Monday, December 27, 2010

Politics – December 2010

A person who is only concerned with himself, will wake up one morning and question his worth. A person who gives his time and effort to others will know his worth when he sees the fruits of his labour.

    ~ Yoni Jesner

    Gilad is still in captivity. Veshavu banim legvulam.

    ~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

The news in early December was dominated by the largest and most horrendous fire in Israel’s history. The fire broke out in Mount Carmel, one of the country's few natural forests on the outskirts of Israel's third-largest city, Haifa. Israel did not have the necessary resources to fight a fire of such scale. Not even one big aircraft that can carry a large amount of water to extinguish the raging fire. The shortfall prompted an unprecedented wave of international assistance. Israel usually sends its rescue teams and medical personnel to disaster areas across the globe. This time it was on the receiving end. Ninety firefighters from Bulgaria were the first to arrive. They were followed by fire extinguishing planes and crews from Azerbaijan, Britain, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Romania, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the United States and Turkey. Egypt and Jordan sent fire materials while the Netherlands sent experts in firefighting.

These are encouraging signs that Israel sees some success in integrating into the Middle East. Three of its neighbours came to help.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan proved his ability to set aside his differences with the Israeli government and to be among the first who offered help. He and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke over the telephone for the first time since Netanyahu took office more than a year and a half ago. A second silver lining in this immense tragedy. Turkey’s friendship is of immense importance to Israel.

Forty-four people have died and scores have been injured fighting the blazing fire. Some of them are still in hospital. 17,000 people have been evacuated. The flames have burnt more than 50,000 dunams (about 12,000 acres) of Carmel forestland, damaged 250 homes, and caused over NIS 200 million in damage. Experts say that it will take some forty years for the forest to renew its beauty after this devastating fire.


Reflections on November Newsletter
The Failed Peace Process in the Middle East 1993-2010
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Worldview
Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay Recognized Palestine
Mideast Resists U.S. on Blocking Financing to Terrorists
Legal Actions against Racist Rabbis
Movie on Herzl
Lecture in Italy
My New Article
New Books
Gem of the Month - Pizzo
KLM - Al Italia
Monthly Poems
Something to Warm Your Heart
Light Side

Free Gilad Shalit. The government should invest in his release. It should be one of its top priorities. Veshavu banim legvulam.

Gilad Shalit

Reflections on November Newsletter

I found your notes on the conference you attended in Vienna very interesting. As well, I read your remarks on euthanasia in La Presse. We are very, very far from any legislation assuming that's even in the cards.

Happy Chanukah,

Professor Herb Marx, Montreal, Canada

The Failed Peace Process in the Middle East 1993-2010

I have just completed the first draft of a new article, The Failed Peace Process in the Middle East 1993-2010. Abstract infra.

I’d be happy to send it to interested parties for criticisms and comments. I am sure I could benefits from your insights prior to sending it for publication.

Since 1977, the Israeli society is split over the question of peace versus land. The aim of this paper is to outline some of the developments that took place since the signing of the Oslo accords in September 1993. It is argued that the peace agreement was like a Swiss cheese with one difference: the holes were so big as to question the essence of the cheese. I analyze the major mistakes that were made along the way by Israeli leaders: Rabin, Peres, Barak and Olmert. I also analyze Arafat's conduct, arguing that brinkmanship policy is very dangerous when one or both sides are willing to pay a high price with blood. The fear from escalating the region into a comprehensive war is very much alive and real. It is argued that the way to escape the deadlock is to rely on the Clinton parameters and the Geneva Accord. Both documents lay the foundations for resolving all contentious issues.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Worldview

I was asked whether Prime Minister Netanyahu is committed to peace. Netanyahu is not a pragmatist like Menachem Begin who withdrew from Sinai and Ariel Sharon who withdrew from Gaza; he is not driven by a sense of history, as Begin was, and his realpolitik is based on different principles than Sharon’s. Netanyahu’s philosophy is based on the following components:

• Israel should take care of itself. No other country will go out of its way for Israel. The world is busy. Countries have other priorities. We are the only people who understand our needs, appreciate our difficulties, and will be there for us in time of trouble.
• Therefore, Israel needs to be strong. Very strong. Our enemies will restrain themselves in the face of strong Israel.
• Strength is manifested also by a strong economy which is founded on capitalist interests, bringing wealth to the nation, and retaining it. This means keeping the economic elite happy, and bringing external investments.
• Israel is a very small country, surrounded by hostile neighbours. It should not be smaller than it already is. Therefore, we should retain our territory, build in it, settle it, and we need to help those pioneers, those wonderful people who are willing to conquer new lands, and establish facts in the land. These people truly care for Israel and its destiny.
• The Palestinians have severe problems. They should strive to solve them, possibly with the help of the Arab world, but not at the expense of Israel.
• Some of their problems are the result of Israel’s presence in the occupied territories. This is granted. But these problems are the result of their terrorist behavior. They should first prove to us that they had deserted terror. Once they do, Israel will be happy to relax the pressure. We don’t enjoy pressurizing the Palestinians. We do it out of necessity to retain our strength and secure our people.
• The UN is not to be trusted. It is biased toward the Muslim and Arab world, with dozens of representatives in the Mission, against one tiny Israel.
• The European Union is biased. It is driven by economic interests, by its own concern vis-a-vis the growing Muslim presence in the continent, by geopolitical interests in which Israel features as a problem. Some argue that Europe is anti-Semitic. Europe should prove otherwise.
• Israel should retain its special relationship with the USA. We should be attentive to any American administration’s demands, with reason, communication, and mutual understanding of the respective needs.

This set of principles allows very little scope for concessions and for pragmatism. The Palestinians will not be satisfied with what is offered. At best, the region I at a standstill as far as peace is concerned. At worst, things will escalate into yet another bloody confrontation. Iran, with its offshoots (Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank), will make things messier and volatile.

Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay Recognize Palestine

The discussions now whether Abu Mazen should declare a Palestinian state remind me of the discussions held by the Jewish leadership in Palestine during 1947-1948. There was no international support. There were many fears and trepidations. It needed David Ben-Gurion’s courage and foresight to say, Now is the time, and to declare the Israeli state.

Recently Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay recognized an independent Palestinian state. Israel resents this. It would like such recognition to be part of bilateral negotiations between Israel and the PA, and would like to get something in return for such a move. On December 12, 2010, Israel’s prime ally, the United States, announced its opposition as well.

The USA need not agree with Israel on this issue. The writing on the wall is loud and clear: There will be a Palestinian state. It is preferable to be perceived as a benevolent supporter than as a stiff-necked opposer. Israeli leaders remember until today which countries supported the 1947 UN Partition decision, and which countries opposed. Somehow, nations have long memories on such delicate matters.

Soon, the Arab League will recognize Palestine. With twenty seven countries behind the initiative, the ball will be rolling and no one will be able to stop it.


Jordan's King Abdullah II said he was seeking "practical steps" to improve his frosty relations with Iran, a contrast to his regime's frequent criticism of Iran. Abdullah made this statement in a closed-door meeting with Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, director of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's office. Abdullah accepted Ahmadinejad's invitation to visit Tehran soon, but no date was set.

King Abdullah has been one of Iran's harshest critics in recent years, warning that its growing influence in the region could undermine him and other pro-American moderates. Now Abdullah is saying it is "imperative to undertake practical steps for improving Jordanian-Iranian relations in the service of both countries, their brotherly people and joint Islamic causes and to consolidate security and stability in the region."

In 2004, Abdullah warned of Iran's growing influence in Iraq and the rest of the region. In U.S. cables released by WikiLeaks, U.S. Ambassador to Jordan Stephen Beecroft quoted Jordanian officials saying Iran is an "octopus" whose tentacles "reach out insidiously to manipulate, foment, and undermine the best laid plans of the West and regional moderates." Iran's "tentacles" include Qatar, Syria, the militant Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, an Iraqi government linked to Iran and Shiite communities across the Middle East.


Mideast Resists U.S. on Blocking Financing to Terrorists

Nine years after the United States vowed to shut down the money pipeline that finances terrorism, senior Obama administration officials say they believe that many millions of dollars are flowing largely unimpeded to extremist groups worldwide, and they have grown frustrated by frequent resistance from allies in the Middle East, according to secret diplomatic dispatches.

The government cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations, catalog a long list of methods that American officials suspect terrorist financiers are using.

The cables also describe how the leaders of Iraq are struggling to restrain the ambitions of the countries that share its porous borders, eye its rich resources and vie for influence.

