On Palestine and Israel

February 26, 2015

4 min read

There are many–some of them well placed, and some of them Jews–who feel that on the short list of the most worthy causes is to create a Palestinian state and to downsize Israel, perhaps down to the size of nothing.

Against them are several instances that question such grand aims, either as being unsuitable or unattainable.

One is an occurrence alongside Jerusalem’s Old City, at one of the places where every so often a Palestinian seeks to express the intensity of national or religious feelings by attacking a religious Jew. The site is on the route of ultra-Orthodox Jews from their neighborhoods to and from the Western Wall for occasions of prayer, and close to Palestinian neighborhoods both inside and outside the Old City. It is also close to Jerusalem’s City Hall.

There was a stabbing this week just as Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat and his bodyguard where passing the site. It also occurred within range of the street cameras placed at troublesome locations as well as countless personal cell phone cameras of other pedestrians and drivers.

What we’ve seen is Hizzoner leading the charge against the attacker, forcing him to the ground, and then looking after the victim once others had secured control.

Adding to the stature of Barkat was the modesty with which he described his actions. He assigned to his guard the initiative, even while the pictures show that it was the Mayor who jumped on the man who had a knife and was looking for other victims.

With all the plaudits directed at Rudi Guliani, Richard Daley, Fiorello LaGuardia, Michael Curley, Teddy Kollek  and other iconic mayors, I don’t recall anything like this, capable of reminding the world of Jerusalem’s status and  capacity to defend itself.

Alas, Barkat’s feat is not the only indication about the character of Israeli society.

The episode might do a bit to overcome the problematic reputations of two former mayors (one of also a former Prime Minister) appealing convictions on charges of corruption, and stories about current occupants of the Prime Minister’s residence.

At the lower end of Israeli society–as well as reflecting the pervasive presence of cell phone cameras–is a scene on a cheap weekend vacation flight to Varna, Bulgaria. It shows a passenger, her sister, and a nearby man screaming at stewards about not being able to buy duty free chocolates. You can find the widely broadcast video by Googling “chocolate flight,” and won’t need Hebrew to get the drift. The cartoonist of Ha’aretz labels his rendition, “Land of wild creatures.”

​We must be careful how we behave. Chances are there’ll be a cell phone with video capacity alongside any notable outburst.

The heroic actions of Jerusalem’s mayor against Palestinian violence is not the only event that ought to cause the Palestinian chorus to reconsider expectations.

The Palestinian leadership may think of itself on the high ground as it threatens Israel via the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and parades in behalf of BDS by college students and faculty, labor unions, and politicians. However a decision of a Federal Court in New York City to hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for terror and to award $655.5 million in damages will, at the least, dirty the hands of Palestinian applicants to the International Criminal Court. Israel has also taken steps to remind the Palestinians of how far they must go in order to gain anything close to independence. It is withholding the funds collected at Israeli ports for Palestinian imports. Palestine is a long way from  having an air or sea port of its own. The Israel Electric Company cut for a while the current supplied to Nablus and Jenin due to a large unpaid bill owed by the Palestine Authority. And the long touted new Palestinian city of Rawabi has been unable to go forward without an agreement with Israel over the supply of water.

There are also the unremoved piles of rubble and unrepaired structures and infrastructure in Gaza. It can’t be pleasant for the people in the cold and rain, but that’s what living under Palestinian authorities may produce. The head of the Arab League assigns the delay in reconstruction to the enormous shortfall in donations promised by Middle Eastern and other governments, and the failure of Fatah and Hamas to settle their quarrels about control of Gaza and the management of construction supplies.

There has been an uptick in Palestinian and Israeli activity in the West Bank, with a renewal of stone throwing at light rail trains as they pass Palestinian neighborhoods, and the death of a Palestinian while Israeli security forces were going after some wanted individuals and searching for stores of munitions. Parents of the young man claim he was an innocent bystander.

BIN-OpEd-Experts-300x250(1)The top headline on the New York Times International Home site was, “Israeli Troops Kill Palestinian in Overnight West Bank Raid.” The article repeats the Palestinian claim that the man shot was an innocent observer.

There should be no surprises in any of the above for sober observers of the Middle East, as opposed to those who dream of a Palestine state joining a community of democratic, humane, and well governed Muslim societies.

None of this will settle the problems between Israel and the Palestinians. Americans who brought the legal action against Palestine due to terror attacks that killed and injured family members can expect lengthy appeals of the initial verdict. Palestinians and other Muslims will continue to express with knives and other weapons their religious and national animosities against Jews. US and European governments will continue their pressure on Israel to release Palestinian funds and supply electricity. Many of those demonstrating for the sake of Palestine will not take notice of the events described here, or see in them additional justification for their continued clamor.

Next up is Bibi’s speech. Then Israel’s election. Then something to be decided in Washington and Europe about Iran. And don’t forget ISIS.

Whatever the flow, no one should expect Israel to go belly up, or the early emergence of an enlightened, independent, and well governed Palestine.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post

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