• Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    Goose on Hate Crimes and Misdemean…
    Hay Terr on Hail the Jewish State; Screw…
    Mr. B on Hail the Jewish State; Screw…
    Judah on The Villa in the Jungle
    Mr. B on Is Israel Next?
  • Top Posts

  • Search by Category

  • Archives

  • Pages

  • Twitter

  • Meta

  • Advertisements

The Villa in the Jungle

ofdesign.net

Three months ago Ehud Barak—former Israeli Prime Minister, Defense Minister, IDF Chief of Staff, commander of the storied Sayeret Matkal, and still the most decorated IDF soldier—visited our town as part of the ‘Sacramento Speakers Series.” Like other expatriate Israelis, and many Jews in our community, I was eager to hear Barak’s talk, and learn of his views regarding the current Israel government and political situation, the Palestinian issue, Middle East, Iran, war and peace. To be frank, I was largely disappointed, as he hardly touched on these topics, at least not in his initial long talk. The second part of the evening however—the interview session, where he was asked question by a local TV personality—was much more interesting and he was forced to touch upon these topics, and was also more revealing as to who Ehud Barak the person is.

The reason I’m coming back to his talk so late is because one thing, one phrase of his, had remained planted in my head—and kept bothering me—more than anything else he’d said that evening. He’d kept comparing Israel to “The Villa in the Jungle,” at least a couple of times (this being his favorite moniker). There was also an element of smugness in him, of look how clever I am, saying that. And I came to believe that this saying is symptomatic of a lot of what’s wrong with Israel’s attitude and politics today, with the army’s parlance and ‘school-of-thought’ adopted by political leaders. I thought it’s well worth analyzing. So here goes:

The first thing to disturb me in this saying was the stench of plain racism that came from it. We built, he actually said, a beautiful (white, I assume) villa in the jungle (dark, I assume). Inside, he said, we’re doing very well, but once we venture outside, we’re surrounded by the (black, I assume) barbarians at the gate. What can we do, he really remarked, but we are not living in Canada. This was, still is, so reminiscent of South Africa, and how the white minority, the Anglo and Dutch outsiders had ruled over the native, black majority there for so many years. And how they thought of, and behaved toward, the people surrounding them. Indeed, Israel is accused by many of being in the process of creating an Apartheid state.

It’s also, for second, not exactly true. In the north of Israel we have Lebanon. For many years, it was regarded, especially Beirut, as the ‘Paris’ of the Middle East.’ Southern Lebanon, where Hazboollah now is completely in charge, was the bastion of the Christians, historically an educated, culturally sound society and place (I know, I’ve been there). If not for the Palestinian issue—which Israel continuously refuses to solve, and to acknowledge as being the central issue, the core of the conflict—things there would’ve been much, much better.

True, it was Ehud Barak, in his short stint as Prime Minister, who pulled the IDF out of Lebanon. It’s also true that he tried to strike a deal with Arafat—unreciprocated unfortunately—in order to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. There are some ongoing efforts to promote coexistence with the Israeli Arabs, and with Palestinians. And not that there were never any other serious peace negotiations and attempts on Israel’s part. Yitzhak Rabin paid with his life for one such an attempt. Still, in the current political climate in Israel, these are too few and far between, and the majority of Israelis continue to move right-of-center, and are opposed to any compromise with the Palestinians.

And then we have Syria and Jordan to the East. Yes, things in Syria are horrendous currently, but that country carries a lot of historical, cultural significant in the Middle East and the world. And so does Jordan. And we also have Egypt in the south, with its own immense historical, cultural treasures. It’s not as if we Jews, by coming to the land of our forefathers, are the only cultured, educated, enlightened people around.

It’s also brings to mind the larger question of how we see ourselves—Israel that is, and its people—living in the region. Are we there to erect and solidify our walls (that indeed Israel keeps building), to separate ourselves in our fortified “Villa,” fighting and dreading the day we’ll be overrun by the wild people of the “Jungle.” Or do we, finally, want to be an integral part of that rough neighborhood. To belong, at least, if not necessarily to assimilate. To live in peace with our surrounding neighbors, and not in a constant war.

Finally, this saying—which depicts, describes Israel as the “Villa in the Jungle”—represents a lot of the problems afflicting today’s Israel and its people. It’s the reason why, despite all its advances—in agriculture, hi-tech, culture, democracy, and yes, military might—it’s still so isolated, especially culturally. Not that surprising then that Natalie Portman, Paul McCartney, the singer Lorde, and the Argentinian Soccer team, all refused to come to Israel lately. In a way, Israel brings it upon itself, isolating itself—culturally and politically especially—with this attitude; which the saying—the “Villa in the Jungle”—is such a reflection of.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

Advertisements

Clinton(s) and Israel

Clinton_Netanyahu_Abbas_Mitchell

Clinton_Netanyahu_Abbas_Mitchell

As we are fast approaching the November general election, it seems clear to me – I’ll bet whatever little money I have on this outcome – that unless an unforeseen event/disaster would to occur, Hillary Clinton will win the election and will become the next American President. It is time therefore to try to assess what shape the relation between the new administration and Israel will be, and what change Hillary Clinton might bring to this traditionally strong alliance; an alliance that has been shaken and hurt quite a bit throughout the Obama administration, but still withstood the constant struggle with the Netanyahu government.

