Bibi: More of the Same Bad Leadership

A video from 2001 is making the internet rounds these days, one that shows current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talking to a settler widow who had just lost her husband to a Palestinian attack at the beginning of the second intifada.

In the video, Bibi says (in Hebrew, translation by Dena Shunra, with a few corrections of my own): “ I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved in the right direction…80% of theAmericanssupport us. It’s absurd. We have that kind of support and we say “what will we do with the…” look. That administration was extremely pro-Palestinian. I wasn’t afraid to maneuver there. I was not afraid to clash with Clinton. I was not afraid to clash with the United Nations. I was paying the price anyway, I preferred to receive the value. Value for the price.”

Well, the wifi and fiber optic networks were abuzz. Here is Bibi with his guard supposedly down. The video is said to have been taken without his knowledge, so we’re supposedly getting the unvarnished Bibi.

I’m not so sure. The takeaway seems to have been “Here is the real Bibi, don’t you see he never wants to make peace?” I think the video shows something else, that Bibi is just a huckster, a politician who is always playing to the crowd. And that he is afraid of a negotiated peace—just like his fellows.

Just because he didn’t know there was a camera running doesn’t mean Bibi wasn’t still performing. He knows well that the settlement communities are very tight-knit, and what he says in the home of a settler who just lost her husband almost certainly would be repeated, making its way quickly throughout the West Bank. At the time of that meeting, Bibi was trying to consolidate a hard right opposition to then-Likud leader and Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. I’m not at all convinced he was being any more sincere with this woman than he was with the Israeli and global public when he accepted a “two-state solution” last year. Continue reading

Jerusalem's Mayor is a Threat to Israel's Future

Americans for Peace Now sent a letter to President Obama today, urgently pointing out what should be obvious to him: “Engage NOW to get Jerusalem under control.” The full text of the letter can be found here.

The letter lays out the problem clearly enough. And, indeed, the solution is for President Obama to get Prime Minister

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat

Netanyahu to rein in the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. I’ll take it further—Barkat is as big a threat to Israel’s future as any individual in the world.

Barkat, a businessman, became mayor in 2008, and many thought that as a secular Israeli, coming on the heels of a very religious mayor, he would be more pragmatic. Such has not been the case.

Barkat has gone out of his way to enflame the conflict with the Palestinians. Jerusalem is the most emotional of all the issues setting Israelis and Palestinians at odds, and the mayor of Jerusalem, therefore, has more direct power than anyone to cause flare-ups.

Barkat does not pay much mind to this fact. In his campaign for mayor he made it very clear that he felt strongly that Jerusalem remain the “undivided, eternal capital of the Jewish people.” And, much more than his Haredi predecessor, he has taken bold steps to ensure that outcome. Continue reading

Birth Pangs East Jerusalem

In my latest piece for Zeek, I examine some of the implications of the weekly protests in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem and how they might signal the rise of a new, more credible Israeli left and what hope that might bring.

Sheikh Jarrah: Occupation Overwhelming Democracy

Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now blogs about how the ongoing protests at Sheikh Jarrah are a “microcosm of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

She’s right of course. And she’s right in observing that this relatively small piece of the conflict demonstrates how the occupation is eroding Israeli democracy.

I’d like to go a little deeper into that point, from a slightly different angle.

Israelis, Palestinians and other activists protesting evictions in Sheikh Jarrah

The protests in Sheikh Jarrah were sparked by a group of Jewish settlers buying some property which, it was claimed, once belonged to Jews before 1948. When two Palestinian families, encompassing 53 people were evicted from their home in Sheikh Jarrah, the US and much of the world protested along with the Palestinians. The area has seen increasing protest since.

One of the subtexts of all of this is the counter-claim by settlers and Israeli officials: to quote Yakir Segev of the Jerusalem municipal council, “These are not actions made by Israel or the Israeli government. This is a matter of the court. It is a civil dispute between Palestinian families and those of Israeli settlers, regarding who is the rightful owner of this property … Israeli law is the only law we are obliged to obey.” Continue reading