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IDF suspends plan to minimize nighttime arrests of children

Despite concerns raised by the international community, the army suspends a pilot program meant to lessen the number of Palestinian children arrested in night raids.

By Gerard Horton

A pilot program by the Israeli army in order to lessen the number of Palestinian children arrested in nighttime raids has been suspended, according to Israel’s chief military prosecutor.

The program was announced by Israel’s military authorities in February 2014, and called for issuing written summonses instead of arresting children during night raids in the West Bank. The announcement followed concerns raised in the UK, The Netherlands and Australia about the devastating impact of repeated nighttime incursions into Palestinian communities. In 2013, UNICEF published a report that graphically described these nighttime arrests as follows:

Many of the children arrested at home wake up to the frightening sound of soldiers banging loudly on their front door and shouting instructions for the family to leave the house. For some of the children, what follows is a chaotic and frightening scene, in which furniture and windows are sometimes broken, accusations and verbal threats are shouted, and family members are forced to stand outside in their night clothes as the accused child is forcibly removed from the home and taken away with vague explanations such as ‘he is coming with us and we will return him later,’ or simply that the child is ‘wanted.’ Few children or parents are informed as to where the child is being taken, why or for how long.

On January 15, 2015, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders made a statement to the Dutch Parliament on the progress being made in implementing the pilot program. Koenders informed Parliament that on November 12, 2014, a conversation took place with Israel’s chief military prosecutor in the West Bank in which it was stated that the pilot program began in February 2014 in both the Nablus and Hebron districts.

According to data collected by Military Court Watch, there was a 5 percent reduction in the number of children arrested at night during the period in which the pilot program was operational. However, in 67 percent of cases in which summonses were issued, they were delivered by the military after midnight in a process that continues to terrify the civilian population. And despite the slight improvements brought upon by the plan, the military did not keep any statistics on the...

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The thin line between incitement and freedom of the press

On the face of it, a protest by Likud youth against one of Israel’s most prominent newspapers seems like a non-issue. But in the context of last summer’s war and the growing threats against left-wing journalists, freedom of the press may no longer be able to protect the media.

By Gaby Goldman

Journalists, editors, media outlets – we all love simple stories. Something straightforward, black and white, good or bad. And this is what makes it harder for me to admit that the Likud party’s demonstration in front of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily’s building on Sunday night is not a simple story. In fact, it brings up more questions than answers.

On the one hand, there is the issue of democracy and free speech. In the democratic country that we strive to be, every person or organization is allowed to express their opinion on any matter, including against the media, as long as it does not lead to incite against or harm others.

On the face of it, Sunday night’s protest played by the rules of democracy: an organization merely protested because it felt wronged. But from here on out it starts to become more complicated, especially since we are not talking about just any organization, but about official representatives of the ruling party (the demonstration was organized by the chairman of the Likud youth chapter), who are openly protesting against one of the leading media outlets in the country. And this is just a week after the prime minister himself called on his supporters to “be brave and attack the media.” Over what? It doesn’t matter – just attack.

Every organization, including the ruling political party, has ways to critique the media. They can investigate, reveal hidden interests, lodge a complaint with the Israel Press Council, lodge a complaint with the police or open a competing news outlet. True, neither side of the political spectrum is innocent, and the attempt to pass a law against the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom newspaper on the one hand, or what is seen as a direct attack on Channel 10 (which is often critical of the prime minister) on the other, are perfect examples of this. But in our fervor as journalists to protect the holiness of freedom of speech, we fall into the trap of our own memory span and forget the context.

“I don’t think we have seen such a protest by the...

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The fraud of Gush Etzion, Israel's mythological settlement bloc

Destroyed by Arab armies during the 1948 War, Gush Etzion was repopulated after Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967. Since then, successive Israeli governments have done everything they can to expand the area of the mythological bloc, while settling Israelis on privately-owned Palestinian land. 

