Obama plan a good idea for both Palestinians and Israelis / a response to Mondoweiss

Posted: April 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

The New York Times and the Washington Post reported last week that the Obama administration is considering presenting its own peace plan sometime in the near future, possibly around the fall. Israel has made it clear it would oppose such a plan, and the current government is insisting that an agreement can be reached only through direct talks between the two parties.

Thought some US officials sort of backed down from the idea, claiming that the US “would not impose a solution“, I agree with those thinking that the leak to the WP and the NYT was a test balloon, aimed to show Israel what will happen if it would not commit to the peace process or if it would consider ending the limited settlement moratorium Netanyahu has declared.

Zbigniew Brzezinski and Stephen Solarz repeated the idea on a Washington Post op-ed this weekend.

This goes for the Israeli side. Alex Kane summed up on Mondoweiss the case against an imposed plan from a Pro-Palestinian perspective. According to Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera English’s senior political analyst, the administration’s plan would follow the “Clinton Parameters” from the failed Camp David summit. These include:

Sharing of Jerusalem; no right of return for the Palestinians; a return to the 1967 borders with mutual adjustments to allow Israel to annex big settlement blocks; and a demilitarized Palestinian state.

Kane argues that:

the terms presented above wouldn’t be “fair or just,” because they would relinquish the “right of return” for Palestinians displaced by the 1948 Nakba, a right “enshrined in international law and international humanitarian law, and isn’t for Obama to deny, nor even for Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO chairman, to give away.”

And a demilitarized Palestinian state? With Israel keeping a presence “in fixed locations in the Jordan Valley under the authority of the International force for another 36 months” and having Israeli “early warning stations” inside the West Bank (as the “Clinton Parameters” state)? That doesn’t sound like an end to the occupation.

I assume the Clinton Parameters would serve as a starting point for negotiations on an actual agreement (that what was supposed to happen in Camp David), but even if they were to be implemented as they are, I think opposing them would be a grave mistake, and a move that would play right into the hands of those who wish to prolong Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza.

Let’s start with the issue of refugees. This, and not Jerusalem, is the biggest problem in any future settlement. According to UNRWA, There are around 1.7 million registered refugees in the PA territory, and around 3 million registered refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. There are probably between several hundred thousands to several millions unregistered refugees living in other countries, mostly in the West.

Israeli Jews, from the far left to the right, are opposing any return of Palestinians to the state of Israel. The only Jewish MK to ever speak in favor of a return was Dov Khenin from Hadash, and even he meant a limited return of several hundred thousand people at maximum. Hadash, it should be noted, got around 0.5 percent of the Jewish vote in the last elections.

Naturally, the international community doesn’t need to accept whatever the Israeli public do or say, but it should be understood that while there is a political base in Israel for ending the occupation, a return of refugees would have to be imposed on the entire system. Even if there was a way to do it, this would mean prolonging the occupation in years, probably even decades.

Furthermore, I don’t understand how this return should look like. Most of the Arab villages are gone, and in many cases, Israeli towns and neighborhoods were built in their place. Would a solution to the problem include the expulsion of millions of Jews, many of them refugees from Arab and European countries themselves? As you can see, this is getting very complicated, both politically and a morally. It is not enough to say that the refugees must return. One should explain what is it exactly that he means by ‘return’. Read the rest of this entry »


Following Im Tirzu’s campaign: first Knesset steps against NIF

Posted: February 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, Polls, racism, The Left, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

We should see the attack on the New Israel Fund in context: this was no isolated event, but part of a widespread campaign against human rights and peace activists

The Knesset committee for legislation has decided today to look into foreign donations to non-profit organizations operating in Israel, and among them, those received and handed by the New Israel Fund. The investigation will be led by the head of the legislation committee, MK David Rotem (Israel Beitenu) and a special subcommittee, to be formed immediately. Meanwhile, MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) is pushing for a special Knesset investigation aimed against all Israeli human rights organizations which testified before the Goldstone committee.

Maariv reports that in a heated debate at the Knesset legislation committee, MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP) accused the NIF, Meretz party and the Israeli left of no less than treason:

“…NIF sponsors elements which are hostile to the state, and [by doing so] it causes us an unimaginable damage, not unlike our worse enemies… Meretz party has crossed the lines… former MK Naomi Hazan, which heads the NIF, has also crossed the lines.”

