When Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority’s Yasir Arafat met for the first time in nearly a year, commentators on both sides of the ocean joined the discussion, in their way. The Boston Globe editors (Sept. 30) point out that “Netanyahu’s lobbying last spring with members of Congress obliged President Clinton to refrain from pressuring him to accept a U.S.-brokered deal” but “Clinton’s current domestic troubles [created] an incentive for him to produce a feel-good photo opportunity on the White House lawn with Netanyahu and Arafat. Both his interlocutors know this and can take advantage of it.”Clinton’s troubles were echoed in The Jerusalem Post (Oct. 1): “The promise of a Camp David-style summit this month could be dismissed as [nothing more than] both Israel and the Palestinians indulging a wounded White House with a distracting photo-op. … “Clinton’s weakness, however, cuts both ways: It adds to his motivation to spend the time and take the risks necessary to press the parties for an agreement, but it also reduces his authority as a leader who can guarantee a pact. … “The critical change in the American attitude is that they now realize Netanyahu is willing to go forward with the planned redeployment, but is not willing to give something for nothing. Now that it is clearer what Netanyahu is willing to give, the spotlight has shifted to Arafat’s practically empty side of the ledger.
Jerusalem Post columnist Yosef Goell (Sept. 28) writes that with peace talks percolating, Israel is operating at a major disadvantage as long as Netanyahu insists on being his own foreign minister. That portfolio has been essentially unfilled since David Levy resigned almost a year ago.“Israel, a state more dependent than most others on developing and maintaining as much international support and understanding for its legitimate interests as possible, is clearly in need of a full-time foreign minister who would effectively head a ministry whose purpose is exactly that.
No foreign policy based on the messianic world view of the religious settlers stands a chance of being explained to the outside world. … But a pragmatic, right-wing foreign policy, based on an emphasis on the security perils entailed in a sincere search for peace with the Palestinians, can be explained.”The Washington Post (Sept. 30) editorial was perplexed as “the two sides moved inches closer to. … Well, to what? To an agreement? To a breakdown? As crazy as it may seem about an interim-settlement negotiation that has been going on for nearly five years, it is still too early to tell. … “The Israelis are at pains to deny the goal of statehood that the Palestinians regard as the prize. The Palestinians have yet to muster a strong enough showing for the psychological as well as political security that is the prime Israeli goal.”On the economic front, Ha’aretz reporter Nehemia Strasler asks (Oct. 4), “Is Israel’s banking system safe from the economic storm engulfing the world?”Israel’s real estate sector is falling, and “hotel occupancy is low and prices are dropping. … The diamond sector has been struggling for four years because of the recession in Japan and generally declining prices and sales. The recent bankruptcy of a leading diamond merchant belonging to the Ramat Gan Diamond Exchange is the tip of the iceberg. The entire retail sector is stuck in deep recession, with a 20 percent to 30 percent drop in sales at many stores.”There is also the danger that foreign investment will depart in this economic climate. “Nobody knows when the storm will hit Israel. But anybody who suggests that our banking system is an island of stability, safe from the worldwide breakdown simply fails to understand the magnitude of the global crisis.”
Stories about celebrities and Judaism too often disappoint. For example, the fact that celebrities like Madonna, Roseanne or Sandra Bernhard, went to Jewish pop-mysticism classes has been reported over the past two years by just about every big city newspaper in Israel and the United States. These stories have been, despite the occasional wink, respectful of both Kabbalah and the celebrity students. But now that the classes are over, we’re beginning to see that the story was a mile wide and an inch deep. The New York Post (Oct. 2) reports that Roseanne “a devotee of Kabbala, has an expert in Jewish mysticism on the set of her new talk show getting involved in even the smallest details of booking and production to the annoyance of less-enlightened staffers.”It may be cute, to some, that celebrities are validating Judaism, to the extent that they are, but this is just another sad ending to a shallow story.