Friday, January 17, 2003

Finally, someone is using his brain. Dima, lots of info about separation there.
I guess timing is everything. Right now I am in a lousy mood, and then I read this. I have not felt so frustrated by something I read in a long time. In fact, Schiff in his article repeats the same complaints I read over and over again. Here is one from Tommy Friedman. The same thing: if only Sharon would stop the settlements, and put forward a peace plan, everything would be dandy. Yeah, right. If only Sharon was Rabin. Well, guess what, we already had Rabin, and look what happened. Anyway, I digress...

The most maddening thing about Schiff's article is that he has to blame someone for the desperate situation Israel finds itself right now, and guess who is to blame? See, the Palestinians cannot be blamed, because they are victims, and also because Arafat has turned them all from peace loving, Kumbaya-singing flower children, into suicidal maniacs. What can you expect from them? Sharon, on the other hand, is a war criminal, everyone knows that, don't they? Yes, he did wise up as he got older, and all that, but still, he only cares about the settlements and greater Israel, and...I digress again.

In the perception of many people, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is a strong leader who is the right person for war-time periods. However, what Israel really needs at the present strategic juncture is a statesman with a vision who will lead the country out of its complex conflict, and not a power-obsessed leader because of whom the national cart is sinking ever deeper into the mire. Israel needs a statesman who will be capable of exploiting new international circumstances to resolve the conflict before the entire Middle East is contaminated with nuclear and biological weapons.

A vision? How about being able to survive? Is Mitzna a man of vision for you? You want a way out? Everyone does, but there isn't one, and you know it, not until after the war in Iraq, and even then it is not going to be a picnic or a walk in the park. "...Because of whom the national cart is sinking..." Mr. Schiff, this is happening because your country is at war, in case you have not noticed, and it is at war not because of Sharon, in case you have forgotten. New international circumstances? What the hell is this guy talking about?

Here we have more of the same, plus the obligatory lip-service: "Arafat is also bad, but not as bad as Sharon", and: "Palestinians are suffering, too, but they are used to it":

During his nearly two years as the country's leader of the country, Sharon has not even neared the status of a statesman who looks beyond war. The result is that under his leadership, Israel is sliding down a steep slope. A similar development has occurred on the Palestinian side, under their leader, PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, but that is no consolation. The downtrodden Palestinians are farther from realizing their national aspirations, but Israel has regressed in almost every sphere, and there is not a glimmer of light on the horizon.

OK, what else is new?

The occupation of the territories and of the Palestinian people - from whom, it is true, the suicide murderers originate - has become more intense and uglier. The same tendency will prevail in the future.

Yep. It's the occupation now, and it was the occupation during Oslo, and in 1964, and in 1936(?), and 1929.

Even when the IDF and the Shin Bet security service achieve a tactical military success, Sharon is incapable of exploiting it for the next step, in the political realm. It is in this context where Sharon's lack of being a statesman-leader is most pronounced. The struggle with the Palestinians has become a war of revenge and prestige, in which the victories on the battlefield slowly dissolve into nothing. On the ground, the settlers are deepening their grip and adding new outposts with a variety of stratagems. Is there anyone who believes that this situation can be dragged out indefinitely?

He lost me here. Is he trying to say that every time we kill or catch a terrorist, we should dismantle a settlement?

The Palestinians are losing more in tactical terms and from the point of view of day-to-day suffering, but in the present state of affairs, Israel is not capable of arriving at a decisive battle against them. The reason is not military, but above all political. Israel is incapable of accumulating more victory points, because it does not have a political initiative beyond the occupation. Hints that Sharon has some sort of political plan to resolve the conflict have turned out to be no more than baubles. His political initiative has not gone beyond the mantra that he is ready for painful concessions (painful for whom?). The Americans, too, are trying in vain to find a political initiative by Sharon.

It looks like Mr. Schiff has missed Bush's June speech. In fact Sharon's tactics, if not strategy, are in full accord with Bush's approach, and that is: the Palestinians get nothing until they straighten out, and stop terrorism. They have not done so yet, as far as I know.

