Analysis from Israel

If you want to know the real obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace, take a look at what Israel’s “peace partner” is doing in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus. Taysir Nasrallah, a senior member of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party who is currently director-general of the Nablus governor’s office, gave Haaretzreporter Avi Issacharoff a tour of Balata’s seven-year-old community center this week. And while the term “community center” evokes images of peaceful, wholesome activity, what’s actually going on there, by Nasrallah’s own proud account, is anything but:

“We give the kids courses on the right of return and teach them that the Israelis stole their lands. We’ve sent hundreds of camp children into Israel to see the villages and towns that were taken from us. We took them to Jaffa, Ramle.

“Our message is that without a doubt they will return to the places from which they were driven out,” he says.

Jaffa and Ramle aren’t West Bank settlements; they are towns in pre-1967 Israel. And these are the locales Israel’s “peace partner” is teaching Palestinian children to consider their own. Indeed, Issacharoff reported, Nasrallah’s “dream is to have the [community] center move to Jaffa when the day comes”; hence its name: the Jaffa Center. Moreover, children are regularly assigned presentations involving a map of Israel, but “for them it has always been and remains the map of Palestine.”

Then there’s the fact the children are being taught “Israelis stole their lands” – in other words, that Jews have no right to a state in any portion of what is today Israel; they are thieves who must be stripped of their ill-gotten gains. That’s hardly a message conducive to peaceful coexistence.

Nor is the effort to indoctrinate them into demanding a “right of return” – a euphemism for flooding pre-1967 Israel with 4.8 million Palestinian  refugees and their descendants who, together with Israel’s  1.6 million Arab citizens, would outnumber its 5.8 million Jews and turn the Jewish state into a second Palestinian one (the first being the judenrein Palestinian state slated for the West Bank and Gaza).

 And remember, this isn’t Hamas conducting these indoctrination sessions: It’s Israel’s “peace partner,” the “moderate” Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. Moreover, the PA is targeting precisely those youths it sees as future leaders. Just this week, Issacharoff reported, 35 children completed a leadership course at the center.

It ought to be obvious peace will never be possible as long as even Palestinian “moderates” insist Jews have no right to statehood in any part of this land, that Palestinians should seek to obtain pre-1967 Israel as well as the West Bank and Gaza, and that pre-1967 Israel should become another Arab-majority state instead of a Jewish one. Indeed, this is obvious to most Israelis; that’s why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu keeps reiterating that Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is the key to peace.

Unfortunately, most Westerners still don’t seem to get it, and that’s precisely why all their efforts to broker a deal keep failing. To solve any problem, you first have to acknowledge its existence.

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Why Israel Needs a Better Political Class

Note: This piece is a response to an essay by Haviv Rettig Gur, which can be found here

Israel’s current political crisis exemplifies the maxim that hard cases make bad law. This case is desperate. Six months after the coronavirus erupted and nine months after the fiscal year began, Israel still lacks both a functioning contact-tracing system and an approved 2020 budget, mainly because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is more worried about politics than the domestic problems that Israel now confronts. The government’s failure to perform these basic tasks obviously invites the conclusion that civil servants’ far-reaching powers must not only be preserved, but perhaps even increased.

This would be the wrong conclusion. Bureaucrats, especially when they have great power, are vulnerable to the same ills as elected politicians. But unlike politicians, they are completely unaccountable to the public.

That doesn’t mean Haviv Rettig Gur is wrong to deem them indispensable. They provide institutional memory, flesh out elected officials’ policies, and supply information the politicians may not know and options they may not have considered. Yet the current crisis shows in several ways why they neither can nor should substitute for elected politicians.

First, bureaucrats are no less prone to poor judgment than politicians. As evidence, consider Siegal Sadetzki, part of the Netanyahu-led triumvirate that ran Israel’s initial response to the coronavirus. It’s unsurprising that Gur never mentioned Sadetzki even as he lauded the triumvirate’s third member, former Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov; she and her fellow Health Ministry staffers are a major reason why Israel still lacks a functional test-and-trace system.

Sadetzki, an epidemiologist, was the ministry’s director of public-health services and the only member of the triumvirate with professional expertise in epidemics (Bar Siman-Tov is an economist). As such, her input was crucial. Yet she adamantly opposed expanding virus testing, even publicly asserting that “Too much testing will increase complacence.” She opposed letting organizations outside the public-health system do lab work for coronavirus tests, even though the system was overwhelmed. She opposed sewage monitoring to track the spread of the virus. And on, and on.

Moreover, even after acknowledging that test-and-trace was necessary, ministry bureaucrats insisted for months that their ministry do the tracing despite its glaringly inadequate manpower. Only in August was the job finally given to the army, which does have the requisite personnel. And the system still isn’t fully operational.

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