Wednesday, June 29, 2011

They Just Keep Coming

This time it's Netanyahu's billionaire friend, Ron Lauder:
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, who in the past was considered one of Benjamin Netanyahu's biggest donors and supporters, lashed out at the prime minister's diplomatic policy Monday night. He made the comments in a speech to Jewish members of parliament from around the world as they attended a conference in Jerusalem.
I don't mean to give the impression that Lauder has fallen in line with the Obama principles laid out in May - there is no indication of that in this report - but he clearly understands that Israel must return to the negotiating table.

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Heart Aches

Religious Jews rioting outside the Israeli Supreme Court this afternoon. When I have some more time, perhaps I will be able to adequately express my pain over what is happening in Israel at this moment. In the meantime, you can read about the rioting here and here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Another Day in the Undivided Capital

An Israeli who lost his way was attacked today by Arab residents "in the village of Issawiya in northeast Jerusalem." Quite fortunately, his life was saved by a village leader and his son. 

There are two things that are incomprehenisble to me here. The first is the sort of blind hatred that leads to an attack like this. The second is why must this village remain part of an enternal undivided Jerusalem? As the Ynet report states, this is a "village," not a neighborhood mind you,  "in Jerusalem." In other words a city within a city. What is eternal or undivided about that?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Project Gilad

A short bit ago Israelis began a 24 hour demonstration marking the beginning of Gilad Shalit's fifth year in captivity as a prisoner of Hamas. Well known Israelis are spending one hour each in a prison cell thought to approximate the one Shalit is being held in. You can watch live here. It's in Hebrew, but it's worth checking out whether or not you understand Hebrew. While it's doubtful that we can understand what Shalit is experiencing, it provides a starting point. It also shows what Israel is going through and how tortured Israelis are by Shalit's captivity.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Haifa 1988

Haifa 1988. One of my fondest memories from my first trip to Israel was walking into a pub in Haifa, sitting down with a friend, and listening to an elderly man tell us a couple of tales. My friend and I had just ordered our first beer and this complete stranger asked if we wanted to hear a story - he ended up telling us two. It was early, the bar was pretty empty and we figured why not humor the old guy. 

He sat at a table next to us, so we turned our chairs to face him and sipped our beers as the old man spun the following yarn.

One morning,  a long, long time ago, the Baron Rothschild’s son awoke and went out for a ride with a group of his friends. The Baron's son and his friends started early in the morning and set out on their horses. They were enjoying themselves so much that they kept riding throughout the day and lost track of time.

Before they knew it, the sun started to set. They didn’t know where they were. But as they were in the woods, it got dark rather quickly. They were at least a day's ride from home and needed to find a place to spend the night where they would be safe from the forest bandits and the howling wolves. Fortunately, one of the members of the riding party spotted an inn located in the middle of a small clearing in the woods. The Baron’s son approached, knocked on the old oak door.  He was greeted by an old innkeeper.

The innkeeper welcomed the Baron’s son and his party. The Baron’s son went on to explain their circumstances. The innkeeper who recognized the Baron's son was only too happy to be of service.
The innkeeper offered the Baron's son and his friends the best suite of rooms. The innkeeper described the rooms'  silken linens, and down filled comforters. Being accustomed to the finer things in life, the Baron's son was actually quite relieved.

Sensing that the Baron's son and his friends must be hungry, the innkeeper rattled off a menu with delicacies the riding party thought they had left far behind. The Baron's son started to feel quite at home, and asked what there was to drink. The innkeeper was at the ready with his best champagne. And so it was that the Baron’s son and his friends had a feast not to be believed, and slept late into the next day before riding home.

A few weeks time had passed when the Baron himself went out alone on his horse to attend to some very important business. On the way home, the Baron got caught by the setting sun and realized that he would need to find a place to spend the night safe from the forest bandits and the howling wolves.

The Baron spotted an inn set in a clearing in the forest, the very same inn where his son had stopped with his friends. The Baron approached and knocked on the door, and the same old innkeeper nudged the door ajar and upon recognizing the Baron himself warmly welcomed him in. The innkeeper offered the Baron the same suite of rooms with the same silken linens and down comforter that he had offered to his son.

Rejecting the offer, the Baron said that he only desired a small room with a cot. A bit confused the innkeeper offered the Baron all of the same delicacies that he had offered to his son. Again, the Baron declined and asked for a slice of bread. Not one to give up easily, the innkeeper offered the Baron the best of his champagne. Once more refusing, the Baron requested only a glass of water.   

Completely at a loss, the innkeeper asked the Baron if he would not mind answering a question. The innkeeper explained that the Baron's son and his friends had stopped at the inn not too long ago and stayed in the best suite of rooms, ate the finest cuts of meat and imbibed on the choicest of champagne. Yet, the innkeeper remarked that the he - the Baron - took a small room with a cot, and asked only for a slice of bread and some water.

The Baron explained, “You see, I am the son of a shoemaker – and my son – he is the son of a Rothschild.”

I've told this story to my two girls on countless Friday nights as I tucked them into bed. They are now teenagers and too old to tuck into bed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

September Vote?

More and more the sense I'm getting is that the Palestinians aren't all that keen with moving forward on their plan to go to the UN in September to seek international recognition. For a while now Palestinian leaders have been saying that if negotiations with Israel resume they will put the UN plan on hold. They told us that when we were in Ramallah in May. More recently they have agreed in principle to Obama's outline for restarting talks which did not include their prior demand for a total settlement freeze which scuttled talks last September. Today, the AP reports that senior Palestinians are willing to re-enter negotiations based on a partial settlement moratorium.

The US clearly opposes any effort to go to the UN. I don't recall Abbas taking any action against American wishes. And now it appears that he is looking to climb down from the UN tree. I don't know if this is a result of American pressure or Palestinian internal calculations. But right now, if I were a betting man, I wouldn't put any money on a September vote.

