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January 24, 2017 / 26 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘chance’

Prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace? Less than a Snowball’s Chance in Hell

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

{Originally posted to the Commentary Magazine website}

If you want to know why the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace are currently zero, consider Avi Issacharoff’s report in the Times of Israel last week about Fatah’s Seventh General Congress, which is slated to take place in Ramallah on Tuesday. The Congress is supposed to elect Fatah’s two main leadership organs, the Central Committee and the Revolutionary Council; one candidate for the latter is Nasser Abu Baker, a reporter for Radio Falastin. “Abu Baker, who used to maintain close ties with his Israeli colleagues, has boycotted Israeli journalists since he began nurturing his political career,” Issacharoff wrote matter-of-factly.

Fatah, of course, is Israel’s official peace partner, twice over. It is the main component of the PLO, the organization that signed the Oslo Accords with Israel, and also the party headed by the “moderate” Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president and PLO chairman. Yet it turns out that the way to win votes among members of Israel’s “peace partner” is not by promoting peace, but by refusing even to talk to your Israeli colleagues–even if they are among the most pro-Palestinian Israelis you’re ever likely to find, as is true of most Israeli journalists.

Moreover, this practice of boycotting Israelis has actually gotten much worse under the “moderate” Abbas, as another Israeli journalist noted in an unrelated article last week. Interviewed by Haaretz about his new television series on the Arab world, Ohad Hamu, the Arab affairs reporter for Channel 2 television, recalled:

Not so long ago I could wander freely around Gaza and the West Bank and bring cultural and political stories, but today there are few places I can enter in the West Bank … The Israeli media doesn’t go into something like 70 percent of the West Bank, and even when I do go, it’ll be to film some 10-minute dialogue with someone and then we’re out of there right away, because it’s just become too dangerous. They don’t want to see us there … Israeli journalists used to serve as a bridge between Israeli and Palestinian society, but this bridge has been gradually cracking.

Nor is this problem exclusive to journalists. The “anti-normalization” campaign–a euphemism for refusing to talk to Israelis and intimidating others into doing the same–has also produced boycotts of Israeli cultural figures, businessmen, nongovernmental organizations and more.

Clearly, it’s difficult to imagine Israeli-Palestinian peace breaking out as long as even talking to Israelis is taboo, to the extent that even in the “moderate” Palestinian party, someone running for office feels obligated to start boycotting his Israeli colleagues. It’s hard to make peace with other people if you aren’t willing to talk to them.

But the fact that this problem has been getting worse rather than better over the past two decades shows that, far from advancing prospects for peace, the “peace process” has dealt them a blow from which it may take generations to recover. By creating and financing an autonomous Palestinian government without making peace education an integral part of the package, the Oslo process and its supporters–both Israeli and Western–have allowed the Palestinian Authority to spend the last two decades systematically teaching its people to hate Israel. The fact that even talking to Israelis is now seen as a major impediment to electoral office is the direct result of the way the Palestinian education system has poisoned the minds of its children, which I’ve described before:

This [PA] curriculum rejects the legitimacy of Israel’s existence (textbooks refer to “the so-called State of Israel”), justifies violence against it, defines such violence as a religious obligation and informs students that Jews and Zionists are irredeemably evil (one book, for instance, refers to “the robbing Jews”; another tells students that Israel “killed your children, split open your women’s bellies, held your revered elderly men by the beard, and led them to the death pits”). These messages are then reinforced by the “educational” programs broadcast on the PA’s official media, where Jews are described as “monkeys and pigs,” “enemies of Allah” and the “most evil of creations,” among other charming epithets.

The indoctrination effort is assisted by the fact that most Palestinians today have no firsthand knowledge to counteract the vicious incitement churned out daily by Palestinian schools and media. That’s a result of the escalating terror that followed the PA’s establishment in 1994 severely curtailed the daily interactions between Israelis and Palestinians that were commonplace until then. Those interactions made it easier for both sides to at least view the other as human beings.

