"But in this affair, the army is showing itself once more as the willing indentured servant of the settlers by allowing them to take over the place gradually on various ludicrous pretexts.”
--Dror Etkes, an independent researcher of settlement expansion, on an IDF commander's decision to give an abandoned outpost, which Palestinians wanted for a hospital, to settlers for outdoor performances.
- Clashes as Israelis visit Nablus holy site - More than 1,000 Israelis visited Joseph's Tomb near Balata refugee camp east of Nablus guarded by Israeli forces on Sunday night. Clashes erupted between Israeli forces and Palestinians. Three Palestinian teenagers suffered tear-gas inhalation and were transferred to hospital. (Maan)
- Settlers tour Al-Aqsa mosque compound - A group of some 40 settlers toured the compound escorted by Israeli police officers to commemorate the eve of Jerusalem Day, a national holiday in Israel celebrating the "unification" of the city. Clashes broke out between Israeli forces and Muslim women barred from accessing the mosque, after soldiers verbally insulted the women and pushed them. One woman was taken to hospital for treatment. (Maan)
- Israeli forces demolish Hebron wells, electric network - Israeli forces on Monday morning damaged agriculture lands and destroyed an electric network and water wells in Beit Ula village west of Hebron, officials said. (Maan)
- Israeli ministers endorse controversial plan to relocate Bedouin - The Ministerial Committee on Legislation overcame serious disagreements to approve a legal framework for moving the Bedouin into recognized communities; vote had been postponed two weeks to allow Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi to study the issue. (Haaretz+ and Maan)
- Israeli ministers back bill to stymie no-confidence motions - Yisrael Beiteinu proposal would also raise the threshold for a party to enter the Knesset, effectively making it harder for Arab parties to secure representation. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
- Israeli ministers back law calling libel against IDF a criminal offense - Ministerial Committee for Legislation endorses 'Jenin Jenin' law, meant to exact a legal price for defamation of Israeli soldiers, named after the 2002 movie implicating the IDF in a massacre in the West Bank city. (Haaretz+)
- IDF allows Israeli settlers to renovate abandoned base in Gush Etzion - Palestinians sought to build hospital on site that is now used by settlers to stage events. (Haaretz+)
Israel reportedly struck at Syrian weapon stockpiles and facilities twice in the last week, in the wee hours of Thursday and Sunday morning, apparently attacking Iranian-supplied weapons bound for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shia group in neighboring Lebanon that's also been helping prop up Syria's embattled government. The U.S. should have seen the attacks coming and though it did not receive early warning from Israel, the Obama administration said it backed Israel's rights to act in its interests. Nonetheless, the strikes, for which Israel has not taken official credit, heightened an already furious U.S. debate about whether Barack Obama should further involve the U.S. in Syria's civil war. The Israeli attacks, though, don't speak directly to U.S. involvement. Israel is acting on its own imperatives: the national security objective of keeping advanced weapons systems out of Hezbollah's hands and, as reported by the New York Times, to send a message to Iran. Neither of these sync exactly with the top stated goals of American intervention advocates. The absence of an Israeli focus on the humanitarian intervention became clear when a Netanyahu aide told Israeli radio that the strikes were "only against Hezbollah, not against the Syrian regime." And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even reportedly reached out via backchannels to the Syrian government to reassure it that Israel wasn't seeking to destabilize the regime. That hardly resembles the U.S. tack, where advocates of increased U.S. action are explicit about humanitarian aims and trying to topple Bashar Assad's government and even Obama, who's avoided robust military engagement in Syria, has called for Assad to step down.
