Bibi Predicts Talks in ‘Weeks’

But what about a full construction freeze?

Netanyahu (R) with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi yesterday.(Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)

It was just a speech, but Prime Minister Netanyahu said today at the Herzliya Conference, “I have a basis to hope that in the coming weeks we will renew the peace process with the Palestinians without preconditions.” “Without preconditions” is a key qualifier: the implication, to my reading, is that Netanyahu is saying the talks will occur without the temporary East Jerusalem construction freeze that the Palestinian leadership has repeatedly demanded, most recently yesterday at Herzliya in the person of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Not sure if said leadership would actually go along with that.

Netanyahu also cast the United States as a benevolent tugboat, easing the ship of negotiations out of harbor before it takes over on its own: “You need two to tango,” he said. “In the Middle East, you need three, and only later can we continue to dance as a couple.”

Don’t forget to check in on Judith Miller’s dispatches from Herzliya for Tablet Magazine.

Netanyahu: Peace Talks With Palestinians ‘Within Weeks’ [Haaretz]

Related: Herzliya Diary [Tablet Magazine]

Stewart Mocks Hamas TV

Points to shoddy animation (and horrifying anti-Semitism)


Jon Stewart weighs in on Hamas’s new children’s television show, A Special Mission—the one in which Fatah policeman Bahlul is a satrap to an Israeli soldier with long sidecurls and a penchant for machine-gunning Palestinian children and drinking their blood.

The clip is worth watching, particularly for Stewart’s own cartoon, “Jewby Doo.” And also for this advice, regarding the A Special Mission’s cheap production value: “Hey Hamas, two words—MacBook Pro!”

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Story Hole – Children’s Cartoons From Hamas
Daily Show
Full Episodes
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John Stewart Takes Aim at Hamas’s Anti-Semitic Cartoons [HuffPo]

Earlier: Hamas’s Charming New TV Show

All In The Family?

Obama to attend controversial breakfast; Jew-groups silent


Tomorrow, President Barack Obama, as well as numerous congresspersons and senators (oh, and graduating University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who is fast becoming football’s answer to Sarah Palin), will attend the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. The event is run by the really secretive conservative Christian organization known as the Family or, alternately, the Fellowship—this thing really exists, we swear—and there tends to be a minimal place at it, if any place at all, for Jews, if not nearly as minimal place as there is for gays.

Gay-rights groups, as well as various progressive organizations, have no trouble speaking out against Obama’s participation in this event. But James Besser asks another question: where are the Jewish groups? You cannot hear a peep from them on this issue. Is the Anti-Defamation League, for example, really unopposed to the president of the United States attending a plainly sectarian event run by a group that allegedly inspired Uganda’s draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill? If so, why hasn’t it spoken up? And if not, then why not? Silence is not the natural state of this and other groups, which makes their silence here all the more conspicuous.

National Prayer Breakfast Controversy—Again. And Where Are The Jews? [JW Political Insider]

Today on Tablet

The speeches at Herzliya, protecting the kids from Judaism, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, investigative reporter Judith Miller reports on the reception Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s potentially game-changing speeches got at the Herzliya Conference. Newsweek editor Marc Peyser writes about how he found himself wanting to keep his children innocent of the Judaism he himself was raised with. In our weekly Email of Zion, Rabbi Michael Lerner chastises President Obama for moving too far to the right (and the forwarder adds his or her own two-cents, about how “Obama prays on a Moslem prayer rug five times a day facing Mecca”). The Scroll wishes it were in sunny Herzliya … except much of Israel is actually getting snow today.

Putting Syria At The Center

And how possible Palestinian self-sovereignty could prompt progress

Syrian President Bashar Assad (R) talks to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, last December.(AFP/Getty Images)

Does the road to Ramallah lead through Damascus?

That’s the contention columnist Yossi Alpher makes in today’s International Herald Tribune. (Though he doesn’t mention the Conference, Alper surely hopes the eminences gathered in Herzliya will take stock of his ideas.) Alpher’s case:

Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, declares himself ready to deal. A Syrian-Israeli process has a better chance of getting underway than a Palestinian-Israeli process. A successful Syrian-Israeli effort offers the United States, Israel and the moderate Arab states immediate benefits by reducing Iran’s penetration of the Levant, weakening its regional proxies and allies.

