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Son of Murdered Chabad Emissaries Tells Indian Leader He Will Return to Mumbai, Follow in Parents’ Footsteps
Modi & Moshe
Moshe Holtzberg with Indian PM Narendra Modi and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.
The son of the two Chabad emissaries murdered during the co-ordinated Islamist terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai on November 26, 2008 — a date Indians refer to as “26/11” — told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday of his ambition to one day be the director of the Chabad center at Nariman House that his parents ran.
“When I get older, I will live there [in Mumbai],” said Moshe Holtzberg, now 11 and living in Israel, as he stood with Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is accompanying the Indian premier during his three-day visit to the Jewish state.
“I will be the director of our Chabad House, with God’s help,” Moshe said.
Israelis are pessimistic about the prospects for renewed peace talks with the Palestinians, despite US President Donald Trump’s stated goal…
Moshe was rescued from the attack — in which his parents, Gavriel and Rivka, were killed — by his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel, who earlier told The Hindu: “Moshe himself will go to India when he grows up. He knows Nariman House is his house, his father’s house and he will visit there.”
Moshe currently lives in Jerusalem with the family of his maternal grandfather, Rabbi Shimon Rozenberg.
Watch the video clip:
In Tel Aviv, jubilant Indian Israelis go gaga for Modi
Stand back, Britney Spears — you’re no longer the only act in Tel Aviv drawing unchecked excitement and unabashed fandom.
On Wednesday, thousands of Indian Israelis gathered in the city to greet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a glitzy, wild welcome for the first premier from their home country to visit the Jewish state.
Brightly colored Indian saris mingled with jeans and t-shirts — and not a few kippot and religious headscarves — at Wednesday’s event, which began with several Bollywood dance acts and a concert.
In the corner of the room, two 10-foot cardboard cutouts of Modi were thronged by teenagers and adults clamoring for selfies. Indian and Israeli flags were waved furiously by participants, and each act drew thunderous applause when the two countries’ banners were paraded on stage together.
Outside the hall, a billboard urged users to download a special mobile phone app created for the visit to “connect with the prime minister as never before.”
Members of the Indian community in Israel celebrate during an event marking 25 years of good relations between Israel and India during the official visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the Convention
“It gives me chills,” said Naomi Yakub, who immigrated to Israel from India in the early 1970s and is part of a community of some 100,000 Indian Jews living in the country. For the Jewish community in Israel, “a meeting like this we haven’t had in 45 years,” she said.
“We love India, because we were born there and our parents are there,” added her friend Tal Shulamith, now a resident of Be’er Yaakov in central Israel. “It’s very emotional.”
A love song to Israel
Headlining the performances before the two leaders arrived was Sukhwinder Singh, the Bollywood singer of the Academy Award-winning “Jai Ho” theme song of the 2008 film “Slumdog Millionaire.”
With its lyrics translated into Hebrew and posted on a screen, a lavishly dressed Singh also sang a Hindi love song to Israel, gaudily titled “India + Israel = Love.”
“I sing a love song to peace
This India knows about love: there are no
differences among people
We love people from our heart
We know them as good friends
And everyone understands this — that we give out love
I am blessed that I am from India
Coming to Israel, to get a blessing from Israel
We don’t believe in war, we believe in love
In our custom there is one lesson — to respect others
We believe in God
We feel God
We believe God is in every element of nature
I am proud to say that God created me in India
That believes in peace
I am from India
And I sing with all my heart for Israel”
Later singing “Jai Ho” to the jubilant crowd, Singh grabbed the Indian and Israeli flags in each hand.
“India!” he yelled, as the crowd screamed and cheered in palpable delight.
“Israel!” he cried out, drawing a similarly enthralled reaction.
But the culmination of the community’s raw elation was reserved for the moment Modi and Netanyahu walked on stage to Academy Award-level applause and a solid two-minute standing ovation. The leaders — Modi dressed in blue-and-beige, Netanyahu in a blue tie — clasped hands triumphantly in the air.
“Modi! Modi! Modi!” chanted the observers, some of whom wore “I am a fan of Narendra Modi” t-shirts.
“Do you love India?” a grinning Netanyahu asked the crowd, setting off more vigorous air-punching and frantic cheers.
“Do you love Israel?” he added, receiving an equally enthusiastic response.
Hailing the strong bilateral ties between the two countries for 25 years, Netanyahu noted that “we always remember that there’s a human bridge between us — you. We admire you, we respect you, we love you.”
Taking the stage after Netanyahu, Modi gave a lengthy speech in Hindi to the crowd of mostly Indian immigrants.
“For the first time in 70 years an Indian PM has got an opportunity to visit Israel,” his office wrote on Twitter in English simultaneously. “This is a matter of joy.”
