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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Religious Extremists in Israel



If you want to know what's going on in Israel at the moment, watch this report.

I'm back!

Back from a quick family vacation. It's official: I am now a member of J Street's board. Thanks for all of those who voted and to those that have been following this blog since last April.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vote for Me for the J Street Board

Okay friends, I need your support. I'm running for the J Street Board. Please vote for me here! Voting is open until Tuesday. You do not have to be in the US or a current member of J Street. Just check the box on voting page that says to count you as a member.

Also if you could post the voting link on you facebook pages that would be incredible. And you are all invited to my page Vote for Rich.

I'd give you my platform, but it's all here on the blog. I recommend the links "Popular Posts" on the right.

Thanks!

'What pro-Israel Should Mean'

Read J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami's op-ed in this morning's Washington Post. Here's a taste:
Many of Israel’s closest friends — including strong advocates of the U.S.-Israel relationship from both parties — understand that it must choose this latter path because its long-term survival and security are at risk without the creation of a Palestinian state.
The United States desperately needs to have a serious debate over which path best promotes its interests and those of Israel.
U.S. politicians also need to choose. Will they opt to seem pro-Israel to a small number of the loudest voices on the far right, or will they choose to actually be pro-Israel by advocating bold leadership and giving Israel the support it needs to take necessary risks?

Friday, December 16, 2011

'GOP candidates guilty of Holocaust abuse'

Chemi Shalev, my new favorite journo, is on the case. Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt calls it soft-core denial, dangerous, pandering, embarrassing and unhealthy. Shalev's article is here. Read the whole interview here.

Six million Jews and millions of others did not perish so know-nothing fools could cover themselves in their ashes when they run out of cogent thought.

It's time we put an end to this despicable behavior.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

And just like that it's over

The Iraq War comes to an end. Aside from the dead, the injured, the maimed, the combatants, the civilians, the families, has anyone else paid the price? All those who itched for war. All those who cheered it on. All those who defended it. All those who exploited it. Our leaders who planned and executed it. Will there never be an accounting? Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Condi, et al. are still accepted in polite society. We know they have no shame, but what about us?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yonathan Reports

Our friend Professor Shapir, back in his native Israel, asks whether the tectonic plates beneath the West Bank are starting to move and sends this report from Kibbutz Nahshonim:
As all of you know it is never boring in Israel. Yet some days are more crucial than others. The time before the last time I was here the Turkish flotilla debacle happened. This time the vicious attacks of extreme-right religious fanatics are making the headlines. 
The Likudniks and the settlement establishment supporters are "shocked" from what has happened here in the last couple of days. The most extreme have started to attack not only Palestinians, but Zahal (Israeli Defense Forces) officers and bases as well. To the center and moderate-right leaning people this is a very hard awakening. Suddenly, they realize what rotten elements grew up in the lawlessness of the West Bank they themselves helped to create. The story line of Gershom Gorenberg (he will have a piece on these events in the American Prospect today or tomorrow)  is exposed in a sudden bang to all those who tried to pretend that skirting the rule of  the law is a small price to pay in the pursuit of Greater Israel. For the first time the settlement project is undermined by its rogue elements more than it is by its oponents. Politically the effects will take time to materialize, but future historians may well mark the last two days as the beginning of the decline in the support for the settlments within Israeli public opinion.
For more on the extremist element in Israel read Amos Harel here in Haaretz.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Obama bad, Reagan good?

Chemi Shalev is my new best friend. I swear this is the truth. You see yesterday morning I had a conversation with one of the strongest supporters Israel will ever have in this country or any other for that matter, but of the old school. His distaste for our current president has been well-expressed on prior occasions. Yesterday he stated that what we needed was a strong leader and friend of Israel in the White House, like Ronald Reagan. (Full disclosure: Reagan was the first president I voted against.) I controlled myself and left the comment alone.

Then I awoke this morning and, as I do every morning, checked out Haaretz and saw this from Haaretz's Chemi Shalev, as he remembers Reagan. Shalev starts:
Imagine if Israel would launch a successful preemptive strike against a country that is building a nuclear bomb that threatens its very existence, and the American president would describe it as “a tragedy”.
And he goes from there. Chemi, if you are ever in Chicago. Stop by. Drinks are on me.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

ICYMTO (in case you missed the opportunity)

ICYMI . . . here's Eli Valley's take on the zombie talking point that "the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." Brilliant.

New blog discovered

Check out Professor David Schaub's blog. He's been following the J Street U Berkeley story, which has just taken a turn for the good guys.

And oh yeah, Go Illini! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

If you dare . . .

Click here and follow Haaretz's live blogging of the Republican Jewish Coalition's candidates forum.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Meretz MK assigned body guard

The onslaught against champions of Israeli democracy continues. Following death threats from a right wing extremist, the Knesset Guard and Israeli Police assign Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On a bodyguard. Right wing extremist National MK Michael Ben-Ari calls it "a provocation of the Left." 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Not turtley enough for the turtle club, I guess

How effed up is this? The Jewish Union at UC Berkeley voted (10-9, 2 abstentions) to deny membership to the Berkeley Chapter of J Street U, because J Streeters are just not pro-Israel enough for the pro-Israel club. According to Jacob Lewis, co-president of the student group Tikvah, “J Street is not pro-Israel but an anti-Israel organization that, as part of the mainstream Jewish community, I could not support.” Give 'em hell Jakie!

Jacob, as self-assigned spokes-kid for the "mainstream Jewish community" represented by the 10/21sts who voted to keep the Streeters out of the club, knows what all true blue and white blooded American Jews know -- the real pro-Israel folks are American Jews.

I'm sure that comes as quite a shock to Alon Mazor, the Berkeley J Street U member who sought admittance to the club. Get it? Alon Mazor. Do I need to spell it in Hebrew fonts? Alon, you see, was born in Israel.

So where did Jacob get the idea that Alon's J Street U is anti-Israel? To hear Jacob tell it, it was from another Israeli he heard speak  . . . at a J Street U event. Last year, Assaf Sharon, from the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement in Israel spoke at Berkeley and explained to Jacob that East Jerusalem, being beyond the Green Line, is a settlement. Sharon, the presenter at this "virulently hateful event about Israel" is now back home in Israel, spreading his "anti-Israel" message, with a host of other "anti-Israel" Israelis, and where he was recently physically assaulted by those "pro-Israel" Israelis living beyond the Green Line.

Perhaps, if Alon hates Israel so much, he should just go back where he came from, and leave the pro-Israel clubs to real Jews.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Meir Dagan - Od Pa'am (Again)

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan warning against an attack on Iran:
"I'm concerned about possible mistakes and I prefer to speak out before there is a catastrophe," Dagan said in an interview on the Israeli television program “Uvda."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'The Taliban is Here'

My friend Professor Shapir brought an opinion piece to my attention published in Maariv last week. The problem was that it was only in Hebrew. So the professor assigned some homework, and I guess I'm the only one to hand it in. So here's my translation. As always, feel free to call to my attention any mistakes. You get what you pay for around here. All kidding aside, this is a terribly important and frightening piece.

They Sold Us to the Taliban
By Ben-Dror Yemini

In every sphere possible - public education, conversion, the appointment of rabbis, women's singing - the government of Israel, and not only the current one, sold the State to the movement of Haredim-Nationalists.