By Hillel Bardin and Dror Etkes

All American children learn the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo!” at some point in their schooling. The story of the Alamo starts in 1836, when white colonists began settling in northern Mexico. They finally drove the Mexican army out, but the army eventually returned and slaughtered all the whites in the Alamo Mission, refusing to even take prisoners. The white army, infuriated by the slaughter of the heroes of the Alamo, returned with a taste for blood. They beat back the Mexicans and subsequently annexed all of northern Mexico, which then became the state of Texas – the largest in the contiguous United States.

Israeli children do not learn about the Alamo, but they do have their own heroes to remember. In the 1940s, four kibbutzim (Kfar Etzion, Masuot Yitzhak, Revadim and Ein Tzurim) were established southwest of Bethlehem in an area later designated for a Palestinian state by the 1947 UN Partition Plan. It turned out that their location was excellent for intercepting Arab military traffic between Hebron and Jerusalem, so the Haganah and Palmach (pre-state Zionist militias) sent troops and supplies to do just that in the last days of the British Mandate. The Jewish martyrs of Gush Etzion (including the 35 soldiers of the Lamed-Heh) are part of the Israeli pantheon of heroes. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion said that he could “think of no battle in the annals of the Israel Defense Forces that was more magnificent, more tragic or more heroic than the struggle for Gush Etzion.”

While there was debate in 1967 over whether to settle in the West Bank, the resettlement of Gush Etzion was viewed by many Jews as a special case, which derived from the sentimental value over its fate in the 1948 War. On September 27, 1967, Kfar Etzion became the first Jewish settlement in the West Bank, and was re-established on its 1948 ruins. At this point it became apparent that using the name “Gush Etzion” allowed the public to overcome its general resistance to settling Israelis in the occupied West Bank.

This, however, led to the fraud of attaching the name Gush Etzion to areas that had no connection to the original group of settlements – a fraud...

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How to stop Palestinians unionizing: Security, security, security

When Palestinian workers at the Tzarfati garage in the West Bank settlement of Mishor Adumim unionized, management made up criminal accusations against the Palestinian chairman of the workers’ committee, exploiting the hostile war-time environment at the time. Management brought in the army, the police, and sent him to military court — resulting in the revocation of his work permit.

By Niv Hachlili / ‘The Hottest Place in Hell

It’s seven o’clock on a Thursday evening and Hatem Abu Ziadeh sits behind the wheel of the taxi he drives to support his family. He’s been on the go since early morning, ferrying passengers on the winding roads between Ramallah and the surrounding villages.

Abu Ziadeh is from Jibiya, a village near Bir Zeit, and is the proud father of four sons and two daughters. For 17 years he was employed as a mechanic at the Tzarfati garage in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone. But last summer he was dismissed following a unionizing drive which he led together with the independent Trade Union Center WAC-MAAN.

Ostensibly, this is just another story, becoming increasingly common, of workers standing up and demanding their legal rights. However, unlike organizing initiatives within the “Green Line”, the fact that this case involves Palestinian workers employed in a Jewish settlement means it has unique characteristics.

A particularly worrying aspect of Abu Ziadeh’s story is not the ease with which the employer violates labor laws and the rights of Palestinian workers – such cases are commonplace. What makes this case important is the way it exposes how official state bodies grant assistance, both direct and indirect, to employers who violate employees’ basic rights.

Why are you raking up the past?

The organizing at Tzarfati began in June 2013. Some 40 Palestinians joined WAC-MAAN and a letter in their name was sent to the employer, asking that a general workers’ assembly be held. In July of that year, elections were held for the workers’ committee, and Abu Ziadeh, who had been instrumental in the unionizing efforts, was elected as chair.

“Before the organizing,” Abu Ziadeh said, “Tzarfati did whatever he felt like. He said we were employed according to Jordanian law, and that he wasn’t obliged to pay us minimum wage. People would get 3,000 shekels a month, without vacations, without pension contributions, without national insurance, nothing. Sometimes for example there would be accidents on the...

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UN aid agency to Gazans: Sorry, but there's no money

Only $135 million of pledged donor money has been delivered to Gaza, hundreds of millions short of what’s needed, the UN agency says. As a result, it is suspending its aid programs for those most affected by the war.

