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Five Quick Notes on Politics and Passover Before the Seder

by Shmuel Rosner

March 25, 2013 | 7:30 am

1.

Here’s one last leftover from the Obama visit: several knowledgeable Israelis whom I met with and whom I can't name here have noted that the Obama-Abbas press conference contained one item worthy of attention – and not the one most people focused on after the event. Of course, Obama did seem to disappoint the Palestinians by ending the era of preconditioned settlement freezes. But while he sided with Israel on this technical issue, he adopted the Palestinian view on a more significant matter. Take a look at the part in which the President dismisses those who are in favor of simply “managing the conflict” and looking for “incremental steps” alone (because they don’t believe the conflict can be solved):

I will say this, that I think incremental steps that serve to delay and put off some of the more fundamental issues, rather than incremental steps that help to shape what a final settlement might look like, are probably not going to be the best approach, because it's not clear that that would, in fact, build trust.  If you have a situation where it looks like the incremental steps replace the broader vision, as opposed to incremental steps in pursuit of a broader vision, then I think what you end up getting is four more years, 10 more years, 20 more years of conflict and tension, in which both sides are testing boundaries of those incremental agreements.

Whereas if we can get a broad-based agreement that assures the Palestinians that they have a state, and you have a comprehensive approach that ensures Israel the kind of security that they need, the likelihood of that deal holding and, ultimately, the sense of trust that comes from people-to-people relations, not just governmental relations, I think that's much more likely to occur.

2.

Not long ago, I wrote that when it comes to Israel-Turkey relations “the status quo is the better alternative”:

As observers of Turkish-Israeli relations may have started noticing a while ago, a disturbing pattern seems to have emerged in recent months: Israel hints it wants to amend the soured relations, and the Turks respond by making yet another outrageous statement by which they hint that 'no, the time for bettering the relations hasn't yet arrived'.

Was I proven wrong by recent developments? This is one issue on which I’ll gladly admit my error if it means seeing Israel and Turkey getting closer again. Nevertheless, some measure of doubt is still in place. It is one thing to accommodate a request from the American President and hold a phone conversation. It is quite another to become good friends again. If Erdogan visits Gaza as he plans to do, one wonders what outrageous statement will come out of it. If he says something really despicable, those Israelis who aren’t happy with Netanyahu’s decision to apologize to Turkey will have their field day.

There are some reasons for cautious optimism though, at least in the short term. The Turks are trying to amend their relations with the Kurds, and Israel can be of some assistance with that. There’s also the issue of Syria on which both countries have a lot of common interests.

The bottom line: seeing Israel apologizing – for no reason – was agonizing. If something good comes out of it, swallowing one's pride wouldn’t be that bad. If, however, Israel apologizes and eventually gains very little (or nothing) some tough questions will have to be asked, both of Prime Minister Netanyahu and of President Obama.

3.

A couple of days ago, I informed my wife that this year I might decide to abandon the custom of not eating Kitniyot during Pesach – as one of my brothers, a more courageous fellow than I, did a couple of years ago (my wife only keeps this minhag because of my sensitivities).

It’s not an easy decision. But it is one that more and more people who deeply care about Pesach and about eating kosher for Pesach have been seriously exploring. The New Jersey Jewish News had a nice piece about it, with the proper headline: A Passover Dilemma. Take a look:

In more recent years, particularly since the establishment of Israel, where Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews live side by side, the custom has been the subject of heated debate. Many rabbis have strengthened the prohibition, arguing that a 700-year-old custom should not be lightly discontinued. Others have ruled it is time to end the Sephardi-Ashkenazi divide on this issue.

"End the divide" – that means drop the Ashkenazi custom for the sake of having humus with your matzo.

4.

On Saturday night I was watching the 19 year old and wonderful Lina Makhoul - an Arab Israeli young woman – singing halleluiah and winning the second season of Israel’s 'The Voice'. While I was watching I couldn’t stop thinking about her being forced to be a symbol of something. She can’t just be a young Israeli woman singing well, being charismatic and likable. Must she inevitably be a representative of something?

Two years ago, an op-ed contributor for the NYTimes made the ghastly claim that Israeli is giving rights to gays and lesbians in order to “pink wash” the sins of the occupation. One wonders how long it would take for Makhoul to become a matter of debate – how long it would take for someone to argue that Israelis only voted for this nice woman as part of a larger scheme to 'song-wash' their still-ongoing occupation of the West Bank.    

5.

During Passover Rosner’s Domain will be updated in a much slower pace than usual. I hope you appreciate our effort not to interfere with your festive mood and promise to A. be here if something of great significance happens, or B. be here right after the seven days of Pesach, full of Matzo and reinvigorated.

Chag Sameach!

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