The Bar Association selected this week two representatives to the Committee for the Appointment of Judges. There isn't a single woman there. As a result of the coalition agreement, the majority attorney Yuri Guy-Ron sold his soul to the Haredim faction that supported him. This means Haredization, further Haredization, of the rabbinical courts (for the office vote and the mistakes made Haaretz saw a different perspective at the end of the article). It is not only the Bar Association. Like this, the state is run. Rabbi Eliyakim Levanon called on his students to disobey an order so as not to hear women's singing. "It is unacceptable in any circumstance," he said. So it is.

Seemingly, there is no connection between these two events from recent days. But there is. Israel is marching slowly but surely to the darkest place in her history. The Taliban does not yet rule us. But it's on the way. Such is the process. We barely see the tiny steps. Another appointment. Another halachic ruling. Another step like this and another. Usually far from the public eye. And collectively like a great forest that comes and darkens us.

It's forbidden to compare. The Taliban, as part of political Islam, works by massacring its opponents, most of them Muslim. The Haredim-ultra-nationalists, among the Jews, are far from this murderousness. But the theological and political orientation is similar. Because every religion carries with it a wide spectrum of sources, and certainly interpretations. Muslim theologians composed a complete proof that the Koran calls, for example, for the full equality of women. But they were defeated. The Muslim Brotherhood, the Wahabi School, and the Taliban prevailed. This is also the story of Judaism. There are countless sources. In them, there is respect for the stranger, the foreigner, the orphan and the widow. There is in them humanism and enlightenment. But slowly, only the dark sources are taking over. Levanon has already declared that it is forbidden to elect a woman to the local council because of the "power." To whom is he closer, the Taliban or the National Religious Party of yore. Levanon is the new face of religious Judaism. He is the rabbi of Judea and Samaria. He is the rabbi that in the past declared that democracy is not required. He is the rabbi who called on soldiers to refuse orders. Rabbi Dov Lior expressed a similar position. Both of them belong to religious Zionism. Not Haredi. Levanon belongs to the Jewish home, the moderate party, and to the National Union, supposedly more extreme. The Taliban is already here and we refuse to see.

"The Voice of the Woman" is only a syndrome. After all, if we are governed by the Torah, we would find that women singing fill the Bible. Such as Deborah the Prophetess ("Then sang Deborah and Barak son of Avinoam.") Such as the women who flickered and danced before David and Saul ("the women came out from the all the cities of Israel to sing . . . Saul by the thousands and David his ten thousands"), and much more. But the Bible no longer interests them as a source. They then determine that a woman is not allowed as a member of council, even though they know about Deborah.The problem is not the abyss that separates the biblical model from the current model. The problem is the abyss between the state-religious model that ruled here only decades ago and the new national-Haredi model. Over decades rabbis participated in the squares at state events where women sang. They did not get up, they did not protest, they did not leave, and they did not need imams to issue fatwas that prohibited them from listening to a woman's voice. But here exists for us a new generation. And it does to Judaism exactly what the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wahabi stream did to Islam. Among the many and varied sources and a variety of possible interpretations - the choice is very dark. Thus the phenomenon of the Taliban. So too is it here. It did not happen in one day. We are in the process. The Haredi camp took control in connection to Jewish law, and the religious camp took over the Haredi camp in connection to nationalism. Every sphere of the State of Israel is becoming more Harerdi. Religious state education is becoming more Haredi. Less core studies and fewer hours of secular studies. More religious studies. A rabbi for every kindergarten. So too in conversion. The Haredi stream, the more clerical took over the branch. Also the religious have been excluded from the picture. Such as in the area of marriage. Revisionist Zionist rabbis, who are not suspected of deviation from the Orthodox stream, have been unacceptable. Already its forbidden for them to conduct marriages.


The Harerdization is not the result of enlightenment or new discoveries in Jewish law. It's the result of the reality where the State grants more and more precisely to the Haredim. This is the country that transfered to them control over the apparatus of conversion. This is the country that granted them control over the rabbinical courts that have become Haredi. This is the country that has granted them an exemption from core studies. This the country that granted more and more exemptions to those who shirk their civic responsibilities. The figures are frightening. Every year in first grade there is an increase of one percent Haredim. Approximately 25% now. Approximately 35% in another decade. The increase is not coming from births. The increase is a result of a transition from a state-religious education to a Haredi education, mainly from Shas voters.

The most significant change is in the State-religious education. It is becoming more Haredi. The end result is frightening. The graduates of this track come to the IDF sounding like imams not commanders. Or rather, this is not the State, this is the coalition. This coalition system that tramples the majority and democracy, and produces in Israel rule by the minority. It pays to become Haredi. Moderates are trampled. Imams are strengthened.

There is only one way to save Israel from this Taliban disaster. Establish a national-Zionist coalition - Likud, Kadima, Labor, with all the parties that will agree to basic principles that will include strengthening national education, removing conversion from the hands of the Haredi movement, ending funding for every school, Haredi or religious, that does not have at its base a wide range of core studies, the gradual limitation of exemption from military service, etc. In other words, the need to separate religion from the state. This will not be simple.This will cause a difficult conflict, perhaps unprecedented,among some in the nationalist camp - Zionist, religious and secular, among the nationalist ultra-Orthodox camp, whose power is growing stronger. But this is a war of survival. Israel exists and must of course remain a Jewish and democratic state. Because of the connection between politics and religion, because of the coalition system, and because of the permanent surrender to the Taliban camp, Israel is losing its Jewish identity in favor of an ultra-orthodox brutality, and its democratic identity in favor of fatwas issued from Levanon and his ilk. The Taliban is already here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dagan warns of regional war if Israel strikes Iran

Nothing too new here. But look at this from the same article:
It was announced earlier on Tuesday that Dagan will lead a group that will endeavor to immediately alter the system of government in Israel.
Maariv reported Tuesday that the group is operating without much publicity, backed by a group of leaders in the fields of business, culture and law that has already begun to raise funds.
Former IDF Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, businessman Gad Zeevi and Herliya Interdisciplinary Center President Professor Uriel Reichman have already joined the new group.

Happy Partition Day!

Sixty-four years ago the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181, dividing Mandatory Palestine into two states, a Jewish state and an Arab state. Read it here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Is Israel at War with Iran?

With all this talk about whether Israel is going to attack Iran, could it be that the war has already started and they just forgot tell us?

An Israeli take on the last GOP debate

I wasn't the only one a bit queasy. Quoting Queen's Brian May - “too much love will kill you” - Haaretz's Chemi Shalev writes:
Herman Cain said the U.S. would “join Israel” in attacking Iran, as long as the Israelis came up with a credible plan; Newt Gingrich said the U.S. would bomb Tehran only as a “last recourse” but would be happy to team up with Israel in a “conventional” attack; Michele Bachmann has already indicated that the Pentagon should present “war plans” in order to rescue “millions of Israelis who are on the precipice of losing their lives”; Rick Perry said “if we're going to be serious about saving Israel, we better get serious about Syria and Iran”; Rick Santorum made up for lost time in the debate by declaring later, “I’d be working with Israel and be very clear with Iran that we are preparing a military strike"; Mitt Romney thinks that the answer to Iran is to go to Israel “to show the world we care about that country and that region”; and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, usually the most cautious Republican debater on matters of foreign policy, said “our interest is to ensure that Israel - that Iran does not go nuclear. Our interest in the Middle East is Israel.”
Not Saudi Arabia. Not the Gulf emirates. Not the Maghreb. Not the Horn of Africa. Not a stable Iraq. Not a moderate Egypt. Not the free flow of oil. Not containment of China and Russia. Not Islamic moderation, not even the fight against jihadist terrorism. Just Israel. 
Whole thing is here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What Gershon Gorenberg says

Terrific piece by Gershon Gorenberg in the American Prospect, here. He examines a question, I've tried to answer in some form or another. Why are they so angry?

