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Tag Archives: Benjamin Netanyahu

Let the Electioneering Begin

It’s always good to escape Israel for a couple weeks – to clear one’s the head from the barrage of security concerns and political manoeuvring that dominates the Israeli news cycle. Thus I escaped to northern Europe for a couple of weeks, forcing myself to avoid all possible contact with Israeli news websites or my over-bloated Twitter feed (a battlefield of leftist/rightist hyperbole).

Back ‘home’ the first Israeli newspapers I stumbled across were covered with the news that we will be having early elections – presumably late January.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to call for early election was hardly unexpected. The nature of Israeli politics with its broad (and historically shaky) coalition governments means that it is rare that any government lasts its scheduled term. Now we can ‘look forward’ to three months of electioneering and intense political horse-trading as parties position themselves accordingly – with the prospect of yet another hodgepodge coalition government a given.

The main players in Israel’s elections

It’s hard to be enthused by this election, which is undoubtedly going to be dominated by the Iran, with Benjamin Netanyahu likely to cast the election as referendum on his plan to deal with Iran militarily in the coming year. I am curious to see to what extent the Israeli-Palestinian issue or the increased cost of living in Israel will be debated, and what solutions, if any, the various parties will offer on these issues. Though I am definitely not getting my hopes up.

I will try my best to keep you posted…

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Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Domestic Israeli News

 

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50 Reasons to Say Yes to a Palestinian State

Last week, the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum launched a new campaign: “50 Reasons to Say Yes to a Palestinian State” Their aim: to garner Israeli public support for the ongoing Palestinian UN bid for statehood and the 2-state solution. After a summer of energized activism on social issues (Israeli social justice protests), unseen in modern Israeli history, it’s time for the country to re-engage with Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

50 Reasons to Say Yes to a Palestinian State

We Already Live in 2-States

Okay, so it’s a hard sell. Israeli society has become so detached from the Palestinian issue that it’s a tough to ask getting the average Israeli to proactively engage with the issue.  With the social justice campaign the average Israeli didn’t need an NGO manifesto to realize that they were suffering – the growing inequalities in Israeli society are easily visible.  But for most Israelis, the Palestinian issue is a distant one that has little or no influence on their daily lives. For them, even though they might not admit to it, the partition between Israel and the West Bank & Gaza (physically and mentally) is so stark that it’s almost as if we live in two separate states. Unfortunately it’s only the Israeli side that can enjoy the freedoms that go hand-in-hand with being a fully sovereign and independent state,

For this reason the campaign has produced a list of 50 reasons why a 2-state solution is worth fighting for; not only as means to end the conflict  but also – in my opinion – to highlight how the more popular fight, the struggle for social justice in Israel, is both unachievable and unsustainable without the succesful creation of a Palestinian state.

Don’t Lobby at the UN; Lobby the Israeli Public

Re-hashing the 101 arguments for and against the Palestinian UN bid is pointless. Everyone knows that once the dust settles and the Israeli and Palestinian leaders return home, with or without some form of UN recognition, the facts on the ground will remain much the same. Of course gaining the support of the international community will provide the Palestinians with added leverage in future negotiations, but the UN decision is essentially a side-show, a distraction. Why are we getting worked up over whether far-away countries like Gabon or Colombia vote for or against Palestine? The real decision-makers, the parties all proponents of the 2-state solution should be lobbying intensively are not hidden away in the bowels of the UN, but right here, down on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and up and down this fraught land. Only an Israeli public convinced of the benefits of a 2-state solution can truly grant Palestinians the state they legitimately demand – any amount of international pressure and isolation will do little to change the current inflexible Israeli position.

Of course trying to convince the Israeli public to support a 2-state solution is a different matter entirely. Whilst polls indicate that a majority of Israelis are willing to accept some form of 2-state solution getting any percentage of this majority to demand of their government an end the occupation has failed – hence the ability of the Netanyahu government to continue, with ease, the policy of maintaining the status quo.