Schiff , like all Israelis, is very frustrated. But most Israelis, unlike Schiff, do not expect their PM to be a magician who is going to pull a rabbit of political "vision" (or, maybe a vision of a rabbit?) out of his sleeve. They vote for Sharon because they know that he is doing the only thing a leader (and any person) is expected to do: the best under the circumstances, the best he can. And they know that he can do, and is doing it better than anyone else. Not perfectly, maybe not even satisfactory, but better.
Terrorist attack on the Jewish neighborhood in Hebron. So far 2-4 wounded, one terrorist dead, another one is being chased.
A man was journeying in the desert. He was hungry, weary and thirsty, and he lighted upon a tree, the fruits of which were sweet, its shade pleasant, and a stream of water was flowing beneath it. He ate of its fruits, drank of the water and rested under its shade. When he was about to continue his journey he said:
"Tree, oh tree, with what shall I bless you?
Shall I say to you: May your fruits be sweet? They are sweet already.
That your shade be pleasant? It is already pleasant.
That a stream of water may flow beneath you. Lo, a stream of water flows already beneath you.
Therefore, I say, may it be God's will, that all the shoots taken from you be like you."

From the Babylonian Talmud. Shabbat Shalom, and Hag Sameah.
Tonight is Tu-Bishvat (fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Shvat), a holiday dedicated to the trees. Lets hug a tree, shall we? Come on, you know you want to!
IBA radio correspondent in Florida was discussing today yesterday's security measures around Ilan Ramon, and the 180(?) members of his entourage. (BTW, the total number of Ramon's guests was around 300). Ramon's family were staying in a hotel next to the one he was in. Their hotel had no visible security. Ramon's hotel, on the other hand, was full with police throughout the building. All cars entering the parking lot were searched extensively, including sniffing dogs. But people were not searched at all. It is now cold in Orlando, and people are wearing coats. A person could carry weapons or explosives under his coat, and return to his car that was searched earlier.

The Kennedy Space Center was closed to the general public, with F-16s flying overhead, ships and terrain vehicles patrolling the coast, etc. Journalists were admitted to the observation deck, along with families and VIPs. None of the big heavy equipment bags they usually carry with them were searched for items that may have been put in those bags without their knowledge.

And a more benign detail: Israeli VIPs, such as the head of Israel's space agency, were accompanied at all times by two policemen. If they were not, how many people would have been able to recognize them?
Anyway, everything went without incident, thank god. Ilan is up there, and, as someone correctly put it, every Israeli is now up there with him.
My first few years in the Missouri I felt completely out of place. All I wanted is to move back to Israel. It was close to impossible then, mostly because of my husband's business. After several years I have adapted to my new life, especially after I had my son. My English got better, and we made many friends, although most of them were not Americans by birth. By the time my husband sold his business after 9 years, I was not at all sure I could move back.

So we moved here, hoping to build a financial base to fall back on, in case times get tough in Israel. Here we don't have half as many friends as we did in Missouri, and it includes my son. We are ready to move for good, and have started working towards it. Now I am scared to death. Before I had a child (at 33) I was literally never scared of anything (well, except for rats and closed spaces). Now I live in constatnt fear even without thinking about Israel. I yank my son away from the TV or the computer, and tell him to go play outside, and I don't let him come back until it gets dark, and all that time I imagine him being hit by a car, or dragged into one. Cannot help it. I am also scared that something will happen to me or my husband, and I imagine my sone being left an orphan. And then we leave him with a sitter, and go out, and enjoy a movie.

