The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
As I write this, U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is here in Israel again, and it’s not stirring much excitement or even interest.
On Sunday he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the latter saying Mitchell had “interesting ideas” on how to get Israeli-Palestinian talks going again but not saying what the ideas were.
On Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated to Mitchell his refusal to talk with Netanyahu absent a total ban on Jewish building in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and East Jerusalem. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the fact that Israel had positions at all – on not giving up every inch of the West Bank, on the demilitarization of a future Palestinian state – made negotiating with Israel impossible.
Based on his statements to Time magazine’s Joe Klein last week, it can be surmised that President Obama is not all that surprised by Mitchell’s inability to get anything moving.
“This is just really hard,” Obama told Klein.
“Even for a guy like George Mitchell . Both sides – the Israelis and the Palestinians – have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions or the divisions within their societies, were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation . From Abbas’s perspective, he’s got Hamas looking over his shoulder and, I think, an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process.
“And on the Israeli front – although the Israelis, I think, after a lot of time showed a willingness to make some modifications in their policies, they still found it very hard to move with any bold gestures .”
It is easy to poke holes in Obama’s evenhandedness here: the fact that while Netanyahu has been ready at all times to negotiate with Abbas, with not even his most right-wing coalition partners objecting to negotiations per se, it is Abbas who has stonewalled; the fact that it was not “after a lot of time,” but very quickly – in a matter of months since taking office – that Netanyahu made quite bold gestures of reversing his lifelong opposition to a Palestinian state and then announcing an unprecedented ten-month settlement freeze in Judea and Samaria, none of which has sufficed to lure Abbas back to the table.
It is also easy to cite the usual political reasons for the stalemate – that Obama, by hitting Israel hard on the settlements issue particularly in his Cairo speech in June, forced Abbas into an uncompromising stance where he could not appear less Catholic than the pope; that the Palestinians, more generally, saw Obama as an ally and were disappointed when he showed understanding for some of Israel’s positions.
All of which is valid – but only grazes the truth.
Looking more deeply into what has “gone wrong” – and has kept going wrong ever since the formal Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process began in 1993 – would require taking account, for a change, of the cultural difference between Israel and the Palestinian side.
It was less than three weeks ago that Netanyahu complained to the White House and State Department about Palestinian incitement – and not by Hamas in Gaza, but by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Netanyahu was reacting to two particularly egregious incidents. In one, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad paid homage to three Palestinian terrorists who had been killed by Israeli forces after murdering an Israeli rabbi (a father of seven). In the other, Abbas named a square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, the Palestinian woman terrorist who led the “Coastal Road Massacre” in 1978 – the worst terror attack in Israel’s history, killing 37 including 10 children.
Obama, for his part, had no public reaction to Abbas and Fayyad’s behavior, did not mention it in his interview to Klein, and clearly was not deterred by it from sending Mitchell for another round of attempted diplomacy.
As Obama did say to Klein, “we are going to continue to work with both parties to recognize what I think is ultimately their deep-seated interest in a two-state solution in which Israel is secure and the Palestinians have sovereignty and can start focusing on developing their economy and improving the lives of their children and grandchildren.”
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We take a whole person approach, giving our people assistance with whatever they need.
During my spiritual journey I discovered G-d spoke to man only once, to the Jewish people at Sinai
20 years after the great Ethiopian aliyah, we must treat them like everyone else; no better or worse
Many Black protesters compared Baltimore’s unrest to the Palestinian penchant of terrorism & rioting
She credited success to “mini” decisions-Small choices building on each other leading to big changes
Shavuot 1915, 200000 Jews were expelled; amongst the largest single expulsions since Roman times
Realizing there was no US military threat, Iran resumed, expanded & accelerated its nuclear program
“Enlightened Jews” who refuse to show chareidim the tolerance they insist we give to Arabs sicken me
Somewhat surprisingly, the Vatican’s unwelcome gesture was diametrically at odds with what President Obama signaled in an interview with the news outlet Al Arabiya.
The recent solid victory of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party produced something very different.
The reaction is so strong that nine times out of ten, parents engage in some form of coping mechanism before arriving at a level of acceptance of a special-needs diagnosis.
“…his neshamah reached out to us to have the zechus of Torah learning to take with him on his final journey.”
Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics has released its population data for 2012, the year that just ended. As usual, the trends are favorable. The total Israeli population rose to just under eight million, while the Jewish population for the first time rose to just over six million.
How well are Jews – and non-Jews – doing with regard to the Jewish state? If the question focuses on the highbrow world, and particularly its predominant persuasion of liberalism (or what is still called by that name), the answer that emerges from Edward Alexander’s new book is: not very well.
It’s been a bumpy road for the Palestinians lately.
Recent staged spectacles that were supposed to whip up sympathy for them and put Israel in a bad light again – the Nakba Day (May 15) and Naksa Day (June 4) marches on Israel’s borders, the flotilla, the flytilla – have been disappointments at best, if not outright flops. And the Palestinians’ long-hyped independent-statehood bid at the UN in September is meeting growing opposition from the West.
When Glenn Beck’s upcoming Jerusalem rally was first announced, he saidit would be called “Restore Courage” – modeled on his “Restoring Honor” rally last year in Washington that drew half a million. Or as Beck put it: “Last summer, we set out to restore honor in Washington, DC. This summer, it’s time to restore courage. It is time for us to courageously stand with Israel.”
In reaction to the Palestinian Authority-Hamas unity deal signed in Cairo, Israel decided to turn off the spigot. It halted the transfer to the PA of over $100 million in customs and tax revenues.
The day after last week’s announcement of a Fatah-Hamas rapprochement in Cairo, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said he would keep pursuing peace talks with Israel. Almost concurrently, top Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said Hamas would stick to its stance of neither recognizing nor negotiating with Israel, but “if Fatah wants to negotiate with Israel over trivialities, they can.”
“With the winds of change blowing through the Arab world, it’s more urgent than ever that we try to seize the opportunity to create a peaceful solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” President Obama saidlast week after meeting with Israeli president Shimon Peres.
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