MK Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich from opposition party Kadima joined the attack on the NIF in saying that:

“We must say to all Israel-haters that enough is enough. We won’t sit quietly when our enemies from home try to lead an undemocratic revolution here, encouraging boycott, desertion and pacifistic refusal to serve in the IDF, based on lies and distortions. We must draw our lines and tell the traitors to our people that this is enough.”

Im Tirzu, a right-wing nonprofit organization, has launched last week a campaign against the NIF, claiming it sponsors organizations that support Hamas. In a front page story in Maariv, senior political correspondent Ben Caspit quoted a “research” by Im Tirzu, which supposedly showed how the NIF was responsible for 92 percent of the anti-Israeli evidence in the Goldstone report. Caspit went even further, and raised the notion the all the NIF activities in Israel – the fund aids more than 300 grassroots and social justice organizations – are a cover for anti-Israeli subversion.

Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) which represented the government in the Knesset debate, praised Im Tirzu: “it is a Zionist organization, which is doing a very important and positive work.” During the debate, minister Erdan referred to judge Goldstone as “this liar”.

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One of the contributors to the progressive Jewschool blog asked yesterday how this campaign against the NIF and other nonprofits different from the smear campaigns we have seen against the left in the past.

While it is true that the Right has been attacking human rights organizations for as long as they existed in Israel, things have changed in the last few months, and those who care about Israeli politics should be aware of those changes.

For start, the nature and the intensity of the attack changed. The Im Tirzu ads against the NIF shocked many American Jews – they reminded almost everyone of anti-Semitic cartoons – but in Israel they were considered legitimate. The tabloids had no problem publishing them, and you can still catch them as banners on popular news sites as Ynet.co.il and nrg.co.il. In fact, I don’t know of a paper or site that refused to run this ad. What’s even more important is the personalized nature of the attack – specifically targeting the head of the NIF, Naomi Hazan. We haven’t seen such viscous personal attacks since the assassination of PM Yitzhak Rabin.

Second, and unlike the attack on left wing politicians during the Oslo days, this time it is not only the political right that goes after human rights activists. And it’s not just smears. We are talking official government and Knesset policies, and real measures being taken. When minister Erdan praised Im Tirzu in the Knesset, he did so as the official representative of the government to the committee. This government includes even the labor party (though some labor MK’s came out in the NIF’s defense). In fact, some of the dominant figures in the campaign against the NIF are MK’s from opposition party Kadima, which under Tzipi Livni claim to represent the pro-peace alternative to Netanyahu’s Likud! Kadima’s official website even posted Im Tirzu’s accusations against the NIF. Read the rest of this entry »


Breaking the Silence exposes humiliation of Palestinians, violence and theft by IDF soldiers

Posted: January 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, Uncategorized, war | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Anti occupation group Breaking the Silence published a new set of testimonies, this time from female soldiers who served in recent years in the Palestinians territories. These include stories of humiliation, systematic violence, cruelty and theft by IDF soldiers. The Palestinians who were harmed by those acts were innocent civilians, or in the worse cases illegal workers in Israel or stone-throwers. They weren’t suspect of any terrorist activity against Israelis.

You can read some of the testimonies on Ynet (A good word to Israel’s most popular news site for posting the story in English as well. I wonder what people would have said if it was published on mainstream US media). On the Hebrew version of the article, you can also hear one of the testimonies.

Even though we heard such stories before, some of the stuff is not easy to read or listen to. It seems that in some IDF units, hurting Arabs became a way to gain respect and admiration of fellow soldiers. Some female soldiers, suffering from a lower statue to begin with, apparently did their best to show they don’t fall short from men in this field. This comes from one of the testimonies:

“A female combat soldier needs to prove more…a female soldier who beats up others is a serious fighter…when I arrived there was another female there with me, she was there before me…everyone spoke of how impressive she is because she humiliates Arabs without any problem. That was the indicator. You have to see her, the way she humiliates, the way she slaps them, wow, she really slapped that guy.”

