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Israeli Polls: Jews want to ignore the conflict, Arabs think nothing will change

The majority of Jewish Israelis think the international community will impose some sort of ‘substantial pressure’ on Israel soon. But they are disinclined to let such criticism affect the country’s policy.

A majority of Israelis see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an existential problem, according to January’s monthly Peace Index survey conducted by Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute. Indeed, a stabbing a day and a war every two years is no way to live. Yet Israeli Jews regularly vote for parties who perpetuate the same policies, and rarely protest Israel’s military rule over the Palestinian people in any significant numbers.

Spoiler: recent surveys do not solve the puzzle. But they do highlight some of the competing attitudes driving Israeli political behavior.

When asked if the conflict can continue more or less like today without threatening Israel’s security or existence, 52 percent of the public disagreed in the Peace Index poll. Among Jewish respondents, fully 61 percent disagree that Israel can live with the conflict as it is today.

Arab respondents (the survey asked just a small sample) saw things very differently: over three-quarters think Israel can continue to live with the status quo. They probably base this on the last 50 years, when Israel has experienced regular injury to its security and existence in the form of wars, terror attacks and perceived international de-legitimization — and nevertheless essentially maintained its grip over the Palestinian people.

Indeed, the Jewish sense of the conflict as a grave threat barely translates into support for changing policies. The backbone of the occupation is Israel’s martial law over Palestinians in the West Bank, implemented through the army and the military courts, whereas Jews in the same territory live under civil law. But when asked about this “unequal application of the law” (referring to the U.S. Ambassador’s recent statement), half of Israeli Jews justify the situation; 40 percent oppose it (the 10 percent remainder who said they don’t know are unlikely to be agitating for change). Among the self-defined right wing, fully two-thirds justify this situation. More striking is that fact that among Jews in general, only 40 percent believe that “unequal application of the law” is the case today and a majority of 53 percent say this is not the case. Yet this is among the most basic facts of the situation – which are are not hidden, but apparently rarely seen.

International pressure

If Israeli Jews do not...

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Stop asking whether Israel is Jewish or democratic

This isn’t a choice between ‘Jewish or democratic’ — the only question is whether Israel can still become a true democracy.

For some years, the political center-left in Israel has committed itself to the idea of a Jewish and democratic state. For these mostly secular and traditional people, “Jewish” used to mean some sort of cultural character, and democracy meant free and fair elections.

This political camp is deeply committed to the balance between those two ideas and believes that when one overtakes the other, we are lost.

Thus if Israel is too “Jewish,” it risks becoming a halakhic caliphate that makes a secular or flexible lifestyle impossible. Sunday’s revelation that the Education Ministry froze funds intended for organizations promoting religious pluralism is one more worrying sign.

The center-left is just as worried about too much democracy, whose natural end-point is full equality of individual and political rights, representation and opportunity regardless of ethnicity. But liberal Zionists do want Hannukah and they don’t want an Arab prime minister, though they feel impolite saying so. So they support democracy but also its limitation to ensure Jewish political, institutional, cultural, and economic dominance.

To resolve this contradiction the center-left has embraced the cause of a Jewish majority in Israel. Some years ago I asked center-left focus groups what a “Jewish state” meant to them and a consensus quickly emerged: “it boils down to a Jewish majority” — since we agree on so little else about what “Jewish” might mean. Thus the idea of “Jewish and democratic” is more accurately translated to “Jewish majority and a democratic state.”

When it became clear that a peace process didn’t automatically translate into security, the “Jewish and democratic” narrative replaced “peace for security” as the Left’s major justification for the two-state solution, in which an end to the occupation and a return to 1967 borders would guarantee greater numbers of Jews in the state.

Then the Right created one state. With some help from the Left over the years — especially when it came to settlements — the Right has erased the Green Line, and made it unlikely Israel will ever extract itself from the West Bank. The old ‘67 borders have stretched their limbs, normalizing the large settlements blocs outside of Jerusalem, extending conceptually to include Ariel, a settlement of 18,000 people located deep inside the West Bank. Not a day goes...

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How to mourn terror victims as a leftist

Leftists always worry that the Right will exploit violence to advance its political agenda, so we remain silent. The Left needs to learn how to mourn while rejecting the political programs of our leaders — and even the victims.

On Sunday, Dafna Meir, mother of six was murdered in her West Bank home with three of her children nearby, allegedly by a 16-year old Palestinian stabber. On Monday, a young pregnant woman was stabbed in her West Bank settlement of Tekoa; she is in stable condition. These attacks against unarmed civilians are unambiguously, absolutely and completely wrong.

