“The 2013 election will be remembered as a day on which an entire sector [of society], traditional and religious, was boycotted solely for its beliefs and perceptions,” Eli Yishai, the co-leader of the Sephardic haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Shas political party, wrote on his Facebook page Saturday night. “[I]t’s much more disturbing that this reality was not created by disagreements,” Yishai continued, “it was created for one simple reason: to see the haredim out, no matter what. Anyone who claims otherwise is not telling the truth and is dismissive of the entire public's intelligence.”
Menahem Kahana / AFP / Getty Images
A senior Zionist Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Haim Druckman, reacted to Yishai’s Facebook post with incredulity, telling the settler-run Zionist Orthodox website Arutz Sheva that haredim had spent decades boycotting the Zionist Orthodox. Haredi newspapers refuse to refer to Zionist Orthodox rabbis as rabbis, Druckman noted, pointing out that the great Zionist Orthodox rabbis’ Torah books are not found in haredi yeshivas. “Those who are virtuoso full-time boycotters should not talk about boycotts,” Druckman said.
Despite Druckman’s inescapable logic, Yishai’s anger has been both echoed and presaged by haredi political leaders from the Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism party and from Shas. The parties’ senior rabbis have, if anything, been harsher than Yishai. For all of these haredi leaders, the “boycott” of the haredi parties is based on unprovoked hatred and is by definition evil. But is it?
Speaking in his uniform, Israel's top military intelligence official broke down his agency's assessments of threats facing the country without the passionate flair of many speakers here at Herzliya, Israel's leading security conference. His remarks that Hezbollah has 50,000 fighters in Syria and that Bashar Assad's regime is prepping its chemical weapons made most of the headlines. But Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi also delivered a sober assessment of Iran's nuclear program. His frankness aligned him, at times, with some of his political bosses' rhetoric, but he nonetheless emphasized things that Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli hawks tend to gloss over.
Kochavi said Iran's leaders were holding off on handing down the decision to construct a weapon. "Iran's nuclear plan is progressing," he told a rapt audience, but added, "Iran is being careful not to cross any red lines." That view tracks with one expressed by Netanyahu recently at AIPAC, and leads inexorably to the conclusion that—contra Netanyahu's sometime view of a "messianic apocalyptic cult"—Iran leaders are rational actors. "The main goal that animates any action [by the Iranian leadership] is that they want to keep ruling," Kochavi said.
Uriel Sinai / Getty Images
He was no fool: Iran—with its place in the region's "radical axis" and support for terror groups—definitely poses a threat; that's why Kochavi spent so much time on it. But neither was this soldier subject to the flourishes that pervade many Israelis' discussions of Iran; his wasn't a description of fundamentalists hell-bent on destroying Israel with a nuclear weapon at all costs, but one that balanced precisely those costs as it pursued nuclear advances. Surely referring to intercepts from inside Iran, Kochavi explained: "In simple words, we are starting to hear people saying that perhaps it is time to rethink [our] strategy"—he was clear that he meant this chatter had been picked up from the regime, though not Iran's Supreme Leader itself.
What's causing this consternation in Iran? "Sanctions affect Iran in a most meaningful way," Kochavi said. "All of these [sanctions] create heavy pressure on the Iranian regime and the Iranian citizen." (The Financial Times recently reported that sanctions may hurt ordinary Iranians more than regime big-wigs.) Kochavi went on: "The weight of sanctions is going to become a more important factor in decision-making, although it hasn't yet caused a change in the nuclear program." Kochavi, who said Iran doesn't take the threat of a military strike seriously, sees some hope for Iranian concessions, but noted that the Islamic Republic would never fully give up its nuclear program—something hawks like Netanyahu have demanded. This much seems clear: Kochavi's hope that a program of pressure can yield sanctions should be the international community's focus, not Netanyahu's constant predictions that such a project has all but failed. One outlook gives us options; the other only leads to war.
