Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Israel, Day 2: History, Community, and Settlers

The first full day was quite full (first night post here).  We started with a guided tour of the Rabin museum.  Yitzah Rabin had been a general, a defense minister, and then Prime
I wonder who radicalized his assassin?
Minister who got assassinated by a Jew who was upset at the Oslo Accords.  I had forgotten the context—that he was killed at a rally for the peace agreement.  The museum starts with that rally and that day and then goes through both his personal history and Israel’s over the course of his lifetime.  What stuck out? That the 1973 war made it easier for Israelis to criticize the government and the military; that two weeks or so before the assassination, the opponents of the agreement held a very heated rally where some chanted death to Rabin “blood and fire will drive Rabin out”, that Netanyahu was at that rally.  Oh a notable omission: very little religion in that museum.

We returned to our hotel for a discussion with a very sharp journalist who covers the region.  He discussed the patterns and trends, focusing on four :
  1. The successful Iranian effort to broaden and deepen its proxys’ power and position
  2. The failure of the Saudis and Egyptians to do the same
  3. The conservative bloc—Turkey and others—failing to get stuff done
  4. The fall and inevitable return of IS.
His main contention was that the wave of Arab spring was largely spent.  He also the success Russia had in saving Assad, and how the various players are all confused by Trump.  He argued that the US remaining in Syria was good for keeping the Kurds in ok shape.  I was tempted to ask whether Israel was an American proxy or vice versa.  Instead, I asked about different proxy “markets”: that Iran has more success because there is far less competition.

We then met with a mayor of an Arab community, but I also met with jet lag so I don’t have much to report.

Shilo archaeological site
Then we went into the occupied territory to meet a settler who explained the stuff from their perspectives.  This woman was an American transplant with eight kids.  She put the best possible spin on being a settler and effortlessly dodged my question about whether settlers were changing the situation deliberately thru their behaviour.  I found most of her assertions to be problematic, but it was valuable to get this point of view.  We did learn some bible history since her house looks over key historical sites including the pre-Jerusalem capital—Shilo. The key new info was that the Israeli explanation of settling is this:
The land owned by the Jordanian king becomes Israeli state land with the defeat of Jordan in 1967.
The authorities then checked all of the aerial maps to determine spaces that had not been settled—was there a building or agriculture done at some point.  If not, the land is considered to be empty and available.
Then Israel leases the land to settlers for 100 years.  
This is apparently based on Ottoman Turkish law.  Ummm.

The dinner at a winery in this occupied territory was terrific, of course.
Pretty place, this occupied territory.

Lots of interesting discussions among the group.  

Tomorrow we go to the Gaza Strip and then Jerusalem.

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