In this image taken from video obtained from the Ugarit News, smoke and fire fill the the skyline over Damascus, Syria, early Sunday, May 5, 2013 after an Israeli airstrike. (Ugarit News via AP video)
So what does Israel's attack mean for American intervention? One of the arguments for intervention arising from the Syria strikes relies on a bit of sophistry. "The Russian-supplied air defense systems are not as good as said," Sen. Patrick Leahy said on a Sunday show. "Keep in mind the Israelis are using weapons supplied by us." His colleague from across the aisle, the relentlessly pro-intervention John McCain, made similar arguments: “The Israelis seem to be able to penetrate [Syrian air defenses] fairly easily," McCain told Fox News. But Israeli penetration of Syrian airspace, insofar as its happened, does not correspond to the actions that would be required to set up a no-fly zone. Daniel Trombly has done yeoman's work in outlining the disparities: "You cannot create a persistent NFZ through repetitive raiding in the Israeli style, because these raids rely on minimizing time over Syrian airspace and avoiding air-to-air combat," he wrote. "NFZs, to be effective, must do precisely the opposite." Deferring to Trombly's post and looking at several other astute analyses, Michael Koplow concludes: "[N]one of this is to say that the U.S. is not up to the job, or that the Syrian military is an awesomely fearsome fighting force, or that our capabilities are anything short of allowing us to do pretty much whatever we set out to do. What I am saying is that pointing to what Israel has just done and using that as definitive proof of anything related to a potential U.S. no-fly zone is taking the wrong frame of reference as a lesson."
In addition to Trombly and Kolplow, reports in two recent issues of the New Yorker color in some of the difficulties with proposed U.S. involvement in Syria. And article in this week's New Yorker shows how few clean and easy ways there are to secure chemical weapons, a top aim of some intervention advocates. "The weapons facilities are dispersed across dozens of sites," wrote Dexter Filkins. "Bombing the facilities could result in many civilian casualties and the release of clouds of deadly chemicals. And there is no guarantee that a bombing campaign would destroy all the sites." What else can be done? A ground operation that the Pentagon says would require 70,000 troops? That hardly sounds appealing. Filkins runs through the gamut of other options, too: he recalls how a no-fly zone wouldn't have stopped the slaughter in Libya, and required what was termed a "no-drive zone" around the rebel capitol of Benghazi. But Syria doesn't have a clearcut rebel seat of government and, what's more, some of the most brutal slaughtering of civilians happens in divided cities and towns, where rebel- and regime-held neighborhoods are intertwined. In addition to Filkins's reporting, Luke Mogelson's recent New Yorker story reported from Syria illustrates these issues: in the country's largest city, Aleppo, the River Queiq divides the turf of the regime and rebels. And even on the regime side of the river, Assad's forces likely live and operate among civilians who don't fight, but might be sympathetic to rebels. How does one patrol a war of that sort from the air? Lastly there is the option of arming the rebels: both New Yorker pieces ably demonstrate the complications around this issue—which stands as another example of Israel being bearish on direct involvement in the civil war.
A recent CNN segment on the sharply rising numbers of French aliyah—immigration—to Israel draws attention to a very real and alarming issue. It is also lazy chickenshit reporting. Whenever a news story about anti-Semitism is this poorly executed—especially by such a powerful news organization—it just gives skeptics and deniers fuel to quash reports of rising anti-Semitism. And in France, the deniers are just as problematic as actual anti-Semitic violence.
Yes, the CNN report is right—both French aliyah numbers and reports of anti-Semitic violence are on the rise. But CNN is right only by accident, and we can’t have that. As the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day; that doesn’t mean you should run out and buy one.
A picture taken on September 2, 2012 shows Mulhouse's Grand Synagogue in Mulhouse, eastern France, while members of the Jewish community are listening to a speech during its inauguration ceremony. (Sebastien Bozon / AFP / Getty Images)
First of all, the report—delivered by journalist Jim Bitterman—says that “according to a Jewish security agency [in France], anti-Semitic attacks were up 60 percent in 2012.” What exactly is a Jewish security agency? The Mossad? And does he mean the violence increased by 60 percent from 2011 to 2012, or over the previous decade, or what?
Oh, maybe he means this report by France’s SPCJ (Protection Service of the Jewish Community), but why do I have to do his footnoting for him? The report does state that anti-Semitic acts went up from 389 in 2011 to 614 in 2012, which is a 58 percent increase. Yes, that’s a lot. So much so, in fact, that it might have been worth being less cagey about the source, especially since it’s a highly respected one.
If anyone thought that Aryeh Deri’s conviction for bribery and fraud would have prevented him from returning to the highest levels of Haredi and national politics in Israel, they’ve just been proven wrong. Deri is back at the helm of Shas.