Gorenberg lays the scene:
"He's lying! He's lying!" the man at the back of the hall shouted, in a tone as desperate as it was angry. "He hasn't read the Geneva Conventions. You haven't read them, so you don't know he's lying."
The primary object of his rage was me. The secondary object, it seemed, was his fellow congregants, who'd allowed me to lecture at his New York-area synagogue. I'd spoken about threats to Israel's democracy, including those posed by ongoing expansion of West Bank settlements. This was the first time, I'd been told, that the congregation had hosted a speaker on Israel from outside a spectrum running from right-wing to very right-wing. During the question-and-answer period, I was asked about my statement that the legal counsel of Israel's Foreign Ministry had warned before the first West Bank settlement was established that it would violate the agreement of the Fourth Geneva Convention. That's when the man in the back came unstuck. The congregation's rabbi, who was moderating the Q&A session with the trained calm of a psychologist running group therapy for fractured families, slipped to the back of the room and talked him down.
Read the rest here.

Good news this morning from Israel

The Knesset's Mnisterial Committee on Legislation rejected Glenn Beck's friend's proposal to limit petitions to the Supreme Court. So we'll still have Dan Meridor to keep a watch on these fools.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Listen up, chevrai

It ain't just Zahav and the usual suspects saying it. Here's veteran Likudnik Dan Meridor:
There has been a wave of attacks aimed at making Israel different – less liberal and more nationalist. I think we’re fighting for the spirit of our country, for its existence, our freedom, our liberty, freedom of expression, freedom to protest, and for human dignity.
 He's threatening to quit if the latest bill directed at Israel's Supreme Court passes. Pay attention: keep defending the occupation and status quo and you'll wake up one morning and it will all be gone. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

אריק איינשטיין - שיר מספר שמונה Arik Einstein Shir Mispar 8



Had been looking for this for a while, and a couple weeks ago Rika came through for me! Just getting around to posting it now. Happy Thanksgiving all!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

GOP debates over who can fawn over Israel more

Just watched part of this evening's "debate." Absolutely excruciating on so many levels. But if you think that display was good for Israel or the US you are out of your mind. That kind of pandering will only erode the critical and legitimate support Israel does need. None of these people care about Israel. They are inviting backlash.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

In Which Popeye Makes His First Appearance


Ditto, Popeye. Not for the faint of heart. Click here if you dare to enter the dark twisted world of Caroline Glick.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Heckuva job, Congress!

We'll show those Palestinians! Who cares about literacy or education for young girls! From Ynet:
UNESCO won't take on any new projects until the end of the year, an official said Thursday, after the US pulled its substantial contributions from the UN cultural agency to protest its acceptance of Palestine as a member. 
***
UNESCO, which protects historic heritage sites and works to improve literacy, access to schooling for girls and cultural understanding, is clearly scrambling after the loss of its biggest donor. Canada and Israel have also pulled funding, though they donate far less. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tie goes to the runner

Romney and Bachmann each blast Obama over Liargate.You can understand that Cain has been a bit distracted, but where's Perry been?

By the way, do you think Romney or Bachmann realize that the US and Israel will be participating in the largest joint military exercise in the allies' history? Or that Obama also complained to Sarkozy over the fact that France did not give the US a heads up over its UNESCO vote and warned that the US would have to impose sanctions on the Palestinians?

What's really crazy is not what Romney and Bachmann said, but that they don't get laughed out of the room when they say it.

The expectedly absurd

Instead of voicing concern that Israel's prime minister has no credibility or asking why it is that world leaders think he's a liar, Abe Foxman calls on Obama to make amends. From Haaretz:
"In light of the revelations here, we hope that the Obama Administration will do everything it can to reassure Israel that the relationship remains on a sure footing and to reinvigorate the trust between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, which clearly is not what it should be," Foxman continued.
"What is sad is that we now have to worry to what extent these private views inform foreign policy decisions of the U.S. and France - two singularly important players in the peace process."
See it's not the liar that's the problem, it's Obama's refusal to cover for him.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Winner. . . John McCain!

From Politico:
Sen. John McCain said Tuesday that derogatory “hot mic” comments from President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are “indicative of the attitude and policies that this administration has had towards Israel.”
“I happen to be a great admirer of Prime Minister Netanyahu,” McCain said on Fox and Friends. “I’ve known him for years, and Israel is under more pressure and probably in more danger than they’ve been since the ’67 war and that kind of comment is not only not helpful, but indicative of some of the policies towards Israel that this administration has been part of.”
Well, he's really a former candidate, so there's still time to win! Cain, Bachman, Perry? Who's your choice?

Another day, another attack

Peace Now leader, Hagit Ofran, targeted again.

Breaking News: World Leaders Think Bibi is a Liar

Nicolas:  I cannot bear Netanyahu, he is a liar.

Barack:  You're fed up, I have to deal with it all day.

So what's the conclusion we will draw in the US? If you answered that Bibi is a liar, you  haven't been paying attention. The correct answer of course is that Obama is anti-Israel. Who will be the first GOP candidate to jump on this one? Feel free to make your prediction in the comments section.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I guess the left in Israel is a legitimate target

Earlier, Peace Now's offices in Jerusalem were evacuated after a bomb threat. And now Bibi and Lieberman are supporting a bill prohibiting funding of Israeli human rights organizations from international organizations. But hey, Obama hates Israel, settlements are not the problem, and besides we must deal with the Iranian threat. I pray for the day that we can look back at this period and feel shame. I fear that we may also look back and feel regret.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I don't f'ing believe this

While my blogging has slowed to a trickle over the past couple weeks, some of you may have noticed the reports coming from Israel that they are seriously - no, really - considering a military attack on Iran's nuclear sites. Today, President Shimon Peres made reference to the military option in an interview with Israel's Channel 2.

Yet, former Mossad Director Efraim Halevy says Iran is "far from posing an existential threat." He minces no words and says: "The growing haredi radicalization poses a bigger risk than Ahmadinejad."

It was about five years ago that I heard Michael Oren (who I believe was the IDF spokesman at the time) speak at an AIPAC lunch. He stated quite clearly that a nuclear Iran was a "red-line" that Israel would not allow to be crossed. I thought it was crazy then. I think it's crazy now. It's so crazy that even Moshe "Boogie" Ya'alon opposes it (at least for now). And yet it's within the realm of possibility.

A letter to Rabin

From a former aide to Yitzhak Rabin: 
It’s a little odd to write you a letter, Yitzhak.
When did I ever write you a letter? If I was truly emotional, as is the case now, I would just open your door and pour my heart out to you. As if you were an elder brother or a dear father. Yet you are not here and there is no door to walk through and share my thoughts with you. So I’m writing. Will you have time to read, up there?
Finally, after 16 years, I have a huge hope. Sixteen years after that villain shot three bullets in your back. Sixteen years after I thought that our country was finished. Sixteen years after the man you said was spineless became prime minister, twice. Sixteen years where we had another Intifada and failed wars. So many young Israelis were killed for no reason.
Read the whole thing.