Last week I raised concerns about Dennis Ross’s new 14-point peace plan, which would gut the very notion of the two-state solution. Ross’s approach is the most prominent manifestation of a growing trend toward the acceptance of a seductive new logic that has emerged in the context of the current Israeli-Palestinian deadlock. According to this line of thought, breaking the deadlock requires an approach that falls comfortably within Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pro-“Greater Israel” political comfort zone, but that can somehow still be marketed as “pro-peace.” A common element in all such approaches is the call to end 45 years of international consensus opposing the Israel settlement enterprise in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, legitimizing most existing settlement construction and green-lighting most new construction. The dangerous appeal of this trend is driven home by the latest offering from peace pioneer Yossi Beilin. Beilin’s commitment to Israeli-Palestinian peace is unchallengeable, and, yet, his article raises the same red flags as Ross’s proposal.
The E1 project at the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim, near east Jerusalem, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (Ariel Schalit / AP Photo)
Ross's plan, it should be recalled, hinges on his argument that Israel should be permitted to expand settlements without restraint within the route of Israel's West Bank separation barrier. In effect, he is arguing in favor of the de facto Israeli annexation of around 10 percent of the West Bank, rendering impossible the emergence of a viable, maximally contiguous Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem, and taking off the table the possibility of one-to-one land swaps. This, he suggests, will somehow strengthen the credibility of the two-state solution.
Beilin, for his part, offers ten “considerations,” centered on his suggestion that it is time to forget about achieving a peace agreement and focus on implementation of the 2003 Roadmap for Middle East Peace. Specifically, Beilin believes that implementation of Phase 2 of the Roadmap would enable the parties to leapfrog negotiating disagreements—like the fundamental disagreement over parameters of a future peace agreement, including whether the 1967 lines will be the basis of permanent status borders—and permit the establishment of a Palestinian state within provisional borders.
I think it's odd that we should still be arguing the rights and wrongs of "Zionism" nearly 65 years after Israel's birth. But since anti-Zionists insist, we Zionists should oblige them. Happily, some of their critiques are polite and rational. For example, Joseph Levine wrote this for the New York Times Opinionator; Mira Sucharov responded to Levine's civilized philosophical critique of Israel's "right to exist" at Open Zion. And Jerry Haber wrote this, also at Open Zion; like Levine, Haber is an academic philosopher and critic of Zionism.
Perhaps the most potent rebuttal to both writers is that Zionism is analogous to affirmative action for a historically oppressed minority group which has all too often suffered grievously for not having a state specially dedicated to their interests. That was Arthur Hertzberg's liberal defense of Zionism, which I recall him making personally at the Socialist Scholars Conference in 1992 or ’93. Of course, this does not mean that non-Jewish minorities should be subject to unfair treatment undermining their civil or human rights.
Jack Guez / AFP-Getty Images
Jerry Haber (according to his personal website, not his real name, but "the nom de plume of an orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor, who divides his time between Israel and the U.S.") is too clever by half. For example, I'm sure that Peter Beinart doesn't in principle reject a peace agreement with Syria that would involve a return of the Golan Heights to a future peaceful Syrian regime. And I'd agree with Beinart that as a practical measure, a peace agreement with the Palestinians would be facilitated by a land swap permitting a majority of Jewish settlers to remain under Israeli sovereignty within new borders that create a Palestinian state.
After nearly six weeks of poker-like negotiations, Israel seems to have a government. It contains Likud-Beiteinu (an electoral alliance of Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu), Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua, Jewish Home, and Yesh Atid (Kadima was left out). At 68 MKs, it’s not the most stable. It’s also noteworthy that it took so long, and the gaps were so difficult to narrow. I’d argue this is a sign that the coalition embedded too many contradictions into its foundation. These will make it hard for the government to last its full term.
Still, it is remarkable in a number of ways because of the changes it will make and because it’s a real test for new leaders Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid.
Israeli politician Yair Lapid (L), leader of the Yesh Atid party, speaks to Naftali Bennett, head of the Israeli hardline national religious party the Jewish Home during a reception marking the opening of the 19th Knesset (Israeli parliament) on February 5, 2013 in Jerusalem. (Uriel Sinai / Getty Images)
For the first time since Ariel Sharon’s 2003 to 2005 government, no haredi party (Shas or United Torah Judaism) was part of the initial formation of the government. In addition, while Jewish Home falls into the cluster of religious parties (entrenching Judaic norms in the polity are one of its goals), it has other political, economic, and social concerns at this point. This government is, therefore, the most centrist-secular since Menachem Begin’s first government (1977 to 1981).