Former senior Israeli cabinet minister and Shas party founder Aryeh Deri is welcomed to his Jerusalem home by joyous supporters after his release on parole July 15, 2002. Deri was freed after serving two-thirds of his three-year sentence for a range of corruption charges. (David Silverman / Getty Images)
This wasn’t completely unexpected: Deri was the boy wonder of Shas, having helped found the party in the 1980s as a Sephardic breakaway from the more established Haredi but Ashkenazi-dominated party, Agudat Israel. Under his leadership Shas became the most important Orthodox institutional player in national politics. Shas’s ultimate leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, cherished him dearly, while the party’s constituents adored him. His appointment as the sole leader of Shas is a good thing, because he’ll contribute to a dampening down of the over-heated rhetoric and rising tensions between the Haredi and other sectors as represented by Yair Lapid and Yesh Atid.
Prior to Likud’s victory in the 1977 election, socialist-Zionist ideas were predominant and their supporters tried to advance them as much as possible. But with the emergence of a genuine alternative to the Labor Party, Israeli politics became polarized between the two large parties, with the smaller ones—including the religious Zionists and the Haredi—now playing them off against each other. The Haredi demands, especially, exacerbated this process as they came to be seen as parties only interested in the health of their own communities while trying to impose their narrow understandings of Judaism and Jewishness on the rest of the society.
My family and I have been living in the West Bank for the last four years. But we’ve decided to take some time away. We’re moving to America, so that I can take up a post-doctoral position at the University of Notre Dame. Moving from the West Bank to South Bend, Indiana—I imagine we're in for a big culture shock.
Before I go, I thought it might be interesting or even informative to share with the readers of Open Zion some of the more surprising things that we're going miss—and not going to miss—about life here in the Occupied Territories.
Israel's security fence snakes along the Green Line border with the West Bank, as it turns north-east from the Israeli red-roofed community of Bat Hefer on January 30, 2004. (David Silverman / Getty Images)
Racial diversity: When you live in a settlement like mine, you know that all of your neighbors are Jewish. But those Jews might be of any number of racial and ethnic backgrounds. We live in a religious settlement among religious Ashkenazi Jews, Sephardi Jews, Yemenite Jews, and Ethiopian Jews. There are a number of Peruvian converts, and their children, in our town, who were of Native Peruvian ethnicity. Furthermore, I here had the pleasure of teaching a number of young Chinese men who had Jewish ancestors and had chosen to convert to Judaism. In the Ashkenazi community in which I grew up in England, a Sephardi Jew was something of a rarity, let alone a black or far-eastern Jew. Growing up here, among religious Jews of many racial backgrounds, my children know first-hand that the Jewish people is a multi-racial and multi-cultural people; that Jewish fraternity is colorblind.
Being a stereotype buster: There was nothing more fun, in conversation, than being able to describe myself as an anti-occupation, left-wing, religious settler. That list of adjectives just left people so confused. And I like to confuse people. Most people fail to realize that the Jews who live beyond the Green Line are a pretty diverse bunch. Describing myself as an anti-occupation, left-wing, religious Jew who lives in Indiana won’t be as much fun, or as corrective to people’s biases.
I bought a pair of tickets to Dudu Tassa and the Andalusia Orchestra performing the works of Tassa's grandfather and great-uncle, the Al-Kuwaiti Brothers, the forgotten Jewish maestros of Baghdad. The tickets set me back two Yitzhak Ben-Tzvis, the equivalent of one Zalman Shazar, which is to say two 100-shekel bills or one 200-shekel bill. By next year, when Israel's new banknotes are in circulation, that will be two Leah Goldbergs or one Nathan Alterman. Poets are replacing politicians on our money.
The concert cost considerably less than classical European music does at the same Jerusalem hall. Marginalized culture comes at a discount, and its icons don't appear on cash. The chances that portraits of Daud and Saleh al-Kuwaiti will ever adorn a 200-shekel bill seem slim. But you never know. After much controversy, Jerusalem has named a street after dissident philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz. The gates of commemoration are forever open.
The new NIS 50 banknote featuring the poet Shaul Tchernichovsky. (Bank of Israel)
The Leibowitz fuss had barely ended when the shouting about the banknotes began. Last week, at the Bank of Israel's request, the cabinet voted to approve the new bills. The poets Rachel Bluwstein—usually known only by her first name—and Shaul Tchernichovsky will appear on the 20- and 50-shekel notes, completing a quartet with Goldberg and Alterman. Arye Deri of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas party, now in opposition, demanded to know why only Ashkenazi poets were honored. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded that the next set of banknotes—likely to be issued in another 15 or so years—would include one with an image of Rabbi Yehudah Halevi.