(Alpher does not mention Turkey, which, against Israel’s wishes, has sought a role in mediating Israel-Syria talks.)

Alpher’s second proposal is more controversial: he asserts that Israel should not rule out direct talks with Hamas, particularly related to practical issues like a cease-fire and trade.

Finally, Alpher mentions what others have called ‘the White Intifada’: the notion that if Fatah develops enough of a semblance of a state in the West Bank, it could unilaterally declare independence and wait for the world to recognize it—which, one imagines, at least a fair chunk of it would. (Incidentally, should this all happen, wouldn’t it cast Israel’s precedent-setting unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in a new, less kind light?)

The fate of the White Intifada, according to Alpher, is in the hands of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whom Israeli President Shimon Peres praised yesterday. The whole thing could go like this, according to Alpher:

Fayyad promises to take this effort to a point where, in the absence of an agreed solution, a Palestine that functions like a state asks unilaterally for international recognition. This dynamic poses both dangers for stability and opportunities for progress. [U.S. envoy George] Mitchell might consider refocusing his efforts toward developing an integrated policy for stabilizing and pacifying Gaza [and] shepherding West Bank state-building toward an agreed new interim status even without direct talks.

The White Intifada’s real utility could be in its threat: the specter of Palestinian independence without Israeli input might be just the thing to poke Israel toward ensuring that, with Israeli input, Palestinian independence does come to pass.

On Israel-Palestine, No More of the Same [IHT]

Earlier: Peres Passes Peace Torch to Fayyad
‘The White Intifada’

Daybreak: Star Wars, With Persian Subtitles

Plus Hamas in a huff and more in the news


• New (ostensibly peaceful) rocket test-fires and official revelations demonstrated that Iran has developed sophisticated satellite technology. [WSJ]
• At least two barrels containing explosives washed ashore on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, prompting Israel to close beaches up there and launch airstrikes in Gaza. [WSJ]
• Hamas suspended the indirect negotiations over kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit in protest of the death of their weapons man in Dubai, who may or may not have been killed by Mossad (got that?). [Haaretz]
• Palestinian President Salam Fayyad spoke at Herzliya yesterday (Judith Miller has much more for Tablet Magazine). [WP]
• A Polish court issued an arrest warrant for Anders Hogstrom, the Swede who allegedly masterminded the Auschwitz sign theft. [AP/WSJ]
• A profile of the town of Ghajar, which over history has alternately been in Lebanon (as it is currently), Syria, and Israel—and, unlike certain fictional islands, that’s without moving. [NYT]

Sundown: Iran At Nuclear Crossroads

Plus the truth about kosher, Israel and Micronesia, and more


• Iran has enriched uranium further but may lack the political will actually to develop weapons, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified. [Reuters/Haaretz]
• Kosher food is hip, on the grounds that it’s better for the environment and safer. But is it, actually? [Slate]
• How Israel made friends with the (very) small island nations of Micronesia and Nauru. [WP]
• A Hamas official disclosed that talks over kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit have broken down and alleged that Prime Minister Netanyahu is to blame. [JTA]
• A long but really good profile of intellectual Tony Judt discusses his controversial views on Israel as well as his Lou Gehrig’s disease. [Chronicle of Higher Education]
• Anticipating tonight’s premiere of the final season of Lost, the folks at JTA wonder: what would the show be like if it had been an El Al flight that crashed on the island? [JTA]

Barak Warns of ‘Apartheid’

Defense minister utters a very big word


Sorry for the consecutive Herzliya Conference posts. But it is fairly big news: Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated that, should there continue to be only one country on the land where Israel and the Palestinian territories currently are (and should most of the Palestinians remain disenfranchised), then a state of “apartheid” would exist. That is a very big word to use, of course (former President Jimmy Carter’s deployment of it, for example, has made him persona non grata in many circles), and Barak said it in a joint session with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (the “Ben-Gurionist”) in Herzliya. The full quote: “The simple truth is if there is one state, it will have to be either bi-national or undemocratic. … if this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

Barak’s larger remarks were not overly dovish. He called for an immediate resumption of peace negotiations, but explicitly rejected the Palestinian demand for a construction freeze throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, before talks resume. (Fayyad, for his part, insisted on that precondition.) In other words, Barak was not exactly playing the lefty.