There is no international convention for war or peacetime to condone such acts, and no justification of human morality. Not even the brutal instrumentality of politics defends attacks that are guaranteed to set back any national or collective goals. The occupation did not cause this 16 year old to kill Meir; the proof is that the vast majority of people living under Israeli occupation are not doing such things. The victims must be mourned and the killings condemned on an individual basis.

But there is more than an individual human side. Like it or not, these acts do have political meaning as well and they highlight how key political actors think at present.

As often happens, the Jewish-Israeli Left becomes mealy-mouthed when faced with such violence. I know why: we already know how the violence will be manipulated in the service of the Right, exploited to entrench the conditions we deeply believe perpetuate violence in general. We feel the Israeli media has overdosed on Jewish victimization for as long we’ve been conscious and we see how this is destroying both sides. We hate adding to it.

I believe it is our responsibility to swallow these bitter truths and speak out anyway — Bradley Burston has done so nobly. Disavowing such acts must be part of our embrace of universal humanity as well as an affirmation of our own moral guidelines.

Both Jews and Palestinians who oppose the occupation must be very honest and resist any subtle legitimization of violence against settlers. The creeping sense that settlers are not civilians and they are legitimate targets for violence must be rejected.

I don’t mind being called all sorts of names related to privilege, violence against unarmed settlers is not defensible in any way. Settlement in occupied areas violates international law but it is also a...

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Israel's volunteer thought-police

Right-wing activists have been infiltrating human rights and anti-occupation organizations. The spies did do serious damage, but to a much bigger target than they intended: Israeli society.

Two weeks ago I wrote about a right-wing group trying to recruit people to a “top secret” mission: spying on left-wing organizations in Israel. The outfit was largely a one-man show. I thought it was a colorful but probably not very serious example of the latest “hasbara” antics – propaganda or public diplomacy – gone too far.

I was naïve. Two weeks later, we learned that right-wing impostors have been infiltrating, befriending and filming  left-wing organizations for several years. Israel’s vaunted investigative news program “Uvda” aired a damning story about far left-wing activist Ezra Nawi based on the documentation of such self-anointed spies. Breaking the Silence, the ex-soldiers’ testimonial organization, found another mole who had burrowed into its inner circle as well. The daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot ran a lengthy spread revealing (rather banal) details of a meeting the group held with former director-general of the Foreign Ministry and retired ambassador Alon Liel.

Amir Beit Arieh, the young man who had spied on Breaking the Silence, told Channel 2 this week that the goal was to trap those on the far left “who will stop at nothing,” he says, to end to the occupation.

So infiltration is no longer a threat but a reality. What do we need to know about this, and what does it mean?

Tripping themselves up

First, it’s important to understand who the spies are. Beyond their personal background, Walla news portal reported this week that their organization, “Ad Kan” is funded partly by the “Samaria Settlers’ Committee.” That’s the same group which in 2015 created an eerie youtube ad attacking the foreign funding of left-wing NGOs, replete with Nazi-era anti-Semitic caricatures and a gruesome hanging at the end.

The Committee is also a partially publicly funded organization – so Israeli taxpayers are likely paying to send citizens to spy on each other. How much? The Walla reporter didn’t know yet. Which is odd, considering how important financial transparency is for the Right.

This highlights the next point, that right-wing activists are turning out contradictions that could also be described as screaming hypocrisies. The arrest and indictment of murder suspects in the Duma case led the Right in Israel to express unprecedented concern for human and civil rights. Torture, it turns out, is a bad...

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‘If I hadn’t been inside, it would’ve been over for me’

Witnesses describe panic and near-misses when a shooter opened fire in central Tel Aviv killing two. News channels and social media were rife with rumors and speculation as police urged calm.

Central Tel Aviv’s posh Dizengoff Street was packed with weekend shoppers and people strolling, and drinking coffee or beers Friday afternoon when a gunman opened fire on a sidewalk pub, killing two people and wounded seven others.

The shooter, who had not yet been identified at the time of this report, was still on the loose. Heavily armed police and special forces were conducting house-to-house searches in the area, a search that only expanded into the evening.

CCTV video of the shooting shows a group young people sitting close together at high bar tables as a man emerges into the frame with an automatic weapon and opens fire. Another video, filmed inside a health food store next door, shows the shooter ambling around, picking up some nuts and putting them back, and calmly pulling an automatic weapon out of his backpack, stepping outside and beginning to shoot.

