Here in Israel, "after the holidays" is a favored term. Everything here stops until after the holidays. However, events in the world and the Middle East have certainly not stopped for the Jewish holiday season. Here at home the news for the past two days has been focused on the unrelated killing of two Israeli soldiers by Palestinians. On a human level, it's hard to know what was worse– the kidnapping and following killing of an Israeli soldier by a supposed friend, or the sniper shot that rang out in near dark that suddenly took the life of a second soldier. All of Israel’s hearts go out to both grieving families. The political right has jumped on the attacks to claim these tragedies are all the fault of those seeking peace. On one point the Right are certainly correct– There are plenty of people who hate us. Still, by all accounts, these attacks were individual and not related. Frankly, as much as I hate to use the words– These acts were not terror attacks, but despicable acts of murder against specific soldiers. They were not random killings aimed at terrorizing. The reaction to these murders among the right-wing members of Likud (which refers for almost all of their Knesset members) shows how politically isolated Netanyahu is in his own party.
The second major event has been the ongoing terror attack in Nairobi, Kenya. Too much is unclear at the moment. There are conflicting stories between the government and other sources, including the terrorists themselves. If you tie that attack to the attack on Christians in Pakistan (and then, of course add the ongoing violence and deaths in Syria and in Iraq, we certainly have had a violent few days. Once again, most of that violence has been taking place where Islamists and non-Islamists meet– (of course, with a fair dose of Sunni–Shiite violence thrown in.)
The third major news story these past few days has been the "peace offensive" in which the new Iranian President has been engaged. The Israelis are very skeptical of it. In addition, they are clearly fearful that the United States will fall for it. Of course there is a chance that an agreement can be reached. Since the level of economic pain that has been inflicted on Iran has been so high that they may be willing to make serious compromise. President Obama gave his annual speech to the U.N. The speech was covered extensively in Israel– especially the section about the role of the U.S. in the world, and that when its cores interests are at stake, it will use force. President Obama embraced the change of tone from Iran, but stated (regarding any negotiations) that "if negotiations are to succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable."
On Israel President Obama stated: I’ve made it clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state. Earlier this year, in Jerusalem, I was inspired by young Israelis who stood up for the belief that peace was necessary, just, and possible. And I believe there’s a growing recognition within Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state. But the children of Israel have the right to live in a world where the nations assembled in this body fully recognize their country, and where we unequivocally reject those who fire rockets at their homes or incite others to hate them."
READ THE FULL SPEECH HERE
Two last unrelated notes:
Prominently featured in the news tonight has been the near-death watch (at Hadassah hospital) for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (the 93 year old spiritual leader of Shas, and much of the religious Sephardim.
Finally, A report came out today that Israel has the lowest work-productivity rate in the O.E.C.D. The findings of this report are worth a separate and a much longer column.
Worth while article by Jeffrey Goldberg - Five Reasons Not to Trust the Iranians on Nukes