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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Israeli politics’

The Ups and Downs of Life in Israel (Book Review)

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Choosing Life in Israel, by P. David Hornik (a columnist at Frontpage Magazine, a contributor to Pajamas Media, American Spectator, and elsewhere), is a collection of essays vividly describing the author’s life in Israel with all its attendant regional whiplashes. Its trajectory veers like a roller coaster ride from the wildly delicious to the deeply terrified. From personal ups and downs to heart-stopping high drama, its quick pace leaves one breathless. The author’s compelling voice projects a rich tapestry of experiences living on the front lines of the Middle East.

The book is broken down into two highly readable sections. Part One deals mainly with the ins and outs of daily life in Israel with its multifaceted challenges. Its nine stories are interwoven into concise and entertaining segments,  not without cold doses of reality smacking the reader across the face. One such episode is particularly emblematic of what it means to live not only in Israel, but in Jerusalem; the epicenter of international fixation, bordering on fanatical obsession.

From “Mistaken Random Terror in Jerusalem:”

…just down the street from me, George Khoury, a 22 year old student of economics and international relations at Hebrew University who was out jogging, was shot dead by terrorists from Al-Aksa Martyr’s Brigades, part of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement… The “impersonal” nature of most terrorism… is its most chilling aspect… and killing him because (supposedly) he’s a Jew — is that personal or impersonal? Indeed, the Martyr’s Brigades was quick to apologize once it found out its error. Its commander called George Khoury’s father, the well known East Jerusalem lawyer Elias Khoury… and that the group considers George a “Palestinian martyr.”

Adding considerable angst to a father’s normal bereavement, Elias Khoury’s father, Daoud Khoury, was also murdered for being in the wrong place at a most unfortunate time. Visceral flashbacks surely must have resonated through Elias Khoury’s being. But when it comes to Islamic-sustained terror everything is flipped on its head. Even though he lost his father due to a booby-trapped refrigerator placed by the same Fatah terrorist outfit in the heart of a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, his reaction to his son’s and father’s death evinced “moral” equivalency: “The Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades are individuals who are trying to impose their way on everyone… this act was carried out by a group that undermines the cause of Palestinian justice… I am against all violent attacks against innocent civilians, whether it be against Israeli or Palestinian civilians.”

Well and good, except for the fact that Israeli security forces take great pains to spare the lives of Palestinian civilians, often at unfathomable costs to its own soldiers and citizens alike. Those who invariably become “collateral” damage are accidental victims of legitimate counter-terror operations. Most significantly, many Palestinian casualties are strategically placed (by their leadership) in close proximity to bomb factories etc., in anticipation of an international hue and cry when the dead and maimed are paraded before the world’s cameras. More to the point, the author elicits many such examples of bloody jihad waged all over the streets of Israel, seemingly with no end in sight. Consequentially, P. David Hornik demonstrates, even when bereaved, Israel’s minority population is unwilling to condemn terror for what it is: murderous jihad.

Segueing to Part Two, the reader lands even more squarely in the heart of the hottest conflict in the world, aptly titled “Israel’s Struggle to Survive.”

Part of the richness of Choosing Life in Israel lies within its many paradoxes. In one fell swoop one can be swept up with pride when reading about the efficiency of Israel’s Defense Forces as it engages the enemy, though mostly in “reaction” to sustained terror on its citizens, instead of pursuing an initial offensive doctrine. This is absolutely the result of political “strategies,” as opposed to military readiness. To be sure, for the most part, the IDF is a well-oiled machine, and its special forces are second to none. At the same time, the reader cringes with embarrassment, bordering on acute distress, witnessing many hard-fought battles evaporate into nothingness as Israel’s political leadership reflexively turn battlefield victories into one “concession/peace” gesture after another. An unsustainable vicious cycle is played out, year after year.

Specifically, “How Not to Defeat Hamas” illustrates heartburn-worthy renditions of appeasement, while exemplifying the above dichotomy. “From the beginning, Israel has always fueled the Palestinian Authority’s war against it — quite literally. It provides the Palestinian Authority with key supplies like electricity, water and, through Dor-Alon Energy Company, even with gas and cooking gas…. Last Wednesday, though, Dor-Alon announced it was suspending supplies due to unpaid debts. Yet, by Thursday, the company said it was resuming supplies after P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas promised to send payments within 10 days.”

Why Did Ben Gurion Agree to Army Exemptions for Haredim?

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Today I was talking to a neighbor who told me that he’s in the middle of a book about IDF Chief Rabbi HaRav Shlomo Goren.  One of the things that surprised him was the good relationship between HaRAv Goren and Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, even though Ben-Gurion is known as being rather anti-religious.  Whenever HaRav Goren needed something, Ben-Gurion agreed.  My neighbor found that surprising.

That made me think.

One of the biggest issues in Israel today is whether or not to continue the draft exemption for full time yeshiva students. Historically, this was due to an agreement Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion had made with  the Chazon Ish, Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz.  My feeling about it has always been that Ben-Gurion did not want Hareidim in the IDF because he didn’t want a religious army.  Maybe Ben-Gurion’s acquiescence to the Hazon Ish and Rabbi Goren was for a different reason, and I’m not referring to the one mentioned on Israel Matzav:

As many of you know (because some of you have even met me there), I attend a weekly Torah class in Jerusalem. The rabbi who gives the class once told us that he met a man who knew someone who had asked David Ben Gurion why he allowed a religious education system to be created in the new state at all. Ben Gurion responded that he figured that within a generation, all attachment to traditional Judaism would die out anyway, so why fight with them. On this, as on many other matters, Ben Gurion was clearly wrong.

Ben-Gurion certainly wasn’t nice to the Revisionists, Jabotinsky, Menachem Begin, those who had fought for Israel’s independence with the Etzel and Lechi.  He had even sent the Palmach to shoot at the Jews on the Altalena, a horrendous act for sure.

Could Ben-Gurion’s agreement to defer/exempt Haredim, studying full-time in yeshivot from the IDF have been to get the political support and loyalty of the Haredi leadership?  Ben-Gurion would do anything to make sure that Menachem Begin’s Herut Party would stay out of power.

Well, what do you think?

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What Are They Crying About?

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

It is difficult to understand the ultra-Orthodox reaction to its exclusion from the government coalition. After all, that’s how it goes in politics – sometimes you are in, sometimes you are out. For many long years, the ultra-Orthodox were in the coalition and the religious Zionists were out. Now they have changed places.

So what? Why all the lamenting, cries of despair and threats of destruction of the settlements, God forbid? Everybody with some common sense knows that nobody is going to send the yeshiva boys to prison camps and that no serious Torah learner is going to have to stop learning. What is causing such an exaggerated ultra-Orthodox reaction? It doesn’t make them look very good, so why throw years of friendly cooperation into the trashcan? Why incite baseless hatred of their constituency? What is going on here?

To understand the ultra-Orthodox, religious Zionists must remember how they felt and reacted after the Expulsion from Gush Katif. “How can you possibly compare the two?” you may ask. “Entire communities were razed in Gush Katif and with the ultra-Orthodox, it is simply a questions of politics.”

That is true. The destruction experienced by the religious Zionists was entirely real, and the pain of the expelled unbearable. But the intensity of the grief and the religious Zionist reaction to the Expulsion were much more than simple sharing of the pain of those driven from their homes. Settlements were destroyed before Gush Katif – and subsequently, as well.

In Gush Katif something much bigger than houses was destroyed. It seemed that what was destroyed there was ideology. That was the source of the deep pain and grief. That was what motivated the lamentation and the heartbreaking images, images like the picture of the Netzarim expellees carrying the menorah from their synagogue, creating an immediate association with the image of the menorah from the Beit HaMikdash being carried by the Jews exiled from Jerusalem.

That same destruction of ideology is what is being experienced now by the ultra-Orthodox. Interestingly, the reaction of the religious Zionists then and the ultra-Orthodox now are amazingly similar.