Today, outside the construction industry, most Israelis never encounter a Palestinian unless they’re doing army duty, and most Palestinians never encounter any Israelis other than soldiers. In other words, the only Israeli-Palestinian interactions that take place today are the kind that reinforces each side’s view of the other as an enemy. That is precisely what the “anti-normalization” campaigners want, and why they castigate any other type of contact with Israelis as tantamount to treason.

It’s going to take a long, long time, and probably a lot of pressure from the PA’s Western donors, to reverse these decades of hate education. But until that happens, the chances of Israeli-Palestinian peace are considerably less than a snowball’s chance in hell.

Evelyn Gordon

Trump Blows His Best Chance

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

{Originally posted to the Commentary Magazine website}

Donald Trump came into the first presidential debate poised to build on the momentum he built during the last month as Hillary Clinton’s awful campaign erased the lead she had over the summer. But by the time the candidates left the stage at Hofstra University, a new narrative about may have been created. There will be two more debates and the outcomes of those encounters may be different. But when handed his best chance before the largest possible audience to seize control of the race, Trump blew it. Clinton emerged from the evening the clear winner having put him on the defensive without the combative billionaire being able to nail her on the very issues about her credibility that had made this a toss-up election.

Trump started the evening strong hitting Clinton hard on her blatant flip-flop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, interrupting her and seemed in control. But as we got further into the debate, we learned two things about these two candidates when placed alongside each other.

One was that the new Kellyanne Conway-tutored muzzled Donald Trump can still be baited into going badly off message. The other is that while Clinton still isn’t very likable or exciting, she does have (Trump’s insult notwithstanding) the stamina to spout her policy knowledge for 90 minutes and to hit him hard without absorbing many blows in return.

The basic fact about the debate that will always haunt Trump fans if he winds up losing is that he failed to take advantage of Clinton’s credibility problem and instead spent much of it flailing as he sought to explain his record spreading the birther myth, why he won’t release his tax returns, whether he stiffed small vendors who did business with his companies or if he has been guilty of discrimination or sexism. Almost no time was spent on Clinton’s email scandal and the words “Clinton Foundation” and “Benghazi” never passed his lips. No matter how they’re spinning his performance after the fact, if anyone in the Trump campaign had thought this would happen they would have assumed the debate was a devastating disappointment. Which is exactly what it was for him.

That the debate was mostly fought on Clinton’s ground was Trump’s fault, not debate moderator Lester Holt who admittedly was tougher on the GOP candidate. Trump missed chance after chance to hit her and instead went on long and confusing riffs vainly seeking to explain his weak points that were both ineffective and served to put the focus on his own lack of preparation.

What’s worse is that he may draw the wrong conclusions from his debate. If he comes out next time being even more brutal and over-aggressive than he was this time rather than being ready to give the voters more substance he may set himself up for another and different kind of defeat.

Not every moment was bad for Trump. He didn’t give substantive answers on any policy questions, but he did speak coherently about trade and the economy. He was also right and Clinton dead wrong about the Iran nuclear deal. But while Trump has prided himself on being a strong counter-puncher in debates this time the familiar routine fell flat. Instead it was Clinton who landed the blows and evaded most of those that were sent in her direction. It was Trump who came off looking like he was not playing fair since he continually sought to interrupt Clinton. That might have caused her to lose her cool but instead it was Trump who seemed annoyed by her ripostes.

Even as we score this debate a big victory for Clinton and a terrible missed opportunity for Trump, the fact remains that her vulnerabilities have not been erased and she no longer can count on the big lead that was hers in August. There will be two other chances for Trump to do better and for Clinton to seem less in charge. The precedents of Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Barack Obama in 2012, when both incumbents lost their first debates to challengers will be cited to encourage Trump supporters. But this is a very different kind of election. He is the challenger who needed to demonstrate mastery and he failed miserably on that count.

The question entering the night was whether a faltering Clinton would continue to lose ground in a contest that is hers to lose because of the Democrats’ advantages in the Electoral College and the country’s changing demographics. She didn’t and Trump will almost certainly never again have as good a chance to seize control of the race as he did Monday night. His momentum may be gone and if he loses in November, this debate may have been the moment when his long shot chance to pull an upset slipped away from him.

