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On this one, maybe Trump is not so far off the mark

Let’s assume for a moment that US President Donald Trump knew exactly what he was talking about when he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office last week.





I acknowledge it’s quite an assumption to make if one reads all the hoo-ha in the Israeli and Arab media over his comments. His exact words were: “I’m looking at two-state and at one-state and I like the one that both parties like.” Only snag is that the parties don’t agree on what they like – and haven’t for years.

But was Trump really so off the mark with his comments? For the past 15 years US policy has been to promote a two-state solution – a Jewish democratic Israel living peacefully alongside a viable successful Palestine.

The feasibility of this as a solution, however, was already being questioned nearly four years ago by then US Secretary of State John Kerry, who said at the time he believed there was only one-and-a-half to two years left to implement it. That deadline has long since passed – and Trump’s comments might just be the next logical step.

For the past decade I have been interviewing Israelis and Palestinians, often about their views on what a sustainable peace would involve. Israelis tell me the two-state failed because the previous American administration tried to pressure Israel to agree to a settlement outside of its interests; that the Palestinian leadership is unwilling to recognise Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and that young Palestinians are brought up to hate Israelis.

Palestinians tell me Washington is a dishonest and flawed broker. They argue that continuous settlement construction has made a Swiss cheese out of Palestinian territory; that the parameters of a future Palestine which Israel insists on defining, are not sustainable given that Israel controls around half of the water aquifers and most fertile land.

Of course there’s the issue of east Jerusalem which Israel refuses to give up and which the Palestinians insist must be part of a future Palestinian state.

And then there’s the question of how you ensure Israeli security. Palestinians worry that a “demilitarised” future Palestine would leave their country defenceless. The most telling comment came from a young Arab university student who told me: “Israel has in reality already created the one-state solution.”

The idea of one-state is not something new. The Israeli far-right has long advocated for it – a vision where both populations are conferred equal rights as citizens of a Greater Israel.

Among those who’d benefit the most are the nearly half a million settlers living in the West Bank and they are more than happy to talk to me about their plans.

The most striking thing about driving into Efrat is how peaceful – and quiet – the streets are. Considered the capital of the Gush Etzion bloc, like all Israeli settlements, Efrat is considered illegal under international law.

Israel of course disputes this. The mayor, Oded Ravivi, an attorney and member of the Likud Central Committee, is the first to admit that Jews might lost their majority in a state where Arabs have equal rights. The Arab birthrate is noticeably higher and absorbing two million Palestinians won’t be easy.

“We are trying to come up with different alternatives that won’t create a status where people don’t have equal rights, but on the other hand preserving the majority of the Jewish people within the Jewish state,” he explains.

Another proponent of the one-state proposal is Israeli-Arab Bassem Eid. An analyst for Israeli TV and radio and former Palestinian human rights activist, Bassem’s career initially focused on human rights violations committed by Israeli armed forces, but he’s since broadened his research to include human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian armed forces on their own people.

“I must thank Mr Trump for saying it so clearly. Because there are no politicians today around the world who are speaking straight to the point,” he tells me.

“But you have two different kinds of Palestinians. You have the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority and I think the majority of Palestinians believe that the only thing which might put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a one-state solution.”

It might at first seem strange that Israeli settlers and Palestinians are on the same page. Settlers who see one state as the fulfilment of their dream to settle the biblical Land of Israel and Palestinians who would prefer all the land belonged to them.

But both have woken up to a reality: the status quo is unsustainable. Many Palestinians are fed up with the occupation and would like the benefits of living under Israeli rule – good education, opportunities, jobs.

Israeli settlers will never get international legitimacy for their enterprise – not that they’re necessarily seeking it – but a one-state option would mean they can settle and build wherever they want to.

But equality for all in such a new state will no doubt prove difficult to implement. It’s not clear how a Jewish democracy would function and many Palestinians would need to give up their dream of a largely homogeneous state for themselves.

No doubt, the road ahead is rocky, but perhaps one thing the sides can agree on – maybe Trump knew exactly what he was talking about. 


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  1. nat cheiman

    Feb 23, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    ‘I view Trump as an extremely clever man who has gone places and done things in business that few have accomplished anywhere in the world.

    Trump is an optimist. Clearly, he means simplistically, that when the parties negotiate, a one state or 2 state solution  may be the answer. But, with a caveat. Whichever both agree on, will be acceptable to the US.

    I cannot understand the reason why this statement has been dissected to the point where it sounds as if Trump is cynical/dismissive/ obstructive.

    The real problem is the Palestinian leadership.

