Wednesday, June 22, 2011


So, for the last two weeks I was in Israel, which is a not-unimportant place in the world from the perspective of global international politics. I was going to post while there, but poor internet connectivity made it much more effective for me to simply arrange very copious notes and plan what I would post going forward from my return.

Now that I'm back, each day I will post two posts based on my time in Israel. One will be personal observations of different aspects of Israel, and the other will be a serialized biography of my grandfather, who (as you will see) is actually an interesting person (and not just in the way that all people think their grandfathers are interesting).


I gave some context in a previous post that I would like to qualify. Isaac left a comment that I didn't have time to address, so I will address it here:

I know this isn't the point of this post, but your description of what's going on with the peace process is both simplistic and one-sided.

Probably any attempt to write a history of controversial recent events in anything short of a novel will be that, but I'll try to correct the points you've mentioned, and do it publicly so my readers can benefit.

Amongst other things, we (meaning the US and Israel) actively encouraged that civil war, just as we demanded the elections that brought Hamas to power.

Definitely no dispute here. The elections were an ideological point driven by President George W. Bush ("spreading democracy"). Israel, on the other hand, basically tried to interfere to stop Hamas from getting elected, but that didn't really do much except probably help Hamas.

For another, many Middle East experts (including plenty of zionists) actually think that the Fatah-Hamas unity government holds out the best hope for the demilitarization of Hamas and the transformation of them into a real political party (a la the IRA and Sinn Fein in the 90s). The way you've written this post-- again probably not your intent-- is that Fatah is now in league with terrorists and as a result Israelis are throwing up their hands and despairing.

There are many experts who think this is a positive development, but from the perspective of Israelis I spoke to, it does seem like yet another reason to despair (not the first or the last). I didn't write that to sentence saying that Israelis were right to throw their hands up and despair, I merely observed that since the collapse of the last childish round of peace talks (largely, as you note below, because of Likud foot-dragging), Israelis have completely checked out.

I didn't get to talk to a lot of Israelis on the subject, but those who I did speak to were fairly unanimously done with the concept of peace talks. They didn't have an alternative, or some other plan, or some proposal. They were just checked out.

This belies the active participation of the Likud government in derailing the peace process as well.

Yeah, in my context, I could have talked more about Netenyahu, who was on tape talking about how he manipulated the US and deliberately undermined the Oslo Accords, and his former chief of staff and now foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose official position is this:

The peace process is based on three false basic assumptions; that Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the main cause of instability in the Middle East, that the conflict is territorial and not ideological, and that the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders will end the conflict.

Instead, he backed a plan of "Separation" in which all the arabs (including current Israeli citizens!) would be expelled from Israel. That's the foreign minister.

We happen to be in an unlucky moment for middle east peace in that we probably have one of the better situations int he Palestinian side for jumpstarting talks, a President who honestly seems to be wanted to actually be a fair(ish) broker and on the Israeli side, we have a guy who has made it abundantly clear he doesn't want peace.

All fair. Although it is worth pointing out that the "President who honestly seems to be wanted to actually be a fair(ish) broker" is somewhat irrelevant -- he is hampered by current American views on Israel, which seem fine with letting Netenyahu do what he wants (and even stand and applaud). For instance, whether or not Obama favors Palestinian independence, he's threatened to veto any unilateral independence (and possibly withdraw financial assistance, something the US would never dream of doing to Israel).

In other words, I think by not writing as much about Netenyahu as I wrote about the Palestinians, it made it seem as though I blame the Palestinians for the current impasse. I do not. More than anything, I blame the complete disengagement of the Israeli voter and the blind acceptance of the American Congress. Even Netenyahu would basically be powerless to stop peace if it wasn't for the fact that prevailing winds of his country are moving more to the right.


So, as I wrote some more things, I'm going to focus more on what Israel is actually like (since I have had little to no experience in Palestine or even in the Arab areas of Israel -- areas where Israelis rightly or wrongly fear to go). Anything I write should always come with the big disclaimer at the top "THIS IS ONE PERSON'S PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY."

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