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The Latest Fault Line In Israel’s Left-Right Wars

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s candidate to head Yad Vashem has sparked controversy

Photo: Flash90


THE BACKSTORY // Eliezer Shulman

Yad Vashem, long a national consensus, has become the latest fault line in Israel’s left-right wars, as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s candidate to head the institution has sparked controversy.

Over 160 academics from across the globe signed a petition protesting former brigadier general Effi Eitam’s nomination, in which they argued that his “hateful rhetoric” against Arabs and Palestinians are in total opposition to the message and values of Yad Vashem.

The petitioners note that a number of past public statements by Eitam have been “problematic,” including his call for a mass expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank and his description of Israeli Arabs as a “fifth column.” This decision, they write, “would turn an internationally respected institution devoted to the documentation of crimes against humanity and the pursuit of human rights into a mockery and a disgrace.”

Effi Eitam, 68, has himself made the political journey from left to right. He grew up in Kibbutz Ein Gev, then gained an impressive record as a soldier and officer for service in the Yom Kippur War — in the wake of which he became a baal teshuvah. From 2002, he served as head of the National-Religious Party in the Knesset.

One man who strongly supports Eitam’s appointment is water and higher education minister Zeev Elkin. In a conversation with Mishpacha, he says: “Yad Vashem faces a number of challengers, the first of which is recruiting new donors. In addition, as a result of the severe deficit, a significant reduction in manpower is needed. In this situation, the appointment of a new chairman can’t be postponed — every delay is a disaster for the organization, which urgently needs an efficient plan to prevent collapse.

“We were looking for a prominent public figure,” Elkin says about the nomination process. “Someone who would be able to work comfortably with the prime minister, the finance minister, and the budget department. Someone with experience in Israeli public life, who knows how this kind of thing works. In addition, it was important for him to have managerial and business experience. On the other hand, he’s left politics long ago, and is able to be impartial. Eitam is absolutely a worthy candidate.”

Regarding the controversy over Eitam’s nomination, Elkin says: “Effi Eitam is not a partisan figure. During the evacuation of the residents of Gush Katif, Eitam dropped everything and worked to ensure that the tragic story of the disengagement didn’t end in clashes between right-wingers and the police. We’re talking about someone who knows very well what compromise is and knows how to separate his personal views from the common interest.”

What he said

“If dead people can vote, so can you.”

What he meant

Speaking to Sean Hannity, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) made the case for Republicans in Georgia to vote in the state’s Senate runoff in January.

Emphasizing that a GOP loss would hand the Senate to the Democrats — and with that, usher in “neosocialist” government — he called the vote a “second presidential election.” But Kennedy’s reference to dead people voting showed the Catch-22 Republicans are in as they fight to retain the state.

On the one hand, only Trump can get voters out to protect his legacy; on the other, his claims of mass electoral fraud could dis-incentivize voting by supporters.


In A Word: "General Assembly"

If former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot joins the Knesset after the next elections, Israeli lawmakers should consider adopting the above as the permanent name for a parliament stuffed with top brass.

Former chief of staff Moshe “Boogie” Yaalon wants Eizenkot as his number two. If that happens, he’ll be competing with the Blue and White party headed by former chiefs of staff Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, and, further left, former deputy chief of staff Yair Golan.

But if the recent past is anything to go by, Bibi need not fear the parade of generals. They quickly learn that the lowly commando captain is more than a match for all their heavy artillery.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 839)

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