Saturday, July 10, 2010

'Greece, Moldova to stop Libyan ship'

07/10/2010 12:30

Israel reportedly reaches understanding with the two countries.

Israeli officials on Saturday said they believed a Libyan ship planning to break the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip would not sail for Gaza after all, following understandings between Israel, Greece and Moldova The ship, which was docked at a Greek port and flying a Moldovan flag, had intended to set sail Friday. It was carrying humanitarian aid as well as activists intending to reach Gaza, and was funded by an organization headed by the son of Lybian leader Muammar Gaddafi.

According to reports, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman held talks with his Greek and Moldovan counterparts in recent days and agreed with them that the ship would not sail to Gaza, but would be diverted to the Egyptian port of El-Arish.

On Friday requested that the UN step up efforts to prevent the Gaza-bound ship from setting sail.

In an in an official letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev requested the international community use its power to halt the ship.

"Israel calls upon the international community to exert its influence on the government of Libya to demonstrate responsibility and prevent the ship from departing to the Gaza Strip," the envoy said.

"Israel reserves the right under international law to prevent this ship from violating the existing naval blockade on the Gaza Strip," Shalev told Ban Ki Moon.

On Friday officials from the Libyan organization told The Associated Press that the Amalthea would leave no later than Saturday from the port of Lavrio, south of Athens, carrying 2,000 tons of food and medical supplies, and 27 people on board.

"The declared intentions of this mission are even more questionable and provocative given the recent measures taken by Israel to ensure the increase of humanitarian aid flowing into the Gaza Strip," Shalev stated in the letter.

Amalthea's journey to Gaza was expected to take up to 80 hours. Aid on the Amalthea included sacks of rice and sugar, and corn oil and olive paste mostly donated from Greek companies and charities, organizers said.

The Israeli ambassador asked the UN and international community "to discourage their nationals from taking part in such action" and "expects the international community to ensure that this ship does not sail."

'Israel must meet Hamas demands'

07/10/2010 17:18

Hamas official says Schalit won't be released until prisoners freed.

Hamas official Khalil al-Hayeh said that Gilad Schalit will not be released until Israel meets all of Hamas's demands while speaking at a Gaza rally Saturday.

Al-Hayeh also said at the ceremony that Israeli intelligence is trying to gather information on the location of the kidnapped soldier, according to reports by Ma'an news agency. Al-Hayeh said Hamas security interrogators had been informed that many attempts had been made by Israeli intelligence to obtain information about Schalit.

"All of Israel's efforts will fail until Schalit is released by the will of Hamas when Israel releases Palestinian prisoners," Al-Hayeh said at the ceremony to commemorate Prophet Muhammad's night journey.

Al-Hayeh added that Hamas is ready to conduct serious negotiations with Israel in order to finalize a prisoner swap deal.

The Schalit family with met Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, on Friday, after the Netanyahus returned from their state visit to the US, to discuss the government's efforts to free their kidnapped son, IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.

The Schalits left the meeting disappointed. "We did not receive any news today, that can calm us," said Noam. He continued, "the prime minister did not tell use anything new. We will not leave the protest tent [outside the prime minister's official residence] without Gilad."

Friday, July 09, 2010

"This, or That?"

Arlene Kushner

So, what is the difference between agreeing secretly to an extension of the construction freeze, but -- for domestic political reasons -- not declaring it... And not formally extending the freeze but agreeing secretly that if there is significant progress on the "talks" before the end of the freeze then there will be no announcement of resumed construction that would threaten the process or upset the US? There is a difference, buried in this somewhere. But it's a fine line, and in part a matter of semantics. The difference lies in the fact that the first is formal, even if secret. Things would be frozen. The second, which would depend upon a certain state of affairs to be put in place, is informal, de facto, and could be reversed at any time.


Yediot Achronot is saying that the second set of circumstances is what we can expect: That Netanyahu has agreed not to publicly announce a resumption of building at the end of the freeze. That is, if direct talks are already under way or there has been such progress in the "proximity talks" that direct talks are expected to begin very soon.

This is how Yediot interprets the statement made by Obama, when asked about an extension of the freeze, that he hopes that face-to-face will begin before the freeze expires. He hopes this, presumably, because it would preclude an announcement of renewed building.

The major question to be asked, of course, is what it means to not "announce publicly" so as to not "sabotage the talks" (i.e., give the PA a reason to walk away)? Does "not announcing" mean not building? Or would it be understood that some quiet building would take place? If, that is, "quiet" is possible with Peace Now watching every nail that is hammered and running to let the press know about it.

And, if the direct talks have not yet begun, how "serious" do the proximity talks have to be -- what is it they will have had to achieve -- for this agreement to go into effect? I can see potential for serious disagreement on this, with Obama declaring any one of a number of statements to be "progress."


None of this goes down very well. The whole notion of face-to-face talks that might set (first, if the PA has its way) the future borders of a Palestinian state generates some severe indigestion. And this is so, even as I remain convinced that it is not really going to happen -- that there will not be a resolution of issues that will lead to a "two-state solution." As I have written multiple times, Abbas is not going to sign off on anything -- he cannot. And I believe that Netanyahu is proceeding firm in the conviction that Abbas will stall. He is marking time.

And yet... To give the whole procedure credence. To set precedents with regard to borders to a Palestinian state. To give the PA more latitude in terms of managing security. Not a happy prospect.


At any rate, right now, in spite of a renewed eagerness on the part of Obama to see face-to-face start almost immediately, Abbas is still saying that there's nothing doing because we won't agree upfront to what those borders would be. He may, very deliberately, kill the whole thing before it proceeds further -- counting on that UN resolution instead.

And there is, as well, the response of our right wing that Netanyahu will have to contend with once he's back home. This is why the Yediot version of matters has a certain ring of truth. Netanyahu may well have told Obama that there has to be another way -- that his coalition might not stand in the face of an announcement of a freeze extension, and that he would be considerably weakened politically. This way he can say,"What? Me agree to a freeze extension? No way."

Would the right wing sit still for an understanding that resumption of building will not be announced? Depends on what it means and how it is spun, I imagine. But right now the right wing is gearing up for major construction at the end of September.


A great deal has been made in the media of the fact that Netanyahu, in his Washington meetings, managed to successfully convey to US leaders a major Israeli concern.

To wit: Times are not what they were in 1993, when Oslo was negotiated. Previous Israeli withdrawals have led to takeover of territory by terrorist groups, so that our security has been reduced and our population threatened. Both south Lebanon and Gaza have become bases for rocket launchings and stockpiling of weapons. All of this has caused a shift in Israeli perspective: We ask why we should surrender more land.

