Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Benjamin Netanyahu begins his election campaign

After more than two years attempting to be an internationalist Prime Minister and attempting to negotiate with the  Palestinian Leadership Benjamin Netanyahu has clearly released that there is no hope of achieving peace with the existing Palestinian leadership and has instead decided to embark on ensuring he wins the next election.

After basking in high popularity following the release of Gilad Shalit the Government appears to be again attempting to appeal to it's right wing supporters.  The election results of the past decade have shown that the centre-right are the dominant force in Israel and with Israeli elections only about 1 year away.  The Prime Minister has quite rightly therefore come to the conclusion that now is the time for him to again show that he will protect the security of Israel by starting to finalise plans to defend Israel against Iran by attacking Iran's nuclear bomb reactors.

Equally importantly after realising that there is no hope of peace negotiations succeeding, as the Palestinians have continued its international battle again Israel, and so again supported Jewish growth in all of Jerusalem and the West Bank territory of Israel.

These two moves clearly show that Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing to win another term as Prime Minister with a stronger Likud Party by beating Avigdor Lieberman and Israel Beiteinu as the largest right wing part.  Therefore expect to see more policies to support and protect Israel over the next months 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Why are the Palestinians again firing rockets at Israel?

I have just posted an excellent article about how the release of Gilad Shalit has brought about a rediscovered goodness in Israel showing that most Israeli's are united together for a successful and peaceful future led by Jewish thought - even for the less religious.

However, while Israel has been relieved at a peaceful outcome and the return of one it's young soldiers kidnapped for over five years, the Palestinian's have been declaring victory and celebrating the return from open prisons of their mass murdering terrorists.

While it is sad enough that the Palestinian's are celebrating the freedom of mass terrorists, it is even more frightening that they are again firing rockets into Israel.  These rockets which have caused injuries and mental illness in addition to death's must be stopped.  Let us hope now that international community have got their victory in Libya  can turn their attention to stopping the Palestinian terrorists and tell them that if they want a successful future the only way to succeed is through peace negotiations.  For now though I think sadly we will be seeing an upsurge in terrorism.

Gilad Shalit and Benjamin Netenyahu help Israel to rediscover its Goodness

Daniel Gordis is my favourite writer when I try to understand what is going on in Israel, and he again has written an excellent piece in the Jerusalem Post which can be found here but to make it easier I have reproduced in full.


Guest columnist: A rediscovered abundance of goodness

A letter to the Prime Minister regarding Schalit's release.

Celebration after Schalit's release
Photo by: REUTERS
Mr. Prime Minister, Before the Schalit deal fades entirely from view, many of us are hoping that you have noticed what you unwittingly unleashed. I don’t mean the next wave of terror or the terrible decisions that Israel must make before the next kidnapping. We knew about those even before last week. But last Tuesday, all of us – those opposed as well as those in favor (and there were persuasive arguments on both sides) – rediscovered something magnificent about this country.

It would be tragic if we returned to business as usual without pausing to take note.

In addition to Gilad Schalit, we received one more thing that few of us could have expected; we got a reminder of the abundant goodness that still resides at the very core of this society. It could be seen everywhere.

Compare the speeches on our side, celebrating life and freedom, to the bloodthirsty Palestinian harangues calling for renewed terror and additional kidnappings.

Compare the respectful restraint of our press to newscaster Shahira Amin’s immoral and abusive interview in Egypt. But more than anything, we saw this reservoir of goodness in the streets – in the people so moved that they could hide neither the tears in their eyes nor the lumps in their throats. We saw it in the throngs in the streets, people who wanted Schalit to know that they, too, celebrated his long overdue freedom. And we saw it in the hundreds of people in his hometown of Mitzpe Hila who continued dancing long after he’d entered his house and closed the door.

We all felt it. It was innocent, pure and thoroughly decent. We were witness that day to an entire country believing in something again. Those young people outside the Schalit home were singing not only about Schalit, but about this land, this people and about a future in which they still believe. Did you see them? Women and men, religious and secular dancing with abandon in celebration of freedom? Did you hear them singing “Anahnu Ma’aminim Bnei Ma’aminim…” “We are believers, the children of believers, and we have no one on whom to depend other than our Father in heaven”? You didn’t miss it, did you? Hundreds of people from all walks of Israeli life, proclaiming without hesitation their belief in something bigger than themselves? The reason that the prisoner trade was so wildly popular, Mr. Prime Minister, wasn’t ultimately about Gilad Schalit. It was about Israel. About a country desperate to transcend the cynicism, that still wants to believe that it’s worth believing. Shouldn’t we – and you – therefore ask ourselves what can we do next to justify people’s belief in this place? What will it take to make this a country that its citizens can love even when we’re not freeing a captive?

