YNet: Ex-Palestinian prisoner teaches Hebrew and tolerance

Esmat Mansour, who helped 3 older teens stab an Israeli man to death in 1993, was freed in August 2013 in the first of the prisoner releases.

by AP

Facing a classroom of Palestinian 10th graders, Hebrew teacher Esmat Mansour asks his students who is for and against learning the language. A few raise their hands in favor, others against and he asks both sides to explain.

Mansour believes such debates will help motivate young Palestinians to study Israel's dominant language. They need to know Hebrew to be able to deal with "the Israeli occupiers," but also to build bridges in the future, he says.

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Haaretz: End the conflict - a Jewish imperative

We must not allow the messianisms of the religious right cloud the call from our greatest religious authorities to return the territories, for the sake of saving life.

By Rabbi Daniel Landes

For the religious Zionist Jew who wishes to grasp Israel’s present situation in a rational way, the hardest act is to shake off the messianisms that envelop his society - ranging from overt and imminent “end-time” scenarios, to the hazy metaphor of the “beginning of the dawn of our salvation”.

What they share and engender is an optimistic feeling of ultimate victory and security. We are assured that the Jews’ political failure and physical catastrophe is as finished as the Galut (Exile). But in the actual psyche of the religious Zionist, the persistently suppressed horror of that past repeating itself propels us further - into a delusional messianism that needs to be coupled to a secular rightwing ideology promising salvation by standing ‘strong’ and ‘proud’, that is confirmed by our increasing isolation.

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The New York Times: Israel’s Choice

In Washington this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel sounded two different notes about peace negotiations with the Palestinians, which are nearing a critical juncture. In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby, he enthusiastically advocated a peace agreement as a means to improve Israel’s ties with its Arab neighbors and “catapult the region forward” on issues like health, energy and education.

But at other moments, a more familiar skepticism was apparent. He demanded that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state with “no excuses, no delays.” In response, a senior Palestinian official, Nabil Shaath, accused Mr. Netanyahu of putting an end to peace talks because Palestinians have already rejected that designation. (Palestinians recognize Israel as a state, but not as a Jewish state because they believe that that would undercut the rights of Palestinian refugees.) And, on Monday, at the White House, Mr. Netanyahu asserted that while Israel has worked hard to advance peace, the Palestinians have not.

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APN's Ori Nir in Haaretz: When will the U.S. Jewish community talk peace?

How will the U.S. Jewish establishment, such as AIPAC, confront the prospect of peace for Israel when it is mired in an echo chamber of self-righteous axioms and simplistic thinking?

At the entrance to the enormous hall at the Washington Convention Center, where some 14,000 chairs were lined up for AIPAC’s conference participants, stood a television reporter holding a microphone, seeking interviewees.

"How’s it going?" I asked. “Not so good,” he replied. “I was sent to do a story on what AIPAC members have to say about prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace and nobody is willing to talk about it. All they want to talk about is Iran.”

He was right. Hard-line statements on Iran elicited long standing ovations, time after time, while hopeful comments on the possibility of peace were all but ignored. It got so bad that two prominent Israelis – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and legendary Israeli high-tech entrepreneur Yossi Vardi – had to urge the armada of pro-Israel lobbyists to applaud comments they made about peace. And when Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director of eighteen years, addressed the crowd with a speech that typically sets the policy agenda for the conference, all he spoke about was Iran.

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Foreign Policy: America Has a Plan. And, No, It Isn't One That Israel Would Like.

New poll shows that if the two-state solution collapses, U.S. public favors democracy over Jewishness.

By Shibley Telhami

Middle East leaders are beating a path to the White House's door. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Barack Obama on March 3, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will arrive on March 17 to discuss the U.S. administration's diplomatic effort to reach a two-state solution.

Although Secretary of State John Kerry has said that "failure is not an option" in these talks, the reality is that both Israelis and Palestinians assume that there is only a slim chance of finding a conflict-ending solution. The president himself put the odds at less than 50 percent. With the Obama administration's goal to reach a negotiated settlement set for the end of April, we could be witnessing the death of the two-state solution. A key, but often unasked, question is whether the American public even cares.

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Foreign Policy: Bibi Trapped

By Aaron David Miller

Why Israel's prime minister can't call the shots on Iran or the peace process.

Benjamin Netanyahu is one smart Israeli politician. This year, he will become the longest continuously serving prime minister in Israel's history. He is the only Israeli leader to win back-to-back elections. And despite his detractors' efforts to portray him as an illegitimate expression of Israeli popular desires, his staying power -- at least on security and foreign policy -- is an authentic expression of where much of the country stands in 2014.

Yet on the eve of his White House meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday, March 3, when the two leaders will discuss Iran, peace talks, and other issues, Bibi faces the prospect of being ensnared in traps that will limit his room to maneuver and undermine Israel's interests, as he defines them.

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Is a Settlement Boycott Best for Israel? APN's Lara Friedman in the New York Times

A powerful debate between APN's Lara Friedman and Rabbi Daniel Gordis in the New York Times.

Introduction

Israel’s expansion of settlements in the occupied territories has been an obstacle to the two-state solution, considered the most likely hope for peace with the Palestinians.

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The Forward: "Business Coalition Pushes Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu To Forge Peace Deal"

Uncertainty Dampens Growth on Both Sides of Green Line

By Nathan Jeffay

The latest coalition of Israelis and Palestinians hoping to affect the settlement of the conflict is not your usual bunch of peace activists. They are wealthy businesspeople who work in a broad range of sectors, from construction to high-tech. They don’t need to struggle to be heard in the halls of power — they already have the ears of everyone from Israel’s prime minister to the leaders of Hamas.

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Steven Kaplan and Sanford Weiner in the Jewish Journal: A victory against anti-Israel BDS

Kaplan_Weiner_JewishJournal

Israelis and supporters of Israel are increasingly concerned about international pressure — and with good reason. There was last year’s directive from the European Union, which threatened important Israel-EU cooperation; the recent uproar about SodaStream, which brought Israel unflattering media attention; and the almost daily news of some European country singling out an Israeli company for negative treatment.

Are these victories for the global BDS movement — the movement calling on people and nations to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel? Absolutely not. 

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SodaStream, an Israeli company with a production facility in a West Bank settlement, made headlines recently due to the superstar status of its spokeswoman, Scarlett Johansson. But the real stars of the Israeli business community are those who joined with their Palestinian counterparts in an effort to use their economic heft to urge political leaders to achieve a two-state solution as soon as possible.

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