As the New York Times reports,
The project addresses two problems: the acute shortage of clean fresh water in the region, especially in Jordan, and the rapid contraction of the Dead Sea. A new desalination plant is to be built in Aqaba, Jordan, to convert salt water from the Red Sea into fresh water for use in southern Israel and southern Jordan — each would get eight billion to 13 billion gallons a year. The process produces about the same amount of brine as a waste product; the brine would be piped more than 100 miles to help replenish the already very saline Dead Sea.
An aerial view photo shows sinkholes created by the drying of the Dead Sea, near Kibbutz Ein Gedi, on November 10, 2011. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP / Getty Images)
Amidst all the hand-wringing brought about by the Pew Study on Jewish Americans, a new study released this week reveals that fostering a progressive, critical-thinking culture among North American Jewish youth about Israel actually works to instill commitment to the Jewish homeland.
In “Building Progressive Zionist Activists: Exploring the Impact of Habonim Dror,” Steven M. Cohen and Steven Fink find that fostering a critical wrestling with Israel apparently serves not to alienate Jewish youth from Israel, but rather to shore up their attachments. Habonim Dror North America is a progressive, Labor Zionist youth movement whose guiding principles include “[building up] the State of Israel as a progressive, egalitarian, cooperative society, at peace with its neighbors; actively involved in a Peace Process with the Palestinian people with the common goal of a just and lasting peace; and as the physical and spiritual center of the Jewish people.”
The emblem of Habonim Dror, stenciled on a wall in Rosario, Argentina. (Pablo D. Flores / Wikimedia)
The movement retains some quaint principles in this hyper-capitalist age, principles including a declared commitment to, dare they say it—socialism—as well as to related conceptions of social justice. But rather than alienate its youth from what has become the “start-up” nation of high-tech Israel, which is seeing a growing class divide, Habonim’s youth evidently retain a commitment to wanting to devote their lives or parts of their lives, anyway, to the future of Israel. Those who do land in Israel often seek out collective living experiences—whether in yesterday’s communal kibbutzim, or in today’s “irbutzim”—urban-based experiments in communal living.
A recent meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Conservative rabbis from the Rabbinical Assembly touched on a number of vital issues, including negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and the future of the Kotel. But, as has become sadly typical of American Jewish dialogue with Israel, one key topic was missing.
Despite the fact that Israel and the Palestinians are negotiating for the first time in years—encouraged by the tireless engagement of Secretary of State John Kerry, who has personally appealed to our community to support his efforts—the Conservative leadership that claims to represent over one million Jews worldwide chose not to mention it to the Israeli prime minister. For some reason they decided that peace was not a cause worthy of our efforts.
Hillary Rodham Clinton waves to Jewish women praying at the Western Wall during her visit to Judaism's holiest site November 14, 2005 in Jerusalem's Old City. Clinton was in Israel with her family for the 10th anniversary memorial of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. (David Silverman / Getty Images)
This was a glaring omission after Kerry specifically called on American Jews in June to rally a “great constituency for peace” behind the negotiations. “No one has a stronger voice in this than the American Jewish community,” he said. Kerry, like countless American and Israeli leaders, recognized the critical role that our community has played in helping to build and protect the Jewish state. Like family, we have a tradition of celebrating our opinions and differences in constructive dialogue.
Quote of the day:
"Thank you for your support...Together with Bibi we can all help truly make Greater Israel, the Greatest Israel. Give today."
--Jewish American blogger Mondoweiss makes funny mock fundraising campaign to send Netanyahu to Mandela memorial service.