It’s for this reason that campaigns such as the “50 Reasons to Say Yes to a Palestinian State” are so important.

The Reasons:

Here are just some of the reasons – the full list can be found here: 50 Reasons to Say Yes to a Palestinian State). They also have a Facebook page.

The Israeli Peace NGO Forum is launching a campaign in support of Palestinian statehood leading up to the Palestinian Authority’s request for recognition in the UN General Assembly, planned for September 20th 2011.

3. We will be available to nurture social solidarity and rehabilitate Israeli society.

5. The establishment of a Palestinian state will open the door for all of Arab world to recognize Israeland implement the decision of 22 Arab League member states to normalize relations with Israel.

9. The establishment of a Palestinian state will end the occupation that corrupts us and harms Israel’s strength.

11. The Palestinian state will allow a dramatic improvement in relations between Jews and Arabs inside Israel, allowing us to engage in processes that will bring equality between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

14. Establishing an agreed upon Palestinian state will silence those who are using the Palestinians as a reason for war and boycotts against us.

19. In Tel Aviv, Ramallah,Cairo and Damascus a young, secular, technological generation is growing, that believes in its own power to affect change and despises governments’ falsely injected fears.

21. Only a Palestinian state can prevent us from becoming the next apartheid state.

26. Establishing a Palestinian state is an act of justice. Palestinians are a people and deserve a state.

31. The two-state solution is supported by both Israelis and Palestinians in all surveys in recent years.

32. It will create great economic opportunities for Israelis and the entire Middle East that do not exist today because of the conflict.

40. If South Sudan can have a state, why not Palestine?

42. Because you can not demand rights for Israelis and not recognize Palestinians’ right to a state.

46. We will finally live in a democratic moral country which respects its minorities with equal rights.

48. Because a situation of military occupation and the ‘settlers’ state can not continue forever, it endangers us, and does not correlate with universal humanistic Jewish values.

50. Because it is the only viable solution, and you know it.

 

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Long Live the Peace Process: “A Palestinian State is a Disaster for Israel”

Whilst US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu exchanged blows from their respective soapboxes this past week, life in the state of Israel/Palestine continued pretty much as normal. Two nations slowly sleepwalking towards a September showdown – a showdown to which we here in Jerusalem are guaranteed front row seats.

   The international community may well speak of a two-state solution, but on the ground the prospect of such a solution seems very far off for a multitude of reasons. A couple of months ago Chabad, an ultra-orthodox Jewish organisation, ran a poster campaign (see below) on buses across Jerusalem warning that a Palestinian state would be a disaster for Israel. While it’s right to not criticise the running of such adverts on the basis of freedom of speech, it’s depressing that such views continue to be spread throughout Israel especially when both sides are meant to refrain from propagating fear and hatred of the other side. The peace-process may have stalled on the diplomatic front, but in Israel it’s hard to see how the idea of a Palestinian could ever be sold to the electorate. Things don’t bode well…

"A Palestinian State is a Disaster for Israel"

 
 

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The Right to Criticise…

Britain’s foreign minister, William Hague, paid Israel a visit this week. As well the routine meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Hague took the time to meet with Palestinian NGO representatives in the West Bank to see for himself the ‘ground zero’ the of Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a ‘bold’ move and one that will neither engratiate himself nor the UK with the Israeli government (William Hague’s bold decision is fraught with risk).

 

UK Foreign Minister, William Hague, meets with Gilad Shalit's parents - the Israeli soldier held hostage by Hamas in Gaza for over 4 years. His parents have since this summer been permanetly camped outside the President's palace here in Jerusaelm and have vowed to stay there until their son is released (Photo courtesy of the British Embassy in Israel)

However, the trip was overshadowed somewhat by Israel’s decision to postpone the so-called “strategic dialogue” between the UK and Israel due to the continuing fear that Israeli ministers could theoretically be arrested on charges of war crimes when in the UK; this under the principle of “Universal Jurisdiction” (Israel halts ‘special strategic dialogue’ with Britain to protest arrest warrants)

