Pesach ended last night here in Israel, and ends after dark tonight elsewhere in the world. But before returning to what passes as mundane reality, it seems to me that a bit of sharing from Pesach is in order:
Yesterday in shul the Torah reading was from the section in Exodus (Shemot) that includes Shirat HaYam — the song of gratitude to Hashem sung by the children of Israel after coming through the divided Sea. This was a culmination of the miracle of the rescue — the redeeming — of the people from slavery in Egypt. All of the people were witness to — beneficiaries of — the miracle of the parting of the Sea.
What occurs to me this year, more powerfully perhaps than ever, is that we are very much witness to — and beneficiaries of — a modern miracle: The creation of the modern State of Israel and the return of the people to the Land. It is all of a piece, of course, and yet we often fail to see it with clarity.
And I’ll carry this one step further: There is a Midrash — a traditional story beyond the Torah that is instructive — about Nachshon Ben Aminadav, head of the tribe of Judah. Moses stood at the Sea of Reeds, with the Egyptians pursuing the Israelites, and he prayed for the people to be saved, the Midrash tell us, but the Sea hadn’t split. Then Nachshon, having faith that it would, walked into the water up to his chest. And because he had faith and was willing to act on it, the water split, and the people followed.
The early pioneers who came here to build a state were like Nachshon. And the implications for us here today are enormously important.
This said, let us begin to look at what’s happening:
US Envoy George Mitchell is here, promoting as ever his dedication to a “two-state solution” that will, he says, bring peace and security to the region. He is looking for “understandings” with Israel on the issues.
Yesterday he met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, during the day, today, with President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. And this evening with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu had met with Lieberman and Barak on Monday to prepare for these meetings.
Lieberman, following his meeting with Mitchell, indicated that he anticipated further meetings and opportunities for “deep dialogue.”
According to a release from the Foreign Minister’s office, Lieberman told Mitchell that “thus far, the traditional approach has not brought any results or solutions.” He then proceeded to point out the “far reaching concessions” that have been made and what we’ve seen in response — diplomatic process at a stand-still, acts of aggression against us, etc. etc.
Lieberman said he expected the international community to support Israel not only in her need for security, but also to affirm a commitment to Israel’s Jewish character.
Let this man’s strength continue! He speaks with pride and a strong sense of entitlement as an Israeli. This continues to be encouraging and so very welcome.
And other ministers are delivering similar messages.
Speaking on Army Radio today, Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said:
“The preferable course of diplomatic action at this time is two economies for two peoples and not two states for two peoples. The American emissary also knows that forcing the region into virtual diplomatic discourse will only breed the opposite results.”
While Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), in an interview on Israel Radio, said:
“The Annapolis outline has failed and is no longer binding. [Netanyahu will] formulate a diplomatic approach that takes into account all of the different elements, and first and foremost Israel’s security.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu, meeting tonight with Mitchell, was most certainly on the same track. He advised the US envoy that Israel would not risk another Hamas-controlled state (Hamastan) at her border. By this is meant our eastern border, with Judea and Samaria becoming an independent Palestinian state that is terrorist.
What is more, Netanyahu said the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state before there can be negotiations.
And to this I say, simply, oh joy! How long I’ve waited to hear this simple, basic demand. Our RIGHT to be so recognized has to be out there, boldly. They don’t, they won’t recognize us as a Jewish state. This fact has to be center-front and broadly exposed.
But then, sigh, we have Shimon Peres, who should have retired a long time ago. He advised Mitchell not to be discouraged by “negative voices”:
“There is an opening point for promoting the political process. No door to peace has been closed and I believe that this year is a decisive year in the Middle East. We do not have time to waste.”
But wait! Didn’t Livni and Olmert say that last year was the “decisive year”? Remember the “small window of opportunity”? I think someone needs to tell Peres that the window closed. And Peres ought to be informed at the same time that as president he is supposed to remain non-political.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia have put forth a proposal for a coordinating committee of some sort to serve as an umbrella over the Hamas government in Gaza and the PA (Fatah) government in Judea and Samaria. I’m picking up various versions of what’s intended — merely a bridge to a unity government or something more permanent — but what’s clear is that this has been proposed because there has been no way to solidify a genuine unity government.
A primary reason there is an eagerness to do this is because there is supposed to be one address for receiving funds and coordinating the reconstruction of Gaza.
The PA is not receptive because such a committee would have the effect of providing de facto legitimacy for Hamas in Gaza. While Hamas is eager to receive assurance that it would not have to abide by PA policies if it accepted the committee — that it would retain a sort of autonomy.
Mitchell will be meeting with PA officials in Ramallah, and I’d love to be a fly on the wall at those discussions.