רצח יצחק רבין Yitzhak Rabin

Sixteen years ago today, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.In some ways it seems like it was yesterday; in others a lifetime ago.

Monday, October 31, 2011

To be a free people in our land?

Ilan Ben Zion argues for an Israeli constitution separating religion and state:
An Israeli constitution needs to separate Israel from its Jewish religious trappings, and make the state impartial to the religious identities of its citizens.
If this does not happen, many Israelis my find themselves forced out of this Mediterranean sanctuary, preferring to live a free Jew in another country than shackled by injustice in a Jewish one.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Motzash Blogging: Arik Einstein - You & I


Had been looking for this for a while (h/t Rika).

Gaza heating up

At least two dozen rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, killing one. The latest round began when the Islamic Jihad had fired rockets into Israel and Israel responded killing five of its members. Where the latest round ends is anybody's guess. Meanwhile, about 20,000 turned out in Tel Aviv as protestors calling for social justice returned to the streets.

Update:  Ynet (Hebrew) is reporting a cease fire reached through Egyptian mediation.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

This is crazy

You may remember last spring on Jerusalem Day thousands ran through the streets of the Old City chanting "Death to the Arabs!" Responding to this horrific sight, a university professor wrote on his facebook status: “I call on the world to come and help break these scoundrels’ necks.” So who does Israel's Ministry of Justice investigate for incitement? You got it - the professor!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ha'am are baaaccck!!!

October 29. You know the drill. Ha'am Doresh Tzedek Chevrati! The original 99%. Chevrai, this ben-adam has one drisha (demand). Bring down this insane government. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Must See


Do yourself a favor and find 22 minutes and 23 seconds to watch this video. I know, that's a lot of internet time. So watch 3 minutes, and tell me if you don't end up watching the whole thing. Feel free to skip the first 33 seconds which is a commercial.

P.S. I was very fortunate to have had dinner with Aziz Abu Sarah and Kobi Skonick last year in Evanston and have no shame at gratiuitously dropping their names.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gilad's Coming Home

Just hours away from freedom, after 1,940 days, Gilad will be coming home.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Good Question

Gideon Levy asks: Why is it permissible to negotiate with Hamas over the fate of a single soldier yet prohibited to do so over the fate of two bleeding peoples?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

'The Man Who Was There'

A lot has been written the past two days about the deal reached to free Gilad Shalit. Undoubtedly there will be a lot more as we wait for Shalit's release expected early next week. Here's a story that seems not to have garnered much attention in the American press. Fortunately, my friend Professor Shapir has been on top of the situation and has provided the blog with a translation of a Hebrew article reporting on the central role of Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin in arriving at the deal.


The Man Who Was There: The Director Mediator Between Israel and Hamas

Updated 00:03 13/10/2011Raviv Drucker and Shlomi EldarOutwardly, he led the negotiations to free the kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shalit, Netanyahu's envoy, David Meidan. But the last five years running Gershon Baskin, director of  Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, conducted direct contacts with Hamas that last July led to the breakthrough in talks. "I told them that if they want to reach an agreement - this is the time," he recalls.

What exactly led to the breakthrough in Shalit deal is not really clear, but it is clear who made the breakthrough. For five years he conducted direct contacts with Hamas and last July he handed over to the Prime Minister's envoy for negotiations, David Meidan, the position paper of Hamas that brought the breakthrough. Last night (Wednesday), after approved by a large majority, one of the main persons at the origin of the Shalit deal was exposed. 

Three days after Shalit was kidnapped, someone in the Gaza Strip established a relationship with Gershon Baskin, director of IPCRI, and soon afterwards a contact was made between him and Dr. Razi Hamad, then media advisor of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. This communication channel created a direct communication line between Israel and Hamas chief of staff, Ahmed Jabari, who directed the last round of talks. "In the last five years since the abduction we talked several times a week," said Baskin on his relations with Hammad. "In recent weeks we talked about five - ten times a day. I also went to Egypt at some point and I met the Egyptian mediator." 

According Baskin, the change came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, decided to go to the deal despite opposition in principle, and after the appointment of David Meidan, who, according to Baskin, was ready "to try things previous envoys were opposed to." Hamas, too, he explains, was flexible. "Hamas agreed to be flexible when they realized that the prime minister is serious and is flexible as well," he says. "Two weeks before the document on July 14th, I received a document much more extreme. I told them that if they want to reach an agreement, this is the time, that the Prime Minister is willing to reach an agreement, but they must understand that if they pull the rope too tight it would break, and there will be no agreement as long as you insist these requirements."

Friday, October 7, 2011

G'mar Hatima Tovah

As you may have noticed, posting has been a little slow - I've been busy with my day job. Still, much has been happening in Israel. Most of it not good. You can catch up here with "Days of Reflection," from J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami.

For those who observe Yom Kippur, G'mar Hatima Tova and an easy fast.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Gilo

Gilo is not a settlement nor an outpost. It is a neighborhood in the very heart of Jerusalem about five minutes from the center of town. 
--  Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defending last week's decision to build 1,100 homes in Gilo 

Sitting on a bookshelf in my office at home is a small stone, about the size of a large olive. It's limestone. Not the whitish-green kind we see here in the Midwest, but with a glint of gold. It's angular. Undoubtedly broken off from a larger chunk, the type that is used for building homes in Israel, especially in Jerusalem. I've also seen it in buildings in Bethlehem and Ramallah. But its association is with Jerusalem and it's called "even Yerushalmi" - Jerusalem stone. Reflecting the setting sun is what it does most spectacularly. Especially as Shabbat approaches.

I was 25 in1990 and looking for an apartment in Jerusalem. I pulled a few numbers from the bulletin board at Hebrew University where students had posted notices looking for shutafim or roomates to split rent with. I really only remember looking at two apartments. One was just off Jaffa pretty close to King George. The location was ideal - right in the center of the city and walking distance to Migrash HaRussim where the Supreme Court was located at the time - and the price wasn't bad - I think about $250 or $275 a month. When I went to check it out, I met the woman who had posted the notice. I liked the idea of having a female roommate. The apartment was decent enough and I could have been had, but let's just say the woman wasn't the warmest person I've met. She started in right away. No smoking, you must keep the room clean, and a few other admonitions that I either can't remember or don't care to. I could tell that bringing my girlfriend over would pose a problem. My guess is she never found a shutaf.

The second place I looked at was a distance away. I must have been staying at the King David at the time with my mom and sister who were on a JUF mission visting Israel in the leadup to the Gulf War. What I remember is after Shabbat ended on Saturday night taking the No. 32 bus to the apartment. This apartment was considerably newer and bigger than the first. It was also cleaner. (If you're going to clean, clean, don't talk so much.) And it was cheaper - $200 per month. The guy who owned it was a student at Hebrew University. He had immigrated from the Soviet Union when he was eight. We got along well. He liked that I was American and believed that portended well for his rent roll. So we shook hands and I had half an apartment.

The apartment was on the top floor of a four story building and overlooked a terraced valley lined with olive trees. Its small balcony had a magnificent view to the west. There was no better place to be in love than on that balcony. It was there that one girlfirend broke up with me and where I found my next one. Once I started my clerkship, I would, with my gas mask in tow, take the 32 bus to and from the Midrahov, a few blocks from Migrash HaRussim. At night when the winds or the pounding winter rains weren't too strong, we could hear the siren sound, warning of incoming Scuds; although we didn't bother going into a sealed room. We hadn't even prepared one. We were in Jerusalem and we felt safe. Eventually, a friend of mine from home came to stay for while. Like almost everything in Israel I loved that apartment. Four years later when I returned for my roomate's wedding, I stayed at the apartment for a few days with my wife and 5 month old daughter.