For Israel’s Indian community, it certainly was. (the Times of Israel)
‘Blocking Hezbollah weapons gains is IDF’s top priority’
Eleven years after the Second Lebanon War, stopping Hezbollah from improving the accuracy of its missiles and rockets is the “top priority” of the army, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Eisenkot said the IDF has used the time since the Second Lebanon War to dramatically improve its abilities, and now has better intelligence and operational capabilities than ever before.
According to Eisenkot, relative quiet has prevailed along the northern border since the Second Lebanon War ended, and Israelis “should put things in perspective and not panic” regarding reports that Iran has helped Hezbollah to operate and manage underground weapons factories.
Nevertheless, the chief of staff said curbing Iranian influence in the Middle East is a major challenge, no less than defeating Islamic State.
Hezbollah’s rockets are not particularly accurate at the moment, he added.
According to Eisenkot, Hezbollah, by continuing to operate from civilian areas in southern Lebanon, continues to violate UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which set the terms to end the 34-day Second Lebanon War.
While UNIFIL is helping maintain calm in southern Lebanon, its leadership does not do enough when Hezbollah violates the resolution, Eisenkot said.
As for the West Bank, Eisenkot said that terrorism continues and the IDF has had great success in stopping attacks through “high operational capabilities” of soldiers and commanders.
The situation in the West Bank did not escalate into an intifada, because of good policies that gave the general Palestinian population hope, which is in Israel’s security interests, he explained.
Eisenkot also called on MKs not to publicly criticize IDF officers, because they are acting on orders from the political level.
One example he gave of such orders is the “Kalkilya Plan,” to allow construction of more Palestinian homes.
“The IDF sees this as part of its ability to fulfill our responsibility to prevent a deterioration” of the security situation, Eisenkot said. (Jerusalem Post)
‘Israeli-PA generals agreed to 10- to 15-year IDF presence in Jordan Valley’
Israeli and Palestinian Authority military officials agreed in principle to an IDF withdrawal from the Jordan Valley within 10 to 15 years of a broader West Bank pullout, the US general who drafted a security plan under the Obama administration said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
“A deal is reachable if the sides get over the politics,” said retired Gen. John Allen, a former commander of US forces in Afghanistan and special envoy to ex-secretary of state John Kerry, during talks he led in 2013-2014. Allen stressed that Israeli political leaders on both sides never came on board with the plan.
With a new peace dialogue led by US President Donald Trump moving ahead, attention has returned to Allen’s plan, many details of which are still classified.
Allen’s interview with the Post was the first time he has gone on record in detail about the plan. He said the blueprint addressed 26 mutually agreed Israeli security concerns, divided into six categories.
According to Allen, one of the main points of tension between Israel and the Palestinians was the number of years the IDF would be allowed to remain in the Jordan Valley after the establishment of a Palestinian state and a broader West Bank withdrawal.
Israeli concerns about redeploying from the strategic lowland abutting the Jordan River expanded with ISIS’s rise in 2013, the disintegration of Iraq and Syria as well as existing concerns over the continued instability in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians’ starting position was that the IDF could remain in the Jordan Valley for two years following an agreement and a pullout from the rest of the West Bank.
Allen said that “as the Palestinians gained confidence in both the American side and in the emerging American plan, they demonstrated significant flexibility in the number of years” they agreed to see Israeli forces remain in the valley.
According to Allen and Eric Lynn, a former top adviser to three US defense secretaries and a key member of Allen’s security team, the Israeli security establishment could live with withdrawing from the valley 10 to 15 years after a withdrawal from other parts of the territory, as long as security benchmarks were met. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly rejected this position and sought a 40-year IDF presence in the Jordan Valley.
Retired Maj.-Gen. Gadni Shamni, formerly head of the IDF’s Central Command, and retired Maj.-Gen. Amnon Reshef, the head of a group of 200 top ex-Israeli security officials who advocate for a peace deal, agreed with this characterization of the Israeli security view. Both have authored their own parallel, but distinct, security plans.
Shamni said that with just a few notable exceptions, “90 to 95% of top security officials” backed the Allen plan.
Allen said the demand for a 40-year or longer IDF presence in the valley “showed no rigor or science,” in contrast to the proposal for a 10- to 15-year gap that he said his team arrived at with serious research and thought.
Ilan Goldenberg, a former US State Department official and co-author of Shamni’s plan, said that Netanyahu’s 40-year number “tells you that he never wants to leave.”
Last month, Haaretz reported that the Trump administration had hired US Air Force Col. Kris Bauman, who was involved in the Allen plan, as a key member of its team on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Allen thought that Bauman’s knowledge regarding past security plans would make him a strong asset for any future peace talks.
Back in 2014, a number of Israeli defense officials criticized Allen’s plan, claiming that it relied to heavilly on technology. Lynn dismissed the criticism.
“This idea of adding technology in place of people on the ground is 100% false,” Lynn said. “The technology was meant to augment forces on the ground, but there was never a suggestion of zero people on the ground. The debate was about what would the force look like and who would be commanding it.”