By Yael Marom

UNRWA, the UN relief agency charged with providing aid to Palestinian refugees, announced Tuesday that it is suspending its financial aid program to the thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed during Operation Protective Edge last summer. The program was intended to assist them in repairing houses, as well as renting apartments for those who have remained homeless since the assault.

According to a statement by UNRWA, more than 96,000 homes belonging to refugees were damaged or destroyed during Protective Edge, and the cost to repair them is estimated at $720 million. Until now, UNRWA claims that it only received $135 million of the pledges for the program.

Read also: Report details IDF ‘double tap’ bombings in Gaza war

At a summit held last October in Cairo, donor states pledged over $5.4 billion for reconstruction in the Strip. The head of UNRWA in Gaza, Robert Turner, said that only a small portion of that money made it to Gaza, and called the decision to suspend the program troubling and unacceptable.

“If we cannot continue the program, it will have grave consequences for affected communities in Gaza,” Turner said in a statement. “People are desperate and the international community cannot even provide the bare minimum – for example a repaired home in winter – let alone a lifting of the blockade, access to markets or freedom of movement. We’ve said before that quiet will not last, and now the quiet is at risk.”

According to statistics published by the United Nations, over 100,000 homes in Gaza were damaged during Operation Protective Edge (nearly 20,000 homes were entirely destroyed, while 80,000 were damaged). Tens of thousands of people in Gaza, including children, live and sleep in plastic shelters and tents that cannot protect them against rain or cold. Those without homes live among the ruins of their former houses, facing the threat of rain which can easily collapse or flood their shelters.

For Israelis it seems that the relative quiet of the past few months has been maintained. But for the residents of Gaza, the situation is entirely different. The Israeli army continues to fire on Palestinian fishermen...

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How the joint Arab slate challenges Israel's discriminatory politics

For the first time, the Knesset could have a sizable political bloc that is ’100 percent for equality, 100 percent against occupation.’ The joint Arab slate should use this to not only challenge the right-wing’s discriminatory agenda, but to expose the center-left’s distorted idea of democracy. 

By Amjad Iraqi

Last week, the four main political parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel announced their agreement to run as a joint slate in the upcoming elections. Although there is popular support for the decision, Palestinian citizens are uncertain of what the slate can achieve. Personal conflicts, ideological differences and other disputes will make it difficult for the parties to stay together after the elections. Moreover, its members will still be attacked in the Knesset by right-wing parties such as Likud and Jewish Home, and will likely be ignored by the center-left “Zionist Camp” led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.

But despite the justified pessimism, a unique opportunity has emerged with the creation of the joint Arab slate. For the first time, the Knesset could have a sizeable political bloc that is “100 percent for equality, 100 percent against occupation.” The four Arab parties have always represented these views, but never as a single body with the potential to control nearly a dozen seats.

This development is significant since it not only challenges the right-wing’s discriminatory agenda, but also exposes the center-left’s distorted idea of democracy in Israel. Many in the international community believe that the “Zionist Camp” will diverge from the racist policies of the right-wing – both in relation to Palestinian citizens of Israel and to the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But this is hardly the case. The discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens, along with the occupation of the Palestinian territories, did not begin when the right-wing came to power. It is a systemic reality born out of Israel’s “Jewish state” mission since 1948, which grants Jews privileges and rights not afforded to non-Jews, while seeking to force indigenous Palestinians to accept their inferior, second-class status.

The center-left has been both an architect and accomplice to this system, including as coalition partners to Netanyahu’s governments in 2009-2012 and 2013-2015. The difference is that while the right-wing wants to make Jewish supremacy more explicit, the center-left conceals it in order to maintain Israel’s democratic image. This is why the center-left will publicly oppose “blatantly racist” legislation proposed by the...

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Israel won't become part of the Middle East until the occupation ends

The chance of Israel’s re-admittance to the Middle East lies in its ability to show initiative, originality and flexibility of thought. Only by attempting sincerely to solve the Palestinian problem will it have a chance to become a public and recognized player.