I can't remember how it came to be exactly, but shortly after I moved in, my friend Ayelet came to visit with her brother, Shlomi. I can still hear Shlomi as he looked west from the balcony saying, Ooo-ah, aizeh yofi shel nof. What a beautiful view. There was something that struck me about this line, how he phrased it. I really liked it. Aizeh yofi shel nof. I thought it was cool. I thought it was very Israeli. I later repeated the line to Ayelet and we broke out laughing at my weak impersonation.

You know this is a settlement, Gilo, he said to me. No it wasn't - it's part of Jerusalem I told him. Ayelet agreed with me. Take out a map, he said, not really caring if I believed him or not. It's beyond hakav hayarok.  The green line - hakav hayarok - is the line that was drawn on a map at the end of Israel's War of Independence in 1949. That's where Israel ended and the West Bank began. At least until June 1967. After those Six Days in June, Israel was in full possession of the West Bank and eventually annexed land around Jerusalem, tripling its size, and bringing Gilo within the borders of not only Israel, but of Jerusalem.  At least according to Israeli law. The rest of the world incuding the US refuses to recognize the annexation. And so Shlomi was right. Gilo was and is still today a settlement. And that made me a settler. You read that right. Zahav was once a settler. Ignorant of the fact at first, but all the same.     

Here, see for yourself. Gilo is near the edge of Jerusalem's southernmost border - what the Prime Minister's spokesman calls Jerusalem's heart - and certainly south of the armistice line. I guess it's a good thing Mr. Regev chose bullshitting over medicine.

Jerusalem's Municipal Boundaries

It's also a lie that Gilo is five minutes from the center of town. Unless of course you are driving on Yom Kippur when there are no cars on the road. Although even then you'd have to time the lights just right and drive about 60 miles per hour.

***

As I was getting ready to go to Israel this past spring, one of the thoughts that most excited me was the idea of running from the King David where I would be staying to my old apartment. In the past twenty or so years, I've often poured over my pictures taken in that apartment, like a kid studying the back of  a baseball card, hoping that a re-reading would reveal some unoticed detail. Back when I lived there I wouldn't have dreamed of running the 4.5 miles from the King David to Gilo, much less the 9 mile round trip. Now I can cover the distance without breaking too much of a sweat. The nice wrinkle is that Gilo is elevated a good bit so running there involves a fairly challenging climb. As I started my run I was very pleased with myself for knowing the way, and aside from the tremendous amount of early morning traffic, it was a great run out. The climb was quite a bit longer and steeper than I had remembered noticing on the bus. It took me somewhere about 40 minutes to run to Habosem, the little street-let that was home to my apartment. I went right up to the entranceway to the building at No. 4 Habosem and it seemed for the most part that time had stood still. Though the building didn't seem quite as new. Across from the front steps leading into the building was a small garden area with a bit of landscaping and I walked over looking to take home a souvenir. I found one and now it sits on my bookshelf, next to a picture of me shaking hands with Mahmoud Abbas.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shana Tova



Happy New Year to everyone who has visited this past year. (Toda l'Rika for the video.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Israelis Are So Easy

My main complaint with Obama on Israel has been the fact that he didn't go to Israel early in his term. Not because I thought it showed some anti-Israel bias. But because Israelis were ready to fall in love with him. During the campaign Israeli politicians couldn't wait to get a picture with him. It was rather embarrassing. But really what can you expect from my Pizza Hut loving cousins. He was just as much a rock star there as he was here. I figured had he gone to Israel after Cairo he would have had Israelis eating out of the palm of his hand. As it turned out, he didn't go and Israelis turned on him - as anyone with any real Israel experience would have predicted. It didn't matter what he said in Cairo. It was that he didn't go to Israel. Soon after, the Jerusalem Post was running stories showing his approval rating among Israelis to be like 9%. And from there it went. The wingers were off and running painting President Hussein as hated by Israelis and abandoned by American Jews. At least until now.

Last week Obama gave a milquetoast address in which he basically toed the Likud line before the U.N. Avidgdor Lieberman gave the speech two thumbs up, though Bibi didn't bother to thank the president when it was his turn to speak. And now things seem to have been righted.

The Jerusalem Post is reporting a new poll showing that 54% of Israelis believe that Obama is more favorably disposed towards them than the Palestinians, 19% feel the opposite and 27% are neutral. And all it took was one say-nothing speech before the U.N.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Palestinian Application for UN Membership

Haaretz has it and it can be read here. The application states that it is being submitted based on Palestinian's natural, legal and historic rights and based on UN General Assembly resolution 181. It is directed to the UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon and reads:
Excellency,
I have the profound honor, on behalf of the Palestinian people, to submit this application of the State of Palestine for admission to membership in the United Nations.
This application for membership is being submitted based on the Palestinian people's natural, legal and historic rights and based on United Nations General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947 as well as the Declaration of Independence of the State of Palestine of 15 November 1988 and the acknowledgement by the General Assembly of this Declaration in resolution 43/177 of 15 December 1988.
In this connection, the State of Palestine affirms its commitment to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the vision of two-States living side by side in peace and security, as endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly and the international community as a whole and based on international law and all relevant United Nations resolutions.
For the purpose of this application for admission, a declaration made pursuant to rule 58 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council and rule 134 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly is appended to this letter.
I should be grateful if you would transmit this letter of application and the declaration to the Presidents of the Security Council and the General Assembly as soon as possible.
Mahmoud Abbas
President of the State of Palestine
Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization
Resolution 181, you may remember divided mandatory Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. It reads in part: 
Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem, set forth in part III of this plan, shall come into existence in Palestine two months after the evacuation of the armed forces of the mandatory Power has been completed but in any case not later than 1 October 1948.
In a letter accompanying the application, Abbas writes:
. . . the vast majority of the international community has stood in support of our inalienable rights as a people, including to statehood, by according bilateral recognition of of the State of Palestine on the basis of the 4 June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem, as its capital . . . .
***
. . . the Palestinian leadership stands committed to resume negotiations on all final status issues -- Jerusalem, the Palestine refugees, settlements, borders, security and water -- on the basis of the internationally endorsed terms of reference, including . . . . the Quartet Road Map, which specifically requires a freeze of all Israeli settlement activities.

Israelis Call for Recognition of Palestinian State



Watch Haaretz writer Sefi Rachlevski call on AIPAC members to send their kids to the "danger their madness is creating," referring to Israel as a "Masada scene."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bibi the Ungrateful

The Daily Beast is reporting that in 2009 Obama approved the sale of 55 bunker-busting bombs to Israel -- the same bombs that George Bush aka the "Greatest Friend Israel Ever Had" withheld. And what did Obama get in return from Bibi? Bubkis. Actually worse than bubkis. Bibi has teamed up with the GOP to actively undermine the President of the United States. Good friend? Great ally? Unbreakable bond? Maybe this is why former Defense Secretary Robert Gates called Bibi ungrateful.

Obama this week has once again gone to bat for Bibi at the UN. Let's see if Bibi says anything this morning to  prove Gates wrong. And I'm not talking about saying thank you. Any bets?

Watch Abbas, Bibi at the UN

Here at 10:30 a.m. (Abbas) and 11:15 a.m. (Bibi). That's Chicago time - CDT.