This will have a severe impact on the religious parties, particularly their political power. (Amir Mizroch called it “a battle of historic significance.”) Their communities are about to face a major drop in resources at the same time there are concerted effort to drag them more directly under state control—in everything from supervision of education, to personal status issues, to service in the military or some other national institution. Their communal independence from yet financial dependence on the state will be brought more into balance.
"He even lit a candle in the main menorah of the community last Hannukah."
--Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custodian of the Holy Land, in a piece for Yedioth about the new Pope.
- East Jerusalem building plans delayed over Obama visit - In an effort to avoid potential embarrassment during U.S. president's visit Prime Minister's Office orders Jerusalem's municipality to postpone hearings on construction of 50 new housing units in Har Homa neighborhood, infrastructure upgrade in E1 area. (Israel Hayom)
- Palestinian Authority officials lower expectations of Obama visit - Palestinians say U.S. administration reps told them president was coming just 'to listen'; Abbas visits Putin Thursday, not coincidentally. (Haaretz+)
- New Israeli organization aims to be first right-wing Palestinian rights watchdog - Ex-PMO staffer Yoaz Hendel establishes BlueWhite Human Rights, which aims to monitor violation of Palestinians' rights at West Bank checkpoints, collate testimonies of apparent war crimes by IDF soldiers, as well as provide medical assistance to Palestinians and African asylum-seekers. (Haaretz+)
- "Bus driver attacked me from dark racist motives" - (Palestinian) Ayman Hamed, who carries a work permit from Israel, says an Israeli bus driver refused to allow him to enter the bus, cursed him and others and literally "kicked him off the bus." Hamed filed a complaint with the police, but they closed case saying "the circumstances do not warrant an investigation or trial." Hamed is suing. (Israel Hayom, p. 21)
- Demand: Put filmmakers of "5 Broken Cameras" on trial - The forum 'Consensus - Soldiers in support of soldiers' turned to Attorney General requesting the filmmakers of (the Oscar-nominated) film be tried for incitement against IDF soldiers and commanders, partly because they exposed soldiers' faces in the film. (Israel Hayom, p. 19)
- Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli calls for Pollard's release - Ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's upcoming trip to Israel, supermodel Bar Refaeli and actors Zion Baruch, Eli Yatzpan and Shlomo Vishinsky join more than 155,000 Israelis who have signed a petition supporting the release of imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. (Israel Hayom)
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David Brooks has found religion. As we might expect of him, he found it in a fancy supermarket, a grocery store for Orthodox Jews that "looks like a really nice Whole Foods." Call it Congregation Boutique Emunah.
In his spot on The New York Times op-ed page, Brooks last week recounted his tour of the all-kosher Pomegranate market in Brooklyn, with its awesome wood floors and awe-inspiring inventory: dairy-free cheese puffs to eat with meat meals, wasabi herring, sponges that don't hold water so that you can use them on Shabbat without violating the halakhic prohibition against squeezing out water on that day.
I deliberately do not say that Brooks found God in the supermarket. He does mention God twice in passing, but he devotes much more loving attention to shopping. For Brooks, you are what you buy. Orthodox Jews "go shopping like the rest of us, but their shopping is minutely governed by an external moral order," he writes, in a half-admiring, half-anthropological tone. Like other folks, observant Jews buy disposable tablecloths, he discovers, but the tablecloths are pre-cut for Shabbat use. Unlike "those of us in secular America," he says, Orthodox Jews are not trapped in empty individualism. They have the best of all worlds.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews gather on May 20, 2012 in New York City. (Mario Tama / Getty Images)
As an observant Jew, I admit to feeling one moment of identification with this description, just before wanting to grab Brooks by the lapels and shake vigorously. On visits to America, when I step into a normal, non-Pomegranate supermarket and look for food with the tiny coded markings of kashrut, I am in fact particularly aware that I answer to a higher authority. (At home in Jerusalem, where no grocery has wooden floors but virtually everything on the shelves is kosher, this particular religious experience is more rare.)