Now I am no expert on international law and the validity of Universal Jurisdiction so I will refrain from commenting on the pros and cons of the UK policy and Israel’s angst towards it. However, the decision by the Israeli Foreign Ministry to announce this further cooling in Anglo-Israeli relations literally as William Hague is stepping off the place at Ben Gurion airport is yet another example of the embarrassingly undiplomatic and tactless etiquette towards foreign dignitaries that runs through the veins of the current Israeli government. In the last year countless foreign ministers or vice presidents have had their visits overshadowed by the Israeli government’s attempt to get one over on their foreign guests. Here are three of the first spring that to mind: Turkish ambassador humiliated by Israel; As Biden Visits, Israel Unveils Plan for New Settlements; French, Spanish FMs: Lieberman violated every rule of diplomacy.

Two points:

1) Israel does not tolerate foreign critique: Regrettably the current climate in Israel resents all foreign attempts to interfere in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with support, real or rhetorical, towards the Palestinian cause. This is seen as an infringement on Israel’s sovereignty and security and symptomatic of the world’s inherent anti-Israeli bias. As far as Israel is concerned the only foreign actor that could conceivably offer a balanced view is the US, a Republican-led US; not Obama, not the European Union and most definitely not the United Nations. Thus the likes of Joe Biden, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and now William Hague are met here with, at best, indifference, or at worst, outright contempt; to quote Thomas Friedman’s latest piece in the New York Times, today’s Israel really is “behaving like a spoiled child”, especially in the realms of international diplomacy.

2) Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is spineless: As the leader of a coalition government Netanyahu has the unenviable job of trying to keep together the most fractious of coalitions… perhaps ever in Israeli politics. Alongside his own right-wing Likud party the coalition includes everything from the left-of-centre Labour party, a mish-mash of  ultra-orthodox parties and your run-of-the-mill quasi-racist nationalist parties. Having said that, the way Netanyahu allows both the Foreign Ministry and the Interior Ministry ( led by the coalition’s far-right parties) to run roughshod over all diplomatic protocol is embarrassing, and for those of us who actually care about Israel’s standing in the world, hugely depressing. That Netanyahu’s response to these instances is a mere shrug of the shoulders is indicative of his over-arching aim in government; to stay in power as long as possible whilst maintaining at all the time the status-quo vis-à-vis the Palestinians (i.e. with no real attempt to deepen the peace process). If this comes at the cost of further international isolation, so be it.

I apologise for this mini-rant, but as a foreigner living in Israel it does become increasingly frustrating having to lend an ear to the barrage of anti-European or anti-Palestinian sentiment and then feel that as a non-Israeli or non-Jew that I am somehow disqualified from questioning Israel’s policies or indeed understanding the nature of threats faced by Israeli and Jewish people in general; but as part of me is now, to all intents and purposes, Israeli (Yikes!), so too I think I have the right and insight to vent my frustration.

But I think I’ll leave that line of argument for another day…

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2010 in The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

 

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Anti-Obama Poster Campagin: Israeli Style

“Beware! A PLO Agent in the White House”

Here is one of many anti-Obama posters that began springing up in Jerusalem over the last couple of weeks. You don’t even have to understand the Hebrew text to get the message – Obama bowing in submission to the Arab world.

Launched by one of Israel’s many far-right political parties this particular campaign attempted to latch on to the growing antagonism between the Israel and the Obama administration. This thankfully is not the view of the majority of Israelis – this specific poster, around the corner from our apartment, only lasted a few days before being partially ripped off.

This is not to say however that Israelis view Obama as particularly friendly towards Israel. Just 9 percent of Jewish Israelis think US President Barack Obama’s administration is more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian, whilst 48% of Jewish Israelis think he is more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel. In contrast when George W Bush was in power 88% of Jewish Israelis viewed the US President as more pro-Israeli than pro-Palestinian.

