"Poor Secretary of State (John) Kerry, exhausting his energies in this region."
--Maariv commentator Dr. Chelo Rozenberg on the statement by Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon that the Netanyahu government opposes a two-state solution.
- Official figures show spike in settlement construction - Central Bureau of Statistics' document detailing overall construction starts reveals West Bank building at highest relative spike since last year compared to other regions. (Agencies, Ynet)
- U.K. to probe JNF's anti-discrimination law compliance after complaints by BDS activists - British Charity Commission decided not to revoke Jewish National Fund U.K.'s charity status after Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign accused it of role in ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, but has referred case for further investigation. (Haaretz+)
- Finance Ministry: 2012 defense budget hit a new record - Newly released data says 2012 defense budget, which was set at NIS 55.8 billion, ballooned up to NIS 66.4 billion. Wages make up 34.3% of IDF's budget. Military says data unfounded, "ignores streamlining processes conducted in 2011 and 2012." (Israel Hayom)
- Mossad, Shin Bet chiefs to Netanyahu: Foreign Ministry strike hurting national security - Security chiefs urge PM to intervene and find a solution that will end the workers' strike, says senior official. (Haaretz+ and Israel Hayom)
- Netanyahu confirms: U.S. is working with Israel on cyber defense, Iranian attacks increasing - Iran ups cyber attacks on Israeli computers, prime minister told a workshop at Tel Aviv University. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
- Knesset panel on Prisoner X: 'Serious systemic failure' in Mossad's handling, recruitment of Zygier - Inquiry committee examined what led up to the death of Ben Zygier in an Israeli prison cell in 2010, however, most of those involved in recruiting him to the Mossad are no longer in the Israeli intel agency. (Haaretz+)
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Are the leaders of the Western world all "racist"? That's what you might think listening to Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon in an interview yesterday with the Times of Israel. At the tail end of the article—which rightly caused a stir for Danon's denial that Israel's government supports a peace deal with the Palestinians—the deputy defense minister stood by a little-noted seven-month-old comment. In November, Danon had said the Obama administration's criticisms of Israel's plans to build settlements in the West Bank "can be described as nothing less than ‘racist.'" Danon stood by that claim today, with his staff accusing Barack Obama of having singled out "Jews" for building in occupied territories in the West Bank and outskirts of East Jerusalem. (Pressed on where Obama mentioned Jews, Danon's staff said media accounts conflated Jews and Israelis, but then herself described settlements as "Jewish/Israeli homes.")
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks to journalists during his visit to the east Jerusalem Jewish settlement of Gilo on October 23, 2012, in Jerusalem. (Gali Tibbon - Pool / Getty Images)
Yet the Obama administration hasn't been the only one criticizing settlements. Broadsides against Israel's on-going project in the occupied territories come from virtually everywhere in the world. Kerry's recent condemnations were met by those of his Czech counterpart, despite the Czech Republic's position one of Israel's top international allies. And that's true of Israel's other European allies, too. So it's no wonder that the European Union came out and blamed settlements for contributing to Israel's growing isolation. "It is almost impossible to explain to any European why settlement is continuing all the time," said Andreas Reinicke, Europe's top official for the peace process, in an interview with JTA. "It is difficult to explain to Europeans why increased settlement activities mean an increase of security for the State of Israel." Reinicke was speaking to the possibility that Europe may differentiate between Israeli products originating either in Israel proper or in the occupied territories, a measure he said was gaining steam.
But today another report in the Israeli daily Maariv raised an even more harrowing possibility for Israel: that Europe may back a Palestinian bid to join the International Criminal Court and press a case against Israel over settlements. The right-leaning Jewish Press picked up on the report, which was originally in Hebrew:
Europe is ready to boost efforts by the Palestinians in the U.N. in general and the International Criminal Court in the Hague in particular, if efforts to renew the political process fail due to continued “settlement construction.” This blunt message was passed by senior European diplomats to the prime minister’s office, according to Ma’ariv.
It’s crude and it’s vulgar, but it gives us a window into some of the internal challenges of creating and sustaining an Israeli identity.
Spotted on the blog of Amir Mizroch, editor of the English edition of Israel Hayom, a short video depicts an altercation between a Moroccan motorist and a Russian security guard. It’s not clear from the exchange what has sparked their ire, but the men spend two minutes hurling over-the-top ethnically-inspired insults at one another.
