Monthly Archives: November 2020

US Presidency and the Middle East

Pompeo-Netanyahu

Finally, Donald Trump has accepted that the formal transition process for Joe Biden’s administration needs to move forward, but says he will continue to fight to overturn the election result.

Most would get the impression that Trump actually believes he may overturn the election result that most world leaders accept. It is also clear that there are many around the President who are supporting his incredible stance and carrying on “business as usual”. Hence the visit of the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to the Middle East this week, meeting with Netanyahu and other leaders in the Gulf States, as if the current US administration will be directing the traffic after January 20, 2021. But these may just be final steps to shore up support for the future.

Again, AIJAC brought us the most interesting webinar today featuring Mark Dubowitz. His topic was “The Biden Administration and the Challenge of Rogue Iran”. Mark is the CEO of the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, a non-profit think tank that advocates for hawkish foreign policy. His presentation can be found on You Tube under AIJAC.

He is quoted as saying “Nonetheless, Biden’s early signals show that, for now at least, he is charting a centrist course. And if his choices for national security positions are disappointing for his party’s progressives, they are sure to be reassuring to his country’s allies” www.bloomberg.com

This comment reflects Biden’s choice of Antony Blinken as Secretary of State and Jake Sullivan as national security adviser, indicating that his national security cabinet will be more centrist than the left of his party would like.

Last month, Blinken told the Jewish Insider that even if Biden suspends nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, “we will continue non-nuclear sanctions as a strong hedge against Iranian misbehavior in other areas”. (Bloomberg) This could continue to have serious consequences for the Iranian economy through the ongoing financial pressure applied initially by Trump in ramping up sanctions for Iran’s support of terrorism.

Interestingly Mark Dubowitz commented in relation to Iran and the JCPOA or the Iran Nuclear Deal of 2015  that the deal was basically flawed as the restrictions were to be reduced over time and would ultimately leave Iran with a massive nuclear program and the money to finance it. Iran just had to be patient.

He also suggested that Mossad found Iran had planned a systematic nuclear weapons program not dealt with under the JCPOA. This may well have been the trigger for the United States to withdraw from the deal under Trump and put back sanctions. This has led to the collapsing of the Iran economy and civilian unrest with accusations of economic mismanagement by the regime.

In the meantime other Gulf countries may well move to normalise ties with Israel and create a wall against Iran. All this while the Palestinians realise their bargaining power is diminishing under the Abraham Accords and are giving signs of wishing to negotiate with Israel and the Biden administration.

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

2021-03-01T19:58:45+11:00November 26th, 2020|News|

What kind of President will Joe Biden be for Israel

Biden and Netanyahu

Well it has been a most unusual couple of weeks with the US election result still not accepted by the incumbent President, even though the election has been called in favour of his opponent Joe Biden. Of great interest to Zionists, Israelis and Jews around the world is what kind of President will Joe Biden be for Israel and the Jewish people. I think this has been on most people’s minds for quite a while.

Well I was fortunate to join a Zoom provided by AIJAC with Ehud Yaari, an Israeli Commentator and journalist with an in depth knowledge of Israeli, American and world political affairs. His view was that Biden is a good friend to Israel and that as a one term President he will be free to make decisions because he doesn’t have to play to the gallery. He expressed the view that Biden may well be willing to go back to an agreement with Iran, but only if Iran is willing to comply with the restrictions, while noting that Iran currently holds uranium reserves far in excess of that agreed to in the original deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

He expressed the belief that any agreement with Iran would not come smoothly or easily, with Iran bargaining over every detail and not being eager to moving back to full compliance. He expressed the view that in the period before the inauguration of the next US President, Trump will be trying to build great sanctions against Iran and make it difficult for Biden to lift such sanctions.

On the other hand it was Yaari’s expressed belief that Biden has a number of well informed main stream advisors who Israel knows and feels comfortable with. I have also been told that Biden was kept fully informed of the negotiations with the Arab States and is very supportive of the Abraham Accords. Yaari suggested that even though Abass was not cooperative with Kerry’s efforts to find peace under Obama, he appears to be more willing to talk again, now that the situation with the Arab States is different and there is a new American President. This will be an interesting space to watch.

