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June 26, 2010: Where to Start?

September 17, 2010

Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)
 

There are times, and this is one of them, when I feel pulled in multiple directions as I consider what to address in a particular posting.  
 
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First, an announcement with regard to the destruction of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva at Yitzhar, which was the single focus of my last posting:
 
American Friends for a Safe Israel (AFSI) is leading a protest on Monday, June 28, from noon to 2 PM at the Israeli Consulate at Second Avenue and 42nd Street, New York City.
 
To dramatize this decision, a flat-truck and bulldozer will be driven south on Second Avenue to 42nd Street, in front of  the Israeli Consulate. The bulldozer will be moving slowly around the block and passing in front of the Consulate as often as possible, depending on traffic. Signs and banners will emphasize that NEVER AGAIN must Israel take destructive action against its own Jews as it did five years ago in Gush Katif.
 
Those who wish may walk along the sidewalk carrying their signs, following the bulldozer on its path and spreading the message.
 
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It is, indeed, essential that this wrong-headed decision be reversed.  This is understood by all those who care about a strong and Jewish Israel.  Thus I salute AFSI for its decisive action in publicizing this.  And I confess to great heaviness of heart that this announcement and AFSI’s action should be necessary.
 
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The Likud Central Committee met on Thursday and voted to resume construction in all parts of Israel once the 10-month freeze in Judea and Samaria expires in late September.
 
Absent from this meeting — conspicuously so — was chairman of Likud, Binyamin Netanyahu.  His public rationale is that he has already stated that building would commence at the end of the freeze, and so there was no point to be made at the meeting.  Others, however, saw in this stance a deliberate attempt by the prime minister to distance himself from his party’s decision.
 
MK Danny Danon, who initiated this meeting, which had been delayed from March at Netanyahu’s urging, was among those expressing great unease at his no-show position.  “It’s a bad sign,” Danon said. “It means he is more worried about pressure from Obama than from the Likud.”  Netanyahu, it should be noted, is scheduled to meet with Obama on July 6.
 
One does not have to be the diplomatic equivalent of a rocket scientist to recognize that Obama will be applying enormous pressure on Netanyahu.  He’ll accuse him of being a stumbling block to peace negotiations if he doesn’t agree to continue the freeze before there has been progress, or just when progress is starting, or whatever. 
 
We know as well how many times Netanyahu has caved in the face of such pressure, and thus unease is justified.
 
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In an interview after the vote, Danon said that the message to the prime minister was that his party was behind him and he should be strong.  The vote, he added, was also intended to deliver a message to the White House, which must respect our democracy.
 
Minister-without portfolio Benny Begin, who did attend the meeting, noted that the freeze would end during the holiday of Sukkot, which is known as our time of joy.
 
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According to Gil Hoffman, JPost political analyst, Netanyahu let it be known among his ministers that “he would not look fondly upon their attendance.”
 
This, it seems to me, of itself puts the lie to Netanyahu’s contention that he didn’t need to attend because he was already committed to not extending the freeze.  If this were the case, why would he care if his ministers did attend?
 
Thus, it’s worth noting the few ministers who did show up in addition to Begin: Communications Minister Moshe Kahon, who chairs the Central Committee; Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein; and Minister-without-portfolio Yossi Peled.  Minister-without-portfolio Michael Eitan arrived at the end of the meeting.
 
Where, I wonder, was Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon.
 
Begin, the only minister to address the Committee, read the original Security Cabinet decision regarding the freeze, emphasizing that it said that construction would continue at the end of the 10-month freeze.
 
Flyers distributed at the meeting by the Judea and Samaria branch of Likud featured words Netanyahu had spoken during his campaign. It included this:  “The supreme test of any elected official is whether he keeps his promises to the public.”
 
Sigh…
 
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From the time of the announcement about it the other day, there were ways in which I considered what happens in Gan Hamelech, in Silwan in eastern Jerusalem — with regard to the demolition of illegal Arab housing as part of a major Jerusalem redevelopment plan — a litmus test for Netanyahu’s strength and our ability to stand strong as a sovereign state. 
 
Netanyahu postponed action on this in March, because the international fuss was too great and the moment considered by him to be too sensitive.  Did the mayor run this by him first now?  I would suspect so, but am not certain.  Will the decision hold?  Don’t hold your breath.
 
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When originally writing about this, I alluded to the furor that was mounting, but it has since grown greater. 
 
On Thursday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s office clarified a matter with regard to providing new housing for the 22 families whose illegal homes are slated to be taken down to make way for public space.  Originally, it had been said that there were plans to provide such housing.  Now the clarification is that private — international and specifically NGO –money will be sought for these homes, and that public money will not be used.
 
Quite frankly, this is a relief.  For there was reason to question why Jerusalem should build housing for those whose homes had been constructed illegally.
 