It’s been slightly surreal seeing the sudden change of tone  from the US. Of course whether it leads to any real change in action is another matter. When Joe Biden was in town a few weeks back he managed to bring much Jerusalem to complete standstill as he and his motorcade shuttled back and forth between Jerusalem and in nearby Palestinian capital Ramallah. Since then the peace process has been at a standstill as accusations and excuses flew back and forth over the Atlantic between Jerusalem and the Washington.

And reading my English-language Israeli newspaper (The Haaretz), it’s been fascinating following the relentless ire and dissatisfaction leveled at Benjamin Netanyahu and his unsteady coalition government – made up of ultra-nationalistic and religious parties. Unless Obama backs down from his demands it seems like this is a coalition doomed to disintegrate in the face of the tough (but justified) US demands. One can only hope…

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in Domestic Israeli News

 

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News From Jerusalem

Despite the fact that we’re in mid-October, it’s another sweltering hot night here in the Negev desert, not that I’m complaining. After what was yet another disappointing English summer, it’s been great reacquainting myself with the pairs of shorts and flip-flops that haven’t been in proper use since…well since last time I was here probably.

But enough about the weather. Got back from Jerusalem last night safe in the knowledge that we had cleared the first major hurdle of our big move – yes we have finally found ourselves a cute little furnished apartment, no mean task in Jerusalem. We actually found the place when we first visited Jerusalem lack, but had to wait to hear if we were the lucky ones to be chosen; quite a few other couples had supposedly shown interest. But now that the contract has been signed we can begin to look forward to finally, after years of sharing a whole range of weird and wonderful houses and flats with other people, to actually having a place of our own.

Anyway I will wait to tell/show you more about our new home once we move in, in roughly 2 weeks time. What I will say though, is that there enough space for any visitors who feeling like dropping by; so hereby consider yourselves all invited!

Aside from finalising the contract, my 2 days in Jerusalem were spent wondering aimlessly around the city streets while Asya was out at the on university campus attending various induction classes. Actually, with the fierce midday heat still energy-sapping, even though we’re in mid-autumn, I opted for the lounging under the cool shade of the tree in a park with a stunning view over the Old Walled City. Here hours were spent reading, listening to podcasts, and of course working my way through my Hebrew audio lessons; all so idyllic.

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The park I happened to find refuge in is situated next to the glamorous King David hotel, residence of choice for world leaders and the like when in Jerusalem. Back in the day when Palestine was under British rule it functioned as the British headquarters. It’s perhaps equally famous for being partly blown up in 1946 by the militant Zionist group Irgun who openly fought British rule and their refusal to allow the mass migration of Jews into Palestine. The British occupation of Palestine from 1917-1948 (present day Israel and Jordan) is something I knew very little about before visiting Israel and I can’t remember it ever being taught in school much. At first glance, the fact that in the aftermath of all the World War II atrocities we actively prohibited the migration of Jews to their new safe haven seems outright deplorable – perhaps that’s why it’s not high on Britain’s top Empire achievements. Anyway it’s definitely a part of British history that I’m actively going to look more into. Until then here’s a picture of the plaque outside the hotel the retells the tale of what has been called “one of the most lethal terrorist attacks of the 20th century.”

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Indeed the bombing of the hotel continues to be widely celebrated, not least by current Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu who attended celebrations  marking the 60th anniversary of the bombing and the unveiling of another commemorative plaque. Naturally the British we far from amused, as this article in The Times shows, “British Anger at Terror Celebration.

For a country that has had, and continues to live to with its own horrific share of militant/terrorist atrocities I do find it hard to understand how they can celebrate their own acts of terrorism, an act which did kill 92 people – with or without the warning.  Is it too big a stretch to draw comparisons between the motives behind that particular bombing and present day terrorist attacks committed against Israel? Well I’m not entirely sure yet what I think…

Better leave it for now. It’s 11 pm and time to head off to the local kibbutz pub for a beer or two. Tuborg or Carlsberg? Danish beers have certainly cornered the market here. Well at least it makes me a feel a little bit at home 🙂

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2009 in Israeli History, Life in Israel

 

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