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Their little State of Palestine

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally put forward the concept of a Palestinian State in his address Sunday night before a packed audience at the BESA Center at Bar-Ilan University. In his carefully worded address, much shorter than the one U.S. President Barack Obama had given in Cairo a week before, Netanyahu said that he supports the idea of a Palestinian State alongside a Jewish one. “I come to you, the Palestinian People – come, let us have peace together and develop the region together”.

Netanyahu SpeechHe noted that this state, when created, must abide by a number of principles; including being fully demilitarized and not allowed to have an air force, navy or mechanized army, and that they would only be allowed to have enough small arms to maintain law an order and preserve their national security. “We are prepared to let the Palestinians live in their designated areas but we don’t want to have their missiles landing on our cities such as Kfar Sava and Petach Tikvah, as well as our international airport” he continued.

The Prime Minister pointed out that Israel will remain a Jewish State with an undivided capital in Jerusalem. He said that the lands upon which the Palestinian claim as their national homeland is also Jewish homeland with a historical connection going back 3,400 years. He added that these lands are the ones given by God to the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and as such “will remain as an indispensable part of the Jewish Homeland”. He added that one of the conditions of the Palestinians being allowed to have “their little state” would be their recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. He was quick to add that the Palestinians would be allowed their national identity and religious freedom within their own borders. “We don’t want to impose our religion, flag, or national identity upon them” he said.

In reference to what President Obama had said about “the state of Israel being created as a result of the horrors of the Holocaust”, he pointed out that Jewish claim to this land goes back more than 3,500 years. He further pointed out that had a Jewish state been established earlier (at the time of Balfour Declaration for example) “there might not have been a Holocaust as Jews would have had a place to go to prior to the onset on WWII.

The question of Palestinian refugees was also mentioned and this issue would not be acceptable within the borders of Israel. “A solution will be found for these refugees, but outside Israel’s borders”, he added.

Netanyahu both began and ended his 30 minute speech by offering to reach out to the heads of all Arab states who are interested in having peace with Israel. “I am prepared to meet with Arab leaders anytime, anywhere, including Beirut, Damascus –even Jerusalem”. He specifically mentioned that he would not meet with terrorists, but did say that his government would make the return of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit “a top priority”.

He ended his speech by calling upon leaders of the Arab World “to continue the path of Menachem Begin and (slain Egyptian president) Anwar Sadat in making peace with Israel. “We must not forget the sacrifices they made for peace” he said, and ended by quoting a passing from the biblical Book of Isaiah: “nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they commit war anymore”.

Now the ball is in the Palestinian’s court.

Miki Goldwasser Remembers Her Son Udi

Ehud GoldwasserAs we once again remember the more than 22 thousand soldiers and civilians who have been killed in wars and acts of terror, we living in Israel cannot help but wonder how women such as Miki Goldwasser, the mother of Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser, can go from being in a state of sad remembering to one of joy when Yom Hazikaron (Soldiers Remembrance Day) changes in just 24 hours to the festivities of Israel Independence day, Yom Haatzmaut.

Ehud Goldwasser, together with another soldier, Eldad Regev were kidnapped on July 12, 2006 by the Hezbollah along the border with Lebanon. For two agonizing years, their exact fate had been unknown (at least to their loved ones) until their bodies were finally returned to Israel in two black boxes on July 16, 2008, virtually 2 years after their Humvee jeep had been attacked by enemy fire. Along with Udi’s wife Karnit, his mother Miki had waged a relentless campaign to have him returned to his family, only to have him come home as another fallen soldier.

Miki was recently interviewed by the Jerusalem Post reporter Ruthie Blum Liebowitz, during which time she talked about her son and what kind of person he had been during his short life of only 31 years. She recalled how he had become so much in love with life, and with his country and his wife, with whom he had planned to raise a family following their graduation from university (they were both graduate students at the Technion when the Lebanon II war broke out). She spoke about Udi’s childhood and how, from a very early age, he had decided that he could live nowhere else but in Israel.