Prof. Elie Podeh

A few months ago, former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni traveled in secret to New York to a meeting attended by the foreign ministers of several Arab countries, Arab League officials and European foreign ministers. The topic of the meeting was the formulation of a regional coalition, or cooperation, against ISIS. Participation of an official Israeli representative of such a call marked a significant achievement in Israel’s foreign policy, and confirms that the post-Arab Spring developments in the region have created an opportunity for Israel to forge new alliances and coalitions with regional actors. Recently, it has been revealed that Foreign Minister Liberman secretly met Arab and Palestinians officials in Paris with the aim of promoting a regional initiative. In light of the diplomatic impasse, this is good news.

The bad news is that these exchanges are held in the dark. This once again highlights the fact that Israel is still suffering from a “mistress syndrome” in the Middle East— relations with her must be kept a secret.

Since its existence, Israel has conducted secret contracts with individuals and countries in the Middle East. Common interests led to occasional cooperation, which needed to be hidden so as not to endanger the collaborators. Jordan’s King Abdullah and his grandson King Hussein held many talks with Israeli leaders. Abdullah even paid with his life for secret contacts that almost led to the first ever peace agreement with an Arab country. Even ties in the late 1950s and early 1960s between Israel, Turkey, Iran, Ethiopia and perhaps Sudan—the so-called “Periphery Alliance”—were kept secret.

Cooperation in the 1950s was designed to combat the threat posed to the Middle East by the pan-Arab ideology under the leadership of Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. Thus, for example, Israel was covertly involved in the Yemeni civil war of the 1960s, in which it helped royalists in their struggle against the republican regime backed by Nasser. Israel also secretly helped the Kurds in Iraq in their fight against the Ba’ath regime in the mid-1960s.

Israel later aided the Maronites in Lebanon, although when that cooperation came to light in the Lebanon War in...

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The Arab parties united? Great, now it's time to get to work

After a great deal of work, the joint Arab election slate has finally come into fruition. But what does the list say about the place of women in Arab politics? Who proved himself to be the real leader of the group? And what can the Arab public do now?

By Samah Salaime Egbariya

You know that joke about how Arabs can’t agree about anything but the fact that they disagree about everything? Well, it is officially no longer relevant!

With the looming elections and the raising of the electoral threshold, Israel’s Arab population went into a long state of difficult contractions. A group of talented gynecologists, nicknamed the “agreement committee,” were appointed to bridge the gaps between the Arab parties and worked without a midwife, trying everything they could in order to birth to a united election slate.

Let’s just say it was a vacuum delivery, and that the committee was resigned to do it forcefully. But why ruin our most joyous occasions? The main thing is that the list was born and that Arab society is now recuperating from a difficult birth. The decision over which MKs will receive ministerial portfolios (should it ever come to that) could bring about a world war, so we’ll set aside these issues for a different time.

For now let us read between the lines of the agreement, which was disseminated across social media outlets and was signed by all the respectable men present during the negotiations. The agreement, which is similar to Israel’s Declaration of Independence with its colorful signatures, was sent out alongside a photo of tie-wearing men straight out of Kafr Kara. What do we see in this new list?

1. Women

Representation of Arab women in the next Knesset will double. To two. It all sounds much nicer when we look at it in terms of percentages: a 100 percent increase in Arab women in the Knesset! Ahmed Tibi’s Ta’al faction started acting like a proper political party and struggled to get one of its own women into the list — a healthy change. As a result, perhaps there will be two-and-a-half women in the following Knesset — an increase of 150 percent.

I believe that the Islamic Movement must also meet this demand in the future, and struggle with itself over women’s representation. If this change actually takes place, then the united...

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Arab parties likely to announce historic joint election slate in coming days

Islamists, Marxists, women and Jews: The Arab parties have done the seemingly impossible and are likely announce a united election slate in the coming days.

By Yael Marom and Nadav Frankovich

Israel’s Arab parties are expected to announce the formation of a combined election slate in the lead-up to the upcoming elections. The slate, which will group Ra’am, Balad, Hadash and Ta’al into one party (without formally merging), has been named “The United List,” and is set to include secular, religious, female and Jewish politicians.

While the different Arab parties have historically run separately, a law spearheaded last year by Avigdor Liberman and Yair Lapid raised the election threshold to 3.25 percent (four seats), and has effectively forced the parties to consider joining forces in order to remain relevant. The new threshold has sparked a fierce debate about the possibility of giving an equal voice to all sectors of the Arab population, as well as the inclusion of Hadash’s Jewish members.