Allen and Lynn’s plan called for a “joint security patrol force, a combination of IDF, Palestinians and Jordanians with US officers training and overseeing, but not in a combat role,” he said.
A source speaking on condition of anonymity said that former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon had objected to the joint patrols, though the Israeli military echelon was ready to accept them as long as a US officer advised the patrol Israelis did not have to take orders from Palestinian or Jordanian officers.
Allen said, “We built in no slippage in the level of security as a condition for withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from the Jordan Valley, so the redeployment could gradually start but then stop at any time.”
The former US Marine Corps general added that withdrawn Israeli forces would be replaced over time with a multi-tiered series of security commands.
He said that a three-star US general worked on this aspect of the plan, which called for hundreds of US troops to serve as trainers and advisers for the Palestinians.
Another hotly debated issue was the extent to which Israel would retain the right to act unilaterally in an emergency situation after a West Bank withdrawal.
“We always said to the Palestinians that we would support Israel’s efforts – which were necessary to defend themselves – and the Palestinians were willing to accept unilateral Israeli intervention when Israeli security was at risk,” Allen said.
He had wanted to provide Palestinian security forces some window of time to address security threats, but the Israeli political echelon rejected the idea.
Though Allen said most security issues had been resolved by the parties’ military officials, “the talks fell apart with the start of the 2014 Gaza war, ending this conversation.”
Lynn offered an interesting anecdote about how much more interested IDF officers seemed to be in reaching a deal than their political counterparts.
The IDF chief of staff during the talks, Benny Gantz, felt neither Netanyahu nor Ya’alon were pleased “with the expedited progress toward security solutions as part of a two-state scenario.” Lynn said that when Gantz was asked “whether we should continue our work” anyway, the general replied: “We were given orders to discuss all relevant security solutions in a two-state scenario and we are going to continue to fulfill that order until it is withdrawn.”
According to Lynn, Gantz’s message was that if the politicians only hinted and did not dare to formally end the security dialogue, he would push forward. Gantz declined to comment on Lynn’s remarks.
It is expected that any new US plan would need to cover new threats such as terror tunnels like those used by Hamas in the Gaza War of 2014.
“It was not something we had yet embraced and fully delved into,” Allen said, adding that he would have addressed “a range of subterranean warfare doctrinal and technological problems” if the talks had continued.
Moreover, Allen pointed out that parts of the Jordan Valley would be “far more daunting” for tunnel-diggers than typical West Bank or Gaza terrain, so that threat of terrorists digging tunnels to infiltrate Israel was only relevant for certain areas.
Regarding the threat posed by tunnels, Shamni and Goldenberg’s parallel plan said that “exceptional security zones would be set up near sensitive border areas” that would be among the last areas to be handed over to the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post)
Landlocked Jerusalem aims to hook visitors with exotic aquarium
Behind the enormous tank that will eventually house sharks, sea turtles, stingrays and schools of tuna in the new Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium is a handwritten sign in Hebrew that reads: “There is a sea in Jerusalem.”
It’s a reminder of how unlikely this major endeavor was, recreating marine life in landlocked, hilly Jerusalem, as part of the Biblical Zoo complex, 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Mediterranean Sea, and even farther from the Red Sea. Yet these two bodies of water are two of the habitats the aquarium will mimic in its 6,500 square-meter (nearly 70,000 square feet) facility.
In fact, it’s the first aquarium in Israel, and the first public, inland aquarium in the Middle East.
“It’s a challenge to bring this to Jerusalem,” said Shai Doron, CEO of Jerusalem’s Tisch Family Zoo, who guided a group of journalists through the new, as-yet unopened aquarium on Wednesday morning. “We had to do it all from scratch. We’re bringing the sea to Jerusalem.”
The new compound, built over the last six years, contains 30 tanks with thousands of fish and sea creatures living in half a million gallons of seawater, making it Jerusalem’s largest body of water.
Preparing for this aquarium began nearly 10 years ago, a combination of the zoo receiving some five acres of additional grounds and a national plan to increase awareness of marine life.
On this hot day in July, just weeks before the aquarium opens with a soft launch to the public, most of the tanks have only a few fish in residence, with schools of large and small species trying out their new waters.
Many of the fish were adjusting to their new home in the aquarium’s quarantined area, where a staff of veterinarians and ecologists worked on regulating water temperatures and levels for their new inhabitants. The aquarium will also collaborate on marine research with local and international institutions, as guided by Avi Perevolotsky, the ecologist who chairs the aquarium’s board of directors.
The Israel Aquarium, like the Jerusalem zoo, concentrates on its natural niches, with a focus on the marine life of Israeli waters, including the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, aspects of the Dead Sea, and the Sea of Galilee, as well as honing in on the habitats of aquatic life in the region.
The tanks mimic the different sea systems in Israel, whether showing schools of fish in the shallow waters of the Dor Beach at the Mediterranean Sea, or St. Peter’s fish in the Sea of Galilee, swimming around their freshwater tank that includes the black basilica stone of the Tiberias region.
