The current mood

Yael Sternhell wrote in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz today that “In the Israel of 2011, every manifestation of basic human empathy toward the Palestinian side, every disclosure of understanding for its aspirations and priorities hits a wall of hatred, distrust and the growing siege mentality”.

She compares the situation to that of the U.S. at the start of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s, and draws a parallel to a call for Israeli Jews to march on July 15 in support of the end of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and lives, and for an independent Palestinian state.

And, she says, “We, the Jews who live in Israel, participate each day, each hour, in the denial of basic rights to Palestinian citizens, in the perpetuation of the settlements and the occupation. We’re in a similar position to that of many whites in the United States in the 1960s. Most of us find it hard to support the Palestinian struggle for independence, whether out of laziness, indifference or a basic loathing of those we’ve been told all our lives are a necessary enemy. Most of us find it hard to stand up to the story told by the government and most of the media that the Palestinian declaration of independence is a disaster for Israel, exactly as most whites in the South saw the granting of voting rights to blacks as the end of civilization. Most of us find it hard to believe that it’s possible to live together in peace, just as those whites in Alabama found it hard to imagine life in a free society in which members of all races have the same rights. Most of us also have more pressing matters to attend to, just as the whites all over the United States found it hard to see why the fact that Southern blacks couldn’t vote should keep them awake at night”. This article is posted here.

In another article also published on the Haaretz website on the same day, this one about the thwarted Freedom Flotilla Two, Amira Hass wrote: “Blocking the flotilla did not discourage the organizers, who are graduates of the anti-apartheid and anti-white supremacy struggles. Rather, it provided ample proof of how white Israel is. As a result, blocking the flotilla only increased their motivation to keep placing the Palestinians’ demand for freedom at the forefront of the international agenda”. This is posted here.

Mitchell: He's no James Baker, no Kissinger

Haaretz columnist Yoel Marcus has written today that “U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who returned to Israel this week, has not achieved anything in his visits so far. Despite the halo he won by his successful mediation in Northern Ireland, he is no James Baker. Nor is he Henry Kissinger. Baker was tough and didn’t like our tricks. Kissinger, who was closer to his president, knew how to turn algebra into arithmetic, as Zalman Aran once reportedly said. Mitchell’s views on solving the conflict, as he outlined them back when he chaired a presidential commission in 2001, may have been reasonable, but they were unfeasible at that time. He believed Israel had to freeze settlement construction and the Palestinians had to stop the terror attacks. Yet Mitchell’s visit this week could be very important, if he abandons his slow mediation and instead puts a more definite and effective presidential plan on the table. After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed publicly to a two-states-for-two-peoples solution, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ response was peculiar [sic]. Instead of agreeing to begin negotiations, he demanded that Israel first freeze construction in the settlements and added several other conditions. This refusal appeared on the face of it like a continuation of the Palestinian tradition of not missing any opportunity that could be missed. For Netanyahu’s approach, at least in theory, marked a dramatic turnabout that put his stand in line with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s formula – the 1967 lines plus territorial swaps. Mitchell said in a television interview that he believed it was possible to reach an agreement within two years. But the truth is that the chances of an agreement are getting smaller – not least due to the settlement-freeze policy adopted by U.S. President Barack Obama, on one hand, and Netanyahu’s condition – that the Iranian nuclear issue must be solved first – on the other”. This article can be read in full in Haaretz here.

For that matter, neither is George Mitchell a Brent Scowcroft, either …

Haaretz editorial on new Netanyahu government: Next!

Haaretz published an editorial today saying: “Israel’s 32nd government, which was sworn in last night, is destined to fail”

The editors wrote that: “In putting this government together, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demonstrated sophisticated political skills and impressive tricks of wheeling and dealing, along with a total lack of vision, courage and practical judgment. The fate of the State of Israel was not on the agenda in forming this government, but rather the lust for power of a handful of politicians and the creation of power for their boss. Israel has received the largest government in its history and one of its most meager. Its makeup bodes ill. When coalition considerations are the only criterion for forming a government, the outcome is a finance minister with no qualifications in economics, a foreign minister liable to be shunned abroad, a defense minister who has failed at the job, an education minister with no experience in education, a Health Ministry without a minister and a long list of ridiculous ministers and useless ministries. There is also a batch of ministers without portfolio and without a role to play, apart from filling a seat at the cabinet table. Such a giant government sends a message of scandalous wastefulness, with the economy on the brink of a grave financial crisis … Netanyahu has presented a government of paralysis that will have difficulty functioning and making fateful decisions; a government without vision or enthusiasm for getting things done and without ministers to lead change. Not a single spark of hope was ignited yesterday. The government that was born in sin, the sin of petty politics, is destined to spend its days in battles for survival, and that alone. This is highly depressing news as Israel faces bold and crucial decisions; it’s bad news for the peace process and for economic recovery, and it’s bad news for every worried Israeli. Israel sent the world a message last night that it is not headed for peace and change. Netanyahu’s second government is in no way better than his first, and all the hopes that he has changed have been proved unfounded in a single stroke”.

This Haaretz editorial can be read in full here.