This evening began the sixth annual Jerusalem Conference, a nationalist forum that brings together a large array of speakers under the aegis of IsraelNationalNews (Arutz 7) and B'Sheva newspaper. Over the course of the next three days, I will share pertinent comments from some of those speakers.
You can also watch the conference live on http://www.jerusalemconference.com/eng/default.aspx from about 9:30 or 10:00 AM Israel time until evening, for the next two days.
Tonight I wish to cite Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon, who, in the opening address, spoke simple truth -- which is so rarely heard and so very welcome.
Ya'alon -- a former Chief of Staff, who was relieved of his position because of his opposition to the "disengagement" -- is now Senior Fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic studies at the Shalem Center and a candidate for the Knesset on the Likud list (#8).
This, in summary, is what he said:
Even the most "moderate" of the Arab regimes has declined to recognize our right to exist as a Jewish state. They exhibit no readiness to compromise.
But there has been a blurring of these facts in public debate and in the terminology we use. Why should we assume that a return to the '67 lines will lead to peace when we weren't accepted before '67, when we were inside those lines?
We continue with the same approach, which leads to ambiguity and confusion.
The US did not pressure Israel with regard to Oslo or the "disengagement." The impetus for this came from inside of Israel. We continue to talk in language of yesteryear, as if nothing has been learned. But all we've gotten in return for territory is rockets.
It time for our leadership to say we tried, but we don't have a partner. Not only do we not have a partner now, we are not going to have a partner. We must seek other solutions.
The challenge of new leadership is to provide a clear vision of where we are going. With a clear understanding of the challenges we will face. And without blurring the issues.
The conflict is not territorial. We are at the forefront of the battle with Islam. We need a new strategy that eliminates the idea of territory for peace.
Talk of withdrawals fuels Jihad. The Arabs export rockets to Israel instead of commercial goods to Europe. We don't need leaders coming forward with big plans, and shaking hands. We need a "bottom-up" peace, with the elimination of incitement that teaches Palestinian children tokill us.
We are speaking, says Ya'alon, about more than issues of land and security. We must also combat an ideological assault, because our legitimacy is being attacked. There is an erosion of the sense of the justice of our cause.
Israeli Arabs say they are the locals and we are the colonialists. They say the rights to this land -- ALL of the land -- is theirs.
With this the resilience of our society is being tested. We must stand strong for a Jewish home. We must know who we are.
Would that every Israeli would have heard this.
I will mention in passing then, just a couple of the comments of a speaker who followed Bogie. This is Ya'akov "Katzele" Katz, new head of the Ihud Leumi party -- the National Union. As a man of Torah, he spoke about the understanding that religious nationalist Jews have with regard to the meaning of this land, and our need to fight for it and stand strong for it.
While he acknowledged, and I certainly recognize, that there are people who are not religious who stand strong for Israel and understand our connection to this land, there is enormous wisdom in what he says. When we break with our tradition, when our roots grow shallow, we lose our way.
The challenge then, is to sow deep roots and instill that sense of tradition in our young people.
Perhaps it is keenly relevant to this need to instill tradition in our young people that MK Binyamin Netanyahu, head of Likud, and MK Effie Eitam, of the religious nationalist Achi party, signed a memorandum of understanding today.
Netanyahu -- saying that, "the gaps between the Likud and Religious Zionism are disappearing" (Netanyahu said that??!!) -- pledged that Likud would provide funds for religious nationalist educational institutions. These are the educational institutions, I say without a shadow of a doubt, who build young Israelis with the strongest devotion to Israel, and the best understanding of our roots in the land. Keeping these institutions solid is critical to Israel.
Netanyahu also pledged that he will prevent any further withdrawals (any further "disengagements"), and that he would speedily attend to the needs of those who were evacuated from Gush Katif -- something that is urgently past due.
Additionally, Netanyahu pledged to keep Jerusalem united under Israeli control and to increase the Jewish majority in the city.
If Binyamin Netanyahu has pledged all of this, it means he sees that our country has moved to the right.
Eitam said this was "An old dream and a historic moment."
Eitam was going to formally join the Likud before the lists were set, but as I understand it, did not because of some legal complication. He expressed hope then that he would in the future. This memorandum of understanding does not put Eitam on the Likud list, rather it signals cooperation.
