While the now-extinguished fires in northern Israel were an unimaginable catastrophe for the tiny nation — which, more than almost any other, cherishes its trees — there were heartening aspects of the fatal disaster.
It’s hardly surprising that U.S. efforts to coax Israel into extending its West Bank settlement freeze seem to have derailed. What was unclear from the initial reports: does the Obama administration have a Plan B, or does this represent the effective end of its efforts to find a route to peace for Israel and the Palestinians?
From the beginning, it never made much sense to us to invest U.S. prestige in an unbecoming effort to lure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back to the peace table with a rich package of incentives that included F-35 warplanes.
Sometimes it seems the nastiness of Israeli politics is surpassed only by the nastiness of Israeli religious politics. And so it is that one of the bright spots in the Knesset, Rabbi Chaim Amsalem, who has courageously advocated for a solution to the conversion crisis based on halachic sources, has been, in effect, removed from the Shas party and, worse still, compared to Amalek, the biblical figure who embodies pure evil.
This week’s WikiLeaks dump of more than 200,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables contained few bombshells but a lot of revealing information about complex diplomatic interactions, including diplomacy aimed at confronting the Iranian nuclear threat.
It also raised troubling questions about when government secrecy is appropriate. Effective diplomacy becomes all but impossible when leaders of nations and their ambassadors can’t express themselves freely to each other, without fear of producing international headlines.
It’s often said that after 9/11, Americans joined Israelis in understanding the harsh everyday realities of this age of terrorism. The current furor over more intrusive airport screenings suggests that isn’t entirely true. Living in a country where only a tiny minority has been personally touched by the terrorist menace, we seem to want our security but to pay no price for it.
Jonathan Pollard is entering his 26th year in prison, and there’s a minor buzz in Washington about what JTA Washington correspondent Ron Kampeas called “the biggest push in years” to free the Israeli spy (See story on page 35). That effort includes a letter signed by 39 House Democrats calling for his release and a similar statement by former Assistant Defense Secretary Lawrence Korb. There are also wispy rumors his release could be part of the U.S. incentives package offered to Israel in return for a 90-day extension of its settlement moratorium.
At a time of increasingly worrisome polarization in our society, and, closest to home, in the Jewish community — on issues ranging from domestic politics to the Mideast peace process — we welcome the initiative of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) in drafting and circulating a Civility Covenant calling for “healthy, respectful dialogue based on our love for our neighbors and our people.” (See www.jewishpublicaffairs.org)
On its surface, the Obama administration's offer to the Israeli government of a package of diplomatic and military incentives in return for a non-renewable, 90-day settlement construction moratorium doesn't make a lot of sense.
It's hard to imagine that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, with anxious American diplomats at their side, will be able to do in three short months what they've failed to do for many years – take serious steps toward a final agreement to end their seemingly endless conflict.
The recent passing — just nine days apart — of Jerry Bock, 81, composer for “Fiddler On The Roof,” and Joseph Stein, 98, who wrote the musical’s book (based, of course, on Sholom Aleichem’s short stories), leads us — those old enough, anyway — to recall and honor the remarkable energizing impact that the show had on the Jewish community of 1964.
Jerry Seinfeld said the other week that his first visit to Broadway “was when my parents probably shlepped me to ‘Fiddler on the Roof.” So it was for a lot of us.
A persistent undertone of angst at this week’s Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in New Orleans centered on international efforts to delegitimize Israel. Many of the 4,000 delegates witnessed that effort firsthand when a tiny group of hecklers from Jewish Voice for Peace, a group the Anti-Defamation League has accused of consorting with the delegitimizers, disrupted the keynote address by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — hardly the kind of protest likely to change hearts and minds.