What further exacerbates the situation is deep concern about the fact that the US intends to leave Iraq soon. This greatly increases the possibility of Iranian forces making their way through Iraq, and then Jordan, to our eastern border (which would mean going through a vulnerable and possibly cooperative Palestinian state if it were established to our east). We need to have a presence in the Jordan Valley for defensive purposes.

Thus, we cannot negotiate as we once did, we need guarantees with regard to security. And we are less willing to simply trust. We've learned that we cannot depend on the international community to protect us (see how UNIFIL failed to do so).

All absolutely true.

It seems to me that what's going on here is that Netanyahu is giving the American government, in the most rational of terms (Jackson Diehl, called it a "pragmatic and non-ideological position"), a heads up regarding the fact that we will be tough in negotiations and will not settle easily. That we CANNOT settle easily and, in fairness, should not be expected to.


What I ponder -- given the fact that I'm reading that the Americans, including Obama, "got it" -- is how we might look for the Americans to adjust their expectations or recalibrate their demands in light of this.

Demands will remain demands, I think. They care not a fig about what's secure for us. But this approach might have an effect on their expectations. A modicum of real politic may have been introduced, so that they understand that we can be pushed just so far and that certain factors must be in place. Maybe.


In the meantime, it's business as usual, even though incitement is rampant in the PA and the issue of Hamas is not resolved.


For the latest evidence that Abbas is not a "partner for peace" see this from Palestinian Media Watch:

The PA daily Al-Hayat al-Jadida reported on July 6, that when Abbas was in Jordan recently, he made this statement to journalists while at the home of the Palestinian ambassador to Jordan:

"...We are unable to confront Israel militarily, and this point was discussed at the Arab League Summit in March in Sirt [Libya]. There I turned to the Arab States and I said: 'If you want war, and if all of you will fight Israel, we are in favor. But the Palestinians will not fight alone because they don't have the ability to do it.' He [Abbas] said: 'The West Bank was completely destroyed and we will not agree that it will be destroyed again,' in addition to 'the inability to confront Israel militarily.'"


I just wrote about how a "hint" from Obama is worthless because he reverses himself at the drop of a hat. And now he has provided another example of just that. When with Obama, Netanyahu publicly invited him to Israel, and the president responded that he was looking forward to the visit. Already, since then, his office has announced that there are no plans for the president to visit Israel this year.

In this instance, we have to be thankful that he is reluctant to displease the Palestinian Arabs, or perhaps the larger "Muslim World." If he were to visit here his popularity might go up.

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500 Israeli Academics Demand Right to Boycott Selves
by Gil Ronen

About 500 professors and other members of Israel's academe, including two former education ministers, have signed a petition against Minister of Education Gideon Saar following his vow to take steps against Israeli academics who call for an academic boycott of Israel.

Saar said it is “unacceptable” for Israeli academics to call for an academic boycott on their own country: “I have already spoken about this to the chair of the Committee for Planning and Budgets in the Council for Higher Education (CHE) and I will also move on this with heads of institutions. This issue is on our agenda,” he said. Saar's statements were made after he received a report compiled by Im Tirtzu, a self-described mainstream Zionist student group, which detailed subversive infiltration of the academe.

About 500 professors, lecturers and students, including former education ministers Yuli Tamir and Yossi Sarid, signed a petition which said that “freedom of expression and academic freedom are the life blood of the Israeli academic system.”

The professors warned Saar: "Grave damage will be caused to the Israeli academe if politicians – whatever their views and political-partisan position, whatever their status and role in the political system – dictate to it what is proper or improper to say, think, research and teach, and instruct it to adopt criteria of this type for acceptance, promotion or distancing of researchers or lecturers.”

"Your statements about your intent to use your authority of government – through the head of CHE and the heads of academic institutions – for acting against lecturers who supported an academic boycott on Israel – cause damage of this kind.”

The lecturers called on Saar to “wake up” and “retract your statements before it is too late to save Israeli higher education.

Analysts noted that if a boycott were to spread, it too might pose a danger to Israeli higher education, whereas if the academics would forego their salaries, leave the universities and and call for boycotts as private citizens, they could do so without interference..

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Most of the injured in the confrontation on board the Mavi Marmara have been positively identified as activists of IHH and Turkish organizations colla

Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center


1. Information accumulated since the violent confrontation on board the Mavi Marmara has made it possible to identify most of the people injured in the confrontation and analyze their organizational affiliation. The names of the 53 injured people (23 of them severely injured) appeared on lists published by the IHH (see Appendix A). Their organizational affiliation was examined based on a document seized in the latest flotilla, specifying the organizations to which the Turkish passengers belonged (see Appendix B). 2. Judging by the names of those injured in the confrontation, all of them but one are Turkish nationals. Most of them belonged to IHH or Turkish local networks affiliated with IHH, most probably Islamist by nature. That conclusion supports a similar conclusion reached by examining the names of the Turkish nationals killed in the confrontation, according to which eight out of the nine people killed belonged to Islamist organizations, most of them radical and anti-Western, with about half of them having expressed an intention to die as shaheeds.

3. On the other hand, the list of injured people released by IHH did not include activists belonging to pro-Palestinian organizations or human rights organizations from Western countries or the Arab/Muslim world, except for one activist (who was not seriously injured) from Indonesia. That conclusion is similar to the one reached by examining the names of the people killed in the confrontation. This is yet another testimony that human rights activists who joined the flotilla out of humanitarian considerations took no part in the violent confrontation initiated by IHH.

4. The findings are supported by a great deal of information accumulated since the IDF takeover of the Mavi Marmara pertaining to advance preparations for severe violence against IDF soldiers, which was carried out by a hard core of operatives belonging to IHH and Turkish organizations collaborating with it (some of them known to us as clearly Islamist).

Details of the examination results

The data base

5. The examination of the identity and organizational affiliation of those injured on board the Mavi Marmara is based on lists released by IHH following the incident. Those tables contain the names of 23 people who were seriously injured and 30 people who sustained less severe injuries.1 The lists were compared to the list of Turkish passengers seized in the last flotilla, which specified the organizational affiliation and function of each Turkish passenger.

Findings from the list of seriously injured people

6. All 23 people who were seriously injured are Turkish—none of them is a foreign national. All those injured are men. Comparison of their names to another document seized in the flotilla shows that each one of them (with the exception of one) boarded the Mavi Marmara in Antalya.

7. Out of the people who were seriously injured, three are IHH activists (including a first aid medic). Thirteen others are activists from local Turkish networks, probably Islamist, which cooperate with IHH. The rest of the seriously injured men are: two first aid medics (whose organizational affiliation is unclear); two donors who were probably permitted to join the flotilla because of their donations; one clerk and two Turkish passengers who do not appear on the list of Turkish passengers which served as the data base for the examination (therefore, their identity is unknown to us).