Two questions:

How soon until it is fully mainstream—until it is not news, requiring of, say, an immediate blogpost—for an important Israeli (or American) to use the word “apartheid” to describe Israel’s potential future?

And, if Israel’s current situation is a country headed for “apartheid,” what needs to happen for it to be a country that actually practices “apartheid” already? What are some of those preconditions? Are any of them already satisfied?

And, again, don’t forget to check in on Judith Miller’s dispatches from Herzliya for Tablet Magazine.

Barak: Peace With Palestinians or Apartheid [AP/TPM]

Earlier: Peres Passes Peace Torch to Fayyad

Peres Passes Peace Torch to Fayyad

Calls Palestinian PM ‘Ben-Gurionist,’ dismisses one-state solution

Peres speaking at Herzliya today.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

At the Herzliya Conference, Israeli President Shimon Peres—86 years old, he is the last of the original Labor Zionist founders of the state of Israel—called Prime Minister Salam Fayyad “the Palestinians’ first Ben-Gurionist.” David Ben-Gurion, of course, was Israel’s first prime minister, the crucial participant in its immediate political creation, and Peres’s mentor; to call Fayyad a Ben-Gurionist, then, is to recognize the legitimacy of Fayyad’s desire for a Palestinian state. Peres specifically praised Fayyad’s focus on building in the Palestinian territories the infrastructure and institutions that any sovereign, competent state needs to have.

Peres also spoke against the so-called one-state solution, in which a single bi-national country encompassing all the land between the river and the sea would be formed: “There is no country which can hold two nations,” Peres argued, “because then there will be a conflict between people, which brings about terror, which will make life impossible. There is no choice but to settle our relations, in order to prevent terror from determining our sons’ fate.”

Peres’s “Ben-Gurionist” comment feels a little like an anointment (it feels like when Ted Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama). Hopefully the characterization will prove apt.

Meanwhile, do check in on Judith Miller’s dispatches from Herzliya for Tablet Magazine.

Peres: Fayyad—Palestinians’ First ‘Ben-Gurionist’ [Ynet]

‘A Serious Man,’ ‘Basterds,’ and ‘Ajami’ Nominated

Congrats to Tablet contributing editor David Rakoff

The Coen Brothers’ ‘A Serious Man’(Courtesy Focus Features)

And the Oscar nominations go to … two very prominently Jewish-themed films, among others. Both Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (about Nazi-killing Jews) and the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man (which is almost exclusively about Jews, and which is, for my money, the most profoundly Jewish American movie in years) are up for the big award: Best Picture. Additionally, Tarantino got Best Director and Original Screenplay nominations; Christoph Waltz, who plays the main SS guy in his film, is up for Best Supporting Actor. The Coens also are nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

This being Hollywood, several Jews were recognized for work that was not explicitly Jewish, including Up in the Air director and co-writer Jason Reitman, and David Rakoff, who had a hand in the writing of The New Tenants, a nominee for Best Short Film (Live Action). Did we mention that Rakoff is a Tablet Magazine contributing editor? Well, he is.

Finally, Ajami, Israel’s first-ever Arabic-language submission to the Academy, became the third consecutive Israeli offering to score one of the five Best Foreign Language Film nominations. Will it be the first to win? The Oscars are Sunday, March 7th, so we’ll find out soon enough.

Do read Tablet Magazine’s resident film buff Liel Leibovitz on A Serious Man (loved) and Basterds (hated). Plus—spoiler alert!—you will be able to read his thoughts on Ajami soon enough.

