Tag Archives: politics

And the Oscar goes to…Palestine?

20 Jan

This afternoon my wife and I went to the Tel Aviv Cinematheque to watch the Oscar nominated documentary “The Gatekeepers“. 

The movie hall was jam-packed. Not an empty seat could be found. We went to see it today only because there were no seats available last night.

The documentary was amazing. Six former heads of the SHABAK were interviewed about our conflict with the Palestinians. The people who were interviewed were in charge of recruiting spies, collecting information on Palestinians, arresting and in some cases ordering the assassination of Palestinian militants.

If anyone knows about the Israeli – Palestinian issue, it would be these Arabic speaking former heads of Israel’s domestic intelligence agency.

And their verdict? Israel is winning the battle but losing the war.

Thats it’s not just Palestinians who do not want peace, the same goes for Israel.

“Israel wanted peace and instead it got more terror, Palestinians wanted a state and instead they got mores settlements” says Ami Ayalon in the documentary.

The consensus was that we are not showing goodwill to the Palestinians either. That Hamas is not a partner for peace, Arafat was not, but nor are we since Netanyahu came to power in 1996.

These former spymasters criticize every Israeli premier since Rabin. This includes Ehud Barak who offered more than 90% of the West Bank to Arafat. Why? because apparently Barak was proud of building more in the settlements than any other premier before him.

When you leave the cinema, you leave with the sensation that when it comes to our conflict with the Palestinians, unless we embark on a serious peace plan, we are heading towards an impending disaster.

You get the same conclusion after watching the other Israeli nominated documentary “5 broken cameras“.

These documentaries are Israeli, but judging by their message, if any of them win, the Oscar will go to all those who want to see an independent Palestine next to the state of Israel.  I will drink a Lkhaim to that!

In the upcoming Oscar competition, to support Palestine, please support Israel.

Interesting France 24 Report on Iran’s Jews

19 Jan

Tonight, France24 aired an interesting short report about Iran’s Jewish community.

Entitled “Being Jewish in the Islamic Republic of Iran”, it takes a brief look at the life and challenges of Iran’s 8800 strong Jewish community.

There have recently been a number of murders in Iran, where the victims were Jews. This has created concern for Jewish Iranians abroad. However to date there has been no proof that the victims were killed because of their religion. All we have to go on is hearsay. Once we know more, then we can judge. From my conversations with members of Iran’s Jewish community who recently left Iran, Jews in Iran do not feel threatened because of their religion.

“Just keep your head down, make your money and don’t get into trouble with the government by talking about politics or taking part in demonstrations. Then you will be fine” I was told.

In terms of whether the life of Iran’s Jews would be in danger in case of war between Iran and Israel, I personally find it difficult to believe that regime will start killing its own Jewish population in such a situation. It could start attacking Jewish targets abroad, like it did with AMIA in Buenos Aires in 1994, but massacring its own Jews is a self-defeating move which Iran’s leadership is very unlikely to make.

Living as a Jew in Iran is not ideal. Iran’s Jews face inequality in a number of areas such as getting government jobs, but I would not say that they are living in danger. Lets hope it does not come to this, but if they decide, they can leave anytime they wish, (unless they are taking part in national service). Its not like in the 80s when we had to go through hell to get an exit visa.

You can watch the report here

Watch Oscar Nominated 5 Broken Cameras Documentary

12 Jan

This documentary is one PR disaster for the pro settlement movement which is going to strengthen its hold on Israeli politics after the next elections. 

What you will see in this documentary is what many of us have been condemned for saying: that the continued settlement building and illegal occupation of the West Bank are not just illegal by UN standards but also illegal in accordance to Israeli law. That they are killing the peace process, making the lives of many Palestinians miserable and destroying the moral fiber of the Israeli society.

Palestinians suffer for what is happening physically and spiritually, Israelis will suffer because one day this will blow up in our face in the form of sanctions or a third intifida.

Those who try to sell us the idea that settlements bring security for Israel have the most to be concerned.

This documentary is nominated for an Oscar, millions of people will see it. It will get extensive coverage, and it will make those who say lets annex more land from Palestinians (ie. Naftali Benet and Co) look like bully colonialists.

This documentary will delegetimize their stance around the world with Jews and non Jews alike.

You can watch the entire documentary below:

Why I back Abbas’s UN Initiative

28 Nov

I back Mahmoud Abbas’s initiative tomorrow at the UN for the recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state. 

I am against Hamas, against Islamic Jihad.

I am for the Palestinian people. They are my neighbors and we are going to live together side by side forever.

In the fight for peace, we have to strengthen the moderates, and I believe that the PLO under Mahmoud Abbas’s leadership is interested in peace. I also believe that he is a partner we can work with. I believe the exact opposite to be true about Hamas, which in my opinion is an extremist, anti semitic terrorist organization.

To weaken the extremists we have to strengthen the moderates. Tomorrow’s act will strengthen the moderates in Palestine which is the PLO and its associated candidates. We in Israel should have been doing this over the last few years, but instead Netanyahu and Co have done the opposite. They have weakened and discredited Abbas with continued settlement building.

I believe that tomorrow will give hope to a people who have been stateless for 64 years. They missed an opportunity in 1948 when Palestine which was divided by the UN (48% Palestine, 48% Israel, 4% international territory) as well as all Arab states rejected the recognition of Israel, and instead attacked her in order to drive the Jews to the sea.  But that was in 1948. I can’t make yesterday a better day. We have moved on. We have a peace partner in Ramallah, his name is Mahmoud Abbas. We never had anyone like him in 1948.

