-- December 22, 2011- Hamas PLO, EU vs Foreign Ministry, Extremism and Apathy and African Refugees

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Israel Update
A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

December 22, 2011- Hamas PLO, EU vs Foreign Ministry, Extremism and Apathy and African Refugees

According to a number of sources, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have reached an agreement to end the differences between them. To the surprise of many, the agreement calls for Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to become part of the Palestianian Liberation Organization. It seems to Hamas it is important to be part of what is called “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. ” How this will work is still not clear. Probably the most important question is, if Hamas becomes part of the PLO; the same PLO which signed various agreements with Israel; does that mean Hamas will recognize and accept those agreements.

The other news of the day was made, ridiculously, by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The Foreign Ministry reacted to the near automatic condemnation by EU states to the announcement that Israel was approving additional building in the West Bank, by issuing a statement that France, England and Germany were making themselves irrelevant. Once again, you can question the EU statement. However, Israel's Foreign Ministry, is the ministry whose responsibility it is to explain the government's policies and improve Israel's standing in the world. When the Foreign Ministry turns around and publicly attacks some of our few friends in the world, using undiplomatic language, it sounds like the plans of a foreign minister trying to get votes and with no regard for Israel’s diplomatic standing.

Two related domestic issues: First, the reverbations from last week's attack on the army by the settlers. Second, the refusal of a woman to move to the back of a bus, traveling on a religious route. The two events seem to have resonated together and broken through the wall of apathy toward extremism that exists in Israeli society. It is not clear where this new revelation is going, since the level of apathy in Israeli society remains very high. Though it is clear both very dangerous actions require a focused and concerted response. There are two articles worth reading on the subject: the first, by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, and the second by a new friend of mine, Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin .

Finally, to the wisdom of cab drivers. While I try to travel wherever I can by bicycle, yesterday on the way to the Tel Aviv DMV by cab we passed through the area in South Tel Aviv where most of the African migrants congregate. I had not thought much about them recently, until an African young man was in the hospital bed next to my father for the last week of my dad's life. The young African was receiving excellent care. His prognosis for the case of AIDs from which he was suffering was excellent. However, meeting him made me focus just a bit on the problem.

Then, recently the news was full of plans to close the border and build a large temporary camp for the migrants. Of course, the political talk was all about whether or not they are refugees? What is our responsibility as Jews to the less forturnate people? Can we or can we not turn refugees away? The taxi driver had a little different take on the matter. As we drove through an area whose building were familiar to me, but whose residents made it seem we had been transported 1,500 miles South to Central Africa. He posed two major questions. First, what did the government expect was going to happen when they brought busloads of those caught crossing the border and just dumped them into Tel aviv, without housing, or a means to earn a living? How were they going to eat? The best intentioned person will steal when s/he is hungry. But a more profound comment that I thought he made was questioning what we are doing finding work for the Africans? It’s the Palestinians that are our next door neighbors. Whatever your political beliefs we ulmitately have to live with them and making sure they are better off is in our long term interests. Before we should be worrying and taking responsibility for all the people of Africa, he went on, we should be worrying about the Palestinians. Food for thought…

Finally, two photos that catch the spirit of Tel Aviv on this Chanukah evening. The first, from the famous coffee shop "Rolandin", who has converted their out door seating area into a factory and sales area for Sufganiut (available fresh from 7:30am til 10:30pm daily) and the second photo is from Azrielli Mall– showing the lines of customers waiting to get into the newly opened Forever 21.

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