The US is still waiting to hear back from Israel with respect to Obama's proposal to renew negotiations, on a borders and security basis first, borders meaning 1967 borders with swaps. When the White House asked Israel to commit to its proposal they informed Israel that the Palestinians would need to begin the UN process in July. So the next couple weeks should be telling.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tom Friedman Suck On This

Before I begin, I have to explain that when I was a bit younger, maybe twenty years ago or so, I used to be a big Tom Friedman fan, largely stemming from his book From Beirut to Jerusalem. My affinity for Friedman started to crumble when I read something from Edward Said, mocking Friedman's tale of dragging his golf clubs through the minefields of Lebanon. Then watching Friedman during the lead up to the Iraq War I left him for dead. By the time Friedman gave his infamous interview on Charlie Rose, explaining the Iraq War as the US justifiably kicking down the collective Arab door and telling them to "suck on this," he was Fonzi on skis. Now I read Matt Taibi's takedowns of Friedman for pure pleasure. And still, Friedman's take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is pretty spot on.

Ever since Saturday night I've been trying to figure out how to explain the point I'm about to make. Walking home from the train this evening it hit me.  And here it is.  You ever watch a show on tv and try to guess what happens next in the plot? Well, in my house, your guess only counts if you "go on record." Saying "I was thinking that" or " I was about to say that" only brings derisive laughter.   

So back to Saturday night. As I was waiting for the previews to begin for the 9:20 p.m. showing of Midnight in Paris, I received an email with the link to Tom Friedman's Sunday NY Times article proposing a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his column, Friedman suggested an update of UN Resolution 181, which would recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders modified by mutually agreed upon land swaps and reaffirm the UN's recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Along with the link to Friedman's article, my emailing correspondent wrote: "Tom Friedman advocates the exact the same plan as yours." I instantly knew what he meant. So I clicked on the link and began thinking how I would write this post. You see Friedman had just published his op-ed putting forth the very same idea as I had put down in an email just two weeks before, using substantially the same language. And no, I'm not suggesting he saw my email.

When I linked to Friedman's column on Monday I still didn't know how or whether I would write about this. After all, I hadn't exactly gone on record, at least not on my own blog. On the other hand I had put it in an email. On Monday I posted a couple paragaphs from Friedman, said I liked the idea, and hinted there was more to come. Finally, I decided to just copy and paste my email here and leave it at that. First, however, here once again are the excerpts from Friedman's column:
If the Palestinians want to take this whole problem back to where it started — the U.N. — I say let’s do it. But let’s think much bigger and with more imagination.
On Nov. 29, 1947, the U.N. passed General Assembly Resolution 181, partitioning Palestine into two homes for two peoples — described as “Independent Arab and Jewish States.” This is important. That is exactly how Resolution 181 described the desired outcome of partition: an “Arab” state next to a “Jewish” state.
So why don’t we just update Resolution 181 and take it through the more prestigious Security Council? It could be a simple new U.N. resolution: “This body reaffirms that the area of historic Palestine should be divided into two homes for two peoples — a Palestinian Arab state and a Jewish state. The dividing line should be based on the 1967 borders — with mutually agreed border adjustments and security arrangements for both sides. This body recognizes the Palestinian state as a member of the General Assembly and urges both sides to enter into negotiations to resolve all the other outstanding issues.” Very simple.
Now for my email, written two weeks earlier (with some identifying information redacted):
Sent: Mon, June 6, 2011 12:25:07 PM
Subject:  Abbas welcomes French bid to revivepeacetalkswith Isr...

I hope this clarifies my post.

UN Resolution 181 (1947) partitioned the land between the river and the sea into a Jewish state and an Arab state, expressly using the wording "Jewish state" and "Arab state." Resolution 181 also defined the boundaries of the two states, which are much less favorable to Israel than are the current borders and are no longer realistic. (Resolution 181 also established an international regime for Jerusalem.)

As to the proposed resolution, I imagine the Palestinians would draft something along the lines that would include recognition of an independent state in the 1967 borders and with Jerusalem as its capitol. I was suggesting that we urge Israel and the US to become active in negotiating the language of the proposed resolution, with the aim of including language regarding security for Israel, land swaps, etc., and reaffirmance of Resolution 181's recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and Palestine as an Arab state. The key is that Israel would gain explicit Palestinian recognition as a Jewish state.

If the question is how the borders would be defined in the proposed resolution, my answer would be that they would be defined along the 1967 borders with mutually agreeable land swaps. Perhaps a dispute resolution mechanism if the parties cannot agree. Not sure how the ambiguity regarding borders would play out politically or practically.

Regarding settlements, I would note that Resolution 181 provided for a time period for withdrawal of British troops. I suppose a proposed resolution could provide likewise for a withdrawal of settlements.
There it is. Blog Zahav scooped Tom Friedman! So, Tom, you know what you can do now. And for me, maybe it's time to rethink my idea. Or not. Like I said, Friedman's pretty good on Israel, golf clubs and all.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Time for a Palestinian Voice

After 116 posts, I'd say it's long past time to include a Palestinian perspective here. (My perspective is decidedly that of a progressive Zionist; you may also take note that I have not posted anything from the Zionist right.)

In any event, without further ado, from Sam Bahour (whom I wrote about in an earlier post):
The collective global memory seems to be in deep amnesia. We have been here before--at a point where half-baked initiatives and resolutions, non-compliant with international law and absent of any sense of historical justice, were touted as "the right formula".

Palestinians don't forget so easily, especially since their deep wounds due to dispossession since 1948, military occupation since 1967 and non-stop institutional discrimination against Palestinians inside Israel have never been given a chance to heal.

