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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘peres’

Shabbos in Davos

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Shabbos in Davos. Almost rhymes, like the two are meant to be together.

And so it felt this past weekend at the alpine World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Every year, on Friday night, the Forum hosts a Shabbat meal that, longtime attendants say, started with a handful of people, including leading Israeli economists, but now boasts world leaders and Jewish personalities from around the globe.

One of the principal purposes in my attending the Sabbath meal was my intention of introducing President Paul Kagame of Rwanda – whose government announced at a press conference that we organized in October that they will be opening an Embassy in Israel – to more of the Jewish community. But I also marveled at a great celebration of Jewish observance and pride right in the middle of a renowned global gathering.

We sang Shalom Aleichem, the traditional welcoming poem for both angels and humans. We said the Kiddush blessing on the wine. The Rabbis in attendance were asked to jointly say the Hamotzi blessing on the bread for the assembled crowd. They did it without rancor or division (I’m being humorous here just in case you thought I was making fun of Jewish religious politics).

While the meal featured heads of state, Nobel laureates, and people of world renown, it had a homely feeling where no one in particular was made to feel more important than the next person.

But it was also a nice opportunity to say Good Shabbos and catch up with an assembly of Jewish leaders who were now under one roof, all celebrating God’s holy Sabbath together.

I greeted President Peres of Israel whom I had hosted in Oxford and whom I still visit in Israel. Peres will turn ninety in a few months God willing. Where he gets the Herculean strength to jet set around the world is a mystery that can only be explained by having to be President to seven million Presidents. But he looks and sounds amazing.

When I saw Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defense minister, who had made headlines that morning at the Forum with an interview implying that Israel had shelved its plans to attack Iran, I reminded him of a bizarre meeting. He and I were guests on the Dan Shilon TV program in Israel years ago. I was on talking about my book Kosher Sex that had just been published in Hebrew. He was launching his bid to be Prime Minister of Israel. The TV host started skewering Barak and his wife, asking them if they had read the book. Going further, he asked if they had ever joined the mile-high club. It was an interview to remember. It turned out the Defense Minister did not forget. He smiled and patted me on the back, as if I was privy to some state secret.

A big and very pleasant surprise was seeing Eric Cantor, the House Majority leader, at the dinner. Eric is a very committed Jew who keeps a kosher home and is arguably the most stalwart defender of Israel in the United States Congress. A few years ago, when Eric addressed a Birthright group I was leading, at the Kotel in Jerusalem on Friday night, he walked 45 minutes to dinner at his hosts’ home because he did not wish to drive on the Sabbath in the holy city. His security detail may have had their complaints. But it was inspiring to our Birthright young adults to see the highest ranking Jewish elected official in American history showing such deference to the Sabbath.

A couple I truly enjoyed meeting was the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and his Israeli-born wife, Dorrit Moussaieff. When I visited Iceland in the summer of 2009 with my family, Icelanders were excited, seeing a Jewish family, to tell us about their Jewish-Israeli first lady. Our arrival in Iceland had increased the Jewish population in the country orders of magnitude and it wasn’t every day they got to see people wearing Yarmulkes. Every time I asked for directions, I heard from Icelanders how proud they were to have an Israeli first lady.

In that summer of 2009, tragedy struck. After a few nights in Reykjavik, I heard the terrible news that Michael Jackson died. I did TV interviews via Skype from remote locations in the country, sometimes right by glaciers. It was the most beautiful scenery imaginable, discussing one of the saddest stories. I related to the President and first lady our unforgettable experience in Iceland. Dorrit said, “Why didn’t you come and visit?” I told her I figured she was busy. “No, you should have visited.” I promised her that I would now definitely take her up on her invitation, especially since I was looking for any excuse to visit Iceland, one of the most beautiful places on earth, again. I discovered in the electric, warm, and engaging personality of Iceland’s first lady someone who could make all that ice melt.

But the nicest part of the dinner was connecting with so many unsung heroes who do their extraordinary work without much fanfare. There was Rabbi Mendy Rosenfeld, who has headed Chabad in Switzerland for three decades and who showed me and my wife hospitality when we were in Switzerland for our honeymoon nearly 25 years ago. There was my former Oxford student, Charles Small, who runs an incredible academic program at leading universities, combating anti-Semitism. And there was my friend Eli Beer, who heads United Hatzalah of Israel, rescuing countless Jewish and Arab lives daily.

