The fact that the current Mideast peace talks are over — but for the bickering over who is to blame — is a shame, if not a tragedy. But it is certainly not a surprise. For all of Secretary of State Kerry’s energetic efforts since last summer in trying to revive a comatose situation, the fact remains that while Israel was, and is, prepared to make major compromises for peace, the Palestinian leadership is not.
The annual Celebrate Israel parade, the largest of its kind anywhere, is intended to unify our community under the umbrella of pride in the Jewish state and send that message to Israel and the world. But life is not simple, certainly not Jewish life, and the fissures that create tensions within our community over Israel have come to the surface once again in the weeks leading up to parade, which this year will mark its 50th anniversary and be held in midtown on Sunday, June 1. (See story on page 16.)
The new Brooklyn district attorney, Ken Thompson, ended Sam Kellner’s three-year legal ordeal last month, dismissing his criminal case after a six-week investigation concluded that the witnesses against him “lacked credibility to such a degree” that the case could not be prosecuted. Kellner is the whistleblower from a chasidic community who pressed charges against Baruch Lebovits for alleged sexual abuse against Kellner’s young son. That brave act turned into a nightmare when Kellner himself was later charged with perjury and extortion.
The fact that Israel’s Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and its 103 consulates around the world are on strike is an embarrassment. Prime Minister Netanyahu had to cancel a planned trip in April to Latin America because of this strike, stemming from diplomats’ protests over employment conditions, including a pay cut. And the planned state visit of Pope Francis in May is in jeopardy, as are any number of other diplomatic projects.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, already on life support for months, could flatline this weekend. The issue now is not whether the negotiations will collapse, but who will take the primary blame for it.
With the deadline for the Mideast peace talks five weeks away and little visible progress between the Palestinians and Israelis, it looks like the U.S. is more interested in saving face at this point than actually brokering a deal. The short-term goal is to get an agreement on a U.S.-drafted framework paper to allow for further talks.
George Orwell said, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” Israelis sleep well because other Israelis — barely older than boys and girls, actually — are willing to serve when called. Serving in the IDF is “a mitzvah,” said Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of religion.
Israel is under attack. Not across the ocean but right here in New York. The mayor of New York has been roundly criticized by some major figures in our community for his embrace of AIPAC, the Israel lobbying group whose politics have always been in sync with Israel’s democratically elected government, left or right. This was a challenge not to any Israeli policy but to AIPAC itself. As Reform leader Rabbi Eric Yoffie countered, “A Washington without AIPAC would not mean an Israel at peace; it would mean an Israel isolated and vulnerable”