Showing posts with label Trump Sinister. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trump Sinister. Show all posts

May 29, 2020

Trump Keeps Claiming The Broadest Powers {{For Which He Does Not Have The Power}}

Threatening to shut down Twitter for flagging false content. Claiming he can “override” governors who dare to keep churches closed to congregants. Asserting the “absolute authority” to force states to reopen, even when local leaders say it’s too soon.
As he battles the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump has been claiming extraordinarily sweeping powers that legal scholars say the president simply doesn’t have. And he has repeatedly refused to spell out the legal basis for those powers.
“It’s not that the president doesn’t have a remarkable amount of power to respond to a public health crisis. It’s that these are not the powers he has,” said Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas School of Law professor who specializes in constitutional and national security law. 
First it was Trump’s assertion that he could force governors to reopen their economies before they felt ready. “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” he claimed.
Trump soon dropped the threat, saying he would instead leave such decisions to the states. But he has revived the idea in recent days as he has tried to pressure governors to allow churches and other places of worship to hold in-person services, even where stay-at-home orders and other limits on large gatherings remain in effect. 
Asked Tuesday what authority he had to enforce such a mandate, Trump was cagey.
“I can absolutely do it if I want to,” he said. “We have many different ways where I can override them and if I have to, I’ll do that.”
The White House declined to spell out any specific statute, but White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement that “every decision the president has made throughout this pandemic has been to protect the health and safety of the American people.”
“Getting the nation back to work, back to sporting events, back to churches, back to restaurants, and doing so safely and responsibly is the president’s shared goal with governors and the private sector, but the cure cannot be worse than the disease,” Deere said.
Trump “certainly does not have the power under any reasonable reading of the Constitution or federalism to order places of worship to open,” said Matthew Dallek, a historian at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management who specializes in the use of presidential power.
But Dallek said that just because Trump doesn’t have the authority to do most of the things he’s threatened, doesn’t mean he won’t, for instance, try to sign executive orders taking such action anyway — even if they are later struck down by the courts. 
“What has limited Trump previously? Not very much. So I think he will do whatever seems to be in his best interest at any particular moment,” Dallek said.
Trump, he said, also could try to abuse his powers to leverage other instruments of government, from the Department of Justice to the IRS, to push for investigations or launch regulatory crackdowns to punish states, cities or companies. Trump also has showed he’s willing to exercise powers that modern presidents have largely avoided, including his recent purging of inspectors general.
When the president declared the pandemic a national emergency back in March, he activated more than 100 different statutory authorities. Yet Trump, said Vladeck, has failed to exercise many of them.
“I think one of the real ironies of this entire moment is that the president actually has a remarkable array of powers that he hasn’t brought to bear. All the while he continues to claim stunning powers that he doesn’t have,” he said.
That includes the Defense Production Act, which Trump could have used far more aggressively to force companies to mass produce supplies including masks and ventilators. Instead, he used it in more limited ways. And while the Justice Department has threatened to join lawsuits against states that move too slowly, a statement of interest filed by the department in Illinois last week didn’t raise any federal constitutional claims.
Even if he doesn’t follow through on threats, Trump’s statements still can have consequences as he uses his bully pulpit.
“He’s still trying to wield his often outrageous interpretations of the law as a cudgel to bludgeon others,” said Joshua Geltzer, founding executive director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center.
Trump is now on a tear against Twitter after the social media platform, which he uses to speak directly to his more than 80 million followers, slapped fact-check alerts on two of his tweets claiming that mail-in voting is fraudulent.
On Thursday, he was preparing to sign an executive order aimed at curbing liability protections for social media companies. 
“Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he tweeted Tuesday. A day later Trump added that: “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.”
While Congress could pass legislation further regulating social media platforms, Trump “has no such authority,” said former federal judge Michael McConnell, who now directs Stanford Law School’s Constitutional Law Center. “He is just venting.”
“There is absolutely no First Amendment issue with Twitter adding a label to the president’s tweets,” added Jameel Jaffer, executive director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, who won the case that prevents Trump from banning his critics from his Twitter feed. “The only First Amendment issue here arises from the president’s threat to punish Twitter in some way for fact-checking his statements.”
But Jack Balkin, a Yale University law professor and First Amendment expert, said that’s not Trump’s point.
“This is an attempt by the president to, as we used to say in basketball, work the refs,” he said. “He’s threatening and cajoling with the idea that these folks in their corporate board rooms will think twice about what they’re doing, so they won’t touch him.”
For Rutgers University media professor John Pavlik, who studies online misinformation, Trump is simply trying to fire up his political base.
“For Trump,” he said, “this is about politics.”
Associated Press writer David Klepper contributed to the report from New York.

May 28, 2020

This is a New Day After The Space Shuttle, Believe Me and with a Crazy President/Pandemic We Need New Days

The trip is been scrubed for now because of the weather. Next window seems to be on Saturday.

Bob Behnken and Doug HurleyImage copyrightNASA
Image captionBob Behnken (L) and Doug Hurley (R) are beginning a new era in human spaceflight

On Wednesday, the California company SpaceX will launch a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It's something the firm has done many times before, taking cargo to the sky-high laboratory. But on this occasion, the firm will be transporting people.
It's one of those seminal moments in the history of spaceflight.
When Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken lift off atop their Falcon-9 rocket, inside their Crew Dragon capsule, it will mark the first time humans have left US territory to reach low-Earth orbit in almost nine years. 
But more than that, it sees a shift to the commercialisation of human space transportation - of companies selling "taxi" rides to government and anyone else who wants to purchase the service. 
This page details the key phases in the mission sequence.
Launch will occur from the Kennedy Space Center's Complex 39A. This is the famous Florida pad from where the Apollo 11 moonwalkers and the very first shuttle, Columbia, also began their missions.