One enormous tank that will eventually house thousands of fish found in the Red Sea, imitating the scuba diving experience, is a quiet, dark space filled with cushions and seats, perfect for relaxing and concentrating on the movements of the fish.
In the Red Sea tanks, the multicolored coral is artificial, like the aquarium’s seawater, given that most of the local seawater is too polluted for the aquarium to use, said Doron.
The tanks are many and varied, offering close glimpses of marine life, such as these starfish (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
The tanks are numerous and varied, offering close glimpses of marine life, such as these starfish (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
“You can’t take seawater from the sea of Tel Aviv,” he said. “It’s not good enough for our needs. You can’t take shortcuts with fish, we have to make them comfortable in their new environment.”
All of the aquarium’s life support systems use a water reclamation method that recycles exhibit water. Like the zoo’s sustainable systems, the aquarium makes use of environmental building methods, including a green roof covered with vegetation to absorb rainwater, provide insulation, and create a wildlife habitat. There is also a wetlands pond at the aquarium entrance that acts as a water filtration system for the facility.
Conservation and preservation of maritime life is heavily emphasized, as well as methods for protecting local sea life and learning about biodiversity.
Those are themes familiar from other aquariums around the globe, which served as inspiration for Doron and his staff. He mentioned several of his favorites, including the aquariums in Baltimore and Boston, as well as Lisbon, Spain and London.
“We’ll never be like Atlanta,” said Doron, referring to the Georgia Aquarium, one of the world’s largest, funded by a major contribution by Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus. “It’s like a shopping mall, there’s not enough water in the State of Israel to fill a three million gallon tank.”
His dream, however, is to be like California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium, a non-profit public aquarium located on the site of a former sardine cannery and with more than 600 species on display (and the inspiration for the aquarium in Pixar’s “Finding Dory”).
“This is the idea we’re working on, but we’ve got a long, long way to go,” said Doron, who worked with an American firm to conceive of the aquarium design and focus.
Sea mammals, for instance, such as whales, won’t ever have a home at the Jerusalem aquarium, because of the budget needed to house the enormous creatures, and the aquarium’s decision to focus on local marine life.
The Israel Aquarium is named for the Gottesman family, which donated half of the NIS 100 million ($28.5 million) venture. It’s seen as a boon to the local economy and Jerusalem tourism, said Doron, and is based on the country’s national biodiversity plan, which had long recommended a national aquarium, in order to help aquatic conservation and education in Israel.
Some 25 percent of the NIS 100 million investment was made by Israeli donors, including a NIS 1 million ($284,000) grant toward the aquarium’s educational programs from the Federman family, which owns the Dan Hotels chain. The Ministry of Tourism was another major donor, as well as the City of Jerusalem and the Jewish National Fund.
Given the success of the 24-year-old zoo, which is Israel’s most popular paid tourist attractions, drawing about 750,000 visitors each year, the site had been given land and needed an anchor project, said Doron.
The addition of the indoor, air-conditioned aquarium will help alleviate visitor pressure at the zoo during the hot summers and rainy winters, he said. It will also be open in the evenings, when the zoo is normally closed.
The aquarium will open some time in July, and will offer a 50% discount for the first period, with NIS 40 (around $11) tickets for both children and adults, and NIS 30 tickets (around $8.50) for the 54,000 active zoo members.
In the future, tickets will cost NIS 90 (around $25.50) for adults and NIS 70 (around $20) for children, and the zoo will offer combination tickets for the zoo and aquarium that will be valid for a full week, given the average five-to-six-hour visit at the zoo, and the hour-and-a-half to two hours expected to be spent at the aquarium.
There will also be volunteering opportunities for landlubbers and divers with at least two stars, who want the chance to clean algae in the fish tanks for four hours a week.
“It’s the only place in Jerusalem where you can deep sea dive,” said Doron. (the Times of Israel)
Modi visits without once publicly saying ‘Palestinians’
By Herb Keinon The Jerusalem Post
Narendra Modi, who departed Israel on Thursday after being the first-ever Indian prime minister to visit, spent 49 hours in the country, participated in more than a dozen events, and spoke publicly five times.
And never once did he publicly utter the word “Palestinians.”
There are many reasons why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must have hated to see the departure of his Indian counterpart, the leader of the world’s largest democracy with whom he waded barefoot into the Mediterranean on Thursday.
The trip showcased that Israel – despite anything that Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid might say – is anything but isolated in the world. It diverted everyone’s attention from the Western Wall issue that dominated the news the week before. And it was a vehicle for bringing the India-Israel relationship to the next level.
But one of the most refreshing aspects for Netanyahu was certainly that Modi did not publicly lecture or hector about the Palestinian issue. Had he come here and not coupled his visit with a quick trip to Ramallah to see Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, that – in Netanyahu’s eyes – would have been enough.
