Member of Knesset Ophir Pines-Paz made front page news in Israel at the end of last week with his announcement that effective immediately, he was resigning from the Knesset. It came as a total surprise to the political community in Israel as rumors were flying about an imminent split from the Labor Party by the “rebels” led by Pines-Paz. There was talk about an alliance between the five Labor MKs who opposed their party’s presence in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and Meretz, creating the core of a new left of center movement. Instead, Pines-Paz walked away, saying that he had no party and no leader, referring to Defense Minister and Labor Party Chair Ehud Barak. When asked about the reports that he and others were about to leave the Labor Party, he said, “I have reached a conclusion that the alternative I was hoping for cannot be achieved in the particular way I envisioned,” and would not elaborate further.
While I don’t have any further insight into his decision, I know from personal conversations that he felt Labor’s decision to join the Israeli government was a serious mistake and was frustrated by his inability to influence that situation. I also know that he is a highly principled politician who speaks with his actions, often a rare commodity in any country. One recalls his decision in 2006, as a minister in Ehud Olmert’s government, to resign upon Avigdor Lieberman’s entrance into the government. How many other ministers can you name that have exhibited similar commitment to their principles?
In short, he was one of the “good guys” in Israeli politics. In addition, his involvement in the Jewish Agency years ago while working with his mentor Uri Gordon z”l, gave him an appreciation for the Diaspora that continued with his support of Ameinu’s work in recent years.
I’ll be staying in touch with Ophir and hope we have not heard the last of his contributions to Israeli public life.
Stones, Stones Everywhere
The 8:00 AM television news began with Hamas activists throwing rocks at Egyptian police, protesting the new security wall being built on the Egypt-Gaza border. The irony was not lost on the announcer who said that “if I hadn’t looked carefully, I might have reported Palestinians were throwing rocks at different soldiers protesting a different security fence.”
Flipping channels, I found more rock throwing, this time Israeli settlers throwing them at Israeli soldiers over the enforcement of government policy regarding their settlement. Extremists on all sides are exercising their throwing skills and there has been a rise in foiled terrorist attacks against Israel, as well new rockets aimed at Israeli communities in the South. With Hamas contending with internal conflicts over the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange, reunification with Fatah within the Palestinian Authority and with the potential of renewed peace talks on the horizon, the extremists turn to violence, a disruptive tactic they have employed in the past. We can only hope that moderates can move forward despite the rising tension.
Desperate Housewives, Israeli Style
There is an active, regular cultural exchange between the U.S. and Israel, even on the small screen. Israel develops “BaTipul” and Americans enjoy the “In Treatment” series. The new “Nashot Hatayasim” (Pilots’ Wives), perhaps inspired by the U.S. hit series Desperate Housewives, puts a distinctly Israeli spin on bed hopping, extra-marital affairs and the related drama. I had the opportunity to watch a couple of the early episodes and I tend to agree with the Yediot Achronot reviewer who suggested that a heat seeking missile should be aimed at the show’s production studio.
How Much Pita Does it Take?
I confess that I don’t really get the Guinness Book of Records obsession, but there it was. 50 chefs in Abu Ghosh, an Arab village outside of Jerusalem, had broken the previous record set by Lebanon. Yes, they had produced a dish, actually a satellite dish, of over 4,000 kilograms of humus. Imagine the sense of national pride! Jorat Ibrahim, who orchestrated the effort, said he would be happy to break the record together with a Lebanese crew the next time.