The ascent
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Timing is precise. The Falcon must leave the ground at 16:33 EDT (20:33 GMT / 21:33 BST), or the astronauts won't be able to catch the ISS which passes overhead at 27,000km/h (17,000mph). 
Falcon-9 is a two-stage rocket. Its lower-segment will fire for 2.5 minutes before shutting down and separating. This will leave the second stage to burn for a further six minutes to get Dragon into orbit. Once detached, the capsule will then make the rest of the journey to the ISS using its own thrusters.
The second stage of the rocket will be commanded to burn up in the atmosphere. The lower-segment of the booster aims to touch down on a drone ship in the Atlantic. This is a SpaceX speciality that sets its Falcon apart from all other orbital rockets in use today.
It seems remarkable but Nasa astronauts have not had the use of a brand new spaceship design for 39 years. Not since John Young and Bob Crippen climbed aboard the Columbia orbiter. Their shuttle had dials, switches and a control stick. Dragon is all touchscreen. 
It's an automated vessel so it plots a path to ISS by itself, but Hurley and Behnken must practise manual flying in case there is some sort of anomaly.

The capsule
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Dragon Capsule was conceived to handle every imagined scenario, including a failure of the rocket on the pad or in flight. If this happens, the ship will use a powerful in-built propulsion system to push itself to a safe distance. SpaceX has rehearsed this possibility both on the ground and in mid-air.
This mission should see Dragon reach the ISS after about 19 hours of flight. The capsule will line itself up with the bow of the space station and approach at a relative speed of just a few centimetres per second. Once attached, hooks make an airtight seal.
The length of Hurley's and Behnken's stay aboard the 420km-high ISS is not yet fixed. 

The return
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It should be more than a couple of months but is unlikely to be longer than 120 days. Engineers say the solar cells on the Dragon degrade in orbit and so Nasa is sure to bring the crewmen home well before the hardware's performance is compromised.
The descent to Earth won't be rushed. The astronauts plan a two-hour free-flight to further test onboard systems and procedures. When the de-orbit burn is eventually called, Dragon will be protected in its fall through the atmosphere by a heat shield. Four big parachutes will slow the spacecraft to a gentle splashdown in the Atlantic, just off the American coastline.
SpaceX teams have gone over the process of retrieving the capsule many times.

SplashdownImage copyrightNASA
Presentational white space and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos 

March 24, 2020

Nigerians Are Getting Poisoned by Taking 'Chloroquine' after Trump Said It Was A Cure

Image result for chloroquine poison
Prescription medications taken for the wrong ailment can poison resulting in other illness' or death.

People in Nigeria are poisoning themselves with chloroquine after President Donald Trump spent last week boosting it as an unproven cure for coronavirus.
The Nigerian Center for Disease Control had to issue a warning late last week to remind people that the World Health Organization had “not approved the use of chloroquine for #COVID19 management. Scientists are working hard to confirm the safety of several drugs for this disease.” “Please DO NOT engage in self-medication. This will cause harm and can lead to death,” the center added in a tweet.
Dr. Oreoluwa Finnih, a senior special assistant on health at the Lagos State government said hospitals in the Nigerian capital were now reporting admissions from people suspected of having chloroquine poisoning, though he didn’t give exact numbers.
Last Thursday Trump touted the malaria drug as a “game-changer” in the fight against coronavirus, even though Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has been leading government efforts to fight the disease, warned against calling the drug “fairly effective” because it hasn’t been tested in a clinical trial as a treatment for COVID-19. 
But Trump dismissed Fauci’s concerns and over the weekend continued to push chloroquine as a cure.
“This would be a gift from heaven. This would be a gift from God if it works. So we’re gonna pray to God that it does work,” Trump said at a press conference on Saturday, adding that his administration plans to ship 10,000 doses of it to New York state to test it out.
He also tweeted about the drug over the weekend.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has pushed back against Trump’s claims about chloroquine. The commissioner of the FDA, Stephen Hahn, contradicted the president, saying chloroquine “was undergoing clinical testing in order to gauge its effectiveness.”

February 8, 2020

Lt. Col. Vindman, A Hero Soldier Working in The White House Is Escorted Out on Trumps Orders

Image result for lt col alexander vindman
Army Officer who heard Trump's call to Ukraine

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the Ukraine expert at the National Security Council who became a star witness in the House impeachment hearings on President Trump's dealings with Ukraine, was escorted out of the White House on Friday, his lawyer said, adding Trump had "decided to exact revenge."
"There is no question in the mind of any American why this man's job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House. LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth," David Pressman of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP said in a statement.
"The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy. He did what any member of our military is charged with doing every day: he followed orders, he obeyed his oath, and he served his country, even when doing so was fraught with danger and personal peril. And for that, the most powerful man in the world - buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit - has decided to exact revenge," Pressman said.

The White House and National Security Council were not immediately available for comment.
Earlier on Friday, Trump was asked by a reporter whether Vindman would be leaving. "I'm not happy with him. You think I'm supposed to be happy with him? I'm not. They'll make that decision. You'll be hearing," Trump said.
Here's the full statement from Alexander Vindman's lawyer David Pressman: 
Today, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House where he has dutifully served his country and his President. He does so having spoken publicly once, and only pursuant to a subpoena from the United States Congress. 
There is no question in the mind of any American why this man's job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House. LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful. 
During his decades of service to this country, LTC Alexander Vindman has served quietly but dutifully, and he has served with honor. He came into the public eye only when subpoenaed to testify before Congress, and he did what the law demanded.In recent months, many entrusted with power in our political system have cowered out of fear. And, yet, a handful of men and women, not endowed with prestige or power, but equipped only with a sense of right borne out of years of quiet service to their country made different choices. 
They courageously chose to honor their duty with integrity, to trust the truth, and to put their faith in the country ahead of fear. And they have paid a price. The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy. 
He did what any member of our military is charged with doing every day: he followed orders, he obeyed his oath, and he served his country, even when doing so was fraught with danger and personal peril.  And for that, the most powerful man in the world - buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit - has decided to exact revenge. 
LTC Alexander Vindman leaves the White House today. But we must not accept the departure of truth, duty, and loyalty that he represents. In this country right matters, and so does truth. Truth is not partisan. If we allow truthful voices to be silenced, if we ignore their warnings, eventually there will be no one left to warn us.

