My concern in political science is to observe, understand and explain. I do not view myself as a partisan.At times observation can be painful, as when a student in my seminar died in the explosion at the Hebrew University cafeteria, and the girl friend (now wife) of a young friend was severely injured.Observation can be provocative, as when I wrestle to understand if isolated events mean something more than themselves, or how actions may produce reactions and lead to something interesting, dangerous, or hopeful.Every once in a while there is entertainment, sometimes enough to produce a smile, a rolling laugh, or a wonder of the kind, "Can that be serious?"There have been two causes of wonder from Israelis recently, and a Palestinian reaction to one of the Israelis that produced a yawn.The clearest laugh came in response to a petition filed with the United Nations by Member of Knesset Michael Ben Ari. He is in the National Union Party, representing religious settlers too far to the right to go along with right of center parties in the governing coalition, i.e., Benyamin Netanyahu''s Likud, Avigdor Lieberman''s Israel Our Home, or the Religious Zionist outgrowth of the formerly prominent National Religious Party, now called Jewish Home-New National Religious Party.Ben Ari is asking the United Nations to issue international arrest warrants for senior United States officials who he accuses of international war crimes due to the information released by WikiLeaks.
"Recently, the world has been shocked from the publication of reports which detail torture and war crimes in Iraq. I call on the UN to condemn the behavior of the US and especially its attempts to hide the facts...I am convinced that Judge Goldstone can offer his experience and integrity, in favor of the necessary investigation... We need to expose the hypocrisy of the West. The world must understand who the criminals are."
I''ll admit to some admiration for Ben Ami. If he is man biting dog, he has chosen an appropriate target. If anyone notices what he is doing beyond a small Jewish audience, they may see him trying to even the balance between the world picking on little Israel while the one surviving superpower is guilty of much more and much worse.The second entertainment begins with an effort by another Knesset Member of the National Union Party, Uri Ariel. His bill has not yet begun its tour through the difficult procedures of the money-conscious Finance Ministry, the Government, and Knesset. In the remote chance that it will get a serious hearing, it would designate Jerusalem as receiving the same benefits meant to spur investment in poor towns in the periphery of Israel.In keeping with the religious nationalism of National Union MKs, the proposal is meant to promote the expansion of Jewish housing and other facilities in the eastern part of Jerusalem, including neighborhoods heavily populated by hostile Arabs.The Israeli government has been investing extraordinary resources in Jerusalem since 1967. In light of what the government already provides to Jerusalem, and Jerusalem''s heightened sensitivity in the context of on-again off-again negotiations, Ariel''s proposal appears superfluous, provocative, and extreme.It is no surprise that Palestinians are already responding. According to one of their inner circle:
"Israel has undermined the efficacy of and derogated the UN System... (Countries must) honor the noble objectives of the UN by holding Israel accountable for its continued occupation of Palestine and to uphold the rights of Palestinian refugees. . . It is time for Palestine to be free."
Innocents here and abroad who expect a resolution of the Israel-Palestinian dispute along the lines of the Obama initiative may view the Israeli actions as macabre for their meanness, and the Palestinian response as appropriate.To put the Israeli proposals in context, however, the National Union Party is as ideologically pure as the Tea Parties, and its four Members in the Knesset of 120 Members are as far from levers of power.The Palestinian response is more boring than entertaining. It is the same old stuff, not unexpected, in this case issued in response to a meaningless proposal, and not particularly helpful to anything that could be called a peace process. Shouting for others to help from outside the rooms where negotiations might occur, which they refuse to enter in order not to soil their ideological purity, the Palestinians are as far as ever from having their problems solved.