Explained a spokesman for the mayor:
 
“…I would remind you that these are 22 illegal buildings, and while the municipality is putting significant capital into the planning and zoning process, it will not be using public funds to construct residential units.
 
“It would be illegal, and it could be challenged in the courts.”
 
Well…OK.
 
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But not OK with the secretary-general of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon.  In a statement of unmitigated gall he called the plan illegal and “unhelpful to the peace process.”
 
Well, sure, because PA president Mahmoud Abbas has said that “Israeli practices in east Jerusalem hinder peace talks.”  In fact, they “put the peace efforts in danger.”  If we weren’t talking about taking down illegal housing he’d be signing on the dotted line any minute now. How fortunate for Abbas that he has this excuse to fall back on.
 
You know how ridiculous this has become?  Morocco — Morocco! — issued a condemnation of the plan and urged “the major powers and the UN to immediately intervene to diss
uade Israel from going ahead with this illegitimate decision and put an end to the Judaization plans in east Jerusalem.” 
 
The world truly is insane, and this is nothing short of incredible.  Especially since the plan does not call for the illegal Arab housing to be replaced with Jewish housing, but with public spaces — parks, etc. — that would benefit all the residents of the area, most of whom are Arab. While the evicted Arabs would have new housing with superior services, if the funds can be raised.  (And believe me, there are pro-Arab Israeli NGOs that could help raise that money in a flash if they wished to help provide Arabs with housing.)
 
Facts have nothing to do with this hysterical situation.  And when I think of all the crises in the world that genuinely require international intervention, I am left breathless by this.
 
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More than ever does it seem to me that it’s important to stand strong here.
 
Watch the fireworks when Arab squatters are evicted (let us hope!) from an old Yemenite synagogue in this same area, so that it can be returned to its rightful Jewish owners — either by the police, as ordered by the court, or, if the police fail to act, by local Jewish residents, assisted by at least 10 MKs.
 
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While on the subject of Ban Ki-Moon, I would like to recommend an article, “Ban Mischief at the U.N.,” by John Bolton, a true friend, clear thinker, and former US ambassador to the UN:

“United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is close to making an enormously significant misjudgment about his role and authority. Mr. Ban has repeatedly called for an “international” inquiry into the May 31 clash with Israeli commandos, provoked by supporters of Hamas on a Turkish-flagged ship off the Gaza Strip, resulting in nine killed and dozens wounded. According to the media, he is seriously considering launching such an inquiry by his own personal decision.

“For Mr. Ban to act without express U.N. Security Council authorization, however, would far exceed his legitimate authority. It would create a troubling precedent, with implications not just for Israel but for the United States, extending well beyond Israel’s blockade of Gaza or the May 31 events. Nonetheless, President Obama has not moved decisively to quash the idea, and his inaction is understood in U.N. circles as implicitly consenting to Mr. Ban’s illegitimate initiative.”

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jun/23/ban-mischief-at-the-un/

(With thanks to Marta W. on this.)

I had thought Kofi Annan was deplorable and that Ban would be an improvement.  Goes to show how wrong I can be.  Undoubtedly a certain anti-Israel edge comes with the job.

Just as significant as the error in Ban’s thinking — perhaps considerably more significant — is the position of Obama on this.  Americans, take note!

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YNet has reported that Malaysia is pushing for a discussion in the General Assembly on the flotilla incident.  Another Muslim country getting into the act.  General Assembly resolutions have no impact within international law, but this would bring Israel aggravation from a PR perspective, which is undoubtedly what is being sought. 

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Let me note in passing, while on the theme of the UN, that in September Gabriela Shalev will be completing her two-year term as Israel’s ambassador to the UN — a thankless job if ever there was one.  She is returning to academia and there is much speculation as to who her replacement will be.

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I focused on the theme of the disconnect between American Jewry and Israel in a recent post.  Now I am pleased to report on a new and broader mission for the Jewish Agency that has been approved unanimously by its Board of Governors, and has been announced by Chairman Natan Sharansky. 
 
While the Agency will still be devoted to its traditional task of aliyah, it will take on as part of its agenda heavy investment in providing identity-forming experiences for Israeli and Diaspora youth.
 
Said Sharansky:
 
“There is a time to nurture the tree and time to collect the fruits.  Aliyah, support for Israel, these are the fruits. But they only come as a result of solidarity, commitment or connection of Jews to Israel.  That’s the tree.”
 
The Agency’s new mission statement reads: “Inspire Jews throughout the world to connect with their people, heritage and land, and empower them to build a thriving Jewish future and a strong Israel.”
 
Blessings upon this venture, and may it progress well.  Much is at stake.
 
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Good to end this posting on an upbeat theme.  Much more to follow shortly
 
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