Until the expulsion from Gush Katif, the religious Zionists still believed that the redemption process was on “automatic pilot.” True, there were some malfunctions (some of them major) here and there but they could be explained away or ignored.

In Yamit Israel succumbed to the enticement of “peace,” and Oslo could be blamed on the Left. But when the Expulsion took place, Yair Lapid offered this explanation: “We had to teach you a lesson.” In other words, we drove you from your homes and destroyed your communities because we – the mainstream of the return to Zion – are simply unwilling to accept your interpretation, your ideology and your Rabbi Kook. So please get out of our sights and let us live our daily lives without your unbearable Messianism.

That is why we cried so bitterly. Not only about Gush Katif. We cried because they threw us out, threw out our belongings after us, and slammed the door shut – while life in Israel continued as if nothing had happened. It was much more than Gush Katif. It was the ideological breaking point and ultimate humiliation. The tears were meant to make our mainstream “father and mother” open the door for us once again.

Now that we understand what happened to the religious Zionists, we can understand what the ultra-Orthodox are experiencing. Certainly not with the same intensity, for to them Zionism is much less a father and mother than it is to the religious Zionists. But it is the same insult, based on the ultra-Orthodox feeling of belonging to the state. The Neturei Karta sect, for example, vociferously opposed to the state, was not insulted at all.

In other words, the more insulted the ultra-Orthodox are, the more they show how much they belong to the collective. And that is good news.

…To be continued

Visiting a Friend

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

A lot of people are trying to spin President Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel this week in their own image. People on both sides of the divide see this trip designed to re-start the peace process.

The left that think settlements are an impediment to peace and know the President shares that view. So they are hopeful that he will somehow use his personal charm and considerable influence to halt settlement construction with an eye towards re-starting peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Those on the right see the same thing, only instead of supporting it, they are vehemently opposed to it – believing that settlements are not the real issue. They instead see the President’s mission as forcing Israel to stop settlement construction at a time when they need it most (because of natural growth and the perceived (by the right) value of outlying settlements as bulwarks against terrorism).

I think they are both wrong. I don’t see any plan. I see an impasse. I think the President sees that too. If he had any kind of plan that he thinks would have even the slightest chance at success at re-kindling the peace process he would have suggested it by now.

The President doesn’t need face time with Israeli leadership to make these kinds of suggestions. Israeli leaders know full well how important the relationship with the United States is. Even the current Prime Minister bends over backwards to accommodate the President’s wishes whenever he can if he doesn’t see it as compromising their security or other national interests.

I have always maintained that the President is sincere in his attempts to convince both Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate peace in the form of a two state solution believing it to be the best of all possible worlds for all concerned. Whether settlements are an issue on any level can be debated by people of good will. But I don’t think any fair minded observer (and I emphasize fair minded) on either side of the issue can dispute the President’s noble intent.

My view on this issue is somewhere between these two extremes. I do not support settlement building at this time because the gain does not outweigh the loss of good will generated by acceding to the President’s wishes. But I don’t believe they are the main impediment to peace either. With little exception, I would therefore prefer if Israel does not move forward with expansion of settlements at this time. There is no advantage to spitting in the face of the leader of a country that is your biggest supporter. Especially while he’s there. That would be a major mistake.

That said, I do not believe that the President will press Israel to stop settlement during this trip. Not that he has changed his mind. But that he doesn’t want to waste the opportunity to build on the relationship between the two countries.

Unlike some of his biggest detractors, I believe that the President actually likes Israel and values the friendship of the Israeli people. I doubt that he buys into all the anti-Israel rhetoric one hears so frequently from Israel’s enemies. Like accusations that they are guilty of Apartheid for instance. I’m not saying he doesn’t see Palestinian suffering. I’m sure he does. But like me, he understands that their suffering is due in large part from security measures Israel takes because of a history of being attacked by their own people through terrorist organizations like Hamas.