Findings from the list of other people who sustained injuries
(that were not defined as serious)

8. Thirty injured people appeared in that category (the IHH table goes up to 31; however, one number was skipped, meaning that the correct total is 30). All the injured people, with the exception of one (an Indonesian) are Turkish nationals. All except for one boarded the ship in Antalya.

9. Out of those injured, seven belong to IHH (activists and volunteers), two of them being first aid medics. Thirteen others are activists and volunteers belonging to local Turkish networks (believed by the ITIC to be Islamist organizations) which collaborate with IHH. Another is a member of the Felicity Party (SP), an Islamic party which collaborates with IHH. The rest of the injured people in that category include a journalist, five activists whose identity is unclear, one Turkish passenger who does not appear on the list of Turkish passengers that we have, one donor and one person from Indonesia.2


10. Examination of the identity and affiliation of the wounded supports the conclusion that the fighting against the IDF was waged by hard core IHH operatives and people from Turkish Islamist organizations and networks which collaborate with IHH. The number of injured among operatives belonging to IHH and its allies was at least 16 out of those 23 who sustained serious injuries, and 21 out of the 30 other injured people (that number of IHH activists and those affiliated with it may be larger since the affiliation of some of the injured is unclear to us).

11. Other categories of flotilla participants who sustained injuries:


First aid medics: a relatively large number of first aid medics were injured in the incident (three of them sustained serious injuries, and two sustained other injuries). Three of the first aid medics belong to IHH. It may be assumed (even though we do not possess concrete information to that effect) that putting a large number of first aid medics among the Mavi Marmara passengers was part of the plan prepared by IHH for the confrontation with the IDF (which was conceived in the first place as a violent confrontation that would involve casualties).

Journalist: many journalists were put on board the Mavi Marmara as part of the preparations for the media coverage of the confrontation; their presence on the battle field is therefore not incidental (about 10 percent of all Turkish passengers were media people; in addition, there were dozens of reporters from the Arab/Muslim world and Western countries).

12. Conspicuously absent from the list of people injured in the confrontation were activists and volunteers from the Arab/Muslim world (with the exception of the person from Indonesia) and Western countries. This reinforces the assumption that activists and volunteers who did not belong to the hard core IHH operatives and their Islamist supporters avoided taking part in the fighting.

1 The tables appeared in an IHH summary about the flotilla, on the websites of IHH and ECESG, the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza. The numbers appearing in the tables are similar to the number given in an interview by Bulent Yildirim, who said that “We have sacrificed nine martyrs and fifty men were injured… However, we shall not rest until our goal is achieved” (felixnews, June 29, 2010).

2 The injured Indonesian national is Okvianto Emil Baharuddin, who sustained an injury to his hand. He is an activist for a pro-Palestinian organization called KISPA. There were also reports about two other Indonesians injured in the confrontation, who do not appear on the IHH list for unclear reasons. It is unclear why the Indonesian activist (or activists) were injured. To the best of our knowledge, the Indonesian delegation consisted of humanitarian aid activists who did not take part in the violence initiated by IHH.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

MK Orlev tells PM to Give Obama a Lesson on PA School Syllabus

INN Staff Orlev Sends Obama a Lesson

MK Zevulun Orlev, (The Jewish Home), who chairs the Knesset Education Committee, turned to Prime Minister Netanyahu with a request that when meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, he bring up the subject of the incitement to hatred that fills PA textbooks. He asked the PM to tell Obama the conclusions of the Knesset Committee’s Monday discussion on the subject.. When the curriculum is based on a sequence that starts with Holocaust denial, and goes on to teach that Israel’s existence is not legitimate and that a violent struggle must be waged against Israel, there is not much chance of a Palestinian leader completing a peace process.”, Orlev said at the meeting.

“If one’s cultural milieu does not allow for discourse, it is no surprise that when former PM’s Olmert and Barak each offered the Palestinians everything and anything, they still refused to make peace. Their educational framework doesn’t allow them to consider peace and the recognition of Israel as a legitimate neighbor as options.”

Ido Mizrachi of the SE-IMPACT NGO reported to the committee that the Muslim Wakf’s textbooks are replete with antisemitic expressions and calls to fight and kill Jews. The particular textbooks he discusses are used by over 1,000 pupils.

Lieutenant Colonel Eviatar from the unit headed by the Coordinator of Activities for Judea and Samaria told the committee that all of the schools in Judea and Samaria, whether in areas A,B,or C, use the same textbooks.

MK Orlev asked him: “Do you simply keep track of the textbooks or do you demand that they be changed? Who is in charge of seeing to this change?” Eviatar replied that his office has turned to all the relevant agencies in the security forces and Foreign Ministry.

“The PM’s office, the FM’s office and the office for Strategic Affairs did not come to this meeting even though they were invited,” MK Orlev noted. “They are expected to come to the next meeting. The committee also heard various representatives whose reports show that the common denominator in PA textbooks is deligitimizing Israel, rejecting the connection between the Jewish people and this land, teaching hatred, violent struggle, jihad, shaheedism, and erasing Israel from school maps. These findings will make it impossible to achieve peace now and not ever and Obama has to know that.”

"Behind Closed Doors"

Arlene Kushner

So we waited patiently -- or impatiently, as the case may be -- to hear what would come out of the Obama-Netanyahu meeting today. We knew going in that it was going to be cordial: that was a given because Obama is trying to repair damage he's done with his hostile attitude towards Israel.

But what did they actually SAY to each other?

Well, they met in the oval office for just under two hours and then had a "joint press availability" with a press pool. Not quite a full-blown press conference.

Netanyahu spoke about how any suggestion that the relationship between the two nations was failing was "flat wrong." And Obama said that Netanyahu had convinced him that he "wants peace" and is serious about moving forward to direct negotiations with the PA.

My next question, then, is precisely what did Netanyahu do to "convince" the president? This is what we don't know. Whatever it was, it was behind closed doors.

The president said a bit more: He expressed pleasure at the new rules established by Israel for goods permitted into Gaza via the land crossings (and I'll get to that below). And there was mention of Iran sanctions.


The president also declared that "the US would never ask Israel to undermine its security." I consider this the biggest joke of all. The US asks this of us all the time, in a dozen different ways.


When questioned as to whether he would like Netanyahu to extend the freeze on construction in Judea and Samaria, he avoided a direct answer and segued into a comment about how he hopes direct negotiations will begin before the freeze ends in late September.

So, my final question here: Is there some linkage between an extension of the freeze and progress made in the talks by late September?


The two heads of state then moved on to a (fully kosher) working lunch, also behind closed doors. No further meeting of the two leaders with the press was scheduled.


