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Views on the Trump-Netanyahu meeting

The jury is out on whether the recent discussions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and American President Donald Trump was positive or not for Israel. Here are some of the comments from media around the world this week.

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American commentator Prof Alan Dershowitz, in the Jerusalem Post: The time has come for the US to tell the Palestinians that they must negotiate with Israel if they want a Palestinian state, and must agree to end the conflict. President Donald Trump raised eyebrows when he mentioned the possibility of a one-state solution. The context was ambiguous and no one can know for sure what message he was intending to convey. One possibility is that he was telling the Palestinian leadership that if they want a two-state solution, they have to do something. They have to come to the negotiating table with the Israelis and make the kinds of painful sacrifices that will be required from both sides for a peaceful resolution to be achieved. Put most directly, the Palestinians must earn the right to a state. They are not simply entitled to statehood.

Dov Waxman, professor of Political Science, International Affairs and Israel Studies, Northeastern University, in The Conversation: 
President Trump asked Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit”. Driven by a powerful combination of religious nationalism, economic incentives and security concerns, the continued expansion of Israeli settlements is one of the main reasons so many seasoned observers of the conflict, myself included, are increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel’s settlement building has long been an irritant in US-Israeli relations. Successive US administrations have opposed it, viewing it as a provocation to Palestinians and an obstacle to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Obama administration was particularly vocal and unyielding in its opposition to settlement construction. It insisted that all Israeli settlement building had to stop. The Trump administration, by contrast, looks likely to adopt a more permissive attitude toward Israeli settlements. To be sure, it will not be as tolerant as those on the Israeli right and some on the American right initially hoped it would be.

Michael Laitman commented in Haaretz: Directly after the meeting, Trump said  he didn’t mind which solution was reached, as long as it was agreed upon by both sides. A little while later he added: “As with any successful negotiation, both sides will have to make compromises,” [turning to Netanyahu], “You know that, right?” Netanyahu replied: “Both sides!” Later Netanyahu mentioned that he would like to switch from “labels to substance”, meaning to talk about the actual implementation of peace rather than sticking to slogans such as a “two-state solution”. But how can you talk about peace with a partner who does not want to reconcile with you? In truth, the only peace that the Palestinians want is the peace of mind of having driven the Jews out of Israel and into the Mediterranean, or to another country, or to another world.

The Times of Israel: Netanyahu hailed the success of his talks with President Trump, as the start of “a new day” in Israel’s relations with the US. “The alliance between Israel and the US has always been steadfast but, I told them there and also here in Jerusalem: This alliance has become even stronger.” Citing his connection with Trump as well as “the common view about the dangers and opportunities in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said that during his “historic visit”, he and the president saw “eye to eye” on a range of issues facing the region, specifically noting the threat posed by Iranian aggression. 

Roger Cohen in the New York Times: There was plenty not to like in Trump’s joint appearance Netanyahu. But before I get to that, let’s entertain the notion that there was some merit in Trump’s agnostic punt on whether a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians should involve one state or two. Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the UN, said: “The United States does not currently recognise a Palestinian state or support the signal this appointment would send.” What signal, pray? Trump should lift the American objection to (former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister) Salam Fayyad right now if he’s serious about a deal. This is prejudice as policy, the worst of Trump (with his grotesque deflection of a question about anti-Semitism into a celebration of his victory not far behind). It suggests his interesting one-state two-state provocation will lead nowhere.

Peter Beaumont in The Guardian: Standing alongside the Israeli prime minister… the US president declared himself unconcerned whether negotiations should be aimed at the two-state solution, which has long been guaranteed by Washington. Instead, Trump indicated that it would be left to Israelis and Palestinians to sort out the “ultimate deal” he had once promised he would make. Said Trump: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. “I can live with either one. I thought for a while it looked like the two-state might be the easier of the two – but honestly if Bibi, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. nat cheiman

    Feb 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    ‘Roger Cohen of the NYT unfortunately, articulates like pseudo intellectual liberals usually do. Gobbledeygook.

    If you can make head or tail out of what he purports to say, then you have similar qualifications, to him.

    His recital is garbage or at best the ramblings of a drunk.

    Pity, about him being Jewish’

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Compelled to clean up and contribute

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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

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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

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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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