Udi’s love of life was shown many times during his life, both at home, in school, in the army, and especially with Karnit, the love of his life, and childhood sweetheart. Although Udi had lived abroad with his parents from time to time (his father Shlomo was a merchant marine ship captain). Udi knew that he could live his life only in the country he loved. Miki recalled how her son had once told her that even though it was comfortable living in places like South Africa, he could only fulfill himself by living in Israel. He went with Karnit for more than nine years before they finally married, and were only together as husband and wife for 10 months before that fateful day in July, 2006.

Both Miki and Sholmo have been active in the recent campaign to free still captive soldier Gilad Shalit; and they have been regular visitors to the Shalit home in Moshav Mitzpeh Hilla in the Western Galilee. They understand what Noam and Aviva Shalit, Gilad’s parents, are going through. And she is even more determined to perpetuate Udi’s memory by helping other families whose sons have also fallen for the country they loved. This is just one example of the brave young men and women who dedicate themselves to their country; and to their parents – ones like Miki and Shlomo Goldwasser.

Gilad Shalit’s 1,000th Day

“Only a miracle ” now appears to enable captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to soon be released from his nearly 3 year captivity by Hamas militants in Gaza.

Shalit, whose army armor corps unit was attacked on June 25, 2006 while on patrol alongside Israel’s Kerem Shalom border area; was taken back to Gaza by his captors following the ambush on his armored personnel carrier in which two Israeli soldiers were killed and three were wounded. Since then, no actual photographs or video films have been shown to indicate his condition, and only three letters have been given to his parents, Noam and Aviva, to confirm that the young soldier is alive.

Since his capture, intense local and international efforts have been made to secure his release from captivity. Until now, the release of the young soldier, who has been promoted to Staff Sergeant, has been delayed numerous times by unacceptable demands made by Hamas which has included releasing more than 1,000 Palestinians including several who have been found responsible for involvement in a number of deadly terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

A number of countries have tried to intervene on Shalit’s behalf, including European ones like Germany and France. Due to his holding French nationality, Shalit was recently named an Honorary Citizen of Paris. Even the Catholic Church has tried to gain his release, through its representatives in Gaza; but until now, these efforts have been to no avail. Gilad’s parents have been involved in a number of international rallies to gain more attention to the plight of their son; and recently, Aviva Shalit was featured on a weekend news magazine for the Israeli Channel 2.

Following the 22 day Operation Cast Lead military actions between Israel and Hamas, diplomatic efforts have been stepped up on Shalit’s behalf, and several meetings have been held in Cairo to work out a deal to gain his release. The Hamas organization, whose infrastructure was severely damaged during the war, which also left more than 1.300 Palestinians dead, appear to want to enter into a long period of quiet with Israel in order for them to rebuild installations damaged or destroyed. Shalit himself was reported by his captors to have been injured by explosions during the action.

As Shalit’s captivity has now reached 1,000 days, the current Israeli government, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other government officials have been demanding that Shalit be released before Israel agrees to enter into a serious truce with Hamas and other Islamic terror organizations in Gaza. The government is also refusing to release the 11 most notorious Hamas prisoners, many of whom have been responsible for some of the worst terror attacks against Israeli civilians. For their part, the Hamas leadership seems to be even more demanding regarding the young soldier’s release, demanding that these prisoners be the beginning of new negotiations.

On Saturday, March 21, Gilad’s parents and brother decided to leave the tent in which they have been demonstrating in front of the Prime Minister’s residence demanding that Olmert resign if he cannot ensure Gilad’s release. It’s now obvious that only the incoming new government has a better chance in doing so. The Jewish festival of Pesach will soon be here, but there is no joy in the Shalit family home.

All everyone can hope for now is that Gilad is alive and in some measure of good health, despite the suffering that both he and his family have endured during this long period.

The Fish and The Shark

While PM Olmert, Defense Secretary Barak, and the intelligence agencies have failed to do their job and return Gilad Shalit home, the Israeli consulate in New York have managed to make an impact on the Jewish community in the States.

