I have not written for Newsweek since earlier in the week, and although I made a judgement that there really was nothing new in the last few days, which is probably true on the level of what the readers of Newsweek are interested in, but on a more personal level these have been unsettling days that I need to share.
The wave of knife attacks continue unabated. On Thursday I traveled to Jerusalem for a conference on how to integrate more Arab Israelis in the labor force, a conference that was taking place at the residence of the President. As the bus began its rise to Jerusalem the first reports started coming over my twitter feed on a terror attack in Tel Aviv, it soon became clear that the attack took place near the Azereilli Mall and army headquarters a location a ten minute walk from our house and a place we go on a regular basis. In this case like all the others, the terrorist was killed and his victims were only lightly wounded since he attacked them with a screw driver and not knife. Once in Jerusalem, I headed to the Presidents house, I had hope to walk but was too late for that. My taxi driver was a stereotype of a Likud supporter and I of course engaged in a political discussion. He had no real answer what we should do, just that we have to be tough. Interestingly his historic knowledge did not go back beyond the Six Day War. In our discussion the one argument that I think might have had an impact on him as the old saying “better be smart then right”, and that was on the whole issue of the Temple Mount. The meeting at the Presidents House had a certain surrealness about it. At the simple reception before hand were the economic leaders of the Arab-Israeli sector as well as leaders of Israeli industry. As I spoke to many of them I carefully avoided current events, and instead tried to learn about the companies and ventures that they were engaged in, all interesting, but I had the general sense from them that although there had been a rapid increase in the number of start-ups and other new ventures in the Arab-Israeli sector, it had not reached the sort of numbers that were transformative. President Rivlin who was clearly warmly received by the audience of about 150 addressed the elephant in the room at the beginning of his remarks, by saying that these are difficult times but that we in the room need to be even more determined in our efforts to make significant progress in integrating Arab Israelis into the economy. For the rest of the evening, the discussion was limited to the challenges of the integration of the Arabs in the Israeli economy. When it was over I had a chance to enjoy the Jerusalem night and walk back to the Central Bus station and 40-minute walk. As much as I love living in Tel Aviv I truly do love walking around in the clear night air of Jerusalem. My return to Tel Aviv was disturbed by the reports of another terror attack this time in Afula.
Yesterday was another day of attacks mostly in Jerusalem although there was one again in Afula. This time it was Arab-Israeli woman, and after being surrounded by police when she did not drop her knife she was gunned down, all caught on an unsettling tape. For those who believe that the death penalty for terrorist, these past few days should be a good test. We clearly have a policy of killing all those who attack with knives, I do not believe it’s coincidental that almost all have been killed. Mind you, I am not against the policy, but we probably should recognize it for what it is, so when this all ends we can judge the success or failure. Have we created deterrence or have we just increased the level of anger and violence- Time will tell.
When all is said what is most disturbing is my concern that I do not see how this is going to end. Maybe it is just a wave that will subside, maybe if we say it enough people will believe us that we have no aim to make any changes in the status quo on the temple mount, but I am not sure. I find it very disturbing that Arab Israelis have joined in the demonstrations saying explicitly that they are doing it on behalf of Al Aqsa. When the Head of the Joint Arab List who I spent an hour interviewing just a few short months ago leads the demonstration I have to ask myself what is he thinking? Does he really believe we would do something? Or is he just using the Temple Mount cynically as Arab politicians have for 100 years to inflame the masses? Gershon Baskin who spent time in the last few days both in Ramallah and East Jerusalem says that he did not meet one person in either place that did not actually believe that Israel was not planning to seize at least part of the Temple Mount.
Earlier this evening I was talking to a friend who is psychologist and has been involved in Jewish/ Arab/Palestinian encounters for many years. She said to me that it is the Arab Israelis who are the most angry and hardest to talk to. She said the Arab Israelis all of whom( at these discussions) are doctors, lawyers or engineers, men and women in their late 20’s are all obsessed with the historic wrongs done to their people, and the villagers that are no longer there and the rights of the 8 million refugees to return.
Very disturbing indeed. It’s been a very disturbing week- and yet life here goes on, I have written this at a mall just outside Tel Aviv, my son went to a movie with friends so I rented a car to take him and it’s more convenient to take my computer and work here then go back and forth. There was barely a parking space available in a huge parking lot. The streets and parks of Tel Aviv were packed today, Israelis have a remarkable ability to go on with ones live regardless of the situation. As one of them I try my best, I just worry about the future.