According to +972 Magazine’s sister site, Local Call, which spoke to several sources, the list will likely headed by Hadash’s Ayman Odeh, who was elected party chairman last week, followed by Masud Ghnaim of the Islamist Ra’am and Balad’s Jamal Zahalka in third place. Ahmed Tibi (Ta’al) will take the fourth place, followed by Aida Touma-Sliman from Hadash.

Read: Joint Arab list would raise voter participation, +972 poll shows

Abdel Hakim Haj Yahia (Ra’am) will take the sixth place, and Hanin Zoabi (Balad) will be placed number seven. Eighth place will go to Hadash’s Dov Khenin, the only Jewish member of the slate who is likely to be elected, followed by Ra’am’s Taleb Abu Arar.

The biggest controversy is between Balad and Hadash over spots 10 and 11 (between Balad’s Basel Ghattas and Yousef Jabareen from Hadash), and places 13-14 (Jum’a Azbarga from Balad or Abdullah Abu-Ma’arouf from Hadash). Furthermore, spots 12 and 15 have yet to be decided between representatives of Ra’am and Ta’al.

Should the parties join forces, the United List faces will likely face several challenges, including whether to remain together after the elections, as well as working together on the campaign and the ability to appeal to different groups within Israel’s Arab population. Despite the difficulties, it seems that Arab citizens are united in their desire to see a united list. According to a recent +972 poll, nearly 70 percent of...

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The importance of being earnest about human rights

In an open letter, one of Israel’s foremost refugee rights lawyers calls on the deputy attorney general to follow her conscience.

By Asaf Weitzen

Dear Deputy Attorney General Dina Silber:

I am familiar with a bit of your academic work, including two books you authored and speeches that you give from time to time. You have demonstrated a deep commitment to basic rights and an understanding that the any government must be checked if and when it seeks to infringe upon basic rights. What I find incomprehensible is the disparity between those views and your intensive involvement in legislating the amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Act. Hence this letter. Due to the importance of the issue at stake and its relevance to the public, I feel that it should be published and I would appreciate the publication of your response to it as well.

I am not trying to convince you that you are perpetrating an injustice. I am not calling on you to “refuse.” I am only asking you to help me understand. To reveal what it is that allows you to work with such devotion and intensity on the legislation of an additional amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Act. How do you remain so devoted to a law that translates into the continued deprivation of liberty, all while doing nothing for overburdened neighborhoods like south Tel Aviv that have high concentrations of asylum seekers and other non-deportable foreigners.

I make three basic assumptions in this letter. The first assumption is that you have freedom of choice and that you would not pay a catastrophic personal price should you refuse to take part in the legislative process. The second assumption is that you believe the denial of liberty from the innocent and harmless should be a last resort, and that every man and woman has a right to weave his or her own life story. In other words, I assume that if it were up to you, the phenomenon of unauthorized entry into the country — which has all but stopped — were to be addressed entirely differently than the current law, with its imprisonment and exclusionary mechanisms, and the tremendous cost of holding so many people in detention facilities. The third assumption is that you have read the High Court judgments that struck down two previous amendments to the law, and...

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Why EU recognition of Palestine isn't enough

If the European Union wants to play a more active role in Israel-Palestine peacemaking it should first articulate a common policy and decide whether it can continue playing second fiddle to Washington.

By Charalampos Tsitsopoulos

Much has been made of recent European initiatives to symbolically recognize a Palestinian state in pre-1967 borders. On December 17, 2014, a European Parliament resolution supported “in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood.” The move followed similar resolutions in individual European parliaments in previous months. Meanwhile, there was no shortage of commendation for European recognitions, welcomed by the Arab League as a measure that will “undoubtedly put pressure” on Israel.

While far from speaking with one voice, the Europeans at least seemed to agree on basic common denominators for their regional policies, something no shortage of observers have described as vital if Europe is to advance stability in the region. Articulating coordinated policies would also signify something else: that Europe has come a long way from its eternal policy of playing ‘second fiddle’ to the United States.