And, someone to whom all of us who participated in the magical Shabbos dinner should be grateful, there was Eduardo Elsztain, a well-known Jewish philanthropist who showed me hospitality when I visited Argentina and who has quietly paid for the kosher Shabbat dinner at Davos for many years, introducing the peace, serenity, and togetherness of the Jewish Sabbath as a great gift to some of the world’s most influential people.

Which Prime Minister Built the Most Homes in the Settlements?

Friday, January 18th, 2013

A Channel 10 report on Thursday ranked the various Israeli Prime Ministers, since 1991, based on the amount of actual housing construction that began during their respective terms, inside the Israel’s Settlements.

Who Built the Most and When?**
Rank  Prime Minister            Party    Years      Construction  
1 Ehud Barak Labor   1999-2001 4,292
2 Benjamin Netanyahu Likud   1996-1999 3,194
3 Shimon Peres Labor   1995-1996 2,443
4 Ariel Sharon* Likud   2001-2006 1,826
5 Ehud Olmert Kadima   2006-2009 1,741
6 Benjamin Netanyahu Likud   2009-2012 1,168

*Also destroyed thousands of buildings and homes.
** This chart doesn’t include infrastructure construction, only homes.

Based on information collected by Peace Now, below are the number of government tenders for new settlement housing that were issued, by year for the past decase. We then correlated that information according to who was Prime Minister at the time.

Who issued the most Housing Construction Tenders? 
Year   Prime Minister   Party   Tenders   Subtotal  
2002 Ariel Sharon Likud 689
2003 Ariel Sharon Likud 2508
2004 Ariel Sharon Likud 912
2005 Ariel Sharon Likud 1184  Ariel Sharon
5293
2006 Ehud Olmert Kadima 919
2007 Ehud Olmert Kadima 65
2008 Ehud Olmert Kadima 539  Ehud Olmert
1523
2009 Benjamin Netanyahu Likud 0
2010 Benjamin Netanyahu Likud 0
2011 Benjamin Netanyahu Likud 1009
2012 Benjamin Netanyahu Likud 660  Benjamin Netanyahu 
1669

Again, the information above is for new homes only. It does not include the infrastructure development in the settlements, which Netanyahu, for instance, did a lot of (exact data unavailable at the moment) during this last term as Prime Minister.

Updated:

According to Peace Now, the Netanyahu government also approved dozens of “outposts”, though what Peace Now calls “outposts” are actually neighborhoods of existing Settlements.

Likud-Beiteinu Leader: I Oppose a Palestinian State

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

The idea that a Palestinian state can lead to enduring peace in Israel has become a diplomatic obsession for Israeli and American policy makers. Ironically, it was former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin who was in favor of territorial compromise but opposed a Palestinian state. Despite this, establishing such a state has become the equivalent of a “Messiah” that will bring the long awaited peace to the region. President Shimon Peres declared that there is a majority that supports a two state solution. Such a declaration shows that the President is not updated because a recent poll by Mina Tzemach proves just the opposite namely there is a solid majority in Israel against a Palestinian state.

The fact of the matter is that a Palestinian state would not only fail to bring peace and stability to the region, but would increase the tension and usher in permanent instability to the region. Such a state would immediately ally itself with and become a client of rivals and enemies of America such as Iran, would harm American, Israeli, and even Arab interests. A Palestinian State would be a tailwind to insurgent terrorists in Iraq. It would provide Russia and possibly China and North Korea with a foothold in the eastern flank of the Mediterranean at the expense of vital US interests.

The history of the PA’s Abu Mazen tells us something important about the likely character of a Palestinian state. Abu Mazen who will be heading this state is afraid to call for elections in the Palestinian Authority out of fear that Hamas would gain control. In other words, he lacks public support even now. Besides that, he is a graduate of Moscow University (Ph.D. thesis: Holocaust Denial) and it was he who managed the logistics of the Munich Massacre of eleven Israeli athletes in 1972. Abu Mazen is one of the engineers of contemporary Palestinian hate education, which has become a production line for terrorists.