Here in Israel, the issue of the freeze has been a major focus of concern. As Netanyahu was preparing to take off for the US yesterday, the faction chairmen of Likud, Yisrael Beitenu, Shas, UTJ, Habayit Hayehudi (all part of the coalition) and National Union (which is not) signed a joint declaration that they "strenuously oppose an extension of the building freeze past 18 Tishrei, September 26.

"Ending the freeze at the date that was set is the minimum needed for keeping Israel an independent state and for safeguarding its vital interests. We will use all of the parliamentary tools at our disposal and the full extent of our political influence so that this commitment is honored and implemented."

Additionally, there was talk from Habayit Yehudi of quitting the coalition if the freeze was extended. And Foreign Minister Leiberman has made a direct statement about our not paying for direct talks with an additional freeze.


On the flip side, an attempt to push through legislation that would have required Knesset approval for any additional freeze after September was just defeated. I was surprised, as were many -- it had looked like a pretty sure thing at one point.

The prime minister had pushed hard for its defeat. His position was that this would have motivated Obama to lean even harder on him with regard to a freeze. But I'm not sure I buy that: it might have provided Netanyahu with the perfect out -- the ability to advance a freeze would no longer have been in his hands.

His position did not inspire a great deal of confidence as to his readiness to hold tight on resuming construction. But this does not necessarily mean that he did cave; he may have simply wanted the latitude to do bargaining on the issue.


A rumor was floated in the past couple of days with regard to a proposal that Netanyahu might offer Obama for a partial freeze: Obama would "hint" at the fact that Israel would retain major settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, in line with the letter sent by (then) President Bush to (then) PM Sharon.

The letter stated:

"It is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.

"It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities."

The sentiments expressed in this letter were endorsed by both houses of Congress, and there is solid legal opinion in at least some quarters that this is a binding executive agreement.

Enormous tension developed between Israel and Obama in the early days of his administration over this. Obama -- as well as his mouthpiece Secretary of State Clinton -- denied that there was an obligation to honor what was perceived by Israel to be a commitment. Obama was plugging for Israel to move back to the '67 line, per PA demands.

You might like to see the JINSA Report (#1003) on this:


At any rate, the proposal was that in return for a nod in the direction of this letter by Obama, Netanyahu would agree to freeze construction in all communities in Judea and Samaria outside of the major settlement blocs. We may never know if such a proposal was advanced. We simply know that to this point there has been no nod from Obama (which would have to be public), and no apparent reciprocal commitment from Netanyahu.

What particularly disturbed me with regard to how this proposal was structured in news reports is that it called for a "hint" from Obama. A hint? How easy to backtrack on a hint, to say that he was misunderstood. Remember the statement by presidential candidate Obama, who declared to AIPAC that Jerusalem must be undivided (which is code for remaining under Israeli sovereignty), only to explain a day or two later that he was misunderstood -- that what he meant was that the Israeli and Palestinian portions of Jerusalem should be open to each other. With this man, very explicit clarifications are necessary.


As to the new rules for goods into Gaza:

What Israel has done now is to shift from an official list of what can go in, to an official list of what may not be permitted in -- items that might be used for building weapons, etc.

A big deal has been made about all of the things that Israel had prevented from going in -- things like potato chips. The point ostensibly being that Israeli officials were mean and hard-hearted and arbitrary. But no. Potato chips weren't permitted in because of how the previous list was fashioned. Officials had drawn up a list of what people reasonably needed: meat, fish, dairy products, legumes, basic hygiene items, flour, cooking oil, fresh produce, etc. etc. No one ever saw fit to include potato chips as a reasonable basic need. I would bet potato chips were never discussed. Now they can be brought in.

This new approach is what Obama was praising.


So where are we? My take, based on what I'm seeing and what I understand about how Netanyahu functions:

He is making the case that he really, really wants to proceed with seriousness in peace talks, and that this is only possible in face-to-face talks. This, hopefully, puts the onus on the PA: he is representing himself as the party more eager to proceed.

While he is doing this, he knows, knows full well, that Abbas will find reasons not to proceed, just as he will never accept any deal that Israel would offer. But all the while Israel's desire to proceed must be apparent to the world, and most particularly to the president of the United States.


Right now Abbas is saying that there has been no progress in the proximity talks. The PA, actually, expressed bewilderment at the recent US statement that there had been considerable progress. And, says Abbas, until there is progress (which he defines, at least in part, as an Israeli acknowledgement of the PA borders, up front), there will be no movement to face-to-face.

Then comes the next part of the PA plan. They are still making the assumption that they don't have to bargain and can use diplomatic means to get what they want, on the way to destroying Israel. The PA declaration is that if there is no progress by September, then they will revert to the Saudi Peace Plan (otherwise known as a plan for destroying Israel), and take this to the UN Security Council and ask the Council to recognize a Palestinian state on all the land beyond the Green Line.

I still have reservations as to how serious this is, and how much idle threat. I also have doubts as to whether, according to international law, it is even possible for the Security Council to "recognize" a state. There is no precedent for this. What is more, this would require overturning of earlier Security Council resolutions that call very specifically for a setting of borders via negotiations. So it is all a bit dubious.

Netanyahu's plan, then, would seem to be two-fold. First, to be able to strongly make the case that we were ready to proceed with those negotiations, as required by earlier resolutions. This would seriously call into question the legal propriety of seeking to overturn them. And then, to be on sufficiently solid terms with Obama so that a US veto in the Security Council on this would be a sure thing.


I hasten to assure one and all that I am not advocating a caving to Obama's demands by Israel so that we can keep him happy. Never! I advocate strength and a solid expression of our sovereignty. I am speaking here of what may be Netanyahu's approach. He's walking a fine line. And as he typically tries to please both sides, his policies lack a certain clarity.

A position of clarity would be one in which our prime minister comes to the White House armed with well documented evidence of why the PA cannot be trusted: of how it supports terrorism and promotes incitement. MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit HaYehudi), who is chair of the Knesset Education Committee, suggested, for example, putting PA textbooks, rife with incitement, on the president's desk. And then, following this, a position of clarity would require a statement about Israeli rights, coupled with a refusal to deal with the PA as a legitimate and trustworthy negotiating partner.

But this will never be Netanyahu's style.


Not for a moment do I minimize the difficulty of being the Israeli prime minister today. I will make specific criticisms of Netanyahu now. Whatever the speculation, I do not know yet what went on behind those closed doors. It's possible that, mindful of domestic demands and the risk of a crumbling coalition, he held strong.

A great deal will yet emerge both via leaks, and actions that follow from whatever may have been agreed upon. Then it will be time for further comment.