But Modi did even more than that. He didn’t even mention the Palestinians in public. He didn’t slam Israel for the settlements. And in the joint statement carefully drawn up by both sides spelling out the underpinnings of the relationship, the Palestinians were not mentioned until the 20th clause of a 22-clause document.
And even there, India – which was the first non-Muslim country in 1987 to recognize “Palestine” – spoke only generically about a “just and durable peace in the region,” without explicitly calling for a two-state solution.
Netanyahu had to wish that all his guests – especially those from Europe – behaved like Modi.
Why? What happened? How come Modi, whose country for decades was at the forefront of championing the Palestinian cause, did not even give the issue public lip service while here.
There are many reasons, some having to do with how Asians do business, others with how Modi prepared the ground for the trip, and still others dealing with India’s emerging power and status in the world.
First a word about style. India, unlike many of the European countries, does not like “megaphone diplomacy.”
The Palestinian issue was discussed during Modi’s visit – as evidenced by a photo that showed Netanyahu’s point man on the Palestinian issue, Yitzhak Molcho, as well as Mossad chief Yossi Cohen – at one of the Modi-Netanyahu meetings.
But the country’s diplomatic style, according to Indian officials, is characterized by dealing with issues quietly, behind the scenes, not in the full glare of camera lights. The officials said this was something India had in common with other Asian powers, such as Japan and China, which also – unlike the Europeans – generally choose not to publicly chastise Israel over its policies.
One of the reasons, the officials said, is that India detests when other countries lecture and hector it about its fraught relationship with Pakistan, an indication New Delhi has internalized – at least when it comes to Israel – Hillel’s famous dictum about not doing to others what is hateful to you.
Secondly, Modi could get away with making this a strictly bilateral trip because he carefully prepared the ground for it.
Elected in 2014, there was talk that he would come to Israel already in the summer of 2015. He didn’t. He waited. He first went to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar and Iran, where he obviously explained the nature of India’s relationship with Israel, and that improved ties with Israel would not come at their expense.
He also invited PA President Mahmoud Abbas to New Delhi in May, publicly supported a Palestinian state, and pledged that India’s historical support for the Palestinians would not waver.
In other words, he got all his ducks in a row before making his historic trip to Israel, something important from an Indian perspective considering that more than seven million Indians live and work in the Persian Gulf.
All the while, from his election in 2014, the relationship with Israel kept growing, amid talk of an imminent visit. And even with this, not only was there no outcry from the Muslim world, there was also no outcry from India’s own Muslims, a population of more than 170 million people.
One of the reasons often given in the past for the brakes the Indians put on the relationship with Israel, was that a high-profile relationship would infuriate India’s Muslims.
India’s Muslims did not take to the streets when it became clear Modi wanted to visit, they didn’t raise a hue and cry. One conclusion is that the resonance of the Palestinian issue on the Muslim-populations in non-Arab countries is not as great as is often imagined. Another conclusion is that with all the turmoil in the Middle East, with the hundreds and thousands who have died in the region since the Arab Spring, the Palestinian issue has simply dropped as a priority issue.
Which does not mean that Modi is blind to domestic considerations, and the impact the issue may have on the electorate. One observer noted that it was not a coincidence that Modi’s visit happened after the regional elections in Uttar Pradesh in March, an Indian state with a strong Muslim population that stands at 19%, 5 percentage points more than the national average. Significantly, Modi’s BJP party won that election by a landslide.
And then there is the issue of India’s international standing. As a country of 1.3 billion people, with a roaring economy and a rapidly expanding middle class, India is a country with which other nations want to have good relations. The Indian market is not one that will be written off just because there may be a political disagreement.
Much has been written about India’s dependence on the Middle East for its economy – 60% of its oil, and even a higher percentage of its natural gas comes from the region. But as much as India wants to buy gas and oil, the Mideast countries, in a vastly changing energy market, want to sell.
For instance, it is hard to believe that the Saudis are going to cut back on oil sales to India to punish Modi for coming to Israel, especially since they too have a relationship – though under the radar – with Israel.
And the Palestinians, while they privately may be seething at Modi’s slight over the last two days, there is only so much they can do, only so much they will want to publicly chastise the Indians. Why? Because in the final analysis, they need gigantic India, much more than the India needs them.
If only the Palestinians could commit to peace
by Shmuel Ben Shmuel The Australian
The South Australian parliament recently passed a motion that calls on the federal government to recognise “the state of Palestine … and announce the conditions and timelines to achieve such recognition”. The motion also requests the federal government state that “unless measures are taken this option (the two-state solution) will vanish”.
The supporters of this motion seem to believe that unilaterally declaring “Palestine” to be a state will make it so and somehow achieve peace. What they fail to consider is that unless the core issues of the conflict are addressed and resolved between both sides through direct negotiations, a mere statement or recognition of statehood will not mend the points of conflict or bring peace. On the contrary, such moves for supporting a unilateral recognition serve to drive the Palestinians further away from joining Israel at the table to find a peaceful solution. Thus, the support for the Palestinians through this avenue unfortunately serves to drive them further from peace.