Update: Apparently, I'm an hour off and it will be 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 a.m.

J Street's President on Colbert

Here's the link to last night's show, where Jeremy Ben-Ami discusses the Palestinians' UN Bid. Buy Jeremy's book, a New Voice for Israel, here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jumped the gun?

Perhaps I sent the crew home too early. Things at the UN seem to be up in the air. My guess is still that the Palestinians will submit a letter to the Security Council where it will be tabled while further efforts are made at re-starting negotiations.

The Big Dog: "Every American needs to know this"

President Clinton lays it at Bibi's door step. According to Josh Rogin at the Cable, Clinton said today that the Netanyahu government has received all of the assurances previous Israeli governments said they wanted but now won't accept those terms to make peace. Quoting Clinton:
Now that they have those things, they don't seem so important to this current Israeli government, partly because it's a different country.
Could it really be that we are losing this argument?

Update: Here's Clinton in an earlier interview with Wolf Blitzer making the same point.

Next.

Apparently Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his expected comments today at the UN about 9/11 and the Holocaust, and the Americans and others walked out in protest. His act has gotten a bit old, but can we please just get past this instead of reacting hysterically to everything this guys says. Either you don't show up to hear him speak or if you do just sit there until he's through. No need to make a show; you'll only encourage him.  

Is this what we have to look forward to?

Video from yesterday's clashes at the Qalandia checkpoint. One thing we know is that there will be a lot of youtube videos chronicling the descent. 

Obama: Long Distance Runaround



As Obama told the Palestinians there is no short-cut to peace, I could have sworn I heard Rick Wakeman on the keyboards in the General Assembly yesterday.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Remember the claim the PRC was behind the attacks near Eilat?

Doubts were raised early on regarding Israel's claim that the PRC in Gaza was responsible. Richard Silverstein at Tikkun Olam reports that the IDF investigation confirms that Egyptians were behind the attack, not Gazans.

. . . and scene!

The Palestinians have announced that they will allow some time for the UN Security to consider their request (has it been made yet?) for full membership before they turn to the General Assembly. This will allow the Quartet time to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. This also signals the end of the Palestinian bid at the UN.

The pressure was just too great for the Palestinian leadership to bear. It is actually a sad moment if you contemplate just how powerless the Palestinians are and how unjust their lot. They recognized Israel. They foreswore violence. They pursued diplomacy. And now they have the world's greatest power telling them "not yet." I credit Abbas for bringing Palestinian independence front and center. Obama has now delivered for Bibi. Let's see how Bibi pays him back.

AP calls bullshit

AP fact checks the idiots' claims that Obama is anti-Israel. Read it over at beyondzerosum.

Barak on Obama

Ehud Barak commenting on Obama's UN speech:
Once again it's been proven to all the doubters, President Obama is an ally and friend of Israel. The Obama administration gives backing to Israel's security in a wide, all-encompassing and unprecedented manner.
Perry, Bachmann, Romney, and other idiots, he's looking at you. 

Obama to address UN soon

Watch live here.

Palestinian Rally


Thousand of Palestinians are rallying in Ramallah in support of their UN bid. Go ahead and tell me that the Palestinians don't "love their children more than they hate ours." 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A man, a plan, a delay, Palestine?

Not exactly a palindrome, but it does appear that a plan is forming around the Quartet's proposal:
International efforts to forestall a showdown in the UN security council over the declaration of a Palestinian state are solidifying around a plan for the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to submit a request for recognition but for a vote on the issue to be put on hold while a new round of peace talks is launched.

1st Avenue Freeze Out?

Silent agreement by Western powers to delay Palestinian UN vote? 

Israel's mullahs

Here's the latest from Rabbi Lior:
  • "There are circles of villains seeking to give away parts of this land to our enemies. Luckily, God Almighty causes the camel riders to refuse to meet with the government…" 
  • "There are leftists fighting the people of Israel's return to their land… They have put the public to sleep with opium of peace… The Hollywood culture and singing in discotheques will not do good, but bad." 
  • "What we have with those villains and savages is not peace, and it won't be peace. It's against their nature. They hate peace."

. . . and Gabon makes nine

According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Gabon (Capital: Libreville; Pop. 1.5 million) will vote in favor of Palestinian membership, bringing the total votes in favor to nine. That would force the US to exercise its veto.

Meanwhile, not to sound like a broken record, but still haven't seen the text of a resolution.

Update: Gabon says no decision reached.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Palestinian State is the Trident of Solutions



Five out of six dentists IDF Chiefs recommend it! And five out of six Shin Bet chiefs. And four out of seven Mossad chiefs (the other three haven't taken a position). This should be so freakin' easy. I really don't get it. Calling Madison Avenue!!!

The Forward's J.J. Goldberg runs it down (h/t Lablueyz) :
Here is a rough roll call: Of the six living ex-IDF chiefs, all but Yaalon favor a Palestinian state with borders based, either now or eventually, on the 1967 lines. Of six living ex-Shin Bet chiefs, all say likewise except Yuval Diskin, who retired this summer and hasn’t yet spoken publicly. Of seven living ex-Mossad chiefs, the three oldest haven’t spoken out lately; all the others publicly support the positions described.
Think about it. These are the people who have overseen Israel’s defense for more than a generation. The military chiefs believe, almost unanimously, that Israel could be secure living alongside a Palestinian state with adjusted 1967 borders. The intelligence chiefs believe almost unanimously that the Palestinians would settle for what Israel can safely give. They all believe Israel would be safer that way. Put differently, that the current alternative makes Israel less safe.
Does their military background entitle them to dictate policy? No one suggests that. Most say they’d rather not be speaking out at all, given the rules of democracy. But they think things are going badly, and it needn’t be that way, and they think the public is entitled to know.
If one or two of them argued against the government’s policies like this, you’d call them eccentric. If a rump group rebelled, you might call it a surprising debate. But this is almost unanimous. That raises a different question: Why are the politicians endangering their people?

31 Congressmen call for the end of Zionism

Joe "Apartheid" Walsh and 30 other representatives propose a resolution supporting Israel's right to annex the West Bank. Unless the resolution calls for extending full citizenship to the 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, and we know it doesn't, the end result of annexation would be apartheid, pure and simple. You cannot support annexation and a two-state solution. This is an either/or proposition.

So what say you, AIPAC?

Is the Am Still Doreshing?

I know there's a lot going on this week with the UN and all, but haven't heard much on the social justice front. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Find out who will support Palestinian statehood at the UN

Huffington Post has an interactive map.

Abbas: We will go to the UN to achieve full membership

Abbas declared that he will seek full membership in order to achieve independence in the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital. According to Abbas, they will go to the UN Security Council, but that all option are open. He said he wants de-legitimize the occupation, not Israel. He stated that the Palestinians must not use force and that they are ready to negotiate.

Abbas to speak soon

PA President Mahmoud Abbas expected to deliver an address shortly . . . .

Update: Speaking now. Watch here. Arabic, with Hebrew translation.

A draft, a text, a clue?