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Remarks by PM Netanyahu and U.S. President Obama‏

Remarks by PM Netanyahu and U.S. President Obama
The White House, 6 July 2010

President Obama: I just completed an excellent one-on-one discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I want to welcome him back to the White House. I want to first of all thank him for the wonderful statement that he made in honor of the 4th of July, our Independence Day, when he was still in Israel. It marked just one more chapter in the extraordinary friendship between our two countries. As Prime Minister Netanyahu indicated in his speech, the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable. It encompasses our national security interests, our strategic interests, but most importantly the bond of two democracies who share a common set of values and whose people have grown closer and closer as time goes on.

During our discussions in our private meeting, we covered a wide range of issues. We discussed the issue of Gaza. And I commended Prime Minister Netanyahu on the progress that's been made in allowing more goods into Gaza. We've seen real progress on the ground. I think it's been acknowledged that it has moved more quickly and more effectively than many people anticipated.

Obviously, there are still tensions and issues there that have to be resolved, but our two countries are working cooperatively together to deal with these issues. The Quartet has been, I think, very helpful as well. And we believe that there is a way to make sure that the people of Gaza are able to prosper economically while Israel is able to maintain its legitimate security needs in not allowing missiles and weapons to get to Hamas.

We discussed the issue of Iran. And we pointed out that as a consequence of some hard work internationally, we have instituted, through the U.N. Security Council, the toughest sanctions ever directed at an Iranian government.

In addition, last week, I signed our own set of sanctions coming out of the United States Congress - as robust as any that we've ever seen. Other countries are following suit. And so we intend to continue to put pressure on Iran to meet its international obligations and to cease the kinds of provocative behavior that has made it a threat to its neighbors and the international community.

We had an extensive discussion about the prospects for Middle East peace. I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he's willing to take risks for peace. And during our conversation, he once again reaffirmed his willingness to engage in serious negotiations with the Palestinians around what I think should be the goal not just of the two principals involved, but the entire world; and that is two states living side-by-side in peace and security.

Israel's security needs met, the Palestinians having a sovereign state that they call their own: those are goals that have obviously escaped our grasp for decades now. But now more than ever I think is the time for us to seize on that vision. And I think that Prime Minister Netanyahu is prepared to do so.

It's going to be difficult. It's going to be hard work. But we've seen already proximity talks taking place. My envoy, George Mitchell, has helped to organize five of them so far. We expect those proximity talks to lead to direct talks. And I believe that the government of Israel is prepared to engage in such direct talks. And I commend the prime minister for that.

There are going to need to be a whole set of confidence-building measures, to make sure that people are serious and that we're sending a signal to the region that this isn't just more talk and more process without action.
I think it is also important to recognize that the Arab states have to be supportive of peace, because although ultimately this is going to be determined by the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, they can't succeed unless you have the surrounding states having a greater investment in the process than we've seen so far.

Finally we discussed issues that arose out of the nuclear nonproliferation conference. And I reiterated to the prime minister that there is no change in U.S. policy when it comes to these issues. We strongly believe that given its size, its history, the region that it's in, and the threats that are leveled against it that Israel has unique security requirements. It's got to be able to respond to threats or any combination of threats in the region. And that's why we remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel's security. And the United States will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine their security interests.

So I just want to say once again that I thought the discussion that we had was excellent. We've seen over the last year how our relationship has broadened; sometimes it doesn't get publicized but on a whole range of issues - economic, military-to-military, issues related to Israel maintaining its qualitative military edge, intelligence sharing, how we are able to work together effectively on the international front - that in fact, our relationship is continuing to improve.

And I think a lot of that has to do with the excellent work that the prime minister has done, so I'm grateful. And welcome, once again, to the White House. Thank you.

PM Netanyahu: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you. Thank you.

The President and I had an extensive, excellent discussion in which we discussed a broad range of issues. These include of course our own cooperation in the fields of intelligence and security. And exactly as the President said, it is extensive. Not everything is seen by the public. But it is seen and appreciated by us. We understand fully that we will work together in the coming months and years to protect our common interests, our countries, our peoples against new threats and at the same time we want to explore the possibilities of peace.

The greatest new threat on the horizon and the single most dominant issue for many of us is the prospect that Iran would acquire nuclear weapons. Iran is brutally terrorizing its people, spreading terrorism far and wide. And I very much appreciate the President's statement that he is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That has been translated by the President into his leadership at the Security Council, which passed sanctions against Iran; by the U.S. bill that the President signed just a few days ago. And I urge other leaders to follow the President's lead and other countries to follow the U.S. lead, to adopt much tougher sanctions against Iran, primarily those directed against its energy sector.

As the President said, we discussed a great deal about activating - moving forward - the quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We're committed to that peace. I'm committed to that peace. And this peace I think will better the lives of Israelis, of Palestinians; and certainly would change our region.

Israelis are prepared to do a lot to get that peace in place, but they want to make sure that after all the steps they take, that what we get is a secure peace. We don't want a repeat of the situation where we vacate territories and those are overtaken by Iran's proxies and used as launching ground for terrorist attacks or rocket attacks.

I think there are solutions that we can adopt. But in order to proceed to the solutions, we need to begin negotiations in order to end them. We've begun proximity talks. I think it's high time to begin direct talks. I think with the help of President Obama, President Abbas and myself should engage in direct talks to reach a political settlement of peace, coupled with security and prosperity. This requires that the Palestinian Authority prepare its people for peace in schools, textbooks and so on.

But I think at the end of the day peace is the best option for all of us, and I think we have a unique opportunity and a unique time to do it. The President says that he has a habit of confounding all the cynics and all the naysayers and all those who preclude possibilities. And he's shown it time and time again. I think I've had my opportunity to confound some cynics myself. And I think if we work together with President Abbas, then we can bring a great message of hope to our peoples, to the region and to the world.

One final point. Mr. President, I want to thank you for reaffirming to me in private and now in public, as you did, the long- standing U.S. commitments to Israel on matters of vital strategic importance. I want to thank you too for the great hospitality you and the first lady have shown Sarah and me and our entire delegation.

And I think we have to redress the balance. You know, I've been coming here a lot. It's about time you -

President Obama: I'm ready.

PM Netanyahu: - and the first lady came to Israel.

President Obama: We look forward to it.

PM Netanyahu: So (anytime ?).

President Obama: Thank you.

PM Netanyahu: Anytime.

President Obama: Thank you very much.

PM Netanyahu: Thank you.

President Obama: Thank you. Good.

