A Sad Memorial to Rabin

I just got back from Rabin Square, from what I have to call a disappointing and sad night.  This is the fourth year in a row that I attended a memorial to Rabin.  There is no question that this was the biggest crowds, no doubt a result of the fact that President Clinton was the main speaker.  I had spent a great deal of time this week thinking about  my retrospective article on Rabin for Newsweek.  They decided to call it The Hope that Died with Rabin a title that I think was very accurate.  I am sorry to say that no one tonight managed to say what I think I wrote.  Clinton came closest of the speakers, and not by coincidence he was closer to Rabin then any of the other speakers, other than of course his family members who spoke briefly.  President Obama also spoke via a prerecorded video and he too was excellent.

I am not sure what it means when the most forceful and best speakers memorializing an Israeli Prime Minister are Americans, but it can’t be good for us.  Part of the problem as tried to convey in my Newsweek article is the attempt to make the killing of Rabin into a lesson on tolerance.  But it is not.  It was the successful action of the right to stop the peace process.  It’s not clear if it was going to succeed, but having Netanyahu our Prime Minister a great deal of the time since the assassination  cannot have been good for the chances of peace.  Having the event sponsored by the Youth movement that required unanimity is certainly problematic. The fact that Bnei Akiva and Beitar could block Shimon Peres from speaking at the memorial is very problematic to say the least.  No one was able to say what is most clear- Rabin believed we needed hope and believed in hope- Netanyahu believes only in fear.

A final point that I have told before- but I can’t help but repeat.  I had the honor of sharing the stage with  Rabin, one evening at of all places the amphitheater on Mt Scopus the same place he spoke after the Six Day War.  A much more personal accounter took place with Leah Rabin, I was in the army a lone soldier and one Friday afternoon the phone rings, and on the line was Leah Rabin the Prime Minister wife.  She had met my Mother at Bond Breakfast in the US and just called to give me my Mom’s regards, and ask how I was doing.

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Our Crazy Country

The day is coming to an end, we just uploaded our first Apple TV app which is also our first game.  It’s a Presidential election trivia game, and to get it out with all the new requirements of the Apple TV we had a family hackathon for the last few days.  As a result, I have tried living in my own little world of American election history and tried to ignore the events taking place in Israel- if just a little.

Of course that really is not possible, with my phone going off every few minutes with a different notification from Asset Source, or Channel 2 news, the events around are really hard to ignore.  The complete idiocy of our governmental system is hard to ignore on a day like today.  After Prime Minister Netanyahu spent the last week trying to prove to the world that Israel has no intention of changing the status quo on the Temple Mount- Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hoteveli- a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, gave an interview in which she says that she is hoping for the day that the Israeli flag flys from the Temple Mount.  In any other country in the work she would have been fired on the spot, but not here.

Today is the 20th anniversary to the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin.  The official governmental ceremonies took place today, and once again it was difficult to hear Bibi who was the chief inciter against Rabin speak about him.  There has been some really strange revisionism going on the last year from the right wing, making the claim that the death of Rabin hurt the right, since if he had not been killed he would have stopped the Oslo process.  I am working on a longer the usual article for Newsweek that will go with my  coverage of the main commemoration in Saturday night, where President Bill Clinton will be speaking.  I hope to examine the issue in depth, and look at how a political assassination has been depoliticized. Meanwhile it’s been raining, they say that is a good thing, it does make it harder to walk our dog who hates water!

Rabin Square
Rabin Square

Another Week of Violence

Another week is coming to an end in Israel, the third-week  violence.  Yesterday that violence reached a Bet Shemesh, a city where one of my closest friends lives in.  As she said to me on the phone last night- Nothing bad ever happens in Bet Shemesh, and I guess that was the point of the terrorist, similar to their attack in Raanana- we should not feel comfortable anywhere.  It is certainly having an impact.  If one is rational about it, it’s clearly no more dangerous in Israel then any of the big US cities before crime was brought down.  Certainly as someone who spent many a year in Morningside Heights ( Upper West Side of Manhattan) I should not feel unsafe, and in reality I do not, but after getting use to the feeling of absolute safety that I have always felt in Tel Aviv, I am glad these days that most of where I go I take “Mac” our dog with us.

Yesterday evening I was in Dizengoff Center.  Usually on Thursday night which is the night of the food fair, the place is teeming with people.  Last night it was mostly empty.  That seems to be the case throughout the country.  Stores have been empty and I am sure we are going to see all too soon more signs “Store for Rent”.   There have been other small changes, suddenly security guards that were there only for the show, are carrying weapons and soldiers on leave are not only carrying their weapons, but they are carrying them with magazines inserted- something that in itself can be dangerous.