- MKs work to revive 'nation-state' bill - Two MKs seek to remove controversial elements from the scrapped bill and send it back to the Knesset. Original bill called for Jewish religious law and for dropping Arabic as an official language. (Israel Hayom)
- Danes, Finns upgrade Palestinian diplomatic status - Foreign ministers of Denmark, Finland decide to upgrade status of Palestinian missions in their countries so 'Palestine gets the same status' as other embassies. (Agencies,Ynet)
- Fayyad denies criticizing Palestinian Authority in New York Times interview - Outgoing Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who was quoted slamming the Palestinian leadership, says was misled by correspondent. (Haaretz andIsrael Hayom)
- British Jewish groups slam Bedouin settlement bill ahead of discussions - While the government seeks to advance legislation of a bill that would see tens of thousands of Bedouin resettled, British Jewish youth groups and Israeli rights organization say the law would unjustly displace thousands. (Israel Hayom)
- Hamas rejects Arab League initiative for Israeli-Palestinian peace - Ismail Haniyeh says outsiders cannot decide the fate of the Palestinians, stressing: 'Palestine is not a property, it is not for sale, not for a swap and cannot be traded.' (Agencies, Haaretz)
- 536 pine trees in (E.) Jerusalem get the ax without a permit - When a local resident asked to see the permit for cutting down the trees, workmen showed her a permit that had been issued and then revoked. [The trees are on Har Homa, the controversial neighborhood built on a hill between Jerusalem and Bethelehem over the Green Line - OH] (Haaretz+)
- Jerusalem interchange named after Benzion Netanyahu, PM's late father - WATCH: At inaugural ceremony, PM says state is making efforts to connect Jerusalem with rest of Israel; municipality expedites junction's naming process, circumventing city’s usual rules. [Of interest, the interchange links two Jewish neighborhoods beyond the Green Line to Hwy 443, which is also in the West Bank. - OH] (Haaretz+)
- Atmosphere of terror reigned under Lieberman, says ex-deputy FM - Danny Ayalon, the central witness in the fraud trial against the former foreign minister, says ministry officials still reluctant to speak out against their ex-boss since he may yet return to his post. (Haaretz+)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is right, er, I mean correct. He recently reiterated his willingness to negotiate with the Palestinians—without preconditions—and identified the core problem. “Until the Palestinians recognize our right to exist as a national state, no matter what the borders, and until they declare that the conflict is over, there will not be peace,” Netanyahu said. “Unless these things happen, even if we reach an agreement, it will serve to keep the conflict going by other means.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes his speech in front of a poster of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin during a meeting of his Likud party's Central Committee on September 25, 2005 in Tel Aviv. (David Silverman / Getty Images)
These comments demonstrate that his late father was not the only Netanyahu who knew his history. While Israel has made its own mistakes and presented its own obstacles in the way of peace, these shortcoming do not compare to the ongoing, systematic refusal reflected in much Palestinian discourse and throughout much of the Arab world to accept Israel’s basic right to exist.
This Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state derailed the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan, which proposed dividing the contested area into a Jewish and Arab entity, with Jerusalem internationalized. In his important but often overlooked book “Palestine Betrayed,” Professor Efraim Karsh notes that many moderate Palestinian Arabs who had good working relationships and friendships with Palestinian Jews (both sides were Palestinians then), were betrayed in 1947 and 1948 by their extremist leaders. Anti-Semitic fanatics like Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, rejected any compromise and violently bullied many moderates, leading to war.
This broader Arab refusal to recognize the Jewish state led to the three nos of Khartoum, following the 1967 Israeli victory. The message was clear: no to negotiation, no to recognition, no to compromise.
I spent last Tuesday night in Tel Aviv at an Intelligence Squared debate on the topic: “If Israel continues on its current course, it cannot remain a democratic Jewish state.” We argued yes; our opponents—who included former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman—argued no.
