Sunday, February 1

Jerusalem: A Streetcar Undesired

(I love headlines that pretty much write themselves, don't you?)

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent feature look at a major imbroglio making tracks across the Holy City. And that's precisely the problem:
At a time when conflict over Gaza is pouring yet more poison into the gulf separating Israelis from Palestinians, a repeatedly stalled and still unfinished Jerusalem tram project is galvanizing the city's feuding camps against a common foe.

The whole project, says Mayor Nir Barkat, voicing a view widely shared across religious and ethnic lines, has been "a very negative experience."
I took photos of the first groundbreaking at the entrance to the city several years ago, for The Jerusalem Post's, "In Jerusalem," weekly metro magazine. I'll add photos and maps soon, so stop back.

Meanwhile, read the rest.

Official project page (Hebrew, with English and photos)


Drora has some great photos.

(H-T: Harry)

Noted Israeli Left-Wing Pundit: 'Shock & Awe' Against Gaza (audio)

More and more, Israel's military response to Hamas' in Gaza is making some pretty surprising bedfellows.

Yaron London is one striking example.

He's a
thoughtful, veteran tv, radio and print commentator and self-described left-winger from way back. His two shekels worth of punditry on affairs of the day are taken seriously by many, including by many Israeli political rightists.

However, on a recent morning drive radio talk show with fellow left-winger Razi Barkai - on Army Radio, mind you (a bastion of "indie" thought, suprisingly enough - not at all like most national military media which usually function as media lapdogs for senior brass), he comes out with nothing less than a "'War Is Hell,' and the Palestinians brought it upon themselves by voting for Hamas," POV.

I am looking for a print version of this in Hebrew or English - anyone got a link?

London, IMHO, often comes across as a classic case of a fairly unctuous spokesman of the "chattering classes," who, if translated into an American milieu might be in the realm of say, Tom Friedman of the New York Times, or one of the less screechy columnists at The UK's The Guardian newspaper.

But - unlike some other Israeli pundits and opinion-makers - London lives in Israel and has a reputation to uphold, so for him to come out with his unprecedented remarks about Gaza is even more of a shock - not the least of which to his interviewer.

A gut-check tells me that this may be a bellweather of what Hamas and the Arab world may self-inflict via the IDF and with a shuddering, teeth-grinding approval by major Israeli left-wingers if the current conflict continues: "Their civilians or ours? So be it. Theirs."

While the translation below is from right-wing Israel National Radio, who likely fist-pumped the air and went, "Yeeeeah!!!," over this, I listened to the segment, and can vouch for the accuracy and contextuality of the translation:

London first outlined his views in an article in Yediot Acharonot, and then elaborated upon them for clearly-shocked interviewer Razi Barkai on Army Radio.

“It appears that we have exhausted the options of moderating Hamas fanaticism with measured responses,” London wrote, “and the time has come to shock the Gaza population with actions that until now have nauseated us - [such as] killing the political leadership, causing hunger and thirst in Gaza, blocking off energy sources, causing widespread destruction, and being less discriminating in the killing of civilians. There is no other choice.”

Asked by Barkai, a veteran left-wing broadcaster in his own right, why there is no choice, London responded, “The strategy of modular and gradual pressure has not brought the desired results. We cannot absorb any more Kassams, we cannot fortify the entire south, we cannot take over Gaza because the price will be too heavy, and gradual pressure has only made Hamas and the Gaza population even tougher and more fanatic. I therefore concluded that there are only two remaining options: being extra nice to them, or being extra tough –"

Barkai interrupts and says, “There is a third option: negotiations with Hamas.”

London: “Which will bring what?”

Barkai: “I have no idea, but it is a possibility, at least in theory.”

London: “Negotiations will lead only to a ceasefire, whose duration will be determined solely in accordance with Hamas interests; we will not come out of that period with a greater advantage in terms of arms and weapons…”

Asked how he can guarantee that a tougher Israeli offensive will yield the desired results, London said: “Experience in past wars shows me that if we are tough enough, then at a certain stage, their standing-power will break… I am referring to both the population and their leadership; they are the same, because the population voted for Hamas. I can’t separate between one who voted for Hamas and a Hamas leader.”

Barkai: "We will have to deal with very difficult pictures of hungry children –"

London: "Yes."

Barkai: "and destroyed houses –"

London: "Yes."

Barkai: "and dead unarmed civilians, etc. How will we be able to deal with this?"

London: "Everyone in Gaza is armed… There is a consensus in Israel that the time has come to take action. We cannot fortify Ashdod, and Netivot, and Sderot, and bear this disgrace."

Barkai: "There might be thousands of dead?"

London: "I hope not – I hope that one real blow will put an end to this before we get to that."

Barkai: "Give me an example of such a blow."

London: "I don’t want to give an example, but you can go back to history and see."

Barkai: [short pause] "The only thing I can think of, and that you apparently don’t want to say, is the bombing of cities such as in World War II."

London: "Right. You don’t need to bomb a whole city; a quarter of a borough should be enough…"

Barkai finally asked, “Tell me, have you undergone an – I don’t want to say ‘ideological crisis’ because that sounds too high-brow, but perhaps a little crisis—"

London: "My brothers in Sderot are what brought me to this."

Barkai uses his trademark phrase: “Ki ma?” [Because what?]

London: "Because I can’t take the idea of little frightened girls running around in the streets of Sderot. That’s the whole thing. You can tolerate it for a certain amount of time, like the kibbutzim of the Jordan Valley did, or if it’s only a small amount of terror organizations, or whatever. But when an entire population of 1.5 million [Gaza Arabs] voted for this Hamas government, then this population has to bear the responsibility. That’s the whole story."

To hear the interview in its entirety (in Hebrew), click here.

Kittens, a Roomba & Israeli - Palestinian Peace

Mideast peace is doable, I say, doable! Y'see, if we can get a mess 'o' kittenz to sit together on a Roomba robovac, can settling our differences around the roaring Middle East maelstrom be far behind?!

Whaaaat? Hey - just enjoy the good vibes for a change, like, umm, the kittens...


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