I was initially planning to write to turn these events and observation into a piece for Newsweek, but as opposed to these posts which I just read through for overt grammar and spelling errors, I actually spend time and effort in editing my Newsweek pieces, something I do not have time for at the moment.  We just finished a large client project, have anther one on the cusp of being finished. We  two, are also in the midst of trying to finish two important products of our own, one of which it for the Apple TV and must be finished by Sunday night if we want to have a product at launch- so this is it.  Next Saturday night is the major commemoration to mark 20 years since the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin.  I am going to have to find the time to  write a major article on impact, 20 years later for Newsweek.


Why Must Leaders Lie

The news in Israel today has been dominated by the story of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ridiculous statement about the Mufti being the one to convince Hitler to engage in the Final Solution.  This news almost overshadowed the largely routine news of soldiers being stabbed run over and stoned in the West Bank.  To most Israelis, especially those living in Tel Aviv the West Bank is a world away, however, the soldiers being attacked are our sons and daughters so it’s not easy to ignore.

It is a strange microcosm of our conflict that both sides need to lie and exagerate the evils of the other side.  Just when you think it cannot get any lower, Abbas has to claim we have killed a kid who is alive and Netanyahu has to out do him by claiming that the Grand Mufti was responsible for the holocaust.  When my twitter feed first started referencing the speech yesterday I thought he must have been misquoted and planned to contact the PM office to get the actual transcript- but alas he was not misquoted and reading it in context is just as bad as just hearing about it.

I really fear the level of hatred on both sides- ours and theirs.  It has clearly reached new heights, fed by leaders on both sides.  We have over the years done enough bad things to each other that its escapes me why our leaders have to make up falsehoods.  The reality is grim enough.  What is strange is that in both the case of Abbas and that of Netanyahu the facts they stated were not exaggerations but pure falsehoods that could easily be checked.  I must say I am mystified.


The violence continues, many observers think it will go on for months or more.  There does not seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.  As  I wrote this there was another attack in Jerusalem, another attempt to run over Jews, it failed the attacker was killed.



A Violent Week Comes to an End

Yesterday a  very reasonable suggestion was made on my Twitter feed; have ambulances have two sirens, one for regular events and one for attacks.  People are just too nervous.  Yesterday morning all of Tel Aviv was tied up in one traffic jam as police pursued a suspicious vehicle and closed off roads. We actually got through a day with no successful attacks, could things be quieting down  maybe- we can always hope.  It should be noted that a number of attacks were thwarted yesterday when a number of Arabs were caught with knives and arrested.  Meanwhile my son’s school cancelled their annual three-day trip for the students scheduled for next week, originally they said they would wait until Monday to decide, but they concluded it was not going to end soon.


Traffic Jam


Yesterday, most of the media attention was directed at the Palestinian kid who Palestinian President Abbas claimed we had killed and is doing fine in Hadassah Hospital after the 13 year old tried knifing Israelis.  Of course in a sign of the time Human Rights organizations were quick to condemn Israel for violating the privacy of the kid.  Israelis often say that we are lucky in our enemies, that they always seem so divided and often incompetent.  There is of course, some truth to that, and clearly Abbas calling the 13-year-old who he had to know was alive a martyr was one of those stupid moves.  But in some ways it also works against us, at times the Palestinians almost seem to incompetent to make peace.  When Saeb Erekat who has been the chief Palestinian negotiator for more sthen  a decade calls on the world to stop us from massacring Palestinian children he makes it all that less likely that a majority of Israelis will ever believe peace is possible.  Furthermore the Palestinian ability to believe their own lies only deepens the hatred.

Many Israelis have been obsessing about either the wrong-headed coverage of events or at least until that last few days the very limited coverage. Neither surprises me.  However terrible this is for us, less people have been killed or wounded here in the last week than on a weekend in Chicago.  Furthermore, we should be used to the fact by know that part of the press are not fair.  Its been that way for most of my lifetime.  I, of course, have nothing to complain about in the year and half, I have been writing for Newsweek, they have printed every article, but one that I filed and the only editing they have done has been for punctuation and grammar.

I frankly have no idea what the next few days or weeks will look like. While there have been less stabbings, only one today, there has been other violence including the burning of Joseph’s tomb in Shechem(Nabulus) a place a had to guard almost 40 years ago during my basic trainingThis wave might just pass, on the other hand, it could also just as easily last weeks or months.

