Browsing Posts tagged Israel

History was written in blood. Most wars were waged over territory.

Today, science, creativity and knowledge replaced land as the source of wealth. Land can be conquered. Not science. Science is global, borderless. Armies can’t conquer it.

Yet, still, Lawless terrorists spread violence caused by ideological differences, social gaps and sheer fanaticism. The new millennium must liberate the world, from bloodshed, from discrimination, from hunger, from ignorance, from maladies. continue reading…

Imagine that you’re a parent who sends her children off to school in the morning worrying whether their bus will become a target of suicide bombers. Imagine that, instead of going off to college, your children become soldiers at age 18, serve for three years and remain in the active reserves into their 40s. Imagine that you have fought in several wars, as have your parents and even your grandparents, that you’ve seen rockets raining down on your neighborhood and have lost close family and friends to terrorist attacks. Picture all of that and you’ll begin to understand what it is to be an Israeli. And you’ll know why all Israelis desperately want peace.

Recent media reports, in Time magazine and elsewhere, have alleged that Israelis — who are currently experiencing economic growth and a relative lull in terrorism — may not care about peace. According to a poll cited, Israelis are more concerned about education, crime and poverty — issues that resonate with Americans — than about the peace process with the Palestinians. But such findings do not in any way indicate an indifference to peace, but rather the determination of Israelis to build normal, fruitful lives in the face of incredible adversity.

Yes, many Israelis are skeptical about peace, and who wouldn’t be? We withdrew our troops from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in order to generate peace, and instead received thousands of missiles crashing into our homes. We negotiated with the Palestinians for 17 years and twice offered them an independent state, only to have those offers rejected. Over the last decade, we saw more than 1,000 Israelis — proportionally the equivalent of about 43,000 Americans — killed by suicide bombers, and tens of thousands maimed. We watched bereaved mothers on Israeli television urging our leaders to persist in their peace efforts, while Palestinian mothers praised their martyred children and wished to sacrifice others for jihad.

Given our experience of disappointment and trauma, it’s astonishing that Israelis still support the peace process at all. Yet we do, and by an overwhelming majority. According to the prestigious Peace Index conducted by the Tamal Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University and released in July, more than 70% of Israelis back negotiations with the Palestinians, and nearly that number endorse the two-state solution. These percentages exist even though multiple Palestinian polls show much less enthusiasm for living side by side in peace with Israel, or that most Israelis believe that international criticism of the Jewish state will continue even if peace is achieved.

Indeed, Israelis have always grasped at opportunities for peace. When Arab leaders such as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat or King Hussein of Jordan offered genuine peace to Israel, our people passionately responded and even made painful concessions. That most Israelis are still willing to take incalculable risks for peace — the proposed Palestinian state would border their biggest cities — and are still willing to share their ancestral homeland with a people that has repeatedly tried to destroy them is nothing short of miraculous.

It’s true that Israel is a success story. The country has six world-class universities, more scientific papers and Nobel Prizes per capita than any other nation and the most advanced high-tech sector outside of Silicon Valley. The economy is flourishing, tourism is at an all-time high and our citizen army selflessly protects our borders. In the face of unrelenting pressures, we have preserved a democratic system in which both Jews and Arabs can serve in our parliament and sit on our Supreme Court. We have accomplished this without knowing a nanosecond of peace.

We shouldn’t have to apologize for our achievements. Nor should outside observers conclude that the great improvements in our society in any way lessen our deep desire for peace. That yearning was expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the recent White House ceremony for the start of direct negotiations with the Palestinians. Addressing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as “my partner in peace,” Netanyahu called for “a peace that will last for generations — our generation, our children’s generation and the next.”

For Israelis who don’t have to imagine what it’s like to live in a perpetual war zone, that vision of peace is our lifeline.

Michael B. Oren is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Amid cautious hope and searing skepticism, Israelis and Palestinians launched direct talks last week to forge the true and lasting peace that has eluded our peoples for too long.

Israel looks forward to narrowing the differences on all “final status” issues that must be resolved for any peace agreement. Some of these core issues are well known: Israel’s security needs or the vexing question of Israel’s settlement communities in the West Bank, for instance. Still, as negotiations advance, we should remember that peace will require compromises and concessions — not only from the Israeli side, but from the Palestinians as well.