The responsibility for Israel’s continued control of the West Bank, Gillerman insisted, rests largely with the Palestinians. Israel, he declared, has already produced five “De Klerks”—Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert—leaders willing to cede land and midwife a Palestinian state. But the Palestinians have not yet produced “a Mandela,” a leader truly dedicated to nonviolence and the two state solution.
This photograph, taken on May 1, 2013, shows a tent in the Palestinian village of Susiya in the southern West Bank. (Peter Beinart)
Put aside the fact that by Gillerman’s standards, Nelson Mandela—a man who for decades advocated armed struggle in pursuit of a one state solution—wasn’t a “Mandela” either. Or that Sharon’s chief of staff, Dov Weisglass, famously argued that his boss’s decision to dismantle settlements in the Gaza Strip was designed to “prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.” What gobsmacked me was the analogy itself. To suggest that Israel needs “De Klerks” and the Palestinians need “Mandelas” is to compare Israel to apartheid South Africa. If an elected official or Jewish leader served up that analogy in the United States, they’d likely find themselves looking for work. When Jimmy Carter used the term in his 2006 book, Peace or Apartheid—despite insisting that he was referring only to the West Bank and not Israel proper—the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman called him “bigoted.” For using the far-less incendiary phrase “Jewish lobby,” Chuck Hagel almost lost his bid to run the Pentagon earlier this year.
But here was a former Israeli ambassador to the U.N. using the analogy casually. And Gillerman is not alone. In 2010, Ehud Barak predicted that “If…millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.” In 2007, Ehud Olmert warned that “when the two state solution collapses” Israel will “face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights.”
Let me absolutely clear: I do not think Israel is an apartheid state. Inside its original boundaries, Israel offers Palestinians citizenship and the right to vote. There are Palestinian citizens in the Knesset and on Israel’s Supreme Court. None of this was true in apartheid South Africa. As I’ve written, and argued countless times, calling Israel an apartheid state debases the term because if Israel deserves to be tarred with this unique epithet, various other Middle Eastern countries deserve it more.
Most observers agree that if the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” is still alive it is on life support with the plug half hanging out of the socket. Last year’s vote at the United Nations, when most of the world opposed the United States’ position and voted for Palestinian statehood, was an international referendum on U.S. mediation. It is undeniable, more than two decades after the Oslo accords, that new thinking is urgently needed.
So what new thinking does John Kerry, the newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State, come up with in an effort to break through the stalemate? He’s decided to dig up the now 11-year-old Arab Peace Initiative and modify some of its language to—of all things—appease the Israelis.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on April 09, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Matty Ster / U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv via Getty Images)
The Arab Peace Initiative was never, despite some recent reporting, “revolutionary”. In fact, the Arab Peace Initiative merely recalled well established international law and resolutions as a basis for a peace agreement. Having always rejected international law as terms for peace, Israel too rejected the Arab Peace Initiative.
Most absurd, however, is the renewed effort to change language in the Arab Peace Initiative to accommodate Israeli colonial behavior. Kerry sought and received statements from Arab foreign ministers regarding “land swaps” as part of a territorial agreement. After this, Kerry hailed the statement he’d been working to secure as a “very big step forward.”
If this is a step in any direction it is indeed a step backwards. PLO negotiators, the same party recognized by the Arab League, have long embraced the notion of land swaps. In fact, as leaked documents in the Palestine Papers archive show, land swaps were thoroughly discussed in negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis then led by Ehud Olmert. The problem was that when Palestinian negotiators objected to the extent of additional Palestinian land the Israelis wanted to keep, the U.S. representatives acted as an enforcer for the Israeli position. Then Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice responded to Ahmed Qurei’s objection to Israel keeping Ma’ale Addumim, a massive colony deep inside the West Bank, by saying “Then you won’t have a state!”
Every single way the U.S. can possibly intervene in Syria has its own pitfalls. The cliché has almost never been more true: there are no good options. The full range of interventions being discussed—from a no-fly zone to arming rebels to securing Syrian chemical weapons—each holds perilous risks. And no end-game for any sort of involvement has yet been outlined by proponents of American action. While some advocates of intervention are frank about these risks, they see work-arounds; some of the most prominent hawks, though, won't even take public stock of the dangers.