Will I be able to overcome my fears in Israel like I do here? I don't know. The fears probably will be stronger, and much more substantiated. But somehow I know in my heart that we have to go back. The plan is to move this summer. I hope I have the balls.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

It has just occurred to me: people who talk about a Palestinian state in the Bank and Gaza usually argue that it is a way to separate the two people. I am all for separation. Problem is that anyone who looks on a map will see that this solution will not achieve a real separation. this is the major reason why such a state not only is not a viable solution, but a recipe for disaster.
Tal observes how the foreign media in Israel is baffled
by Sharon’s popularity with the Israeli public. But it’s not just the foreign media. Last Sunday on “60 Minutes”, in a segment about Labor’s PM candidate Amram Mitzna, one of Israel’s most prominent journalists, Tom Segev, was just as baffled. I guess the “intellectual elites” are the same everywhere.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Thanks to Mike for this link - interesting. It is from JP, and it discusses transfer. The interesting part is some info on the population exchanges between Turkey and Greece, and between India and Pakistan. The disappointing part is this (the article is titled "Transfer: Not a Solution"):

Not a viable solution
In view of the conditions presently prevailing in the region, voluntary transfer by mutual consent is not a viable solution in the foreseeable future for several reasons:

1. The Arab states categorically oppose the idea of absorbing the refugees despite the wide spaces of their domain.
2. A considerable number of refugees insist on returning to their ancestral homes, be it in Jaffa, Haifa, Safed or Tiberias.
3. The term "transfer" has acquired a negative connotation and the international community will not support it.
4. It has absolutely no chance of UN support, unlike the Greek-Turkish project which was endorsed by the League of Nations.
5. A vast majority of Israelis reject the idea.

Disappointing, because I was hoping to see some real argument, beside "everyone opposes it". Still, there are points there that I did not specifically address last time I wrote about it:

1. The Arabs expelled their Jewish populations in 1948. If they are not willing to complete the second half of that "population exchange", will they take those Jews back, and return their property?
2. See 1.
3. I agree that "population exchange" sounds much better. And, international support might be achieved, when the Jews themselves start supporting it.
4. See 3.
5. This is the real problem, and that is what I am trying to change.
6. A point of my own, that few seem to address: everyone seems to be comfortable with transferring Israelis from the Territories, as a necessary condition to a fair settlement of the conflict. Why is that?

Israelis, and Jews in general, need to become more open-minded and creative, when thinking about possible solutions. We have forgotten, that the early Zionists have met with at least as much resistance to the idea of a Jewish state, especially from their fellow Jews. They heard the same arguments that "this" and "that" will not agree. Well, guess what: some agreed, and some did not, and in the end common sense prevailed.
A favorite pastime for Gaza kids: target-shooting. Both the guns and the bullets are palstic (2NIS=abouit 2 quaters a shot). The target is Sharon (I assume made of paper).
Efarim Sneh was reprimanded by his party's leader, Amram Mitzna, for publicly expressing willingness to join a National Unity government with Sharon. Mitzna said on channel 2 TV that he "had a serious talk" with Sneh.
Assad, Syria's president, was supposed to visit Teheran, but that visit was unexpectedly cancelled. He was also supposed to visit Saudi Arabia, but that one seems to be cancelled as well. London's Arabic "alQuds" says that Syria is upset with Iran's stance towards the war in Iraq, and that there are some in Damask that believe Washington and Teheran have made a secret deal on the issue. (IBA radio).

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Just had the "privilege" of listening to some election campaign messages on the Israeli radio. It is completely different from what we are used to in the US, where these ads are placed just like the rest of the commercials. On IBA radio there is a special time slot for them (I think it was at least 15 min.), and the ads are much longer than your regular commercial on the radio.

First off was SHAS. It started with something that sounded like a prayer in a style very much resembling a Muslim one. It was very beuatiful, and I was pretty much getting carried away by the singing, until I realised that Ovadia Yossef's (SHAS's spiritual leader) name kept reoccuring over and over. So much for my enjoyment.

I used to be a big fan of Raful (Rafael Eithan), who in the 80ies was the leader of Tzomet, a right-wing secular party. Now that party is back, and so is Raful, and I wish I could say he is as good as ever. The theme of his ad was animal love. No, not what you think! Go wash your dirty brain with soap! No, the premise was that, being a farmer, Raful loves animals, and they love him back, and some how this makes him qualified to be a minister in the government. I did not really get the connection. I'd think that a former chief of staff would not need his husbandry credentials to reenter politics, but what do I know?