This history is not that of a peace maker, and the PLO’s track record of inter-Arab treachery, non-compliance, corruption, repression and terrorism does not give evidence of a peaceful Palestinian state of the future. Since its makeover from a terrorist organization to a semi-independent entity in 1993, the Palestinian Authority, is led by PLO graduates of terrorist bases in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria and Tunisia

The proposed Palestinian State would inflict destruction upon America’s Arab allies and would enhance the fortunes of its rivals and enemies. Other states in the region know this. During the October 1994 signing of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, top commanders of the Jordanian military urged their Israeli counterparts to stop short of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River, “lest it destroy the [pro-US] Hashemite regime east of the River.”

Even more worrisome are the ties between the PLO and Iran. The PLO was one of the earliest allies of the Ayatollah Khomeini when he toppled the Shah of Iran in 1979. After his 2005 election to the chairmanship of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen’s first visits were to Teheran and Damascus. A Palestinian state would extend Iran’s long terrorist arm, facilitating subversive operations against pro-Western Arab regimes. It would also enable Iran to enhance its intelligence and military operations in the region, including port facilities in Gaza.

The long and determined effort by Israeli leaders to promote a Palestinian state and to soften the Palestinian Authority’s harsh features cannot change the fact that a Palestinian State would add fuel to the fire of terrorism in the region. Besides all that, it is not hard to forsee rockets flying into Israel from Judea and Samaria as they did after the disengagement from Gaza in the south. In summation: we must remove the idea of a Palestinian state in our area from the Israeli agenda immediately if not sooner.

The Livni Intifada

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

To grab as many leftist votes as possible from Shelly Yachimovich, whose campaign focuses on social issues, Tzipi Livni is focusing her campaign on the political process with the Palestinians.  There are two components to her strategy: make the problems with the Palestinians worse, and then blame Netanyahu and his administration for them.

In the first stage, Livni contradicted the official Israeli line abroad that the Palestinians had unilaterally violated the Oslo Accords by going to the UN, announcing instead that the Israeli government was to blame for the move.

Then came Olmert, announcing at the Israel Business Conference that Netanyahu is leading the way to a third “intifada.”

Surely enough, their promise that a lack of progress in negotiations would lead to renewed violence by the Palestinians has already proven effective.  Following their pronouncements, predictions and descriptions of a new “intifada” started to hit the media with exquisite coordination.

Granted, neither Livni nor Olmert wants an “intifada.”  But—how did her advisers  put it?—“Livni has put the political process back on the agenda in Israel.”  The Palestinians aren’t idiots.  They do their reading about Israeli elections, and when someone puts in an order for an “intifada,” they’re eager not to disappoint.  Especially when the one putting in the order is a friend.  This explanation is offered—surprisingly—by Ron Ben Yishai in Yediot Acharonot, who is not known as a great fan of the Netanyahu government.  Further, he says, “Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) has one more clear goal that he is trying to achieve with threats of another “intifada”: strengthening the center and left in Israeli elections.”

Ben Yishai writes that Abu Mazen is planning articles in the Israeli media while taking care to generate tension and violence in the field, as the number of rock- and Molotov cocktail-throwing incidents increase substantially, with lives lost along the way.

As elections come closer, the level of violence increases.

Not convinced that there could be outright or even unspoken coordination between the Palestinians and Israeli politicians?

Unfortunately, this is nothing new.

In 2010, Netanyahu revealed before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Chaim Ramon had been sent by Shimon Peres to meet with Saeb Erekat and other Palestinian officials, and advised them against being overly eager to start negotiations with Netanyahu.  “You’ll get more from us.”  “Don’t compromise.”  “Wait till we’re in power.”

Ramon and Peres denied it.  But then Ayala Chason of Channel 1 broadcast an interview with the very credible source who had happened to overhear the conversation.

More and more, it seems that what we have here is a joint effort to produce an “intifada.”  Perhaps there are no secret meetings.  But there is an overt tango, albeit one in which the dancers are not quite touching.

Granted, you say, Ramon is always making trouble.  But Livni?  She’s ethical.  She’s innocent.  You can’t say such a thing about her without offering solid evidence.

Sorry, but the burden of proof is on her.  Livni should have gone to her good friends in the Palestinian leadership and said, “Don’t even think about starting an ‘intifada’ and expecting me to stay quiet.”  She should then have gone to the media and, just to dispel any doubts, announced that we all stand united with the administration against any and all threats of Palestinian violence.  “There will be no negotiations under conditions of violence.  Quite the opposite: if there is violence, we will call on the government to take punitive measures.”