Hamas is still considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. The President never suggested for a moment that Hamas be removed from the State Department list of terrorist organizations. Same thing Hezbollah. Although he may feel that Israel could do better I also believe that he understands Israel’s position and for the most part does not blame them for the suffering of the Palestinians.

I also believe that he values Israel as an important ally as well as a friend. That’s why he approved scarce budget dollars to be spent on the very successful ‘Iron Dome’ anti missile defense system. And why military and intelligence cooperation between the two countries has never been closer! He sees a Israel as a country of shared values and its people much like those of his own country.

The problem is with the way he started off his Presidency with respect to his Middle East foreign policy. Although that too was well intentioned, it was a mistake. He made overtures to the Arab nations by going over there intending to reset the U.S. relationship with them while at the same time being highly critical of their their anti Israel attitude and their revisionist attitude about the Holocaust. But he erred by not visiting Israel as well. Although he did not intend it that way – he in effect snubbed his closest ally in the Middle East.

That began a cycle of mistrust of the President by the Israeli people. He was initially seen as tilting towards the Arabs. He has not fully recovered from that perception. Israel and many of its supporters felt that once he was in the neighborhood he should have at least stopped off and paid his friend a visit. The perception of being snubbed set the tone.

The second thing that further caused a perceived rift was when Israel’s Prime Minister showed poor judgement on his first visit to the White House by publicly lecturing the President. That did not help matters cooling off of the relationship even further– at least publicly. Especially when the President was caught off guard telling the French President what a hard time he had with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Some pundits characterized the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister as one where the two leaders hate each other. I don’t think that is accurate. I’m not saying that they are kindred spirits. But I don’t think ‘hate’ is the right word. I think that the two actually respect each other even while they disagree on some key issues. I do not think Netanyahu is his enemy by any stretch of the imagination – any more than House Speaker John Boehner is.

So why is he going to Israel? I believe that this trip is to repair the negative image he has in Israel. I doubt that he will do or say anything to them about the peace process or settlements – except to perhaps pay some lip service to it.

It is therefore my considered opinion that Israel should put on an unprecedented charm offensive – and treat him like he was – well… the President of the United States and their best friend. They should go out of their way to thank him for the considerable amount of things he has done for them . They ought to make sure that they talk as much as possible about the special relationship between the two countries; their shared democratic principles; and their commitment to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

There certainly ought not to be any demonstrations against him by any dissident extremists like the die-hard price-taggers. Although there may be some. As well as demonstrations about Jonathan Pollard – not that it will help him one iota. If any demonstrations do happen I’m sure that the President will see it as an example of the great freedom of expression that Israel grants its citizens – just like the United States does.

The Israeli public’s real concern right now is not the Palestinians. If the last election showed anything it showed that their main concern is how to solve the problem of “sharing the burden.” Meaning what to do about Haredim who insist on remaining exempt from the draft. If the fractious new coalition government has any one thing in common – it is that. To the chagrin of all the Haredi parties, they will have little to say about it having been left out of the coalition. They are now in the opposition.

But I don’t think this will influence any part of the President’s visit to Israel. I doubt that Haredim will be making an issue of this to the President. So after all is said and done I think this trip should be a resounding success that will enhance the relationship between Israel and the United States to an unprecedented level.

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Israel’s New Government: Not What You Think

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

On the issues about which the world is obsessed, Israel’s new government is basically a continuation of the old one. That is the key point to keep in mind regarding the new coalition which has a comfortable 68-seat majority, well over the 61 minimum parliamentarians required.

Basically, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in a strong position as these things go. It is notable that there is not a single other person seriously considered to be a serious candidate for prime minister. Of course, he will have the usual headaches of managing a disparate coalition in which parties will quarrel, threaten to walk out and make special demands.

The coalition consists of Netanyahu’s Likud (merged with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party); Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which might be called traditionally liberal in American terms; Naftali Bennett’s right-wing and dati religious (Modern Orthodox, in American terms) party, Habayit Hayahudi; and Tzipi Livni’s rather shapeless and personalistic Hatnuah party. A key element of this coalition is the alliance of Bennett and Lapid in opposition to the Haredi (mistakenly called “ultra-Orthodox” in the West) religious parties.