To name just a few of the past infamous peace initiatives, whose number is mind-boggling: UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of Palestine (November 29, 1947), Count Folke Bernadotte proposals (1947-1948), UN Security Council Resolution 242 (November 22, 1967), Jarring Mission (1967-1971), Allon Plan (July 26, 1967), Rogers Plan (1969), UN Security Council Resolution 338 (October 22, 1973), Reagan Plan (Sept. 1, 1982), Oslo Accords (1993), Wye River Memorandum (October 23, 1998), Camp David 2000 Summit (2000), The Clinton Parameters (December 23, 2000), Taba summit (January 2001), The Tenet Plan (June 13, 2001), Elon Peace Plan (2002), Nusseibeh-Ayalon Agreement (2002), Arab Peace Initiative (March 28, 2002), The People's Voice (July 27, 2002), Road Map for Peace (April 30, 2003), Geneva Accord (October 20, 2003), Sharm el-Sheikh Summit of 2005 (February 8, 2005), 2006 Franco-Italian-Spanish Middle East Peace Plan and, sadly, the list goes on and on.
Sixty-four years has only changed the reference point of borders to the disadvantage of Palestinians, and today, the forces-that-be are proposing that the 1949 Armistice line (1967 green line) not be respected. Palestinians can only expect that remaining on the same path will result in Israel gobbling up more land while the international community continues to grasp for a workable initiative. In the meantime, the entire two-state paradigm is collapsing.
When we met in Bethlehem, Sam suggested that at a certain point, Palestinians would tire of waiting for an independent state and demand Israeli citizenship.

For me, his reference to "historical justice" and call for a Palestinian right of return would make an agreement quite remote. I'll tell you what I told him when we met in Bethlehem - his demand for justice sounded a lot like Israelis on the right who see this as a matter of justice. The solution I have in mind gets beyond righting past wrongs and looks to the future. Contenting yourselves with no justice, no peace, can very well leave you with neither.

You can read Sam Bahour's entire piece here.

Ashkenazi: Palestinian State "Inevitable"

Latest former official heading up one of Israel's security branches to speak out, this time from the IDF:
Former IDF chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said that a Palestinian state is "inevitable," and that Israel must take an active stance in seeking to reengage the Palestinian leadership in order to avoid a unilaterally declared Palestine in the UN this September, Army Radio reported Monday.
What's the other argument and who's making it?

In Which Tom Friedman Makes His First Appearance

In case you you missed it yesterday, a proposal from Thomas Friedman of the NY Times:
How about a different approach?
If the Palestinians want to take this whole problem back to where it started — the U.N. — I say let’s do it. But let’s think much bigger and with more imagination.
On Nov. 29, 1947, the U.N. passed General Assembly Resolution 181, partitioning Palestine into two homes for two peoples — described as “Independent Arab and Jewish States.” This is important. That is exactly how Resolution 181 described the desired outcome of partition: an “Arab” state next to a “Jewish” state.
So why don’t we just update Resolution 181 and take it through the more prestigious Security Council? It could be a simple new U.N. resolution: “This body reaffirms that the area of historic Palestine should be divided into two homes for two peoples — a Palestinian Arab state and a Jewish state. The dividing line should be based on the 1967 borders — with mutually agreed border adjustments and security arrangements for both sides. This body recognizes the Palestinian state as a member of the General Assembly and urges both sides to enter into negotiations to resolve all the other outstanding issues.” Very simple.
I like the idea (more on that later perhaps). Not enough though to get me to forget about his cheer-leading the Iraq War.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Line from Morgan Fairchild to Glenn Beck, with a Stop at Pizza Hut

Among other things, I'm drawn to Israel by its culture. By its music, its literature, its food. Especially the rhythm of daily life there. But one of my main criticisms of Israel is what it imports from the West, and by the West I mean primarily the United States. Going back to my first trip in 1988 I sensed in Israelis a hunger for all things American. For some reason, maybe economic, back then Israel didn't show first run American movies. I recall seeing a huge advertisement for a movie with a half dressed Morgan Fairchild painted on the side of a building in Tel Aviv. She was probably holding a gun. Well I had never even heard of the movie - and back in those days you pretty much heard of every movie. As far I as I could tell, it was never shown in theaters here in the US. It  must  have been one of those straight to video productions. And yet in Tel Aviv it was being shown as a "real" movie.  Presumably Israelis paid to see it.

A couple years later when I was living in Jerusalem I remember reading about the opening of a Pizza Hut restaurant. That's right. Reading in a newspaper about the opening of one of the least appetizing fast food franchises ever conceived. In Jerusalem. Ok, I thought, it must be the first one and maybe it was a slow news day. But then the next day, the paper ran a second story. This time it was reported that droves of Jerusalemites lined up outside the restaurant before the doors even opened. Here you are with the opportunity to pick and choose what you import from the United States, I told my friends, and instead of taking only the best, you guys take in everything, including the crap.

Which brings me to Glenn Beck. As regular readers of this blog may have noticed, I stay away from the whack jobs. It would be easy to write about how absolutely insane they are and ridicule them for their stupidity. In America, we have no shortage of them. Neither does the Jerusalem Post op-ed page, by the way. But while I try to steer clear, sometimes I can't.

So here I am writing about one of the lunatics. This week it was reported that in August Glenn Beck will be holding a rally in Jerusalem under the banner of "Restore Courage" of the sort he held last summer on the National Mall in D.C. You see, my Israeli friends, Glenn Beck thinks he can restore your courage. I'm not sure whether enough Israelis understand what an utter joke this guy is. I'm just hoping they don't line up like they did twenty plus years ago outside the doors of Pizza Hut to gobble up the dreck.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Kabbalat Shabbat Blogging

Follow the Kids

A J Street U sponsored group of college students landed in Israel earlier this week. You can follow them at this link, where they are blogging and posting photos. Updates will also be posted on J Street U's facebook page.