Jonathan S. Tobin

Jerusalem Mayor Awards Pollard Gold Pin in NY Chance Meeting

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who is on business in New York City, on Monday ran into Jonathan Pollard and his wife Esther who were sitting in a Manhattan coffee shop just around the corner from a Barkat fundraising event.

According to the Jerusalem Municipality’s spokesperson, this was the very first meeting between a senior elected Israeli official and Pollard since his release from Federal Prison last November 20. Barkat, apparently, was thrilled to run into the former Israeli spy, whom he had awarded the medal of Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem while the latter was still behind bars.

Mrs. Pollard told Barkat that Jonathan was yet to physically receive the medal, and Pollard hinted that he would be delighted to get it, and so Barkat, ever the improvising Israeli, removed his gold Jerusalem pin from his lapel and put it on Pollard.

Barkat told the couple, “Since Jonathan is not allowed to go to Jerusalem, the eternal city of the Jewish people will come to him in New York or anywhere else in the world.”

“We are longing for the day when you can arrive in Jerusalem to make it your real home,” Barkat told Pollard.


Collecting Chance Encounters

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg’s website, The Foundation Stone}

Rav David Kronglas zt”l did not even need to open his mouth to inspire the hundreds gathered for High Holiday prayer; the mere presence of such a holy and righteous man as the one who would lead us in prayer filled us with awe.  I have since heard wonderful people lead services, but assumed upon leaving Yeshiva that I would never again be so inspired. I was wrong.


My assumption was shattered on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah 1991. I was facing away from the congregation to focus on my prayers. when I heard sweet and heartfelt prayers coming from such an elevated soul that they lifted me on their wings into the open arms of God. The person leading the prayers was not an old and holy rabbi, but an investment banker. I was so locked into certain definitions of holiness that I hadn’t considered that a man who did not spend his days in Torah study, but in engaging Mammon, could achieve a different holiness of spirit fortified by his nurturing and protecting his soul far away from the safe confines of Yeshiva.


I was the rabbi of this man’s synagogue, and, because of assumptions, was not honoring him for who he was. I had been repeating Amalek’s sin as described in this week’s portion, “Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way, when you were leaving Egypt, that they chanced upon you on the way (Deuteronomy 25:17-18).” Amalek shrugged off the significance of all that happened to Israel as they left Egypt, and treated the miracles as chance, not indicating any Divine intervention.


If I refused to shed my definitions of holiness I would treat all the extraordinary souls with whom I interact as chance meetings, not as opportunities. Once I learned to treat every person I meet as more than chance and as an opportunity, I was able to expand my collection of superheroes.


I’ve learned living as an infinite being from a businesswoman; compassion from a beautiful soul who works in advertising; honoring parents, from a veterinarian; the commitment to Torah study, from my dentist; courage, from people who work in a weight-loss clinic; attaching to God, from a family medicine doctor; and the demand for spiritual integrity, from a comedy writer. I’ve learned humility from a man, currently in his nineties, who, many years ago, stormed into my home from his Corvette to find out about the crazy ideas I was teaching his son who is also in my superhero collection. A “life strategist,” and a money manager have taught me communication and chesed. The man to whom I dedicate this newsletter is a paradigm of patience, goodness, constant growth, love and generosity.


No wonder the portion that ends with Amalek focuses on what happens, “Ki Teitzei,” when we go out into the world. I usually begin a fundraising appeal a few weeks before Rosh Hashanah, but I want to face God on Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, with my complete superhero collection, honoring the Creator with His creations, “out in the world,” who expand His presence in this world, and chose to begin by thanking you, those listed and those not, for enriching my life.
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Simcha Weinberg

Redeeming Relevance: Moshe’s Last Chance

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

There are many differences between the book of Devarim that we will soon start reading and the four other books of the Torah that come before it. But there is one story whose two versions are so dissimilar that it requires its own treatment – and that is the recounting of why Moshe was not allowed to cross the Jordan. In the first version – in this week’s parsha – the Torah clearly states that it is due to his lack of leadership while procuring water from a boulder.