The deafening silence that Livni and her people are maintaining in response to Palestinian threats is the smoking gun in the moral case against them.  Livni and Olmert’s use of Palestinian threats to affect election results, meanwhile, is less a smoking gun and more a ticking bomb.

Is it realistic to expect responsible leadership from Olmert?  After all, he and his children won’t pay the price of a new “intifada.”  That will be paid by Israelis driving along the roads of Judea and Samaria, such as Tziyona, the wife of musician Itzik Kala.  She was recently injured very severely in the head while driving toward Jerusalem on Beitar Road.

In the meantime, Abu Mazen, Abu Ala, and the rest of the Abus are pretty pleased with themselves.  Every now and then they toss another stick on the bonfire.  Another few rocks.  Another few Molotov cocktails.

Anything for friends.  Anything to keep the conflict in the headlines ahead of Israeli elections.

Yet the leaders of the right also are being too quiet.  They’ve got to expose and attack this cynical pre-election stunt by Livni and her fellow travelers.  They’ve got to tell them: The burden of proof is on you.  You need to go to the Palestinians and make it crystal clear to both them and the Israeli public that Molotov cocktails and rock-throwing are totally unacceptable to you.

It is intolerable that these people use Palestinian threats and terrorist attacks as part of an electoral strategy of intimidating the Israeli public, thus incentivizing further Palestinian violence. They must be told quite clearly and publicly that if they fail to show some civic responsibility now, then they will bear responsibility for the next “intifada” and its victims.

Originally published in Makor Rishon December 21, 2012.  Translated from Hebrew by David B. Greenberg.

Israeli Top Brass: We Will Defend Israelis

Monday, November 12th, 2012

As Israel’s border with Gaza heats up, Israeli officials from the highest echelons – even some who are known for their anti-war philosophies – have declared that the State will defend Israeli citizens and restore order in the south.

On Sunday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that he would support a ground incursion into Gaza in the name of Israeli security. “If we are forced to reenter Gaza in order to deal Hamas a blow and restore security for all of Israel’s citizens, then we will not hesitate to do it,” he said.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Sunday for their 80th anniversary supplement, President Shimon Peres called rocket attacks from Gaza “idiotic”, questioning the goals of the terrorists and adding that “if they shoot, we have to respond fully and immediately.  There is no room for any consideration.”  Yet Israel should continue to try to “achieve peace” even while it defends itself, he said.

Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon said he supports the targeted killing of terror chiefs, which he said were very effective at maintaining quiet when he was IDF Chief of Staff in 2003-2004, prior to his resignation due to his refusal to participate in the forced expulsion of Jews from the Gush Katif communities of Gaza under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.  Ya’alon said the possibility of re-enacting this policy, and of sending Israeli troops into Gaza, was “being weighed”.

Internal Defense Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich recommended that the IDF act in a way which is “painful” to Hamas in order to bring an end to the “intolerable” situation of Israelis in the south.  He did not advocate Israel retaking the land.

Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter said the “terror state” in Gaza should be treated to a “totally different deterrence situation”, and told Israel’s Army Radio on Sunday that the government would do the right thing for Israel’s security, without regard to how it might affect upcoming prime ministerial elections.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel had no choice but to respond to the rockets, which would otherwise just begin reaching farther into Israel.

Beersheva mayor Rubik Danilovich called on the government on Sunday to end the “war of attrition” between Israel and terrorists in Gaza, and will meet on Monday with Prime Minister Netanyahu, where he is expected to urge the prime minister to do whatever it takes to bring an end to the attacks.

The loudest voice against taking military measures to protect Israeli citizens belongs to Labor Party head Shelly Yechimovich, who told Army Radio that army activity would get in the way of the approaching election season. “We are on the eve of elections, and operations more than air strikes or targeted attacks require stability and national consensus.”

“It could be that such an operation is needed, but not now,” she said.

$1 Million Israeli BRAIN Prize To Be Awarded in 2013

Monday, September 24th, 2012

A $1 million dollar prize has been announced which will go to the individual or team with the highest potential for helping people around the world by the non-profit organization Israel Brain Technologies.

The Breakthrough Research and Innovation in Neurotechnology (BRAIN) prize will be awarded by a panel of international leaders in neuroscience, technology, and business.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, whose love of brain research led to the founding of IBT, lauded the potential for make inroads against debilitating brain diseases, both in terms of the benefit to mankind and the possibility of economic profit.

