On Israel's 75th Birthday, a Much Needed Source of Hope

As a child in a Jerusalem apartment building, my neighbors and I had an Independence Day ritual. We used to watch the Mount Herzl ceremony on black-and-white television (color broadcast started only in 1983). Minutes before the MC officially ended Memorial Day and launched Independence Day, we ran to the roof. We cleared cobwebs and pigeon drippings, slid aside several dusty red tiles, stuck our heads in the window we created, and through the pine canopy, saw the modest firework show lighting the sky in multicolor. We then walked to downtown Jerusalem to join strangers in dancing circles, street snacking, and silly pranks.

We celebrated into the night, and once we were teens we celebrated through the night. It was my favorite holiday, a secular holiday that expressed unity and strength, communality in grief and celebration, taking pride in collective accomplishments and common purpose.

Over the years, Israel changed, and with it the character of the holiday. And so did I.

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The Protest Movement in Israel

In recent years, many have depicted the Israeli public as politically apathetic, as dormant. And in some way that was correct. Much to our chagrin and concern, Israelis have not been turning out in droves to protest the Occupation and its woes. But the public protest of the past ten weeks in Israel proves that political indifference does not characterize current Israeli society.

For the past ten weeks, large segments of the Israeli public have protested in the streets against the anti-democratic policies of Benjamin Netanyahu’s extremist, ultra-nationalist government. For ten weeks, both on Saturday night and on weekdays, hundreds of thousands have turned out to protest, often clashing with police forces. Members of Netanyahu’s cabinet assumed that the protest would subside just as it had erupted, but the opposite happened.

On recent Saturday nights, in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem Haifa and other towns, the overall number of demonstrators reached 400,000 or 500,000. If the same proportion of Americans took to the street to demonstrate, there would be almost 18 million people protesting in US cities. According to some estimates, 20% of Israelis have participated in some act of protest against their government’s legislative coup in the past three months. This coming Saturday, protest action is planned in 170 sites across Israel.

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Netanyahu Lets the Fox into the Henhouse

There is a fox in the henhouse. Benjamin Netanyahu let it in.

In the course of the Israeli government coalition negotiations, the Religious Zionism party’s leader Bezalel Smotrich foxed his way to a position that would allow him to implement his plan to become the settlement tsar in Netanyahu’s government and de-facto annex the settlements and the settlers to Israel.

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Will Netanyahu’s Pyromaniac Allies Burn the West Bank?

Israel’s incoming government seems likely to escalate the already alarming violent instability in the West Bank.

Senior Israeli security officials are reportedly warning the politicians – both outgoing but mostly incoming – of further decline in the security situation in the West Bank, urging restraint and self-discipline.

Well, good luck to anyone trying to restrain and discipline Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich and their fellow travelers, as well as thousands of Israeli soldiers policing the West Bank, who see the November 1st election results as a license to brutalize Palestinians and Israeli anti-occupation activists.

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Yom Kippur, War, and Peace

For many Israelis of my generation, even more than spiritual reflection, Yom Kippur evokes political reflections on war and peace. 

Every year since 1973, Yom Kippur takes me back to that dark period in Israeli history, when a disastrous war drove Israelis to question their leaders, the power of their military, their sense of invincibility and the very ability of their national home to survive. Israel won the war, but the loss was immense. Some 2,200 soldiers died and 7,250 were injured. It caused one of the deepest political crises in Israel’s history. It forced a painful collective introspection and drive to overcome the hubris and sense of complacency in the wake of Israel’s spectacular victory in the 1967 Six-Day War. That complacency and hubris was known in colloquial Hebrew as the “conceptsia” (conception).    

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Twenty-Two Years after the Second Intifada, Violence is Still a Symptom of the Conflict

Twenty-two years ago, then-head of Israel’s opposition Ariel Sharon, escorted by a thousand Israeli police officers, provocatively visited Jerusalem’s Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, igniting the second popular Palestinian uprising (the second intifada). This protracted armed conflict, which included brutal Palestinian terrorist attacks and ruthless Israeli operations to re-conquer the West Bank, caused more than 1,000 Israeli fatalities and more than 2,700 Palestinian fatalities. Thousands more were injured and hundreds of thousands traumatized.      

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The Vision of Oslo, 29 Years Later

Twenty-nine years ago this week, the leaders of Americans for Peace Now stood among the many dignitaries at the signing ceremony of the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn. APN has worked behind the scenes in the years that preceded Oslo to push the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace, advancing the dialogue between Washington and the PLO, and helping induce the détente in relations between the Israel and the Palestinian leadership.

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After the Ceasefire: From Conflict Management to Conflict Resolution

By Ori Nir

A poll released recently by the Brookings Institute shows that over half of Americans (46% of Republicans and 57% of Democrats) do not know what the Biden administration’s position is on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Surprising? Not really. Because although the administration has a position on the issue, it does not have a solid policy, and definitely not the kind of vision-driven conflict-solving policy that past administrations had.

Based on private conversations and public statements by members of the Biden administration’s Middle East policy team, the administration’s policy on this issue partially stems from Israel’s policy, which can best be characterized as “conflict management” rather than conflict resolution.

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On Israel’s Birthday, Wishing for Peace and Vowing to Advance it

Jerusalem’s municipality is reportedly planning the erection of a 100 yard tall flag pole, twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, to hoist a blue-and-white Israel flag that is 108 feet long and 79 feet wide. The goal, according to the report, is for the flag to be seen from every corner of the city. It will, not coincidentally, be most visible from the Old City and its surrounding East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhoods.

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US-Palestinian Economic Détente Alone is not a Strategy

The Biden administration last week issued a joint statement with the Palestinian Authority announcing the resumption of the U.S.-Palestinian Economic Dialogue (USPED).

In a virtual meeting, administration officials and senior representatives of the Palestinian Authority “recognized the importance of restored political and economic relations between the U.S. government and the Palestinian Authority and pledged to expand and deepen cooperation and coordination across a range of sectors,” the statement said. The re-activation of this body reverses one more component of the Trump administration’s sweeping anti-Palestinian policy.

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