Daniel Gordis

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Palestinian Authority still doesn’t want a state

Last week’s attempt by the Palestinian Authority to obtain recognition from the United Nations Security Council has mostly disappeared from the world’s front pages. That is not true in Israel, though, where a new diplomatic war with the Palestinians is just taking shape.

As soon as the Palestinians lost the vote in the U.N., Mahmoud Abbas announced that the Palestinian Authority would seek admission to the International Criminal Court. If granted, the authority could then use that position to urge prosecution of Israeli soldiers for war crimes during the Gaza War.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded equally pugnaciously. While insisting that he will not “punish” the Palestinians by building in settlements (a move he knows would be toxic to the international community), the prime minister has said Israel will ask Congress to cut off the flow of the $400 million in annual aid that the Palestinians receive from the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Abba Eban, Israel’s legendary representative to the United Nations, once famously remarked that “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas proved Eban’s point Friday, in an incendiary speech to the UN General Assembly in which he accused Israel of “a new war of genocide” against the Palestinian people.

Another opportunity squandered. During the Gaza War this summer, Abbas had positioned himself as a picture of moderation. When Hamas was accused of having kidnapped the three teenagers whose abduction set off this summer’s violence, Abbas condemned the kidnapping in no uncertain terms. As the war with Hamas dragged on, the Palestinian Authority was party to the cease-fire negotiations.…  Seguir leyendo »

There was no shortage of potential headlines for Israel's Sept. 1 papers. The government had announced what the international press dubbed a “land grab” in the West Bank, and the Obama administration was very unhappy. Israeli Defense Forces soldiers, stationed in Gaza-adjacent communities to reassure still-nervous residents, were suddenly withdrawn. Residents were furious, and felt betrayed, again.

But the lead headline, as it is on every Sept. 1, was that schools had reopened. Makor Rishon, in print, like YNet, online, reported the number; 2,105,394 students were heading to class. Several papers, including Times of Israel, discussed the challenge facing teachers: Students essentially had no vacation, and many had literally spent the entire summer running in and out of bomb shelters.…  Seguir leyendo »

The cease-fire is holding. The sirens have stopped, the bomb shelters are being closed, most of the reservists have returned home. This weekend, for the first time in months, Israelis (like Gazans) will finally be able to exhale.

But the press, quite rightly, is reminding Israelis that peace is almost certainly not at hand. “Gaza war? Merely a blip on the Mideast radar,” Haaretz’s headline read this morning.

The two sides have battered each other into a stalemate. Both accepted terms their leaders insisted they would never abide. Civilians on both sides have suffered, both have buried loved ones. Both are exhausted, utterly spent.…  Seguir leyendo »

Some years ago, soon after Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005 and shortly after the renewal of the Gaza “troubles” (to borrow phrase from the Irish), my wife and I visited friends in the small, Gaza-adjacent town of Shaar Hanegev. We were sitting in the dining room, eating dinner, when the table shook, ever so slightly. Once, and then again. It felt like the mini-tremblers we had gotten used to in Los Angeles, only these were accompanied by a faint but clearly audible “boom.”

“What was that?” I asked, naively. “Tank fire,” our hostess replied matter-of-factly, with a “what in the world did you think it was?”…  Seguir leyendo »

It would have been hard to imagine that Islamic State’s brutal execution of American freelance photojournalist James Foley would worsen the Israeli public's assessment of the U.S.'s role in the Gaza conflict. But listen to the chatter in cafes and on the checkout line in the market, and it seems that it may have done just that.

When the war died down and the cease-fires began, the reservists started to return home. One of them, a student of ours at Shalem College in Jerusalem, had been in the thick of it. When he finally got out for good and came back to campus, I found him in the student lounge, shook his hand and asked, “How are you?”…  Seguir leyendo »

Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel’s only major international hub, lies just inland from the Mediterranean Sea. When heading to Europe or North America, therefore, the standard takeoff route is a simple westward one; as the plane lifts off, you can look out the window, see Tel Aviv, then the beach, and then the sea as you leave Israel behind.

But that was not the route we took when I departed Israel the other day. We headed not west, but east, and then banked left, heading north, over the middle of Israel. Only when there was a fairly significant distance between the plane and the north edge of the Gaza Strip did the pilots make a left turn and head back out toward the sea.…  Seguir leyendo »

For decades Shimon Peres, now Israel’s president, has spoken of his country’s yearning for a “new Middle East,” one in which Israel is at peace with its neighbors, regional economies cooperate and the conflict with the Palestinians is finally set aside. Now, with Egypt’s government on the edge of collapse, Israel is suddenly faced with a “new Middle East” — and Israelis are terrified.

Many Westerners believe that the events in Egypt are a disaster for the Jewish state. Its most important regional ally faces possible chaos and an Islamist takeover. Add to this King Abdullah II’s recent dismissal of his cabinet in Jordan (the only other Arab country that has signed a peace treaty with Israel), Hezbollah’s quiet coup in Lebanon last month, a resurgent Syria and an increasingly Islamist Turkey, and you can understand why many Israelis feel surrounded, as they did decades ago.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the last few days, Jerusalem has been blanketed by an unusual combination of humiliation and steely determination. How is it, people here wondered aloud, that the same country that tripled its size in three lightning days in June 1967 and then pulled off the rescue at Entebbe nine years later now seems to botch everything?

We lost the 2006 war in Lebanon, believing — incorrectly — that our venerated air force could win the war from the skies. The strikes on Gaza in December 2008 were a military success, but we have utterly failed to convince the world that it was a defensive effort precipitated by eight years of Hamas’s firing Qassam rockets at us, killing and maiming and destroying any semblance of a normal life for Israelis living near the border.…  Seguir leyendo »