This is a video done a year ago. In it, you see 11 y/o Bronx kids reading the story Gilad Shalit wrote as a child (translated to English).

As the Shalit family and the whole of Israel are facing the fact that Gilad is apparently not coming home any time soon, we have to turn to Gilad’s words themselves to regain some hope — for him, and for a better Israel.

Yuval Arad joins the Fight for Gilad Shalit

Yuval Arad is a young woman, who’s now 24 years old. Her father’s name is Ron Arad, and he has been missing for nearly 23 years, ever since his Phantom plane crashed in Lebanon in 1986, which resulted in him being captured by the Amal Movement, and later handed over to Iran. For the first year and half of his captivity, it was known for sure that Ron is alive, but we have since lost track of him, and his fate remains a mystery.

Yuval Arad grew up without her father, and until recently has kept away from the limelights.

This week she decided to join the fight for the release of Gilad Shalit, visiting his parents in their protest tent in Jerusalem, and granting an interview to Channel 2 news. This matter burns inside of me, she told Oded Ben-Ami. “For the first year and half we knew my father was alive. We know now that Gilad is alive. We can’t know what might be in half a year from now.”

This coming Friday, March the 13th, at 10 am, the public is urged to come and protest together with Gilad’s parents in front of Olmert’s residence in Jerusalem. Olmert is leaving office in less than 2 weeks, and now is the time to pressure the man who could not find a way to release Gilad in the past 3 years. Bus routes 9 and 32 can take you from the Central Bus Station to Olmert’s residence.

Time to Shift Gears

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is preparing to leave office very soon, while on the other side of the border, Gilad Shalit is “celebrating” 1,000 days in captivity this month. It’s time to step up the efforts for Gilad’s release.

Noam and Aviva Shalit, Gilad’s parents, are moving to Jerusalem today, in order to reside inside a protest tent in front of Olmert’s residence. They will remain there until Olmert leaves office, or until Gilad’s return.

Gilad and Noam Shalit

They believe Olmert’s last days in office is a window of opportunity to finally seal the prisoner exchange deal. Gilad was captured on Olmert’s watch, and therefore it is his responsibility to resolve the matter before Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition takes the reigns.

The parents of kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, whose bodies were returned to Israel via a prisoner exchange deal, are joining the Shalit family in Jerusalem, in a joint effort to increase public pressure and awareness.

Shas chairman, Eli Yishai, uttered a remarkably patronizing statement this morning, which I believe precisely captures the government’s stance on Gilad’s captivity: If the protest tent assuages the feelings of the Schalit family, it is a positive thing.

Dear Mr. Yishai, the matter on hand isn’t “assuaging” the Shalit family or the public opinion; it’s releasing Gilad!

One Thousand and One Nights

980 days and nights have passed since Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas militants.

Later this month, on Sunday, March the 22nd, we shall all mark the 1,001st day of Gilad’s captivity. On this day, the Aharai! (“Follow me!”) organization is holding a simultaneous march in 4 Israeli cities: Acco, Tel Aviv, Be’er Sheva, and Jerusalem.

The march in Tel Aviv is planned to begin in the Central Train Station (Savidor Station) and will continue to Rabin Square.

1001

Hopes rise for release of captive Israeli soldier

There appears to be increased optimism that captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit may soon be released from his nearly 3 year captivity by Hamas militants in Gaza. Shalit, whose army armor corps unit was attacked on June 25, 2006 while on patrol alongside Israel’s Kerem Shalom border area; was taken back to Gaza by his captors following the ambush on his armored personnel carrier in which two Israeli soldiers were killed and three were wounded. Since then, no actual photographs or video films have been shown to indicate his condition, and only three letters have been given to his parents, Noam and Aviva, to confirm that the young soldier is alive.

