In Israel, Political Fights Have Always Gotten Ugly

March 3 2020

On his way to cast his vote in Jerusalem yesterday, President Reuven Rivlin told reporters that he was “ashamed” that his country had to go through “another awful and grubby election campaign.” But, as Tevi Troy relates, the Jewish state has a long history of ferocious political rivalries, beginning with that between Chaim Weizmann, the first person to hold Rivlin’s position, and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. And the mutual hatred between that pair was no greater than that between the two great heroes of the Labor party, Yitzḥak Rabin and Shimon Peres:

Rabin and his nemesis Shimon Peres feuded for decades before Rabin’s tragic assassination in 1995. The two men had known each other since the 1940s, but their enmity reached a boiling point in 1974, when they both vied to replace [Golda] Meir as Labor leader and prime minister. Rabin won—with Meir’s behind-the-scenes help—but it was close, and their contest would have consequences. Peres [garnered] enough support to compel Rabin to appoint him defense minister, and the hardball tactics employed in the race deepened their mutual hatred.

While serving in government together, the two men had some significant disagreements. One was over the development of the first settlements on land Israel had won during the 1967 war. Another was over the risky but ultimately successful hostage-rescue operation of a hijacked Air France plane in Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976. In both cases, Peres was for, and Rabin against, and they fought it out via their allies in the press.

Rabin maintained his feud with Peres after losing the premiership in 1977. [Four] years later, Rabin challenged Peres in an open primary for the Labor party leadership, and won. Once again, Peres joined the cabinet under his rival, as foreign minister. This time, it was Peres who was the more dovish one, pushing surreptitious peace talks with the Palestinians that ultimately became the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Three days before the signing of the accords, Peres could not stand the notion that Rabin was getting the credit, griping, “That man ruined my life. I’ve been working for him for over sixteen years, and he doesn’t say ‘thank you’ to me. He’s crazy, and now he wants to hijack my ceremony.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: Chaim Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion, Israeli history, Reuven Rivlin, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin

Saudi Arabia Should Open Its Doors to Israeli—and Palestinian—Pilgrims

On the evening of June 26 the annual period of the Hajj begins, during which Muslims from all over the world visit Mecca and perform prescribed religious rituals. Because of the de-jure state of war between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state, Israeli Muslim pilgrims—who usually number about 6,000—must take a circuitous (and often costly) route via a third country. The same is true for Palestinians. Mark Dubowitz and Tzvi Kahn, writing in the Saudi paper Arab News, urge Riyadh to reconsider its policy:

[I]f the kingdom now withholds consent for direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia, it would be a setback for those normalization efforts, not merely a continuation of the status quo. It is hard to see what the Saudis would gain from that.

One way to support the arrangement would be to include Palestinians in the deal. Israel might also consider earmarking its southern Ramon Airport for the flights. After all, Ramon is significantly closer to the kingdom than Ben-Gurion Airport, making for cheaper routes. Its seclusion from Israeli population centers would also help Israeli efforts to monitor outgoing passengers and incoming flights for security purposes.

A pilot program that ran between August and October proved promising, with dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank traveling back and forth from Ramon to Cyprus and Turkey. This program proceeded over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, which fears being sidelined by such accommodations. Jordan, too, has reason to be concerned about the loss of Palestinian passenger dinars at Amman’s airports.

But Palestinians deserve easier travel. Since Israel is willing to be magnanimous in this regard, Saudi Arabia can certainly follow suit by allowing Ramon to be the springboard for direct Hajj flights for Palestinian and Israeli Muslims alike. And that would be a net positive for efforts to normalize ties between [Jerusalem] and Riyadh.

Read more at Arab News

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia