For months, officials in Washington had feared a diplomatic earthquake on May 4, when Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, terming it a “sacred date,” threatened to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state.
Instead, next week’s long-feared deadline may pass with barely a rumble, thanks to intensive U.S.-Palestinian diplomacy and a new initiative from Washington that promises to revive U.S. mediation efforts after the upcoming Israeli elections.
Striding across the opulent lobby of Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel last Sunday morning, Michael Sonnenfeldt, chair of the pro-peace Israel Policy Forum, spotted Malcolm Hoenlein, the top executive of the nation’s leading Jewish umbrella group — the 50-year-old Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“It seems like I’m always following you around,” joked Sonnenfeldt, a private investor with a linebacker’s build, extending his hand.
In the next 24 hours, pro-Israel Tweeters are expected to come out in thousands for the Tweet4Shalit campaign, showing their support for kidnapped Israeli Defense Force Cpl. Gilad Shalit, in honor of his upcoming 23rd birthday.
Israel never suffered from a lack of attention, but in 2002 the Jewish state attracted a surge of public interest surpassing anything in the past decade.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center for the Public and the Press, released at yearís end, Israelís civil war was ìone of the most closely followed international stories in Pewís 16-year history of measuring news attentiveness.î
On election night Israel was no longer the 51st state, but it was New York that became an Israeli district all its own.
American Friends of Likud welcomed Ariel Sharonís re-election with balloons, campaign posters and a victory address from the prime minister, even if the party was on the East Side of Manhattan. Well into Tuesday night, several hundred American Likudniks heard from commentators and politicians long distance via phone and television hookups, as a steady stream of Likud leaders, from Sharon to Benjamin Netanyahu to Ehud Olmert said hello to New York.
CNN’s refusal to run two pro-Israel ads has Jewish officials steaming. “It’s outrageous,” said Ken Bandler, a spokesman for the American Jewish Committee, whose 30-second spot, part of a $500,000 advertising campaign, emphasizes Israel’s shared democratic values with the U.S.
“Shame on them,” said Larry Weinberg, executive vice president of israel21c, of the cable news network.
His California-based group’s ad is “educational, not political,” he said.
It’s no secret that Israel has a number of pressing internal problems, from the declining economy and religious-secular tensions to bureaucratic bloat and political cynicism. But many Israelis, engaged for two full years now in a war imposed by the Palestinians and suffering from reports of fatal casualties on an almost daily basis, believe the social and political troubles must take a back seat to the military effort. Defeat the terrorists and get the peace process back on track, they say, and then we’ll attend to our own issues.
A year ago, I wrote in this space on the eve of Rosh HaShanah that “5762 was one of the worst years for the Jewish people since the Holocaust era.” What, then, can I say about the year just ending — a year that saw hundreds more Israelis killed by Palestinian violence; that saw anti-Semitism increase, particularly in Europe; that brought a war on Iraq that ousted its despotic leader but left Americans wondering if had become entangled in a new Vietnam; and that ends with the Mideast road map leading, it seems, to another dead end of hopelessness?
Israel’s military approach to the Palestinian conflict — respond to attacks and defeat the enemy — doesn’t work when applied to the U.S. campus ideological clashes over the Mideast. And the more strident the pro-Israel position, the less likely tens of thousands of American Jewish college students are to be sympathetic to the Jewish state.
The American Jewish establishment is pressuring Israel to finally resolve the intractable, and controversial, Falash Mura issue by dramatically accelerating the pace to bring out the thousands of remaining Ethiopians and settling them in Israel.
Young Families, Singles Flocking to Upper East Side; ‘The Memory Is In Their Taste Buds’: The Lure of Sephardic Food; Safra Synagogue Rabbi’s Growing Empire; Sephardic And Egalitarian at B’nai Jeshurun; Giving Voice to Sephardic Music.