"They Will Shake Their Heads With Disbelief"

I'm not saying Haaretz's Carlo Strenger reads my blog, but the beginning to his op-ed this morning has an awfully familiar ring to it. Actually, there is nothing surprising about us making the same point. In fact, it's hard for anyone who has been following the situation not to make the point. The challenge I suppose is trying to find new and interesting ways of doing so, which is what makes Strenger's column worth reading. Here's the lead in and you can follow the link to read the piece in its entirety.
Future historians looking back at Israel in 2011 will shake their heads with disbelief. They will note that there were voices of reason who called for constructive engagement with the Arab world; that these voices included some of the great luminaries of Israel’s defense establishment like former Shin Bet chiefs Yaakov Peri and Ami Ayalon, former Mossad chief Danny Yatom, former IDF chief Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and General (Res) Amram Mitzna. They will write about their Israeli Peace Initiative of 2011 that basically endorsed the Arab League Initiative.
They will also note, with great interest, that a former Mossad chief known for his daring tactics, Meir Dagan, certainly not suspect of being a soft-headed liberal intellectual, also called for Israel’s engaging with the Arab League peace initiative, while warning about the stupidity of attacking Iran militarily. They will point out that the reaction of one minister was to call for legal action against Dagan instead of trying to take Dagan’s words seriously.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Scorched Earth . . . Genuine Hostility

Isaac Herzog from Israel's Labor Party finding that there's not a whole lot of love for Bibi in the White House. No surprise here. From Ynet:
Senior Democratic Party officials closely associated with US President Barack Obama slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his conduct during his recent trip to Washington, Labor Party Knesset Member Isaac Herzog said Thursday.

Herzog, who is currently in the US, says that officials he spoke with told him that the PM left "scorched earth" behind him.
Herzog, who met with Administration officials, politicians, State Department and Pentagon figures, and the heads of Washington research institutes, told Ynet: "I'm discovering here a very disturbing picture in respect to Israel-US ties. The situation at this time is such that Administration officials don't want to hear of Netanyahu and speak about him with genuine hostility."

Now We Know

Here's the Jerusalem Post reporting on Bibi's address in the Knesset yesterday:
The prime minister laid down what he called a "framework" Israel must bring to negotiations, including insistence on a unified Jerusalem, maintaining large settlement blocs located beyond the Green Line under Israeli sovereignty, an Israeli presence on the Jordan River valley, and a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue outside Israel proper.
He said the Palestinian state will be "broken up" but will have clearly demarcated borders.
In case there was any doubt, Bibi's vision of a two-state solution does not really involve two states.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bibi's Got No Game

Believe it or not, I actually interact with a great many people who do not entirely share my view of the current Israeli government. Inevitably they ask me what the other side's argument is. Netanyahu after all is a very smart man and he must realize that the status quo is unsustainable and that without an agreement Israel's Jewish and democratic character is in peril. What's his end game they want to know? I am honest and tell them I have no idea. And it's not because I haven't been paying attention. So I fall back on saying that I think he just wants to remain prime minister. And they ask me with a healthy dose of skepticism, he cares more about being prime minister than the future of Israel? I say I don't know. What has struck me is that I don't believe he has been forced to answer the question. Until now.

Today Haaretz published its annual Writer's Edition with non-journalistic authors filing reports. In his capacity as journalist for a day, writer Etgar Keret covered Netanyahu's recent trip to Italy. To the apparent discomfort of the journalists on hand, Keret put the question to Bibi: "it is important for me to know what the government’s peace initiative is and what the plan is that we are promoting to end the conflict with the Palestinians." You can read the article here. But sadly the answer it seems is Bibi has no end game.


Nothing? I manage to work in a clip from Princess Bride, everyone's favorite movie, and no comments? No references to land wars in Asia, no mention of the brute squad, humiliations galore? I'm so done with you guys.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


They keep using that word. I don't think it means what they think it means. And neither do the writers of an op-ed just published on Ynet:
Martin van Crevald, arguably Israel’s most prominent military historian and strategist, laid out a compelling case that illustrated the negligible effects of giving up the West Bank. In his analysis, he states: “It is crystal clear that Israel can easily afford to give up the West Bank…strategically speaking, the risk of doing so is negligible.”
Our borders proved to be perfectly defensible in the 1967 war against our Arab neighbors, even serving as a starting point for an expansion into the Sinai, Golan Heights and the West Bank, all of which were retained by Israel in the outcome of the war.

Co-Existence II

It also looks like this, teaching about the "other" - even if it's not approved by the "Education Ministry."
"This opened up our eyes, because the contradictions between the different versions were really crazy. Nowhere [before] did I hear the Palestinian narrative," says Michal, an 11th-grade student in Dafna's class. She adds: "It was very interesting to see not just the Israel side, and to go beyond the point of view that we learn in Israel - that we are heroes and they are always trying to oppress us."
Kol hakavod to the hundred or so teachers who have taken this on.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Another Day, Two More Generals

To be honest, I'm a little embarrassed that I hadn't made the point myself. In fact, a lot embarrassed. The 1967 borders are indefensible? Well they were successfully defended from 1948 through 1967 - when Israel did not possess the large qualitative military edge over the Arab armies that it enjoys now.  