In some cases, it seems that violence was kept secret from commanders, at least from the officers in charge (though most officers know more of what’s going on with their soldiers than they care to admit). In other cases, commanders took part in the acts:

Another female soldier’s testimony, who served at the Erez checkpoint, indicates how violence was deeply rooted in the daily routine: “There was a procedure in which before you release a Palestinian back into the Strip – you take him inside the tent and beat him.”

That was a procedure?

“Yes, together with the commanders.”

How long did it last?

“Not very long; within 20 minutes they would be back in the base, but the soldiers would stop at the post to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes while the guys from the command post would beat them up.”

This happened with every illegal alien?

“There weren’t that many…it’s not something you do everyday, but sort of a procedure. I don’t know if they strictly enforced it each and every time…it took me a while to realize that if I release an illegal alien on my end, by the time he gets back to Gaza he will go through hell… two or three hours can pass by the time he gets into the Strip. In the case of the kid, it was a whole night. That’s insane, since it’s a ten minute walk. They would stop them on their way; each soldier would give them a ‘pet’, including the commanders.”

One of the worse cases described is that of a child who’s arms and legs were supposedly broken by soldiers. This is hear-say evidence, but even the fact that it was never reported nor investigated teaches us something about what’s going on in the territories.

“I don’t know who or how, but I know that two of our soldiers put him in a jeep, and that two weeks later the kid was walking around with casts on both arms and legs…they talked about it in the unit quite a lot – about how they sat him down and put his hand on the chair and simply broke it right there on the chair.”

Read the rest here.

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As I said, this is not the first time these kinds of testimonies are published. Personally, I would have rather these soldiers reporting the acts as they happened or refusing to serve in the WB and Gaza altogether, but as I know form my own experience, it is never that simple. Sometimes you don’t fully understand what’s going on, and even if you do, going against your peers – as well as your commanders – in a combat unit is difficult in a way it’s hard even to begin explaining for those who never served.

Altogether, it’s better to talk late than never. It’s especially important given the fact that there are many people – especially Israel’s supporters in the US – who still believe that Palestinians’ lives are basically OK, that the IDF is “the most moral army in the world”, and all this crap. You can go on supporting Israel or thinking that Israel has no choice but to hold on to the territories and keep the siege on Gaza, but at least be honest enough to look at the price of these policies. I would expect Israel’s supporters – if they are really honest – to be the first to listen to the people of Breaking the Silence. Read the rest of this entry »


Gaza Mathematics

Posted: January 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, war | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments »

How cruel is the Israeli siege on Gaza? the IDF spokesperson’s tweets can give an idea.

I follow the IDF spokesperson on twitter (tweets are in English, btw). Every few days, there is an update there on the humanitarian aid and fuel trucks intended to pass through the Erez crossing point into Gaza.

Here are some examples:

Jan 14: #IDF: 108 aid trucks and supply of fuel and natural gas scheduled to cross into #Gaza today. Erez Xing open.

Jan 13: 171 aid trucks and a supply of fuel scheduled to cross into #Gaza today. Erez Xing open.

Jan 11: 74 aid trucks and supply of fuel and natural gas scheduled to cross into #Gaza today through Erez Xing

There are some Israelis who Re-tweet these messages to their followers. Some Israeli embassies do that too. I guess they see it as further evidence to Israel’s claim that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza because of the siege. But the truth is that these numbers tell a totally different story.

There are no natural resources in the strip and hardly any food is grown there, so all the population is dependent on supply of food, fuel and gas from the outside. The economy is on hold since the war, and 80 percent of the people live on humanitarian aid.

According to the CIA factbook, there are 1,551,859 people living in Gaza.

Let’s take the best day of the month, according to the IDF. That was Jan 13, in which 171 trucks crossed the border into Gaza. That’s 171 trucks for 1.5 million people, or one truck for 9,075 people (1,551,859 divided by 171). Now imagine having to feed, give clothing and supply heating and power to 9,075 people – like the population of a not so small US town – with a single truck. Read the rest of this entry »


Some more thoughts on the split personality of America’s liberal Jews

Posted: January 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: racism, the US and us | Tags: , , , , | 18 Comments »

I had some interesting responses to my post on the “split personality” of American liberal Jews. One of them was from Rabbi Jason Miller from Detroit, Michigan, who posted on his blog some of his thoughts regarding this issue. Among other things, he refers to “the seemingly ironic position that so many liberal American Jews find themselves in concerning their views on Israel.”