There are too many suppressed giggles and too much playing to the camera to interpret the clip as anything but an attempt to generate a few minutes of internet fame. But lurking beneath the crassness are some insights about Israeli identity worth considering.
In the video, the Moroccan calls the Russian a criminal; the Russian calls the Moroccan a cannibal, and tells him that if it weren’t for the Russian Army, his family would be a mere shard of soap atop a Nazi’s foot. The Russian asks why the Moroccan even bothered to come to Israel; in Morocco, you just have to open your mouth and a banana falls in. The Moroccan asks if they can at least agree that Lieberman is headed for jail. The Russian tells the Moroccan he must be from jail; after all, he’s from Kalkilya, a Palestinian town. The Russian asks the Moroccan if he likes spice, since he’s got some pepper spray for him. Then the F-word is uttered, and their enlightened conversation ends.
In a disturbing Q&A session, a 17-year-old Jerusalem yeshiva student asked a rabbi in an online forum whether it’s permissible under Jewish law to shoot and kill members of the liberal prayer group Women of the Wall when they gather at the Kotel. The boy was arrested today after Rabbi Baruch Efrati alerted police to the question—which, true to the rabbinic tradition of she’elot u-teshuvot (responsa literature, literally “questions and answers”), he nonetheless deigned to answer.
To give you an idea of the exchange, I’ll translate a bit of the conversation originally posted in Hebrew on the religious Jewish website Kippah:
Q: When I (or anyone else) is at the Western Wall, and the Women of the Wall are there in immodest attire, wearing tallit and tefillin and playing with the Torah scrolls and desecrating God’s name, should I prevent this by shooting at the relevant people, if it cannot be prevented any other way?
A: You must repent for entertaining the notion of killing a person, especially as a means of resolving a dispute. That is not the way of the Torah […] Such questions are presumably designed to ignite a fire [i.e. stir up controversy] in our camp, and don’t come from a pure heart and sincere seeking after God, and I wonder who is behind them and who wants to bloody the debate over the Jewish identity of our precious state. Therefore I debated whether to respond to your question at all, but since somebody someplace may be entertaining similar notions of killing another person, and maybe you are actually asking in earnest, I’ve decided to answer your question, emphasizing that it is not legitimate.
Note the rabbi’s initial suspicion: is this question even being asked sincerely, or is it just a fake-out, a sly attempt to trick the Orthodox establishment into saying something embarrassing that’ll serve to increase resentment toward Israel’s religious population? The speed with which the rabbi jumped to this suspicion is a sign of how heated the debate around religious pluralism—especially as incarnated in Women of the Wall—has grown in recent months.
But in case his interlocutor is actually seriously considering murder, the rabbi goes on to explain that Jewish law does not permit you to take matters into your own hands and kill other people willy-nilly: only a qualified tribunal can order the death of a fellow Jew, and that option doesn’t even exist today, given that the ancient Temple and its judiciary body (Sanhedrin) and the priestly breastplate once used to make such decisions (choshen mishpat) are no longer at Jews’ disposal.
A recent flurry of commentators have proposed a seemingly original, bold and innovative way out of the current Israeli-Palestinian stalemate—a bi-national or “one-state” solution to the conflict. The common thread throughout each argument is how a single country for Israelis and Palestinians would better meet the desires of ordinary people, but alas is continually subverted by short-sighted leaders on both sides. For example, Haaretz’s Gideon Levy argued that the region’s salvation would only come through a “truly revolutionary leadership that shatters old and bad paradigms and neutralizes fears.”
However, as another observer in this region said long ago, “there is nothing new under the sun.” For this apparently new and shiny one-state bauble is in fact a prudently discarded historical relic. The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) is well known for recommending partition in its 1947 report, which became the basis for U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 and whose logic still informs current efforts to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. But what is little known is that 3 countries—Iran, India and Yugoslavia—out of the 11 represented in UNSCOP disagreed with partition and proposed an alternative federal plan. This plan called for a single federal state of Palestine that linked together constituent Jewish and Arab states.
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) (-)
What is particularly interesting in this forgotten footnote of history is that the central advocate for a federal solution was the now non-existent Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Indeed the Yugoslav representative, Vladimir Simic, even submitted an impassioned 12,000 word annex to the UNSCOP report to outline his views. Simic’s main points are surprisingly analogous to Levy’s et al, blaming the “hegemonistic designs of certain Arab and Jewish politicians” for enabling partition. Similarly, he points to those few enlightened visionaries who are working to create a shared state, which would meet the true “interests and aspirations of the population.” Simic’s clear subtext is that a federal Jewish-Arab state would parallel the Yugoslav Republic, which at the time presented itself as a harmonious amalgamation of different nationalities by simply granting equal rights to all.