Yet, hailing Europe’s supposed resurrection ignores the deeper question of the efficiency and impact of its actions. Are Europe’s recent initiatives a renewed push for bolstering the resolution of the conflict? Have Europeans calculated the potential impact their actions have on regional stakeholders? Or are these merely a fig leaf meant to conceal the absence of true progress in Israel/Palestine? It would be hard to ignore the latter. And here is why:

Europe’s approach does not seem to be particularly nuanced. Had it wished to play a constructive role in the region, it could have formulated a clear objective and a strategy for achieving it. True, the EU Parliament resolution talks about two states living side by side in security and under international law. But this in itself is simply a repetition of what every institution and individual hoping for a two-state solution has said for decades: one could hardly be accused of pedantry for expecting a more sophisticated approach from the EU. For example, the Resolution calls settlements “illegal under international law”. That’s hardly a surprise. But what exactly is it proposing?

A look at recent policy pronouncements shows that the EU rarely hesitates before throwing its weight behind policies and proposals that appear even slightly tenable. For example, it sanguinely supported John Kerry’s peace before the details of his plan were revealed to anyone....

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Netanyahu blames Abbas for Tel Aviv stabbing attack

Palestinian man boards public bus during rush hour, stabbing at least 10 before being shot in the leg and apprehended.

Photos by Oren Ziv, Yotam Ronen/

A Palestinian man from Tulkarm stabbed at least 10 people on a public bus in Tel Aviv Wednesday morning. Three of them were in serious wounded, four moderately.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed blame for the attack on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying that it “is the direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority against the Jews and their state.”

“[Abbas] is responsible for both the incitement and the dangerous move at the ICC in the Hague,” he added.

Just after 7 a.m., during rush hour, the 23-year-old from Tulkarm boarded public a bus on Begin Road, a major thoroughfare in the city. He reportedly starting stabbing the driver and other passengers before fleeing.

An Israel Prison Service officer who happened to be nearby shot him in the leg and apprehended him.

Several months ago there was a string of deadly of stabbing and vehicular attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces, culminating with a terror attack in a Jerusalem synagogue.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed blame for the attack on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying that it “is the direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority against the Jews and their state.”


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Is Eastern Europe the next front for fighting the occupation?

While Israel’s behavior has managed to antagonize many European countries, some former Soviet states have yet to take a stand against the occupation. That may just change soon enough.

By Inna Michaeli

The vile and repugnant behavior of Avigdor Liberman and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs toward Sweden (one of my favorite countries) has re-lit a spark of optimism. At least among those of us who hope that international pressure will force Israel to end the occupation.

When it comes to international relations it isn’t the human rights violations or war crimes that cause antagonism toward Israel. Rather, it is the use of tactics such as “defense is the best offense” and representatives such as Liberman that do the trick. But the journey from interpersonal hostility to sanctions is long, much like the journey from headline-making political theater to actual change in policy. It seems, however, like those roots are being firmly planted.

Four years ago I traveled to Brussels for a series of meetings at the European Union as part of my previous job with Coalition of Women for Peace. It was a year after Liberman was appointed foreign minister. During that year, he not only managed to cause the entire EU leadership to hate him, he also brought up fond memories of his predecessor, Tzipi Livni.

Pearl of wisdom #1: Diplomatic work is superficial

It doesn’t matter that as part of her job Livni worked to whitewash mass killings during the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. For her European colleagues, Livni was far easier to work with. Liberman’s macho chic, not to mention his caveman style, was less successful.

Understanding the goings-on in the corridors of the European Union is like an allegory for understanding art history. In art history, one learns a lot about the gossipy relationships between the different artists. The EU gives similar weight to interpersonal relationships, and its agenda is affected by fads. Truly, it’s all very tiring.

So what is the positive side of it all? Israeli behavior leads to antagonism against it, mostly due to a series of personal and national attacks.

Pearl of wisdom #2: Your political opinions don’t matter, and no one likes feeling like an idiot

I met diplomats from the EU’s “new member states” – Central and Eastern European countries with a socialist past that were allowed to join...

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