Amid a flurry of diplomatic activity trying put off a UN vote, the Jerusalem Post and Ynet, citing the London based Arabic daily Al Hayat, report that the Palestinians have agreed amongst themselves on four clauses to be included in their resolution. From Ynet:
The first clause in the draft proposal states that the UN General Assembly will call on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume negotiations on core issues, including Jerusalem, refugees and the settlements and will allocate six months for negotiations.
After six months, the sides will be committed to reaching understandings that would put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and would bring about the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, side by side with Israel.
The second agreed upon clause states that Israel will halt unilateral moves, especially on the settlement issue while the Palestinians will fulfill their commitments on security matters.
The next clause stated that the UNGA would welcome a speech made by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in which he would emphasize the Palestinian Authority's commitment to the UN principles.
The fourth clause notes that the UNGA would accept the World Bank and IMF reports on the Palestinians' ability to govern an independent state after the establishment of state institutions is completed.
Ynet also reports that Susan Rice, US ambassador to the UN, denies that anyone at the UN has seen a "text"or that one even exists. Well this makes me feel better knowing that I'm not the only one who hasn't seen one.

Draft or not, text or not, it appears that Blair's proposal to allow the Palestinian's to deposit their resolution with Ban Ki-moon is gaining some traction.




Thursday, September 15, 2011

. . . and one more try

Tony Blair and his Quartet are proposing a mechanism to allow the Palestinians to submit their bid to the UN, but delay a vote until December 28. Maybe by then we'll actually see a draft resolution.

Hey, I just said that, Part Deux

Yesterday I made the point that Obama was not anti-Israel. In fact, I think I called people who think otherwise idiots. Yup, I just checked. In support of my ad hominem attack on idiots, I linked to a video of a former Mossad head showering praise on our president for bringing the embassy crisis in Cairo to a successful end. Well, this morning, following a GOP win in NY's 9th Cong. Dist., which is being read by some as evidence of Obama's Israel (Jewish) problem, the NY Times editorial page argues that Obama has demonstrated his pro-Israel chops:
Mr. Obama has repeatedly affirmed support for Israel and backed it up with action. He has had far more success than President George W. Bush in rallying tough sanctions on Iran. Security cooperation is strong, including accelerated development and funding for an Israeli missile defense system. The administration pressured Egypt last weekend to protect Israel’s diplomats in Cairo, and it negotiated an agreement to ease tensions with Turkey over the Gaza aid flotilla, until Israel pulled out of the deal.
Now, Mr. Obama is risking American ties with a fast-changing Arab world by vowing to veto the Palestinians’ statehood bid at the United Nations. The president supports a two-state solution but rightly believes that can be achieved only through negotiations.
Those who are out there peddling the notion that Obama is anti-Israel really don't want a two-state solution. They are also idiots.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Only idiots think Obama is anti-Israel

Some may say it for political advantage, but only idiots actually believe it. Here's a video of a presentation given by Efraim Halevy, the former director of the Mossad. Speaking about Obama's role in extricating six besieged Israelis from their embassy in Cairo last week, Halevy said: 
And I want to say to you very openly and very clearly that had there been six body bags, there would have been a much different Israel today than we have been used to seeing over recent years. This would not have been one more incident, one more operation, one event. And the man who brought this about was one man and that was President Barack Hussein Obama.
And I believe it is our duty as Israelis, as citizens of the free world, to say, not simply thank you President Obama, but also we respect you for the way and the manner in which you took this decision.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Let's try it one more time

Haaretz reports:
Senior U.S. envoys will visit the Middle East this week to try to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and avert a Palestinian bid for UN membership, he United States said on Tuesday.
The mission by U.S. Middle East peace envoy David Hale and senior White House aide Dennis Ross appears to be a last-ditch push to dissuade the Palestinians from seeking to upgrade their UN status this month, a step Israel strongly opposes.
Maybe Ross can dissuade the Palestinians from scheduling the vote on yontif.

What's more UNbelievable?

Welcome to "Quien es mas stupido?" Ready to play? Quien es mas stupido? The Palestinians bringing their UN resolution seeking recognition on Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur? Orrrrrr . . . .Ynet publishing a story based on reports that have reached the Foreign Ministry that the Palestinians may bring the resolution to a vote on Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur? You know my answer.

Meanwhile, has anyone seen the text of the resolution that will be presented in a week's time?

Tsunami Rising

Ami Kaufman at +972 notes that Jordan's King Abdullah II has joined the fray: “We have an army and we have fought Israel more than once. We are calm.”

There just might be a reason that Israel's intelligence agencies are recommending advancing peace negotiations with the Palestinians to lessen the tensions building in the region. Or maybe the Mossad and Shin-Bet are filled with naive, self-hating Jews, who see a moral equivalence between settlements and terror, and don't understand that we gave them Gaza and they gave us rockets.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

EU and the Palestinians negotiating

It looks like there is a plan being discussed whereby the Palestinians would bypass the UN Security Council, and instead go directly to the General Assembly. The idea is that the US would not be "forced" to veto the resolution in the Security Council and the Palestinians would receive upgraded status at the UN along with a big chunk of the EU members voting in favor. The EU is trying to get the US to abstain in the General Assembly. The Haaretz report is here.

According to the same article, "in recent weeks the Foreign Ministry, Military Intelligence, the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad have distributed a number of documents stating that a return to negotiations would tone down tensions and anger against Israel."

Apparently, Ehud Barak's a reader

Following my post on Friday commenting about Israel's crises with Turkey, Egypt and the Palestinians, Barak called for a special cabinet meeting to address Israel's crises with Turkey, Egypt and the Palestinians:
"There is a wide picture forming around us that includes what happened with Turkey, what is happening with Egypt, and what is happening with the Palestinians," Barak told ministers. "These are events that are not in our control, but we can certainly affect the way we face them."
Friday's post wasn't all that insightful. Anyone who is paying attention understands that Israel is now facing the diplomatic tsunami Barak talked about last spring, only maybe worse than he envisioned it. What would take some insight is to be able explain Israel's paralysis in the face of it.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hey, I just said that

Here's Haaretz editor Aluf Benn, making the points about Turkey, Egypt, the Palestinians, the diplomatic tsunami and Bibi's inaction.  (Remember where you read it first and without the annoying auto-start commercials.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

More on J Street's Statement

+972 has dueling pieces on J Street's policy paper on the Palestinians' UN bid. One from Noam Sheizaf, calling it the worst move ever. Sheizaf states:
Instead of expanding the conversation on Israel, J Street is reaching out to the consensus. This is the kind of political thinking that got Israel and its supporters in the United States to the impasse in which they are today. For the first time, I get the feeling that J Street has lost the desire to take a leading role in finding the way out of it.
The other from Dahlia Scheindlin, calling J Street's position smart. Scheindlin sums up her argument by comparing J Street's position to those taken by the Israeli left:
Strategy counts. Over the last decade, the Israeli left has been right more often than it has been smart, to translate a Hebrew phrase. We are now suffering a profound loss of trust in Israeli society.
My surveys repeatedly show that roughly half the Jewish population agrees with left-leaning views on the conflict, but only roughly 15% are willing to call themselves left. At present left-identified groups are busy fighting their way out of an image hole, instead of pushing their content.
Maybe J Street will avoid that trap. Maybe it’s we, the Israeli left, who have something to learn from them.