Admittedly, I am in this category. I never criticize Israel or its government’s policies publicly, because, well, it’s Israel — my Israel, my homeland. The Jewish state has enough critics, I reason; it could use more people playing defense for the team. But when it comes to religious pluralism, I have no problem expressing my frustration for the control that the ultra-Orthodox wields in Israel. A monopoly by one denomination of a religion for all official religious acts is not democratic.

I think that Rabbi Miller is being very honest here about his views on Israel. In a different post, he refers to the acceptance of Gays and Lesbians by the Jewish community as one of the most important developments of the decade. This is another example of something that the religious establishment in Israel wouldn’t even consider doing – in fact, Rabbis and religious MKs here led the fight against Gay rights – and Rabbi Miller has no problems speaking against Israel’s orthodoxy.

I wonder, however, what is the difference, in the eyes of a liberal person, between Gay and Arab rights. I understand Jews’ hesitations to come out publicly against Israel on issues that involve national security, but when it comes to minorities’ rights, the current government in Jerusalem is far worse than any administration America had in the past fifty years, yet Jews – who took part in some of the great civil rights fights in the US – remain very careful not to criticize Israel on these matters.

Just recently, the Knesset passed a law which would  allow Jewish settlements inside Israel (not to be confused with West Bank settlements), built on public state land, to forbid Arab citizens from purchasing a home within them. At the same time, the Knesset turned down a bill that was meant to make the state allocate land to Jews and Arab on an equal basis.

Doesn’t the fact that Rabbi Miller views Israel as his homeland only makes it more urgent to protest when this country is marching down the “separate but equal” road?

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Going back to the national security issue, my question to Israel’s liberal supporters is if they can imagine a time in which it would be justified to come out publicly against Israel. Read the rest of this entry »


Survey: should we engage in war crimes?

Posted: January 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: media, racism | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Israel demanded recently that the US will act to stop “incitement by Palestinian Authority’s officials”. A noble cause no doubt, but what about racism and incitement in Israel?

For example, what would we say if a poll by Iranian or Palestinian television station presented the public with the option of completely destroying Israel? Because this is exactly what Keshet (Channel 2) – Israel’s most watched networked – did on their site’s daily poll today.

To the question “what is your opinion on Iron Dome (Israel’s new anti-missile project), the possible answers were: (a) It’s about time; (b) I don’t trust it; (c) we need negotiations; (d) destroy Gaza.

poll1

Right now, 51 percent of the people who answered the survey chose option D. But the real problem is that nobody should post such surveys to begin with, just as you don’t ask your readers if they support rape.

poll2

(hat tip: 7th eye)


Liberal Jews and Israel / a case of split personality disorder

Posted: January 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: the US and us, this is personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

taglit

Last Saturday I met an Israeli-American friend who came for a short visit from his studies in Europe. We talked some politics, and finally came to an issue which always puzzles me: the fact that American Jews are unwilling – almost unable – to criticize Israel, both in public and in private, and even when Israeli policies contradict their own believes. My friend noted that if some of the articles on the Israeli media – and not even the most radical ones – were to be printed in the US and signed by none-Jews, they would be considered by most Jewish readers like an example of dangerous Israel-bashing, sometimes even anti-Semitism.

I’ve became more aware of this issue myself since I started writing this blog. Things I say or write which are well within the public debate in Israel are sometimes viewed as outrageous by American Jewish readers; at the same time, events which would make the same readers furious if they happened in the US – for example, the Israeli municipality which tried to prevent Arabs from dating Jewish girls – are met with indifference.

Naturally, I’m generalizing here. Between millions of Jews you can obviously find all kinds of voices – and this is part of the reason I hesitated before writing this post – but I think one can recognize some sort of mainstream opinion within the Jewish community, which both echoes the official Israeli policies, regardless of the identity of the government in Jerusalem, and at the same time, turns a blind eye on events which might distort the image of Israel which this community holds. And this is something which is hard to understand.