Benjamin Netanyahu constantly faces criticisms that he merely pays lip-service to the creation of a Palestinian state and won't take the steps necessary to actually get a deal. That view was reinforced at a recent Knesset debate about whether the government he leads officially supports a two-state deal, where a Jewish Home parliamentarian from the coalition's right wing plainly stated, "Two states for two peoples is not the government's official position." Today, it was a deputy minister from Netanyahu's own party who undermined his begrudging support for the two-state solution.
Danny Danon, who used to sit at farthest right reaches of the Likud until the group's merger with Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party, told the Times of Israel a majority of the governing coalition would act to block any deal that created a Palestinian state. "Look at the government: there was never a government discussion, resolution or vote about the two-state solution,” the deputy defense minister said. “If you will bring it to a vote in the government—nobody will bring it to a vote, it’s not smart to do it—but if you bring it to a vote, you will see the majority of Likud ministers, along with the Jewish Home [party], will be against it.” Likud-Beieinu and Jewish Home make up the two largest blocks in the government.
Danny Danon (C) is taken on a tour of the Temple Mount or Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound the holy site for Judaism and the Islam in Israeli annexed east Jerusalem's old City July 20, 2010. (Ahmad Gharabli / AFP / Getty Images)
The rightward-lurch of the current government stands at odds with Netanyahu's 2009 endorsement at Bar-Ilan University of a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, not to mention Netanyahu's many recent appearances glad-handing of the American Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry's frenzied travel schedule over the past months has been centered on relaunching moribund negotiations.
Israeli media report that former President Bill Clinton will speak at an event honoring Israeli President Shimon Peres’s 90th birthday. According to the reports, President Clinton is to receive half a million dollars for his talk, sponsored by the Jewish National Fund. Despite its important role in establishing the State of Israel, in the decades that followed, and especially since the occupation of the West Bank, the JNF has been a leading factor both in controversial and discriminatory land distribution policies within sovereign Israel, as well as in the settlement enterprise in the West Bank.
Julie Jacobson / AP Photo
The Jewish National Fund was founded in 1901, and was one of the first practical projects the newly established World Zionist Organization led. In the next 47 years the JNF was crucial in purchasing and developing lands for the establishment of Jewish communities—kibbutzim, moshavim, towns and villages—despite hostile Ottoman and later British authorities in pre-Israel Palestine. It also played an important psychological role in creating an emotional commitment of Jews in the diaspora towards the Jewish community in Palestine and later on in the newly established State of Israel. Many who lived through those days cherish the famous JNF Blue Box, which was present in many Jewish homes across the world, with kids and grown-ups alike donating their pennies and dimes to plant a tree in the Jewish national homeland.
Yet after the establishment of Israel, which was supposed to be the fulfillment of the JNF’s goal, the organization continued to exist, increasingly taking upon itself controversial policies as years passed. The Israeli government transferred a significant part of the lands it now owned to the ownership of the JNF. The latter, a so-called private organization, was able to implement discriminatory policies that a democratic government committed to the principle of equality could not. In many of the communities established by the JNF, the by-laws require that residents must be eligible to be members of the Jewish Agency, meaning that they must be Jewish. Given that many of those communities were established surrounding Arab communities (in lands appropriated from them by the state), the goal was pretty blunt. Only in the year of 2000, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled this policy as illegal. Yet even today, the JNF plays a major role in the land battles in Southern Israel, where the authorities have repeatedly demolished homes in unrecognized Bedouin communities.
"Following the decision, Muslim students can demand a mosque be built for them to pray on campus; the Christians will demand a church be built, and the Druze will demand a house of prayer for their faith.'
--Israeli organization 'Ometz' slams Haifa University for also making Muslim and Christian religious days vacation days.