A reflection on these last few days

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.


Jerusalem Stabbing

I should be working on one of the many projects that I am behind on tonight, but tonight’s stabbing in Jerusalem has truly worried me, both the event and the reactions of many.  First to the event itself- a family -Father, Mother, infant child were heading to the Kotel via the Damascus Gate they were attacked by a 19 year old Palestinian from the West Bank with a knife.  The terrorist grabbed the Fathers gun and after stabbing the wife managed to get off a few shots before being shot dead by police officers who were 50 meters away.  This attack occurred after the terror attack that killed two members of the Henkin family on Thursday night.  It also comes after the repeated, stone, molotov cocktail and other attacks in Jerusalem, many of which has taken place along the dividing line between Arab and Jewish Jerusalem.

The situation in Jerusalem and the West Bank has clearly been heating up and it would probably not be wrong to call this a third Intifadah.  Unlike the second Intifadah this does not seem to be organized from the top rather it is coming from below.  Yes there is no doubt that the calls by Abbas to save Al Aqsa are not helping, and clearly as I wrote recently the Temple Mount has been used for almost a hundred years as a rallying point for Arab violence against Jews.  However, it is impossible to disconnect events in the West Bank and Jerusalem to events in other parts of the Middle East.  That a certain percentage of Arab youth have become radicalized beyond anything we have known is a fact.  They no longer need to receive an order to undertake an attack, killing their “oppressing Jews” is fair game.  How we stop this  is very hard to see.  Complete separation?  Not really an option in Jerusalem.  Although tonight the Ger Rabbi has called on his Hasidim not to go to the Kotel until future notice- Not a good sign. Reach a peace agreement- not a realistic option at the moment, so I am frankly worried

What  is further troubling is the views of the right- their answer a more iron fist.  “Let the IDF do its job”.   What job is that? Have the death penalty for terrorist, even though there is no evidence it has ever worked.   We saw what an iron fist accomplished in Syria for Assad. There are I am afraid, no good answers. In some ways it the solution lies somewhere else, radical Islam must be defeated and its path discredited, but we cannot do it, the West is proving inept at doing it, and moderates Muslims seem unwilling.  Remind me what was wrong with Uganda…..

Why I Hated Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Speech at the UN

Listening to Prime Minister Netanyahu speak at the UN last night was very difficult.  While not a great fan of Netanyahu last night was the first time I truly felt like I wanted to throw something at the TV to shut him up.  I felt embarrassed to be an Israeli. Netanyahu no doubt spoke many truths about Iran, and many need to be said, but as he droned on and on about Iran for almost 40 minutes, I felt embarrassed.  Why, because at the moment the world and even Israel is facing more immediate problems.  The world is worried about the fighting in Syria, the refugees from Syria, the spread of ISIS, that is what the world is worried about, and those things are equally as worrisome to us.  Instead he spoke once again about the holocaust and the fact that we will never again be defenseless, but spoke about it from a place of fear and powerlessness.

I have reflected on what made me so angry, and have decided beyond the inappropriate timing of the speech, and the fact that he spent almost all of it discussing Iran something that is clearly a done deal, and certainly does not work to repair our relations with Washington, it was once again his depiction of us as this poor embattled state.  What were the terrible things that happened to us this past year.  I certainly did not come back here to live in a poor embattled state.  It was telling looking at the Facebook pages of some American Jewish friends- there was appreciation for the speech- ” We have to stand by Israel since no one else will”.

I am sorry that is not the country that I know or the country that I want to live in.  We are a strong country with probably the most advanced (technologically) army and air force in the world.  According to foreign sources we have had nuclear weapons now for almost 50 years and we have missiles that not only launch satellites in orbit, but can actually do it in the wrong direction.  ( Most satellite launches are West to East to make use of the spin of the earth, but so as not to worry our neighbors we launch over the Med)  .  We have a high tech sector second only to Silicon Valley.  It is time to end the hand-wringing the fear mongering.  Yes, it’s good for the Netanyahu politically, and its good for some American Jewish organization to raise money, however, it’s not true and it ultimately undermines our very security that we are worried about.  What country is more likely to be a victim of aggression, the one that depicts itself as poor isolated and almost defenseless, or the one with friends and with an army no one want to start up with?  What country is going to get its kids to stay as oppose to emigrate to find greener pastures? What country is likely to get greater and greater foreign investments?  It’s time to stop our crying- it’s time to stop talking about poor isolated Israel- it’s time for the chief spokesman for that point of view convert his 45 seconds of silence to permanent silence on the matter.