This year will mark 70 years since the UN partition resolution of 1947, when the Jewish and Arab populations residing in British-mandated Palestine were offered two states for two peoples. The Jewish leadership accepted this proposal, eager to build a Jewish state in their historic homeland. The Arab leadership rejected the partition plan then, and the Palestinian leadership consistently has refused to accept subsequent offers for a Palestinian state to be established peacefully alongside the state of Israel. Recent examples of missed opportunities on behalf of the Palestinians include:
In 2000, then Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat rejected the Israeli PM Ehud Barak’s peace offer, choosing instead to launch the second intifada: a violent campaign of terror against Israelis in which thousands of Israeli civilians were murdered or maimed.
In 2008, then PA leader Mahmoud Abbas rejected then Israeli PM Ehud Olmert’s peace plan, the most far-reaching ever proposed, as acknowledged by then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.
In 2014, PA leader Abbas evaded plans proposed by then US secretary of state John Kerry and has avoided answering a proposal put forth by then president Barack Obama.
Multiple offers for direct peace negotiations have been made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with no willingness to accept on the Palestinian side.
I would suggest to those acting with the best interests of the Palestinians at heart not only to acknowledge the historical facts but also to address what could actually assist the Palestinians in pursuing a state of their own. For a resolution of this ongoing conflict, the Palestinians must recognise Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people. They must renounce terrorism in all shapes and forms rather than promote a culture of hatred and the glorification of terrorism. If peace is to be achieved, they must cease nurturing hatred and violence, and plant the seeds of recognition, tolerance and peace.
Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership seeks not to achieve peace but to internationalise the conflict by calling on the international community for a unilateral recognition of Palestine. Recognition is a shortcut to statehood that bypasses peace, stability and security. This strategy has been observed by Alan Johnson, a renowned British research associate at the Foreign Policy Centre, noting that “rather than negotiate with Israel, making the excruciating compromises that would make peace possible, the Palestinian leaders have decided to negotiate with the international community instead, hoping it will deliver a state without compromise, without recognising Israel, without security — and, therefore, without an end to the conflict”.
Unilateral recognition rewards the Palestinians for their behaviour thus far, which has been characterised by violence and obstructionism. It legitimises the Palestinian campaigns of incitement against Israel and legitimises the ongoing payments by the Palestinian Authority of $300 million of international aid money a year to the families of deceased terrorists who have murdered Israelis, and convicted terrorists jailed in Israeli prisons. It legitimises the naming of schools and streets after terrorists and the indoctrination of the population with hate propaganda against Israelis and Jews. It encourages their refusal to recognise the legitimacy of a Jewish state within any borders. A unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state does not bring peace; it drives it further away.
We greatly appreciate the strong bipartisan support of Israel in Australia, noting that Australia, as Israel, would like to see a two-state solution to the conflict, achieved through direct negotiations. During the historic visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Australia this year, the bipartisan support was loud and clear, heartwarming and appreciated.
We shall continue to strive for peace while ensuring our security, as we have done since the establishment of the state of Israel. We hope to see the South Australian parliament express support for peace and security, rather than promote an avenue that encourages the opposite. By passing that motion, it has done a disservice to Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Shmuel Ben Shmuel is Israel’s ambassador to Australia.
Bob Carr alarms pro-Israelis
by Brad Norington The Australian
The words tumbling forth from Bob Carr to describe Israel’s resistance to statehood for the Palestinian people were strident, even shrill. Addressing a mainstream ALP event jointly hosted by frontbench MPs Anthony Albanese and Tony Burke in Sydney last week, Carr let fly.
He described Israel’s behaviour as “foul”, “cruel”, “getting crueller”, “poisonous”, “hateful”, “illegal”, “aggressive” and “chauvinist”. He referenced internal Israeli critics, from Labor opposition leader Isaac Herzog to historian Benny Morris, agreeing with them in succession.
There were “massacres” of Palestinians by Israeli militiamen when Israel was created as a Jewish state in 1948, Carr said.
A new Israeli law was a “looting bill” and condoned “war crimes” because it permitted seizures of privately owned Palestinian land in addition to territories under occupation.
As evidence of “apartheid” he recounted a reported anecdote about the removal of Palestinian children from a West Bank swimming pool for a busload of touring Israeli settlers.
Carr’s purpose was to argue his case in blunt terms to the party faithful why the NSW ALP should end 40 years of unqualified support for Israel. He wants a resolution passed at the state party conference later this month that “urges the next Labor government to recognise Palestine”.
In recent years Carr has enraged sections of the Australian Jewish community with his apparent shift away from wholehearted Israeli support to views sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
If he was a left-wing radical of minor significance, he would be ignored. But Carr has a platform that he is using to the hilt as a Labor elder — NSW Labor premier for a decade and then Australia’s top diplomat as Julia Gillard’s foreign affairs minister.
