Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"As It Is"

There is nothing to be said about the Obama win yesterday except that good things are wished for America. Things will play out over time. When and as it is appropriate, I will comment. From the perspective here in Israel, the important thing is to have a strong government that will speak for us effectively and defend our rights in the land. And, on this point I continue to be cautiously optimistic.

Benny Begin, who has joined Likud, held a press conference yesterday with Binyamin Netanyahu. Since his very recent announcement to run on the Likud list, he has been barraged with old media clips showing him fiercely criticizing Netanyahu for the Hevron Accord. Now he said:

"I saw that the media have taken clips from the attic that have no connection to the current reality...Adults can decide to overcome the problems of the past.

"I joined the Likud to deal with difficult challenges that lie ahead and because I want to participate and have influence in the current ideological debate.

"The reality has changed. People in Israel realize that there can no longer be illusions. The quest for diplomatic compromise has been tried by Israeli governments, and it led us nowhere but to increased violence."

Saying that he is still opposed to surrendering any of our land, Begin declared that Netanyahu was now "more mature" and the public had "reawakened from its illusions." The picture he is painting is one of a confluence of events that makes the time ripe for a real shift in this country, away from what's been happening for several years.


Netanyahu, for his part, said he had made no promises to Begin ruling out negotiations with the Palestinians. What I had read earlier, however, is that he did promise that there would be no negotiations on Jerusalem, and it is to be hoped that this makes serious negotiations a nonstarter.

Of Begin, Netanyahu said, "I want help from his leadership and integrity to make the necessary changes to return security and economy and undertake an educational revolution."


The issue of education, raised here by Netanyahu, is actually exceedingly critical. There is a tendency to focus on defense because if we are not secure in the land everything else becomes moot. But it is all connected.

We have been stalemated in an impossible situation for as long as we have precisely because of a failure of (secular) education in this country. The very essence of why we're here and what matters to us as a matter of right and tradition and longstanding history has been removed from the educational process. Secular schools teach world history instead of Jewish history, and multiculturalism but not Jewish values.

(This is not the case, I will note with the religious Zionist educational system -- which is why religious boys volunteer disproportionately for combat units in the army and are among our bravest and best soldiers. They understand and thus are devoted.)

The fact that people have not been taught what they need to know brings them to being casual about giving up what is ours and incapable of making our case within the world. They have lost the Jewish narrative. Once upon a time, this was not the case. The exemplar of this was David Ben Gurion. Not a religious or observant man, he knew his Bible, knew our roots in the land and how we connected to it.

And so, it is a hopeful thing indeed to hear talk about an educational revolution.


Education was also uppermost in the thoughts of people within National Union and NRP as they called their press conference to announce their merger. Education, they said, would be the top priority because, according to MK Tzvi Hendel, of NU, we are dealing with "a crisis of values in politics and in every field in this country. The public understands that education is the foundation of everything."

Speaking of values, it was wonderful to hear MK Zevulun Orlev, head of NRP, say that NRP -- by merging its list with NU in order to make one large party that everyone who believes in Zionism could join -- was "sacrificing itself" (that is, its unique and long-standing identity) to better fight for the nation's "soul."

Instead of being small opposition parties, NRP and NU hope now to be part of a coalition that stands for the nation's values.

Amen to this. The implications are enormous.


The party representatives present at the press conference explained that the new merged list would include two "non-kippah wearers" (i.e., representing secular nationalists), four people not on either list previously, and two women.


It is, to my thinking, only a tremendous and painful loss of Jewish values that can make this possible:

Elisheva Federman -- whose home outside of Kiryat Arba was destroyed by authorities in the middle of the night -- was stopped by police and detained for interrogation yesterday. The police said they wanted to question her about assaults on police officers (throwing of stones) that took place during and after the destruction of her home by teens and young adults camping out on the site.

Said Elisheva, it was ironic that the police "are charging me with their own crimes." She reports that she and her husband Noam were thrown to the ground and lightly beaten when they were driven out of their home.

Now police insisted on taking a few strands of her hair for a DNA sample. A DNA sample? This is done when suspects face charges of serious crimes. "In this case," said a police spokesman, "because questioning had to do with assault, we took a DNA sample."

This strikes me as unmitigated nonsense. Harassment. She is not a "suspect." This is not a case of needing to prove that she committed a particular crime. The police, as far as I can determine, simply wanted information on what others had done.

The settler as criminal.


Update on Beit HaShalom in Hevron: The 20 resident families have not been evacuated in spite of an order from Attorney General Mazuz saying they have to leave until the Court makes its decision with regard to the evidence brought -- that tape recording of the Palestinian seller verifying that he indeed did sell the house to Jews.

This is most likely first because 50 members of Knesset wrote a letter asking that this not be done, and then because activists in numbers had gathered at the scene.

The situation remains tense and uncertain, however.


Last night and today a barrage of some 35 Kassams has been fired on Israel from Gaza, including three on Ashkelon and a few that damaged greenhouses.

As far as I can determine a good percentage of these fell before a brief IDF foray into Gaza this morning and additional rockets fell following.

The operation into Gaza consisted of special forces sent to blow up a tunnel that was being constructed to facilitate kidnappings (it would have run under the fence at the border into Israel). Our soldiers met resistance from Palestinian gunmen; in the ensuing battle, six Israeli soldiers were injured and at least six Palestinians were killed.


A variety of mixed messages are now coming both from our military and Hamas:

From our side has come a statement that we want to continue the ceasefire, as the quiet benefits the communities near the Gaza border.

But at the same time there was an accompanying statement acknowledging that Hamas has been strengthening during the lull that began in June. This is maddening, for ultimately is it not in the best interest of these communities near Gaza for Hamas to grow even stronger and to have the capacity to launch attacks when they choose.

Following this was a warning: that Hamas now knows we won't sit still for every plan they have, as evidenced by the fact that we just launched this operation. And so, we are being told, our military has to be prepared for the possibility that the ceasefire might fall apart, or that, alternatively, Hamas might claim that it wants to sustain the ceasefire but then launch a terror attack.

Got all that?

Hamas, for its part, has also declared a desire to sustain the ceasefire. It really does serve its interests now. But along with this came saber rattling.

And even before this incident, Muhammad Deif, former head of Hamas's military wing surfaced to declare that Jihad would continue "until victory and martyrdom."

One senses that the days of quiet may be coming to an end, as ultimately they were bound to.


Condoleezza Rice is headed our way one last time, to assess the "peace" situation. She should pack it in now. As the two parties will not be drafting an interim document assessing what gains have been made in negotiations, she will be drawing up a report for the new administration that sets out the parameters of what she perceives necessary for achieving peace.

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