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All known data indicates that the vast majority of US Jews supports the democratic party, and many consider themselves as liberals (Barack Obama captured 78 percent of the Jewish vote). Yet except for a group of well known activists, you can hardly hear these people criticize Israel, which is not exactly a picture-perfect liberal democracy.

I am not talking here about the old Jewish establishment or about AIPAC. AIPAC are professional politicians. Their status is based on their connections to the Israeli governments, and their ability to promote Israeli interests in Washington. Breaking up with Israel – even just criticizing Israeli politics – will not just hurt their status, it will simply leave them unemployed. Expecting AIPAC or other Jewish leaders with good ties in Jerusalem to declare that, for example, Israel should lift the siege on Gaza, is like asking an insurance lobbyist to speak in the name of the public option.

Naturally, I don’t expect anything from Jewish neo-cons either. These people like Netanyahu, they supported George Bush, and they will go on speaking about culture wars and Islamo-Facists versus Judo-Christians even on the day Ismail Haniya converts to Zionism. You can agree or disagree with them, but at least their views are consistent.

With the Liberals it’s quiet a different story. It’s obvious they care much about Israel, and some of them are very passionate about politics and extremely well-informed about what’s going on here, but from time to time, I get the feeling they hold back some of their views.

I don’t think many liberals, if they really are ones, can accept the siege on Gaza. Even if they think that Hamas is to blame for the current state of affairs, surly they don’t support collective punishment against 1.5 million people, do they? What would they say if the US was to seal the areas in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan where the insurgents are hiding, not letting even basic supply in or out, preventing civilians from growing food or working, and practically leaving the entire population on the brink of starvation? I presume many Americans will oppose such policies.

But let’s leave geo-politics aside, and talk about the current wave of anti-Arab legislation in Israel. There are things happening here on a daily basis which would make most American Jews go out of their minds if they occurred to Afro-Americans in Alabama or to Native-Americans in Oklahoma, rather than to Arabs in the Galilee. Take for example the temporary order preventing Arab citizens who marry none-Israelis to live with their partners and children here, or the new legislation which will make it legal for Jewish neighborhoods and settlements to refuse to accept Arabs. Is this something Americans – not just liberals – would tolerate? I’m not even talking here about the de-facto discrimination of Arabs, but on a legal effort to introduce ethnic segregation in Israel. Isn’t that the same issue Jews fought against throughout our entire history? Weren’t American Jews an important part of the civil right movement? What’s the difference between Blacks in Birmingham and Arabs in Katzir?

I guess that part of the reason for not criticizing Israel is that many Jews are extremely sensitive to the existential threat Israelis sense, so they don’t like to speak against security measures taken by Israel, since it’s not them who would be hurt when these measures are lifted. This is understandable, but many of the problems the Arab minority faces has nothing to do with national security, but with the desire of many in the Israeli public – and their elected officials in the Knesset – to make Israel not just a Jewish state, but a state for Jews, and Jews only. It’s not about terror, just racism.

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Given the sense of shared history and even close family ties between the two communities, there is something very natural with the American-Jewish community’s desire to take side with Israelis in what seems as its conflict with the Arab world. I guess taking sides also means avoiding looking at some of the faults of your partner. But the problem with the Jews’ attitude towards Israel is much deeper than that, and it shows the most on issues which have nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict, and are purely an internal matter of the Jewish people.

Here is an example: as we all know, the Orthodox Jewish establishment has an official statues in Israel (unlike most Western countries, state and religion are not separated here, and the chief Orthodox Rabbi has a position similar to this of a supreme court justice). The same Orthodox establishment is very hostile to none-Orthodox Jews, which happen to make most of the American Jewish community. A few weeks ago, Fifth-year medical student Nofrat Frenkel was arrested for wearing a talit at the Kotel. I expected all hell to break in the States. After all, this concerns Jews’ right to practice their faith in the most holy place in the world. I wouldn’t say the event went unnoticed – I saw some blog posts and articles referring to the incident, and Forward published Frenkel’s account of the day – but it certainly wasn’t enough for people in Israel to notice. If American Jews spoke on this matter, it was with a voice that nobody heard.