- IDF leaflets warn 'wanted' Palestinian youths: We're going to catch you - Israeli soldiers posted leaflets picturing four Palestinian youths from Kafr Qaddum; the boys are their families say they are living in fear. (Haaretz+)
- IDF received NIS 4 million for leadership training by right-wing group - Allocation earmarked for activities conducted by Elad, which promotes Jewish settlement in Arab East Jerusalem neighborhoods. (Haaretz+)
- Settlers attack Palestinian vehicles in East Jerusalem - Settlers from Beit Orot, in the Mount of Olives, threw rocks damaging several vehicles in the area before a number of young Palestinians confronted them. Israeli police officers who arrived on the scene arrested three Palestinians, including Amir and Ahmad Abu Sbeitan. (Maan)
- Dramatic increase in stone-throwing incidents on Jews in east Jerusalem - Legislators lament rise in violent incidents against Jewish residents in Old City and mixed neighborhoods. Feiglin: This all boils down to who controls Temple Mount. MKs urge state to increase enforcement, bolster police. (Israel Hayom)
- IDF to draw up 'social networking code of ethics' after female soldiers post racy photos - Israel Defense Forces is working on a directive regulating social network use by its members and in some cases banning it entirely. (Haaretz+)
- Six Day War breaks out, this time on Twitter - Over six days in June, the Israeli army will reenact the 1967 war with minute-by-minute updates from the front. (Haaretz+)
- Palestinian youth mark anniversary of Six Day war - Palestinian youth on Wednesday marked the 46th anniversary of the Six Day War, mourned by Palestinians as the "naksa" or setback, with a demonstration in Jerusalem. Protesters raised Palestinian flags and raised signs reading "Revolution is born from sorrow" and "Jerusalem is the capital." (Maan)
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The nomination of Samantha Power to take up Susan Rice's seat as the U.S. ambassador the U.N. will surely raise hackles among some of the right-wing pro-Israel community. You see, Power is, according to a few right-wingers, an "anti-Israel intellectual." The former journalist and Harvard academic already faced attack after attack in 2008 during Barack Obama's first presidential campaign. Power was then a close Obama adviser (until she resigned for harsh criticisms of Obama's then-rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton), and the pro-Israel right was trying to paint the presidential candidate as an enemy of the Jewish state.
Samantha Power exits the West Wing of the White House in Washington D.C. on Oct. 12, 2010. (Charles Dharapak/AP )
But what did Power do to incur the scorn? As her critics have it, she believes that "special interests" (read: pro-Israel lobby groups) can distort U.S. interests and strategy; said that inking Arab-Israeli peace deals is essential to peace in the Middle East (which seems obvious); wondering why alleged war crimes by Israel didn't make the headline of a 2003 New York Times article noting a rights group's dismissal of charges that Israel committed a massacre; and a quote from a 2003 interview where Power suggested the U.S. may need to impose a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The last attack is already gaining traction in the right-wing blogosphere and in the Israeli press. In the 2003 interview, Power said, "What we need there is actually a willingness to put something on the line in terms of actually helping the situation," she said. This might "might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import," she added, in a nod to the influential pro-Israel lobby. Power goes on to say that there are "major human rights abuses" in Israel and that a solution might need to be imposed on the parties. None of these perspectives seem totally unreasonable, but Power nonetheless repudiated her stated views in a 2008 interview, and then again in 2011 when she invited the right-leaning Rabbi Shmuley Boteach to her office.
There is a green line that runs through the city of Jerusalem.
It exists only on maps, and pretty much only on maps not printed by the State of Israel or other Jewish institutions, but it exists, and it represents a part of the international border between Israel and the West Bank as of June 4, 1967.
It exists even though official Israel and its supporters have done everything within their not-inconsiderable power to erase it in word and deed, creating a municipal behemoth that is currently one hundred times larger than the city was a century ago, pushing Palestinians out of neighborhoods and family homes and rendering fundamentally unholy the very city towards which Jews pray three times a day.
An activist paints a literal Green Line on June 5, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. (A. Daniel Roth)
Today is June 5, of course, the anniversary of the opening salvos of the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel captured Jerusalem and the West Bank from the Jordanian army, the day to which many Israeli and Diaspora Jews look as the beginning of a miraculous liberation of our holy city—which is why a small group of Israeli and Diaspora activists chose this day to remind the world that no amount of governmental sleight-of-hand can change the fact that a border exists, and it runs through the very heart of a city that is endlessly declared Undivided.
Anti-occupation collective All That’s Left brought out paint and brushes, got down on the ground, and painted a literal green line where it exists on maps and should exist in political reality. Presumably because they’re good citizens (in Hebrew parlance, yeladim tovim Yerushalayim), rather than paint directly on the ground, they painted on long pieces of cardboard, and as they painted, they engaged with onlookers.
