Letter to the Editor

A particularly inane op-ed has been making the rounds in small town newspapers regarding the current upheaval in Egypt on the subject of American aid the past two weeks including my own hometown paper, the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Washington.

Written by one John Quigley, a professor emeritus of law at Ohio State University, it makes the argument that the United States should cut military aid to Egypt following its violent crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protesters. Yet the justification for this move is not to reprimand the military coup for its wanton repression, but to ensure Egypt’s return to a once “united Arab-country front in support of a just accommodation for the Palestinians vis-a-vis Israel.” He reasons that the Camp David Agreement, from which this aid stems and which he believes fractured this unity, “has been disastrous for the cause of peace in the Middle East.”

Aside from the op-ed itself being quite poorly written and reasoned, it conveniently overlooks the fact that 1) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has little to nothing to do with the current upheaval in Egypt and 2) the period of imagined unity for which the author yearns was one of violently destructive and globally destabilizing interstate warfare.

To the latter point, I offer my response.

Polls: The UNGA and a Palestinian State, Part 3


In the previous two posts, I have explored the Israeli public response to the Palestinian Authority’s intent to unilaterally declare independence and seek international diplomatic recognition at the UN General Assembly in September 2011.

Monthly public opinion data gathered by the Peace Index over the last six months indicates that Israelis are increasingly of the belief that the PA’s efforts are credible and that Israel will suffer international condemnation, greater diplomatic isolation, and potentially a new Palestinian intifada if it refuses to recognize a Palestinian state in the territories of Gaza, the West Bank, and eastern Jerusalem. However, polling also indicates that Israelis believe that international pressure will not increase significantly nor would greater political moderation by the Israeli government result in a Palestinian return to negotiations or the aversion of a new violent Palestinian uprising, particularly if Israel still refuses to withdraw from the West Bank.

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Poll: Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State

israeli-democracy-indexIn November 2010, the Israel Democracy Institute’s Guttman Center came out with its annual Israeli Democracy Index report, titled Auditing Israeli Democracy: Democratic Values in Practice. The index is a “report card” of sorts of Israeli democracy, measuring Israeli attitudes toward democratic values compared to international indicators and previous years’ reports.

Of particular interest to me are attitudes on Israel as a Jewish and/or Democratic state. These perspectives shape not only Israeli attitudes toward domestic governance, tolerance of minorities, and the relationship between religious and political institutions, but may also have a critical impact on how Israelis approach the question of territorial compromise. A frequently cited argument is that unless Israel withdraws from the West Bank, it will be forced to formally absorb its Arab population.

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Interview with Yehuda Harel


On Monday, I traveled to Katzrin to meet with Yehuda Harel. Known in some circles as the “father of settlement” in the Golan, Harel was intimately involved with the founding of Merom Golan, the first Jewish settlement to be built in any of the newly conquered territories after the 1967 Six Day War. As a former head of the Golan Residents Committee, he helped found some 33 Jewish communities in the Heights.

Harel has been deeply politically involved in the struggle (מאבק) to prevent Israeli withdrawal from the territory. A former aide to Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and active in the Labour Party (עבודה), he broke from the party in protest of PM Shimon Peres’ moves to negotiate with Syria over the Golan. In 1996, along with former Avodah MKs Avigdor Kahalani and Emanuel Zisman, he help found a short-lived political party: the Third Way. The party won four seats in the 1996 Knesset elections, Harel among them, on a platform of opposition to withdrawal from the Golan. As a coalition partner in Netanyahu’s Likud-led government, it played a pivotal role in ensuring majority parliamentary opposition to territorial negotiations with Syria. In the 1999 elections, the party failed to secure a seat and exited the Israeli political stage.

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Encounter Program in Bethlehem


Last week on Wednesday and Thursday, I traveled to Bethlehem with Encounter, a program which brings diaspora Jews to meet with members of Palestinian civil society in the West Bank. Encounter sees itself as “seeding a cadre of Jewish leadership to transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to heal internal Jewish communal rifts formed in its wake.”

The organization seeks to address what it sees as a lack of knowledge and understanding among diaspora Jewry about Palestinians and their perspectives in their ongoing conflict with Israel. By facilitating interactions, dialogue, and mutual respect between Jews and Palestinians, they hope to encourage deeper engagement by diaspora Jewry with the social and political aspirations of Palestinian Arabs. The first step in this process is bringing prospective Jewish leaders into face-to-face contact with members of Palestinian civil society who embrace peace, non-violence, and dialogue.

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