The 82nd Annual Oscar Nominations [ArtsBeat]

Earlier: Israel Nears Third Straight Oscar Nomination

Related: Taking It Seriously [Tablet Magazine]
Inglorious Indeed [Tablet Magazine]

Rabbi Blames Earthquake on Gays

Warns against repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Defense Secretary Gates testifying today.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

We have our very own Pat Robertson! (Lucky us.) Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Yehuda Levin expounded on his view that homosexuality was a “spiritual cause” of the earthquake in Haiti, as well as, we think, of 9/11. Said Levin, who is head of the Rabbinical Alliance of America:

Thirteen months before 9/11, on the day New York City passed homosexual domestic partnership regulations, I joined a group of rabbis at a City Hall prayer service, pleading with God not to visit disaster on the city of N.Y. [Ed.: Next time, pray harder!] We have seen the underground earthquake, tsunami, Katrina, and now Haiti. All this is in sync with a two thousand year old teaching in the Talmud that the practice of homosexuality is a spiritual cause of earthquakes.

Why is the rabbi saying this now? Because today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is testifying before a U.S. Senate committee that he agrees with President Barack Obama that gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. “We plead with saner heads in Congress and the Pentagon to stop sodomization of our military and our society,” Rabbi Levin asks.“ Enough is enough.” Who knows what catastrophes might befall the United States if it is finally allowed to fully tap the country’s talent pool, including its gay citizens? One shudders to think.

Annals of Theodicy: Gays Caused Haiti Earthquake, Haredi Rabbi Says [Failed Messiah]

S/J/M ISO Golem

And in Queens, not Prague!


If you happen to be a “Rabbi versed in the Dark Talmudic Arts” (we know you’re out there!), then this Craiglist ad may be for you.

UPDATE: The ad, which requested someone who could make a Golem for the poster, has since been flagged for removal. You know, you’re just going to make the eventual Golem even angrier …

Today on Tablet

Dispatch from Herzliya, Jane Austen-berg, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Judith Miller, our reporter at the Herzliya Conference, talks Iran—or talks about not talking about Iran—with Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Uzi Arad. Middle East columnist Lee Smith profiles Mohsen Sazegara, whose Website has proved integral to the anti-regime street protests in Iran, and Richard Haass, the classic foreign policy old wise man who has learned to embrace those protests. Book critic Adam Kirsch reviews The Three Weissmanns of Westport: “Jane Austen, but with Jews!” The Scroll sometimes likes to think of itself as a Jewish Darcy.

Van-Jew-ver Readies for Games

Israel is sending three to the Winter Olympics

The new Olympic rink in downtown Vancouver.(Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

We had never thought of it this way, but JTA’s reporter correctly notes that Vancouver, Canada, is “the most Jewishly active city ever to host the Winter Olympics.” The town, in the Canadian province of British Columbia, is home to upwards of 30,000 Jews, who will be represented in the Olympic Village (actually, both of them: one in Vancouver, one at the resort-town of Whistler) by an official Jewish clergyman, religious services, and various and sundry accommodations. Additionally, and in a nice twist, one of the final bearers of the Olympics torch before the lighting at the Opening Ceremonies will be a Jewish woman named Karen James, who played on Canada’s basketball team in the 1972 Summer Olympics—the infamous Games, in Munich, during which Palestinian terrorists killed all the Israeli athletes.

For its part, three Israelis will compete: downhill skier Mikail Renzhin, and Alexandra and Roman Zaretsky, a brother-and-sister ice-dancing team. Faster, higher, stronger!

Vancouver Jews Gearing Up for the Games [JTA]
Israel in Olympics To Win, or Not At All [JTA]

Daybreak: Officers Face Music Over U.N. Building

Plus still unclear who killed Hamas weapons guy, and more in the news


• The Israeli military formally reprimanded two officers for their roles in the shelling of the Gaza U.N. compound during last year’s conflict. [NYT]
• Israel also said it would not file any charges related to a 38-year-old American who sustained brain damage while participating in a West Bank protest. [WP]
• The Hamas weapons connection-guy killed by Mossad? He may actually have been killed by an Arab-government squad, Hamas now says. [Haaretz]
• After numerous reports suggesting he did, Turkey was forced to deny that its ambassador requested to leave Israel shortly after his deliberate humiliation there. [JPost]
• Guitarist Carlos Santana cancelled an Israel show, and one figure in the music industry there says this was due to “anti-Israel pressure.” [Ynet]
• Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow. Six more weeks of winter. Sorry. [CNN]

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