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April 6, 2009: Collision Coming?

June 21, 2009

In an address to the Turkish parliament today, President Obama stated, in a not-so-veiled response to our new government (and Foreign Minister Lieberman in particular), that:

“In the Middle East, we share the goal of a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors. Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.”

He uses that expression “let me be clear” a great deal. But I would also like to be clear: Obama is living in that dreamworld in which he imagines that we can have security and peace, and a Palestinian state at our border at the same time. The old worn out terminology, which is so failed, remains the same. No thinking out of the box here. And what is worse, he made the statement in a Muslim country.

“…Both must live up to the commitments they have made.” he said. “Both must overcome longstanding passions and the politics of the moment to make progress toward a secure and lasting peace.”

Excuse me? Overcome longstanding passions and the politics of the moment? Passions such as Jewish devotion to the Land of Israel? Current politics that tell us that concessions are self-destructive? The man is an outrage.

And who is he to tell us that we “must” do anything?


According to Herb Keinon, writing in the Post, Netanyahu’s new government is going to re-evaluate all diplomatic commitments. The prime minister has no intention of making a detailed statement on the nature of these commitments until the policy review is complete.

Interestingly, while Lieberman, in his remarks on taking office, had said we were obligated to the Road Map, an unnamed official in the prime minister’s office is suggesting that this has to be re-evaluated as well, because the status of the document has changed. Final status talks were supposed to have been held by 2005.


Netanyahu may delay his trip to the US, tentatively scheduled for early May, until this review is complete.

But yes, indeed, the whiff of a collision is in the air. We might say that it is inevitable.

Consider these words by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud):

“Israel doesn’t take orders from Obama.

“In voting for Netanyahu the citizens of Israel have decided that they will not become the fifty-first US state.”

Whoa! A new mood is definitely in the air. A mood that has the power to lift one’s heart. Never mind that Erdan did all the necessary qualifying regarding the fact that the US is an important ally with which we’ll communicate, etc. etc.


Netanyahu’s office released a statement expressing “appreciation” for Obama’s “commitment to Israel’s security and to the pursuit of peace.

“The Government of Israel is committed to both of these goals and will formulate its policies in the near future so as to work closely with the United States towards achieving these common objectives.”

Please note that while Obama put “peace” first, Netanyahu’s spokesman referred to our security first. As I read this, the message to Obama is that, yes, the new government of Israel will be committed to peace (you’ll never hear us say we’re not for peace), but will make Israeli security its first priority. What is more, one might read this as a diplomatic challenge to Obama: a reminder that, as he has committed to our security, we do not expect him to sacrifice it on the alter of his vision of “peace.”


Netanyahu has appointed a large 15-member security cabinet (including Netanyahu himself), that consists of:

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon; Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin; Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar; Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman; Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch; National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau; Regional Cooperation Minister Silvan Shalom; Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor; Defense Minister Ehud Barak; Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer; Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz; Justice Minister Ya’acov Ne’eman; Interior Minister Eli Yishai; Housing Minister Ariel Attias.

There are a considerable number of issues of importance that will come before this group.

Barry Rubin recently observed that of the 30 ministers in the new cabinet, almost half of them deal with security or foreign policy. For example, there are not only ministers for defense and foreign affairs, there is also a strategic affairs minister and a regional cooperation minister. That is reflected in this security cabinet.


At a pre-Pesach gathering before a left wing group, Defense Minister Barak confessed that:

“I don’t feel as though I am a natural part of this government…despite the fact that I supported the party’s participation in [Netanyahu’s] government, I admit that I am still uncertain whether it was the right move or not. But I feel it was the responsible thing to do for the good of the country.”

Labor MK Yuli Tamar opined that “there is a deep ideological crisis [in Labor], and I am not at all certain Barak still supports a two-state solution.”


It’s way overdue, but cause for celebration none-the-less.

The people of Netzer Hazani, a former community in Gush Katif, have been living in temporary and uncertain conditions since their expulsion as part of the “disengagement,” going on four years ago.

A good percentage of the community ended up in temporary quarters in Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, not far from Ashkelon, after they were forced from their homes. (Some went straight there, while many others were briefly in Hispin in the Golan and later joined them.) They live in so-called caravilla, which are no more than glorified mobile homes.

Now, after many bureaucratic delays and false starts and promises, this community, which has in the main persisted in staying together, will be given the opportunity to build a new Netzer Hazani outside the community of Yesodot, a religious moshav about 20 kilometers northeast of Ein Tzurim — about midway between Rehovot and Beit Shemesh.

Today papers were signed for land to be purchased from Yesodot — by the government of Israel (represented by SELA, the Disengagement Authority) and individual members of Netzer Hazani. The new community is expected to take two years in formation.


I note the comment of Anita Tucker, a founder of Netzer Hazani and a spokeswoman for the community:

“At the same time, we long to return to our real homes – especially those of us who were born and grew up in Gush Katif. We hope the day will soon come when we will be able to return home to Gush Katif and rebuild there.”

To which I say, Amen.

The courage and sense of purpose demonstrated by Anita and her fellow members of Netzer Hazani should be an inspiration to us all.

The people of Netzer Hazani went straight to the Kotel after having to leave their homes, and I was one of many hundreds gathered there to greet them that painful night. When I put my arms around Anita to comfort her, she smiled at me and said, “Don’t worry, we may have lost our homes, but we haven’t lost our spirit.”


A community that had been close in proximity to Netzer Hazani in Gush Katif was Ganei Tal. The members of this community have been living, in similarly temporary quarters, in Yad Binyamin. They have now made arrangements that will allow them to rebuild their community outside of Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim.




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