Jonathan Peled, Israel's Spokesman in Washington, DC

Of critical importance, yet often overshadowed, is the need for mutual recognition and a normalization of relations between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel is surrounded by 22 Arab countries with a total population of over 300 million. So far, only two of these nations have recognized and negotiated a peace agreement with Israel. As we move forward, Israelis cannot be expected to make painful sacrifices unless the Palestinians are willing to offer something beyond a temporary cessation of hostilities — something more than the unwilling, forced acceptance of Israel that all-too-often masquerades as “peace”. To secure a genuine peace, Palestinians must publicly acknowledge Israel as a permanent fixture in the region.

Vital, therefore, is the acceptance of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. Prime Minister Netanyahu has embraced the vision of two states for two peoples: speaking in Washington this week, he recognized the need for a Palestinian state that will serve as the homeland for the Palestinian people. In return, the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. continue reading…

Rosh Hashanah in New York – the beginning of a new Jewish year in this wonderful city, carries with it a lot of personal meaning for me. Starting my tenure as the Acting Consul General in New York during this time reminds of when I came to the Consulate as the Consul for Media and Public Affairs nine years ago, in 2001.

It was in the midst of the Second Intifada, and Israel was bleeding from repeated terror attacks. One of most horrific bombings had taken place just three weeks earlier when suicide bomber detonated himself the middle of a crowded Sbaro’s in Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed; several of them American citizens. Soon enough, I found myself deeply engaged with the American media, hungry for updates from Israel.

But one morning changed everything. It started as just a Tuesday, but the date, September 11th, 2001 is a date that would be forever burned in the back of our minds. The attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was an event with an unprecedented world effect. I remember sitting down for dinner a week later, for Rosh Hashana, still overwhelmed by what had just happened. We didn’t grasp the full magnitude of the event. The city was still buried under clouds of ashes and ruins, the American nation and the entire world in shock.

No New Yorker or American will ever forget where they were when they heard that planes had struck at the heart of the United States. I remember talking about it constantly with friends, colleagues, and loved ones – but no one actually understood what 9/11 was all about. Back then we didn’t realize that things would never be the same. The New Year approaching, 5762, was actually the beginning of a new era that few understood, and no one wanted.

And now, nine years later, I find myself again in the great city of New York, at the verge of a new year which also encompasses challenges – but this time of a different sort.

This New Year will be noted on one hand with the renewal of direct peace talks with the Palestinians, and on the other hand with the persistent attempts of our adversaries to attack Israel’s right to exist as the land of the Jewish people. Our foes invest great resources to sustain a noxious and poisonous campaign that is trying to undermine the very foundations of our free state.

While there are minefields ahead, if we can navigate the perilous environment, there is a lot to look forward to.

In the security sector, it is clear what necessary steps are needed to put Israel on the track leading to peace, regional stability, and stopping Iran from obtaining the deadliest of weaponry. A success in the upcoming month will mean eliminating the Iranian threat along with securing Israel’s future, and building trust and cooperation with its neighbors.

Success in the peace talks has momentous implications way beyond the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. International support of the peace process will also be a signal to the Iranian president that his venomous rhetoric will only fall on deaf ears and violence is no longer part of the region’s equation.

It is a year for bold moves and historic decisions. The government in Jerusalem is aware of the challenges forthcoming, and is willing to face them boldly. Not just for the sake of the upcoming year – but for the many more that will follow. Let us all hope and pray that this year will be a beginning of a new era – a peaceful, blessed and prosperous one. Amen.

Ido Aharoni is Israel’s Acting Consul General in New York

On Tuesday evening on Highway 60, near Hebron, four Israeli civilians, one of whom was pregnant, were gunned down in their car in a hail of gunfire. “The vehicle was sprayed with dozens of bullets,” a paramedic at the scene told Israel’s Channel Two. “There were numerous shell casings around. We found four bodies and there was no chance whatsoever to help them; all we could do was to pronounce [their] death.”

The victims included two men, ages 25 and 40, along with two women of similar age. continue reading…

We Are Not Quitters

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Next week, we are presented with an opportunity to make history.

