Intriguing Dinner With Gutsy Kadima Representatives
Orit Zuaretz revealed in today’s plenary session that up to 80,000 telephone calls were made to Kadima members to put pressure on her and other Kadima MK’s not to attend the J Street Conference. [One can only speculate that this is one measure of how important J Street has become in its 3 short years. Why would you need to discourage a politician from attending a conference that is not meaningful?] Despite this pressure, four members of Kadima and one member of Labor came to address the gathering.
Margie and I were able to join the four Kadima members, Yoel Hasson, Shlomo Molla, Dr. Nachman Shai and Orit Zuaretz for dinner, although by all rights, they should have been exhausted. Instead, it turned out to be a lively affair.
Some important comments/critiques/suggestions for J Street:
1. J Street should strongly get behind a push to release Gilad Shalit. As Daniel Ben Simon said in the session: the Gaza Blockade will stay in place until he is returned. Shlomo Morra emphasized the importance of each Israeli soldier.
2. J Street needs to be careful in dealing with issues involving the UN. The UN is NOT legitimate in the eyes of the Israelis. Examples: Goldstone and the recent Veto position.
3. It is time for Obama to go to the Knesset and tell them that he supports Israel. The Israeli people need to hear it directly from him
4. The question of the newly appointed Ambassador to be, Dan Shapiro, came up. They don’t know him well – but say that he needs to be able to be tough. I believe that Dan Shapiro is a very straight shooter. Hopefully he will be able to back that up with a strong backbone.
5. There was a sense that the Netanyahu coalition will not last long and there will be elections in the next year or two. Speculation was that some sitting at the table might get important leadership positions in the government if that were to happen.
6. Finally, the most fascinating topic of the evening was in regard to Nachman Shai. Dr. Shai is in his mid-60′s but many of the other Israelis at the table were in their 30′s. And to a person, they all said that they all looked up to and remembered Shai as the the person who calmed the whole country during the first Iraq war. At that time of Scud missile attacks, air raid sirens would sound and Israelis would dive into their safe rooms. Well, instead of having another siren to call ‘all-clear’, Nachman Shai, who was the spokesman for the IDF at the time, would come on the radio and TV and say, “OK, Everyone relax. The danger is over. Have a drink of water. Everything is OK.” They all said that his voice and demeanor brought them great comfort at a time of national anxiety.