    Legend has it that the leaders pocket millions of $ and pounds from donations and there is no real incentive to find a solution.

    Aside from Hamas, who do not want peace, who is going to sit with the Israelis at the table?

    The hatred is immense on the side of the palestinians. Remember the slaughter at Munich; At Entebbe: The barbaric acts of Fatah ( Palestinians) has not been forgotten, Not by Israel. Not by the Jews and certainly not by Donald Trump.

    Yerucham Amitai, fmr deputy chief of the IAF, once said; \”In the end, we may have to choose between action that might pull down the Temple of Humanity itself rather than surrendereven a single member of the family to executioners.\”

    When thePalestinians learn and understand that Israel and the Jews will never be beaten, then they will be well on the road to grasping what price they have to pay for peace.

    Trump is more acutely aware of this than most Christian mortals. His skills are accomplished

  2. David B

    Apr 25, 2017 at 1:08 am

    ‘I would really like to have Nat’s confidence in the future Trump accomplishments , as well as his current knowledge of the complexity of the situation.

       The brainwashed irrational hatred that is bred into all Palestinians of Israeli’s and Jews alike, will never be reversed , as their expectations and demands via the Koran and Muslim texts that Jerusalem is their 2nd most holy City, and they will obviously not settle for any less.

       We all know Israel’s claims and beliefs, which will lead to the most obvious stumbling block to any future settlements even for Trump to invent. 

       We will all ‘gaan maar aan’ in hope for the meantime’

  3. Errol Horwitz

    Aug 19, 2017 at 10:57 am

    ‘Mr. Cheiman’s admiration for Trump is grossly misplaced. Believing, as he does, that Trump is a force for peace in the Middle East is simply fantacy.  The man is a simpleton with dwindling support other than his base of neo-nazis, and white nationalists who identify Trump as one of their own. ‘

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Compelled to clean up and contribute



In the early days of his presidency, when the United States was all but crippled by the effects of the Great Depression and a pall of despair and despondency hung heavy over the nation, Franklin D Roosevelt famously said, “It’s common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly, and try another. But above all, try something.” As history shows, these weren’t mere words, but a statement of intent that underpinned what came to be known as the New Deal, a comprehensive array of laws and state-headed social upliftment initiatives that, while not solving the country’s problems overnight, kick-started the essential process of rebuilding.

What’s true for governments is equally true for ordinary citizens. In times of difficulty, each individual should look for ways to be part of the solution and contribute, even in a small way. As our own tradition puts it, “You aren’t obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” (Pirkei Avot, 2:21).

Last week, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, as the representative body of the Jewish community, had the opportunity to make a difference on the ground when we joined with our fellow South Africans from across the spectrum to clean up the Mayfield Mall in Daveyton in the wake of the devastating looting and destruction that had taken place there.

Following an approach from the office of the MEC for sport, arts, culture, and recreation, Mbali Hlophe, we put out a call to the community and early on Thursday, 15 July, a seven-car convoy set out from the KosherWorld parking lot. When it arrived at its destination, the volunteers were greeted by scenes of utter devastation, but together with local community members, they painstakingly set about sweeping, cleaning, and removing debris such as rocks, broken glass, and discarded packaging until the task was done.

Commenting on the experience, National Director Wendy Kahn wrote afterwards, “We left knowing that we had played some role in restoring some order to this area. And we had also showed a community in the East Rand that the Jewish community was concerned about them.”

At both national and local level, the Board is involved in many outreach projects with The Angel Network and other partners to assist communities affected by the unrest. Since Durban and other places in KwaZulu-Natal were especially hard hit by the violence, much of this critical work is being undertaken by our KwaZulu-Natal branch, the Council for KwaZulu-Natal Jewry.

Of immediate concern is alleviating the desperate poverty which so many were suffering from even before the unrest, and which the violence and looting has greatly exacerbated. You can assist us in this work by supporting our Food Relief Appeal at SA Jewish Board of Deputies, Standard Bank Killarney, Account 200305190, Swift code SBZAZAJJ, Reference Food Relief.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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RIP Fred, terrier of my life



Fred died this morning. Not to speak ill of the dead or anything, it needs to be said that he was a bit of a narcissist. We were never close, and if I’m honest, I could hardly stand him. I’m also confident that he felt the same way towards me. And whereas my family is bereft at his passing, I probably won’t miss him.

Fred Feldman was a Yorkshire Terrier with plenty of attitude and no personality. He was self-absorbed and relentless, and would do anything for a piece of chicken breast. But nothing for schnitzel, because he hated to chew anything for himself.

Fred joined our family in a prisoner-swap deal that went down in Centurion outside Pretoria. The terms remain vague in my mind, but I know that it involved a road without a name, a house without a fence, and a handler with a heavy accent and legs with more varicose veins than I thought was possible. I do recall that we were required to leave my daughter’s “Nuk” dummies in her dustbin in exchange for a six-week-old puppy that would torment me for the next 13 years. Had I known then what I know now, I would gladly have offered my three-year-old a lifetime supply of whatever colour she preferred and an orthodontal treatment plan.

Parenting is seldom easy, but the morning of Fred’s passing was particularly difficult. I had carried him downstairs at about 04:00 as I normally do (he hated to walk so early in the day), and I had taken him outside, where he did nothing but wait to come inside (preferring to use my study for his ablutions). I had cut him some chicken breast (schnitzel not being his thing) and then went to do some work (me, not Fred). Although he normally nagged me to pick him up and put him on the couch (he didn’t like to jump up), he didn’t do that this morning.

It was toward the end of my radio show when I got the message from my daughter that he had shuffled off the mortal coil. In truth, I was surprised, more than anything because he had done something for himself. I left the studio as soon after my show ended, but noticed that the day was distinctly warmer, and the sun was shining that little bit brighter than the day before. I’m certain that I wasn’t imagining it.

I didn’t need to be a body language expert to interpret the look on my wife’s face when I walked into the house. It contained a written warning that suggested exactly what was expected from me. I needed to be supportive and contrite. And sad. No humour. No jokes. And definitely no celebration. I didn’t seek clarity on the duration that the edict would be in place. Which in retrospect might have been a mistake.

I’m not going to win any parenting awards this week.

After 18 months of excess death, sickness, of watching friends and family suffer through isolation and anxiety, this morning was a welcome reminder. It was a day reminiscent of a time when we would focus on the loss of a pet, the sadness of a girl who lost a companion. It was a reminder of a time when we would drive to Centurion to find a road without a name, a house without a fence, and a heavily accented woman with varicose veins. I also know that as much as he annoyed me, tomorrow morning at 04:00, I will miss picking up that selfish Yorkshire Terrier, carrying him downstairs, and cutting him chicken breasts because he never liked schnitzel.

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Keep calm and a cool head in the chaos



Along with continued high levels of COVID-19 infection resulting in an extension of lockdown conditions, South Africans have been confronted over the past week with a disquieting eruption of violent protest, vandalism, and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Understandably, this has generated much unease in our community, with many fearing that the unrest will spread to the main Jewish residential areas.

On Tuesday evening, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) organised a webinar titled “Cutting through the chaos – understanding the current crisis” to give our community a more in-depth understanding of what’s happening and how best to respond. SAJBD Gauteng Council Chairperson Professor Karen Milner chaired the event, in which a panel of security experts, academics, and communal leaders gave their perspectives on the situation. Presenters included representatives of the Community Security Organisation (CSO), security company CAP, and the Institute for Security Studies, all of whom were in a position to provide a reliable report about what was happening on the ground.

While no-one sought to sugar-coat the situation, all participants urged people to keep calm, act responsibly, and in cases where they felt uncomfortable or became aware of potential threats, to contact the CSO (control room number – 086 18 000 18) and other security providers. Another point that was stressed, particularly by University of the Witwatersrand academic and media expert Dr Nechama Brodie was the importance of not exacerbating public fears by rushing to believe and pass on unverified information (such as fake-news stories about local malls being attacked). To a significant extent, the problem has been exacerbated less by a dearth of reliable information about what has been happening than by the plethora of unsubstantiated rumours that have been doing the rounds via social media.

Milner concluded with the comment, “We need to rely on whatever well of resilience we have to weather this crisis, and very soon, we need to be there to rebuild our communities and country.”

We are engaging with our KwaZulu-Natal Board to find ways to support and assist KwaZulu-Natal Jewry who have been directly impacted by this serious crisis.

Tribute to a Jewish institution

Many people will have been saddened to learn that one of Johannesburg Jewry’s most venerable and highly regarded kosher food suppliers, Gary Friedman Caterers (GFC), has closed its doors as a result of COVID-19-induced losses. From the SAJBD’s point of view, we have lost a resource that we have relied upon for decades, not just in terms of reliably providing quality kosher products for so many of our public functions, but through the unfailing helpfulness and support that Gary and his team have provided. In common with everyone else who has benefited from its services and will sorely feel the company’s absence, we hope very much to see GFC, at least in some form, up and running when these difficult times are behind us.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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