Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Israelis are Mindfully Watchful of Upheavals in the Arab World: Time for a Unity Gov't Reflecting the "Resolve & Sobriety of Israeli Public?"

Halevi's astute analysis of the current situation and how Israel can take the initiative and endorse freedom in the Arab world, with sobriety and resiliency. Israel Is Resilient but Watchful Amid the return of Palestinian violence and upheaval in the Arab world, there is broad consensus on issues such as land for peace. By YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI Jerusalem The ambulance sirens began sounding and didn't seem to end. The terrorist attack on March 23 that killed one person and wounded 30 was the first bus bombing in Jerusalem since 2005. And it happened just as missiles from Gaza began falling on Israeli cities and towns for the first time since the Gaza War of 2009. Suddenly it was as if the normal life we'd since managed to re-inhabit was an illusion. But the despair passed quickly. Two days after the bombing, 10,000 people—from as far away as Kenya, Ethiopia and Poland—jogged through Jerusalem in the city's first-ever international marathon. Residents lined the streets, cheering on the runners. Not one participant dropped out as a result of the bombing. After a brutal decade that began with the collapse of the peace process in September 2000, and which brought four years of suicide bombings, eight years of missile attacks, two wars, and at least two failed attempts at peacemaking, the Israeli public is resilient and sober. As terrorism and rocket attacks return to Israeli cities, and the Arab world reels, those are precisely the qualities Israelis need to cope. The precondition for containing terrorism is national unity, and on security matters at least, the nation is cohesive. In responding to attacks on civilian Israel, the government has the support of nearly every party. Knesset members of the opposition Kadima party are demanding that the government respond even more firmly—the left pressing the right to be resolute. Yet so far the government's response has been restrained—and rightly so. Another Israeli-Hamas confrontation is perhaps inevitable, but not now. As the Arab world finally begins to face itself, Israel must avoid focusing the region's attention on the Palestinian conflict. The upheavals have proven that what preoccupies the Arab peoples aren't Israel's actions but Arab failures. The dictators want to deflect their people's rage back onto Israel. Moammar Gadhafi, for instance, has urged Palestinians to board ships and descend on Israel's coast. This is also not the time for far-reaching political initiatives. With the open question of whether Israel's peace with Egypt will survive the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Israelis are reassessing the wisdom of land-for-peace agreements with dictators. What is the point, many here wonder, of exchanging the Golan Heights for a dubious peace with a Baathist regime run by the hated Allawite minority? Israelis are asking a similar question about Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is widely resented by Palestinians as corrupt and represents at best only part of his people. Why negotiate a land for peace agreement with an unelected, one-party government? Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad is the first Palestinian leader to place economic growth before ideology, but he lacks a political base. In a time of regional change, Israelis are even more reluctant to risk irreversible strategic concessions for a deal that may well lack popular legitimacy. There is no basis now for an agreement. Claims in the media that Mr. Abbas and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were close to a deal are merely another example of the wishful thinking that once turned the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat into a partner for peace. Recently leaked documents from the Palestinian Authority reveal that Palestinian leaders continue to anticipate the "return" of hundreds of thousands of refugee descendants to Israel. No Israeli government will concede on what is, for the Jewish state, an existential issue. In the coming months, pressure to implement an immediate two-state solution will increase—from the United Nations, the European Union, and the Obama administration. Israel must resist that pressure. The premature creation of a Palestinian state—more precisely two states, ruled by the competing autocracies of Hamas and Fatah—will not bring peace but greater instability. Still, Israel must do more than passively await regional change. As the Arab world confronts its options of Islamism, democratization or military dictatorship, Israel needs to endorse freedom. Israel's contribution to the new democratic spirit should be sending an unequivocal message to the Arab world that it has no intention of continuing the occupation for ideological motives, and that the only impediment to Palestinian independence is Palestinian intransigence, especially on the issue of refugees. The least dangerous way for Israel to communicate that message is by declaring an open-ended building freeze in the settlements. That freeze would not include Jerusalem. No government—left, right or center—would stop building in East Jerusalem's existing Jewish neighborhoods. But a freeze should be unilateral—without expectation of reciprocity from the Palestinians. At the same time Israel should transfer control to the Palestinian Authority of more of the West Bank, and continue encouraging economic growth there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reluctance to impose another settlement freeze is understandable. His previous 10-month freeze—the first by any Israeli prime minister—was greeted with skepticism and brought only increased pressure from Washington to freeze building in Jerusalem. But regional conditions have since changed dramatically, and Israel needs to respond. Mr. Netanyahu cannot impose another freeze while maintaining his present coalition. So he should seriously examine the new offer of opposition leader Tzipi Livni to form a unity government between the prime minister's Likud party and Kadima. A combination of policies—military restraint, an unconditional settlement freeze, realism regarding a Palestinian state—will express the resolve and sobriety of the Israeli public. Israelis these days are preparing for Passover. The Passover seder is called a night of watching, in remembrance of the Israelites who were prepared at a moment's notice to flee Egypt and enter the unknown. This year Passover has particular resonance. For Israelis, living in a Middle East veering between freedom and even greater repression, it is a time of active watching. Mr. Halevi is a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and a contributing editor at the New Republic.

Click Here to Read More..

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Israel's Perpetual State of 'Shigrat Herum' or "Routine Emergency" & Michael Oren on Bill Maher Show

Liat Collins writes compellingly on her propulsion to Zion--and Zionism;

and Michael Oren with his usual eloquence, charm, and class: Timeshare with the Palestinians?