Witnesses said they heard long seconds of rapid gunfire and bolted for cover.

Noga Keren, a 46-year-old investment manager for a philanthropic fund, was at the “Sidewalk” café on the corner of Dizengoff. She pointed to a wooden bench inside the glass-enclosed section of the café. A single bullet hole had pierced the glass. “I was sitting on the bench. If I hadn’t been inside, it would have been over for me,” she said. She and her companions saw a man with a weapon rush around the corner as they hit the ground, then a minute later they fled inside. “It’s a tough feeling,” she said. “you just can’t imagine yourself in a situation like this.”

Alexandre Lambez, a 27 year old visiting from France, said he was in another nearby café when he heard the gunfire, and he was still in shock. His family moved to Bat Yam, a suburb south of Tel Aviv, three years ago and he was here for a wedding. He worried about the implications: “It looks like a dark future,” he said.

An employee in a large drugstore across the street from the shootings said the shop was full of customers, who panicked. Catching her breath as she spoke, she related: “Everyone ran downstairs to the storage room, lots of them,...

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Hasbara group wants you to infiltrate human rights NGOs

A private, low-profile ‘public diplomacy’ outfit is setting out to train ‘Secret Hasbara Agents.’ But don’t worry, it’s not propaganda.

A private Israeli hasbara – or “public diplomacy” – organization on Wednesday put out one of the weirdest responses yet to the incitement campaign by far-right group Im Tirzu of two weeks ago.

The original Im Tirzu campaign described Israeli human rights advocates as “planted” agents serving foreign agendas because the organizations they work for receive funds from European governments.

The response ad published on Wednesday called for — presumably right-wing — Israelis to be “planted” inside the “plants,” a reference to the human rights organizations Im Tirzu put in its cross-hairs.

The ad says that following Im Tirzu’s report, the “Centre for Public Diplomacy and Hasbara” is organizing a “reprisal action” against the human rights groups. It wants to encourage people to apply for jobs at the human rights organizations in order to “oppose the dissemination of their lies.”

Yes. The Centre for Public Diplomacy & Hasbara runs a program, according to its website, to train “Secret Hasbara Agents,” who become “certified” – it’s not clear by whom – to the “Secret Hasbara Agent Network.”

Participants of the course will be sent on “missions abroad.” Moreover, the website promises they will earn a “big reputation as graduates of an elite, prestigious and impressive program from the Centre…”

The “secret agent network” and the ad for the “reprisal operation” marked “top secret” were published on the organization’s web page, as well as its founder’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

The organization is the brainchild of an attorney named Davidi Hermelin. The “contact us” section of the website lists his mobile phone number. Hermelin has served as chair of the Young Likud committee, he made a run for Knesset, and consults for certain government agencies.

Asked by phone what exactly the concept of “secret agents” means, Hermelin explained to +972 Magazine that his approach is not to engage in hasbara proper or even necessarily Israel-related forums. Instead, the workshops offer participants a range of topics about Israel that they can select for training.

The courses “stress complexity,” he emphasizes. They are not trying to convince participants or their future audiences of any given position. He just wants them to know the facts on any given issue, and have the skills to convey their own ideas.

His example is a lengthy...

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Knesset passes dangerous settlement funding law — without a hitch

A new law formalizes the outsourcing of rural settlement activity in the West Bank. A boon to the settlements, a blow to democracy — and the taxpayer.

While Israeli society has been busy with incitement against human rights workers, a baby-killing celebration, and legislation attacking civil society, the Knesset quietly approved a new law last week formalizing the status of the notorious Settlement Division of World Zionist Organization (WZO).

The law authorizes the Israeli government to delegate its policies in the settlements to this outside, private body. Despite an opposition filibuster, the law for legalized policy outsourcing passed in the middle of the night between Wednesday and Thursday.

In February 2015, a damning report by Israel’s deputy attorney general on the shadowy body ordered the state to stop financing the Settlement Division through the national budget, arguing that it was not being held to any normal government standards of operation. Now that the law has passed, the government can fund the Settlement Division freely.

The new law stipulates the Settlement Division will be bound by practices of public bodies such as financial reporting and tender processes, and that it is subject to Israel’s freedom of information laws — but it cannot become a government body.