Carr’s strategy in pushing for NSW ALP recognition of Palestine “now” is to force it on to the agenda of Labor’s federal conference next year with a further resolution that binds Bill Shorten and his Labor team to a policy shift at the next election, due in 2019.
Despite emerging as an irritant to the pro-Israel camp, Carr was kept in the harness to some extent as Gillard’s foreign minister when her political adviser Bruce Wolpe “banned” him from what Carr regarded as “routine” speaking out about an escalation of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.
Carr did have one big victory, though, for which he takes credit in his tell-all book, Diary of a Foreign Minister, when he successfully stood against Gillard in November 2012 as she pressured the Labor cabinet into accepting a “no” vote by Australia on a UN resolution proposing observer status for Palestine. Australia abstained.
On one level, Carr’s position is no surprise. But his confronting language and tone have shocked the pro-Israel camp to the core. This is no longer a polite debate.
Vic Alhadeff, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive, is disturbed about the “dangerous” encouragement that an ALP policy shift, backed by Carr and some other influential party figures, could give to Palestinians in pursuit of their cause.
The big risk, for Alhadeff and others, is emboldening Palestinian demands for sovereignty — without a renunciation of violence against Israel.
Jewish dismay at Carr — in pushing for recognition of Palestine with a two-state solution now rather than at some later, unspecified time when outstanding differences with Israel are resolved — is compounded by how he is perceived to have made such a dramatic U-turn.
As a young union education officer and aspiring politician, Carr was so passionate in his support of Israel that he set up a Labor Friends of Israel group in 1977. His inspiration was reading a pamphlet written by then ACTU president Bob Hawke that put the case for Israel. Carr was a member of the dominant NSW right faction and a “Cold War warrior”. He was wooed to a cause opposed by the party left, which had thrown its support behind the Palestinians.
In her biography of Hawke, Blanche D’Alpuget writes that he was of the generation that, in its youth, was stunned by news of the Holocaust and then exhilarated by the founding of the Israeli state.
HV Evatt, Australia’s minister for external affairs, early chairman of the UN General Assembly and later federal Labor leader, played a leading role in Israel’s creation.
While Hawke’s first visit to Israel fired his passion, he was also influenced by a mentor, Clyde Holding, who showed “uncanny foresight” about changing ALP attitudes to Israel in the 1970s by encouraging prominent Labor people to speak out in its defence.
Holding told D’Alpuget that young radicals were a bit lost for a cause when the Vietnam War wound down: “They were on the lookout for the next wretched depressed victims of American capitalism — and there were those benighted Palestinians.”
Carr recalls Hawke turning up to a “seedy” Trades Hall office he had rented for Labor Friends of Israel. “He was affected by grog but spoke eloquently, almost coming to tears when he spoke of Golda Meir,” Carr said.
As Hawke later told D’Alpuget of his first meeting with Israel’s then prime minister: “I think that was the most emotional meeting I’ve ever had with anyone in my life.” For Hawke, it was the power of the moment, meeting this old woman who had endured the “unbelievably traumatic experience” of leading her country during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when its survival was under threat from Egyptian and Syrian advances.
Carr says he maintained his loyal support of Israel. When Israel continued its expansion of settlements in occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank, criticism from the ALP’s left grew louder. Carr asked one Jewish contact about the settlement increase: he claims he was told not to worry because they would be “withdrawn” when peace was eventually reached with Palestinians. “The next time I looked there were more,” Carr recalls. “I asked, why, if they are going to withdraw, do they keep planting them so deep into the territories?”
As NSW premier from 1995 to 2005, Carr claims he remained neutral on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He attended functions of both communities in an official capacity. While harbouring doubts about the settlements, the closest to a turning point came in 2003 when he agreed to welcome Palestinian scholar and activist Hanan Ashrawi, who was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize by the University of Sydney.
According to Carr, he had already angered the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network by refusing to condemn Israel’s building of a dividing wall with Palestinians. He told them that if bombs were “going off in central Sydney” while he was premier, he would have built a dividing wall too.
At Ashrawi’s welcome, Carr said he had told Sydney’s Jewish community that a two-state solution would become more difficult with more settlement activity, and Israel risked insurgency and international isolation if its burgeoning Arab population was denied civil rights. But he stresses he also said, “Israel will not be bombed into a peace agreement”. Carr says the negative, even vitriolic reaction to his welcoming of Ashrawi, whom he considered a Palestinian moderate, left him puzzled. He still spoke at Holocaust memorials and Jewish museum events — but his “old fondness” for Israel faded.
When Carr retired as premier, his political career seemed over. He joined Macquarie Bank. The dream of his youth to be a foreign minister in a federal Labor government would not be realised. But six years later fortune knocked at his door in the shape of NSW ALP head office secretary Sam Dastyari and his deputy Chris Minns. “We have an idea,” Dastyari said.