January 12, 2020

The White OJ~~ Is He Getting Off Too? Yeah!

 Do you have a puss?

Donald Trump’s impeachment shortly before the holiday break. I wasn’t asking merely for a defense of Trump, but for an honest illumination of what defenders would think if the essential facts in the Ukraine matter were the same except for one — Hillary Clinton was president.

Several hundred people sent emails, the majority of them thoughtfully composed and accepting the invitation in good faith. This was a vivid window into the Age of Trump.

With sincerity, candor and even a measure of wistful idealism, people shared their views of a political and media culture they believe is cynical at its core. If almost nothing is on the level, almost anything goes. 

For Keith Swartz, who is 66 years old and runs a recruiting firm based in Tacoma, Washington, almost anything includes a president he regards as “manic, uneducated, illogical,” and also “essentially a horrible person … vulgar, amoral, narcissistic.”

Wait, this a defense of Trump? Yes, hang on. He’s done a fine job on the economy, in particular, in the face of a Democratic opposition that has bent rules and abused process for three years in an implacable bid to thwart him. “To those of us who support what he has accomplished,” Swartz concluded, “it feels like he is our O.J.”

That’s right: O.J. Simpson, not previously a conservative hero. In his 2016 promises to “Make America Great Again,” Trump did not invoke the racially riven Los Angeles of the 1990s as his model. But Swartz’s admirably forthright comparison—with biased media and unscrupulous Democrats serving as proxies for racist cops—captured the spirit of many replies.

The metaphor also echoed for me, as I began covering national politics (after a stretch as local reporter) just as the sordid O.J. melodrama was underway—with no premonition on my part that the deeply embedded malice and competing perceptions of reality on display, in that case, would come to define our public culture broadly. 

That gets to the challenge I posed readers. There is no reason anyone must justify his or her opinions to me. I was curious about how people justify their opinions to themselves. (You can still play. By all means, send an email to This was a sincere appeal, as impeachment offers a useful peg to ponder how two large themes in my journalistic career have collided in a seemingly irreconcilable way.

Theme One is the remorseless nature of modern political combat. One labor to recall the days in which many events in the news were taken, at least in the opening phase of a big story, at face value—rather than instantly interpreted through the prism of how the story could be deployed as either weapon or shield in the nonstop cultural, ideological and partisan war. 

Simply put, it seems obvious beyond serious dispute that very few Republicans defending Trump’s conduct in the Ukraine matter would be similarly tolerant (or, in many cases, even celebratory) if Clinton had attempted to use military aid as leverage on a foreign government to begin an investigation of a leading 2020 rival.

Or, to take this out of the hypothetical realm, I can certainly understand someone who argues that Bill Clinton’s false statements about his sexual transgressions in the 1990s were a big deal because he was under oath in a legal proceeding. I can also understand someone who argues that Trump’s haranguing of Ukraine to “do us a favor, though” by investigating Joe Biden, in the end, is not that big a deal since the investigation didn’t happen and the aid was eventually delivered. What I do not understand is how someone could argue—the precise ground that most Republicans are defending—that Clinton’s conduct was a big deal while Trump’s conduct is a small deal or no deal at all.

Theme Two, paradoxically, is the basic sincerity of people in politics. People may see hypocrisy and cynicism all around them, but in my experience, almost without exception, they believe their own views and actions—even when contradictory, even when private motivations differ from public explanations—are righteous and principled. What are those principles? They may or may not be credible to me or you; the more intriguing question is why they are credible to the people invoking those principles.

There were a handful of recurring takeaways as I immersed myself in the inbox.

The Scoundrel Discount

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column noted that Trump finished 2019 with over 15,000 false or misleading claims since taking office. But in the eyes of many enthusiasts or tolerators (I heard from both varieties of Trump backers), it is clear that individual examples of dissembling do not outweigh one essential truth: Trump presents himself in a genuine way, without pretense or false piety. 

Of the nearly 63 million people who cast votes for Trump last time, it is hard to believe there are any who did so because they thought he was deferential to precedent, a protector of established norms, a stickler for playing by the rules.

People who correspond with POLITICO reporters may not be representative of Trump backers as a whole. But I was struck by how many couched their purported praise with a recitation of his personal failings. Still, they say Trump does not pretend to be anything other than what he is, compared with the preening of more conventional politicians.

Alan Weisz, a dentist from Deerfield, Illinois, considers himself a “thoughtful conservative” who sometimes must cover his ears when Trump uses words to stoke “hardcore supporters” or “enrage his hysterical detractors.” But this is countered by the fact that he regards the president as “incredibly tough” and a strong leader. He said he prefers “good policy” even if it means tolerating “bad optics” and a “big mouth” and will easily take Trump over what he sees as the “apology tours, regulation, pomposity, weak leadership" under former President Barack Obama.

“I and a lot of Americans support the president because he is Everyman, not the pretentious power-hungry politicians and righteous ‘journalists’ roaming the streets of DC and big cities,” reader Stephen Stankiewicz wrote in an email.