If that sounds boring and technical, it is meant to be. The Settlement Division has become Israel’s strongest symbol of the impenetrable bureaucracy that entrenches and expands settlements while making its work practically invisible.

It was established in 1971 within the WZO – itself a sprawling, antiquated “nominally private” but in fact quasi-governmental body that houses other major Zionist organizations. The Settlement Division is the vehicle for Israeli government funding and development of “rural settlement” in the West Bank, Golan Heights, and until 2005, Gaza. It is effectively the executive arm for all infrastructure and resource distribution for Jewish-only communities beyond the urban settlement blocs. Its website cheerfully describes its goals as “establishing and strengthening Jewish settlement,” and encouraging their “demographic, economic and social sustainability.”

In 2004, the organization added the Negev and Galilee to its portfolio, perhaps mainly to claim it works for “the periphery” — or underdeveloped areas of Israel proper. But its overwhelming influence is in the settlements. Haaretz‘s Meirav Arlosoroff explains:

Bradley Burston of Haaretz has called the Settlement Division “monumentally shady.” It was not widely known and there was zero oversight over massive public funding...

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All I want for Christmas I found in the Tel Aviv market

A simple walk through the market is all it took to remind me what has changed over the years, why even walking through the market isn’t simple, and to stir up some surprising optimism.

Jewish Israeli friends were having a Christmas dinner, and I wanted to buy some good vegetables for my modest contribution. So I went to the shuk for the first time in ages yesterday, on Christmas.

In my first years after moving to Israel, I used to revel in the romantic grit of the Tel Aviv shuk. By contrast to Jerusalem’s renovated market, it is unreformed. The place has been wallowing in dirt for decades. The walls, shops, grills, grates, wagons and tables are all colored a crumbling gray-brown. The ground runs with a rotted vegetable muck.

It was a bright December day, the kind of mild loveliness that reminds me why I live here.

Against the dirty-bland palette, produce was bursting off tables like a color storm. Tomatoes glowed; light filtering in through the narrow line of sky above the alley turned yellow peppers into flames. Huge bushes of fresh green herbs created scented clouds of cilantro and basil. When I pass by these, I am prone to momentary fantasies of jumping inside the invisible cloud and inhaling forever.

Edging through the packed Friday crowd, the market became a landscape of nostalgia. In those early years, I embraced my move from the US by visiting the shuk regularly, although it was far from my first neighborhood. I was dazzled by the farm-to-table sensation before the term had been invented, having left a country where food felt frozen and soulless – symbolizing how I felt about the move in general.

I had been captivated by Israel because in general I felt life to be closer to nature and the spirit of things, more raw, less packaged. Just a few days after I arrived as an olah, I found myself talking with my then sister-in-law, about why we had moved. My ex and I spoke passionately about how the US felt plastic, and Israel felt real. His sister had also immigrated some years back; she though we were idealizing. We argued so vociferously that at the end, her toddler piped up: “plastic, plastic.” She laughed and hugged her kid. I remember thinking that she felt the baby saw through us, and...

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The woman trying to make Israel equal

For the past eight years Equal Employment Commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair has fought dozens of employers discriminating against minorities, rolled out creative new tools for fighting the gender wage gap, and much more. In an interview with +972, she discusses affirmative action, the role of societal racism in the labor market, and her hopes for equal opportunity in Israel.

Israel has identified more grounds of discrimination in the workplace than any other Western country — 16 in total. It’s not clear if that means Israel is extremely progressive in recognizing vast types of discrimination or if the labor market just reflects the country’s many entrenched social hierarchies.

Despite Israel’s myriad social and political divisions, workplace equality would seem to be a pragmatic and possibly even a bipartisan policy goal. The Left tends to support equality from a moral standpoint, and the Right could support workplace equality based on liberal economic values – but also for the benefit of international optics (“hasbara”).

And yet, Israel’s workforce is an arena where every single unresolved contradiction and conflict of Israeli life is playing out.

I sat down last week with Tziona Koenig-Yair, the country’s first-ever “equal employment opportunity commissioner.” For eight years, she has fought to change structural inequalities from within the government, a challenge that is either herculean or Sisyphean — it’s not always clear.

Speaking softly but extremely fast, Koenig-Yair explains that some forms of discrimination have hardly any objective measure. Koenig-Yair cites the case of an Ethiopian-Israeli who was not accepted for a job because, the interviewers said aloud, “we don’t want someone of that background.” A person with a Mizrahi-sounding name was rejected for a job interview, then offered one immediately after re-submitting his CV using an Ashkenazi-sounding surname. A would-be employer wrote that the rejected interviewee looked “fairly slutty and dark.”