All right, we got time for one question each. I'm going to call on Stephen Collinson, AFP.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. As far as the steps which need to be taken to move possibly - (off mike) - direct talks, do you think it will be helpful for Israel to extend the - (off mike) - settlement moratoriums set to expire in September? And if I could briefly ask the prime minister, with regards to the sanctions measures, do you think that these measures will contain or halt Iran's nuclear program - (off mike)?

President Obama: Well, let me first of all say that I think the Israeli government, working through layers of various governmental entities and jurisdictions, have shown restraint, over the last several months, that I think has been conducive to the prospects of us getting into direct talks.

And my hope is, is that once direct talks have begun, well before the moratorium has expired, that that will create a climate in which everybody feels a greater investment and success, not every action, by one party or the other, is taken as a reason for not engaging in talks, so there ends up being more room created by more trust. And so, you know, I want to just make sure that we sustain that over the next several weeks.

I do think that there are a range of confidence-building measures that can be taken by all sides, that improve the prospects of a successful negotiation. And I've discussed some of those privately with the prime minister. When President Abbas was here, I discussed some of those same issues with him.

I think it's very important that the Palestinians not look for excuses for incitement, that they are not engaging in provocative language; that at the international level, they are maintaining a constructive tone as opposed to looking for opportunities to embarrass Israel.

At the same time, I've said to Prime Minister Netanyahu --I don't think he minds me sharing it publicly - that, you know, Abu Mazen working with Fayyad have done some very significant things, when it comes to the security front. And so us being able to widen the scope of their responsibilities, in the West Bank, is something that I think would be very meaningful to the Palestinian people.

I think that some of the steps that have already been taken in Gaza help to build confidence. And if we continue to make progress on that front, then Palestinians can see in very concrete terms what peace can bring that rhetoric and violence cannot bring.

And that is people actually having an opportunity to raise their children and make a living and, you know, buy and sell goods and build a life for themselves, which is ultimately what people in both Israel and the Palestinian territories want, so.

PM Netanyahu: I think the latest sanctions adopted by the U.N. create illegitimacy or create delegitimization for Iran's nuclear program. And that is important. I think the sanctions the President signed the other day actually have teeth. They bite. The question is, how much do you need to bite, is something I cannot answer now. But if other nations adopted similar sanctions, that would increase the effect.

The more like-mined countries join in the American-led effort that President Obama has signed into act - into law, I think, the better we'll be able to give you an answer to your question.

Q: Mr. President, in the past year, you distanced yourself from Israel and gave a cold shoulder to the prime minister. Do you think this policy was a mistake? Do you think it contributes to the bashing of Israel by others? And because of the changes now, do you trust Prime Minister Netanyahu?

And if I may, Mr. Prime Minister, specifically, did you discuss with the President a continuing of the building of settlements after September? And did you tell him that you're going to keep on building after this period is over?

President Obama: Well, let me, first of all, say that the premise to your question was wrong, and I entirely disagree with it. If you look at every public statement that I've made over the last year and a half, it has been a constant reaffirmation of the special relationship between the United States and Israel; that our commitment to Israel's security has been unwavering. And in fact, there aren't any concrete policies that you could point to that would contradict that.

And in terms of my relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I know the press, both in Israel and Stateside, enjoys, you know, seeing if there's news there. But the fact of the matter is, is that I've trusted Prime Minister Netanyahu since I met him before I was elected President, and have said so both publicly and privately. I think that he is dealing with a very complex situation in a very tough neighborhood.

And you know, what I have consistently shared with him is my interest in working with him, not at cross-purposes, so that we can achieve the kind of peace that will ensure Israel's security for decades to come.

And that's going to mean some tough choices, and there are going to be times where, you know, he and I are having robust discussions about what kind of choices need to be made. But the underlying approach never changes, and that is, the United States is committed to Israel's security, we are committed to that special bond, and we are going to do what's required to back that up, not just with words but with actions.

We are going to continually work with the prime minister and the entire Israeli government, as well as the Israeli people, so that we can achieve what I think has to be everybody's goal, which is that people feel secure. They don't feel like a rocket's going to be landing on their head sometime. They don't feel as if there's a growing population that wants to direct violence against Israel. That requires work, and that requires some difficult choices and both at the strategic level and the tactical level. And this is something that the prime minister understands and why I think that we're going to be able to work together not just over the next few months but hopefully over the next several years.

PM Netanyahu: Thank you.

The President and I discussed concrete steps that could be done now, with the coming days and the coming weeks, to move the peace process further along in a very robust way. This is what we focused our conversation on. And when I say the next few weeks, that's what I mean, and the President means that too.

Let me make a general observation about the question you forwarded to the President - and here I'll have to paraphrase Mark Twain - that the reports about the demise of the special U.S.-Israel relationship aren't just premature: They're just flat wrong.

There is a depth and richness of this relationship that is expressed every day our teams talk. We don't make it public. The only thing that's public is that you can have differences, on occasion, in the best of families and the closest of families. That comes out public, and sometimes in a twisted way, too.

What is (natural ?) is the fact that we have an enduring bond of values, interests, beginning with security and the way that we share both information and other things to help the common defense of our common interests and many others in the region who don't often admit to the beneficial effect of this cooperation.

So I think there's a - the President said it best in his speech in Cairo. In front of the entire Islamic world, he said: The bond between Israel and the United States is unbreakable. And I can affirm that to you today.

President Obama: Thank you very much, everybody.

Monday, July 05, 2010

"Say It Isn't So!"

Arlene Kushner

May Americans be mindful on this day of the values of the founding fathers.


Before I pick up with decidedly unsettling news, I want to share some responses to the posting of last night, regarding Israeli and American Jews -- as well as some of my comments. These issues are too important and too relevant to our current situation to ignore. I cited Dr. Rettig regarding the 1.4 million Jews who served in armed forces in WWII but had no power. Commented one reader: Far more relevant to the fact that Jews failed to have an impact on military policy to save those threatened in the Shoah was the refusal or reluctance of American Jews of prestige and those who were even in government service to take a stand for saving fellow Jews. My reader specifically mentioned Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, I would add by way of example Rabbi Stephen Wise. And of course there were others.

My immediate response to this was that in spite of their positions of power and prestige, these Jews may have in some sense felt powerless in a time that was prior to the founding of Israel. (Of course, this was no excuse morally, where saving Jewish lives was concerned -- they had a moral imperative to try.) My thought was -- and to some considerable extent still is -- that the existence of Israel has empowered Jews in the US.


But I have since thought of situations that give me pause. Not so many months ago, Obama called a meeting with (carefully selected) key American Jews leaders. This was the beginning of his politically motivated courting of American Jewish community. One leader in particular had critical comments after the meeting, and he shared these with a journalist. But anonymously. His unwillingness to come forward by name disturbed me greatly. What was he afraid of? Falling out of favor with the White House? Losing perks of his position? Was a climate set up within the meeting that worked against honest criticism?