While this is certainly a conservative-dominated government, I have yet to see anyone in the mass media point out that it includes two of the three largest left of center parties!

Of the three key ministries, Netanyahu will be foreign minister, holding that post “in trust” for indicted former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose party ran on a joint list with the Likud. In practice, this means Netanyahu will have close control over implementing his policies internationally. The defense minister is the very able Moshe Yaalon, a Likud member and former head of military intelligence.

Lapid will run the Finance Ministry, dealing with issues on which he has no experience at all. This is not so unusual in parliamentary systems, where senior civil servants actually run the ministries. But Lapid holds this post because his signature issues are to urge reforms in the economy. His party will also get education, social services, health, and science and technology.

Here is something of a paradox. Israel has been one of the most successful countries in the developed world because it has refused to join the high-spending, high-debt, subsidy-oriented policies of Europe and now the United States. Unemployment and inflation have been low; growth has been relatively high. The problem, though, is that prices are also relatively high compared to incomes, causing problems especially for young people and consumers generally.

Lapid is expected to revise the management of the golden eggs without doing harm to the goose that laid them. Arguably, the number-one issue for this government is whether Lapid can perform well. His father, a popular journalist, followed the precise same course as the son a few years ago and failed completely. The junior Lapid has no actual political experience and does have characteristics of Tel Aviv beautiful people society. If he falters, his party will disintegrate in the next election.

As for Bennett, the amusing spin on much coverage is that his party has succeeded, that settlers even dominate the government, because he will have a couple of minor ministries which don’t have much power. Actually, he got less than I would have expected. While the settlements might benefit a little economically from these positions–and from the party’s holding the chairmanship over the Knesset finance committee–they will not have much authority and control little money directly.

If there is a big winner in the new government it is Lapid’s reformist liberals (in the old American sense, not the redefinition imposed on that word by the American far left). They are going to have a chance to show if they can improve social services, a fairer distribution of resources (the issue isn’t so much between rich and poor but across different sectors), and an economy that retains its growth while managing the problem of high prices, among other things.

Meanwhile, although the world is obsessed with non-existent issues regarding the long-dead “peace process” or fantasy options for Israel to make friends with neighboring Islamist regimes by giving even more concessions, Israel strategically is focused on defense.

Four of the six bordering entities—Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and soon Syria—are ruled by radical Islamist groups that openly declare their goal of wiping Israel off the map. And that list doesn’t even include extremely hostile Iran (whose drive toward nuclear weapons cannot be forgotten for a moment) and the virulently anti-Israel regime in Turkey.

Will it Be Good for the Jews?

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Yes, even here in Israel we must always ask the question: “Will it Be Good for The Jews?”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s latest coalition government has many competing factions.

MK Tzipi Livni, Israel’s newest Justice Minister, stressed on Saturday that she would not support the basic law bill “Israel is the national state of the Jewish people,” whose promotion is part of the new coalition agreements with the Jewish Home party.

Maybe “competing” is too gentle a word.

Netanyahu is hoping to be able to control his warring partners, certainly long enough to see himself soaring in the polls and trying for better election results.  Bibi’s Likud and partner Yisrael Beitenu bombed terribly in the recent elections, losing a critical amount of Knesset seats.  His formal announcement to President Peres was the easy part.  Governing with such partners will no doubt be the greatest challenge to Netanyahu’s political career.

Livni’s chance of being Prime Minister is now nil, but by controlling the Justice Ministry she will have a lot of power.  That’s why she demanded it.  And unfortunately, Bibi gave in.

Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett have both been promoting themselves as Centrists, just like Bibi had done earlier in his political career, since neither are shy about admitting that they dream of holding the top position, Prime Minister.  Right now they are working together against Bibi, but when they weaken him sufficiently, no doubt their alliance will crumble, like very fresh matzah.

Do I feel sorry for Bibi?  No!

