Ed: 37: August/2012
The break-up in July of Israel's broad coalition in a dispute over how to reshape the place of the ultra-Orthodox in Israeli society will not change the fact that ultimately, this troubled relationship's future will be markedly different from its past.
Dr. P.R. Kumaraswamy, Professor with the Centre for West Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, spoke to community members at an AIJAC event on July 16 about India's relations with Israel.
Professor Kumaraswamy, who has made Israel the focus of his academic career since 1982, noted that while India recognised Israel in 1950 and privately expressed interest in establishing diplomatic ties in 1952, it took four decades before formal ties were established in 1992. India's decision to establish relations when it did was a response to the changing global realities ushered in with the end of the Cold War. "Normalisation [with Israel] was an Indian message to the outside world: ‘The world has changed, the Cold War has ended, [and] I am reacting to the world with a significant measure.'" Furthermore, he noted, India recognised that for any country with a serious interest in promoting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, normal relations with Israel are a necessity.
The explosion that ripped through a tour bus full of Israeli tourists in the seaside resort of Burgas, Bulgaria on July 18, killing six people - including a pregnant woman - was only the latest in a series of terror attacks perpetrated against Israelis abroad over the past decades.
Unfortunately, despite the Herculean efforts of Israel's intelligence services, it will likely not be the last. However, it is not too late for the world to learn a crucial lesson from the atrocity, the internalisation of which might potentially prevent a catastrophe of a far greater magnitude.
Since suffering a crippling stroke on 4 January 2006, Ariel Sharon has lain in a persistent vegetative state beyond hope of recovery. It truncated his prime ministership without ending his life, which lingers on in an irreparably broken condition. This is a mournful last stage in the life of so active a man; one of the true giants in the modern history of Israel. He was the protégé of David Ben Gurion, who gave the young Ariel Scheinermann the Hebraic name ‘Sharon'. He fought or led in every one of Israel's wars: 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, right up to the second intifada of 2000 which catapulted him into the prime ministership. And he arranged the strategic withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 in a fruitless quest for peace.
There is little doubt that the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt's presidential and parliamentary elections has been a major setback for Israel's foreign and security policy. It is too early to tell how bad this setback is - much will depend on how much control over Egypt's foreign and defence affairs the Muslim Brotherhood succeeds in wresting from the military, and how much the Brotherhood chooses to focus on consolidating its internal power versus courting popularity and distracting the public from domestic problems by sparking crises with Israel. But at the very least it is possible to say that the situation will not be an improvement.
Except perhaps in one respect, and it concerns Gaza.
The shocking and deadly attack against a busload of Israeli civilians preparing to holiday in the Bulgarian sea resort of Burgas was still insufficient for some media outlets to use the dreaded "T" word - "terrorism".
In Malaysia today, it seems that being sympathetic to the Palestinian cause is not enough - especially if you are Christian and (even worse) have visited the Holy Land, which means entering Israel.
It would be comforting to imagine that individuals who seek to cause harm to other individuals would be regarded as "dangerous."
It would be comforting to imagine that responsible, ethical people would do what they could to protect the intended victims of such "dangerous" people.
It would be comforting if the media and organised groups within civil society would respectively cast a spotlight on dangerous individuals and create a social environment which was unfriendly to those who intimidate, bully and constitute threats to others.
The tide seems to be turning in Syria. While the civil war is far from over, the regime is clearly weakening; the rebels are expanding their operations and effectiveness. There have also been more high-level defections.
Even though the fighting may go on for months, it is time to start assessing what outcomes might look like.
In January 2012, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Yaakov Neeman, the Justice Minister, turned to former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy to head a panel of legal experts that would look into questions of land ownership in the West Bank. The initiative came about when it was discovered that a housing project in the settlement of Beit El, north of Jerusalem, had been built years earlier on Palestinian private land, and the government decided to adhere to the judgment of the Supreme Court to have the Israeli building project removed. The panel was intended to study how Israeli decision-making had been made in the past and what could be done to avoid such situations in the future.