Finally he suggested that Trump’s actions over the next 6 weeks should be monitored, to see what he may try to do in this sphere.

Please note, I hope to post an interesting interview with Gilad Kariv, the President of the IMPJ (Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism) on the ARZA website in a few days.

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

Helen Shardey
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President

2021-03-01T19:59:35+11:00November 18th, 2020|News|

ARZA Annual Reports 2019 – 2020

ARZA logo

It is with pleasure that I report on the activities of ARZA Australia to the Annual General Meeting for the 2019-20 year, being held on November 17, 2020.

I was delighted to be elected President of Australia’s Progressive Zionist organization at its 2019 AGM, and at the same time also elected as Vice President of the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ).

My predecessor, Steve Denenberg had devoted more than a decade to ARZA Australia both as President and CEO. He has continued as the Immediate Past
President and been very active and supportive in that role. I thank him for all his support and assistance.

In building the new board, ARZA was fortunate that some experienced board members remained on the board providing expertise in financial reporting (thanks to Tony Leverton) and Membership list building (thanks to Philip Levy, who has also been a Vice President). We were also fortunate to recruit some new and young members to the Board, with 40% now being under the age of 35 years. We are most fortunate that the Netzer Mazkir, Lior Kalisse has joined our board as an Ex Officio Member along with the Netzer Shaliach Sefi Shalam. It has been a pleasure working with them. They have joined Sue Silberberg, our other Vice President in forming a sub-committee to look at ARZA Australia’s role in the community going forward. A new member of the board, Alex Knopoff from Adelaide took on the role of Secretary and has done a great job. Our thanks go to her.

As you probably know, ARZA Australia is the Zionist/political arm of the UPJ. At a planning weekend of the UPJ held in Sydney in February 2020, an agreement was made that moving forward, the UPJ, ARZA Australia and the Assembly of Rabbis and Cantors (ARC) would work together in mutual co-operation and communication. This was done to ensure that the Australian Progressive Movement as much as possible speaks in unison with one voice in support of Eretz Israel and our Jewish beliefs.

With the World Zionist Congress planned for October 2020, the Australian Progressive Movement hoped to maximize its voice in Israel in support of Pluralism and equality in the Jewish Democratic State. To this end ARZA Australia moved to encourage all Progressive Jews to join as members to ensure the four mandates held by ARZA at the 2015 World Zionist Congress would be maintained.

ARZA successfully participated in the Area Election Committee and maintained the current number of WZC delegates, with a 30% increase in membership numbers making ARZA the largest Zionist organization in Australia. It was disappointing that the congress could not take place in person, but through the hard work of our world body, ARZENU, we were able to participate in the proceedings and a wonderful pre congress program provided by ARZENU. We now look forward to a gathering in Israel in 2021.

Through the tireless efforts of Philip Levy, our retiring male Vice President from Sydney, ARZA now has a comprehensive membership list. This means we can provide a weekly communication to all ARZA members and members of UPJ Congregations.

It is published in the UPJ News and Drash and emailed to ARZA members. It forms the basis of regular posts to the ARZA website, Facebook and Twitter. Statements on key issues such as annexation, normalisation with Arab States, gender equality, equality in Israel for the varying streams of Judaism and other issues are published, often jointly with the UPJ and ARC.

ARZA Australia has now established a sub- committee which is in the process of examining our role in the community going forward. With an increased membership and good relations with Zionist roof bodies, such as the Zionist Federation of Australia, State based Zionist organizations, our world roof body ARZENU, the World Union of Progressive Judaism and the World Zionist Organization, we look forward to broadening programs of interest to our members.

We welcome any suggestions from our members in relation to what you would like us to consider providing and how you view our current communications. Currently our work is only done by volunteers as we decided to put a moratorium on fees until next June because of hardships caused by Covid 19. However we are grateful to our partner, the UPJ for including our weekly communication in the UPJ News and Drash.

Finally, I thank the ARZA Australia Board, our members, the Assembly of Rabbis and Cantors of Australia and New Zealand and the Union for Progressive Judaism for your ongoing support, assistance and encouragement in the continued growth of ARZA Australia.

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

2021-03-01T20:00:38+11:00November 16th, 2020|Events, News|
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