Thursday, March 19, 2009

Letter from Netanya: A Crazy Week

Here is the latest dispatch from Jan Gaines in Netanya, following an eventful week in Israel. Some of her observations are backed up by this disturbing new study, The Gaza War and the New Outburst of Anti-Semitism:

Dear Friends,

While you were watching the media ballyhooed hysteria over AIG, we were having our own emotional roller coaster ride here. Over two events: the failure of the efforts to release Gilad Schalit, and the failure so far of Bibi to get a government together.

In a way, Israel doomed the failure of the Schalit talks with Hamas. There was such a media over the top coverage of the Schalit family's efforts, camped out in tents opposite the prime minister's residence and office, that Hamas probably figured they could just keep asking for more and public opinion would force the government to give in to their demands. That this didn't happen was a great relief to me and to many conflicted Israelis. When is too much blackmail just too much??

Now the govt. is proposing to eliminate all the perks that Palestinian prisoners have here, including TV, email & computer usage, telephone, frequent family visits, lots of exercise, and others. They are only required to allow Red Cross visits and since NO ONE has been allowed to see Schalit in 3 years, it is time for limiting the good life of these Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas is riding high these days. They have been promised lots of money to rebuild Gaza, they have all the NGO's in the world behind them, calling Israel a Nazi regime, committing atrocities. They have pressured the Europeans to loosen up their demands to honor past agreements and to recognize Israel. In short, they are winning the PR battle world wide. All they have to do is bide their time and the west will cave in, as they see it.

Never mind that they can't form a unity govt. with the PA. They can go around Abbas, call for a new election, and win the West Bank that way. And they never hide their repeated vow to eliminate the State of Israel.

In the meantime, Bibi is frantically trying to balance the right wing parties in his coaltion with at least one on the left. Livni has stubbornly held out, refusing to join the coalition using flimsy excuses. She feels certain this govt. won't last and next time she will win. She has ignored calls to join in a unity govt. for the sake of the country, showing that in the end she's just another self-seeking politician and not the clean and principled leader she made herself out to be.

I think she's in for a surprise if she thinks she can win next time.

So Bibi is still trying to woo Barak and Labor, and Barak is dying to come into the govt. but the Labor party is mostly opposed and Barak doesn't have a great deal of control over the party. It would be good for the country if Labor would join, but again, all of the members are thinking only of themselves. They too think a Bibi govt. won't last and they can do better in the opposition, trying to shoot him down.

If Lieberman becomes Foreign Minister, all those Europeans and Americans who are screaming "extremist, right wing racist" are in for a surprise. He has turned out to be very pragmatic. He hasn't made big demands for juicy ministerial appointments. His real platform is electoral reform, civil marriage and a loosening of religious control over conversions. The "loyalty oath" issue has completely faded away here, altho it is used to beat us over the head by the world press.

But here we go into a lovely, cool spring, heralding Pesach. I've written before about how the smells (orange blossoms) and sights (flowers everywhere) and sounds (Pesach songs in the schools) all presage this wonderful holiday. Even tho we have two weeks to go, I'm already trying to clear out my freezer of bread and cake, by inviting friends over or taking leftovers to others for shared meals. This year I'll be with the family I've been with for over 10 years, having Seder on a moshav in the Galilee, near hot springs and Mt. Gilboa. There will be 22 of us, all in one large house, with 5 coming from the States and the rest from Haifa, Kibbutz Ketura, and Jerusalem suburbs. Plus the 3 of us "elders". Each year there is more and more Hebrew spoken and sung and I would like to turn back the clock and grow up here so I could join in.

Time for a morning walk on the beach. It's 65 and sunny.

Shabbat Shalom, Jan

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