How this impacts the success of Ihud Leumi -- National Union, which Eitam was once a part of and broke with, remains to be seen.
In a meeting with Tony Blair, Netanyahu made other comments about what he would do as prime minister. These were clearly highly politicized statements in anticipation of the arrival of Mitchell on Wednesday. Said Netanyahu, he would not build new settlements, but "like all the governments there have been until now, I will have to meet the needs of natural growth in the population. I will not be able to choke the settlements." Notice: It's not that he would be deliberately uncooperative, but he wouldn't be able to help this situation.
This is how I see Netanyahu playing the game. No overt confrontation, but sort of sliding out sideways. Mitchell's position is a settlement freeze.
He also said he would advance negotiations with the Palestinians quickly. Again, avoiding direct confrontation. But making it clear, at the same time, that he intends to focus on "economic development."
Haaretz cites Likud officials as saying he would include Labor, Yisrael Beitenu and Shas in a Likud government, but not Kadima. Put simply, he wants Kadima to fall on its face.
Couldn't happen to nicer people. Livni has just said on "60 Minutes" (the widely watched TV show in the US) that if she is prime minister she would move out "the settlers" for peace.
Guess she said that because she hadn't yet heard Moshe Ya'alon speak about confusion and repeating the same formulas that haven't worked.
(I know how horrendous that "60 Minutes" show was, and perhaps will have further comments soon.)
I love it: EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, after touring in Jabaliya in northern Gaza, told reporters that:
"At this time we have to also recall the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas. I intentionally say this here - Hamas is a terrorist movement and it has to be denounced as such.
"Public opinion is fed up to see that we are paying over and over again...for infrastructure that will be systematically destroyed."
He charged Hamas with using civilians as "human shields," and said the years of rocket fire on Israel served as a "provocation." "When you kill innocents, it is not resistance. It is terrorism."
Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas spokesman, declared himself "shocked" to hear these words.
Along with all of the above, there is in the news a whole lot of "more of the same": The issues I addressed yesterday regarding rumors about what sort of deals Egypt is cooking up and what Hamas is demanding. I prefer to not re-play these, or speculate, but rather to see how matters play out. All of the reports are coming from the other side, without Israeli confirmation.
I will mention that apparently there is a PLO delegation in Cairo, pumping for an agreement with Hamas, which they claim must precede a truce. Hamas is not necessarily seeing it this way.
And there is a report that Egypt wants to see Hamas strike a deal for a truce before our election: This speaks volumes about what Olmert might give as compared to Netanyahu.
Today, Transportation Minister Mofaz, at a Kadima conference, sent a verbal message to Hamas's Haniyeh: "Only when Gilad Shalit sees the light of day, will you see the light of day. Only when Gilad goes free will you and your friends go walk free." That sounds good. It should just be true.
Meanwhile, Haniyeh sent a congratulatory message to Obama, in which he said, "Palestinians will never be content as long as they remain victims of terrorist and barbaric occupation."
And our enemy, Jimmy Carter, gave a TV interview in which he declared that Hamas has to be involved in reaching peace. Carter says Hamas can be trusted because they "adhere[d] to the ceasefire fully."
Two questions: What planet is this man on? And does he have Obama's ear?
You might find this article, "In Egypt's Rafah, tunnel denial is the way of life," interesting. Brenda Gazzar, writing in the Post, quotes Rafah mayor, Gen. Sameh Issa Abdul Wahab, who says: "Any [tunnel] that is discovered, the authorities destroy it immediately. The executive [security] forces are in complete control."
That was my laugh for the day.
But there is absolutely nothing funny about this. The new US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said today that the issue of a nuclear Iran will be a top priority of the new administration:
"Dialogue and diplomacy must go hand-in-hand with a very firm message that Iran needs to meet its obligations as defined by the Security Council."
The more I read, the worse it sounds. Trying to convince Iran to "meet its obligations as defined by the Security Council"? Get real!
I would like to end with this article about how Hamas tried to break into ambulances and, more importantly, how an Arab ambulance driver describes his cooperation with the IDF, which worked to protect him. (Thanks to my daughter, Sharon Raanan on this.)