When discussing Polish attitudes towards potential Iranian nuclear capabilities, it is important to distinguish between two components: official diplomatic responses and the nature of public opinion. Diplomatically, Poland maintains a strong relationship with Israel and, as a member of the EU, generally advocates a position in concert with other EU members such as Germany and France. Additionally, the Polish government strives to cultivate a close diplomatic relationship with the United States, and has actually been accused in the past of being overly deferential to US interests as opposed to the interests of fellow EU members. In tandem, both of these factors would indicate the Polish government has a strong interest in joining efforts to prevent Iranian nuclear development.
Israel's survival depends on its military hegemony in the Middle East to keep it safe. A nuclear Iran changes that calculus, and not necessarily by threatening Israel with nuclear annihilation. It is the prospect of an Iran that is emboldened, emboldened to use its proxies in Lebanon and Gaza to terrorize Israeli civilians in the North and South and an Iran that is emboldened to threaten America's Arab allies in the Gulf, which will lead them to pursue their own atomic weapons. The prospect of a power shift in the Middle East and the arms race that might ensue in the Arab world has the international community most frightened.
For Americans who are burnt out by the negative and aggressive public dynamic between opposing political factions on Palestine-Israel peace, hope lives! I am thrilled to introduce you to some incredible people with their priorities in order who are coming from the Holy Land and speaking sanely about how to move forward. These people have already demonstrated the ability to reach a diverse political spread of people, and they are only in the earliest stages of their work.
>> Over the Green Line
Day Five began with a visit to the home of Hebrew University mathematics professor and former Member of Knesset Alex Lubotzky in Efrat, about 7 miles south of Jerusalem on the other side of the Green Line.
Efrat, home to nearly 10,000 people, was in the news earlier this month when Israel approved the construction of housing units there – a move that drove the international community mad, but that Israel explained as necessary to accommodate the natural expansion of the local population.
Alex described the history of Efrat and talked about its future. He explained that in a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians, this settlement and others in the area are likely to be traded (swapped) for other land.
Some of the mayors and senior staffers were surprised that this settlement looks like – as one mayor put it – a suburban housing development.
>> Clean Water
Today began with a trip to the Palmachim Desalination Plant. Actually, let’s back up. Today began with Israeli cottage cheese topped with chopped tomatoes and cucumber, which is a great way to begin the day in Tel Aviv.
After that strong start, we drove south of Tel Aviv to the Water Desalination Plant in Palmachim. The mayors and senior staffers took great interest in this tour, as water management is a topic of concern in a number of US communities, just as it is in Israel.
The Palmachim plant is a major local provider of a large portion of the water consumed by Israeli households and used in Israeli industry and agriculture – in the next two years Israel expects to be able to supply 80 percent of its water needs through reclaimed sea water.
Palmachim is a fine example of the Israeli drive to innovate and be self-sufficient.
I remember arriving in the United States a few years ago on the day of the New York Israel Day Parade. I headed straight for Central Park where I was greeted by a mass of Israeli flags, Israeli music and an almost overwhelming Jewish presence. I had to remind myself that I was in America and not celebrating Yom Haatzmaut in Israel!
I’ve just returned from another trip to the United States, this time there were no Israeli flags, but there was no shortage of Israel supporters. I attended AJC’s ACCESS conference in Washington D.C. where the focus of my track was Countering the Campaign against Israel’s Legitimacy. Despite this sombre focus, numerous outstanding speakers eloquently made the case for supporting and defending the State of Israel. Having recently acquired my Israeli citizenship I couldn’t help but feel humbled by the profound support expressed by the American Jewish community and by high profile Americans in general for the Jewish State. Witnessing such open and enthusiastic support beyond the Jewish community is especially moving for me, having grown up in a country where the government and media is often very hostile to Israel.
Last Sunday, dozens of Israelis crowded into the Muqata in Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The delegation, organized by the Geneva Initiative, included many of the “usual suspects” among the Israeli left, but also an ample number of participants from less likely sources—including representatives of Shas and Likud.
Senior figures in Fatah and the PLO were also present, including nearly all the members of the Fatah Central Committee and of the PLO Executive Committee. It seemed everyone was in the room; that is, everyone except the Americans.