By agreeing to be drafted to the Senate and become foreign minister, Carr helped diffuse an uncomfortable political situation for Gillard, after Kevin Rudd abruptly resigned from the job and made a failed first tilt at reclaiming the Labor leadership.
Carr’s elevation was a brainwave — but he soon became a headache for Gillard. His role in spearheading the cabinet revolt over UN status for Palestine, supported behind the scenes by Palestine sympathiser Dastyari, gave him a cause celebre. It gave him the standing to be regarded as a leader for Palestinian recognition.
Carr says he has immersed himself more in the history and culture of the Palestinian people, but argues the Israeli settlements issue is his prime motivator.
The shift of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government further to the right, with 65 per cent of his cabinet opposed to Palestinian statehood, and a new law allowing seizure of property in the territories, has persuaded him that Israel is not serious about a two-state solution. He believes the alternative of a “greater Israel” with more settlements in occupied territories is a “ruinous path” that will lead to more Palestinian suffering.
The ALP’s current policy on Israel and Palestine, endorsed this week by Bill Shorten’s deputy Tanya Plibersek, despite her past criticism of Israel as a “rogue state”, supports a two-state solution. But it commits Labor in government only to “discussing” joining like-minded nations in recognising a Palestinian state if there is no progress in peace talks.
The last thing Shorten needs in the lead-up to an election he is confident of winning is a heated internal debate on the Israel-Palestine question. He does not want disunity. He wants to focus on a Turnbull Coalition government battered by sniping from Tony Abbott and still struggling to find its way after a narrow win a year ago.
On the current state of numbers, however, it is likely in the absence of a compromise that an unwanted shift in Labor policy will be foisted on Shorten next year. ALP state conferences in Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland have already made their decisions. In NSW, the largest party branch, the left is united and has support from a majority of the NSW right. Shorten’s reluctance to take a stand — despite his closeness to Melbourne’s Jewish community and preference for the status quo — suggests he knows he is in the minority and he lacks the numbers to prevent a change.
Even Hawke has joined criticism of settlements and called for recognition of Palestine. So have Rudd and Gareth Evans. Carr dismisses suggestions he is seeking to make life difficult for Shorten: “It is simply common sense. You can’t suspend the updating of your policy.” He claims the Israeli government has not helped its position with “aggression and rudeness” and some MPs calling Palestinians “subhuman”.
The fact Carr was invited by Albanese and Burke to speak at their event last week in full knowledge that his criticism of Israel would be savage is instructive. They back Carr. Also instructive is census data released this week showing key NSW Labor seats in western Sydney such as Watson, held by Burke, and McMahon, held by Labor treasury spokesman Chris Bowen, have large numbers of voters with Arab ancestry.
Eighteen per cent in Burke’s seat have an Arab background. For Bowen, the figure is 13.2 per cent. The largest with Arab ancestry is Blaxland, also held by a NSW right frontbencher, Jason Clare, with 19.5 per cent. Albanese has his fair share of constituents with Arab ancestry too. All these ambitious Labor MPs — Albanese on the left and Bowen, Burke and Clare on the right — have been mentioned as possible leadership contenders if Shorten’s stocks fall. All are hardheads when it comes to numbers: they want to appeal to the growing Arab-based demographic in their electorates.
The largest Jewish population lives in Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth in Sydney’s eastern suburbs — 12.5 per cent. The second highest concentration is in Melbourne Ports, held by Michael Danby, an ally of Shorten who is Jewish and a bitter opponent of Carr’s.
Danby, currently overseas, expressed optimism during a Sky News interview on Monday that a policy shift for the federal ALP was not inevitable. He said the matter was not a fait accompli in NSW either, and state party votes did not determine national outcomes.
According to Danby, Carr is pushing Palestinian recognition to “fuel his obsession” and put pressure on the Labor leadership.
Michael Easson, an old Carr friend but now on the opposing side, took up the issue in a recent article by arguing that no “responsible” former foreign minister should allow personal emotion and pent-up rage against what Carr has called “the Melbourne Jewish lobby” to cause him to miss the big picture. Easson was drawing on the frustrations Carr expressed in his book.
The most cynical of Carr’s critics claim he is driven by wanting a legacy after not much to show for a decade as NSW premier. “He wants to win the Sydney Peace Prize,” says one.
Carr disagrees. He claims he is not prescriptive about the shape of a Palestinian state, which could be worked out in detail later. The West Bank could be recognised first, and Gaza could join later if its militant Hamas leaders were unwilling to moderate their more hardline stance. According to Carr, Israeli concerns about a Palestinian state posing an existential threat could be allayed by requiring that Palestine be demilitarised. “The Israelis could always come in and take over again if the Palestinians didn’t stick to it,” he says.
Danby questions whether the Palestinians are capable of ruling themselves. “This has got nothing to do with reality,” he says. “You’ve got the Palestinian Authority (cutting) off the electricity to Hamas’s sewage works in Gaza. I mean, how could you hand over a government to two fighting organisations like that?”
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