On November 29, the anniversary of the 1947 UN General Assembly vote to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into "an Arab state and Jewish state," the assembly will vote on a new draft resolution recognizing Palestine as a nonmember observer state. A majority vote in favor is all but guaranteed given the near-automatic support from the nonaligned and Islamic blocs and some other delegations.
Anti-Israel activists have been sponsoring intense campaigns of intimidation, emotional blackmail and misinformation to encourage prominent musicians to boycott Israel by not performing there, as reported in this paper on June 4 ("Stars under fire for concerts in Israel"). These activists claim that they are acting in the name of peace, but in reality what they are actually doing is precisely the opposite. They are participating in a new version of a decades-old effort to reject any co-existence with Israel.
What’s even more ludicrous and hypocritical about efforts to culturally boycott Israel is that they ignore a compelling reality of today’s Middle East. Even as activists in Western states demand that artists refuse to have any association with Israel, the opposite is actually happening in the Middle East. There, despite decades of boycotts, people from Turkey to Iran are embracing the works of Israeli musicians in increasing numbers, often at great personal risk.
It seems to me that some of the keys to becoming a successful businessman are optimism, perseverance and ingenuity. If life hands you lemons, start a lemonade stand. If your pipes leak, then you’ve got yourself the makings of a drip-system irrigation business. And if all you’ve got is manure, well then, start selling fertilizer. You know how it is, take what you’ve got and make the best of it.
So what do you do when you’ve got a regime in possession of an arsenal of long-range weapons, making no effort to hide their malintent towards you, hard-charging toward nuclear weapons capabilities? This is the current dilemma facing Israel.
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.
Today felt like several days rolled into one. For many in our group, it was a day of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Find a comfortable spot for reading; this is going to be a long post.
>> Jerusalem: Planning and Architecture
Day Four began with a walking tour of Jerusalem with Ofer Manor, Chief Architect of Jerusalem. The US mayors are all keenly interested in – and involved in – planning issues in their cities. They were so impressed with the various projects Manor had spearheaded.
One project that had particular resonance was the transformation of Jaffa Street into a light rail path and pedestrian street running six and a half miles through the center of Jerusalem.
>> Israel’s Strategic Environment and the Peace Process
Our day began with a discussion with Prof. Asher Susser, senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies and associate professor in the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University.
Asher presented the mayors and senior staffers with an overview of Israel’s strategic environment, including the impact of the Arab Spring (a misnomer, in Asher’s estimation), the predicament of rapid population growth in the Arab world combined with poor prospects for job creation and growth, and the status of Israel’s relations with its powerful, non-Arab neighbors (Iran and Turkey).
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine South African session has come and gone but not without its fair share of controversy.
Held in Cape Town on November 5th and 6th, the RToP set out to be a ‘people’s court’ investigating whether Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people fits the international legal definitions of the crime of apartheid.
To most onlookers, Judge Richard Goldstone’s prior assessment of the tribunal that, “it is not a ‘tribunal’ … the 'evidence' is going to be one-sided and the members of the ‘jury’ are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known,” was seen to have been largely vindicated by the proceedings which found in favour of what many argued was a predetermined conclusion.
>> 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.