But such clarity is rare.

In order to better understand where its attention is most needed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) conducts surveys tracking both employer and employee perceptions of discrimination. Those findings are not always intuitive.

For instance, Arabs employed by Arabs report more workplace violations than those employed by Jews. An EEOC survey of the whole population found that older people perceive the greatest discrimination in the workforce (86 percent), followed by mothers of small children, and only then Arabs; Mizrahim report nearly the lowest level of discrimination (47 percent), just above army reservists. Interestingly, employers’...

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There is no more 'Israel' today

What’s in a name? A lot, it turns out. Why the name ‘Israel’ alone just isn’t doing the job.

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat touched off a sizable media storm when he asked to remove an Israeli flag hanging above his head as he addressed the Haaretz conference in New York this week. Veteran journalist Dan Margalit from the pro-Netanyahu newspaper Israel Hayom called the conference organizer’s decision to comply a “burning and outrageous mistake.”

But I can’t get worked up about the flag. In fact, lately I have a hard time saying the name Israel at all. And not because I’m anti-Israel. Not at all.

It happened spontaneously, when concerned outsiders, Jews or others, ask me how things are in Israel since the escalation of violence these past few months. I found myself saying, “Well, in the region it’s like this…” or “In Israel and Palestine…” or “You know, in Israel-slash-Palestine…”  then fumbling apologetically, “you know, the Palestinian territories…” and rushing ahead to cover my confusion. Suddenly a word that I use hundreds of times a day – “Israel” – no longer seemed to be working right, to describe what’s happening.

The source of the violence is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Netanyahu’s incantation of “incitement” is a weird attempt to convey that it comes only from Palestinians, that Israel is not involved. The media treats spikes of violence as a nasty storm, capricious but passing – out of our hands.

But without Israel’s policies, incitement would have much less traction – and there wouldn’t be anywhere near as much of it. If we described the cause of the violence more accurately, we might make better decisions about how to avoid it.

That’s just one situation that prompts my mouth to grope for a better term.

In domestic politics, leaders prefer to talk exclusively about Israel. But Israeli voters have a remarkably sensitive internal sensor that detects where each party lies with relation to Palestinians. Left, center and right in Israel is defined almost exclusively by the conflict (or Jewish-Arab identity issues). Voters position themselves on that axis before anything else. Israel’s internal politics are thus encased in Palestine, gripped by it.

Israeli foreign policy is made or broken on the altar of Palestine. Israel would have an excellent relationship with Europe, for example, if not for occupation and the resultant violations of international law. Instead, that connection is deeply...

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The only valid parallel between America's gun problem and Israel

Both countries have a sickness, an addiction of the collective.

When something shatters our ceiling of horrible things, you want to think we’ve hit rock bottom. The only shred of hope after a mass shooting is that the slaughter of innocents will finally stun people into seeing how America has gone mad on guns. Maybe this time the human pain will cause warring factions will pull together to reach the only logical, if not perfect, answer: Take away the outright murder machines, and make it harder to get “regular” guns.  The geese and deer can wait a few more weeks to be killed.

For me, that moment was Newtown. No one can be aloof to the butchery of babies, I thought. In religious terms, god gave humanity the mother of all signs.

The data is indisputable. The more guns per capita, the more gun deaths per capita. Outsiders cannot understand how America weeps, yet resists the most obvious way to reduce its torment. Since Newtown there have been nine more mass-death shootings. Or 1,000 more, depending on how you define them.

The answer is that America is addicted to guns. It is the albatross of the country, an addiction of the collective. Guns are killing more Americans than heroin. They kill roughly twice the number of cocaine overdose deaths annually. Yet with the victims still gasping, we croak out “more guns, more guns.”

Addiction means denying that guns are a problem.

Addiction means that America invents fantastical reasons justifying its habit. How many crocodiles kill humans in the US each year? Actually, just one. About 155 people die of all animal attacks. Even if fewer guns doubles the number of raging animal deaths, it won’t approach the 20-30,000 annual gun deaths. The sport of hunting? If you must. But some weapons that are currently legal won’t leave much of the deer to take home.