A 39-year-old computer engineer from Portland, Oregon, who asked to be identified only as Colin wrote that he doesn’t qualify as a conservative but can easily reconcile the evident inconsistency of those who condemned Bill Clinton’s moral and legal lapses but defend Trump’s conduct that, we now know, alarmed many of his own senior officials in the Ukraine matter. “Politicians are all corrupt and greedy, regardless of a political party,” he said. “Trump is unique because he doesn't pretend otherwise. He's not a hypocritical politician like the rest of the swamp. Trump fights for his voters. He fights dirty, but so does everyone else, and he's on their side.”

Tribalism is in the eye of the beholder

As I wrote in the original column inviting emails, I am weary of the term "tribalism" to describe political behavior. Have you ever met someone who said he or she had surrendered independent judgment and just go with the tribe? Are you influenced by tribalism, or does that affect only other people?

Even so, there is no denying the term does describe real dimensions of group behavior: People identify with others who share their backgrounds and grievances and tend to forgive their shortcomings.

One of the most emphatic themes in my inbox is anger that the Washington professional class—journalists included—does not acknowledge its own tribal tendencies.
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I expected a lot of what autism to my inquiry, and I anticipated a lot of the specific lines of argument. I was struck anew, however, by how strongly this theme unites the disparate elements of the Trump coalition.

Many people rejected my invitation to imagine what the reaction would be if President Hillary Clinton had behaved in the Ukraine matter in precisely the same way Trump did. “Your premise is flawed because there would be no impeachment if Hillary Clinton had done the same thing,” one correspondent wrote.
Why not more coverage of the role of Hillary Clinton’s paid agents in sponsoring the Steele dossier, which asserted collusion between Trump and Russia, an allegation that special counsel Robert Mueller did not find enough evidence to support? Why not more outrage about Obama being caught on a hot mic in 2012 telling then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” to negotiate with Russia on security issues after his reelection?

Above all, why is Trump being roasted for pushing for an investigation of Hunter Biden’s lucrative seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company—despite a checkered personal background and no evident expertise—while the media is not up in arms over the board seat itself?

This is not the place for an extended discussion of the merits of these criticisms. I’ll acknowledge one can easily imagine the circumstances in which the Hunter Biden matter would be a much bigger story, though the difference isn’t partisan. In the old days, reporters spent months on an essentially trivial matter: whether Bill Clinton was within his rights to replace the White House travel office, a story that would probably last for hours in Trump’s Washington. I’d also note that there do not seem to be many enthusiastic Trump supporters who are alarmed by the president or family members profiting from private ventures that are helped by the fact that Trump holds the White House.

The larger point for Trump defenders, however, is that many controversies overtime under presidents from both parties arguably represent impeachable offenses, but never rose to that level. “The media made the call for us that they don't rise to the level of disqualification,” wrote federal worker Jeremy Emmert, a former military officer from Indiana who now lives in Washington, D.C. “Since they have made that call for us, then what Trump did does not either. The media and elites like you lowered the ball. Welcome to karma, leftists.”

“It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is”

That line was once regarded as a Bill Clinton classic, delivered while testifying to a grand jury in the Monica Lewinsky matter. He was toying with prosecutors, apparently asserting that someone could truthfully deny a sexual relationship in the present tense even if the impression was to deny that there had ever been a sexual relationship in the past tense. For Clinton critics, the quote was the essence of why they didn’t like him—smarminess, pettifoggery, moral relativism, all crystallized in a few words.

I always believed the line actually captured a larger truth about how he survived the impeachment 21 years ago. He believed—and many of his supporters believed with him—that many questions of right and wrong in politics are relative, not absolute. A charge of presidential misconduct can’t be divorced from context—between who is making the charge and what their motives are, between who stands to gain and who stands to lose.

The Trump impeachment highlights how strongly the Clinton perspective has prevailed. Trump-backing conservatives are no longer absolutists on matters of ethics or law. Very few of my email correspondents are defending the merits of Trump’s attempt last summer to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.
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Instead, they correctly note how many Democrats were pressing for impeachment before the Ukraine matter came up, some even before Trump was sworn in. (Likewise, some prominent Republicans in 2016 were vowing impeachment if Hillary Clinton was elected, because of her private email accounts as Secretary of State.)

One person wrote to tell me he hadn’t voted for Trump last time but probably will this time: “He's good enough, and he has delivered great benefit for our country. The real thing is that it's crystal clear that the motivations behind this impeachment are more corrupt than anything he's been accused of, let alone anything that's been proven that he's done.”

Another: “It just seems really obvious to me that people who hate Trump and consider him an existential threat to their idea of what America should bethink that anything is justifiable in getting him out of office. Impeachment is not about ‘saving the Republic’ it is about wounding a strong candidate going up against a field of tepid Democratic losers, rookies, and has-beens.”

I understand the perspective. It also seems obvious that if the political motivations of opponents matter more than the underlying conduct it is hard to imagine any behavior by a president from any party that could not be successfully defended.

But let’s give the last word to a correspondent who didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, doesn’t expect to do so in 2020, and nonetheless is sickened by Democrats over impeachment.

“You may find my position neither consistent nor logical but there it is,” they wrote. “Consistency is certainly an essential standard of a logical argument but it is, in my opinion, very overvalued as a measure of justice. We live in ‘scoundrel times’ and when both sides prove themselves to be scoundrels, you may be forced to ‘pick your poison.’”

How’s that for an inspiring way to launch an election year?

December 20, 2019

US Evangelicals Have Made Israeli Evangelicals Rich with Money and Political Power

                         Image result for evangelical money in Israel

  This story was published in Israel by Adamfoxie has taken the major excerpts of this long story explaining all the money squadrons of where the money comes from and where it goes.
Evangelical believes that having Israel be like it was during the times of Salomon, rich and powerful will cause other nations to come against them and then Jesus will come to start armageddon and god will defend its people. They feel the sooner you get those dominoes in place the sooner Jesus Christ will come to pick up his church in the second coming. It amazes me that even if that was true, why would this Ultra Evangelicals with so much hatred and judgment in their hears believe that Jesus Christ will want them near him. These Evangelicals either are ignorant of the bible and even the parts they know if they don't like it they won't follow it. I wonder why they keep bibles in any case? Oh to read especially picked passages on special occasions and straight weddings.

