Friday, 8 June 2012

So does either side actually want a two-state solution?

... As we look at the continuing impasse, and the reality that there has been less than a month of tentative negotiation in the three years since this government came to office, Israeli officials have been telling anyone who’ll listen that the Palestinians are wholly to blame for the absence of peace talks. The Prime Minister, they say, has been waiting for Mahmoud Abbas to join him for peace talks; instead the Palestinian Authority President has tried to circumvent negotiations and unilaterally force the issue at the UN.

For their part the Palestinians claim that negotiating with Netanyahu would be a waste of time. And it is the case that, in a fashion familiar to observers of the Prime Minister’s first term in office, he has rhetorically supported moderate positions while giving a nod and a wink to hardliners in his government and the settlement movement. For instance following his announcement of the ten-month settlement freeze in 2009, he quickly moved to reassure settler leaders that this was a one-off event and that building would resume in the West Bank once the period of the moratorium had elapsed....
To continue reading, follow the link to my blog on The Times Of Israel.

Monday, 2 April 2012

It was fascism in Toulouse

The original suspects for the cold-blooded murder in Toulouse of Jonathan Sandler, his young children Aryeh and Gabriel, and 8-year old Miriam Monsonego were three neo-Nazis. Police had linked the atrocity to the fatal shooting, a few days earlier, of three French off-duty paratroopers, who also happened to be Muslim.  It did seem reasonable to assume that the killer was a far-right activist, "collecting" ethnic minority victims.

The discovery that the killer was actually Mohamed Merah, an Islamist linked to Al-Qaida, will not surprise anyone alive to the reality of Muslim radicalization in Europe. However, it will be interesting to see whether the great liberal consciences of the West, who were poised to loudly condemn this latest demonstration of murderous contemporary fascism, will now fall silent, or whether they will press on with their intended message. For make no mistake, this is fascism...
To continue reading, follow the link to my blog on The Times Of Israel.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Kadima election - first thoughts

I confess I have something of a soft spot for Tzipi Livni, for two principal reasons.Firstly, and it's worth remembering, she could and would have been prime minister had she given in to Shas's extortion and continued the government she inherited from Ehud Olmert on the back of increased funds for Charedi yeshivot and schools. That she preferred to stick to her principles was admirable, and a marked contrast to the man who did become Prime Minister. Netanyahu often acts as though being in power is the end rather than the means.

Secondly, she is the only leading Israeli politician in recent years to have made a point of speaking out on the need for Jewish pluralism in Israel and for really trying to ask questions about how to strengthen Jewish identity in Israel in a pluralistic way. In 2010 she even held a day-long conference in the Knesset on the subject, moderated by the Shalom Hartman Institute - one of the outstanding centers of open-minded Jewish and Zionist thought in the world.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Christopher Hitchens on fascism and religion: lessons for Israel

THE DEATH of Christopher Hitchens last month, at the age of 62, robbed the world of one its most eloquent advocates for freedom and democracy.

He was a man of contradictions: a graduate of British Marxism whose political hero was Thomas Jefferson; in 2000 he described George W. Bush as "unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things", and then vocally supported his re-election against Democrat John Kerry four years later. The victims of his mercilessly caustic pen also included Republican statesman Henry Kissinger, Democratic President Bill Clinton and even Mother Theresa ("She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction").

However one consistent thread running through his seemingly scattergun worldview was his hatred of tyranny and oppression.  Indeed, his uncompromising atheism – of which more later – was based on his belief that religion equaled slavery, with God cast as an all-seeing, authoritarian overlord.  His socialism was, in his words, "anti-totalitarian" rather than "anti-imperialist". He eschewed the knee-jerk anti-Americanism so prevalent among European leftists, instead supporting US-led military campaigns against ethnic cleansers like Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

On (wilfully) misquoting Obama

Obama at the AIPAC conference clarifying what his reference to the 1967 lines in his speech last week meant:
“by definition, it means that the parties themselves -- Israelis and Palestinians -- will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967”.


And that should have been obvious to anyone who actually read/heard what the said rather than the hysterical reaction from some quarters in Israel.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Defending the declaration

“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained statehood…

"The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture…”

Extracts from Israel’s Declaration of Independence, read out by David Ben Gurion, almost exactly 63 years ago, as the storm clouds of war gathered.  The following day the Arab world would unite in an attempt to strangle the Jewish State at birth.  Israel won that war, and several since, but today, though the physical threats to its security remain, there is also another war to be fought; it is for the defense of the dreams of Israel’s founding fathers.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

In the absence of peace - if we don’t act, they will

And so we appear to have reached the end of the latest fruitless attempt at resolving this too long, and too bloody, conflict.
There’s plenty of blame to go around.  The Americans’ early focus on an Israeli settlement freeze ensured that the Palestinians would have a perfect excuse to avoid direct negotiations – even though this had never before been asked of Israel as a condition for peace talks.  Meanwhile, revelations that Mahmoud Abbas had rejected Ehud Olmert’s parting gift of a two-state solution that went beyond anything previously offered to the Palestinians in its crossing of supposed Israeli red lines, was not a promising sign that the Palestinians were even ready to do a deal.

Netanyahu responded to the US’s request by trying to appease Obama while not alienating the settlers, ordering a ten-month moratorium on building in West Bank settlements but insisting it would be a one-time event.  He ignored the advice of wiser heads in his government such as Dan Meridor, who urged him to take the opportunity to make a distinction between the settlement blocs (which, according to all previous peace proposals would remain part of Israel) and settlements that would have to be evacuated in any future peace agreement.