From Americans for Peace Now:
Below are excerpts from an article published Friday in Yedioth Ahronoth's "Seven Days" weekend supplement. Yedioth Ahronoth interviewed IDF Generals Dov Tamari and Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, both served as IDF intelligence chiefs.
The two also make a compelling case for the urgent need, for Israel's sake, to make progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Bibi, It is Possible to Defend Israel from the 1967 Border Lines
by Ronen Bergman and Binyamin Tobias

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress reminded Brig. Gen. (res.) Dr. Dov Tamari--the former commander of the [legendary commando unit] Sayeret Matkal and who was the first chief intelligence officer in the IDF in the 1970s--of a story from the days of the beginning of his military career.
Tamari: "In the officers' course I did in 1956, we trained not far from Rosh Haayin. The scenario we were given in some of the drills was one that we recited like this: 'an enemy cell has broken through from Tulkarm in order to bisect Israel into two. You are the company commander, you have two submachine guns and a mortar, prevent the country from being bisected into two.' In 1956, this scenario elicited a smile from us, but when the prime minister says this in a speech to Congress and explains to the entire world that we will be incapable of defending ourselves against terror organizations that come from across the 1967 borders, I don't find it funny at all."
Q: What infuriates you about this statement?

"As I see it, one of the IDF's problems and of the politicians in general, is sometimes their thinking. They think, but only about what they have to think that minute. But when you recite, over and over, an accepted slogan and present it as statesmanship, for example: 'it is impossible to defend the State of Israel from the 1967 borders'--I find that to be very problematic."

Q: Why?
"Because of course it is possible to defend Israel from the 1967 borders. After all, we managed to defend the state even during the War of Independence, in the 1956 campaign and in the Six-Day War, when the balance of forces between us and the enemy was much worse, and we did a pretty good job. What are we being told today? That it is impossible to defend ourselves against Hamas, Hizbullah, and the Palestinians, from the 1967 borders? What are they compared to the armies with which we fought? In other words, I conclude from this that this is a [negotiating] position and that there is a very strong desire to believe in it, regardless of the reality on the ground."

Q: What do you think will happen this September, with the Palestinian declaration on the establishment of a state? Is this indeed a political tsunami or it much ado about nothing?

Zeevi-Farkash: "Judging by the situation at the moment, it could well be that the Americans and the Europeans will vote against or abstain, and therefore there will be no weight to the UN Security Council or UN General Assembly resolution. But basically there is another problem here: the Palestinians are liable to be left, after this vote, without any horizon. The meaning of this is that the overflowing lava that led to the earthquakes that we saw in Egypt and in Tunisia, are liable to also erupt here."

Q: Do you fear a regional explosion in September?

Zeevi-Farkash: "The Palestinian lack of diplomatic success, coupled with our stubbornness, which stems from a lack of understanding about the volcano we are sitting on--all these are liable to bring about an explosion. It is impossible to go on thinking that when everything is on fire in our neighborhood, we are in a sterile zone that the flames don't reach and that what goes on around us will not have an effect on us and on the Palestinians.

"I thought that Bibi's speech was impressive, but he could have made it two years ago already. If he really thought that no matter what nothing will happen in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, why did he have a problem saying 'yes, but' to the Palestinians two years ago? The problem is that  Bibi's speech did not fix the problem of delegitimization that Israel will face in September."

Q: Must Israel still worry about the problem of legitimacy?

Tamari: "One of the factors that make it possible to conduct military campaigns against our enemies in the world is the sense that the military campaign is vital, and that is precisely what legitimacy means. And the fact is that the judge of legitimacy is the international community. We did not have a problem with legitimacy in 1948 or in 1956, not in 1967 and not even in 1973. But now, if we do not ensure legitimacy, we will lose our ability to use our military might."


Tamari: "I ask myself how it happened that until 1967, the IDF ended wars with good military results, and that since 1967--the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, the first Lebanon War, the Second Lebanon War and everything in between--we did not have good military results."

Q: How do you explain that?

"The truth is that we've never, including the War of Independence or the Six-Day War, have ever won any war. If we had won any war, perhaps there would be no more wars. We had impressive military successes up until the Six-Day War, there is no doubt of that, but no triumphs. I think that in the last 40 years we were not successful, from a military aspect, in any of the wars."

Q: Why did that happen?

"From a technological aspect, the IDF is on a par with the leading armies in the world, and in any event--is far above any Arab army or an organization like Hizbullah. But there is no correspondence between the technological capabilities and the military results we achieved."

Q: So where does some of the money go that the security establishment takes?

"I have one answer--and you won't like it: to repair the previous, unsuccessful, wars."

(Translation by Israel News Today)

Aipac, anti-Oslo, pro-Likud

I've made the point before that no matter what they lead people to believe Aipac is a pro-Likud lobby. You don't have to take my word for it. It's what long-time Aipac people say themselves. This time its former Aipacnik Keith Weissman. My friend at beyondzerosum runs down Weissman's interview with PBS's Frontline. Here's a quick look:
So Rabin is shot. I mean, he won Oslo in the Knesset by one vote! You could imagine that in America there was similar opposition [to Oslo]…. AIPAC had spent the last 15 years helping the Likud, so you’ve got people there that were sucking at the teat of Likud, that was how they viewed things. That’s why so many people left AIPAC. A lot of them went to join ZOA and a lot of them also contributed to the work of Daniel Pipes. When Rabin came in, they had taken their money and left, and there was a lot of turmoil. At the time, I remember, they’d send me around the country, to fundraisers, with a lot of older people, and I would be yelled and screamed at, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this!’ Donors were leaving, taking the money, and that’s really their bread and butter, the lay leadership. AIPAC’s donors were very active in the organization. Very. They were major elements in making policy, in determining the agenda, who the leadership was.
Clear enough?

More from the Undivided City

You can read about it in Haaretz.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Obama the Kenyan

Maybe Obama was born in Kenya after all. He certainly has the mind set of a marathon runner. He doesn't play for the short term and doesn't get rattled. During the campaign, his supporters seeing his poll numbers slip, wanted him to show more "fight". But he stayed the course and eventually won in a land slide.

There have been times in his presidency when I wanted to see him display the "fierce urgency of now." Especially with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Obama moves according to his own time line and doesn't flinch. He keeps pressing his pace looking for an opportunity to make his move. And that's what I see now.

