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With the dust settling from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s brilliant political maneuver in which he vastly expanded his coalition and his power, the question remains what will he do with it in the next year? While Israelis seem more interested in domestic political implications of the move, not surprisingly, most foreign observers are focused on the impact of the new coalition on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat. Some of Netanyahu’s frustrated critics are holding on to the hope that somehow the addition of Kadima head Shaul Mofaz will moderate the prime minister’s stand on the issue. But this is not only a misreading of Mofaz but of Netanyahu’s position.
As the prime minister demonstrated today in his meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, far from Mofaz’s entry into the Cabinet acting as a restraint on him, the creation of a government that can count on nearly 80 percent of the Knesset means that when Netanyahu speaks now there can be no doubt that he represents a strong consensus within his country on the issue. By bringing Mofaz as well as Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to speak to Ashton, Netanyahu demonstrated that there is across-the-board support for his demands that Iran’s nuclear program be stopped dead in its tracks.
Ashton, a virulent critic of Israel who has been ceded control of the P5+1 talks with Iran by President Obama, may have intended her visit to Israel as an opportunity to mend fences so as to allow her to continue the diplomatic minuet she is dancing with the Islamist regime to continue unimpeded by Israeli actions. But Netanyahu used the meeting to lay down the guidelines for the upcoming negotiations in Baghdad. AsHaaretz reported today:
During the meeting, the Israelis presented a rigid set of demands for the Iranians, a senior Israeli official said. Netanyahu and the three ministers told Ashton that Israel’s position leading up to the Baghdad talks is that the talks will be considered as progress only if they would yield an Iranian guarantee – with a clear timetable – to halt uranium enrichment, to remove all enriched uranium out of Iranian soil, and to dismantle the underground enrichment facility in Fordo, which is near Qom.
In doing so, Netanyahu is attempting to box in the Western negotiators who have given every indication that they will be happy to allow the Iranians to drag out the talks and would be satisfied with a deal that would leave their nuclear program intact. These terms were delivered to Ashton, but the real audience for Israel’s position is in Washington.
Three years ago, President Obama may have entertained hopes about toppling Netanyahu, but now he is faced with the fact that the Israeli is stronger than ever. Though fears about a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran are probably exaggerated — Netanyahu would almost certainly not contemplate such an option while Western talks with Iran are ongoing — the new coalition will force the administration to stop listening to dissident Israeli voices carping at Netanyahu for his tough stance on Iran. As Haaretzalso notes, the idea that Mofaz disagrees with the prime minister on Iran is a misperception fueled by Israeli political maneuvering:
According to a report published by Israeli newspaper Maariv on Wednesday, several officials who took part in the coalitional negotiations between Mofaz and Netanyahu said the two are “coordinated” over the issue of Iran and are “of one mind” when it comes to stopping Iran’s nuclear program.
Netanyahu knows Iran has no intention of giving up its nuclear chips in the current talks. He now has a broad government that will back him on any decision to take action. That places more pressure than ever on Obama not to allow the U.S. to be dragged into an unsatisfactory deal by Ashton that will have negative political repercussions at home and might force Israel to act on its own. Though the president may hope to kick the Iranian can down the road until after the fall U.S. elections, Netanyahu’s coup may have made it more difficult for the president to do so.
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Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg
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Doctor of Divinity Citation
Rabbi Jonathan Hillel Ginsburg
Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa
You have shared Jewish knowledge with world.
You have been a successful pulpit rabbi for twenty-eight years, building and growing congregations. You have also embarked on a remarkable career as an educator, as an adjunct faculty member at colleges in Minnesota, and as a pioneer in online Jewish learning, developing educational programs that include multiple websites and blogs, hundreds of videos posted, with millions of views, carrying the fruits of Jewish knowledge to all who seek it, while mentoring over 1000 converts. As a leader in the rabbinate, you have served on the National Rabbinic Cabinet of United Jewish Appeal, Chancellor’s Rabbinic Cabinet of The Jewish Theological Seminary, and State of Israel Bonds Rabbinic Cabinet Executive Committee, as well as on several committees of the Rabbinical Assembly. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism acknowledged your work in adult Jewish education with a gold medal in 2009. You have chaired the Minnesota Rabbinic Association and Niles Township Clergy Association.
You are truly a teaching rabbi, making an enduring mark on the world by touching countless Jewish lives with wisdom that they will pass on to countless others.
Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg, was senior rabbi of Ezra-Habonim, Niles Township Jewish Congregation in Skokie Illinois, and one of the world's foremost innovators of online Jewish experiences. A native of Chicago, Rabbi Ginsburg received his B.A. in religion from the University of Chicago where he was the valedictory orator and received his Masters and Rabbinic Ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary where he received the Krasne Award for outstanding student.
He was a National Merit scholar and 1974 National High School Debate Champion. Rabbi Ginsburg, before coming to Ezra-Habonim, the Niles Township Jewish Congregation, was the senior Rabbi at the Temple of Aaron, a 1400-family Conservative synagogue for 17 years, and adjunct faculty of St. Catherine College and Metropolitan University of Minnesota. Prior to that, he served as senior Rabbi at the Kane Street Synagogue in Brooklyn for 5 years. He served on the National Rabbinic Cabinet, United Jewish Appeal, as Associate Chair of the State of Israel Bonds Rabbinic Cabinet Executive Committee and on many Boards of Jewish Institutions. He has served as president of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association and recently the Niles Township Clergy Association, and on the Nominations and Professional Development Committee of the International Rabbinical Assembly