Five for Friday

The death of my best friend, Marcus, is everywhere in my thoughts. I know that life goes on, and I will return to the usual routine in due course. That’s one reason why I’ve rejected the thought of just stopping the blog. Another is that such normal tasks tide me over between tough times. Regrets and mad and happy memories are a heady cocktail. This is something I need to do, if only for myself. So, in keeping with the usual practice, here are this week’s selection of links for Friday.

Be well, one and all.

Shabbat Shalom!

A message from Hamas

This, from CAMERA, should be well viewed and bookmarked:

Hamas Still Hamas, Says Will Never Recognize or Relinquish “Even an Inch” of Israel

Remember when it was all the rage for some journalists to pretend Hamas recognizes Israel and wants a two-state solution, never mind what the Islamist group’s own leaders repeatedly and consistently said to the contrary?

There was The New York Times, which told us that a Hamas leader, in the words of its headline, “Calls for Two-State Solution.” (No, he didn’t.)

And don’t forget The Guardian, chroniclers of the “news” that Hamas “agrees to Israeli state.” (Wrong again.)

Alas, it seems Hamas leaders were never close readers of those newspapers. The organization stubbornly has continued to be clear about its ideology, as it did again just a few days ago.

Over to you, MEMRI:

Speaking at a December 12 rally in Khan Younes, Hamas political bureau member Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said: “Anyone who thinks that we will recognize the existence of the [Zionist] entity or the 1967 borders is deluded… Palestine stretches from the Egyptian border in the south to Lebanon in the north, and from Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean sea in the west, and we will never recognize anything less than this.” He added: “If part of our land is liberated, we will establish our state in that part without relinquishing even an inch of the rest. Just as we liberated Gaza and established a genuine administration in it, [with] an army and security apparatuses that defend us, rather than the Israeli enemy [unlike those of the PA], we will do the same in the West Bank, as a prelude to attaining all of Palestine.”

In the festive season, what a truly festive, peaceful message from Hamas. One that all their supporters in the west should read, understand, and remember.

Not the ballroom blitz

Israel HaYom - 18 December 23014

Israel HaYom – 18 December 2014

Today’s Israel HaYom newspaper has a somewhat curious take on recent developments. The main headline, referring to Europe, translates as:

Rage in Israel: they haven’t learned a thing

Above it, the yellow box highlights:

European anti-Israel blitz

Beside it, the white text on a red background reports on Hamas being removed from the list of terrorist organizations, the European parliament recognizing Palestine in principle, and condemnation of Israel by the Geneva Convention members.

It’s curious for the following reasons:

  1. This paper is seen as a Bibi Netanyahu mouthpiece. But many would put a huge share of the responsibility for the situation on Bibi.
  2. The use of “blitz” is worth noting. The paper has used a transliterated version of the word, so there’s no translation issue. The message was clear: it’s a blitz. Does that mean the paper is trying to send a not so subtle message that it’s the Germans all over again? A bit crass. And wrong.
  3. They must know that the Hamas removal from the list is a procedural issue, not a value judgement. Sure, as the Elder points out, they haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory with their non existent focus on Palestinian terrorism. But it’s going too far to see this as an active anti-Israel action.

It’s interesting to compare the coverage with Ynet, where “sources” criticize Bibi for both the situation, and his Holocaust invoking response.  He is described as “hiding behind cliches” which does tend to strike a chord. Bibi is not demonstrating a substantive pro-active approach to Israel’s diplomatic situation. Without that, further “blitzes” will be forthcoming.


Finally, completely off topic, I love the fact the front page of the newspaper reminds its readers that tonight is the third night of Chanukah:


One of those little touches that make the difference.

A peaceful solution?

Efraim Halevy in August 2014 Source: Eli Itkin/Wikimedia

Efraim Halevy in August 2014
Source: Eli Itkin/Wikimedia

A recent and interesting after dinner chat with a sabra, gave me a different perspective – always welcome – on the forthcoming Israeli elections, and the goal of the electorate.