Since his capture, intense local and international efforts have been made to secure his release from a captivity that is now in its 961st day. Until now, the release of the young soldier, who has been promoted to Staff Sergeant, has been delayed numerous times by unacceptable demands made by Hamas which has included releasing more than 1,000 Palestinians including several who have been found responsible for involvement in a number of deadly terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

A number of countries have tried to intervene on Shalit’s behalf, including European ones like Germany and France. Due to his holding French nationality, Shalit was recently named an Honorary Citizen of Paris. Even the Catholic Church has tried to gain his release, through its representatives in Gaza; but until now, these efforts have been to no avail. Gilad’s parents have been involved in a number of international rallies to gain more attention to the plight of their son; and recently, Aviva Schalit was featured on a weekend news magazine for the Israeli Channel 2 TV network.

Following the 22 day Operation Cast Lead military actions between Israel and Hamas, diplomatic efforts have been stepped up on Shalit’s behalf, and several meetings have been held in Cairo to work out a deal to gain his release. The Hamas organization, whose infrastructure was severely damaged during the war, which also left more than 1.300 Palestinians dead, appear to want to enter into a long period of quiet with Israel in order to rebuild installations damaged or destroyed. Shalit himself was reported by his captors to have been injured by explosions during the action.

Schalit’s release is now a top priority for the Israeli government and exiting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other government officials are demanding that Shalit be released before Israel agrees to enter into a serious truce with Hamas and other Islamic terror organizations in Gaza. For their part, the Hamas leadership seems to be more in favor of the young soldier’s release, providing certain “conditions” be met, including opening of border crossings to allow sufficient aid and supplies to enter the place that many people refer to as an “open air prison”.

Increased military activity during the past few days, by both the IAF and Hamas militants, could cancel a final deal, however. Also, the number and types of Hamas prisoners that Israel is holding could prevent Schalit’s release, as many of these militants have been involved in the killing of Israeli civilians and therefore have “blood on their hands” The demand for release of a high ranking Fatah personality, Marwan Barghouti, is also a problematic issue.

All everyone can hope for now is that Gilad is alive and in some measure of good health, despite the suffering that both he and his family have endured during this long period.

Playing Chess with Human Lives

When the negotiations are at halt, all we’re left with is cynicism and mind games.

Christine Toomey wrote this today on The Sunday Times:

While Zahar and Yousef are reluctant to discuss Shalit, members of the Doghmush clan are happy to brag about how well he is being treated. I meet them in a garage of one of the many buildings the clan owns in the Sabra district. Abu Khatab Doghmush, a 51-year-old clan elder, is sitting with family on a sofa pushed against a wall. As I take a seat with my interpreter, I notice a bullet on the floor in front of me.

Abu Khatab insists that the Army of Islam is not holding Shalit. “The only faction that controls his life now is the Qassam Brigades,” he says, his heavy gold watch flapping against his wrist. “But I can tell you that Shalit is living in a paradise. Our religion of Islam demands that we look after prisoners even more than we do our own people.” He rejects speculation that Shalit is locked deep in an underground cell booby-trapped with explosives: “He’s not being kept in a closed room all the time – this would not be healthy. He can go out and take fresh air.”

Abu Khatab then makes an extraordinary claim: “Every year a party is held to celebrate his birthday. Yes, there is a cake and candles, music, everything.” Shalit, born on August 28, 1986, has now spent three birthdays in captivity.

Sometimes I wonder if being slightly autistic is a prerequisite for becoming a political leader or a military chief… Yes, I put both in the same sentence, since here in the Middle East they’re one and the same. Whenever you start to speak of human lives in terms of “expandable”, “negotiable”, “replaceable”, and so on, you demonstrate the lack of your own humanity.

Do not forget Gilad

Since Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev had been lay to rest, the topic of Gilad Shalit has largely disappeared from the media. As cynical as it may sound, Gilad’s parents don’t manage to draw enough attention or to foster enough sympathy as did Karnit, Ehud’s widow.

Despite the overwhelming support the Israeli public had for the “deal” with Hezbollah, it was still controversial, and it has made the public reluctant to release more prisoners in the near future. And on top of this all, Olmert’s resignation and the scuffles of his successors will continue to draw our attention for at least another month. So Gilad’s pleas are now placed on the back burner, and I find it very disturbing.