This consequence was as result, mostly, of the different personalities of the two leaders, and their different outlook on the political international arena. Obama, essentially so, is a peace maker. A compromiser by nature. He won the election in large part on the fact that he objected to the war in Iraq, which Netanyahu supported, and had promised to do anything in his power to end that war, as well as the Afghanistan war, and to disengage America from the conflicts in the Middle East. These were his main objectives, and he has been mostly successful in enforcing this outcome; albeit with some troubling results, and ongoing conflicts.

Netanyahu, on the other hand, who has supported the Republicans in the American Congress and elections, as well as in all other issues throughout the Obama administration’s years in power – at times quite vocally and outrageously – is a different sort of a leader. To begin with, he is not a peacemaker; never was, never will. Peace with the Palestinians, resolving that conflict, is the last thing on his mind. Politically, unlike Obama – very much in the vein of Putin and Erdogan though — all he’s concern with is staying in power, and like these two leaders, if his opponents – remember Rabin? – would have to die and be buried because of that hunger for power, so be it. Because of this, and because of Obama’s preoccupation with Iraq and Afghanistan – but it must be said here, also because Netanyahu is a much more experienced leader — he was able to win most of his fights with Obama, and handily so I might add, except the last one concerning the Iran nuclear deal, in which Obama finally showed some muscles and guts in his fight against the Netanyahu-AIPAC-Republican-Adelson coalition, and has won that battle.

But Hillary Clinton is a different egg. To begin with, personality wise, she seems to be tougher than Obama, and her origin is in fact as a Republican by youth, nurture and maybe by inclination, which all point to personality traits similar to those of Netanyahu. It makes her, therefore, more capable of understanding his ruthlessness, and if found in a clash with him, not to tend to back down so easily as Obama has done. Even more so, she brings to the table her experience not only in the international political arena as a whole, but in the Middle East and with Netanyahu in particular. From the failed Sharm el-Sheikh peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in September 2010, which she had chaired, and which Netanyahu had derailed at the end with the resumption of settlement activity, to her famous clash with him on new housing units to be built in East Jerusalem (her infamous telephone conversation with him was well documented here on this blog on March 17, 2010*), to her instrumental tough stance that brought about a ceasefire in the belligerence escalation with Hamas in Gaza in November 2012. In short, she knows what a tough cookie Netanyahu is, and won’t easily be fooled by him**.

The big question is, would she invest the effort, time and resources in bringing an end to that ageless conflict. I’d say on record here that I think the chances are greater than in the Obama administration that she would. For a number of reasons. First, she is not carrying the burden, and necessity of putting an end to wars with direct American participation. She will be in charge of somehow defusing the turmoil that the Middle East is today. The burden that she carries is her support of the Iraq War in the Senate, and therefore bringing peace to the region might be of added personal challenge and importance to her. Not to mention that the need, internationally, to conquer terrorism and bring stability to this combustible region is of the utmost importance.

Whether she sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as some do, as the cause, or the seed of all the troubles in the region, I do not know. But it is fair to assume that at the very least she sees the enormous benefits – to America, to the region, to the world – from resolving this issue. It is my opinion that she is more equipped mentally, and much more experienced than Obama was to succeed there. Even internally, she might be better situated. She might be less afraid than Obama was of the wrath of the Jewish lobby for one; for second, better situated to deal with hostile Congress; and for third, more concern with the liberal, progressive Sanders-Warren led wing of the Democratic party, urging her to push ahead, and bring about an acceptable solution there. (Somehow, it might even affect a political change in Israel itself finally. Though that’s a different story.)

But here’s the kicker, my friends: Bill Clinton. It is my hope, and prediction too – at least by way of a reasonable possibility – that he not only will influence his wife on the matter, that’s a given after all, but that he will jump right in at an hour of need to help secure the peace. Remember, he was probably closer than any other American leader to bring about a resolution to the conflict with the Camp David Summit of 2000. If not the timing being very close to the end of his second term, and the vise of Yasser Arafat on the one side, who couldn’t see what a great opportunity it was for him and for his people, and Arik Sharon on the other side, who seized the day in Jerusalem in order to sabotage that agreement, it might have been a reality by now. Such a development would be Bill Clinton’s big chance; a déjà vu if ever there was one; for peace and for the Nobel peace prize as well. With the backing of his wife, he just might make it happen.

* Exclusive Transcript of Clinton and Netanyahu phone call Posted on March 17, 2010

** “In March 2009 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Israel. She said that Israeli settlements and demolition of Arab homes in East Jerusalem were “unhelpful” to the peace process. Clinton also voiced support for the establishment of a Palestinian state.” Wikipedia

*** The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

%d bloggers like this: