Monday, April 26, 2004

As could have been expected with the Likud referendum less than a week away, this year's Memorial and Independence Day appear to become dominated more than ever before ( i.e. since I came here 12 years ago ) by politics. As on Holocaust Day, in his speeches Prime Minister Sharon combined a promise to do everything to achieve peace ( as always mentioning the necessity of painful concessions ) with a vow to hunt down everyone who seeks to hurt us. If Knesset Speaker Re'uven Rivlin keeps his promise, he will lift the torch he is supposed to light tonight "in honor of all the generations who have settled the land, from Hanita to Kfar Darom and from Negba to Kiryat Arba" and praise the work of the settlers in his speech. This morning Rivlin - who, it is clear, opposes Sharon's disengagement plan - already gave a taste of what is to come tonight, when at a ceremony at Gush Etzion he said that Israel “will continue to hold on to the soil in this good land, even if a weariness is emanating from the edges of the camp, and even if [the weariness] is eroding the leadership of those who advocated the vision of the land for years but have recently loosened their grip.” Yesterday I saw a small part of a very interesting documentary on channel 2, with VIPs such as Shimon Peres, Abba Ebban, Yitzhak Shamir, Alexander Haig, Henry Kissinger and others being interviewed about events in the history of Israel. Of course I was hardly surprised to hear many of them ( Rafael Eitan and Yitzhak Shamir really went far in this ) mix politics and apologetics with their view on history, but still, I heard and saw some fascinating details about historic events. On Channel 1 I saw an item about the parents of Gil, a soldier who was killed ( I do not know where or when, I did not see the item form the beginning ). At some ceremony Ariel Sharon mispronounced their son's name, calling him Gal. Right afterwards he called to apologize, and the parents and Ariel Sharon met. One of their meetings was in Sharon's office, on camera, and there we saw Sharon as we do not often see him, as a parent who lost a son himself, and as a very conscious, friendly and highly likeable person. In today's Ha'Aretz I found two articles that I would like to recommend. The first is a long interview with president Moshe Katzav. This man really deserves more credit than he will ever get. When he and not Shimon Peres was chosen as this country's president, I was among those who were disappointed. Today I am very glad that he and not Mr Peres became our head of state. Moshe Katzav has proven himself to be someone who really tries to be the president of all Israelis, who can be very diplomatic, who speaks out when he thinks that is in the state's interest, and who has represented the country very appropriately on many occasions. The other article appears on the Opinion & Comment page. In a very personal attack against Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz Ze'ev Sternhell describes the former Chief of Staff as a "man without qualities". Sternhell admiringly writes about paratroops officer Danny Wolf, who died last week. He compares outspoken and non-conformist officers such as Wolff to career-minded and less original officers such as - according to Sternhell - Mofaz. He finishes his article with these words: "The list of talented officers and men of character who have been pushed aside while mediocre yes-men were advanced to the top ranks is as long as the Exile. And the price that society pays for this is no less steep. " In the Independence Day supplement of Ha'Aretz there is much worth reading, but little that would make us proud or happy. The public's view of the members of the Knesset, the legal adventures of Knesset members and government ministers, the verbal abuse MKs throw at each other, and the "true face of Messianic Israel", an article about the eleven Knesset members who live across the Green Line. In this last article professor Shevah Weiss, former Knesset speaker, compares the 'old elite' of kibbutzniks and moshavniks with the new, settler-related, elite: "while there are many similarities between the settlers and the kibbutzniks/moshavniks, one cannot ignore one substantial difference: Whereas the MKs representing the "working rural settlements" came from the heart of the consensus in Israeli society, the MKs from the West Bank and Gaza come from the heart of the dispute." Happy Yom Ha'Atzma'ut!

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