Win McNamee / Getty Images
Take John McCain. McCain literally phoned it in to a CNN panel discussion this week where he acknowledged virtually no potential drawbacks, and minimized any risks of intervention. The commentator Andrew Sullivan harried McCain about the risks of war, recalling Iraq. But McCain flatly dismissed him, pointing instead to testimony by top military brass "that we can take out Syrian air on the ground with cruise missiles, and we can defend a safe area with Patriot missiles and other weapons." Citing the brass is fine on a no-fly zone, but when it came to the Pentagon's estimation that tens of thousands of ground troops would be needed for securing chemical weapons sites, McCain was again dismissive: "By the way, 75,000 is a gross exaggeration as the Pentagon tends to do"—though McCain didn't offer any lesser estimate, which would have been at odds with his avowed position of having no troops in Syria. Sullivan again, and rightly, raised Iraq, where McCain went along with the Bush administration in bucking the Pentagon's recommendations for force size and failed to articulate any risks of the war going in; it was supposed to be a cakewalk. Sullivan pointed out that we all know how that movie ended.
Nonetheless, pressing for a no-fly zone is not an entirely unreasonable position. The most clear case for a no-fly zone was made by former Marine aviator Scott Cooper in the Washington Post. Cooper didn't shy away from enumerating risks: robust Syrian air defense systems; pilots potentially being shot down; the lack of an end-game strategy; and the "slippery slope of escalated military involvement." But he recounted the narrow aims of a no-fly zone: "Its purpose is not to resolve the conflict but to prevent escalation, protect innocents and provide leverage to negotiations," Cooper wrote. "In essence, a no-fly zone takes away a single tool of violence—the use of aviation—possessed by the oppressor." Cooper pointed to Bosnia as an example of a successful no-fly zone. But here he and McCain come up short.
On April 28, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported that Hojjat al-Islam Mehdi Taeb, a senior Iranian cleric close to Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, recently said that the Jews are the most powerful sorcerers in the world today, and that they have used their powers to attack Iran. Believe it or not, Taeb is not entirely incorrect. Certain fringe elements of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel do, in fact, engage in rituals pleading for divine wrath to be inflicted upon the enemies of the Jewish people. Perhaps luckily for Taeb, though, those targeted so far have been Israelis, not Iranians. Besides, the theological basis for such incantations is dubious at best.
As recently as April 10, a Jewish "death curse" known as the Pulsa Dinura (Aramaic for "lashes of fire") was directed at an Israeli politician—in this case, Israeli Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett. Bennett was ostensibly chosen because of his role in governmental reforms that will likely end the longstanding policy of exempting the ultra-Orthodox from service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The anonymous letter bluntly warned:
You will die. The Pulsa Dinura has been done to you... Already you will have no peace at home... A bitter life awaits you. From this day your life is ruined... It is better not to mess with Torah sages... Just one tear of theirs is enough to paralyze you for life. [You are] one who caused grief to the ultra-Orthodox and rose to prominence, but in the end you will be like Sharon.
Naftali Bennett, head of the Israeli hardline national religious party, Jewish Home, looks over during the first high-tech conference for Israel's Haredi Sector, on January 15, 2013, in Jerusalem. (Gali Tibbon / AFP/ Getty Images)
The mention of "Sharon" is a reference to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was a recipient of the Pulsa Dinura in July 2005, about six months prior to the debilitating stroke he suffered in January 2006. The Pulsa Dinura was also aimed at former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin in November 1995, less than a month before his assassination at the hands of the Jewish terrorist Yigal Amir. Both Sharon and Rabin were targeted for the Pulsa Dinura by Jewish extremists because of their planned land-based concessions to the Palestinians.
"I hear them as if they are in my room."
--Danny Awad, a Beirut resident, Tweeted what many Lebanese reported: An Israeli military operation yesterday in Lebanon.