I urge everyone in the Israeli public and the Israeli media to keep this issue at the top of our national concerns and at the top of the headlines. The time to free Gilad is NOW.

Coming Up This Week

Human Narration on BNarrator.com

Exclusive: News headlines from the future!

July 20
  • Monday: Barack Obama arrives in Jerusalem. A new state’s witness is claiming he saw Senator Obama handing PM Olmert a fat white envelope.
  • Tuesday: Gilad Shalit’s IDF comrades disposed today of their olive uniforms after 3 long years, as they reenter civic life. Nothing funny to say about this.
  • Wednesday: In their Washington meeting, Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and his American counterpart Admiral Mullen allude at a nearing strike on Iran. Oil prices reach 150$ a barrel.
  • Thursday: Minister of the Interior, Meir Shetrit, endorses the construction of a new Arab city in the Galilee. He also promises to give away free Hershey bars every sunday until the coming primaries.

Israeli Soldier Captive for 2 Years – Come and Protest

Israeli Captive Gilad ShalitTomorrow, Tuesday the 24th, will be 730 days Gilad Shalit is being held captive by the Hamas. If you do the quick math, that’s 2 years!

Because the government has failed to release Gilad in the past two years, a large demonstration is scheduled to take place tomorrow in front of PM Olmert’s residence in Jerusalem, at 7pm. The exact address is corner of Gaza St. and Rambam St. (near the Square of France).

Come and be heard. Gilad needs to come back home, safe and sound, as soon as possible. It’s been too long.

For more details, visit the “Thy children shall come again to their own border” website, or their Facebook group.

Post Optimism

An Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire “sort of” began today; Iran agrees to discuss the West’s anti-nuclear incentives; Exchange of prisoners with Hezbollah is rumored to take place any day now; Bureaucrats at the Ministry of Finance stand together with the Histadrut (the federation of labor) against the Minister’s plot to tax the Study Funds; It’s summer…

There are lots of things to be optimistic about, it seems.

Question Mark

Well, I don’t think anyone’s really excited about these news. It’s good that things start to roll, but it may be too little, too late.

1. The truce may enable Hamas to smuggle Gilad Shalit out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt, turning this tragedy into a much longer affair. In addition, there are no illusions about this cease fire. In the meantime, Hamas supplies itself with new ammunition and new rockets, and the flames could be back in a matter of days.

2. Iran stalls time. After all, Mr. Bush is about to leave office, and Ahmadinejad knows that while Bush is keen to attack, Obama (which polls project him to be the next US President) is keen to avoid any such confrontation. “So it’s Okay to show signs we’re ready to enter the diplomatic path. These things take months and years, and we only need to stall Mr. Bush for five months”.

3. Yes, after almost two years, we may finally know what happened to Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. However it’s highly estimated that they’re dead, and in exchange for their release, Israel will let go of Samir Kuntar, the last bargaining chip we have when it comes to extracting information from the Hezbollah regarding the missing pilot Ron Arad.

Sun4. It’s “common knowledge” in recent years that the state of Israel is actually controlled by the Ministery of Finance bureaucrats. The Ministers come and go every two-or-so years, but the bureaucrats are the ones who sign the papers and release the money, while having the chance to push forward their agenda over long periods of time. They have practically privatized any thing imaginable in the last decade, and make this country unbearable for more and more people: Students, the elderly, single moms, etc. Now they’ve done something truly exceptional — entirely out of character — and stood up against the Minister when he suggested striking another blow at the average citizen. Honestly, this is the only report that actually excites me.

5. Oh, and I’m also excited about the summer.

Picture by Lucky Oliver

Deals with the Devil

Newspapers around Israel have reported that Hamas is now threatening to murder Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was wounded and kidnapped by Hamas terrorists back in June 2006 which ignited the second Lebanese-Israeli War. Hamas stated that if the Israeli government does not meet their demands of the release of 350 prisoners, many of whom are imprisoned for outright murder of innocent civilians, they will begin negotiating over releasing Shalit’s remains as opposed to the soldier himself.