“Some have joined in the painting, others have yelled ‘jerusalem is only for Jews!’,” activist A. Daniel Roth tweeted as he painted, and later: “Religious Jewish woman agrees extremism is a problem, but wont concede the occupation is the cause…. Now the police are reading our literature and asking about the greenline that we are painting.”
"Netanyahu signals readiness to consider 2002 Arab peace plan" read the Reuters headline. Well, I heard Netanyahu's speech live via the Knesset website today, and all I can say is: I don't buy it.
Bibi got up to address the Knesset today because he had to. The previously-postponed "40 signatures Knesset discussion" finally took place today, fittingly, on the day that the Six Day War broke out in 1967. It's the anniversary of the "naksa" or the "setback" for Palestinians. The Knesset discussion took place because of a law that says that if 40 Knesset members sign a petition to summon the Prime Minister to speak on an issue, he is obligated by law to address the Knesset on the subject. Today's subject: the Arab Peace Initiative (API).
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a speech on June 5, 2013, at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem. (Gali Tibbon / AFP / Getty Images)
And so Netanyahu came, and he spoke. And he said four words that took the media by storm, just as he knew they would. He uttered them in English because "he [Abbas] is not a Hebrew speaker, and my Arabic isn't great." Uh huh. Those four words were: "Give peace a chance." My only thought was: really?
“Pinkwashing”—the calculated exploitation by Israel’s government of the LGBTQ community’s hard-won civil and social gains as a beard for the human rights abuses of the occupation—is a thing. It’s real, it’s documented, and the sheer cynicism becomes even clearer when we consider that the government that conducted a PR campaign around gay-friendly Tel Aviv is the same government that gives disproportionate power to religious parties that reject all that Gay Pride stands for.
But what is also a thing, what is also real, is Israel’s actual LGBTQ community, and the joyous celebration that is Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Week—a multi-hued happening to which people travel from all over the world, because it’s a blast. Witness the fact that this year’s “Official Video of Tel Aviv Pride Week” (which, okay, I admit: I did not know that was a thing) is performed by the straight and wildly popular Mizrahi singer Omer Adam (video below). Gay or straight, Pride is one of the best weeks of the year to be in the city that I still consider my home.
The big event is, of course, the parade itself, which will take place on Friday. It’ll feature all the usual suspects—Adonises and Amazons in itty-bitty clothes; rainbow flags, clothes, and hair; the famous and the wanna-be. But participants will also find a quieter, ultimately more subversive presence, as well:
Participants wave an Israeli flag at the opening of the annual Gay Pride parade, where tens of thousands flooded the streets of Tel Aviv on June 8, 2012. (Jack Guez / AFP / Getty Images)
Havruta, the organization for religious gay men, and Bat Kol, the organization for religious lesbian women, have been marching in Pride parades in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa for the past four years.
“In the past few years, we realized we bring a different and unique voice to the march, especially in Tel Aviv,” says one of Havruta’s chairmen, Daniel Jonas, explaining how their presence helps bridge Judaism and the LGBT community. “We represent something else, more moderate, more communal,” he says.
He admits that the parade's debauched atmosphere doesn’t totally jive with their taste – “It’s not exactly something you’d see in a synagogue” – but the visibility is important.
"Employing Arab teachers in Jewish schools will be an important contribution that will help promote values of tolerance and acceptance of the other – as racism can stem from ignorance, fear and prejudice.”
--Mohammed Hiadri, the chairman of the Monitoring Committee for Arab Educational Affairs, on the plan to hire unemployed Arab teachers in the Jewish sector education system.