Yet at the beginning of Devarim, Moshe tells us otherwise: In the middle of his recounting the spy incident, Moshe tells the Jewish people: “God got angry also with me for your sake, saying: ‘You too will not go [over the Jordan].’” While some commentators (Ramban, for example) suggest that Moshe was not trying to say that God got angry with him over the spy incident, as He did with the rest of the Jewish people, this doesn’t appear to be the straightforward reading of the text. More in line with its plain meaning are the commentators (such as Ohr haChaim and Malbim) who write that both the spy incident as well as the story with the boulder contributed to Moshe’s punishment. According to this opinion, however, we must discover what Moshe did wrong in the case of the spies and why Moshe himself identifies only this one reason for his punishment.

Netziv’s explanation of how the spy incident contributed to Moshe’s exclusion from the Land of Israel is among the most helpful. He writes that the process that ultimately led to Moshe’s failure at the boulder actually began with the spies. For Netziv, this process centered around the need for radical diminution of Divine involvement in the lives of the Jewish people in the desert. Moshe had wanted to maintain a strong Divine presence, as embodied by the unusual providence the Children of Israel had experienced since leaving Egypt. However, this required an extremely high level of moral and religious discipline on the part of the Jews, the absence of which would lead to immediate punishment.

After several related mishaps, it became clear that the Jews needed to forego the intensity of God’s immediate presence. Instead, they would need to accustom themselves to a more hidden level of Divine favor in conquering the land. The first actualization of this was the sending of the spies.

Netziv writes that starting with the spies’ mission, the desert experience was to be the training ground for adjusting to this new modality. Although Moshe accepted God’s decision to lower the intensity of His presence, dealing with the change would prove to be an existential struggle for the rest of his life. The scene at the boulder was only the final chapter: Moshe is given one last chance to overcome his inability to adjust to what the Jews needed from their leader, which Netziv tells us was for Moshe to definitively teach the Jews how to earn God’s favor in more conventional ways. This included a more communal and subtle type of prayer than the dramatic petitions of Moshe that they were used to. At the boulder, then, Moshe needed to motivate and teach the people to pray. But apparently, it was beyond him. At that point, Moshe demonstrated once and for all that he could not be the one to lead the Jews into the Promised Land.

Netziv’s approach allows us to reflect on the nature of Moshe’s leadership more broadly. Moshe was ideally suited to the role of an intermediary between God’s highly immanent presence on the one hand and a nation capable of standing at Mount Sinai on the other. But he was not so well suited to leadership in front of a hidden God Who would not perform any new miracles for most of the time the Jews would be in the desert. With God in the background, so to speak, Moshe was challenged by having to deal with the more mundane political and social grievances that became the daily fare of a more banal existence. That type of leadership would have to be taken by someone else.

According to Netziv, Moshe correctly understood his punishment. He failed to make the transition to the hidden mode of Divine providence, which was what God had decided the Jews now needed, even if it would come at the expense of their faithful leader. Their sins led them to need the spies and it would remain to be seen whether Moshe might somehow miraculously pull off working with the transition that the spies represented. But he did not. From that point on, his fate was sealed. We can now appreciate Moshe’s claim that he was punished “for the sake of [the Jewish people]” as a result of [the process that started with] the spy incident.

Rabbi Francis Nataf

Russia Sees No Chance of Repairing Relations with Erdoğan

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Relations between Russia and Turkey cannot be restored, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news conference on Tuesday. “As far as Turkish officials are concerned, there are no prospects [for current diplomatic ties],” she said. “Those people did what they did. As we now perfectly understand, it was their conscious choice. As for relations between countries and peoples, they will be developing.”

Close to two months after Russian planes began flying combat missions to support Syrian president Assad’s ground forces against rebel and ISIS forces, on Nov. 24, the Turkish Air Force downed a Russian Su-24 fighter-bomber. The diplomatic fallout from that shoot-down was fast and stormy, and it has remained on that level, although there have been no more actual military confrontations. Since the incident, Russian trade relations with Turkey have all but ended, and both countries have been painting each other as supporters of terrorism.

In early February, Turkish president Recep Erdogan sought an audience with President Vladimir Putin, but he is yet to receive an invitation. Instead of agreeing to talk, Putin accused Turkey of stabbing Russia in the back.

