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Ep. 275: A conversation with Israeli journalist Matti Friedman, and an audio diary from the bomb shelters in Tel Aviv
May 20, 2021
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On the Israeli Protests
Israeli protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms continue to escalate. Earlier this week, reservist pilots from the Israeli Air Force’s 69th Squadron refused to join a training exercise, with one telling Ynet that they “won’t be prepared to serve a dictatorial regime”—an act of insubordination that prompted 10 ex-IAF chiefs to demand Netanyahu “find a solution” to the crisis. A few days earlier, pilots for national airline El Al reportedly refused to fly Netanyahu and his wife to Italy for a state visit.
So Israel’s pilots are unhappy with the reform. Its plumbers? Less so. In this video, which went viral on Israeli social media and is translated to English below, a plumber named Nissim offers his thoughts on the anti-Bibi pilots, tech founders, economists, and other white-collar professionals who have threatened to withdraw their services if the current government is allowed to carry out its democratic mandate. To put his point delicately: if Israel’s credentialed experts think the country can’t function without them, just see what they think when their toilets won’t flush.
We’re about to embark on a mass protest. It’s only because of us that you live comfortably and the sewer flows. I warn the government of Israel: you were elected by an overwhelming majority. If you don’t pursue the judicial reform to the very end and without hesitation, we’ll flood your homes with hundreds of thousands of tons of piss and shit, and you’ll come down with malaria and dysentery and cholera and all those terrible sewer-related diseases. Before we flood your homes, I tell you: continue with the reforms. The plumbers are telling you: the people of Israel are strong. Forget high tech people, or pilots—we contributed tenfold more to this country. It’s only because of us that these pilots live in mansions rather than sleeping in their own shit. So I say to the high tech guys and the pilots: if we go on strike, you’ll eat shit. Have a great day, and watch out or we plumbers will go on strike.
—Nissim, an Israeli plumber, delivers a message on behalf of his fellow plumbers
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regulating the development of Iran’s nuclear program remains the most consequential and high-stakes piece of foreign policy in the geopolitics of the Middle East, and Tablet has covered the treaty from before its inception under Obama, through the Trump years, and now into Iran Deal 2.0 under the Biden/Blinken Administration.
What Is the Iran Nuclear Deal?
The Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is a landmark accord reached between Iran and several world powers, including the United States, in July 2015. Under its terms, Iran agreed to dismantle much of its nuclear program and open its facilities to more extensive international inspections in exchange for billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions relief.
Proponents of the deal said that it would help prevent a revival of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and thereby reduce the prospects for conflict between Iran and its regional rivals, including Israel and Saudi Arabia. However, the deal has been in jeopardy since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from it in 2018. In retaliation for the U.S. departure and for deadly attacks on prominent Iranians in 2020, including one by the United States, Iran has resumed some of its nuclear activities.
In 2021, President Joe Biden said the United States would return to the deal if Iran came back into compliance. Renewed diplomacy initially seemed promising, but after stop-and-go talks, it remains unclear if the parties can come to an agreement.
—Council on Foreign Relations
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