Bill”?

The so-called “Entry Bill” currently under consideration is an amendment to Israel’s 1952 “Entry Law,” which determines who is allowed to enter into Israel and under what conditions.

The amendment stipulates that any person who is not an Israeli citizen will be denied entry into Israel if:

“if the person, or the organization or body that the person represents, has knowingly publicized a call to boycott the state of Israel, as defined in the 2011 Law to Prevent Harming the State of Israel through Boycott, or (if that person) has pledged to participate in such a boycott.”[while granting Israel’s Interior Minister the prerogative to issue exceptional entry permits to boycotters “for special reasons.”]

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The nomination of David Friedman to be the next ambassador of the United States to Israel has stirred a fierce debate, focused primarily on Friedman’s well-documented bombastic rhetoric and his views on settlements, the occupation, and the Palestinians — views that are at odds with decades of bipartisan U.S. policy.

As the Senate gets ready to consider Friedman’s nomination, what has been largely overlooked is the fact that, based on his own very clear and public record, Friedman is by any objective standard disqualified from serving as America’s diplomatic envoy to any country, and especially to Israel.

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APN board member Mik Moore in Medium: Freedom Riders In Israel

Israel is innovating new products that will help the developing world and isolated areas gain access to fresh produce and water, sustainable energy, and inexpensive traditional housing.

Israel is innovating new ways to deny millions of people basic civil rights; subjecting them to regular violence and intimidation, undermining their ability to be economically self sufficient, and preventing them from building housing, schools, and other necessities.

Over Christmas break I spent two weeks in Israel with my wife and our kids, aged 13 and 9. It was my eighth visit and their first. We saw both of these Israels, up close and personal.

It is not shocking to learn that a country contains multitudes. The good and the bad often exist side by side, each an authentic representation of a nation’s values. It is true in the United States. It is true in France. It is true in Israel.

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Back in 2012, I warned a friend who was working on international trade issues: pay attention to what’s happening with the Palestinians at the UN, because it could cause problems for the U.S. on a wide range of issues, including the ones you deal with. I recall clearly his response, mainly because it was so patronizing. In essence, he told me: “don’t kid yourself – nobody is going to let a boutique issue like Israel-Palestine harm truly important U.S. interests (like trade).”

Now, five years later, President-elect Trump and his surrogates are dropping heavy hints about plans to break with longstanding U.S. positions vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the direction of changes that both Israelis and Palestinians would view as turning away from a negotiated peace agreement. And like my friend in 2012, few people today seem to grasp the consequences – entirely unrelated to Israel and the Palestinians – such changes are set to unleash, or the profoundly negative implications they would have for all Americans.

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israeli-separation-barrier-Newsweek-AnatBenNun320x265With the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, speculation is running high in regard to Washington’s policy on Israeli settlement construction and the future of the Middle East peace process.

While many unpredictable variables are in place, one thing is certain—the viability of the two-state solution is at stake. After 50 years of occupation and as the point of no return grows closer, Trump’s administration is set to carry an even heavier responsibility on its shoulders than previous U.S. administrations.

When it comes to Trump’s settlement policy, I argue that instinctual assumptions of reckless Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank during his presidency may be misleading. Unfortunately, the likely alternative also contains substantial risks for the two-state solution.

Celebrating Trump’s election, the Israeli right-wing was single-minded. It was not worried about democratic values, nor was it concerned with pluralism or for the American Jewish community. Rather, it expected that starting from January 20, all restraints on settlement construction would be removed. Without restraints from either Trump or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, continued settlement developments will create irreversible damage to the two-state solution.

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Illiberal Support for Israel: Antithetical to Jewish Values & Israel’s Interests

In the beginning, “pro-Israel” meant something clear and uncomplicated: supporting Israel’s miraculous establishment as the homeland of the Jewish people, on the heels of the horrors of the Holocaust, and defending Israel’s very right to exist and thrive, in the face of violent rejection of that young country by its neighbors.

After the 1967 War, the definition of “pro-Israel” began evolving. It gradually came to mean – for much of the American Jewish establishment – defending Israel from all criticism and pressure, even if this meant in effect supporting policies designed to cement Israeli control over the lands Israel conquered in 1967, and even if it meant turning a blind eye, especially in recent years, to an escalation in illiberal policies targeting Israeli civil society itself. And it came to mean demanding that American political leaders and elected officials adopt this same approach to “pro-Israel,” or risk finding themselves labeled “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic.”

A direct line exists between this “pro-Israel” illiberal orthodoxy and the positioning of too many in the Jewish establishment today.

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naomitamuraf250x372Naomi Tamura is done with empty promises and ready for tangible change

Three years ago, I attended an annual peace rally in Tel Aviv to honor the life and legacy of Yitzhak Rabin, the fifth Prime Minister of Israel and a tireless champion of peace who was assassinated by the anti-peace extremist, Yigal Amir, in 1995. Along with friends from my youth movement, Habonim Dror, I stood in pure awe among a sea of 35,000 fellow peace activists. We wore our blue movement shirts, held posters demanding peace and sang Shir LaShalom - the song Rabin had sung just moments before his assassination. It was the most sobering, yet electrifying experience I had ever been a part of.

This week, as I prepare to honor the 21st yahrzeit of Yitzhak Rabin, I want more than anything to return to that moment. Still clear in my memory, my heart simultaneously aches and blossoms when I recall the feeling of being surrounded by tens of thousands of people, young and old, united by our commitment to peace despite the ongoing violence and incitement. This experience has inspired me to honor Rabin’s legacy in real ways -- how to spread his vision for tolerance, freedom and peace, how to help build a shared future for both Israelis and Palestinians based on these lessons and how to inspire others to join me in doing so.

I am committed to working for peace for several reasons. Next year will mark the occupation’s 50th anniversary. This past week, Netanyahu promised to “continue to take care of settlements in Judea and Samaria,” expressing support for the Israeli settlers whose occupation over the West Bank undermines prospects for peace. The Israeli government has threatened to demolish the Palestinian village of Susya, and has until November 15th to make a final decision. If they decide to move forward with demolition, they will be paving space for more illegal Israeli settlements. And Israel, the beautiful country I called home for nine months after high school, is not living up to its ideals as a just and democratic state- the ideals that form the backbone of both my relationship to Israel and my Jewish identity.

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APN's Lara Friedman in The Times of Israel: Is the JFNA Legitimizing Settlements?

Last week, Jewish Federations of North American (JFNA), an organization representing federations across the United States, opened the door, as a matter of formal policy, to taking Americans to visit Israeli settlements. These are the areas located east of the 1949 Armistice line separating Israel and the occupied territories (aka “the Green Line”) in which Israel has been actively settling its citizens since 1967. This decision, upending longstanding JFNA policy, doesn’t come in a vacuum. Rather, it comes in the context of a campaign to legitimize settlements in the eyes of American law and in the minds of American Jews – contrary to consistent U.S. law and policy since 1967 rejecting the legitimacy of both settlements and the occupation, and contrary to the vital interests of Israel.

Make no mistake: Settlements are the bricks-and-mortar expression of an ideology that prioritizes land over peace, and values the expansion of Israel’s borders over Israel’s democracy, over its security, and over good relations with the world. Generations of Israeli generals and security experts have concluded that a peace agreement with the Palestinians is vital to Israel’s security, and that such an agreement will have to be based on the Green Line, with limited border modifications agreed to by both sides. Continued Israeli settlement expansion and obfuscation of the Green Line threaten the achievement of such an agreement and undermine Israel’s security.

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