Kenneth Ryesky

Will Rami Greenberg drown in his own fountain?

When my wife and I voted in our first municipal election in Petach Tikva, Itzik Braverman, the then-incumbent mayor, seemed on paper to be a good choice; having served on the staff of Israel’s New York Consulate, he logically should have had some understanding of the issues that pertained to American Olim.  But we soon realized that we needed to look beyond the paper credentials.  Petach Tikva was (and remains) in expansionary mode, and many matters anent to that expansion stood neglected under Braverman’s watch.  We realized that our personal issues as Anglo Olim (including my own language barriers) were but a small component of the overall quality-of-life factors that were important to us.  We cast our votes for Braverman’s main opponent, Rami Greenberg, who won the election and now is our city’s Mayor.

On 3 July 1919, Mayor Rami Greenberg presided over the renaming of the Petach Tikva’s central square, with its new fountain, in honor of Donald Trump. There must be a backstory to the event, the particulars of which I have no familiarity, but it is obvious that in redesignating what had been a relatively unobtrusive monument to some worthy Israelis as “Donald Trump Square,” Greenberg had hitched his wagon to Donald Trump’s star, possibly as a credential to seek higher political office in the future.  I wondered then whether the maneuver might turn into a liability for Greenberg.

While I never interacted directly with Donald Trump or any of his attorneys in my pre-Aliyah law practice, I did have knowledge of his modus operandi from cases where there was an indirect Trump connection.  Professional confidences (and, for the cases I had while in the employ of the Internal Revenue Service, criminal penalties) preclude disclosure of any particulars; suffice it to say that I was privy to information and documents involving Trump-controlled entities and/or people associated with Trump, and thereby knew to expect the unexpected from Donald Trump.  “The unexpected” could entail sudden 180-degree shifts in position and/or seemingly irrational binges.

I personally did not walk the three blocks from where the day’s schedule placed me in order to attend the fountain festivities, nor did I accept any invitations for any post-ceremony events for American expats in the city.  Notwithstanding all Donald Trump had done for Israel, for which I am highly appreciative, I believed even then that his tenure as President could not be objectively evaluated so long as he remained in the Oval Office.

Knowing what I knew about Trump and his tendencies, I did vote for him in 2016 and in 2020 because I did and do believe that his opponents would be far worse for the United States and for Israel.  But my backing of Donald Trump began and ended with submitting my overseas absentee ballots; I did not sign any “Jews for Trump” statements, ride in any Trump motorcades, and certainly made no campaign contributions to him (Trump already has plenty of money).  More importantly, I did not objectify Donald Trump in any hero worship because I had seen that he could, without notice, suddenly turn on anything or anyone.

Now that the U.S. Congress has certified Joe Biden President-elect of the United States – Mike Pence’s disregard of Trump’s requests to not so certify the Electoral Votes stands as a profile in courage – I have no plans to riot, loot, or even post “Not My President” stickers on my motor vehicle or social media pages.

Notwithstanding the assertions made in the news media [The news media’s double standards when it comes to Donald Trump do not lie within the scope of this blogpost], there is in fact a reasonable basis for Trump and others to suspect the integrity of the vote count.  Prior to the November election, the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on the integrity of the voting machines, and before that, five U.S. Senators of the Democratic Party signed a letter to the purveyors of the voting machines in which concerns over the integrity of the relevant hardware and software were expressed.

It is obvious that any software whose purpose is to count votes needs to perform only one mathematical operation – addition.  There should be no need for subtraction, division, or multiplication, let alone advanced mathematical operations involving geometry, trigonometry, or calculus!  The touted complexities in the voting machine software accordingly give sound reason to at least question the susceptibility of the vote to untoward manipulation; I have already posted on these pages regarding that matter.

Be that as it may, now that Joe Biden’s election has been duly certified, rioting and looting cannot resolve the elections integrity problem, and the least destructive course of action would be an orderly and peaceable transition of the White House from Donald Trump to Joe Biden; from that point the election integrity problem can be addressed if there is sufficient political will to do so.  There needs to be law and order for that to happen, and it should go without saying that those who participated in the despicable unruly mob action of 6 January 2021 in the United States Capitol Building and elsewhere need to be prosecuted without regard to political inclination.

Back to Rami Greenberg:  As of 6 January 2021, his 2019 transformation of Petach Tikva’s central square into Donald Trump’s ego monument is now a potential political liability which he surely did not imagine at the time.  This development was hardly astonishing to me, given my perspective on how Donald Trump operates.

And just as the United States needs the orderly rule of law to maintain its political integrity if not its very existence, so, too, is the orderly rule of law the key to Rami Greenberg’s political future and the weal of the city he heads.  On that score, Rami Greenberg is in a bind, for if he attempts to jettison the fountain which symbolizes his faux pas in placing his chips on Donald Trump, the Petach Tikva citizenry, many of whom are now in severe financial straits on account of the COVID pandemic and have trouble paying their arnona money into the city’s coffers, will have reason to resent such high-profile wastage of the public sheqel.  Moreover, Greenberg’s failure to own his mistake would brand him as a political opportunist and diminish his public standing.

It is possible that the fountain in Donald Trump Square will be subjected to vandalism (it already has been just a few months ago).  If so, the sight of the damaged fountain would serve as a public indicium of a law and order vacuum; the vandal(s) who do it would certainly need to be brought to justice.

I do not know how I will vote in the next municipal election, but for the moment I am reasonably happy with Rami Greenberg’s performance in office.  He communicates with the Petach Tikva citizenry in ways his predecessor did not; he gives daily updates on the social media and WhatsApp groups, and on the city’s website.  He is addressing quality of life issues ranging from dog droppings to traffic, and has had infrastructure improvements done under his watch.  Such proactive leadership is especially vital amidst this CoronaVirus epidemic (in which he has availed city facilities, including a newly-constructed sports hall, for administering Corona testing and vaccinations, and has expanded internet access to municipal libraries).

I will not hazard a guess as to the best way for Rami Greenberg to deal with the albatross of a fountain whose waters cascade one block away from his City Hall office, but my general advice to him would be that in whatever he does, maintaining public order and public trust must be paramount.

About the Author
Born in Philadelphia, Kenneth lived on Long Island and made Aliyah to Israel. Professionally, he worked as a lawyer in the USA (including as an attorney for the Internal Revenue Service), a college professor and an analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense. He's also a writer and a traveler.