How about if we start by eradicating evil? Take but one example and deal with it.
There’s a small but vicious group of kids living over the Green Line who bring inestimable shame on the Jewish people. They burn mosques, tear down olive trees and sow fear everywhere – all with the implicit support of their rabbis. And they make many young Israelis deeply ashamed of this entire enterprise. Last week you showed us that you know how to take decisive action. So do it again. Rein them in. Arrest them. Cut off funding to their yeshivot. If you show this generation of Israelis that your government stands for goodness even when that means making tough domestic decisions, you’ll unleash a wave of Zionist passion like we haven’t felt here for a generation. It wouldn’t be any harder to do than what you just did, and it would do even more good for Israel than getting one soldier back.

And beyond goodness, there’s also Jewishness. No, we shouldn’t make too much of that“Anahnu Ma’aminim Bnei Ma’aminim” song, but admit – it’s not what you expect to see lots of secular people singing. Yet they did. Because this is a strange and wondrous country; not so deep down, even “non-religious” people aren’t “non-religious.” Just like their observant counterparts, they’re searching, struggling, yearning – and at moments like that, they know that the well from which they hope to draw their nourishment is a Jewish well.

That’s why it was wonderful that you quoted from Isaiah in your speech. It was your suggestion, I hope, that at its core, this society must be decent, but it must also be Jewish. You know what the main problem with the summer’s social justice protests was? It wasn’t the na├»ve embrace of high school socialism or the utter incoherence of the demands. It was the fact that there was simply nothing Jewish about their vision for Israel. Daphni Leef and her comrades could have given the same vacuous speeches at Occupy Wall Street. Or in Sweden, for that matter. Those inane speeches were testimony to the failure of our educational system and of Israel’s religious leadership. The Yoram Kaniuk affair and the court’s willingness to let him declare himself “without religion” is a reflection not on him, but on the appallingly uninteresting variety of Judaism that the state has come to represent. Can you – or anyone else – name even one single powerful idea that’s come from any of Israel’s chief rabbis in the past decade or two? Me neither.

But lo and behold, it turns out that Israel’s young people still want to believe in something. We haven’t given them the tools to articulate it, but they still intuit that whatever we become, it’s got to be Jewish. So ride that wave, too, Mr. Prime Minister. What would it take to shape a country where the profundity at the core of Jewish tradition became once again the subject of discourse in our public square? Does Judaism in the 21st century suddenly have to become dull and backward, or can we restore the intellectual and moral excellence that once characterized it? Can you take this on, too? Appoint the right people? Build the right schools? Can you help make this a country that encourages those young people now searching for Jewish moral moorings? For or against the swap, hardly a single one of us is not thrilled that Gilad Schalit is home. He deserved his life back. But so, too, does this country. Schalit, hopefully, will now get better and stronger with each passing day. Israel must do the same. It needs to get better – we need to be honest about the evils lurking in our midst and we must exorcise them. And we must become stronger, which we can do only by engaging with the roots that brought us back home in the first place.

Can you do this? Many of us hope so. Because if this fails, it will in the long run have made no difference that Gilad Schalit came home. But if it succeeds, we might just come to see his liberation as the turning point in our collective return to believing in ourselves.

The writer is president of the Shalem Foundation and senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. His latest book, Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War that May Never End (Wiley), won the 2009 National Jewish Book Award. He is now writing a book on the defense of Israel and the nation-state, and blogs at http://danielgordis.org

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

September’s United Nations vote on a Palestinian State How can Israel win?

I remember coming home from school one afternoon almost twenty years ago and watching the signing of the peace agreement outside of the White House by Yitzchak Rabin and Yasser Arafat.  I also recall how continually through the 1990s despite the continued terrorist attacks, negotiations continued with the hope of achieving peace.  Then even in the past decade with the intifada, and the Lebanese and Gaza wars, the international community together with the Israeli public hoped, even if not believing that a peace agreement could be achieved. Where the Arab world would recognise Israel as the Jewish State, which through direct negotiations would also see a new Palestinian State coming into being. 

However, for the past couple of years Israeli’s have come to realise that the peace process with the Palestinian people is over, as Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate a peace deal with Israel, and instead has set it’s sights on a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian State.  The end of the peace negotiations is only now coming to the forefront of international attention, in what could again spark a huge rise in anti-Israel hatred and anti-Semitic attacks throughout the diaspora.