Here I see the essential conundrum of American Jewish power. In some instances, American Jews on the inside become co-opted by the system. This is definitely and sadly the case today. But, at best, to make a difference, one hopes to have influence with the powers-that-be -- the president and his staff, members of the cabinet, etc. Thus, crossing those powers might result in (and is certainly perceived as carrying the risk of) a loss of influence. A sort of catch-22.

This is a function, I think, of not having a Jewish national power base, while having become thoroughly immersed within and identified with the larger US power base. We might ask the question as to whether American Jews have attained success in integrating within the corridors of power to an extent that sometimes actually works against the interests of the Jewish people.

I am generalizing, of course, and there are exceptions. Jewish members of Congress -- I think in particular of Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), but there are also others -- are sometimes forthright in their public support of Israel. Their source of power is their constituency and their seat in Congress. Grassroots community -- organizational and religious -- leaders who command a base can have influence on power, best wielded by affecting, or threatening to affect, voting patterns or major donations.


Other thoughts:

The American Jewish community survives because of traditionally observant segments of that community. It is here that we find the least opting out, the most fervent support of, the Jewish people and of Israel.

I would add this, as well: Israeli society is considerably more child-oriented. There is a broad mental set that encourages having more children -- this is not the case among American Jews, who are more concerned with recreational opportunities, freedom to live a good life, ability to maintain a certain standard of living, etc. I don't have statistics, but I would bet that young American Jews are barely reproducing themselves. In Israel, our numbers are growing. It wasn't until I came to Israel that I found, for example, that it was routine for young couples to bring their babies with them when attending a wedding. A totally different mental set.


Now as I begin to explore the news, I remind one and all that we are in the time period of "pre-Netanyahu visit to Obama." Thus we find multiple rumors and considerable posturing. Statements from credible sources should not be treated lightly, but neither should they taken as gospel. Sorting truth from fiction, and innuendo from forthright statement, is a difficult if not impossible task.


Last week, two news reports emerged that were particularly disturbing -- as they indicated the possibility of a caving by the Israeli government.

First, news broke that Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, had met with Hussein al-Sheikh, the PA's minister for civilian affairs. They established a number of joint committees in order to coordinate on issues, it was said.

One of these issues was renovation of the crossing into Gaza at Keren Shalom. This would include construction of infrastructure that would allow for the PA to take over control of the crossing.


Seems the US and the PA have pressured us for some time to allow the PA to control the crossings. This has been perceived as a way to give the PA a foothold in Gaza, which is Hamas-controlled. Until now, the IDF has opposed this because of security concerns.


But, according to an "exclusive" on Friday in the JPost, "Since the government's decision last week to ease the blockade on Gaza (more properly: to allow more goods in via the crossings, as there was no "blockade" on land), the IDF understands that this is likely to be one of the next steps that Israel will have to take."

"...that Israel will have to take." This deplorable mental set is what brings concession after concession. I write about lack of Jewish power in the US, but where is our sense of power? There is no "have to," there is only caving to demands. Undoubtedly, this is just one more thing that will make Obama happy when our prime minister comes calling. Making Obama happy should not trump security concerns. Ever.


Then there was this flap:

Last week Netanyahu, circumventing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who was kept in dark, sent Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, a certified left-winger, to Brussels for a clandestine meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in order to clear the air or somehow improve the relations between the two nations.

From two different Turkish newspapers, Zeman and Huriyyet, came different reports regarding Turkish demands for an apology regarding the flotilla, and then an alleged concession by Ben-Eliezer to consider making an apology and providing compensation for families of the injured.

Ben-Eliezer's office subsequently denied that there was any promise of compensation, saying, "No one intends to do that, and the minister did not promise anything." Not anything? Not even a willingness to consider an apology?

At any rate, Netanyahu presumably resolved the issue on Friday, when he told Israeli TV that there was no intention of offering either compensation or apology:

“Israel cannot apologize for our soldiers being forced to defend themselves against the mob that almost slaughtered them.

“We are sorry over the loss of life. This is clear.”

He then said that the idea of compensating those injured “ not up for discussion.”


As to Lieberman -- the straight-talker in the government -- he had smoke coming out of both ears when he learned that he had been circumvented. He has no intention of quitting, he said, but will "make them pay" for his having been excluded.

Netanyahu claims that he "explained" the situation to Lieberman, and everything is OK. Spin is everything. Netanyahu says, reassuringly, that his coalition is not in danger. Lieberman says he wouldn't give them the satisfaction of quitting.


We may have heard the last on this issue, but then again, we may not.

At a Labor party meeting today, Ben-Eliezer exploded at Ehud Barak, claiming that because he, Barak, was opposed to the meeting Ben-Eliezer had with the Turks, he had leaked false information about the meeting. A hot-blooded Iraqi, Ben-Eliezer told Barak's media person, "I'll skewer you. You don't know whom you're dealing with."



While...according to Al-Hayat in London (whose reports are not necessarily reliable), Obama intends to try to convince Netanyahu to accept Turkish demands for an apology. If this is true, we must fervently hope that our prime minister has the strength to stand strong on what he's said.

The full Al-Hayat report alleges that Obama, in an effort to calm things down, has warned Turkey that its demand for a full international probe of the flotilla incident would be a "double-edged sword," as such an investigation would expose the relationship of Turkish passengers on the Marmara to the terrorist IHH.

Who knows?


Today, there were headlines alleging that PA president Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to forfeit claims to the Kotel and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. These claims were reported by the same Al-Hayat in London.

According to this report, Abbas presented in writing to Mitchell an offer based on the proposals discussed at Camp David in 2000 (which Arafat rejected). This is said to include giving the PA 100% of the land area of Judea and Samaria, with a 2.3% land swap, and all of eastern Jerusalem except the Kotel and the Jewish Quarter. Additionally, a passageway from Judea and Samaria to Gaza would be opened. (That would be lovely: it would give Hamas greater access to Judea and Samaria.)

The Prime Minister's Office had no comment on this report.

Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat, according to the news agency Ma'an, did have comment: He denies that Abbas handed a written proposal to Mitchell. I believe he also denies the concession by Abbas of the Kotel and Jewish Quarter to us, even verbally.


This I would definitely categorize as "pre-Netanyahu visit" hype: On Friday "senior US officials" said that "significant progress" had been made in the "proximity talks."


Dan Shapiro, a Middle East advisor to the (US) National Security Council, said both sides have engaged in all core issues. Last I heard, the two sides were discussing different things with Mitchell, with Netanyahu declining to discuss core issues until there were face to face meetings.


