For all the major obstacles that remain, last week’s Washington summit, which featured the first direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians in 20 months, represented an important step forward.
As was widely reported, the atmospherics at the State Department were positive. President Barack Obama, learning from his early mistakes, made it clear he rejects imposed solutions, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed a willingness to put her reputation and political future on the line by taking a leadership role in the talks.
As direct negotiations resume this week between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, there is a degree of optimism in Washington, though it is hard to say whether that is the result of signs of progress or naivete.
The government of Israel will be losing a key and effective diplomat in New York just when it needs her most.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, highly praised for her low-key, thoughtful and compassionate work these last two years, is returning to Israel and her academic life at the end of this month on the eve of what some Israeli officials here are already predicting will be a “Black September” for the Jewish state at the UN.
There is a great deal of talk about Jewish Peoplehood these days, some of it abstract, some of it philosophical. But one of the most practical and hopeful examples of Jewish Peoplehood in action today is Limmud, a loose network of grassroots, non-denominational, multi-generational and volunteer-driven, informal Jewish learning experiences that has become one of the most compelling success stories in Jewish life.