Now imagine the public outrage if Frenkel was arrested anywhere else in the world for wearing a talit. Read the rest of this entry »


End of the wasted decade / slightly optimistic analysis of the current moment in Israeli politics

Posted: December 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Fireworks1

Almost two weeks of intense political maneuvering ended yesterday. Many people on the Left got worried by Benjamin Netanyahu’s effort to split the opposition Kadima party or to have it join his coalition. Both options, it seemed, would have made the PM even stronger, and everything that’s good for Netanyahu is surly bad for the peace process. Or isn’t it?

While I write here regularly against the current Israeli policies, and consider myself to be a part of the Left, I think that the last year have moved us closer to the end of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, possibly also to the end of the siege on Gaza. The current political circumstances are pretty favorable, to the point that if I could have replaced Netanyahu with other Israeli leaders – say Livni or Barak – I probably wouldn’t go for it.

To understand why, we need to dive into the depth of the complex political dynamics in Israel.

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If left to do as he wishes, I have no doubt PM Benjamin Netanyahu wouldn’t make one step towards the end of the Israeli occupation. His ideological background is one that views the West Bank as part of the land of Israel; he believes that an independent Palestinian state would put Israel’s national security in danger; and his political base has always been on the Israeli right.

But political leaders have to consider political circumstances and limitations, and Netanyahu – unlike the two other PMs from Likud, Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon – is extremely sensitive to outside pressure. And pressure came from the first moment Netanyahu entered his office.

First, there was the new approach from Washington. It’s not just Obama, but the whole backlash against the Middle East policy of the Bush administration. Furthermore, the world knew Netanyahu, and remembered him as the man who succeeded Yitzhak Rabin and almost single handedly buried the Oslo accord. And if somebody was ready to consider the idea of “a new Netanyahu”, along came the appointment of Avigdor Liberman to the Foreign Office and fixed the image of this government – quiet rightly, I must say – as the most extreme Israel ever had. Even Israel’s supporters are having troubles in the last year explaining the PM’s fondness for settling in the West Bank or defending the daily gaffe by the Foreign Minister.

And there was the war in Gaza. It’s hard to grasp how differently the international community and most Israelis view operation Cast Lead. Israelis see the war as a justified, even heroic, act against Hamas’ aggression – which was the Palestinian response to the good fate we showed in withdrawing from the Gaza strip – while most of the international community sees Cast Lead as a barbaric attack on (mostly) innocent civilians. And while the Goldstone report might never be adopted by the UN Security Council, the respond it initiated made it clear that in the near future – and unless something very dramatic happens and change everything (we always have to add this sentence in the post 11/9 world, don’t we?) – there won’t be another Cast Lead. The world won’t allow it.

All these elements – the change in Washington, the suspicious welcome the world gave Netanyahu and the respond to the war in Gaza – are forcing Netanyahu to do something he never planned to – at least with regards to the Palestinians: to act. That’s why he announced the settlement moratorium, and that’s why he is willing, according to today’s reports, to negotiate a Palestinian state on the 67′ borders, and even to talk about Jerusalem’s statues. And this is the man that won the 1996 elections after he accused Shimon Peres of agreeing to divide the Israeli capitol.

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Yes, I would have preferred a Hadash-Meretz government. But this isn’t, and won’t be an option in this generation. Right now, the political leaders with a shot at the PM office are Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak, maybe Shaul Mofaz, and god forbid, Avigdor Liberman. Next in line after them are people with basically the same agenda.

I don’t trust Ehud Barak. I don’t know what drives him, I don’t think anyone understands what his views are, and I believe he has at least partial responsibility for the failure of the Camp David summit and the negotiations with the Syrians – and all that followed this failure.

With Kadima and Livni, it’s even worse. Under Ehud Olmert, this party brought to perfection the art of talking about peace and declaring wars. Read the rest of this entry »


The siege on Gaza is the real crime

Posted: December 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, war | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

Exactly one year after operation Cast Lead, Gaza is still the world’s largest prison.

