Tag Archives: Israel

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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Radical Settler Terrorism

Radical Settler Terrorism

In a week which marks the return to school for Israeli children, three 12-13 year olds stood accused in an Israeli courtroom, their pixellated faces appearing on the front of this morning’s national papers. Their crime, the firebombing of a Palestinian taxi in the West Bank – an incident that left six Palestinians injured. Their friends joined them in the court, interrupting proceedings with signs of support shouting “Be strong,” and “We’ll blow them apart.”

This attack is the latest in growing trend of violent attacks by radical Israeli settlers on Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Today I catched a podcast from the Council on Foreign Relations titled, “Radical Settler Terrorism”, which ties in with an article published in this month’s Foreign Affairs by Daniel Byman and Natan Sachs, “The Rise of Settler Terrorism: The West Bank’s Others Violent Extremist” – both worth the listen/read.

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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


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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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In the Eye of the Storm

Every once in a while I have to pinch myself – can it really be that I am living in Jerusalem? Sometimes it can be hard to equate this city I am living in with that same mystical city that first entered my imagination back in religious study classes at school and later became perplexed  by as I became aware of its place at the epicentre of so many of the Middle East’s religious/political conundrums.


A brief trip back to the UK not so long ago coincided with onset of the Middle Eastern revolts and the downfall of Hosni Mubarak’s Egyptian own ancient regime. Whilst Jerusalem, and much of the world, remained powerless onlookers there was an undeniable fear and trepidation – “a quiet panic” – that quickly spread throughout the Israeli political and military establishment. How could and should Israel act as a stalwart of Israel’s security crumbled in front of them? With Israel’s long-term peace with Egypt (and the rest of region) up in the air yet again, journalists, politicians and experts were hauled into TV studios across Jerusalem to give their two pennies’ worth on how this will affect the most hotly contested of all conflicts. How peculiar it was to be watching events unfold on the  BBC/Sky News/Al Jazeera knowing full well that we would soon be replacing the comfortable, peaceful and predictable surroundings of English suburbia for whatever the future now holds for Jerusalem, Israel…the entire Middle East no less – fear or hope?


US author James Carroll in the Boston Globe (Caught in the eye of a political storm) conjured up an apt image of what it was like in Jerusalem those first few days post-Mubarak:

As news comes of yet intensified demonstrations in Iran, Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen, a ferocious sandstorm howls through Jerusalem, a gritty fog swirling across the most contested place of all. Weather is mere nature, yet Jerusalem seems like the tranquil eye of the larger political storm. There is tension for sure. How could the tectonic plates shifting below the entire Mideast not cause tremors here.


If Jerusalem is the still quiet eye of the Arab hurricane, it is also an eye through which to view the great dilemma: Is tumultuous Mideast revolt to be seen with fear and hope?


With this month’s storms raging on the horizon, Israelis have reason for wariness, and Palestinians are right to be impatient at promises unkept. Americans are understandably alert. Yet Jerusalem itself remains the best reason for keeping an eye not on fear, on hope.


One of the saddest things about living and seeing first-hand the realties of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (albeit only from the Israeli side) is the way it gnaws away at your once (naïve) optimism and transforms it into (realistic) pessimism. As much as you may try to normalise life here (an art Israelis have learnt to perfect), the perceived peace in Jerusalem is illusory, too easily punctuated by the brutal attacks and incitement against Israelis alongside the sustained levels of oppression and dehumanisation of the Palestinians. In such an atmosphere it can be hard to continue labelling yourself as an optimist.


So while from the outside Jerusalem does look to many like the peaceful eye of this Middle Eastern storm I can’t help but think something has to give. On the streets of Tunis and Cairo oppressed populations rose up against their own oppressive ‘normalised’ state of affairs, seemingly out of the blue – could it be happening here sometime soon? Watch this space…


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Israel’s Not So Bright Future

Before coming to Israel I was well aware of the many security issues it faced and how they would continue to cast Israel as a pariah state in the eyes of many as long as they remain unresolved. However, I also thought Israel was an impressively advanced country, punching far and above its weight in a whole host of agricultural, medical and other science related fields. Not to mention that Israel is the supposed beacon of liberal democracy and freedom in an otherwise undemocratic and oppressive neighbourhood. All these factors pointed towards a future which, if it could resolve its security issues, would ultimately leave the country with a bright and prosperous future.

This was all before I arrived and fully grasped not only the futility of the peace process but also the huge divisions within the country that work to stifle the future prospects of prosperous and egalitarian Israel. Op-ed pieces abound in Haaretz about the perilous future that awaits this; here is an extract from just one that was this week’s Haaretz by Ron Lehman, “War Over the Homeland“:

Twenty years from now, most of Israel’s young people will be ultra-orthodox or Arabs. […] It may be unconceivable, but it is certainly possible that in 30 years we’ll be living in an unenlightened third-world country, subject to the Torah law as interpreted by extremist rabbis who gradually, in a series of small steps, turn out the lights.

It’s depressing to think that all the hard work that has gone into making this country, could all be squandered as the religious right exert their increasing power and while the Arab population remain segregated – either overtly or due to their own accord. Attempting to win the demographic battle by “importing” more and more secular Jews from around the world is merely denying the statistical facts that are clear to see.

