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entries tagged with: Yitzhak Rabin


Jerusalem is ‘The heart of the Jewish people’

Josh LipowskyEditorial
Published: 13 May 2010

Diaspora Jews rally to Israel’s defense

'Iran has been stirring the pot'

Much of the international spotlight these past two weeks has focused on Israel, which, according to political analysts, is exactly what Iran wants — to deflect attention from its nuclear pursuits.

Even as the U.N. Security Council passed another round of sanctions against Iran on Wednesday, worldwide concern grew that the Islamic Republic could spark a military conflict in an attempt to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Turkey, which launched last week’s flotilla, has increasingly aligned itself with Iran — which also pulls the strings of Hamas and Hezbollah — stoking more fears of a new regional terror-supporting alliance.

“Iran has been stirring the pot,” said Leonard Cole, an adjunct professor of political science at Rutgers, Newark. “It’s no secret that weapons from Iran and individuals from Iran have found their way to Gaza — smuggled in via Iran’s friends from Syria and elsewhere.”

The Iranian Red Crescent — the equivalent of the Red Cross — announced plans this week that it planned to launch its own aid flotilla to Gaza. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has said that it would escort such a flotilla if ordered.

“To openly engage Israeli forces, which is what would happen if openly identified Iranian contingents tried to break the blockade, would be a huge escalation in Middle East tension to have Israeli and Iranian military forces shooting at each other,” Cole said. “If initiated in Israel’s neighborhood, it could well escalate into Israeli military action much closer to or directly at Iran.”

The Iranians are trying to make a statement, said Iran analyst and Fox News guest commentator Lisa Daftari. And, she added, Israel has not said how it would specifically respond to such a provocation — except that it would not allow Iranian ships through the blockade.

“Iran has flexed its muscles and shown it can politically run circles around our government,” said Daftari, a Paramus native. “While we’re having summits and meetings, thinking how to next negotiate with Iran, Iran is carrying on its own agenda.”

Cole does not believe Iran would carry out its threat to openly send military forces to Gaza because it’s not interested in a conflict in the Mediterranean. Daftari declined to hazard a guess as to what might happen if Iran tries to break the blockade, but said the government is looking to shift blame onto Israel for any regional conflict. If the activists aboard last week’s flotilla actually cared about getting aid to the Palestinians, she said, they would have diverted to Israel’s Ashdod port as requested.

“The Palestinian people are not the main issue,” she said. “There’s an Islamist agenda here that Iran has been carrying on for years.”

Iran would like to get rid of Israel, said Dan Kurzman, the North Bergen resident who penned biographies of former Israeli Prime Ministers David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin. Mutually Assured Destruction kept the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal in check during the Cold War, but Kurzman does not think that policy would work with Iran.

“These guys in Iran are not rational,” he said. “If they’re willing to kill themselves because God wants them to, why should they care if they kill a million Jews? This is really dangerous.”

To head off the Iranian threat, Israel needs to make peace with the Palestinians, Kurzman said. After that, it can more easily forge deals with the rest of the Arab world against Iran.

“The Arab world doesn’t fear Israel,” Kurzman said, “but it does fear Iran.”

Because of this, Israel has a chance to pull the Arabs to its side — if it can make peace with the Palestinians, Kurzman said.

“Iran says they want to destroy Israel with an atom bomb and they’re close to getting a bomb. All of this wouldn’t have happened if there was peace,” he said. “They wouldn’t have an excuse for getting a bomb.”

The author cast blame on Israel not just for its handling of the Mavi Marmara, but also what he called the collective punishment of Gaza. He agreed that cargo should be inspected before entering the coastal strip but he railed against the blockade.

“It’s the wrong policy from the beginning,” he said. “You don’t punch everybody for what the terrorists do. It’s really shooting yourself in the foot. Israel is now in a terrible position where the whole world’s against them.”

Despite the provocations aboard the Mavi Marmara, Kurzman said, Israel made a mistake in the way it handled the activists.

“There are ways of stopping a ship and making them come to a halt and eventually getting on board to check on this stuff,” he said. “It’s riot control. There was a riot aboard the ship, and in a riot you don’t just shoot into crowds. This was a terrible mistake that could have been avoided.”

Kurzman recalled that after the Six Day War, Ben-Gurion said there was no chance of making peace if Israel didn’t give up the west bank. Neither Ben-Gurion nor Rabin would have agreed to give up Gaza without a peace treaty, though, Kurzman noted. He called the disengagement from Gaza an “absolute disaster.”

“Israel brought this on itself,” Kurzman said. “That’s the great tragedy of history. Israel thinks it’s invincible, but it isn’t.”


It’s how you say it that matters


Ill-advised settlement freeze weakened Israel strategically


Rabin remembered


Keep the Middle East Ping Pong match going


15 years after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin

Published: 29 October 2010

With eye on long term, Israel plans for ‘leapfrog’ growth to stem brain drain

Dina KraftWorld
Published: 21 January 2011

JERUSALEM – It was at a conference 15 years ago in the raw months following Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination that an unlikely Israeli trio — a young Navy officer, a leading businesswoman, and a senior bureaucrat — hatched a plan for Israel’s future.