It's September All Right

Remember last spring when Ehud Barak warned that Israel faced of a "diplomatic tsunami" come September? Well, it's September and Israel better start searching for high ground. Relations with Turkey are a mess. Earlier today, Egyptians stormed the wall outside of the Israeli embassy. And the Palestinians are set to present their resolution to the UN when it reconvenes on September 20. How utterly tragic that Israeli leadership has shown itself completely incapable of pressing forward with any initiative to avoid what everyone has seen coming for months now. Bibi may go down as the one who lost Turkey. The one who lost Egypt. And if you believe Haaretz's Carlo Strenger, quite possibly the one who lost a Jewish state. But hey, Standard & Poor's gave Israel an A+ credit rating!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

J Street on the Palestinians' UN Bid

J Street is out with its statement regarding the Palestinians' UN bid. Here's the executive summary:
J Street does not support the Palestinian effort to become a member of the United Nations at this time because we do not believe that, in the current context, it will advance peace, enhance security and improve conditions on the ground. J Street therefore supports the U.S. intention to veto such an effort in the Security Council. We urge an assertive American and international diplomatic initiative that could lead the Palestinians to defer their approach to the UN by jumpstarting efforts to reach a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The whole statement is here.

J Street has also published an open letter to the American Jewish Community. An excerpt:
For these reasons, J Street now calls on our colleagues in the organized Jewish community to join us in using our collective abilities to press immediately for tangible movement toward a two-state solution. It is not enough, however, to simply say that we believe in peace and negotiations. There must be substance and action behind that language – and a major commitment by our community to make this work a critical priority. And that requires urgent action from us all.
Entire letter here.

I hope to have more to say on these topics later.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

'Pretty Please'

So it's come to this.The US flat-out asking the Palestinians to abandon their UN bid and the Palestinians apparently considering not forcing a US Security Council veto by going only to the General Assembly. Two weeks to go and plenty of drama left.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

 
Gaza, West Bank Palestinians split over daylight saving time.

J'accuse

Hebrew University Professor Emerita Galia Golan, in a piece entitled "Do We Really Want Peace," recounts Israel's missed opportunities and pegs the settlements as the main obstacle to peace. Here are the first and last graphs:
I accuse the government of Israel (several of them) not only of failing to provide its citizens with their socioeconomic rights but also of failing to provide its citizens with security.
***
Would [peace] work? Would it last forever? Is it a gamble? Maybe, but what is not a gamble, but rather a sure thing is the following: Rockets from the south, at some point rockets from the north, a renewed Intifada and terrorism from the east and inside, to say nothing of political and maybe even economic isolation in the world. This is the “security” the government is promising us.
Nothing really new here. This is pedestrian stuff in the Israeli media. This op-ed was published on Ynet, not the "arch-liberal" Haaretz. And while in a certain respect it's entirely beside the point, in another it's entirely relevant - I can only imagine the backlash from the Jewish community if this had been published in the Chicago Tribune. I, too, accuse.

Obama not giving up yet

Envoys David Hale and Dennis Ross "are in the region." I know, chills. Butyaneverno.

'The Armor Plated Bull-Shitter'

That would be Bibi, according to the view of the British Foreign Office. Meanwhile, apparently Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is a little less impressed . . . . eh, I think. He substitutes "total" for "armor plated." Happy Tuesday, Bibi!

Bibi's Obama Problem

Ya think! Jeffrey Goldberg reports on the Obama administration's feelings toward Bibi. But hey Bibi, you'll always have Congress! 

Update: The real question is what prompted the White House putting this out now. Goldberg says that reason American officials were speaking to him now is American efforts to thwart a UN vote on recognition of a Palestinian state. This suggests that Bibi has rebuffed Obama's latest and perhaps last proposal to re-start negotiations. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Akiva Eldar Connecting the Dots

And it ain't pretty chevrai. Here's a taste:
The young people from Rothschild Boulevard should keep their tents handy. They will need them soon, when they're sent to guard their brethren, the settlers. Those who don't want to deal with the occupation today will be dealt with by the occupation tomorrow. And if protesters don't have the time to address marginal issues like universal justice, they should ask their economists how much the looming international crisis will cost us.
Read the whole piece.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Daphne Leef's Speech Translated to English

An English translation of Daphne Leef's speech last night in Tel Aviv's Kikar HaMedina can be found here. (h/t Carolyn O.) Here's an excerpt:
We’ve created  a new discourse here. This is the new discourse: We’ve replaced the word pity with the word compassion. We’ve replace the word charity with the word justice. We’ve replaced the word donation with the word welfare. We’ve replaced the word consumer with the word citizen. We’ve replaced the verb ‘to wait’ with the verb ‘to change’. We’ve replaced the word alone with the word together. This is the greatest thing that we’ve done this summer. I don’t know about you, friends, but it’s already irreversible. We’ll not agree to go backwards! We are striding forwards, to a better future, to a more just country. Social Justice!

We’re all of us imprisoned somehow in our social status, in our neighborhoods, in our religion, our gender. And then I realized that we’re not imprisoned – it’s that we’re imprisoning us! We all have an overdraft, but the overdraft is in the interest of the banks, it’s in the interest of the entire financial system of the state. They want to keep us constantly at a certain level of distress. Because where there is distress there is no hope, and where there is no hope there is no chance of change, and where there is no chance for change there is nothing to live for. But this summer, day after day, week after week, we went out to the streets and clarified not just to the government, but also to ourselves, that there is something to live for! The moment we realized this, the moment we began to think about a shared tomorrow, we all set out to freedom!
What will tomorrow bring? We’re all asking what tomorrow will bring. What will happen to the tents, what is happening with the protest, where next and what to do and all that. All this demand for the fateful day, for the victory photo, for the decisive moment – there’s no such thing, my friends. Was there one fateful day when the social gaps became unbearable? Did swinish capitalism mark a particular moment of victory? Can we put our finger on that one privatization too many? There was no such moment. There was a process. Likewise now there is no moment – there’s a process. This process of ours is just beginning now. We have demands of the government and its head because things must change.

The tents are coming down

After an estimated 450,000 Israelis protested in the streets last night, the tents, which sparked the social justice movement, are coming down. The leaders of the movement say the battle goes on; there will be a next phase. Journalists have noted that the nation's vocabulary has changed; that the power now resides in the people. In a couple weeks the government appointed commission will come out with its recommendations. And then September 20 will be upon us; it will be the Palestinian's turn to demand justice.

With the country's eyes and attention fixed all summer on this miraculous awakening, I just hope Israelis don't look back and realize nothing has changed, especially the government. And isn't the government stronger today than yesterday? What do they have to fear from nearly half a million people, not one of them Avigdor Lieberman.

Oh, and I thought the music sucked last night too.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Israeli metal or Israeli rap

Which is worse?

'We are the new Israelis'

Student union head Itzik Shmuli announces to Bibi and 405,000 across Israel that "we are the new Israelis and are here to stay."

Haredim and Settlers

Tzipi Livni on Arutz 2 explaining the absence of the Haredim and settlers from the protest: they receive a disproportionate share of the pie from Bibi's government. 

You Say You Want a Revolution?

Watching the March of the Million right now and wondering where this is headed. 67,000 in Tel-Aviv according to the scroll. Wondering if this was just a summer fling. Wondering if this was just a good diversion from the "matzav." Wondering if this was just a big rave with great music. But mostly wondering what kind of a revolution doesn't bring down the government. 80,000 now in Tel-Aviv.

I know that the cornerstone of building support for the movement and turning out hundreds of thousands of people is the claim that this not political, meaning not politically partisan.106,000. And I know a succession of  governments is responsible for the current situation.10,000 in Jerusalem. But there is only one government in power now.  133,000 in TA. And Bibi's plan seems to be waiting them out.

You say you want a revolution? Bring down the government or don't bring down the tents.