One thing PM Netanyahu is holding out on is a refusal to concede more to Hamas in order to secure Shalit's release. This in spite of enormous public pressure being put on him. And I salute him for this.

See here his press conference on the issue on Friday:

"The call to pay any price is a natural cry from the heart of any father, mother, grandfather, sister or brother. As a brother and son, I understand this cry from the bottom of my heart. But before me and before every Prime Minister in Israel, must also be the security of all the citizens of the state.

"The State of Israel is prepared to pay a heavy price for the release of Gilad Shalit but is unable to say 'at any price.' This is the truth and I state it here."


You might like to see Caroline Glick's latest satirical Latma piece on this subject. Tough and incisive, it makes the point that the huge outpouring of public concern does not help convince Hamas to release Shalit but, rather, convinces his captors that Netanyahu will have to cave in the face of the publicity and that holding firm is the thing to do:


Tomorrow Netanyahu flies to Washington for meetings on Tuesday. After this long posting, I likely will not write again until after there is news from that meeting, such as that may be.

Caroline Glick has written that the best our prime minister can do is buy time, by saying things such as, "Well, I'm willing to take this into consideration and discuss it with my cabinet when I return home."

Hopefully, I have not made you all crazy with this posting, which at least provides a clear pictures of how frenetic and lunatic the situation is.

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

"Israeli and American Jews"

Arlene Kushner

A change of pace -- there is time tomorrow for a return to the news, which certainly brings no great joy to the heart these days. Here I would like to share thought-stimulating highlights of a lecture delivered at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Thursday by Rabbi Dr. Edward Rettig, acting director of the American Jewish Committee, here in Jerusalem, on the differences between the Jewish identity of Israelis and Americans. Background summary:

The Shoah (Holocaust) destroyed the cultural and demographic center of the Jewish world of that time period. What we are looking at today in terms of Jewish community is discontinuous from that earlier time -- in that sense, revolutionary.

Today 80% of Jews live in either the US or Israel, roughly 40% -- give or take -- in each place, with some 2/3 to 3/4 of diaspora Jewry living in the US. (As was noted during discussion, however, the Jewish population of Israel is on the increase, while the number of American Jews is decreasing.)

These two Jewish population centers are very different from each other (and from the Jewish world of the past 2,000 years) and are working with entirely different language in terms of what it means to be Jewish. The language is shaped by values: the experience of being Jewish is different in Israel and America.

Thus, while Israeli and American Jews need each other, they are lacking a common language for effective communication. There is a disconnect that has serious consequences. I touch here upon key differences.


1) Power.

The Zionist movement is about Jewish power, and Israel today displays power as a nation, with all that this signifies. This means, to a large extent, physical power and the military.

In America, Jews see power in terms of such things as political influence. Right now the American Jewish community is flowering. But there are concerns about continuity and the specter of Jewish powerlessness.


My comment: It seems to me that some sold percentage of American Jews -- even as they worry about powerlessness --are not quite comfortable with the idea of Jewish military power. That discomfort -- which may not even be totally conscious -- makes progressive or liberal American Jews, in particular, vulnerable to unease or embarrassment in the face of anti-Israel charges. It leads to a sense of alienation or disassociation from Israel.

We Jews, in a world that is witnessing growing anti-Semitism, do not have the luxury of imagining, ever, that relative powerlessness is "OK." And I sometimes wonder if American Jews born since 1948 fully comprehend the increased reflected power that accrued to the American Jewish community by virtue of the founding of Israel.

Dr. Rettig provided a significant perspective with this information: During WWII, 1.4 million Jews served in Allied armed forces. But those 1.4 million were spread among various forces of the allied nations. Thus, they found that they did not have the power to influence military thinking so that saving the Jews became a military priority -- even with regard to such matters as bombing the railway tracks leading to the camps. A stark reminder of a crisis of powerlessness.


2) Religious legitimacy.

America was founded as a Protestant nation. This means the center of religious legitimacy is seen as residing with the individual. American Jews absorbed this approach founded in individuation.

Israel was founded by Jews who came out of a world that was untouched by the Reformation. Religious legitimacy is found in tradition and the words of religious leaders. Religious authority is normative.

This merits some contemplation -- it explains a great deal.


3) Constructing Jewish identity.

In the US, this is seen as a choice. You don't want to be Jewish any more? You can opt out, assimilate, lose that identity.

In Israel, it is seen as fate. You are Jewish.

Fascinating: Israeli educators sent to the US to work with and motivate Jewish kids there have trouble speaking in terms they can understand. These educators know well how to speak to disaffected Israeli Jewish youngsters -- how to get them to grapple with their Jewishness, which is a given, and to turn it into something positive. But reaching kids who have the option of simply walking away from their Jewishness is something else.


4) Secular Jews.

This follows from the above.

In the US, Jews who are devoid of religious feeling face a quandary as to who they are and what defines them. They are likely to meld into the majority, non-Jewish, culture.

In Israel, a secular Jewish identity is not uncommon. For those who are secular, Jewishness is still part of their identity, as they are part of the Zionist culture.


5) Sacrifice and Memorialization

Dr. Rettig's perceptions here stimulate not insignificant insights.

In the US, Jews seek Judaism as a way to be happy or fulfilled. It's supposed to give the individual something. Women, for example, are exhorted to light Shabbat candles because they will find it a beautiful experience. American Judaism, additionally, is centered to a considerable degree in the present.

In Israel, Jews see their Jewishness as an inheritance (the "fate" I spoke about above) that requires both looking backward, and the need for making sacrifices. American Jews have difficulty understanding or relating to this.

American Jews at 18 and 19 are often having the time of their lives. Israelis at this age are in the military, undergoing rigorous training, and facing the fact that they may one day die in battle. The society as a whole accepts this reality.

Dr. Rettig provided this startling statistic: The number of Jews in Israel who stand in silence for two minutes when the siren blows on Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day for those who have fallen for the State of Israel) is greater than the number of Jews in the world who regularly light Shabbat candles. The memorialization is a significant part of the Israeli cultural ethic.


Other thoughts raised in discussion following the lecture:

In the US, Jews have to work against the majority culture to be Jewish.

This statement resonated deeply with me -- it's something I speak about frequently. Here in Israel, we are on Jewish time and in sync with Jewish mores. A large clock on a wall at the entrance to Jerusalem announces the time when Shabbat begins. Someone who has lost an immediate relative is automatically given time off from work for the shiva week (immediate mourning period). And on, and on... No conflict between living fully in the society and living fully Jewishly. There is an element of struggle in Jewish identity that disappears here -- it's part of a more natural flow.


The individuation of religious identity that is valued in American Jewry carries within it the seeds of this community's destruction. The American Jewish community is diminishing in numbers.

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