It wasn’t exactly a plan for the future, but a plan to plan for the country’s future in an entirely new way: one focused on long-term strategic thinking to propel Israel into the world’s top 15 socioeconomic powers.

Last week, the goal of becoming a nation with one of the highest GDPs per capita — the type of dramatic “leapfrog” growth that would see incomes and other quality-of-life metrics boosted across the socioeconomic divide — went from an idea to headline news when the goal was adopted as policy by the Israeli government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a conference in Jerusalem called Israel 2021, announced to a hall packed with government officials, business leaders, students and social activists that “Good strategy with mediocre execution is better than mediocre strategy excellently performed. Our goal therefore is to present an excellent strategy for Israel.

“We cannot rest on our laurels,” he said. “We are entering a more competitive era.”

The plan is to turn Israel into a “leapfrogging” nation. That’s defined as a case in which a nation triggers high and sustained growth for eight years while providing high quality of life — not just economically but also in terms of social services such as education, welfare, and health. For Israel, leapfrogging is seen as imperative to keeping the country’s best talent from migrating overseas.

Israel is suffering from acute “brain drain.” The country exports more PhDs than any other — a quarter of Israeli academics work abroad — and tens of thousands of others live in an ever-swelling Israeli diaspora where career opportunities and higher quality of life beckon.

Gidi Grinstein, president of the Reut Institute — the think tank that partnered with The Marker, the business section of Israel’s daily Haaretz, to host the conference — is the once-young naval officer who has been championing Israeli leapfrog growth for a decade and a half.

The other two he originally designed the plan with are Raya Strauss, co-owner of Strauss Investment Ltd., and David Brodet, then the director general of the Finance Ministry.

At the conference Grinstein spoke of the dire consequences for Israel if an increasing amount of the country’s talent leaves the country.

The problem, he said, is that Israel has the highest gap in the world between local talent and local quality of life.

“Israelis are short-changed in quality of life, and if this gap grows beyond a certain level we could lose a critical amount of our talent,” Grinstein said.

The conference convened some 3,000 Israeli decision-makers to talk long-range strategy — not the strong suit of Israeli governments, which have prided themselves on improvisation in times of crisis rather than long-term strategic thinking, particularly outside the military arena.

Hailed as the “biggest brainstorming session in Israel’s history” by its organizers, the conference featured hundreds of roundtable discussions by experts in civil society, economics, and government. There were two days of intense discussion on a series of topics, including Israel’s competitiveness internationally and the integration of Arab citizens and haredi Israelis into the labor force.

Grinstein said the roundtables were part of a transformation in Israeli public discourse he believes is pivotal for leapfrogging to work.

“Countries don’t leap because of a small group of people at the top who make decisions,” Grinstein told JTA. “In Israel we need to mobilize what we call the serving elite: leadership in business, NGOs, academics, heads of labor unions and government. We know in countries that leapt there was an honest and credible discourse about priorities between business leaders, the nongovernment elite, and the government. We need to educate and empower that group.

“Not all of them believed they are part of a large enough and powerful enough group to transform Israel, and we wanted to give them confidence that they are part of the group that could change Israel,” he said.

The conference also brought together three leading international experts on long-term development for their guidance on how lessons from abroad might be applicable to Israel. They were Michael Spence, a 2001 Nobel Prize laureate in economics; Rory O’Donnell, head of the National Economic and Social Council of Ireland; and Ricardo Hausman, director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University.

Economists at the conference argued that Israel cannot depend on its high-tech sector, which spurred most of the dramatic growth seen in the past two decades, in either the short or long term. That’s because studies show that it’s not growth in the elite sectors of the economy that boost high per capita GDP but higher salaries for workers across the socioeconomic spectrum.

Recent leapfrogging success stories include Germany, Ireland, China, Singapore, and South Korea.

O’Donnell, the Irish economist who helped craft his country’s economic ascent from one of the poorest countries in Europe to one of its wealthiest until the recent economic crisis, cited the parallels he saw in the Irish and Israeli experiences as small countries with large diasporas, often fragile coalition governments, and a history of national conflict.

While in the past two years Ireland has returned to dire economic straits, O’Donnell ascribed his country’s dramatic rise until 2008 after decades of high employment to a “social partnership” between government, employers, and unions. Among their successes was managing to get large numbers of long-term unemployed back into the labor market through activist public policy that promoted universal job training.

In an interview with JTA, O’Donnell suggested that it was a model that might be applicable to Israel as it struggles to increase the low workforce participation of the haredi and Arab sectors.

Yitzhak Herzog, speaking as Israel’s welfare minister at the conference — he has since resigned — underscored the challenges ahead when he bemoaned what he described as a lack of public interest in forward-thinking strategy in Israeli.

“The demands are immediate and fast-paced,” he said. “When you talk about the long term, there is rarely deep public debate.”

Emerging from a roundtable meeting on Israeli competitiveness, Jerusalem artist Aramit Lotem said she hoped such discussions were indicative of a new national conversation.

“I think it addresses an important question that touches on Israel’s very essence,” she said, “because one of the things we have yet to succeed at as a country is moving from the project of establishing a state to being ready to really look towards the future and the long-term.”

JTA Wire Service


The changing of the guard

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