My Word: A routine emergency


Instead of running away from terror, we might as well send Hamas and its allies a message of our own: We’re here to stay. Can you talk about why you chose to leave England for Jerusalem, a radio show host asked me recently. I thought it would be easy. But the simple question got me thinking. I briefly considered the flippant answer that the weather’s better. The daughter of a neighbor who immigrated from New Caledonia a year ago jokes she moved to Israel because it was “too boring.” When pushed, however, she admits that anti-Semitism played a role. How much anti-Semitism can there be in a country with hardly any Jews? “Well, it’s more an anti-Israel sentiment,” she explains. It made me think of another reason to make aliya: Israel is probably the only place in the world where, when someone calls you a “Zionist” it’s a compliment and not an insult. What really brought me here, strangely enough, was terror. It’s a story I’ve told before. The first time I shared it was in 1996, following the double bombing of the No. 18 bus – a bus on which I still regularly travel. Then, too, it was close to Purim. Instead of mishloah manot (gifts of food for the holiday), people walked down the narrow streets of my neighborhood carrying meals to the mourners. On the morning of February 25, 1996, a suicide bomber blew himself up on a No. 18 traveling down Jaffa Road near the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. Twenty-six people were killed and 48 injured. A week later, on March 3, a bomber detonated an explosive belt on another No. 18 on Jaffa Road, killing 19 and wounding seven. The following week, when I boarded the bus, a passenger asked the driver: “Does this go as far as the Central Bus Station?” eliciting the response: “With God’s help.” It was the time the joke began to circulate among those waiting for the already notoriously unreliable line: “Why do the buses always come in pairs? Because they’re afraid to travel alone.” You might have to be a Jerusalemite to appreciate it. It might not be funny. The lethal attack on March 23 certainly raises questions about how the new light rail, when it finally starts operating, will handle security issues. ULTIMATELY THE answer to what brought me from a comfortable London suburb to a place where pioneering spirit was an asset lies in Germany – no, not what you think: the Munich massacre at the 1972 Olympic Games. I was 11, a competitive swimmer and in love with Mark Spitz. That was when I first understood one could die simply for being Jewish. Anywhere. “Don’t worry,” my mother had tried to reassure me as I watched events unfold on TV. “Mark Spitz is safe.” What about the British competitor from my own swimming club? She had not been in danger, my mother explained; she wasn’t a Jew. My young mind grappled to work out why an American super swimmer was at risk when the medal-winning member of my own team was not. Why just Israelis and Jews? And then suddenly I understood the connection. Israel wasn’t just an abstract name in my prayer book. It really existed – and more than anything else, I wanted to go there. Arab terror turned me into a Zionist – a peculiar victory, indeed. There is nothing rational behind my decision to move to Israel; it was an emotional pull. My Zionism was strengthened by every subsequent pointless death, and unfortunately, there were many: the massacre of children during a school trip in Ma’alot; the murders in Kiryat Shmona; the Yom Kippur War. Each one contributed to my desire to come to the Promised Land. The blast of terror blew me across the sea, carrying me home. For where else could I go? There’s no other country with which I have that blood bond. Ironically, during a recent trip to London I felt far less safe than in Jerusalem. Perhaps it’s always like that when you’re away from home, and London is definitely not my home any more. I found it unnerving to travel on trains and enter a shopping mall with my suitcase on wheelswithout a single security check. If nobody had looked to see what was inside my case, then no one had examined what anyone else was carrying either. It was only slightly more comforting to have my luggage pulled to pieces by security at Heathrow airport where I’d forgotten to declare a plastic bottle of moisturizing lotion. I can’t vouch for the overall security at the terminal, but I can testify that no one is going to get the chance to blow up a plane with 150 ml. of Boots moisturizer. It’s more politically correct than profiling, of course; I just hope it’s as effective. THE BOMBING in Jerusalem was loud. It brought back all sorts of memories and instincts that I’d prefer to forget – the “turn on the radio and call the family” standard operating procedure that was second nature during the years of terror. There was the sound of sirens, ongoing news reports, and finally that utterly Israeli response when a certain kind of song is played on the radio. Whenever you hear Chava Alberstein singing “we’re all a part of the living human tapestry,” it’s worth checking whether there’s been a tragedy. You might have thought that 50 mortar shells and rockets make a lot of noise , but obviously it depends where they fall. The barrage on the Negev on March 19 did not really reverberate. The rest of the the country picked up its head at the sound, sighed and got back to the Purim revelries. The world didn’t hear even the missiles, which let alone the sigh. The missiles came with a message: “Look at us! We’re still here!” hissed the projectiles launched byIslamic Jihad in Gaza. While some commentators remarked that the terrorists were exploiting the turmoil elsewhere in the Arab world to attack Israel, it seems more likely that it was an effort to reclaim the spotlight. It almost failed. Apparently, most of the world doesn’t much care if missiles are lobbed at Israel at an everincreasing rate in ever-widening concentric circles. What is more important is Israel’s response. “Israel has a right to defend itself,” ambassadors and foreign ministers proclaim. Just don’t ask them how. “Israel doesn’t just have the right to defend itself,” said Minister Limor Livnat in a radio interview. “It has an obligation.” We’ll probably be damned if we do and damned if we don’t. As Beersheba, Ashdod, Ashkelon and the Gaza border communities all came under fire, and Jerusalem licks its latest wound, a phrase I hadn’t heard for a long time bounced back into usage: “Shigrat herum.” It is a typically Israeli term: a “routine emergency.” Life is going to continue as usual – for an emergency, that is. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called for the planned international marathon to go ahead on March 25. Instead of running away from terror, we might as well send Hamas and its allies a message of our own: We’re here to stay. Or as Mayor Barkat put it at the scene of the attack: “Jerusalem will not stop running” – forward, that is.
The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem Post

Click Here to Read More..