Haaretz reports:
Washington is pressuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accede to its proposal to resume Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on the basis of U.S. President Barack Obama's May 19 speech.
An Israeli source who spoke recently with senior officials in Washington said the Americans were very frustrated with Netanyahu's behavior, feeling that he was impeding America's efforts to keep the Palestinians from unilaterally seeking UN recognition of a state in September.
An Israeli source who maintains close ties with both senior U.S. officials and people close to Netanyahu said that Washington's frustration began with Netanyahu's trip to Washington last month, when he publicly fought with Obama and then refused in an address to Congress to endorse the president's outline for talks. The Americans were now speaking very harshly of Netanyahu, said the source.
Obama is pressing the pace. Can Netanyahu hold him off?


This is what it looks like:
Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer has a new and unexpected supporter in his bid to head the International Monetary Fund: the Palestinian prime minister. Salam Fayyad says Stanley Fischer would make a "great managing director" for the world financial body and is a "superb human being."
When we were in Israel we met with Fayyad. He was singularly impressive. We visited with him in Ramallah the morning Fatah and Hamas were in Cairo signing their reconciliation agreement and his status was very much up in the air, as it is today. Yet he was very relaxed, cordial and generous with his time. He clearly was proud of his work building the institutions for the Palestinian state in waiting. He was especially proud of the fact the Palestinian Authority is able to collect and report credible economic figures on a regular basis which he said was the mark of a modern economy.

Also he served great baklava.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Between Tipping and Talking Points

It's time to declare which side of history you will be on. Nearly the entire world recognizes or will soon recognize a sovereign Palestinian state. That's just a fact. You can ignore it or if you like you can blame Obama for saying publicly what everyone who has been paying attention already knew: the contours of an agreement will include an independent Palestinian state roughly along the 1967 borders.

So those opposed might want to get used to the idea that an independent Palestinian state is on the way. None of the arguments of yesterday carry any meaning. In resolving this century old conflict it doesn't matter who is to blame for the all of the bloodshed, who missed what opportunity, who loves his children more than he hates the others'. We have reached the tipping point. There is a deal on the table and only one question remains - how much more pain will be inflicted before it is signed.

Not a day goes by in Israel without a new report of prominent Israelis coming out in support of recognition of a Palestinian state. There was the Israel Peace Initiative backed by former leaders of the Israeli security branches and business leaders. Then came the Independence Hall Movement, with over 70 Israeli Prize laureates and former military officers. Then last week thousands of patriotic Israelis turned out in the streets of Tel Aviv. This morning former Israeli diplomats went on record stating among other things that "there is no point in struggling against recognition." The underlying rationale here is that an independent Palestinian state is in Israel's interest.

And yet, at the end of May, with Bibi and Aipac in Washington, we heard that Obama was the most anti-Israel president we have had because he laid out the well-known parameters of the deal. And yesterday we saw Senators Lieberman and Hatch putting forth a meaningless resolution objecting to1967 borders, which no one is even considering. The situation reminds me of the day before the Israelis and Palestinians revealed that they had been secretly negotiating in Norway and had reached agreement on a Declaration of Principles, which became known as the Oslo Agreement. The announcement came on Friday, August 20, 1993. Although I don't have a link to prove my point, I guarantee you that on Thursday the major American Jewish organizations were out pushing the idea that Israel could not negotiate with the Palestinians because they were terrorists and did not recognize Israel's right to exist.

Lo and behold, on Friday the world awoke to find out that not only could Israel negotiate with the Palestinians, but had been doing so, and had reached an agreement. What had been said on Thursday was no longer true on Friday. In a strange play on the recent rhetoric, Israel had thrown the American Jewish organizations under the bus. These organizations were out parroting the talking points which they believed they were advancing on behalf of Israel, talking points the Rabin government knew were empty. Yet Rabin secretly negotiated while Aipac was out telling Congress Israel couldn't. Considering Rabin's feelings toward Aipac, I doubt he lost much sleep over it.  

The difference between now and then is that in 1993 the American Jewish organizations had no idea what was coming. But now the writing is on the wall. 

All those opposed to recognizing a Palestinian state or negotiating based on the 1967 borders, you're on notice. Those talking points you have been spitting out, no one but you believes anymore. Friday is coming - so don't get caught reading off Thursday's script.

Is Bibi Up To It?

Obama's efforts seem to be paying off. But, as always, the question is whether Netanyahu is up to the task. Reports Haaretz:
There is a chance to avert the UN General Assembly vote in September on the recognition of the Palestinian state, said the White House official in a conference call with U.S. Jewish leaders. The Palestinians have been “fairly forthcoming on this score,” he stressed, and now the ball is in Netanyahu’s court.
Simon added that the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat -- who visited Washington this week at the same time as the Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho, but for separate meetings with U.S. officials – said, “the Palestinians would accept those [Obama's] principles as a basis for negotiations, if the Israelis did - and now we are waiting to see whether the Israelis can do this.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Also Meant to Say This

Theodore Bikel, responding to a friend who dismissed his outrage over the Jerusalem Day "Parade":
Your immediate reaction was as I feared it would be. Finding excuses and justification for a mob scene that, in any other context, would merit instant condemnation and opprobrium. To characterize the shouts of ‘Death to Arabs', whether in the past or now, as ‘rageful response to Arab excesses' cannot be read as anything but indifference. You did not see ‘stones thrown or weapons used' and that somehow makes the scene a peaceful protest? No matter that it was in the middle of the night in a civilian area inhabited mostly by Arab Israeli citizens, entitled to no less protection from hooligans than Jewish ones?
Read it all here.