This is because in September – just one month’s time – the United Nations General Assembly will debate the proposal by the Palestinian Authority for unilateral statehood and full United Nations membership for the Palestinians.  This initiative goes against all previous agreements over the past twenty years which have called for peace to be achieved through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli’s in the past two years have come to the realisation that a peace treaty with the Palestinians is not conceivable in the near future.  However, under the premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israelis (and Palestinians) have enjoyed living in relative peace and security, while also benefiting from a period of strong economic growth.  Despite the recent protests over the cost of living in Israel, Israeli’s seem to be broadly happy with the current Government’s philosophy and are benefitting from Benjamin Netanyahu’s maintenance of the status quo, while not chasing grand gestures being called for the opposition leader and international leaders.

So the United Nations General Assembly which opens on 13 September, and will begin hearing on 20 September from world leaders, could be a dramatic moment in changing the status quo in Israel and have dramatic affects both for Israel and its supporters around the world.

As in any democracy Israeli’s have differing views about whether the United Nations supporting the creation of a Palestinian State would be good for Israel.  However, while opinion polls suggest that a majority of Israeli’s would support a Palestinian State achieved through a negotiated peace deal with Israel, there is also a majority of the opinion that a United Nations mandated Palestinian State based on the pre 6 day war 1967 lines, would be just another in a long list of biased anti-Israel vote by the United Nations in favor of the Palestinians.
There are many questions over what will happen if as appears likely the United Nations General Assembly votes to accept a Palestinian State.  Given that Israel is unlikely to recognise a Palestinian State based on the pre 6 day war 1967 lines as the Palestinians are demanding, what will the Palestinians do?  There is a strong likelihood that there could be increased protests led by the Palestinian leadership and even an attempt to stop a new intifada.  Hopefully, though with the steps that Israeli Government’s have taken since the last intifada the IDF will be able to stop these protests impacting on the general public. 

Therefore, as has occurred during the conflicts over the past decade the main threat to Israel will not come from physical attack but by international protests and condemnation from the media, public and international governments.  While this will been seen as criticism of Israel, Israeli’s are used to this and will not take it too personally.  Rather Jewish communities are likely to be much worse affected with a rise in anti-Israel hatred and anti-Semitic attacks, as occurs whenever Israel comes under attack.

As Jewish communities around the world come under attack, they will be looking for ways to defend Israel but will also be looking to the Israeli Government to help provide arguments and publicity to defend its cause.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already had a busy summer persuading Governments that they should not support a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian State.  The Israeli Government are keen to make clear that they support a Palestinian State that is achieved through a peace settlement with Israel and that if the Palestinian’s step back from the brink that this is possible.

However, with just a few weeks until the United Nations General Assembly, I see almost no campaigning by Israel and Jewish Communities to defend Israel’s position.  This is a vote which could have a hugely negative impact on the Jewish Community around the world, similar in comparison to the Zionism equals Racism vote of the 1970s and yet there are no pro-active campaigns to defend Israel’s position and to explain why a United Nations vote to accept a Palestinian State would be harmful.

Yes, the Israeli Government is working with international Governments to persuade them not to support the vote, and some Jewish communities are lobbying their Governments to adopt this position, but a lot more needs to be done. 

What are communities doing to persuade their domestic newspapers and news shows to report Israel’s position in a favorable light?
What facebook, YouTube and twitter campaigns are Israel and communities setting up to promote Israel’s cause?
What are groups and individuals doing to explain to their friends and colleagues about Israel’s position?

After every crises there is a clear view that pro-active campaigns to defend Israel, and waiting for the action to occur before trying to play catch-up to defend Israel against criticism is too little too late.  So ahead of this latest United Nations vote let’s find a way to help Israel come out of it in a positive way.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Canada - A true friend of Israel

While President Obama of America wants Israel to return to its 1967 borders and most European leaders want to recognise Palestine as a State this coming September, Israel does have at least one good friend in Canada.

At last weekend's G8 meeting of the leading countries in the world, most of the leaders led by Barack Obama wanted to call for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian's based on the pre 6 day war 1967 lines.  However, Stephen Harper the Canadian Prime Minister allegedly refused to allow their decision to include reference to the 1967 lines, as he understood that these lines are indefensible for Israel and not workable.

Many leaders in the world say they are a friend of Israel but at the moment only the Canadian Prime Minister is the one that continually stands up for Israel in these difficult times.  Mr Harper has previously said

 "When Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand."

So to Mr Harper and Canda, I say thank you for being a true friend of Israel.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Obama finally wrecks the peace process

When President Obama stood started making his speech on the Middle East just over a week ago I am sure he believed that he was helping to advance the chances of peace between Israel and the Jewish world.  Indeed Herb Keinon in the Jerusalem Post this weekend wrote an excellent piece what President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu were trying to achieve in their respective speeches in America this past week.