- High Court orders Defense Ministry to halt construction of part of West Bank barrier - The High Court put a wall in Defense Ministry's path to building the separation barrier around Batir, after villagers and environmentalists successfully argued it would damage ancient agricultural terraces. (Haaretz+)
- Watch: Settlers avenge Borovsky's death - Palestinian villagers documented settlers' vandalism following Tapuach murder Tuesday; videos feature masked settlers hurling stones at houses. (Ynet+VIDEO)
- Brother of stabbing suspect 'arrested in Israeli raid' - Israeli forces detained the brother of a man accused of killing a settler near Nablus on Thursday, the prisoners center in Ramallah reported. Soldiers raided Muhammad al-Zaghal's house in Shweikeh village in Tulkarem, beating him before he was arrested. (Maan)
- Secret meeting between Lapid and Adelson suggests shifting alliances, draws criticism - After heavily attacking Sheldon Adelson, owner of the pro-Netanyahu newspaper Israel Hayom, during the recent election, the finance minister met with him secretly two weeks ago, as first reported on in Al-Monitor. (Haaretz+)
- Israeli court orders demolition of part of mosque in Jerusalem - An Israeli court has rejected an appeal to stop the demolition of part of a mosque in Ras al-Amoud in East Jerusalem, the mosque's imam says. (Maan)
- Israeli tanks and bulldozers enter Beit Hanoun in Gaza - Witnesses told Ma'an that several Israeli military vehicles crossed 300 meters into a border area near Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza, searching and digging the lands. (Maan)
- Gaza rocket fire at Negev resumes - Rocket or mortar shell launched from Gaza Strip hits Eshkol Regional Council; no injuries or damage reported. (Ynet)
- Hamas arrests six Islamist extremists in Gaza - Statement by the Gaza government comes days after an IAF airstrike killed a Salafi said responsible for recent rocket attack on southern Israel. (Agencies, Haaretz)
- IDF still doesn’t know who fired recent drone - More than a week after the Israeli air force shot down an incoming drone off the coast of Haifa, the question marks surrounding it have been proliferating. (Haaretz+)
I get the exhaustion that everyone feels each time reports of “new” efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians together emerges. Especially since, as usual, the contradictory statements of Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans make for a confounding experience. But having said that, and while certainly there are plenty of suspicions still in the way, we are at the most opportune moment to restart serious talks in the last five or six years, if not more.
Jim Watson / AFP-Getty Images
Obama’s recent trip to the Middle East is now paying dividends. Secretary of State John Kerry is pushing hard to create the conditions for a return to negotiations, while the Arab League has revised its Arab Peace Initiative to be more flexible to meet Israel’s demands. More importantly, the political winds in Israel seem to be blowing in the same direction: members of Israel’s government have accepted the change and called for Jerusalem to begin negotiations (not unexpectedly Tzipi Livni, but even the Prime Minister’s Office and Netanyahu himself have hinted at the moment); Labor has publicly stated its willingness to serve as a safety net should the coalition fall on account of real negotiations; and the opposition in the Israeli Knesset has done what it should have been doing all along—critiqued the official government policy and pushed back against it.
Lots of work remains to be done, of course, to overcome serious obstacles. These include: Israel’s insistence on being recognized as a Jewish state; Yair Lapid’s ambivalence on the peace process; the inability to mobilize Israeli public opinion on the issue; Hamas; events in Syria and or Iran; a deflation of will in the Obama Administration in the face of resistance from the Israeli or Palestinian governments; and timidity on Mahmoud Abbas’s part.
The nature of the pro-Israel lobby’s influence on the American political system has been raised again this year by senatorial confirmation hearings, policy conferences, sequestration, and White House initiatives. This influence is typically attributed to campaign contributions, but this view is unsophisticated. The power of the pro-Israel lobby is, in fact, defined by the dominance of various pro-Israel narratives in American culture.
President Barack Obama shakes hands with board members after addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy conference. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
The standard line that pro-Israel sentiment is defined by dollar signs is easily refuted. The two largest pro-Israel contributors—the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and J-Street—together approximated $3.25 million in lobbying in 2012. While this sounds substantial, it’s a meager .09 percent of the total $3.28 billion spent on overall political lobbying that year.
America’s most tangible contribution to Israel is the annual $3 billion dollars in military aid that Israel subsequently spends, largely in the American defense sector. The biggest vested interests in these expenditures are well-known, and their lobbying contributions many times over exceed that of pro-Israel organizations. Boeing and Lockheed Martin spent $15 million each on lobbying in 2012.
Matthew Kalman broke the story of physicist Stephen Hawking’s boycott of Israel. Then Cambridge University tried to falsely deny it.