- Dutch water giant severs ties with Israeli water company due to settlements - Vitens reneges on deal with Mekorot because 'these projects cannot be seen separately from the political context.' (Haaretz+ and Israel Hayom)
- Judea and Samaria (W. Bank): Police pose as human rights activists - Contrary to promise of police chief Aharonovitz: the disguised police insert themselves among leftists and ambush rightists in conflicts hat rise between Palestinians and settlers. (Maariv, p. 1/NRG Hebrew)
- Mock funding drive launched to send Bibi to Mandela service - Mondoweiss, a progressive Jewish website, starts tongue-in-cheek campaign, tells readers 'desperate times call for desperate measures.' (Haaretz+)
- OECD: Israel poverty high despite strong economy - OECD survey shows Israel has worst poverty among member states, despite economic growth, low employment. (Agencies, Ynet)
- Knesset approves Infiltration Prevention Bill detaining migrants without trial - (Controversial) Bill passes after stormy debate with 30 MKs voting in favor, 15 against. Vote preceded by heated debate. MK Eli Yishai says detaining African asylum seekers for one year is not enough: "We need hot pursuit." Meretz MKs ask (Likud) MK Regev, ''Would you put Nelson Mandela in confined facility." (Ynet and Haaretz+)
- Haifa University accepts employees from the State of Palestine - Academics looking for jobs at the university found a surprising tab when entering their details in the registry data: the list of countries of origin also offered to choose from "Palestine." (Maariv, p. 17/NRG Hebrew)
- Halutz, Israel prefers the Syrian leader Assad - At a fundraising event in Moscow the former chief of staff Dan Halutz said: The mine that exploded on the Israel-Syria border is an indication of what will happen if extremists get to power. [However, now officials say Assad forces set the bomb - OH]. Unlike former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, Halutz blamed the difficulties in the peace negotiations on the Palestinian side. (Maariv, p. 1/NRG Hebrew)
- US defense bill ups funding for joint projects with Israel - Bill includes $173 million in added funds for U.S.-Israeli cooperative missile defense programs, including David's Sling and Arrow. Measure also backs U.S. President Barack Obama's request of $220 million for additional Iron Dome batteries. (Israel Hayom)
Hillel International, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, has long struggled with where to draw red lines on the conversation about Israel. Since the “Hillel Guidelines for Campus Israel Activity” were updated, there have been regular campus battles between university students and the organization. The guidelines restrict whom Hillel groups may partner with or host, based on their politics, something that has been persistently controversial. Yesterday, Swarthmore College Hillel took a huge step by breaking with the guidelines officially and declaring itself an “Open Hillel.” Now might be the time for Hillel International to take another stab at updating those guidelines.
The problematic bits in the guidelines that govern “Campus Israel Activity” include the following prohibitions on partnering with or hosting groups or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice: (a) deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders, (b) delegitimizes, demonizes, or applies a double standard to Israel, or (c) supports boycott off, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel.
Swarthmore College (Fritz Ward / Flickr Creative Commons)
It is those bits that Swarthmore Hillel announced it is done with, and it’s those bits that have Hillel International President and former Democratic Ohio Congressman Eric Fingerhut up in arms. Those sections of the guidelines were emphasized when Fingerhut and long-time AIPAC leadership development director Jonathan Kessler teamed up in a recent op-ed in which they announced that they would work together “to strategically and proactively empower, train and prepare American Jewish students to be effective pro-Israel activists on and beyond the campus.” And it’s those prohibitions that spawned the initial Harvard-driven petition to “Open Hillel” which garnered nearly 900 signatures.
Israeli environmental and social justice groups were dealt a significant blow in October when the country’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government’s decision to allow the export of 40 percent of Israel’s natural gas. Current debates about domestic natural gas infrastructure are giving them another chance, but it is all but certain the government will win again.
There is no question that such infrastructure is desperately needed. Israel’s gas market is based totally on the Tamar field, which was discovered in 2009 and began production in late March, and the country has only one pipeline to deliver its gas to the Mediterranean coast, which runs to Ashkelon. Tamar also only has one production treatment platform, located 20 kilometers from Ashkelon and 20 kilometers from Gaza. This platform has only one terminal, in Ashdod. Furthermore, when the Leviathan field comes online within a few years, it will need its own gas treatment facilities.
The Tamar drilling natural gas production platform is seen some 25 kilometers West of the Ashkelon shore in February 2013 in Israel. (Albatross via Getty Images)
When it comes to security of supply, these installations are sitting ducks, and the consensus is that it is only a matter of time until an attack or an accident leaves Israel either sitting in the dark or relying on expensive diesel for power generation. Israel Electric Corporation Chairman Yiftach Ron-Tal said in October that Israel needs at least one more pipeline, but that ideally it would have two in the north and two in the south. With natural gas expected to account for the majority of Israel’s energy mix, diversifying entry points to the shore and constructing additional refineries and treatment sites is an urgent matter of national security.
In public remarks in Ramallah last week, which couldn’t have lasted more than two minutes, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said something that few U.S. officials involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process ever mention. He referred to his discussions with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about security in the region, including “security for a future Palestine.”
Whenever Kerry visits Israel, he reiterates the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security. His visit last week was no different.
“I can’t emphasize enough that Israel’s security in this negotiation is at the top of our agenda,” Kerry said in Jerusalem, after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) holds a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) on December 5, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Gali Tibbon / Getty Images)
As often as ensuring Israel’s security is cited by U.S. officials, ensuring Palestinian security, leading into and following a final status agreement, is almost never mentioned. Even when it is, it follows “Israel’s security,” and is tacked to the end of a long list of core issues—Jerusalem, borders, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, and Palestinian refugees—showing how a secure and sovereign Palestinian state is really only as important to the U.S. as the future state falls in line with Israel’s security demands.