At the invitation of President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will come to Washington to sit face-to-face and discuss peace. I am here to tell you that, as stated at the formulation of this Israeli government, Israel is committed to seeing these talks through to reach a final agreement and a permanent end to the conflict.

In short, we are not quitters.

The road to peace has been long and will continue to be strenuous, but we will not relent. There are forces around the region that have, and will continue to try, to derail us from this pursuit. Still, Israel remains steadfast in our desire to secure a lasting peace with Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people, alongside a thriving Palestinian state.

Israel is ready to sit down with the Palestinian leadership and come to resolution on the issues of concern to both peoples. After sixty years, Israelis hope the Palestinians will no longer treat us as wary neighbors but rather as regional allies and friends.

It is my sincere hope that at this historic turning point, Palestinians will join with Israel in a quest for peace.

Israel is dedicated to seeing this long elusive peace realized. We will not quit.

Michael Oren is Israel’s Ambassador to the United States

Photo: IDF Spokesperson

Following the July 26th deadly Yasur (CH053) helicopter crash, Commander of the Israeli Air Force, Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, has departed for a special visit to Romania on Thursday (Aug. 12). Maj. Gen. Nehushtan, will be accompanied by his colleague, the Romanian Air Force Commander, and together they will fly to the crash site in the Carpathian Mountains to visit the area.

In the afternoon, the IAF Commander and a special Israeli delegation made up of personnel from the Yasur helicopter formation and the 669 Airborne Rescue and Evacuation Unit will join Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Jewish synagogue in Bucharest for a ceremony in commemoration of the Israeli soldiers killed in the crash. The Romanian Jewish community, Romanian senior officials and representatives of the Romanian military and air force will attend the ceremony as well.

In the evening, the IAF Commander and the Israeli President are expected to attend a dinner hosted by the Romanian President.

On Friday (Aug. 13), Maj. Gen. Nehushtan, the Israeli President and the members of the delegation will participate in an official ceremony in commemoration of the holocaust victims of Bucharest and will meet with the Romanian Chief of the General Staff.

The delegation is scheduled to return to Israel on Friday afternoon.

By Michael B. Oren
Friday, August 6, 2010

Rarely have the lines in the Middle East’s sands been drawn so distinctly. Arrayed on one side is the peace-seeking camp that opposes militant extremism and favors direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians. On the other are the organizations, many of them surrogates for Iran, that work to undermine moderate governments and violently impede any effort for peace. continue reading…

As we reported yesterday, Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) fired at Israeli soldiers working along the Lebanese border in northern Israel Tuesday afternoon. Despite operating south of the internationally recognized “blue line” and thus in Israeli territory (which the United Nations confirmed today in the New York Times), Lebanese snipers shot and killed Lieutenant Colonel Dov Harari and injured Captain Ezra Lakia. It is certainly no coincidence that LAF forces targeted their fire at IDF commanding officers.

Said Captain Lakia, who is still hospitalized after being wounded by shrapnel in his chest, “the troops continued to fight though their commanding officers were absent, after Harari and I were wounded…they fought bravely.”

Captain Ezra Lakia Recovering in Haifa

continue reading…

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Israel has agreed to participate in the official UN investigation into the May 31 events regarding the flotilla. This will be in addition to the Independent Public Commission set up in Israel with foreign participation.

Explaining its position regarding Israel’s collaboration with this UN committee, Prime Minister Netanyahu said “Israel has nothing to hide.  The opposite is true.  It is in the national interest of the State of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world and this is exactly the principle that we are advancing.”

Despite launching its own internal investigation led by nongovernmental officials and foreign observers, calls were made amongst the international community for a United Nations-led inquiry.

The four-member panel will include a Turkish representative along with an Israeli representative. The panel will be chaired by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer as well as Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as vice chairman. They are slated to finish their first progress report by mid-September.

Ban Ki-moon thanked the government of Israel “for their spirit of compromise and forward-looking cooperation” which resulted in what he called “an unprecedented development.”

“I hope that today’s agreement will impact positively on the relationship between Turkey and Israel as well as the overall situation in the Middle East,” he added.