As Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) morphed into Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day), celebrating 72 years of Israel’s Independence, it occurred under unusual conditions – the country was under lockdown due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Rod Bryant and Jerry Gordon of Israel News Talk Radio – Beyond the Matrix reached out to Dan Diker a former Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress and now senior staff member of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) and director of the program countering Political Warfare to discuss the experience and the possibility of a new emergency government, sovereignty for Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria and the significance of the 100th Anniversary of the San Remo conference. Diker and his family lives in Efrat in the Gush Etzion. He observed that at the Kotel in Jerusalem on eve Yom HaZikaron with the IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and President Reuven Rivlin and other dignitaries were attired to face masks – protection against the novel but deadly coronavirus. Absent at the event were many families of the fallen being honored in pre-state battles and Israel’s wars beginning with 1948 War for Independence and extending through counter-terrorism actions of 2020. These conflicts and terrorist actions have taken more than 23,816 serving military, intelligence and security personnel and 4,166 terrorism victims. Diker, who was raised in America before he made Aliyah, contrasted the two Memorial Days. In Israel families observe the Yom HaZikaron commemoration by visiting cemeteries to share the love of these tough men and women who have sacrificed their lives to protect and defend the Jewish nation. In the US, while there are visits to cemeteries and programs on Memorial Day commemorating the valor of the fallen in America’s wars, it was also a time for barbecues. Something that occurs in Israel on Yom Ha’atzmaut. In Israel, every citizen knows relatives and friends who have lost someone. It is the coming together of families sends an important message of love and respect for courageous valor. Within 24 hours the commemoration moves from darkness into the light of the Jewish nation’s birthday. Despite the restrictions caused by the coronavirus, Diker noted that 9 million Israelis stood on balconies and roofs of buildings on the eve of Yom HaZikaron waving Israeli Flags and signing Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem of hope. Diker likened it to a cloud on Yom Ha Zikaron lifted from darkness into sunshine of Independence Day. Diker, Rod Bryant and Jerry Gordon of Israel News Talk Radio spoke of the importance of Lone Soldiers, Jews and on-Jews, who have given their lives and how Israelis provide a substitute ‘family’ for these valiant warriors. Gordon noted watching a moving Zoom presentation sponsored by the American Zionist Movement from Israel with echoes of the 8pm opening sirens Memorial Prayers, Kaddish and tributes for Lone Soldiers. It had special meaning to Gordon as two young Jewish women in the Pensacola, Florida community have volunteered to serve in T’zahal. Diker noted a young Lone Soldier from California who lost his life in the 2014 Gaza operation when his half-track vehicle was blown up by Hamas. Over 35,000 Israelis became his family and showed up at his funeral. Family is as Rod Bryant is what makes Israel different from the US. It is “family in your face”. Diker used the example of members of a family meeting after a long interval and one saying to the other” you look fat” then following it up with “come let’s get some coffee and have lunch”. During the coronavirus pandemic, Israel has obviously done something different from other countries. Diker recounting being on a radio show that morning with a host who asked did “we slay the dragon, kill coronavirus, flatten the curve”? Israel had experienced over 15, 000 infected cases, 90 on ventilators and 208 fatalities. Diker noted that Israel was beginning the process of reopening its street markets, but requiring those who venture out to wear masks, else they would be fined the equivalent of $60. He cited his friend, Israeli Defense Minister, Naftali Bennett an Israeli born of American parents in Haifa. He credited him of doing an outstanding job of managing the response to the Pandemic through the efforts of the Home Command protecting the “golden age’ population aged 60+ well into their 90’s. Mossad also was commended for bringing from aboard ventilators, medicines, reagents for testing and personal protection equipment for health workers. Diker paid tribute to the Israeli culture of survival in managing disasters. Witness, he said the one third of the country in shelters during the rocket wars with Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in 2014, and earlier in 2006, those million plus in sweltering bunkers in Israel’s north during the second Lebanon War in 2006 facing daily Hezbollah rocket attacks. The other factor is Israel has a centralized government, not federalized like the US, with the Administration at odds with the states over testing and easing of confinement. Those factors, Diker contends enabled Israel to “kill” the coronavirus in the first major attack. Nevertheless, both Bryant and Diker pointed out the US is the greatest example of country with a constitution guaranteeing individual rights of freedom and liberty. We also discussed the formation of Israel’s new national emergency government with rotating Prime Ministers to end the impasse of three elections. Israeli PM Netanyahu, still under indictment for alleged corruption and bribery charges would serve for the first 18 months, followed by former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz for a similar term. Diker praised Gantz for breaking with his former alliance to resolve the impasse. Diker likened the positions they would have as the equivalent of a President and Executive Vice President. The emergency government still awaits Knesset approval. We also drew attention to the likelihood of Israeli sovereignty being extended to the settlements in Judea and Samaria, where Diker’s family lives in Efrat and Gordon’s cousins in Ma’aleh Adumim. Diker pointed to the statements of US Secretary of State Pompeo supporting such moves. He cautioned about the possible extension of sovereignty to the strategic Jordan Valley approaches and Judean hills because the Oslo II Process established in 1995, while failed by Palestinian Authority and PLO rejectionism in six attempts, has not been ended by Israel. The Palestinians prompted by Soviet era propaganda since 1967 falsely accuse Israel of being “a colonialist power occupying their lands”. That led Diker to explain the importance of the 100th anniversary of the San Remo conference in 1920 by the great powers of WWII and the League of Nations in 1922 that recognized the Jewish homeland reconstituting their country and reasserting their claims.
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