President Obama, who has already achieve the Nobel Peace Prize, was undoubtedly trying to move the peace-process forward, sadly he just doesn't get the situation.

As has been seen rather than moving the peace process forward, President Obama's speech seems to have ended once and for all any chance of an agreed peace negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians.  Despite Prime Minister Netanyahu saying he wants to make peace, there is no chance of a peace agreement with a Palestinian Government that includes Hamas and does not recognise Israel as the Jewish State.

While, this weekend the Arab League have confirmed that they will request the UN recognise a Palestinian State in September.

So in September it is looking increasingly likely that the world will vote for a new Palestinian State.  Hopefully,    if this occurs, there will then be a chance to negotiate a peace agreement between two states with mutually agreed borders.

However, sadly we all know that in 1947, the last time the UN voted to establish a Palestinian State alongside the future Israel, the Arab nations decided the Palestinian State was not enough for them and decided to attack Israel, sadly I fear the same could happen again.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Conservative MPs insist Hamas must respect the State of Israel's right to exist, and accept Quartet Principles

As well as usual supporters of Israel with the Conservative Party such as Matthew Offord MP for Hendon, Mike Freer MP for Golders Green and Lee Scott MP for Ilford, I was pleased to see that the Conservative Party in the British Parliament continues to have many supporters, as reported at ConsevativeHome.

Poor President Obama, no one in the Middle East listens to him any more

President Obama yesterday spoke at the annual conference of the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) and attempted to explain his speech of last Thursday.   In last week's speech President Obama had made clear that he had accepted the Palestinian position that any peace deal  between Israel and the Palestinians should be based on the 1967 pre-6 day war border between Israel and Jordan.  Yesterday Obama explained that this was because wanted a peace deal and this policy would be required to get the Palestinians to agree to peace.

However, Prime Minister Nentanyahu made clear last week that Israel has no intention of agreeing to peace based on 1967 borders.  This agreement would be unachievable and would result in an and indefensible Israel.  We can now clearly see that while Prime Minister Netanyahu will continue to work with President Obama to ensure a stable Middle East and to continue to pressure Iran to stop its nuclear programme, he has no intention of intensively striving for peace in what is now an unstable region.

Obama has also called for the Palestinian's to completely reject a negotiated peace deal with Israel.  The Palestinian's also are rejecting Obama's plea in this respect by forming a united government which includes the terrorist group Hamas, who continue not to recognise Israel.  Abbas also reacted to the speech this weekend by rejecting the plea by Obama not to declare a Palestinian State unilaterally, by saying that he still intends to request that the UN in September recognise the Palestinian State.

Obama's plan for peace therefore seems to be going nowhere and after 20 years of failed peace negotiations based on a negotiated two state solution, it is clear that some new ideas are required.  Hopefully Netanyahu will deliver these this week.

Friday, May 20, 2011

President Obama is wrong about Israel - we need a new solution

Two year's after President Obama's last big speech on the Middle East we again heard from the President of the USA about his vision for the  region.  During the speech while calling for the Palestinian's to recognise Israel - something Hamas still refuse to do - President Obama again said that Israel should give up all of the territories it occupied during the 6-day war of 1967.

I could understand President Obama having this idea, two years ago, when he believed he would be able to achieve a peace-treaty between Israel and the Palestinians.  However, we are now two years on from this, during which time the Palestinian Leadership have refused accept Israel as a Jewish State and to even negotiate a peace deal with Israel.  The Palestinians have also now formed a Government including Hamas the rulers of Gaza who continue to attack Israel with bombs and missiles, while they continue to call for the destruction of Israel.  There therefore appears to be no hope of the Palestinian's agreeing to peace with Israel in the near future.

I was therefore hoping for the President to set out a new sensible solution for how Israel and the Arab world can live in peace side-by-side.  This week where we saw Arab citizens from Syria, Lebanon and Gaza try to invade Israel to protest against the establishment and existence of Israel, it is clear that the Arab world is not interested in Israel just leaving the occupied territories we gained in the past battles but in destroying Israel completely.  Therefore solutions need to be found so that Israel and the Arab world can live in peace side-by-side.

Following President Obama's speech yesterday, it is important that in the next few days Prime Minister Netanyahu in his meeting today with the President and his speeches next week in America, sets out a new agenda for how Israel will continue to be a peaceful and strong country here in the Middle East.