The media is discussing the possibility of a prisoner exchange deal, as well as the effort to renew peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, the Goldstone report and the allegations of war crimes, but the real crime is happening right before our eyes: the Israeli-Egyptian siege of the Gaza strip.

According to the CIA Factbook, there are 1.5 million people living on the strip’s 360 sq. km (slightly more than twice the size of Washington, DC). They are not allowed to travel anywhere, and their lives are reduced to little more than survival. Israel does not allow building material, supply for farming or factories, school needs and many food items into the strip. 80 percent of the population in Gaza depends on humanitarian aid for its survival. The houses which were destroyed in the war can’t be rebuilt, and thousands of people are forced to pass a second winter without shelter. 4.5 billion dollars collected for the reconstruction of the strip can’t reach Gaza.

You can read more about the siege and it’s consequences on Gisha site.

The Israeli government does not explain the reasons for the siege. It’s obviously not part of an effort to force the return of Gilad Shalit, since the siege is not part of the deal discussed between Israel and Hamas. It’s not about the rockets as well – since there aren’t almost any these days.

The IDF just launched a special page on its internet site to mark a year to the war. It’s titled “Days of Quiet”. One of the articles on the page tells the story of the Kabatim, the security officers of the Israeli towns and settlements around the Gaza strip “who used to look for missile launches at nights… and now have to fight boredom.” That’s not Peace Now saying; it’s the IDF.

So why does the siege go on?

It’s not about preventing the Hamas from stocking arms. Hamas does that through the tunnels below the Egyptian border, and Israel is checking any cargo entering the strip through its side. Forbidding trucks of pasta from getting into Gaza – as Senator Kerry was shocked to find Israel doing – has nothing to do with national security.

Is the siege a way to make the people of Gaza bring down Hamas, something both Jerusalem and Washington wishes for? If so, it’s both an immoral and inefficient way. If operation Cast Lead and the year following it proved something, it’s that Hamas is here to stay. It’s bad news for Israel and possibly for the peace process as well, but collective punishment against 1.5 million people is not a legitimate response.

Asked about the siege, most Israelis would say that the Palestinians deserve it: they elected Hamas, which launched rockets and does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, so they got it coming, more or less. This is basically the same rational terrorists use for justifying suicide attacks against Israeli civilians: they supported the occupation and all it lead to, they elected Likud, so they also have it coming. Both rationalizations are false. Suicide attacks are unacceptable, and so is the siege.


A Palestinian Game-Changer

Posted: November 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off
President Abbas and PM Fayad

President Abbas and PM Fayad

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has an unbalanced nature, as Israel is holding most of the economical and military power in the region, while the Palestinians have only the world’s public opinion to rely on. But lately it seems that the Palestinian Authority is able to take the game to a field in which it has the upper hand – that of public NGOs and multinational bodies. That’s what happened with the Goldstone report, and this is the context, I believe, in which we should understand the Palestinian plan to unilaterally declare independence in a couple of years.

In the last decade, both Yasser Arafat and the Hamas tried to gain political achievements through the use of force (not a new approach in the Middle East; Arab and Israelis have been doing it for a century). This effort didn’t only fail, but also handed Israel the currency it lacks the most: international legitimization for its military actions. Thousands of dead and years of suffering have passed, and all the Palestinians got was the withdrawal from Gaza, and Israel is still making them pay for it through its siege on the strip.

After losing the current military round, the Palestinians are playing a game in which Israel will find it much harder to win.

The basic idea of the Palestinian PM, Salaam Fayad, is this: if Israel will go on refusing to freeze all settlement activities and the peace process won’t reignite, the Palestinians will ask for a UN resolution recognizing their independence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as their capitol. Such proposal will enjoy an overwhelming majority in the general assembly. Things might get a bit trickier for the Palestinians in the Security Council, where the US holds veto power, but given the new administration’s support of the two states solution, it’s hard to imagine the White House blocking the Palestinian move altogether. More likely, it will push for some sort of compromise.

An Israeli diplomatic counter-attack could have stood some chances with a centrist Israeli government and a neo-conservative US administration like we had a year ago, but with the current world atmosphere and a radical right-wing coalition in Jerusalem, this effort will be doomed from the start. Read the rest of this entry »