שלום חנוך - אהבת נעוריי Shalom Hanoch - Ahavat Neurai

They Won't Let It Go

Still fighting against what Obama did not suggest, Senators Lieberman and Hatch propose a resolution:

It is the Policy of the United States to Support and Facilitate Israel in Maintaining Secure, Recognized and Defensible Borders and that it is Contrary to United States Policy and Our National Security to Have the Borders of Israel Return to the Armistice Lines that Existed on June 4, 1967.

Forget for the moment that not even the Palestinians are demanding a return to the 1967 borders, American national security depends on a few square kilometers in Israel? Does the US Senate have a veto over any future peace agreement?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kahane Lives

Meir Kahane. My recollections of his murder in New York are a little vague. It was the first week of November in 1990 and I was in Jerusalem visiting my then girlfriend who was a medic in the IDF. With Saddam Hussein threatening to use chemical weapons to attack Israel, the army had set up locations throughout the country to distribute gas masks. She had been assigned to a distribution center in the orthodox neighborhood of Shmuel Hanavi, where Rabbi Kahane had established a yeshiva. It's quite possible that I was there not on the day he was killed but when his body was brought back to Jerusalem for burial a few days later. What I remember is a call from my friend Ayelet who asked me what it was like being in Shmuel Hanavi at the time. So looking back over twenty years it seems that there must have been some demonstrations by his followers in the streets when I was there, but if there were I didn't see them. I really haven't spent much time thinking about the man since.

Short and to the point: Kahane was a racist and he wanted to expel Arabs from Israel. His political party, Kach, was outlawed because of its virulent racism. After his death, his followers established a new party, Kahane Chai (Kahane Lives). In 1994, one of his adherents, Baruch Goldstein gunned down 29 Arabs worshiping at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

Kahane's murder was just that, a murder and a crime that cannot be justified by his loathsome views. Conversely, his murder does not wash away what he stood for. His followers understand that and so should we.

Last week when I saw the video of a Jewish mob chanting, "Death to Arabs," I posted it here under the title "Their Jerusalem is Not My Jerusalem," and wrote a few words. In my first entry on this blog I included an open letter I had written in which I described how on the shores of the Kinneret over twenty years ago I heard the same chant and dismissed it as an aberration. In the years since I became well aware that it was no aberration. But when I posted last week's video, I addressed the matter more as an aberration than with the gravity it deserved.

I was reminded of that fact when I saw a new version of the video (watch it below). The video shows throngs of young Jews marching through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City continuing their repugnant chants into the early hours of the morning. Would it be an exaggeration to say that had there been glass windows on the Arab shops, the glass would have been broken that night?

We cannot dismiss this as an aberration. We must confront it. We must condemn it. Because right now, Kahane lives.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

State of the Blog

Hit 2500 pageviews this evening. After I got back from Israel, I wasn't sure I was going to keep blogging basically because I was concerned about a lack of content. But I'll keep going as long as I'm enjoying this and feel I have something to add to the conversation. Besides might as well do something half-way productive while I watch the White Sox this summer. (That's a baseball team for the non-Americans.) By the way, they're up 5-1 tonight against the Mariners.

Let me know if you have any suggestions for the blog. Meanwhile keep reading and spread the word.

Hey Israelis, Watch How It's Done

Don't know what got into you Saturday night. But let our Congress show you how it's done. Ok, they might need a little work on the applause lines, but give'em a little time and they'll work out the kinks.

Crazy Israelis!

Who do they think they are to tell Israel what to do? Here's video from Saturday night's demonstration in Tel Aviv. Ynet now puts the numbers at 20,000.

The Early Warning Sign

When exactly did Rep. Anthony Weiner develop a strained relationship with the truth? Well, here he is last month saying there is no occupation in the West Bank. Should have known then.

Monday, June 6, 2011

French Connection II

On the heels of the French initiative, Israelis and Palestinians are in Washington . . . .

Eli Valley, Kafka, the Knesset and J Street

Brilliant. You won't want to miss this. If you are not familiar with the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Public Diplomacy Committee’s debate on J Street read here.

Bibi's Boycott

I guess Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has had enough of Congress. Neither he nor any Israeli governmental official agreed to meet this week in Israel with members of a congressional delegation organized by J Street. What's new?

That's right Congress, two years and running. Twenty-nine standing ovations just doesn't cut it. Bibi played you guys like freirim (suckers).

French Initiative and the Jewish State

France has put forward a new bid to re-start negotiations. Abbas has accepted in principle. Waiting on Bibi. Haaretz reports:
In a first for the wider international community, the French initiative incorporates the position that the goal of negotiations is "two states for two peoples," not just "a two-state solution."
The idea behind the "two-states for two-peoples" language is that it recognizes (at least implicitly) Israel as a Jewish state, one of Bibi's current demands. The matter of Israel being recognized as a Jewish state is a confounding one to me. Why does Israel need Palestinian recognition of its Jewish character? Why wouldn't the Palestinians recognize Israel's Jewish character? In fact, there is some suggestion in the Palestinian Papers that they are willing to do so.

But more to the point, UN Resolution 181 expressly created two-states: one Jewish and one Arab:
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 . . .
Then consider the following paragraph from the Palestinian Declaration of Independence from 1988:
Despite the historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian Arab people resulting in their dispersion and depriving them of their right to self-determination, following upon UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947), which partitioned Palestine into two states, one Arab, one Jewish, yet it is this Resolution that still provides those conditions of international legitimacy that ensure the right of the Palestinian Arab people to sovereignty.
It seems that the Palestinians have already accepted (or come pretty damn close to accepting) a Jewish state, no?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Palestinians Abandon Border Marches

Following warnings from Israel, the planned marches on its borders have been canceled.

Israelis March in Tel Aviv

Watch live here

Initial estimates put the turnout between 3,000 and 5,000. Ynet reports:
Thousands of people are marching from Rabin Square to Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv calling the government to "Say yes to a Palestinian state as an Israeli interest."
A friend of mine adds that a handful of counter-demonstrators, trailing and kept at a distance by police, chanted "Leftists equal terrorists. Death to terrorists. Leftists to Gaza." A math fail? Or a new take on separate but equal? Oh, well.