Israel's settler elite is trying to emulate the Tea Party. But it's faking it
In 2005, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdrew Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip. This was a moment of deep trauma and rupture for the religious right, one that sent it spiraling into a panic. In pulling settlers out of the Strip, Sharon, the godfather of the settlement project, had shockingly turned his back on his favorite children. The politician they had relied on since the late 1970s to bankroll their hilltop homes and to force helpful legislation through the Knesset had betrayed them. Worse: most Israelis supported his plan. While the leaders of the religious settler right sermonized in public squares against Sharon’s plan, using every apocalyptic warning in their arsenal, most Israelis continued to sip their morning lattes in nearby cafés, entirely indifferent to the settlers’ outcry.

When Sharon’s successor, Ehud Olmert, kept the religious right out of his coalition government in 2007 and held serious negotiations with the Palestinians, the settlers decided it was time for a strategic change: The next time there was a decision to be made about the future of settlements, they would take center stage.

Jewish settlers watch as Israeli forces demolish an illegally built structure in a West Bank settlement Emil Salman
In 1987, the right-wing journalist Uri Orbach published an op-ed in the settler journal Nekudah. There, he laid out what would become, in the wake of 2005, a blueprint for a systematic settler takeover of the country’s levers of power. In his article, Orbach pleaded with the settler youth to divert their ideological fervor from grabbing land to grabbing the spotlight — in other words, to take over the Israeli media. “The People of Israel needs someone to be their voice,” wrote Orbach, who went on to explain that filling the ranks of the country’s media outlets with settler reporters who held “the right positions” would ensure a future where only “the right questions are asked” and certain issues — the price Israelis pay in blood and taxes for the settlements, for example — “never get on the air.”

Uri Orbach, a right-wing journalist, laid out a blueprint for a systematic settler takeover of the country’s levers of power. Marc Israel Sellem
The leaders of the religious right sensed an opportunity. The old social democratic elite, which had founded the State of Israel, began losing interest in public institutions and withdrew into itself. The sons and daughters of the founding generation, and then their grandchildren — our generation — gravitated toward careers in business or the law rather than public service. 

In 2005, Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, a prominent figure in the settler movement, broadened Orbach’s famous call to arms. “We will conquer Israeli democracy from within,” wrote Rosen. “We will achieve this by directing more and more worthy people to the media, the judiciary, politics, and even the arts.”

Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, a prominent figure in the settler movement, broadened Orbach’s famous call to arms: "We will conquer Israeli democracy from within." Emil Salman

This strategy, commonly referred to among the right-wing as “settling the hearts” (as opposed to the land), proved a resounding success. Today, some of the most prominent broadcast reporters in Israel — who, indeed, succeeded in shifting the public debate in the country markedly farther to the right — cite Orbach’s seminal article as inspiring their careers. As Hillel Ben Sasson explained in a 2012 article published by the progressive think tank Molad: “The knitted kippa, the identifying mark of the national religious community, has become increasingly visible in the media, judicial and educational systems, to the point where many of Mr. Netanyahu’s senior staff have donned the garment.” In the military, the nation’s holy of holies, this is even more pronounced: “Some 40 percent of IDF officers wear a kippa — and the number is rising,” Ben Sasson wrote.

A tea party in the West Bank
So far, so Israeli. But the settlers’ colonization of Israel’s public sphere and state apparatus is not the result of some sudden divine, or even domestic, inspiration. They have consolidated their power in a methodical manner, ensuring that organizational effectiveness and financial backing compensate for a lack of popular support. Settlers, it is crucial to remember, make up a mere 4.5 percent of Israel’s population. The profound irony of their ultranationalism is that, in the name of serving Israel, the new religious right is importing to the region an unmistakably American-style conservative ideology, which represents a sharp shift from the ideas traditionally held by its political predecessors. 
To understand what’s new about the new Israeli right, it is worth taking a closer look at Ayelet Shaked, who served as Israel’s justice minister from 2015 until just before April’s election. Shaked, the chairwoman of the newly formed, far-right Yamina (Hebrew for “rightward”) alliance, is repeatedly tipped by pundits as Netanyahu’s most likely successor. Arguably the religious right’s most powerful politician, she is also one of its most atypical. A young, Facebook-savvy, secular woman from Tel Aviv, trained as a software engineer, came to public attention as a fierce opponent of allowing African asylum seekers the possibility of refuge in Israel. For the settler right, her usefulness derives from her ability to translate their messianic ideas into simple, ultranationalist sound bites that resonate with the Israeli mainstream: Instead of quoting obscure passages from the Bible, Shaked uses simple slogans about national security, identity, and patriotism. 

The launch of the Yamina alliance in August, with Ayelet Shaked and Bezalel Smotrich in the center, flanked by Rabbi Rafi Peretz to their right. \ Moti Milrod

In 2016, Shaked published an economic manifesto in a new right-wing, American-style libertarian publication called Hashiloach. “Each time members of the Knesset vote for a new law,” she wrote, “they are simultaneously voting against our liberty in another sphere of life because it then becomes regulated by the state.” Shaked, a self-confessed Ayn Rand admirer, displayed in her text a conservative economic perspective that, until recently, was simply unheard of in collectivist Israel. A 2018 poll conducted by the Berl Katznelson Center found that more than 80 percent of Israelis are sympathetic toward trade unions; 76 percent are willing to pay higher taxes to strengthen public education, and 70 percent support the nationalization of natural resources. Shaked’s dog-eat-dog worldview couldn’t be more out of whack with how much Israelis trust and support the idea of a welfare state.