As a  non-Israeli should I really be worrying about whatever lies ahead? Sure, I am going to be living here for the next few years and would like to think that a prosperous country such as Israel would draw in the international companies and investment that will help me get a decent job. But as the ultra-orthodox have recently shown, they are becoming increasingly able to dissuade non-Shabbat obeying international corporations from investing in Jerusalem area and the rest the Israel. See Ultra-orthodox protesters target Intel. And not to mention the way a growing ultra-orthodox population would undoubtedly hinder peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians.

I can only guess that this demographic battle can be won by a) engaging with the more moderate ultra-orthodox groups, offering them ways to integrate with the rest of Israeli society, and b) any successful peace plan with the Palestinians must be coupled with an honest attempt by both Israeli-Jews and Israeli-Arabs to reconcile differences and work to create an integrated multicultural society where Israeli-Arabs genuinely have something to gain from participating in mainstream Israeli life and vice-versa.


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Time To Get Political

Aside from the day-to-day experiences of suddenly finding myself living in this crazy little country called Israel, I had hoped to use this blog as an outlet for my thoughts and frustrations regarding the whole Israeli/Palestinian issue as well as the wider Arab-Israeli conflict. International relations vis-à-vis Latin America had always been my main interest, but ever since Israel made an unexpected entry into my life I have also done my best to follow the news from this tumultuous and mind-bogglingly complex part of the world. Whereas Latin American international relations had always been pretty straightforward, it’s common knowledge that the Middle Eastern region is neither easily understood nor explained.

It’s hard to really know where to start. I guess throughout the course of future blog posts I will endeavour to cast some light on, for both you and myself, as to what Israel and the Jewish people have gone through to get where they are now, what lies ahead for this country, and how it’s going about dealing with the quandary that is the Middle East “peace” process. Also take a look at some of the internal struggles within Israel that tend not to get noted back home. But probably most importantly of all, just to be able to vent the inevitable frustrations I will have with living in a country that is beset by it’s inability, and that of the Arab states, to sit down and recognise the peaceful aspirations of (almost) all populations here. No mean task, especially as this is a region awash with extremist viewpoints, exaggerated accusations, and dangerous misconceptions; with the violent repercussions obvious to all.

Obama Cartoon

It can be hard to be heard amidst all the racket. Cartoon by Morten Morland (The Times 29/12/08)

No matter where you stand on Israel and its policies it easy to find a 101 blogs or editorial opinion pieces to back you up (facts and all), hindering the need for anyone to ever take a re-evaluating step back. While I sincerely hope not fall into the trap of pre-labelling myself and my opinions as either anti-this or pro-that, I do hope that I can engage sincerely with the opinions from here, there and everywhere on the political spectrum, adding my own initial thoughts alongside. It’s probably too naïve to believe that anyone could ever offer any remotely objective commentary, but I do have the faith in the ability of such simple things as accepting that maybe your original perceptions were misguided and that there are multiple voices (from the left and the right) that deserve to be heard and appreciated – admissions that would definitely go along way in easing some of the tensions here.

Okay enough of this idealistic “call to arms” for quiet and balanced reflection. It’s getting late here and I must get on with reading the daily updates from my favourite list of left-wing, anti-Israeli, pro-Palestinian op-eds before calling it a night 😉

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Posted by on November 11, 2009 in The Middle East Conflict


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So Here We Go…

So here we go…

The big move day finally arrived.

It had otherwise been so easy to talk  about this move; the inevitable outcome of Asya not being able to secure the necessary university funding to study at Oxford. Even now, sitting in transit in Riga airport waiting for the connecting midnight plane to Tel Aviv, it still seems unfathomable that I have decided to up sticks – once again – and relocate to the unknown. “Yeah, I’m moving to Israel,” a statement I’ve uttered countless times over the last couple of months. The puzzled faces that often greeted this assertion, soon made me realise that perhaps this wasn’t the move that most people would have expected from someone who had spent the last decade dedicated to studying/living all things Latin American. While it might not have been what people had expected (myself included) there is not an ounce of me that for one minute would ever consider doing anything else. I can’t wait to get going…!

Sentiment aside, I thought I would start this blog as a way to keep friends and family alike up-to-date with what’s bound to be a heck of a change.  Neither Asya nor I can fairly predict how this experience is going to pan out: will my visa application be successful? Is finding apartments in Jerusalem really so impossible? After years away from classroom what will going to university be like for Asya? Not to mention how does a non-Hebrew speaking (and non-Jewish) Latin American specialist find a decent job in recession hit Jerusalem?

Although a lot of this is bound to be dedicated to how we got about solving the above problems, I am sure I will find reason to write about local going-ons and the more tumultuous events involving Israel’s and the wider world’s elusive search for peace in the Middle East – yes, time to put that Middle East Politics course at university to use. While I may theorize to my heart’s content about the likelihood of such peace, I must mention that Christian (my younger more daring brother) is, as I write, on his way to the Persian Gulf in his HMS Frigate – its presence a far more resourceful way to secure peace in the region I’m sure. By the way any heads up on dodgy Iranian activity in the region (i.e. anything pointed towards Israel) would be much appreciated…


Posted by on October 5, 2009 in Life in Israel, The Middle East Conflict


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