“The house of cards of what [the Turkish authorities] decided to build in international relations has started falling apart,” Zakharova told the press. “As for relations between peoples and countries, they will certainly continue to develop. There can be no antagonism campaigns against the Turkish people, business and representatives of economic medium,” she added, suggesting it was all strictly about Erdogan.

David Israel

Bibi and Obama Growing Apart on Iran while Rouhani Is All Smiles

Monday, October 21st, 2013

The Associated Press reported that Israel and the U.S. have been growing apart on the Iran nuclear threat, so much so that there appears to be a rift between them these days. Essentially, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to sound the alarm tirelessly and at a high pitch, while the West sees genuine Iranian compromises in the Geneva talks.

The different views are only growing more so, threatening to leave Israel in isolation, as the talks between six global powers and Iran appear to be gaining steam, the AP surmises. western negotiators were upbeat after last week’s talks, going into the next round of negotiations, Nov. 7.

If you wanted a Munich moment – this is it, with the Czech ambassador sitting nervously in the waiting room while the British and French prime ministers and the Axis brutes decided his country’s fate.

Most references to the Munich moment usually show PM Neville Chamberlain waving a piece of paper and announcing "peace in our time." But the really scary Munich moment took place hours earlier, when these dubious characters signed on to the deal. It was about the West's willingness to knowingly embrace the lies of the thugs it was dealing with, leaving Czechoslovakia to pick up the tab. From left to right, Chamberlain, French PM Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini and Italian Foreign Minister Count.

Most references to the Munich moment usually show PM Neville Chamberlain waving a piece of paper and announcing “peace in our time.” But the really scary Munich moment took place hours earlier, when these dubious characters signed on to the deal. It was about the West’s willingness to knowingly embrace the lies of the thugs it was dealing with, leaving Czechoslovakia to pick up the tab. From left to right, Chamberlain, French PM Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini and Italian Foreign Minister Count.

In fact, the louder Netanyahu cries out, the more shrill he is bound to sound in the face of the smiling Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

“I think that in this situation as long as we do not see actions instead of words, the international pressure must continue to be applied and even increased,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday. “The greater the pressure, the greater the chance that there will be a genuine dismantling of the Iranian military nuclear program.”

The statement may reflect more how out of touch Bibi is with the winds blowing in Washington DC right now, than a practical strategy. Over the weekend, U.S. officials said the White House was going to offer Iran a chance to recoup billions of dollars in frozen assets—sitting there since the 1979 Islamic revolution—if it scales back its nuclear program. The sanctions will stay in place for now, but Iran would suddenly receive a windfall.

In other words, Iran will receive between $50 and $75 billion, tax free, not for eliminating its nuclear weapons program, but for merely slowing it down.

This is vintage Rouhani, incidentally – the man was the architect of Iran’s winning strategy of fooling the world while flashing many winning smiles. One gets the feeling the Rouhanis wanted their boy to go into modeling for toothpaste ads, instead of running one of the three most evil regimes on the planet, but one thing led to another.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said it was “premature” to talk about easing sanctions, but he did not endorse Netanyahu’s tough line, saying the U.S. is planning a more “incremental” approach in response to concrete Iranian gestures.

It’s 2005 revisited, and Rouhani knows he’s already won this round. He managed to separate Netanyahu from his American benefactors, and isolate Israel which now looks like it’s frothing at the mouth while Iran is all pleasantries and pragmatism. All he has to do from this point on is keep talking, host a couple UN inspectors, mess with their inspections a little, nothing serious, make it impossible to get a real read of what goes on in those plants – but keep on smiling, denying, and never say anything hostile or aggressive against israel or the West.

Bibi cannot win this one, any more than Czechoslovakia could win the diplomatic war against Hitler. Few people know today that on paper the Czechs were superior militarily to the Germans. If they had decided to strike against the Germans, they could have altered world history. They didn’t need British or French protection, they were completely self sufficient in manufacturing their military arsenal. Indeed, it was his bloodless conquest of Czechoslovakia that turned Hitler unstoppable.

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/bibi-and-obama-growing-apart-on-iran-while-rouhani-is-all-smiles/2013/10/21/

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