Benjamin Netanyahu made his bed when he put pragmatic secular politics over Jewish values and Jewish History and Jewish Rights to The Land of Israel.  Our greatest leaders, from Biblical time onward were those who could see that God controls the big picture.

That’s why the only two of the “spies” who had been sent to לתור (latur)stakeout the Land (Numbers Chapter 13 בְּמִדְבַּר), who merited to enter it forty years later were the ones who trusted that God would make it possible for the Jewish People to rule it as Jews.

Remember that our first king, the Benjaminite Saul was deposed by God as punishment for not obeying His orders.  God replaced Saul with David who understood the power of God could overcome all human power and weapons.

Too bad that Benzion Netanyahu didn’t name his second son David…

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The ‘Two-State Solution’: Dream or Nightmare?

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

A “mantra” is supposed to be more like meaningless sounds to repeat as we tune out:

1. Hinduism A sacred verbal formula repeated in prayer, meditation, or incantation, such as an invocation of a god, a magic spell, or a syllable or portion of scripture containing mystical potentialities. 2. A commonly repeated word or phrase.

I sometimes refer to the phrase “two state solution” as a nightmare mostly because too many politicians, diplomats, academics and of course the media keep touting it as a “solution to the conflict between the Jews and the Arabs” without truly thinking about what it means and how it would affect the lives of Israelis and the security of the State of Israel.

The State of Israel and the Arabs aren’t two toddlers fighting over some blocks which can be harmlessly shared.

There are many Arab states, large and affluent, stable, unstable and most do not practice western-style values and democracy.  UNESCO identifies 21 Arab states, while Wikipedia lists 23 Arab states. In addition the Arab League is a regional organization of these states that was formed in 1945. It currently has 22 members.

The touted “moderate” Arabs promoted by the west, i.e., the United States, Europe and international organizations, such as the United Nations, aren’t moderate by international standards.  The so-called Palestinians don’t even get along with each other, and it’s dangerously unrealistic to think that they are capable of governing a state. We keep hearing these fantasies which claim that there’s a safe and just way to divide up Judea and Samaria between Jews and Arabs, which is preposterous.  I grew up in the 1960′s, and I remember what went on in divided Germany, especially Berlin.  These things just don’t work.  And please remember that the raison d’être of the so called Palestinians is the destruction of the State of Israel.

From a Palestinian Media Watch report:

The PA promises its people that in the future, the State of Israel will be completely erased and replaced by a State of Palestine. A Fatah member of Palestinian parliament, Najat Abu Bakr, told PA TV that the PA supports and adopts the “stages plan.” To the world, the PA claims that the Palestinians seek the West Bank and Gaza Strip, when in fact the goal is all of Israel: “It doesn’t mean that we don’t want the 1948 borders, but in our current political program we say we want a state on the 1967 borders.” [PA TV (Fatah), Aug. 25, 2008]Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki reiterated this position on Al-Jazeera TV:

“It is impossible to realize the inspiring idea or the great goal in one stroke… Israel will come to an end… If I say that I want to remove it from existence, this will be great, great, [but] it is hard. This is not a [stated] policy. You can’t say it to the world. You can say it to yourself.” [Al-Jazeera TV, Sept. 23, 2011]

This is very worrying, especially since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has bought into the lie and has now appointed extreme Leftist Tzipi Livni to negotiate with the Arabs.

Already the Israeli Supreme Court and the Defense Ministry take “Arab rights” as more important than Jewish security.

The Head of Central Command in the IDF, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, gave orders at week’s end to dismantle the fences protecting two Jewish communities, following the High Court’s ruling in the matter. The High Court found that the fences that surround and protect the communities of Ofra and Adam, in the Binyamin region, need to be dismantled because they prevent access to some Arabs’ agricultural plots. The fences were allegedly built without the necessary approvals. (Arutz Sheva).

This is a dangerous policy.  And that’s why I would have had preferred new elections and no coalition here in Israel.

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Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/shiloh-musings/the-two-state-solution-dream-or-nightmare/2013/03/12/

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