And then I realize that Brooks is describing the transformation of observant Jews into an updated version of his bobos, the bourgeois bohemians who still feel that they are part of a 1960s-vintage rebellion against capitalist society because they buy exotic expensive coffee beans in small specialty shops. In the guise of celebrating the spiritual discipline of Orthodox Judaism, Brooks is happily warbling about the domestication of another defiant counterculture into a marketing demographic.
President Obama will arrive in Israel next Wednesday, only to have to leave again on Friday. In that rather slim stretch of time, he will (among other things): attend formal receptions; lay wreathes at graves; discuss Syria, Iran, and negotiations with the Palestinians; venture into the Palestinian Authority to meet with President Abbas and visit the Church of the Nativity; tour an exhibit of Israeli technological innovations, a model of ancient Jerusalem, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (all blessedly at the same museum); visit a battery of the U.S.-funded Iron Dome anti-missile system; and give a public speech (per Ynet, “the Americans have requested the presence of at least 1,000 Israelis”).
Other than the big speech and Iron Dome review, this is—in essence and particulars—the Standard Trip. It’s the same trip taken by virtually every foreign dignitary to ever land at Ben Gurion Airport, a trip designed to make powerful people feel that they’ve been seen, and regular people feel that their culture has been respected. Alas, the Standard Trip has nearly nothing to do with the lives of actual Palestinians or Israelis.
President Barack Obama arrives to speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention in Washington, Sunday, May 22, 2011. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
I’m painfully aware that there’s nothing to be done about this. Diplomatic protocol, time constraints, and security concerns are such that, indeed, the Standard Trip tends to steer well clear of actual lives.
But in my ideal world, Obama would pull up a chair at Jerusalem’s Misedet Ima (“Mom’s Restaurant”), order the best kubeh soup he’s ever likely to encounter (I personally prefer the kubeh matfunyah, but the kubeh khamustah is delightful as well), and just talk with folks.
It was not always obvious that the two of us would end up on the National Student Board of J Street U. Though we grew up on opposite coasts, we both experienced eighteen similar years of Jewish day school, summer camp, and United Synagogue Youth, where celebrating Israel’s achievements—from Iron Dome to the cherry tomato—was the norm. After meeting at a Long Island Bar Mitzvah, we reunited years later as college freshmen eager to become pro-Israel advocates at AIPAC’s Saban Leadership Seminar and Policy Conference. We were surprised to meet again as sophomores at what seemed an unlikely venue: J Street’s second national conference. Gil Troy’s recent reflection on “feeling the love” at AIPAC Policy Conference reminded us of the parallel experiences that in part led us to J Street: while the conflict seems to grow more intractable, AIPAC appears uninterested in addressing its cost.
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks May 23, 2011 during an address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) (Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images)
Troy writes that he was “impressed” by the “earnestness, intensity, and warmth,” of the people at AIPAC and moved by their “innocent love” for Israel. For us, that innocent love came at the expense of the critical engagement we so desperately sought, and that we now realize Israel so desperately needs.
We have many dear family and friends who are active with AIPAC. They are smart people. We do not doubt the kindness in their hearts nor the earnestness of their intentions. We do, however, question the wisdom of a foreign policy conversation based on “innocent love,” instead of on the hard realities facing Israel.
With every successive AIPAC gathering, our dissatisfaction grew. At AIPAC’s Winter Saban in 2009, our questions about the settlements were consistently deflected. At Policy Conference 2010, barely two weeks after the Israeli Housing Ministry welcomed Vice President Biden by announcing 2,000 new housing plans in East Jerusalem, AIPAC Board Chair Lee Rosenberg dismissed them simply as expanding Jewish “neighborhoods.” In 2011, we watched as President Obama’s proposal of Palestinian statehood based on the 1967 borders with land swaps was met with skepticism, while Netanyahu received a standing ovation when he declared refusal to share Jerusalem. This year, the peace process was startlingly absent from AIPAC’s program. For us, peace with the Palestinians should be center stage, not an inconvenient nuisance.
Yes, Israel can be a Jewish, democratic and legitimate state.