I also have my own selfish reasons as an Israeli to support Abbas’s initiative.

I believe that unless there is a Palestinian state based on the Clinton parametre of lands occupied after 1967, Israel could face serious challenges in the future.

I believe that we have to talk to the Palestinians and bring them to the table. Building settlements in their land is not going to bring them to the table to talk about peace. If the Palestinians were building illegally in Tel Aviv I would not want to talk peace with them.

I am not alone in Israel, quite a few people believe that talking with Palestinians is a crucial matter for the future of Israel.

This includes six former heads of Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, the SHABAK, also known as Shin Bet. A big chunk of its part of its job is to deal with the “Palestinian file”.
According to a recent documentary, all six living former heads of the Shin Bet believe that we have to reach accommodation with the Palestinians. According to The Times Of Israel, the documentary called the Gatekeepers shows them:

Strikingly, all six make plain, albeit with differing degrees of urgency and hope, their sense that an accommodation with the Palestinians is a security imperative for Israel. Avraham Shalom (1981-86), the oldest of the six, says Israel should try to negotiate with anyone — yes, anyone; yes, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, he repeats wearily — to break down stereotypes and give progress a chance. “And if they answer rudely, try again.”

The article concludes by saying the following about the six former heads of Shin Bet:

Their belief in the need for an accommodation then, is not born of softness. It is a hard-nosed assessment of where Israel’s interests lie. “We’re winning all the battles,” says Ayalon in the film’s final scene. “And we’re losing the war.”

I don’t want to lose the war. Giving a stateless people hope and strengthening the moderates who want to work with Israel will be the opposite of losing, for us and  for the Palestinian people.

Dear Israeli politician: what is your Egypt policy?

20 Nov

In my opinion, after the recent events in Gaza, an additional question which the Israeli voter should ask each political party standing for the upcoming January 22 elections is: what is your Egypt policy? 

In these elections, perhaps more than any since the signing of the Camp David peace agreement in 1978, the issue of Egypt – Israel relations will need to be addressed by the different Israeli political parties. We the Israeli voter need to know what each party’s stance on Egypt is.

The reason is simple: after the Arab Spring and after the crucial role which Egypt has been playing with regards to the recent conflict in Gaza, having good relations with Egypt will be important.

We in Israel need politicians who are going to maintain and strengthen our relations with Egypt. This is important for the national interests of Israel in crucial areas such as the country’s immediate security concerns in the Sinai as well as our relations with Hamas.

Although this may sound like a given, nevertheless, there is valid reason for concern. Politicians such as Avigdor Lieberman could try to attack Morsi in order to gain popularity among right-wing Israeli voters. In 2008 Lieberman attacked Israel’s ally Hosni Mubarak when he was in power by saying that “he could go to hell”. Based on that incident, it is entirely possible that sooner or later he could attack Mubarak’s less Israel friendly successor, Mohammad Morsi.

Nobody is saying that improving relations with Morsi will be easy. Nevertheless we need clear plans by Israeli politicians on how they will try to improve relations, if possible, in order to enhance Israel’s national interests. What we don’t need are politicians who could and would make things worst.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? No thanks

13 Sep

Today I took part in the  2012 World Summit on Counter Terrorism  simulation at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, where I teach the contemporary Iranian politics course.

I played Iran.

I thought I was going to play Khamenei, however upon coming on stage I was told that I am playing the part of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I was then asked about Ahmadinejad’s reaction to Israel’s response to a terrorist attack from the Sinai, which included aerial attacks against Hamas and Salafist Jihadi targets in Gaza.

I had to refuse this role allocation. The reason is simple: here in Israel the press seems to think that Ahmadinejad sets defense and foreign policy in Iran.  The only place where Ahmadinejad commands such authority is in his dreams.

I emphasized that in reality these are Khamenei’s domains, and for the sake of accuracy I had to play him. The moderator kindly agreed.

What would Khamenei say and do in response to an Israeli retaliatory attack against Hamas and Jihadi targets in Gaza?

He would say much while doing nothing.

Currently Iran has bigger fish to fry. It has its relations with Egypt to consider, something which it badly wants to improve. It also has to think about its more immediate problems in Syria.

More important than all, Khamenei has the economy of the Islamic Republic to be concerned about. He needs his money at home more than ever before. Sanctions are biting and the infighting within the regime is continuing. Both problems could ultimately turn into existential threats, if unattended. Khamenei needs his money there. Hamas and Palestinians can wait, for a very long time. Perhaps for eternity. They stand no chance in competing with resources needed for regime stability.

The Israeli PM played his cards well.  All the time he had Iran on his mind. To him Hamas and the Jihadi movements were secondary, despite calls by at least one minister in his cabinet to invade not just Gaza but also the West Bank.

Instead he tried to contain the situation by working with the Egyptians and the Americans, while making sure the situation does not escalate by keeping the aerial attacks limited and the military on a tight leash. He used Israel’s military and diplomatic muscles simultaneously. Israeli smart power was on full display.

Israel’s imaginary PM at today’s simulation in fact did all the things that Khamenei would not have wanted him to do. I hope Israel’s real PM learns from him.