Summer in Israel.
Hard to beat.
The sun was shining, the weather was hot and the hotels and restaurants were full again.
What a contrast from just a year ago and Operation Protective Edge.
A personal highlight for myself was the visit to the museum on Moshav Avichail and to pay my respects at the burial spot of the ashes of Lt Col John Henry Patterson, a person about whom I have spoken around the community and about whose life and deeds much more should be known.
Israel is booming and beaming, whilst despite or in spite of this at the political level, the Government itself faces difficult coalition challenges at every turn and Prime Minister Netanyahu must wonder every day why he called an early election.
With just 61 seats out of 120 Knesset members in the government, every MK has greater power to push particular agendas.
There are quite a number of areas effected, but a particular low light and in a retrograde step for the general population, the Haredim have rolled back the gains by the modern orthodox from the previous Knesset on improving matters pertaining to conversion and marriage.
Amazingly, Naftali Bennet (who heads the modern orthodox party) went silent and chose not to oppose these reversions.
On another note, as per usual, much as neither end of the political spectrum wants to admit this, it is almost always so called “right wing” governments that either cede territory or slow building over the Green Line, even within the consensus settlements.
Despite the rhetoric and the supposed cries of many observers about the “extremist settlement nature” of this government and of Netanyahu’s leadership previously, it was publicly revealed on the 14th of July that for the past year a severe settlement building go slow had been enforced.
Indeed as the settler leaders had been complaining of.
The reason it was revealed was because of the announcement of 900 new housing permits for the next period, mostly inside the existing blocks.
Not withstanding all of the shouting, 900 new housing starts will make it one of the lowest recorded years for new buildings over the Green Line even if all of the permits are acted upon.
The real question is why Netanyahu loses the hasbara battle on settlements when his record does not match the rhetoric.
And so it goes on……
Whilst Israel’s borders themselves are largely secure this summer, meaning they are mostly not being breached, what is happening just over them in two areas in particular, is anything but.
In a word – chaos.
There is chaos in the Sinai with Egypt fighting ISIS.
There is also chaos on the Golan Heights with at least 5 different factions (if not more) fighting each other and the question of the Druze community is particularly perplexing.
The debate in Israel was highlighted by the attack in Majdal Shams by some 200 Druze on an Israeli military ambulance carrying two wounded Syrians back to Israel for medical treatment one night in late June. The Druze beat one of the Syrians to death on suspicion that they were Islamic militants. The Druze on the Israel side of the border say that the wounded Syrians had been responsible for killing Druze on the Syrian side of the border.
The Syrian Druze on the other hand have traditionally been allies of President Assad.
So the situation is very complex.
On another border, that with Gaza, intriguing seems currently a better word than chaos. What is most intriguing are the continual rumours of direct high level discussion between Israel and Hamas on some sort of five year arrangement and with Israel being very careful to give Hamas the benefit of the doubt on separate occasions when rockets were fired from Gaza.
The Gaza/Hamas situation becomes even stranger with 2 Israelis having apparently and deliberately gone over into Gaza some time ago, with a potential new hostage situation developing. And it all remained secret and quiet until now.
There was a lot of hype created by the writings of Michael Oren and in particular of his observations on the conduct and motivations of President Obama. Although there was nothing much new, his insider revelations were fascinating.
Oren’s work was generally criticised by anyone in actual power currently dealing with President Obama. His own party leader Moshe Kahlon even issued a written apology to US Ambassador Shapiro for Oren’s words.
On the other hand, Oren was praised by people not currently in power.
That is real politic in operation.
Interestingly, many people on the right who oppose Oren’s views against settlement expansion and his support for the Two State Solution, overlooked all of this and were quick to start quoting him on Obama.
Of greater interest was that fact that this American born small “l” liberal found that the drift I referred to in a previous piece had become full blown.
That is that Jews, particularly Olim, who regard themselves as lifelong centrist small “l” liberals in Israel are finding themselves increasingly distant from the communities from whence they came.
Or to put it another way, things look different when in Israel, as opposed to the theoretical approach from the comfort or you community centre in the USA or Australia.
In a nutshell, Israeli Oren types see the immediate establishment of a Palestinian State, as an existential threat to Israel, for reasons of security and safety.
US and some Australian Jewish Oren types, see the non-establishment of a Palestinian State immediately, as an existential threat to Israel.
Of course Iran’s dark shadow looms large.
US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, absent any changes, have essentially determined the near term future of the Middle East, and established Iran’s hegemony in the region at the expense of Saudi Arabia and the Sunni world.
Obama has effectively determined the result of the Sunni-Shiite struggle.
He has also ensured that in the foreseeable future Iran will have the wherewithal to increasingly and rather dramatically provide financial and other support to Iran’s proxies in their attempts to promote terror and acts of death.
The deal has also increased the prospects for war and an escalation of a Middle East arms race.
The deal is bad enough as is, allowing Iran to remain a threshold nuclear state.
But even this bad deal will clearly not be implemented as it falls down, nay literally collapses, in the area of compliance. Frankly the prospects for compliance are less than zero.
There is little prospect for changing the US position, especially after UN Security Council approval, but a weather vane will be how New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer votes. He is pro Israel and from the largest Jewish constituency, but so far non-committal.
Of course it does not help that leading ex figures in the Israeli security establishment are giving some sort of public tacit approval to the deal.
But hey, summer in Israel.
And if you happened to be in Tel Aviv for the celebration of Laila Lavan (White Night) which we were for the first time ever, there was not a care in the world.
The streets were closed; the restaurants were open all night; the public squares were full; the streets were crowded with people of all ages walking, singing and dancing; a performance stage here; a dance party there; entertainers everywhere; and smiling faces in all directions.
The best of the best for Sally and myself – the acrobatic circus and pantomime in historic Bialik square. And all backed by a massive Israeli scout brass band from down south. Simply Amazing.
Life in Israel this summer is good!!!!