Something about Israel’s place in the international community makes it like Charlie Brown’s friend Pig Pen. If anyone is slinging any mud intellectually, ideologically, politically, diplomatically, it usually ends up on Israel. If one form of nationalism in the U.N., a forum of nationalisms, is going to be singled out as supposedly “racist,” it will be Zionism, the Jewish national liberation movement that established Israel. And if intellectuals are going to disdain one ethno-nationalist state, of all the world’s ethno-national states, it ends up being Israel, too.
David Ben Gurion, who was to become Israel's first Prime Minister, reads the Declaration of Independence May 14, 1948 at the museum in Tel Aviv, during the ceremony founding the State of Israel. (Zoltan Kluger / GPO via Getty Images)
I can dodge the intellectual trap Joseph Levine tries setting in his recent New York Times blogpost, “On Questioning the Jewish State,” and avoid calling him anti-Semitic for questioning Israel’s legitimacy. But just because he is a philosopher, and just because the Times published his screed, I need not accept his facile, distorted, slanted arguments, which single out the Jewish State for special contempt. Levine targets Israel with a shocking disregard for the complexity of most countries’ characters—and total ignorance of the history of nineteenth-century European romantic nationalism. His caricature of Israel as a state that necessarily oppresses non-Jews because it is a Jewish State overlooks Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the complex status of Israel’s Arab minority, and Israel’s noble track record compared to most of its neighbors and most other countries.
Levine objects to establishing a “particular people’s state,” finding it by definition guilty of “the wrong of ethnic hegemony” which then leads to the “further wrong of repression against the Other within its midst.” In rejecting any ethnically based nation-states, he negates most nations’ binding, constitutive forces. He overlooks the flourishing of liberal nationalism in the 1800s, which became, the Harvard professor and American statesman Daniel Patrick Moynihan taught, “an exercise in matching a ‘people’ with a state.”
It’s 7 a.m. on the first day of the Jewish calendar month of Nissan. There's a glorious Jerusalem breeze and the sky is a bright baby blue. A woman, probably around my age, is shouting at me that I (well, me and the people I came to support) am the reason the Holocaust happened. She goes further: Women of the Wall are the reason for all of the troubles of the Children of Israel. And, finally, she dispenses the worst possible insult she can imagine: These women, wrapped in prayer shawls and singing sweetly are not Jewish at all. They are goyim.
Women of the Wall have been coming to pray at the Wall every month for 24 years. Anat Hoffman has been arrested countless times. And the organization made a huge impact on the American Jewish conversation about Judaism in Israel—each arrest washes in a sea of op-eds and reports. Last month was no exception: with ten arrests, among them, Sarah Silverman's rabbinically ordained sister and 17-year-old niece, it was hard to miss in the English-language (Jewish and non-Jewish) press. For liberal American Jews, Women of the Wall champion the basic civil liberty that they hold dear in the United States: the freedom of religion. These women are fond of saying that Jerusalem is the only place in the Western World where Jews can't practice their religion freely. And American Jews respond to that message—it makes them want to go put on a prayer shawl at the Western Wall in protest. And they do. This month there were over a hundred women who showed up. But Israeli Jews often see things differently.
Anat Hoffman (left), chairwoman of the Women of the Wall organization, holds on to a Torah scroll as Israeli police attempt to take it from her and detain her, outside the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, on July 12, 2010. (Tara Todras-Whitehill/AP)
Yizhar Hess, executive director of Israel’s Conservative movement, only a few months ago said that a central problem is that “Israelis view the Wall as something not relevant to day-to-day life.” He added, “What could have been a national symbol to connect Jews from all over the world is now only an Orthodox synagogue.” And so when three MKs showed up yesterday—Stav Shaffir (Labor), Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and Michal Rozin (Meretz)—Israelis finally took a little bit of notice. The message they sent was broad. Stav Shaffir, for example, was quoted as saying that she "feel[s] it’s an obligation and a great privilege to stand here and see to it that all the Jews in the world can pray however they desire." But again, Stav and her fellow Knesset members didn't know the words to the prayers, or the tunes, and for them this was a symbolic stand for civil liberties, not necessarily about American Jewry's sensibilities. Both Hess and Shaffir are saying that women's prayer at the Western Wall is not top on the average Israeli's priority list. Nor should it be—this country has bigger fish to fry.
