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J Street Conference 2011 – Sunday

February 28, 2011

Margie and I arrived from the airport as the mid-day plenary was just beginning. Mona Eltahawy held sway and pulled no punches. Direct, refreshing, honest – she told the audience that the unrest in the Middle East is NOT about Israel. Nor is it about Islam. These uprisings are a demonstration of the frustration and anger of the young Arabs – not the old line Muslim Brotherhood or any other organized groups. The Arab youth no longer view the world through the lens of state-controlled television, but instead have a multi-faceted view of the world provided by the internet. They now want both economic opportunity and more democratic freedoms. She expressed frustration that for years, the world claimed that the Arab world showed little interest in democratic ideals or in approaching their issues in a non-violent way. Now that that is exactly what is happening – there is no support. Now that Arab non-violence is burgeoning, the world should embrace it.

There was one clear theme that emanated from the panel as a whole: the Israelis and Palestinians will not be able to come to an agreement on their own. Rather, there needs to be a third party (read: United States) that forces the two to come to the table and make an agreement.

Afternoon plenary with 5 MK’s (4 Kadima and 1 Labor) also produced some interesting moments. The most surprising was the humorous banter between Dr. Nachman Shai (Kadima) and Daniel Ben Simon (Labor). The Labor Party itself was the butt of several jabs, but Shai made a very counter-intuitive statement that he really wanted the Labor Party to win more seats! The reason: Kadima NEEDS Labor to be on their Left. Otherwise, Kadima is not in the center.

Shai made an extremely strong and powerful statement that the blockade of Gaza should not, and would not, end until Galid Shalit is returned. The whole country is willing to give up hundreds of prisoners for their kidnapped soldier.

And the final, most striking statement belonged to Daniel Ben Simon. He said that Israel has the might and the power to make peace, but not the courage.

Categories: Israel
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