The argument that armed civilians are an antidote to mass shooters is absurd. I couldn’t find any reports on mass shooters brought down that way. One wacko right-wing site cites an FBI report showing that five out of 160 mass shootings were curtailed by armed civilians – but apparently people did a better job without guns: four times as many were stopped by unarmed individuals. Out of the five armed “civilians,” four were actually security guards. Still...

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Israelis only understand force — and it makes them angrier, polls show

New polls find that a majority of Jewish Israelis support the ‘voluntary transfer’ of West Bank Palestinians, a majority want to strip East Jerusalem Palestinians of Israeli residency. It’s true that most peace efforts followed war and violence — but not because the Israeli public wants them. Even in times of crisis, a brave leader can change all that.

The latest crisis of violence has become a successful campaign of terror: Israelis are profoundly shaken. Many have reverted to the Second Intifada mentality of personal risk calculations based on self-selected danger factors and fingers in the wind. People avoid Jerusalem and buses, and innocent people have been killed in frenzied anticipation of attacks.

It is too early to know what the lasting impact of the current violence will be, but Israeli attitudes being documented in real time raise some longstanding questions: is violence the only thing that shakes Israeli complacency and makes Israelis consider concessions? Or does it spark an eye-for-an-eye mentality?

A majority of Jewish Israelis supported giving up on the Palestinian areas of Jerusalem in two recent polls – 66 percent in a Maariv poll from mid-October, and 56 percent in a small poll of 300 Israelis for the Knesset channel, published in late October (Channel 2 reported 50 percent from the same survey). The reporting does not specify whether the sample includes Arabs, instead referring to “the Israeli public” – although it is a small sample with a nearly six percent margin of error.

Giving up parts of Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem has generally been considered a center-left position. It reflects the vision of the Oslo, Camp David and Clinton/Geneva two-state negotiations in which the city would be divided so that two states can have their capitals there.

Does this mean Israeli society has tacked to the left? If so, is it true that “Israelis only understand force?” (Of course Israeli Jews are also deeply committed to the image that Palestinians and Arabs only understand force. It is this axiomatic belief that the Right uses to advocate military action as the answer to nearly all political dilemmas.)

Some Israeli analysts insist that Israel has only ever made concessions or advanced peace negotiations after wars: the 1973 Yom Kippur War led to the first Camp David negotiations in 1977 and ultimately the peace agreement with Egypt; the First Intifada led Yitzhak Rabin to realize that the occupation must...

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Jerusalem becoming mini-police state and ghost capital

As tension rises in Jerusalem, Israelis stay away and debate how to resolve problems there while ignoring the West Bank and Gaza. It can’t be done.

It has become common over the last few days to hear that, ironically, the political Right is dividing Jerusalem and not the Left, putting up blockades around Palestinian neighborhoods in response to a spate of attacks. But after two visits to the city this week, it feels like this isn’t just about separating the Palestinian and Israeli neighborhoods — Jerusalem is increasingly divided from Israel itself.

Last week, a colleague who works in Jerusalem proposed a meeting at a Tel Aviv café – he said he wouldn’t dream of dragging anyone to Jerusalem these days. A friend had planned her son’s Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall, but moved it to Rehovot south of Tel Aviv. After attending a peace demonstration in Jerusalem Saturday night, I returned on Monday to speak on a panel. Organizers were worried about attendance. Apparently some people planning to travel from elsewhere had canceled, saying they had families and couldn’t take the risk.

Due to road work, cellular navigation apps automatically route drivers to Highway 443, which runs through the West Bank, rather than the main road from Tel Aviv. There have been scattered attacks on Highway 443 in recent months, but I decided to take it anyway, keeping my mind on the statistical odds. The road was empty – it could have been 2 a.m.

I have never seen less daytime traffic on the ring road around Jerusalem, or in the perennial car-swamp area of Talpiot. Only later, stuck in long strings of vehicles inching out of Palestinian neighborhoods, did I realize that Palestinian and Jewish areas that are adjacent, or intertwined, are one big jam.

I drove to the sprawling neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber to see the fresh-looking concrete panels that had been erected the previous day, a harbinger of more walls running through the city. The area lies next to the Jewish neighborhood Armon Hanatsiv –formally called East Talpiot. The website of Jerusalem’s municipality writes: “The construction policy [in East Talpiot] emphasizes the establishment of satellite neighborhoods to boost the Jewish population of the city, making it unnecessary of build additional… Jewish neighborhoods in the city.”

The lovely, landscaped promenade in Armon Hanatsiv overlooks the Old City. It is now dotted with olive-uniformed Border Police...

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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