Update: Police are putting the numbers between 8,000 and 9,000. Organizers say 20,000.

Later update: It is really striking to see Israelis waving Palestinian flags and carrying posters reading "67".

Friday, June 3, 2011

Yes to a Palestinian State!

Click on the +1 below to say Yes to a Palestinian State and to show support for Israelis demonstrating tomorrow evening in Tel Aviv at Rabin Square. And if you're brave enough leave a comment below . . . .

It's Catching

Here's Andrew Sullivan on the Dagan story and challenging the usual suspects calling for a pre-emptive attack.

More on Dagan

This time from the NY Times:
“I decided to speak out because when I was in office, Diskin, Ashkenazi and I could block any dangerous adventure,” he was quoted as saying. “Now I am afraid that there is no one to stop Bibi and Barak,” he added, using Mr. Netanyahu’s nickname.
“It’s not the Iranians or the Palestinians who are keeping Dagan awake at night but Israel’s leadership,” asserted Ari Shavit on the front page of Friday’s Haaretz newspaper. “He does not trust the judgment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.”
Glad to see the Times jumping on this story.

I'd like to add something here. The "bomb bomb Iran" idea is not only a terrible one on its own terms, at least according to Dagan, but it presents another problem. It allows Bibi and Co. and his enablers in the American Jewish community to change the conversation from the Palestinian issue. How can we be expected to move on the Palestinian front when we face an "existential" threat from Iran? It seems Dagan, for one, doesn't it see it that way. And from what we heard in Israel and from recent press accounts Dagan is not alone. 

יהודה פוליקר - פחות אבל כואב

This is What I Meant to Say

Here is what I wished I would have said when I wrote about Daniel Gordis. (Though writing on a cloudy morning in Chicago, I still want my May morning in Jerusalem back!) From J Street founder and president Jeremy Ben-Ami, responding to last week's piece from Gordis:
About a month ago, a group of J Street’s Board members and donors met with Daniel Gordis of the Shalem Center during our annual Leadership Mission. J Street makes a real effort to hear a wide range of voices on its trips, from settler leaders to human rights activists, from conservatives like Gordis to those on the Left of the political spectrum.

I appreciated Gordis’s willingness to share his thoughts, even as it was clear there are real differences in how we view the difficult challenges facing Israel and our role as a community in responding to them. I am hopeful, when we next meet, he will choose to listen to J Street’s perspectives and to substantively engage those who hold them, instead of resorting to spurious arguments.
Why doesn’t Gordis make the case for how Israel is going to survive as a Jewish and a democratic state without making major territorial concessions to the Palestinians now? I believe it’s because he and other neoconservatives cannot credibly argue that the present situation is sustainable for Israel. So they switch the topic to an array of wrongs supposedly committed by J Street.
We’re happy to continue to answer these and any other questions that Gordis and others may have about J Street’s pro-Israel credentials, but at some point our opponents should stop ducking the underlying issue: the sustainability of the path that Israel is on.
When we reach the cliff, those of us not living in Israel won’t suffer as immediately as those who do. This is true. But we – your brothers and sisters, your closest friends and family – we will suffer with and for you.

Our children and grandchildren will ask us what we could have done to save Israel. And if we do nothing, we will be asked how it was that we sat by in silence.

At least those of us involved in J Street today will never have to explain how it is that, with our tent under threat, we spent our energy arguing over whom we’d allow inside.
Full article in today's Jerusalem Post can be found here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Can't Make This Stuff Up

Ooops! Executive director of right wing group tweets support for Obama's speech. Then takes out ad against it. Read about it here.

Shalit Update

Palestinian official: Israel, Hamas close to reaching Shalit deal

Their Jerusalem Is Not My Jerusalem

Shameful. "Muhammad is dead," "May your village burn," "Death to leftists," "Butcher the Arabs." These were some of the chants heard on "Jerusalem Day," as Jews "paraded" through the "eternal and undivided capital of Israel." This is out and out pure racism and intolerance. And it is dangerous. The video is above. Ynet covered the story here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dagan Speaks Out Again

As Bibi and Co. ratchet up the talk of an attack on Iran, former Mossad head, Meir Dagan, spoke out again today. Haaretz reports:
Israel would not withstand a regional conflict ignited by an Israeli strike of Iran's nuclear facilities, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan said on Wednesday, adding that Israel did not have the capability to stop Tehran's nuclear ambitions, just to delay them.
In his first public appearance since leaving the post in September, Dagan said earlier this month that the possibility a future Israel Air Force attack on Iranian nuclear facilities was "the stupidest thing I have ever heard."
The former Mossad chief also referred to stalled peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, saying he felt Israel should take the initiative instead of being forced to deal with a less favorable situation.
"I think there should be diplomatic initiative with the Palestinians. They're here and a settlement should be reached with them. If we won't offer things and wait we may have to face a reality in which things are forced on us, and when choosing between initiative and coercion, I prefer initiative," Dagan said.
Dagan has been taking an increasingly public profile in opposing some of the pronouncements coming from  Israel's government. This is consistent with what we have been hearing about the security establishment being very concerned about the direction Bibi is headed.

To re-emphasize my earlier post about the disconnect here in America, we need to get Dagan's opinions into the American and American Jewish political discourse.

Jerusalem Day Parade?

Does this city seem re-unified to you?

From Ynet:

Violent clashes erupt during Jerusalem Day parade

Traditional 'Flag Dance' procession commemorating Jerusalem's reunification becomes scene of violent clashes between marchers and Arab residents of capital's eastern neighborhoods. Several rioters detained by police.