Rabbi Uri Sadan of the Keter Institute for Torah Economics, outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, 2015. Emil Salman

But it is not just one right-wing magazine that published one right-wing politician. A blaring flurry of right-wing publications has popped up in the last dozen years. Media outlets run by the religious right regularly feature articles extolling the virtues of trickle-down economics, making them sound as if they had just been translated from Fox News: “Raising the Minimum Wage Would Harm the Poor” and “When Taxes are Cut, Everyone Enjoys the Fruits of Growth” are concepts that have “Made in the USA” written all over them. Lately, they have even expanded to climate denialism, publishing articles like “Trump is Right: It’s Time to Stop Fighting Global Warming.” These conservative talking points and ideas flow like water from the Atlantic all the way to the Mediterranean.
The ocean runs deep. Haggai Segal, editor-in-chief of the religious right’s foremost newspaper, Makor Rishon, also picked up the libertarian thread. A few years ago he suggested that Israel’s national insurance system, which includes full state-run coverage for all, wasn’t fair and harbored freeloaders. “Instead of each person financing his own insurance,” wrote Segal, “the state coerces him into also paying for his neighbor, who doesn’t bother to make a living.” 

Bezalel Smotrich, a prominent religious right politician and current transportation minister Noam Revkin Fenton

Haggai Segal, editor-in-chief of the religious right’s foremost newspaper, Makor Rishon Olivier Fitoussi

Two in five Israelis live under the poverty line, but in the tea party mind-set, facts like these are up for debate. Bezalel Smotrich, a prominent religious right politician and current transportation minister, infamously quipped: “The poverty statistics are exaggerated: I have five children, and I don’t believe that two of them are poor.” In the midst of an intense political battle fought by the left to increase disability insurance, Rabbi Uri Sadan of the Keter Institute for Torah Economics declared disability “a divine edict that doesn’t accord its possessors the right to a salary from the state.”

In fact, the religious right has stood at the forefront of resistance to every single social justice campaign in Israel — from the massive protests in the summer of 2011 to the struggle to raise the minimum wage. They even declared themselves on the opposite side of the elderly and the disabled during the campaign to raise their government-issued disability insurance. 

The latest gospel the religious right has imported from the world of the Koch brothers-funded think tanks is that of the misnamed “right to work” laws that are geared at crushing organized labor. This signifies a deep ideological transformation. Up until a decade ago, the religious right would regularly ally itself with the social-democratic left around important education and welfare reforms. Today, following a decade of heavy conservative influence, its leadership has become fully proficient in libertarian dogma.

The South African option
Another American right-wing cause that was formerly unheard of in Israeli politics but recently added to the religious right’s agenda: gun rights \ Gil Cohen-Magen
The American right has not only given Israel libertarian economics. A new issue, also formerly unheard of in Israeli politics, was recently added to the religious right’s agenda: gun rights. 
Amir Ohana, a young Likud lawmaker closely affiliated with the new right’s political infrastructure and Israel’s transition justice minister, began pushing for new legislation aimed at loosening firearm restrictions. “Self-defense is our most basic right,” declared Ohana last year, claiming that arming Israeli citizens would serve as “a force multiplier for the security forces” against Palestinian terrorists. “Unfortunately, it is likely that there will be more shooting accidents,” he conceded, adding: “When you cut wood, chips fly.” His initiative was proudly featured on the NRA’s website.

Amir Ohana, Israel’s transition justice minister, is close to the new right’s political infrastructure and has pushed for loosening Israel's gun laws. Emil Salman
In civil rights terms, the religious right is determined to roll back the impressive achievements of Israeli liberalism, specifically the “constitutional revolution” that began in the ’90s and granted constitutional supremacy to Basic Laws concerning human rights. Recently, Shaked led an attempt to defang the Supreme Court entirely and revoke its power of judicial review with a law that was just a hair’s breadth away from being enacted. If she and her allies succeed the next time around, the right would effectively eliminate the only surviving veto point in a political system characterized by an all-powerful coalition government and an unusually weak parliament.

And this is all before we’ve touched on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There, the religious right’s leadership has done a great deal of work to replace the status quo of settlement expansion in the West Bank with a new beast: annexation — that is, a unilateral Israeli declaration of sovereignty over the West Bank. Until just a few scant years ago, this was considered beyond the pale in Israeli politics, a doomsday scenario for both left and right. If Israel gave citizenship to the 2.5 million Palestinian residents in that swath of land, Jews would be voted out of office in what would spell the end of a Jewish state. If alternatively, it did not grant them citizenship, that would sound a death knell for Israel as a democracy.

The old right never properly formed a clear thesis about the conflict. Its approach was largely reactive and consisted of opposing the two-state solution advocated by the left. But over the past few years, the leaders of the new religious right have sidled up to annexation and have presented plans that are aimed at including more West Bank land in Israel proper. Former Education Minister Naftali Bennett suggested that Israel annex Area C, defined by the Oslo Accords as some 60 percent of the West Bank. (Area C is where all Israeli settlements — and some 200,000 Palestinians — sit). 

Bennett’s plan, launched on social media in the form of a slick viral video, involves the construction of a complex array of bridges and tunnels to connect the hundreds of tiny Bantustans that would remain under Palestinian control. Other figures on the religious right, such as National Union leader Bezalel Smotrich, have proposed annexing the entire West Bank without granting citizenship to a single Palestinian — a plan that would make Israel the next South Africa.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented his plan for Israel to annex the Jordan Valley if he is reelected, September 10, 2019. Tomer Appelbaum
Crucially, these campaigns have been complemented by changes on the ground, in large part due to the fact that the politicians who advance them (Shaked, Bennett, and Smotrich) have served as ministers for the last number of years. Although only a small part of his ruling coalition, this hell-bent band of ideologues was able to exploit Netanyahu’s inveterate hesitancy to steer the whole government their way. 