Dozens of other cables reveal the deep distrust by some traditional European allies of an American government program to monitor international banking transactions for terrorist activity.


Legal Actions against Racist Rabbis

On December 9, 2010, Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced that his office would check if the behavior of 47 municipal rabbis who issued a petition against renting properties to non-Jews was a "criminal" act by state employees. Weinstein's comments came in a letter to Meretz MK Ilan Gilon who had rightly called on the rabbis to be ousted from their positions. The rabbis signed a statement which quotes the halachic stance against renting or selling a house or plot of land to a “gentile” in Israel. The letter notes the danger of intermarriage, the potential damage to the religious beliefs of Jewish neighbors who might be influenced by non-Jews, and the damage to the value of real estate in the area. Weinstein's response says the contents of the rabbinic statement are “problematic in a number of ways and are not emblematic of proper public behavior.” He has instructed his office to check the “criminal and disciplinary aspects raised by the rabbis' statements."

Yad Vashem joined the ADL and other leading Jewish institutions in denouncing the rabbinic letter, calling it “a severe blow to the fundamental values of our lives as Jews and humans in a democratic state.”

Israel cannot sit idly by while senior officials incite to racism and undermine its democratic values. Such officials need to decide: either they are public servants who adhere to the laws and values of the state that employs them, or they incite to hate and violence. If they chose the latter, they should resign immediately. And if they do not see the necessity in doing so, then the state should discharge them from all public responsibilities. Israel as a Jewish state has an obligation to secure the well being of its vulnerable minority.

Movie on Herzl

One of the most important figures in the history of Zionism, if not the most important figure, is Theodor (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl, the man with the vision and energy to establish a home for the Jewish people. These days, when Zionism became a derogatory word in many parts of the world, and people smear it as colonialist and racist, we need to go to the roots and understand the origins of the Zionist movement and how it came about.

Surprisingly, I am not aware of any dramatic film that was made about Herzl’s life and mission.

All ideas as how to make this happen are welcomed.

It would be nice if a Hollywood producer, Arnon Milchan for instance, will commit himself. Robert De Niro will be great for the leading role. The script is wonderful. With the right cast and direction, it will be a grand, successful movie.

Lecture in Italy
I was invited to deliver a lecture at Catanzaro Law School on “Euthanasia in the Netherlands and Belgium – Critical Appraisal”.

The aim of this presentation is to provide a critical review of euthanasia policy and practice in Holland and Belgium. It discusses the Dutch and Belgian laws as well as major developments and recent controversies in the laws’ implementation. The lecture highlights some concerns: Euthanasia is not limited to people who are terminally ill; ending of life without request is more common than euthanasia; terminal sedation is practiced without patients’ request; the level of reporting is disappointing, and there is not comprehensive monitoring of lethal drugs provided by pharmacists for euthanasia. Further safeguards against abuse should be studied and implemented in both countries. The presentation concludes with seventeen guidelines for careful physician-assistedsuicide (PAS).

There was a nice group of law scholars and lawyers as well as an Israeli law student. It was nice to suddenly hear Hebrew. I thank Professor Massimo la Torre for the kind invitation and hospitality. I also thank his Ph.D students for taking care of me during my visit.

My New Article

I am happy to announce my very first article in Greek:

“Ο μισαλλόδοξος λόγος στον Καναδά” (“Hate Speech in Canada”), Isopoliteia, Vol. XIIXIII (2008- 2009), pp. 51-100.

Greek timing is apparently different from conventional timing. I received the journal issue just now.

I’d be happy to send the article to my Greek friends and colleagues.


The Institute of International Education is pleased to announce the call for nominations for the 7th annual Victor J. Goldberg IIE Prize for Peace in the Middle East. The prize recognizes outstanding work being conducted jointly by two individuals, one Arab and one Israeli, working together to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East. The two individuals whose work is judged to be most successful in bringing people together and breaking down the barriers of hatred will share a $10,000 prize.

To be eligible for the Prize, at least one of the nominated individuals must have visited the United States as an alumna/us of any program administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE), or any exchange program funded by any of IIE’s sponsors and administered by another organization. Alumni of the following IIE-administered programs, among others, are encouraged to apply: Fulbright Programs, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowships, International Visitor Leadership Program (formerly International Visitor Program, or IVP), State Department Middle East Partnership Initiative, Ford Foundation International Fellowship Program, Ford Foundation Global Travel and Learning Fund, and training programs funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Fulbright alumni and alumni of the Israel Arab Scholarship Program whose grants were administered by AMIDEAST are also eligible. Similarly, individuals who came to the United States under funding from the Ford Foundation or as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program are eligible even if they were participating in a program coordinated by another organization.