The United Church of Canada has been on the radar of Jewish groups for some time now over its declaration of a boycott of Israeli-made products from the West Bank. Titled “Unsettling Goods: Choose Peace in Palestine and Israel,” the August 2012 initiative has gained new media coverage over the last week, as the initiative, and its related publicity campaign, has begun to solidify.
Jewish settlers outside their home on July 22, 2013 at the Jewish settlement outpost of Havat Gilad in the West Bank. (Uriel Sinai / Getty Images)
It’s not surprising that Jewish organizations recoiled when they learned about the United Church initiative. Back in the summer of 2012, a CIJA spokesperson called the Church’s policy a “morally reckless path,” and ARZA-Canada, The Reform movement’s Zionist wing, called it “biased” and “unfair.” ARZA in particular also took issue with the United Church’s opposition to Israel’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish State.”
There is something heartening about a robust policy debate being carried out in an interfaith context, even if the conversation is contentious. CIJA’s reaction report, for example, urges Canadian Jews to seek out representatives of the United Church with whom to meet.
"It looks like a trick' by someone who does not really want an historic agreement with the neighboring people."
--In a Letter to the Editor, an Israeli reader says Netanyahu's demand for Palestinian recognition of a 'Jewish state' is a ploy.
- U.K. government warns British citizens against doing business in Israeli settlements - Recommendations released by British government warn citizens of potential 'reputational implications' of getting financially involved in Israeli settlements in West Bank. (Haaretz)
- Settlement wastewater pumped in valleys, plains in Salfit district - Settlers in illegal settlements in the central West Bank area have started to pump untreated wastewater into the valleys and plains near Palestinian villages in Salfit district. (Maan)
- Professors call on American Studies Association to vote down Israel boycott - If a majority of the ASA’s voting members do not vote to endorse the boycott resolution by December 15, the national council said that it will withdraw the resolution. (JTA, Haaretz)
- Settlers raid Palestinian park near Nablus -Settlers attacked al-Masudiyya park and attempted to pull down a number of structures. They also dug out a hole in a small first aid facility located in the park before running away when security guards arrived. (Maan)
- Israeli forces raid Duheisha camp in Area A near Bethlehem, detain 4 - Undercover Israeli forces entered the camp in a civilian vehicle and detained four young men after ransacking their homes. (Maan)
- Ultra-Orthodox protest: 'Army recruitment – blasphemous' - Some 1,400 haredi protesters riot in front of army prison against detention of draft dodger. Several demonstrators perform grotesque mock-hangings, throw stones at Ynet photographer. (Ynet)
- Israel tried to influence Mandela trial, declassified documents show - Then-Foreign Minister Golda Meir urged Israeli diplomats to lobby against a death sentence. Philosopher Martin Buber and author Haim Hazaz among those who were asked to lobby the regime. (Israel Hayom)
For the full News from Israel.
Benjamin Netanyahu's address to a prominent Washington think tank yesterday was initially billed as a conversation with PBS host Charlie Rose. But the Israeli Prime Minster's office said that plan was never cleared with them, and instead Netanyahu appeared in a video address to Brookings's Saban forum. Netanyahu avoided tough questions—should Rose have asked, which has been a problem at these things—but even in an unchallenged address, he struck what has become Israel's softer tone on the U.S.'s diplomacy with Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That doesn't mean he addressed Israel's recent campaign against Iran diplomacy—its apocalyptic language, its "information war" against U.S. analysis of a blooming deal, and Israeli officials' callous warnings of bombs exploding in New York—nor did he make mention of his own cabinet members pouring cold water on a potential deal with the Palestinians. But he did acknowledge that the U.S. and Israel can have "different perspectives" on Iran, and that peace with the Palestinians was "vital—first and foremost for Israel and the Palestinians."
And yet the policy he laid out did something strange: Netanyahu disavowed any link between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and regional problems—the notion of "linkage," something many U.S. officials do believe, in a measured way—but went on to then link progress on Israeli-Palestinian talks to Iranian nuclear crisis. Netanyahu told the Saban crowd:
US President Barack Obama speaks alongside Saban Forum Chairman Haim Saban (R) about US, Iran and Israel and the Middle East at the 10th Anniversary Saban Forum. (SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images))
Our best efforts to reach Palestinian-Israeli peace will come to nothing if Iran succeeds in building atomic bombs. A nuclear-armed Iran would give even greater backing to the radical and terrorist elements in the region. It would undermine the chances of arriving at a negotiated peace. I would say it would undermine those peace agreements that we have already reached with two of our neighbors.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a little problem balancing budget concerns with statecraft: Back in May, he spent $127,000 on “an in-flight rest chamber” for his trip to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral (in addition to the $300,000 El Al was already set to receive for transporting him).