He asked me what the central problem Israeli society faced was. I told him social inequality. He disagreed, saying the problem was the lack of peace. I told him I had discounted that, because I don’t think there’s a solution, and assuredly not one that can be, or will be, promoted as part of a party manifesto.

He told me that he remembers the situation being the same before Israel attained peace with Egypt: it was thought to be impossible, but it happened. At that point, the discussion ground down a bit as we covered the comparison of Sadat with Abbas (and, indeed Arafat).

Broadly speaking, there was agreement that many Israelis do not see peace as a possibility because of the Palestinian situation. For example, how does Israel avoid any neighboring Palestinian state being or becoming a souped up Gaza rocket factory? For example, an agreement with Fatah has as much chance of being binding on Hamas and Gaza, as Bibi has of becoming politician of the year in Ramallah.

The response was that we should ignore Hamas and Gaza because they really are beyond the pale. However, in my opinion that is unrealistic, mainly because no Palestinian leader will do a deal that is not universally backed. It may be that an Arab League initiative would be enough, but even that is not in sight. But overall, the suggestion was that we take the issues and the problems, and we negotiate.

With all of that in mind, this Times of Israel interview with Efraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad intelligence agency, is interesting.

[He] accused the outgoing government, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, of having violated the fragile status quo in Jerusalem. The elections of March 2015 are not merely a referendum on Israel’s leadership, he said, but constitute an unprecedented opportunity to determine Israel’s policy vis-à-vis the peace process.


There is no word in Hebrew for dignity, he quoted a friend observing once. The Arab world has long felt deeply inferior, and Israelis are basically telling Arabs that they don’t suffer from an inferiority complex but are indeed inferior, Halevy said. “The problem we have had over the years has been that they have sought dignity and the last thing we ever thought of was addressing them in a manner that gave them a feeling of some dignity.”

His criticisms of Bibi are ones I would endorse, in the main. But the stuff about dignity is misleading, as it absolves the Palestinians and their leadership from all blame. Their lying, their incitement, their previous intransigence when deals were on the table, cannot be explained away by dignity. It can be explained away by other, more negative, characteristics. For example, there are many who say the Palestinians do not want a single square centimeter of a Jewish state. So, discussion about the borders of a Palestinian state are, at best, a temporary situation, and a cover for a future war of obliteration. It is difficult to see the peace loving bridge building aspects of Palestinian society. I am almost sure they exist. I am almost sure they are insignificant.

It’s important to stress that while I don’t agree with Halevy’s rationalizations, or his perspective, I don’t exclude the possibility that his approach may be worth trying. As I previously posted, we have a duty to our children – and their children – to do the best we can to make peace.

Squeeze play

This post at the Times of IsraelCentrists feel the squeeze – is an authoritative opinion about the current state of play in Israeli politics as we head towards the March elections. (Remembering that a week is a long time in politics, everything could change, however.)

The narrative there – about the left and the right squeezing the center – seems to match my experiences and feedback received over the last week or so, in discussing the situation with people across the political spectrum. In short, Lapid’s voters are going to the left (in the main), with Labor now seen as a credible force. Lapid knows the challenge, and is trying to build up confidence that his way remains the best challenge to Netanyahu that will deliver what most people want: peace, security, and economic well-being. A tough ask.

If there is one area that keeps centrist voters away from Bibi, it is his lack of success in the peace talks. Whatever (valid) excuses Bibi can put up about the Palestinian blame for the breakdown of negotiations, what they – and I – would fault him for, is his inability or unwillingness to be proactive. He should have been out there with a coherent plan; an initiative that could have got Obama onside, and improved Israel’s political situation.

For example:

Lapid frames his regional peace strategy as a response to the alleged diplomatic failings of Netanyahu. “It is amazing that having sat with the prime minister as a member of the security cabinet for nearly two years, I still cannot describe his plan for our future security,” he told the [Jerusalem Post Diplomatic] conference.

Is there a peace deal to be made? I doubt it. But, as Dov Lipman asked so courageously, will we be able to tell our children that we did everything we could to make the world a safer place for them? As things stand, the answer is no.