MEMRI has up a video clip of Saeb Erekat, chief PA negotiator, in which he says that in November 2008, Olmert offered Abbas the ’67 lines as borders, with some adjustments (a land trade of 6.5%) and some joint control of what is called the “Holy Basin” — the area including the Temple Mount, Kotel, etc. But, says Erekat, Abbas (aka Abu Mazen) responded that:
“I am not in a marketplace or a bazaar. I came to demarcate the borders of Palestine – the June 4, 1967 borders (sic) – without detracting a single inch, and without detracting a single stone from Jerusalem.”
(Note: the June 4, 1967 lines were armistice lines, not borders at all and not intended to be permanent.)
Instructive to see the clip, which has translation, and to share it with others — especially those who actually still imagine we have a “partner for peace.”
The time for Durban 2 approaches and the issues remain hot, and deeply troubling. It begins on April 20 — the anniversary of Hitler’s birth.
Those controlling the document for the conference are touting a new “improved” version. But this is nonsense. What has happened is that offensive language directed at Israel was excised, but the very first clause reaffirms in toto the declaration from the first conference in 2001, which is where all of the offensive language directed at Israel now resides.
What is more, Israeli Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Roni Leshno Yaar, told the Jerusalem Post that:
“If anything it is worse than the previous text because it includes a reference to foreign occupation which in the diplomatic world is code for Israel… We are worse off than we were yesterday.”
If anyone still has doubts as to how outrageous this all is, there is the decision by the planning committee:
Libya will serve as the Chair of the “Main Committee” running the conference; Iran will to preside as Vice-Chair, and Cuba will be the Rapporteur. On the afternoon of the first day, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier, will address those assembled.
This might be considered just an exceedingly sick joke, if the implications weren’t so very serious.
There have been hints that the US might attend after all, but I’ve seen nothing substantive to indicate that this is so (at least yet). Given this line-up and the ludicrousness of having the above nations running the show, I am aghast that any Western democracy would participate, and yet it looks as if many, if not most, will. This means they will provide legitimacy to the proceedings while being outvoted.
At present, aside from the US, only Israel, Canada and Italy have declared they will not attend
Last time around the most virulent statements against Israel came out of an NGO gathering that ran parallel to the actual conference. And, wouldn’t you know it, an anti-Israel NGO gathering is scheduled for April 18 and 19th, with an anti-Israel rally on the 18th.
The Human Rights Council, an exceedingly anti-Israel group, will be doing an “investigation” of possible war crimes in Gaza, led by South African judge Richard Goldstone. The original mandate offered to him was to investigate only Israel (which gives us a clue as to the Council’s predisposition), but he demanded that investigation of Hamas actions be included.
But this not withstanding, Israel has decided not to cooperate with the investigation, because it is considered to be inherently biased — essentially a set-up. In three years, the council has passed 32 resolutions, and 26 have been against Israel.
According to a New York Times report, the US will not demand that Iran halt uranium enrichment as a pre-condition for talks.
On Monday, State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood said:
“It’s important to remind everyone that we are willing to engage Iran without preconditions. And we’ll just see whether Iran is willing to take up that offer.”
What is more, Israel is deeply concerned about a refusal on the part of the US to put a deadline on talks with Iran, as Israeli officials have strongly urged. One State Department official cited this week simply said, “We are focused on the engagement track for now.”
Most likely the US will sit down with Iran in conjunction with the other permanent members of the Security Council — China, Russia, Britain, and France — plus Germany (called P5 + 1). When and where this may happen is not known, but it would be the first time the US sat down with Iran in 30 years.
The demand of the international community, at least until now, has been for cessation of nuclear activity first. It is Obama who is weakening this.
The Jerusalem Post has reported that because of the growing threat from Iran, later this year Israel and the United States will hold a massive exercise to jointly test three different ballistic missile defense systems. This exercise, to be held in Israel and called Juniper Cobra, is unprecedented.
It will include the newly developed Arrow 2, as well as America’s THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) and the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System.
According to UPI, the Gulf states are preparing for an Iranian response to an Israeli attack, which is assumed to be coming soon. They are setting up Patriot missiles defense systems, and taking other precautions.
Just days ago, a Hezbollah terror cell of some 50 people was uncovered in the Sinai and arrested; Egypt had received intelligence on this from the CIA, the Mossad, and other intelligence services.
Reports were that the cell was targeting Israeli tourists in Egypt and facilitating smuggling of weapons into Gaza, but the Hezbollah activity in fact was intended to be broader than this. There are sources suggesting that one possible target was ships in the Suez canal.
Even beyond this, there is reason to believe that this was a threat to the Egyptian government more directly. The centuries-old hostility between Sunni Egypt and Shiite Iran should not be minimized, and it is Iran that is directly behind the Hezbollah activity.
On Monday, a Hamas bomb factory was found in a mosque near Kfar Saba in Samaria.
On Tuesday, an unmanned Palestinian fishing boat was remotely detonated as it approach an Israeli navy ship off the coast of Gaza. The boat, which was in an area that is off-limits to Palestinian fishermen, was carrying hundreds of kilograms of explosives.