Mar 21, 2022 • 34M

There is only one American-born and raised member of Knesset

What does HE think about how Israel is handling the crisis in Ukraine?

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MK Alon Tal (photo from Knesset website)

It’s been almost a year since we launched Israel from the Inside, an attempt to create a different kind of Israel-dialogue— not left or right, religious or secular, native or immigrant, but rather, a mosaic of the many viewpoints that make up the richness of Israeli society.

We’ve covered conflict and war, politics, music, art, literature, history and more. In the weekly podcast, we’ve interviewed dozens of Israelis (and some non-Israelis) from all walks of life. Some of the subjects we have covered in these conversations have been controversial, like an interview with one of the founders of “Breaking the Silence,” a conversation with an East Jerusalem Arab woman during the riots last May, a passionate and principled defense of the Nation-State Law and much more.

None of those, however, has aroused the level of passion and heated discourse (most of it civil, but a bit not) that has been unleashed by the agonizing events in Ukraine.

Given how much heat the topic has generated even in Israel from the Inside (which is meant to be a relatively “heat-free” environment), it seemed to me that it would be useful to hear from an Israeli lawmaker, a centrist, who could applaud Israel where appropriate and offer critique when called for.

I reached out to MK Alon Tal of the Blue and White Party (Benny Gantz). Alon and I were in Young Judea, a Zionist youth group, more years ago than either of us would like to admit. An academic, a noted Israeli environmental activist and a deeply committed Zionist, Alon seemed to me the perfect person to hear from on these matters.

He was kind enough to sneak in some time right before he had to join other MKs for Ukrainian President Zelensky’s address to the Knesset; our conversation is posted here.

As you may have seen in the press, many MKs were most displeased by Zelensky’s address. The Ukrainian President received a standing ovation in the House of Commons and much adulation in Congress, but in the Knesset, he stirred up an unsympathetic hornet’s nest. Why? We’ll come back to that.

MK Tal spoke about Israel’s delicate position vis-a-vis the West versus Russia, his assessment of Israel’s refugee policy and how Israel is executing it. I also asked him to respond to my claim in an earlier column that as we watch the West send arms and implement sanctions against Russia but do nothing active to come to Ukraine’s defense, we see what Israel’s position could be in the future, especially were Iran to cross the nuclear threshold. Does he agree? See things differently?

Our Monday postings are usually written columns and the Thursday podcasts are usually accessible only to paid subscribers, but these are not usual times, so today’s is an audio open to everyone—I felt it was important for us all to hear from someone other than me, in his words, about how well or not well Israel is doing. We hope to send out an abridged transcript of my conversation with MK Alon Tal on Wednesday.

I hope you take the time to listen to him. You’ll get to know something about the only American-born and raised MK, you’ll hear a passionate, centrist Zionist speak about Israel’s challenges in the Ukrainian situation, and I think you’ll be impressed by the seriousness of purpose and deep intelligence of Alon Tal. Enjoy!

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For a very different take, by one of Israel’s leading security experts, on what Israel needs to consider in the balance between “being on the right side of history” and its own national security, you might want to read this column by Efraim Inbar, “Israel's Ukraine policy: ‘Right side of history’ vs national interest” in The Jerusalem Post.

Since many of our readers will be busy and otherwise occupied during the Passover holiday, during the weeks of April 18 and 25 we will not be posting regular columns and podcasts, though we will post something for Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The regular schedule will resume on the week of May 2.

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