The first BRAIN Prize will be awarded at IBT’s Global Brain Technology Conference in 2013.

Israeli Vows to ‘Bike for the Fight’ Against Cancer

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

A new initiative – Bike for the Fight – will raise money for the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), a North American organization funding grants to top Israeli cancer researchers and scientific institutions, by biking for three months across the United States, according to a report by NoCamels.

Started by Tom Peled, a 24 year student at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya who lost his father to cancer in 2011 after an 8 year battle,  the venture will see Peled bike from Los Angeles and through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and ending in New York City.  The mission will begin on August 1.

The recipients of ICRF funds are used to fund research into the development of life-saving early diagnostic devices and new drugs for such cancers as leukemia, bone marrow cancer, breast and ovarian cancer, and others.

Peled has attracted the support of Hillel, Maccabiah 2012, and Microsoft Israel, which is creating a special app for the project, as well as President Shimon Peres and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

Biking for the Fight has already raised NIS 41,000 by selling campaign bracelets, and signed up hundreds of people for organ donation.

Blogging Tomorrow at the President’s Conference

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

My first stop on the final day of the President’s Conference was a special bloggers meeting first with Dr. Yossi Vardi and then with President Peres. Bloggers joked on Twitter that they felt like calling Peres ‘Saba’ after spending the past few days with him, and I can understand why. He certainly has a grandfatherly type of spirit made up of a kind smile and a warm glow that radiated through the low lighting of Exhibition Hall.

The bloggers had the opportunity to ask President Peres some questions at the gathering. Bloggers from both national papers and personal websites were represented and asked questions that ranged from straightforward politics to ones that were more personal. One inevitably centered around the status of Iran, in which Peres answered that Iranians are using dangerous means that don’t give Israelis much of a choice when deciding what to do next. Peres explained that in the recent nuclear negotiations, the Iranians came to the table half-hearted. If the leaders don’t agree to economic sanctions, then all options will be on the table. A heavy calm had permeated the room throughout Peres’ discussion, but hearing the idea of the potential for more extreme measures took it to a deeper level.

That feeling was lifted during one of the most moving parts of the session when Peres was asked about his reflections during his time in America with President Obama. A clear advocate and friend to America, Peres explained he was charmed by the President. He said the unique thing about America is that it’s the only power in history that got its strength not by taking, but by giving. “This is a new concept about the strength of generosity,” he said. As kind as his words were, I can’t help but poke a hole in the message. I don’t think the Native Americans would be so quick to talk about America’s generous nature. On top of that, America is a capitalist country that inspires starry-eyed youth with the idea of the ‘American dream.’ The greed and corruption that can result from the concept doesn’t match up. Further, when America started the War on Terror, they exercised their strength under the cover of generosity, wanting to set up a democracy in a less fortunate area, but the true reasons for invading were far less altruistic. That being said, even if America may not be the most generous historically, honoring Israel certainly falls into that category. Seeing Israel in that respect was incredibly moving for Peres and for many bloggers in the room.

Some questions were injected with religion. One blogger asked Peres what he would ask God for at the Kotel. Peres said that God resides in each of us and He guides us. We can follow him or we cannot follow him, but he would ask him to continue to give the right advice and in turn, we will do the right things. It’s an idea that I’ve been learning about at seminary for a few weeks now, and an aspect that can be included in all areas of life. The overarching idea mimics the theme of the conference in general. We don’t know what’s in store for the future, but we must have faith that tomorrow’s world will be better than today’s. Peres said that in the Hebrew language there is only past and future, no present. In response to the words of the prophets, he said that “there is nothing on the waiting list.” The prophets’ words advise us in which way to change for the future. Peres’s actions set the stage for that. By creating the President’s Conference, he is setting up a means to exchange ideas and meet new people that together can create that change.

Peres exuded the same fervor in response to the most fun question of the day. @Roopunzel (on Twitter) asked, “What’s on your wish list for your next birthday present?” Peres didn’t hesitate. He responded that his wish is for all people to have happy birthdays. I hope that’s a message that can be delivered.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/special-features/president-conference-israel-2012/blogging-tomorrow-at-the-presidents-conference/2012/06/22/

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