For example, in early 2017 the religious right steered through the so-called regulation law, which legalizes the status of settlements built on private Palestinian land, forcing the legal owners to forfeit their property in return for land elsewhere or monetary compensation. They did not do all of this alone, however; it takes more than a handful of energetic politicians to rewrite the norms at the basis of a nation’s public life.

From the classroom to the cabinet table
To understand how the right-wing institutional machine operates — and how steeped it is in American money and influence — all one need do is look at Israel’s recent passage of the controversial nation-state law, which the Knesset passed last year. This legislation, which provoked an international stir, bestows a constitutionally superior status on Jewish citizens in Israel over Arab and other non-Jewish ones — thus, in effect, violating the principles set forth in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. 

Zvi Hauser, a former Netanyahu cabinet secretary, was hired as a lobbyist to promote the nation-state law. Hauser is currently running against Netanyahu as part of the Kahol Lavan ticket. Yanai Yechiel
The law originated in two of the religious right’s most prominent research centers: The Institute for Zionist Strategy, which introduced the idea underlying the bill almost a decade ago; and the Kohelet Policy Forum, which accompanied the drafting of its final version, gave it public and intellectual backing, and hired Zvi Hauser, a former Netanyahu cabinet secretary, as a lobbyist to promote it. 
When the bill became law, Kohelet threw a celebratory banquet attended by politicians, scholars and media figures associated with the right. The periodical Hashiloach, in which Shaked presented her libertarian credo, published essays that provided the camp’s agents of change with effective talking points. The Israel equivalent of Breitbart, a website called Mida, dedicated dozens of pieces to the law, which is heralded as a “fulfillment of Zionism.” 

Mida, the Israel equivalent of Breitbart, dedicated dozens of pieces to the Nation-State Law Screen capture

Academics associated with Kohelet have, in recent years, rewritten the civics textbooks used in Israel’s public school's system, in the spirit of the nation-state law: Reframing Zionism as a religious movement; painting Israeli Arabs in a negative light and dropping any mention of the settlements. These same researchers often double as staff in partisan institutions such as the Jewish Statesmanship Center, a training ground for right-leaning youngsters seeking entry to key positions in public service. At the same time, the religious right’s network of premilitary prep schools and student programs is educating a whole generation of right-wingers in accordance with the worldview that elevates Israel’s Jewish character over its democratic commitment.

The right has set up a network of premilitary prep schools and student programs, which is educating a whole generation of right-wingers. Bnei David Institutes
The Kohelet Policy Forum, named after the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, is perhaps the most important cog in the right-wing machine today. Its annual budget is estimated at over $8.5 million, an enormous sum in terms of the Israeli political system — nearly equal to the annual budget of the Israel Democracy Institute, the country’s leading nonpartisan think tank established some two decades prior to the forum. 

In addition to the nation-state law, Kohelet has bigger, more dangerous legislation coming down the pike: It is pushing for “right to work” laws that would unseat union power; annexation legislation that would apply Israeli sovereignty to the West Bank; and, finally, a bypass law that would effectively strip the Supreme Court of its power of judicial review. 

Meir Rubin, head of the Kohelet Policy Forum Emil Salman
“Kohelet’s people are involved in virtually every significant legislative reform enacted by Netanyahu’s government, far beyond settlement-related issues — from the country’s Jewish identity to the national energy policy,” says a source who worked till recently in the Justice Ministry. “Their reports turn into government policy; their messaging memos are quoted verbatim by civil servants and politicians. When they appear before Knesset committees, all other civil society organizations are immediately sidelined. Their approach — which sanctifies the settlements on the one hand, and wild, unfettered markets on the other — has become bon ton in government circles.” 

Learning from the Kochs
The spread of American-style conservative ideas is certainly not confined to the corridors of power in Jerusalem. One cannot walk into a bookstore in Israel nowadays without coming face-to-face with Ben Shapiro’s smug face, grinning on the cover of the Hebrew edition of “How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them: 11 Rules for Winning the Argument.” 

This “survival manual,” along with Jordan Peterson’s conservative mega-bestseller “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” was published recently by Sella Meir — a publishing house supported by the American neoconservative Tikvah Fund and managed by luminaries of Israel’s new religious right. In recent years, the publisher has flooded the Israeli book market with key texts from the Anglo-American conservative bookshelf, from Ayn Rand to Douglas Murray and, of course, Donald Trump.

Jordan Peterson’s conservative mega-bestseller '12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos' was published in Israel recently by a publishing house supported by the American neoconservative Tikvah Fund. Lars Pehrson / SvD / TT NEWS AGE

Books are not the only thing the Tikvah Fund has to offer Israelis. It attracts Israeli students to its seminars at home and abroad, thanks to lavish study conditions and generous scholarships. In these seminars, young Israelis are educated in the tenets of conservative thought, guided by speakers such as John Bolton, Bret Stephens, Bill Kristol and Elliott Abrams (the last two also sit on the fund’s board of directors). 

In Washington, where think tanks and leadership training operations are thick on the ground, the activities of these groups may seem par for the course. But in Israel, which has far fewer stable, well-funded political institutions, the appearance of the Tikvah Fund and other conservative projects with U.S. money behind them is a dramatic political development. 

Attendees at the first-ever Israeli Conservatism Conference, held in Jerusalem, May 2019. Dor Kedmi
Last May, Jerusalem hosted the first-ever Israeli Conservatism Conference. A brand-new organization, calling itself the Israeli Conservatism Movement, was behind the event: Its stated goal is “developing a distinctly Israeli and conservative school of thought, and a community affiliated with its ideas.” 