Ben Birnbaum’s “The End of the Two-State Solution” in The New Republic has made quite a splash this week, and deservedly so. But the conclusion of the article—that the two-state peace deal that leaders neared agreed to in 2008 is becoming more distant—missed something important. The argument, like many others on the topic, is based on the assumption that any two-state solution must resemble the so-called Clinton Parameters—guidelines recommending the creation of a Palestinian state composed of Gaza, parts of East Jerusalem, and 94 to 96 percent of the West Bank, as well as small land swaps from Israeli territory in exchange for Palestinian compromises on the “right of return” for refugees and Israeli security concerns. Though demographic changes are making the Clinton Parameters less feasible, the two-state solution isn’t dead—but it may be time to reimagine what two states could look like.
A picture released on July 5, 1948 shows Jewish and Arab representatives confering with a UN delegate (L) as they study a map to delineate harvesting areas in the Palestine's no-man's land between the two armies during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. (AFP / Getty Images) (-)
Imagine, for a moment, what I would call the “open borders” solution, an alternative two-state solution based on freedom of movement principles and a citizenship-choice program for foreign residents. This would entail the State of Israel at peace with a Palestinian state made of Gaza, virtual all of the West Bank, and most of East Jerusalem. But instead of cumbersome Israeli enclaves or forced settler evacuations, all Jews currently residing in the West Bank are offered their choice of Israeli or Palestinian citizenship, and do not have to move regardless of which they choose. Likewise, Palestinians now living in Israel have their choice of citizenship and can live wherever they wish. Jews could still immigrate to Israel and the state of Palestine would be able to repatriate Palestinian refugees without any formal “right of return,” though after immigrating to Palestine they could buy homes in Israel as Palestinian citizens.
Legal jurisdiction would go in accordance with the 1949 armistice agreement. Israeli law would apply on Israel’s side of the green line, and Palestinian law would be in force in the West Bank and Gaza, with special provisions for Jerusalem. Violent acts and acts of inter-communal hatred will be dealt with by police as criminal matters, not as international incidents.
In their response to my claim that the anti-Zionist left downplays abuses by Hamas, Mondoweiss's Adam Horowitz and Scott Roth declare that, “the struggle to reform Palestinian society is an issue for the Palestinian people to decide for themselves…we don’t see it as our place to dictate to Palestinians what their society should look like.” Hmm. Where have I heard language like that before? Oh yes, from the American Jewish establishment, which declares endlessly that Israeli policy “is an issue for the Israeli people to decide for themselves… we don’t see it as our place to dictate to Israelis what their society should look like.”
A Palestinian man holds a Hamas flag. (Ilia Yefimovich / Getty Images)
Horowitz and Roth think there’s a difference, that it’s okay to focus on Israeli abuses of Palestinians but not Palestinian abuses of Palestinians for several reasons. First, “because of our personal relationship with Israel as Jews.” But even if it’s okay for Jews to say they feel a special burden to oppose abuses committed by a Jewish state, many of Mondoweiss’s contributors are not Jewish. What’s their excuse?
Horowitz and Roth’s second answer is that it’s okay to focus on Israel’s misdeeds, and not Hamas’s, because America doesn’t give the latter money. “If the U.S. government were funding Hamas,” they write, “we’d feel differently.” But why should leftists only vigorously criticize governments and movements that the United States funds? Should the left have been silent about apartheid South Africa in the 1980s because it wasn’t receiving U.S. aid? Would Horowitz and Roth tell people from countries that don’t give Israel economic, political or military assistance that they should therefore not be concerned about its behavior in the West Bank? Yes, we have a special responsibility for overseas behavior in which our governments are directly implicated. But Human Rights Watch doesn’t limit its focus to countries that receive U.S. aid; it views human rights as universal. By admitting that they’re more interested in human rights violations when Israel commits them than when Hamas does, Horowitz and Roth are implying that they don’t really see human rights as universal. What matters for them is less the oppression itself than the nature of the entity doing the oppressing. As I wrote, there’s a long and unhappy tradition of this on the left, a long and unhappy tradition of ignoring human rights abuse unless it can be linked to America or capitalism or the West. It’s a history that Mondoweiss is continuing to this day.