Cut to this weekend, when Netanyahu announced he would be begging off of Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, because attending would be too costly.
Pool photo by Uriel Sinai
Now, to be sure, the projected bill for getting to and from Johannesburg—between the flight itself and all the special planning and security apparatus involved—was mindboggling: $1.9 million, all told. Flying heads of state around the globe and making sure they complete the journey in one piece is not cheap.
But it’s worth considering just what Netanyahu is willing to spending Israel’s money on (in addition to a super-fancy bed): $2,700 a year on ice cream. $18,000 on clothes, hair, and makeup (double the outlay of just a few years ago). $940,000 on three separate residences. $52 million on compensating settlers for not being allowed to build in the course of a settlement freeze that was more Potemkin’s village than freeze—not to mention billions in the settlements that have already been built and those that are on the way. Suddenly, expensing $1.9 million to pay his nation’s respects to one of history’s greatest men sounds like a bargain, doesn’t it?
Even though Peter Beinart mischaracterizes a great deal of what I said in my TNR article last week, he captures with perfect accuracy the most important part of my argument. He writes, “Mor accuses me of never defining a standard of openness against which the organized American Jewish community should be judged.” But Beinart never actually does define any standard. Instead, he tartly offers, “Is it good for the Jews?” But that is no standard at all, and if we are to determine that the Jewish community in America is a closed intellectual space, I think it is fair to ask compared to what?
In my initial essay, I suggested three possible paths: comparing it to American Muslims or Arab-Americans or the broader pro-Palestinian community; comparing it to partisans of other emotionally resonant distant conflicts with ideologically invested diaspora communities; or defining a standard that can stand alone. I challenge Beinart to do this because it is the only way to make sense of his argument at all. He owes it to himself as much as he does to the people he is so keen to criticize, or at least patronize.
Peter Beinart speaking at a Center for American Progress event in 2009. (Center for American Progress / Flickr)
It is silly that such a serious topic has descended into furious discussion about the Hillel campus guidelines, but it is worth revisiting them once more, as Beinart returns very partially to them in his post, in a manner that says more about his method than about any intellectual climate in the Jewish community.
Dear fellow Jews—I implore you: Please, please stop trying to make people shut up.
I get it. That person over there—that Jew/Christian/Muslim/Palestinian/Israeli/American/human—has said something that infuriates you. And you’re old enough/have read enough books/have listened to enough relatives at the Seder table that angry words spoken about the Jewish community writ large and Israel in particular bring up frightening memories.
People look at photos of Holocaust survivors displaying their identification tattoos at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. (Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images)
You’re probably among the 78 percent of American Jews who feel that “remembering the Holocaust” is an essential element of Jewish identity—but “remembering” is kind of a vague notion. Whatever it might mean to any given individual, you know that you’re nervous, whether genetically, by training, or by hard experience, and you want to make sure that “never again” means never again. You take one look at tiny Israel, and you worry—you don’t know what to do, but you do know you’re worried. You think that Jews in general and Israel in particular would not just be better off, but genuinely safer if no one ever heard the nasty things that the aforementioned Jew/Christian/Muslim/Palestinian/Israeli/American/human wants to say. So you want to do your best to make sure that no one ever does.
But oy this is wrong on so many levels (and not just because I’ve occasionally been the person you want to shut up). Where do I begin?
Quote of the day:
"The contemporary Israeli leader is one of the jailers, not one of the jailed."
--Yaron London writes that Israeli leaders need to look at Frederik Willem de Klerk for inspiration, not Nelson Mandela.
As the news broke of Nelson Mandela’s death and reactions were coming in from around the world I did something I always do in these instances, I turned to cable news. No, I am not a masochist, nor did I turn there to learn about Mandela (for real news I turn to the Internet and Twitter), but rather I wanted to see how the narratives around his life, death and legacy would be created or revised.
Next to me sat my 6-month old child, giggling and drooling as he played with a teething toy, completely oblivious to the gravity of the moment. It dawned on me as we sat side-by-side in front of the TV set, that Mandela would be a part our lives in different ways. For me, I will have lived a portion of my adult life along with Mandela, aware of his accomplishments and able to hear him speak in real time. For my son, by the time he is old enough to learn about political affairs, he will learn about Mandela from a history book—most likely an American one.
The narrative about Mandela that he will likely learn from future American history books was being produced before my eyes by pundits on TV. Mandela was being glorified for his role in reconciliation, for his non-violence and shown in pictures with President Bill Clinton, Queen Elizabeth and other Western leaders.
Netanyahu's rhetoric about Iran echoes neoconservative rhetoric about Iraq.