This particular broadcast did not include all the numerous (how many?) parties that will be participating in the coming elections, so I did not get to hear neither Likud, nor Shinui. The last one I remember was Labor, but you could hardly tell that, because the whole thing was about Mitzna (especially the singing part: oh, the pain I have to endure for blogging!), and the Wall. It really sounded as if the only difference between Sharon and Mitzna is that Sharon promised to build the Wall, and did not/or would not, and Mitzna promises to build it, and will. The only thing that came close to what can be called an argument was that Sharon does not build the wall for political reasons. As if elections and politicians are not about politics. Oh, and he also does not build the wall because he only cares about the settlers, as opposed to Mitzna who cares about security. I don't get this one either.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Judge Mishael Cheshin, chair of the elections commitee, says that the "propaganda law" is outdated and ineffective, and has to be abolished. Last week Cheshin cut off a TV and radio broadcast of Sharon's speech, in accordance with that same law. Cheshin says that he acted according to the law and would have done so again, and that he regrets the fact that he was not able to cut off the broadcast even earlier. (IBA radio).
Glenn wirtes, among other things, in this very interesting post: And those who favor extensive profiling should note the photos of Ali -- the hero -- and Jakup -- the alleged terrorist -- and think about which one of the two would be more likely to come in for close attention under most profiling proposals. I think he, like many others, wrongly assume that profiling would authomatically be based on one's looks. It could happen, of course, but it does not mean that it should be the only criterion. His post deals with profiling of US residents, including citizens, which is a very touchy issue, but it still needs to be dealt with. For a while now, I had some thoughts on the much more narrow issue of airport screening, which I think can contribute to the larger profiling debate.

In Israel, travelers are most often questioned and searched for 3 reasons, as far as I know: 1.They are Arabs. 2. They carry a passport of a country considered "unfriendly" or "high risk", or what ever the term is. 3. They simply arouse suspicion in one of the security workers, for all kinds of reasons, looks included. One most important difference between the American and the Israeli approach is the people who are hired for the job, and the kind of training they receive. In Israel it is a job mostly done by university students, who are naturally relatively intelligent and motivated. They have to speak good English, and those who speak an additional foreign language are favored. It is quite difficult to get in, and the training is extensive. They are also very well paid, for a university student in Israel. These kids are not going to pick someone just because they look Middle-Eastern: chances are they look so themselves.

The company I had over last weekend were a husband and a wife, both mathematicians from Russia. He is a famous one, and as such he is often invited to math dept. in universities all over the world. He is also Jewish. He told me that the first time he came to Israel to lecture at the Technion, he had to go through a very lenghty questioning at the Ben-Gurion airport. He underscored the fact that the young woman who conducted it kept looking at his eyes every time he was answering a question. Finally she let him go, and he was never questioned again when he visited Israel after that, several times.

My husband and I traveled to Alaska last summer, and we were stopped and searched at every possible point. Being Jewish, because of our looks we both could easily be mistaken for Arabs, or any other Middle-Eastern nationals, and I am sure this was the reason we were searched so often. I did not mind being searched all that much, but what bothers me is that it was a total waiste of time and recources. The reason my friend was stopped in Israel may have been, at least in part, because of the way he looks (pretty weird...), but that is always bound to happen. The big difference between the two cases is what did the security workers do after they got suspicious. In our case, they searched our carry-ons and our shoes. They barely even looked at our faces, and never asked us a single question. In my friend's case I am not even sure that he was searched. Instead, he was questioned extensively.

I think that this general approach should be adopted by all American law enforcement, when dealing with potential terrorism. It does not have to be internment. But it would make sense to review the records of residents of Middle-Eastern descent, and to concentrate on those who seem to have a record more prone to be risky. As with airport security, the latter may need to be questioned, and only then searched, if needed. Only few would probably end up arrested and detained. I don't see why this cannot be done, except, of course, for political reasons.