Nominations may be submitted by the individuals themselves or by a third party. Nominations will be due on February 15, 2011, and the winners will be announced in the spring. A copy of the nomination form can be downloaded at

Details at

New Books

W. Lee Rawls, In Praise of Deadlock (Washington DC.: Woodrow Wilson Center, 2009).

With budget reconciliations, filibusters, and supermajorities making headlines, In Praise of Deadlock explains the legislative process and its checkpoints, while maintaining a noncomformist respect for the hurdles and hang-ups inherent in the American system.
As a practitioner who served for 14 years as chief of staff to Senators Bill Frist and Pete Domenici, W. Lee Rawls offers a candid perspective on partisan struggle, which he sees as essential to advancing new policy and generating consensus. Such grappling, Rawls concludes, results in a nuanced, durable machine, producing better laws that have benefited from minority input.

I thank Lee Rawls for a copy of the book.

Gem of the Month - Pizzo

Pizzo is a small village overlooking the sea. Contra common intuition, Pizzo is not known for its special pizza but for its most wonderful ice cream. The taste of ice cream still lingers in my mind.

KLM - Al Italia

What a fine partnership these two companies have. In my recent trip they managed to lose my luggage both ways. My advice to you when you require their services: Take everything you need with you and do not take any suitcase. You won't see it anyway and you spare yourself queuing for hours in the long lost luggage lines. In Schiphol alone there are 5000 suitcases waiting to be shipped to their lawful owners.

The combination of KLM and Al Italia works perfectly for the courier companies. I hope my suitcase will arrive before Christmas. And I am glad to be home. I could easily be stranded at Schiphol with hundreds of passengers I saw, sitting and waiting for alternate flights that will bring them closer to home. What a mess. Christmess.

Monthly Poems

Thou comest, Autumn, heralded by the rain,
With banners, by great gales incessant fanned,
Brighter than brightest silks of Samarcand,
And stately oxen harnessed to thy wain!
Thou standest, like imperial Charlemagne,
Upon thy bridge of gold; thy royal hand
Outstretched with benedictions o'er the land,
Blessing the farms through all thy vast domain!
Thy shield is the red harvest moon, suspended
So long beneath the heaven's o'er-hanging eaves;
Thy steps are by the farmer's prayers attended;
Like flames upon an altar shine the sheaves;
And, following thee, in thy ovation splendid,
Thine almoner, the wind, scatters the golden leaves!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

More poems from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Autumn, The
Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them --
The summer flowers depart --
Sit still -- as all transform'd to stone,
Except your musing heart.

How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.

Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth
That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,
When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!

The dearest hands that clasp our hands, --
Their presence may be o'er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh'd our mind,
Shall come -- as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.

Hear not the wind -- view not the woods;
Look out o'er vale and hill-
In spring, the sky encircled them --
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn's scathe -- come winter's cold --
Come change -- and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne'er be desolate.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

More poems from Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Something to Warm Your Heart

Idan Raichel is one of the most interesting musicians in Israel. His project entertains various performers, with plurality of voices yet with a distinct Israeli style. Here is one example:

Light Side

A shrewd business man comes to his young son and tells him: “My dear son, I want you to marry someone I’ll introduce to you”.
“Thank you, dad. I rather pick my future bride myself”.
“And what if I tell you that this is the daughter of Bill Gates?”
“Oh dad, well this is entirely different matter”.

The following day the father comes to Bill Gates: “Bill, I have a groom for your daughter!”
Bill: “No, thank you. My daughter is too young to get marry”.
“What if I tell you that this is a young man who serves as Deputy President of the World Bank?”
Bill: “Oh, this is an entirely different matter”.

The following day the father comes to the President of the World Bank:
“I have for you an excellent candidate for a deputy”.
“No thanks. I have enough deputies”.
“But what if I tell you that this is Bill Gates’ son-in-law?”

Peace and love, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May it be a year of tranquility and joy, of sweet surprises, of new accomplishments and fulfilled desires, and of little adventures, with many moments to cherish for years to come.

Yours as ever,


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