Dealing For Gilad ShalitOver the past several weeks reports from officials stated that Shalit was alive and in good health. Doubts about his well-being have surfaced since his capture nearly two years ago, yet over time, intellegence sources have confirmed that the young soldier was indeed alive. There has been no contact between Shalit and his family since. Yet, nearly a year after his kidnapping, Hamas released a recorded message of Shalit was was broadcast to all of Israel and eventually worldwide. It pulled at the heartstrings of many, as of the three soldiers who were kidnapped during this conflict, Shalit is the youngest and most vulnerable. Unlike Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two IDF Reservists who were kidnapped by Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon less than a month later, there has been at least some signs of life from Shalit.

Shalit’s father, Noam Shalit has become a familiar face in the media. Reports of his meetings with Prime Minister Olmhert, President Shimon Peres and Members of Knesset have lead him either to dead ends and virtually nowhere while pleading with officials to do anything they can in their power to have his son released. Support for the soldiers have come from across the globe, from private citizens to human rights organizations to world leaders. Yet, cries have fell upon deaf ears as Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev have become nothing more than barganing chips to both Hamas and Hezbollah. Leaving the Israeli government pleading with her hands tied behind her back is part of how this game has been played.

Many people have voiced very strong opinions, many of whom advocate not giving into terrorists and not allowing blood thirsty terrorists loose just so they can continue causing more harm to Israelis in Israel and worldwide. Jonathan Pollard, the American-Israeli who was imprisoned over twenty years ago for leaking confidential information to Israel which lead to the destruction of nuclear facilities in Hussein’s Iraq, has stated that he would refuse to be released from prison if it meant a barter agreement between his release and the release of wanton murderers.

Now put yourself in the shoes of Noam and Aviva Shalit, whose bespectacled now 21 year old son is in the clutches of those who sacrifice their lives for the love of Allah and 72 virgins. Imagine yourself trying to function daily, going to work, doing your job, eating, sleeping, shopping, holidays, etc and knowing that your child’s well-being, safety and whole life is in the hands of those who have no problem sending youngsters into crowded areas with bombs strapped to their belt buckles to murder who ever is within their radius. Imagine sitting at your own dinner table having a meal and looking at an empty seat across from you. It would be one thing if the child were dead. As horrible as this would be, at least there would be an everlasting mourning period and some sort of closure.

Can you at least imagine what is going on in their minds? I’d doubt you can.

Now, what would you do? Advocate for the release of 350 imprisoned terrorists who could indeed inflict more harm upon innocent civilians for the release of your child or demand that terrorists release him because he has already served a sentence without a prisoner exchange?

Take your time to decide.

Noam Shalit to Olmert

Gilad ShalitYesterday Noam Shalit, father of the kidnapped soldier Gilad, passed a harsh critique of the government’s recent actions. Shalit is pointing a blaming finger at the Prime Minister Ehud Olment for not taking instant initiatives to release his son from Hamas captivity. According to Shalit, his son is paying the price for Olmert’s hesitation.

“I ask the prime minister, who said he would personally address the issue of the kidnapped soldiers, why out of the entire chain of command that is linked to the kidnapping fiasco should Corporal Gilad Shalit be the only one to pay the price?”, said Shalit.

Olmert failed to convince Gilad’s family that he is doing everything in his power to rescue Gilad Shalit. If the public believes that the government has forsaken the kidnapped soldiers, it will hurt the public support of the government’s actions, and will also hurt the motivation of the soldiers and those who are about to be enlisted. The morale has already been seriously damaged following the consequences of the second Lebanon war.

It is safe to say that almost every Israeli soldier is ready to put his or her life at risk, but only if the soldier knows the government will do its utmost in case something terrible happens. Olmert must work harder to gain the family’s trust. Olmert has complained that he is an unpopular prime minister. But to become a popular leader he must become a leader first, and to do that Olmert has to work harder to gain the public trust. In the meantime, he is not likely to win a popularity contest just yet.

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