By Shimon Z. Klein

At this time of the year many Jews, secular as well as religious, review the previous year. Many ask themselves what went wrong in their personal lives as well as the collective lives of all. It is a period of soul searching. Apart from the shopping rush for the annual New Year family feast with apples dipped in honey, resolutions and wishes are made. Many resolutions are personal and involve some desire for a better life and self improvement in one’s relationship with one’s family, friends and neighbours.

This year, the Muslim Fast of Ramadan also begins on the eve of Rosh Hashanah (New Year). This fast will last for a month from sunrise to sunset and the motive is not different from the Jewish motive of repentance. Here both great monotheistic faiths are calling for the same human desires of self-improvement.

Surely we should add more substance in our common goals, Jewish as well as Muslim, of trying to make a greater effort for peace and understanding between our two peoples and this of course includes Israelis and Palestinians. Both peoples, Israelis as well as Palestinians have not been behaving humanely towards each other.

The threat of Palestinian terror over the last year has been on Israel’s doorstep. This includes the constant Qassam rocket fire into Sderot in southern Israel. Many families living in Sderot are in fear of their lives. Their lives are disrupted because of warning sirens of Qassams falling. Kindergartens have been hit and it was just a matter of luck that there were no children there at the time. The logic behind the Hamas and Islamic Jihad support of this form of terror is difficult to fathom. These two Islamist extremist terrorist groups are uncompromising in their hate for Israel and the Jewish people. Their desire is total destruction of the Jewish state and its people. The firing of Qassam rockets is just one of the symptoms of their desire to achieve this. Negotiations for peace and coexistence are not in their lexicon.

Nevertheless, the silent majority in both the Israeli and Palestinian camps wish to achieve peace. It is up to both our peoples to make our voices heard in this direction.  

We, the ordinary people, Palestinian and Israeli, have not done enough to improve the atmosphere for peace. Peace is good for everybody. Peace is also security for everybody. Peace will also provide job opportunities for everybody as outside world business entrepreneurs would show more readiness to invest in both Israel and Palestine. Israelis and Palestinians could set an example to the world about conflict solving. It is a matter of good will and building trust. Perhaps here the South African example of reconciliation could be emulated.
Despite the severe differences in apartheid South Africa and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, similarities in conflict solving could be adopted. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as initiated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, could be used as a role model. Naturally modifications to suit the situation in this conflict would be necessary. The Palestinian leadership, whether under Hamas or Fatah, should show a basic desire to come to terms with Israel’s existence and cease terror operations. The former has not come to terms with Israel’s existence and their manifesto states that very clearly. The latter has come to terms with Israel’s existence, but they are weak.

Israel, on the other hand, has also increased Palestinian suffering by the inhuman security check posts and humiliating body searches. Many innocent Palestinians are suffering because they have tremendous difficulties in traveling to work in their own lands because of the check posts.

However, there is slight cause for optimism in the Israeli legal system. According to a report in Haaretz, 5th September 2007, the High Court of Justice ordered the state to redraw, partially dismantle and rebuild the route of a 1.7 kilometer section of the West Bank separation fence, which was built on land belonging to Bil’in, a Palestinian village which has become a focus of opposition to the barrier. This illustrates that the High Court of Justice was not oblivious to legitimate Palestinian claims of a travesty of justice in the route of the security fence surrounding Bil’in. If the judges ruled in favor of the Palestinians on this issue, there is room for optimism in the Israeli legal system. They cannot be accused of being pro-Palestinian even by the right wing elements in Israel.

The internal situation in Israel has been marred by corruption and even sexual scandals in government. The year started with so many unpleasant examples of corruption that it has become impossible to record all the examples in chronological order as many incidents occurred simultaneously. Is this the new modern Zionism?  In a previous article, I wrote about the incidents of corruption. The accountant-general, Dr. Yaron Zelekha, has made some embarrassing discoveries about the running of state and PM Olmert’s personal affairs. He has been carrying on a personal vendetta against state corruption. This has cost him his job because of his whistle blowing activities. He has exposed the prime minister’s questionable activities as well as the activities of many other Members of the Knesset. The cover up has started and there will be more of the same in the coming year.

Those who seem to have the power and influence in this country are the new “moneybags of Israel”. An example of such is the multimillionaire Arcady Gaidemak. He is buying influence with his money in all kinds of projects. He is a major influence. He has managed to get into high places hobnobbing with the rulers of Israel by influencing decision-making with his money. Surely this is a threat to democracy in Israel and the rule of law. He is also under investigation for financial irregularities and money laundering. It would not be surprising if he will be elected Israel’s “Man of the Year”. He has won the hearts of many people who have benefited from his charitable donations.

 Israel’s leadership today is poor and the alternatives offered are no better. There are no signs of new leadership potential in the next year. There will be competition between two “has beens” Benjamin Netanyahu, an ex-Prime Minister and Finance Minister, who attempted to bring the Israeli economy out of the doldrums on the backs of economically weak Israelis while leaving the rich unaffected by cuts in salary and budgetary cuts. He was also responsible for pushing up the retirement age from 65 years to 67 years in men and from 60 years to 62 years in the case of women. By doing this he saved the country money in paying out pensions, which created delays for young people entering the employment market. Does he deserve to be the next prime minister for the increased suffering he caused to the economically deprived? The alternative is Ehud Barak, the current Defense Minister and ex-Prime Minister. Both men left Israel for a couple of years to make money overseas before returning to politics for another bash at being given a second chance of re-election to the prime ministership despite their poor performance in that role. PM Olmert’s popularity is rock bottom and he has been tainted by suspected scandals of corruption. What we have is Hobson’s choice in leadership as both politicians have not achieved much during their tenure as prime minister. PM Olmert is also surrounded by a cartel of strange bedfellows such as Arcadi Gaydemak (the hidden persuader with unlimited finances), Abraham Hirschson (an ex finance minister who is about to stand trial for bribery, corruption and money laundering), Chaim Ramon (who French kissed a young girl soldier) and was rewarded by being appointed Vice Prime Minister (perhaps a new ministerial portfolio of Minister of Vice in his honour is more appropriate!). See what a French kiss can achieve in high places! High ranking government officials, such as Dr Yaron Zelehka, the accountant-general, who uncover scandals and corruption in high places, are fired.   

Another “Israeli star” of the year is ex-President Moshe Katzav, who has had his rape charges shelved in a court settlement orchestrated by the attorney-general, Meni Mazuz. Where is this country heading in the New Year? Is it any wonder that peace with our Palestinian neighbours remains remote? Our biggest enemy is corruption and lack of direction. This does not bode well for the future of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in the New Year.


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