Roger Hertog, a U.S. conservative businessman and chairman of the Tikvah Fund, shares this vision. “On the road to conservative victory,” he explained from the podium, “ideas must manifest themselves in the cultural and political processes that will shape Israel’s destiny. That is the challenge facing conservatism in Israel … and I think it can be won. It’s not just that ideas matter. They’re the only thing that matters,” he concluded. 

According to estimates, the Tikvah Fund invests $10 million to $15 million a year in its project to transform Israel. And its cumulative impact can’t be overstated: Each and every one of the publications and institutions mentioned above is either fully or partly sponsored by the fund.
This is, of course, a legitimate move in the battle of ideas that takes place in any democratic society. And yet, one should call it for what it is: The right-wing, spearheaded by the Tikvah Fund, is attempting to replace Israel’s Declaration of Independence — the closest thing Israel has to a constitution, and a document that outlines a model for liberal Zionism, upholding equality for all citizens, Jewish or not — with the tea party’s manifesto. 

To achieve that, it is employing the tried-and-true strategies of the Koch brothers, the Mercers, the Adelsons and other royal families of the American right. It is important to understand the involvement of U.S.-based foundations and thinkers in the war of ideas in Israel — not only since it proves how ridiculous the Israeli right’s incessant cries of “foreign interference” are, but primarily since it illustrates why Israeli progressives and their American partners keep swinging and missing: They avoid talking about the far-reaching differences between liberal and conservative strategies when it comes to investing money and efforts in Israel. 

The then-chairman of the board of Americans for Prosperity, David Koch, speaking at the Defending the American Dream summit, August 1, 2015. Paul Vernon, AP
Do-gooders vs. power builders
For two decades now, the idea of liberal Zionism has been under constant attack both from the right (for alleged betrayal of Zionism) and the far left (for alleged betrayal of liberalism). Meanwhile, as a political actor, it has been losing elections with consistency. But its leadership in Israel and supporters abroad have been missing the point for years: They have become obsessed with ethics rather than politics and preferred sporadic activism and self-styled heroic dissent to the systematic, long-term building of power.

It isn’t the case, of course, that there is less money on the liberal wing of the American Jewish community. However, liberal U.S. foundations involved in Israel pursue a very different course of action compared to their right-wing counterparts. They are mostly looking to support “do-gooders” — or, as they put it, to “strengthen the social cohesion in Israel” and “create a vibrant Israeli democracy.” That is to say, they invest in projects aimed at empowering marginalized groups and promoting civic activism. Noble causes, to be sure, but apolitical ones.

Liberal donors who are engaged with Israel in a more political manner do so mainly by supporting projects that promote equality between Jews and Arabs and even by assisting election campaigns. But here, as well, we’re talking about short-term, project-based strategy — not about laying a strong institutional infrastructure for the long-term.

Conversely, Israel’s right-wing organizations are, well, right-wing. All of them, almost without exception, deal with ideas and policies that cut across all aspects of life and differ only on the basis of function. Some focus on education and training; others work on policy and research; still, others are media outlets. 

In contrast, many of the left-wing organizations and foundations are issue-specific. They support youth programs; lift people up from poverty; promote peace. These initiatives — led by organizations that rarely perceive themselves as part of the same political camp — may mitigate the worst effects of right-wing rule, but do very little to advance the only political force in the country that could, by taking office, prevent these harms from taking place, to begin with.

Those of us who believe that the road to a better and fairer life in the Middle East doesn’t go through boycotting the Jewish state — both because that wouldn’t be moral and since it would only lead to a sharper rightward turn in Israeli society — are left with only one strategy: To strengthen the Israeli left. 

The battle over the soul of Israel is a political one and is to be waged between the religious right and new, reinvigorated left. The problem is that this institutional, power-centered approach has been consistently overlooked by progressive commentators and donors. This is precisely what has to change.

Palestinian women crossing an Israeli checkpoint between the West Bank town of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, May 2018. MUSA AL SHAER/AFP

When people examine the Israeli left, they give one of two explanations for its current state. The first blames the crisis on the unattractiveness of its ideas — chiefly, the two-state solution. The second blames the weakness of its politicians and parties while completely ignoring the state of the left’s institutions. Both explanations are myopic. What the religious right and its American conservative backers understand is that ideas need policy research, mechanisms for educating young people, media institutions to promote them, groups of activists to demand them, and training programs to funnel the best and brightest of the movement into public service. 

They also understand that political parties can only ever see as far as the next election campaign and that nothing can replace institutions that work year in, year out to build a political camp over the long-term. 

The Israeli left, which established the State of Israel, has already written a glorious chapter in Jewish history — and did so against all odds, in the dourest historical circumstances imaginable. In all likelihood, it can do it again. If we compare the state of the religious right following the disengagement from Gaza to that of the left today, we will find that the left’s starting point is still significantly better. 

Even after years of no negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, poll after poll shows that most Israelis prefer the two-state solution over the right’s path of annexation — this despite public debate being heavily tilted in favor of those who reject any kind of diplomatic compromise. On questions of socioeconomics and freedom of religion, the left enjoys an even clearer advantage.
In other words, public opinion is, at least for now, well ahead of the political system — and the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state depends on the latter’s ability to catch up. This can happen only when the Israeli left creates its own network of public-facing, politically focused institutions. 
To be sure, the responsibility for the country’s future lies, first and foremost, on the shoulders of young Israeli activists like us. But after a decade in which conservative money and expertise have been building up a new, dangerously effective far-right elite in Israel, it is time for our progressive partners abroad to seriously rethink their own game plan.

Rami Hod is executive director of the Berl Katznelson Center, an educational and ideas institution working to revive progressive Zionism in Israel. 
Yonatan Levi is a research fellow at the Berl Katznelson Center and a PhD student at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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