I recently returned home from an unforgettable two-week trip to Israel with the Young Jewish Conservatives. We spoke to members of the Israeli Knesset and Foreign Ministry, we traveled to places such as Hebron and Sderot that most American tour groups do not visit. Some lessons I found worth sharing:
1.) “Save a Child’s Heart”, is an Israeli charitable organization that performs pediatric heart surgery for non-Jewish children in desperate need of help. Free of charge. Since its inception in 1995, the organization has saved the lives of 3,000 non-Jewish children, 50% of whom came from Gaza, the West Bank, and Iraq.
I asked a member if the organization helps the image of Israel in the Palestinian territories: “We hope so.”
2.) There are only two U.N. refugee agencies in the world. The United Nations Relief and Works Administrations (UNRWA) was created to serve five million Palestinian “refugees” (this figure includes the descendants of the original 500,000 Palestinian refugees from the Israeli War of Independence); it employs 30,000 workers. The UNRWA has never resettled a Palestinian.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created to assist every other refugee in the world; 100 million people have been considered displaced over the last 50 years. It employs 7,000 people, but has resettled tens of millions of refugees.
3.) Many on the Israeli political right do not value the American-Israel relationship, thinking it causes more harm than good (they are not big fans of AIPAC), and they are not just talking about the Obama era. Many of them, including Moshe Feiglin (Netanyahu’s political rival in Likud), think America attaches too many strings to its support. They think America routinely coerces Israel into making one-sided concessions, and Israel needs to become independent of America and more self-reliant in the international arena. Mr. Feiglin told us that he does not care if Romney or Obama wins the election, as Israel can take care of itself.
Gil Hoffman, Chief Political Correspondent of the Jerusalem Post, told us that many on the right in Israel actually want President Obama to be reelected, because he has proven himself to be a failure with regards to the peace process and they therefore are confident Israel will not relinquish any land as long as he is president. Conversely, they fear that Netanyahu would trust a President Romney, which could accelerate the peace process and lead to Israeli concessions. Mr. Hoffman told us: “There is no peace process because of the President of the United States.” For this same reason, many on the Israeli left are worried Obama will win reelection.
4.) Many Arabs in the “occupied” territories actually work in construction for Israeli settlers. According to Rabbi Ben Packer: when settlement construction slows down, Arab employment decreases accordingly.