The lighting set-up at one of the two main stages at Israel’s Herzliya security conference, in a large, dark and air-conditioned tent next to the hotel, went up and down and even changed color. Activities on stage got projected on giant screens flanking the dais, or on the jumbotron-like rig overhead. The tent's digital glow and fluctuating lighting evoked a very, very fancy wedding. But last night at the conference, Israeli Justice Minister-designate Tzipi Livni was in no mood for nuptials: “I don’t want to just get married,” she said of a potential deal with the Palestinians to finally establish a two-state solution. “I want to divorce ourselves.”
It’s an old peace process cliché, and Livni’s just the latest to deliver it. But the image of her on stage—four images actually, including the screens—waving her arms and delivering her rapid-fire speech in favor of a deal revealed an urgency one might not expect from a confab known for its right-wing bent. She dismissed Israelis who support “Greater Israel,” and those who want to “go back to Biblical times”--both references to those interested in permanently keeping the West Bank in Israeli hands. A two-state deal was "the most important interest of of our nation," she said. “That is the only way we will have the existence of a Jewish democracy.”
Tzipi Livni speaks to journalists during a meeting of the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 28, 2011. (Sebastian Scheiner / AP Photo)
Livni’s views lined up with the alarming moralistic positions of leftists on the panel that followed her talk. “As you can see, they brought me, the guy from Haaretz”—a liberal Israeli daily—“to moderate the panel on the two state solution,” quipped journalist Barak Ravid. He opened his talk by citing a Haaretz colleague’s article on the treatment of a Palestinian worker on an Israeli settlement, a piece that “gives a glimpse into what I call the de facto apartheid reality in the West Bank. It's neither Jewish nor democratic.” Livni’s recognition of Palestinian narratives was a bit less sensitive to their conditions: “Since Palestinians should understand that between the Sea and the Jordan, Jews will continue living there. So too must we realize that they aren't going anywhere.”
"Ten years ago I walked around barefoot in Ethiopia and did not dream I would be in such a powerful situation."
--Israel's 2013 beauty queen, Yityish (Titi) Aynaw, after a surprising invitation from the US President.
- Palestinian youth killed by IDF fire in clashes near Hebron - This is the eighth Palestinian to die from IDF fire in the West Bank over the last four months; violence increased there by 70 percent during the month of February. (Haaretz+ Ynet and Maan)
- Four Israeli teens charged with attacking Arab worker on Tel Aviv promenade - Police say one of the teens hit the Arab man from Jaffa, broke a bottle on his head, and punched him in the face repeatedly while he was on the ground. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
- "Appointment of MK Uri Ariel as Minister of Housing could wipe out chances for peace" - (Pro-settler) Habayit Hayehudi MK Uriel responded to remark by United Nations Special Coordinator to the Middle East Robert Serry saying: "A gross intervention in Israeli sovereignty." Serry was speaking at a meeting with members of the grassroots organization, Other Voice. (Maariv, p. 3/NRG Hebrew)
- PA says had no choice but to reject Israel asylum claim - The Palestinian Authority defended its refusal to assist an Israeli man's request for political asylum on Monday, saying Palestine was unable to offer protection for the time being. (Maan)
- World Bank report: Palestinian economy has been in steady decline since 1994 - Israeli-imposed economic restrictions and prolonged system of closures directly caused the long-term decline, the report says; however numbers seem positive in context of the global crisis. (Haaretz+)
- Ariel University students not invited to Obama speech - Despite recognition as official Israeli educational institution, West Bank university students not amongst those to attend US presidential event in Jerusalem. MK: US gov't taking unilateral stance. (Yedioth/Ynet)
- High Court: State must explain infiltration law - Judges to issue order nisi instructing State to explain why it is not rescinding infiltration prevention law which allows state to detain illegal infiltrators indefinitely. (Ynet)
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Ali Gharib on how badly John Kerry's efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks are going.