Saturday, May 07, 2011

The world can not support a Palestinian leadership encouraging terrorism and condemning the assassination of Osama Bin Ladin

This week's agreement between Fatah and Hamas to share the Palestinian leadership has once again shown that they prefer Arab dominance in the Middle East over peace with Israel.  Not only is the Palestinian leadership rejecting peace negotiations with Israel and denying the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State, but the Hamas leadership which continues to support war against Israel, also condemned the assassination of Osama Bin Ladin.
 
Therefore at a time when the West needs to continue to be aware of Arab and Islamic fundamentalism, and to support pro-democracy protests in the Arab world, it also needs to continue to support Israel as a bastion of democracy in the real world.

As we in Israel get ready to celebrate the State of Israel's 63rd birthday, and the Palestinian leadership's attempt to get the United Nations to support a Palestinian State, it is time for the world to show they support Israel a country that wants to live in peace.  The world therefore needs to show that they do not support any kind of terrorist activity and say that they will they not support a Palestinian State with out a true peace deal with Israel.  The world must also say that they will not deal with the Palestinian leadership while its includes Hamas, while it is embarked on a war with Israel, which it still does not exist.

Thankfully it appears the United States will continue to support Israel and not deal with the Palestinian leadership that includes terrorists such as Hamas.  I hope Britain and the European Union can follow this lead.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

British Prime Minister David Cameron begins to support Israel - Thank you

This week David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, as reported in the Jerusalem Post, gave his most supportive of speech of Israel that I have heard him make as Prime Minister.  Given that he has previously harshly criticised Israel for its defensive actions to defend us.  I was pleased to see that he now acknowledges that Israel has a right to defend its citizens against rocket attacks from Gaza and also to search boats trying to enter Gaza, actions he has previously criticised.

I welcome this change and thank him for his increased support for Israel.  This may because the UK now has an Ambassador in Israel, Matthew Gould, who better understands Israel.  It maybe because that he is seen with the recent uprisings in the Middle East, that Israel the only real democracy in the Middle East should be Britain's most important friend in the region.  Or it may be because of the growth in power of neo-cons in the British Government.

If his support is for any of these reasons, than I am thankful and hope that Israel again has a true friend in Britain and its Prime Minister.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Why is America a better friend of Israel than Britain?

Last Friday saw the UN Security Council vote on a Palestinian proposal to call for Israel to stop building in towns in it's West Bank communities and to criticise Israel for its actions.  While in the past I have been very critical in the past of Obama's leadership in terms of the Israel-Palestinian peace-process, I was pleasantly surprised that the USA correctly to choose it's veto and was the only country of the 15 members of the Security Council to vote against this proposal.

The USA correctly understood that as a friend of Israel that wants to achieve peace it can not put all blame for the lack of a peace agreement on one party, while letting the Palestinian's to continue to get away with refusing to accept as a Jewish State that has a right to exist.  The only way to get any peace agreement is to work with the Governments and people of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority in order to achieve a negotiated peace.

And yet Britain, which continues to claim to be a friend of Israel, voted to support this Palestinian people.  This not only could put any peace agreement at risk but showed how little Britain and the world cares about Israel.  This is because at a time when the Arab world is in turmoil, the world and Britain continues to criticise Israel a democratic country trying to live in peace, while the UN ignores the Governments of Libya and Bahrain massacring its own people.  

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Egypt - What do we want for it's future?

It has been reported in the Israeli press this morning that British Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to tone down his language about his worries about the current protests in Egypt.
Mi
William Hague is right to be concerned about trying to ensure stability in the Middle East and for peace to continue or be achieved between Israel and it's Arab neighbours.  I do feel though that Hague has been again leant on by his Foreign Office advisers and not fully understood the concerns that Israel has as we watch the continued protests in Egypt.

As the only fully democratic country in the Middle East we in Israel should of course want to see greater democracy in our neighbouring countries, so that the will of the people can be fully achieved.  However, sadly in Arab countries this does not often seem to be the case.  Just as David Cameron warned that Britain should not give into radical Islam which has been on the rise, we in Israel are concerned about radical Islam next door to us on our borders.

That is why Israelis and our Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are concerned about seeing the current regime in Egypt be overthrown.  This is because for the past 30 years Egypt has been one of the few countries that has been at peace with us.  We therefore want to see fair elections occur in Egypt but we do not want a revolution with the Muslim Brotherhood taking over like in Iran 30 years ago where following the revolution led to a radical Islamic Government that now wants to destroy Israel.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

New Israel Transport website launched

I am pleased to announce the launch of the new Israel Transport website

The website is a one-stop-shop for information, news and comment on transport in Israel. Produced by Richard Weider a former employee of the British Department for Transport and a specialist on improving bus services and road pricing policy.