Kafe Knesset for April 24

Israel came to a standstill at 10:00 this morning for the Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) siren, as it does every year, and its politicians attended various memorial ceremonies around the country. Last night, at the opening ceremony at Yad Vashem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of the lesson he learned from the Holocaust, which he said he keeps in mind when he shapes strategy for Israel: “The simple truth is that in our world, the existence of the weak is in doubt. When facing murderous countries and organizations, their chances of survival are not great. The strong survive; the weak are erased…The lesson is that we must be able to defend ourselves, by ourselves, against all threats and all enemies. Those who plan to annihilate us are placing themselves in danger of annihilation.” Despite that message, Netanyahu managed to surprise observers by only mentioning Iran once, far less frequently than in previous years. Netanyahu also said that the world continues to be apathetic to mass murder, even after the Holocaust, in places like Biafra, Cambodia, Rwanda, Sudan and now Syria, but he commended President Donald Trump for his response to the use of chemical weapons on children in Syria. He also pointed out that Israeli doctors have helped thousands of Syrians.

President Reuven Rivlin also gave a powerful speech, in which he denounced those who see the Holocaust as just another example of mass murder and racism. The President said that this view of the Holocaust distorts racism and denies the systematic extermination of the Jewish people and the centuries-old disease of anti-Semitism. Rivlin also said that Israel does not just exist to prevent another Holocaust and argued against those who think Jewish identity is just about escaping attempted genocide. While there are existential threats to Israel, there is rich Jewish life aside from the Holocaust. “The Jewish People were not born in Auschwitz,” Rivlin pointed out.

Because of Yom HaShoa, Israeli politicians kept mum after the results of the first round of the election in France were announced. But the many French immigrants in Israel clearly seem to care. Despite predictions of low turnout by experts in Israel, there were lines literally around the block outside the French consulate in Tel Aviv throughout the day on Sunday.

Yet another candidate threw his hat into the ring ahead of July’s Labor primary. This time it’s Amiram Levin, a former IDF major-general and Mossad deputy chief, and Netanyahu’s commander in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit. In recent years, Levin courted controversy by expressing support for Breaking the Silence, the organization that has gone abroad to accuse the IDF of war crimes. At this point, it almost seems as if there are as many Labor leadership candidates as there are party members.

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