- Nightclub denies Arabs entry, will compensate by NIS 40,000 - Beersheba club bars two Arabs, lets Jewish friends in; lawyer disappointed with compromise: Not full compensation, court lends hand to discrimination. (Ynet)
- Swastikas, anti-Tibi graffiti at hitchhiker's station - Police investigating 'graffiti war' likely between Jews, Arabs, as reflected in hitchhiker's station in southern Israel. (Ynet)
- Dozens of Arabs lob stones at yeshiva in east Jerusalem, 3 arrested - Dozens of Arab youngsters lobbed stones toward the Beit Orot yeshiva in the Arab Abu Tur neighborhood in E. Jerusalem. Security guards in the area fired several warning shots in the air. Several yeshiva students threw stones back at the youngsters. No one was hurt. (Ynet)
- IDF working to curb rock-throwing, Bennett reassures settlers - On his Facebook page, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett tells supporters "IDF is initiating more operations and taking more preventive measures." Israel Security Agency reports: Palestinian attacks in Judea and Samaria are actually declining. (Israel Hayom)
- In historic first, coalition MKs excluded from Knesset committee that elects judges - Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avidgor Lieberman suffered a blow when the Knesset passed over his crony and elected MKs from Shas and Labor to the Judges' Election Committee. (Haaretz+ and Israel Hayom)
- Under-21 national soccer team: a rare feat of multiculturalism in Israel - In these times, when it seems the gap between Jews and Arabs is unbridgeable, the U-21 national team for Euro 2013 that kicks off today is an island of sanity. Guy Luzon’s squad includes six Arabs. (Haaretz+)
- Rights group blasts PA journalist arrest - The arrest Monday of the general manager of a Bethlehem radio station contradicts Palestinian Authority commitments to free speech. (Maan)
- Israeli officials: Al-Qaida preferable over Assad - Army Radio reports that Israeli officials are concerned about the growing strength of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime in recent days. Assessment is that a victorious Assad would be more dependent on Iran, increasing the threat facing Israel. (Israel Hayom)
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Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking today at the Wilson Center in D.C., delivered an address that was the reverse mirror image of his address to the Jerusalem Post conference in New York in April. The content of the speech was the same: Olmert argued that Israel’s security situation is better than ever before; that neither its traditional enemies (Syria, Egypt) nor its current enemies (Iran) pose a debilitating threat to it; and that it is therefore in an excellent position to make peace with the Palestinians. The reception, too, was the same: just like in New York, Olmert was repeatedly interrupted by angry hecklers in D.C. today. The only difference was that this time, he was taking heat from the left instead of the right.
Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images
Olmert was in the middle of discussing the threat of a nuclear Iran, and his hope that America will take the lead in neutralizing that threat, when a young audience member wearing a black Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) shirt called out, “I’m appalled that the Wilson Center would host a war criminal such as yourself. Be sure that the international community will hold you accountable for your war crimes.” He walked to the back of the room, where another young man unfurled a Palestinian flag and joined him in marching out. There was a small smattering of applause from the audience.
Olmert laughed off the disturbance, noting that he’s experienced much worse in the Knesset, and then continued to make the same argument he’d made in New York: that President Obama doesn’t want his legacy to be a nuclear Iran, and that when he, Secretary of Defense Hagel, and Secretary of State Kerry all say they will not allow that to become a reality, we have to take that commitment seriously. He added that the American leaders are “the ones that ought to lead this campaign against Iran.” And, expressing admiration for the Secretary of State’s “emotional involvement” in the peace process, Olmert said he hoped Kerry would be able to stir Obama to greater involvement “on a daily basis.”
Not every international diplomat has both flown an Israeli Air Force jet, and can do a credible impression of the Israeli accent. Speaking to the American Jewish Congress on Monday, John Kerry employed the latter as he related the former: “Senator!” he said, recalling the Israeli co-pilot with whom he had flown, “You’re about to go over Egypt! Turn!”
Furthermore, not every international diplomat would overtly link Golda Meir’s philosophy of nationalism to the very people whose existence she denied. After quoting Meir (“We only want that which is given naturally to all peoples of the world: to be masters of our own fate, not of others”), Kerry said “the best way to truly ensure Israel’s security today… [is]by reaching a negotiated resolution that results in two states for two peoples, each able to fulfill their legitimate national aspirations.”
And finally, not every international diplomat would say flat-out that Israel’s propensity for unilateralism is actually a problem:
Some are wary because of Israel’s experience following the withdrawal of Gaza and Lebanon. You have no idea how many times I hear people say, “We withdrew from Lebanon, we withdrew from Gaza, and what did we get? We got rockets.” Well, folks, it’s worth remembering—these withdrawals were unilateral. They were not part of a negotiated peace treaty that included strong guarantees for Israel’s security. [emphasis Kerry’s]
Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 23, 2013. (Uriel Sinai/Getty)
All in all, the event was a classic Obama Administration affair: Kerry spent the first third of his speech making his audience happy (“I’m so pro-Israel, they gave me the keys to one of the planes!”); the second spoon-feeding them what they already knew (“Palestinians deserve a state too, c’mon”); and the final third telling them what they didn’t want to hear (“unilateralism is terrible”).
Yaakov Katz on what the delivery of advanced Russian missiles would mean for Israel.