Wednesday, November 23, 2005

You Can Go Home Again

Although the disengagement was probably one of the most wrenching and divisive events in Israel's history, it has brought about a few positive changes in Israel's relations with some countries in the Arab world. Certainly, it can be argued there's a definite downside to the pullout from Gaza and even more so if, as some have predicted, al-Qaeda sets up shop in what used to be a flourishing Jewish community. But, for the moment, I'd like to put that aside (admittedly not an easy thing to do) and focus on what I think is a rather fascinating human interest story.

"Hearty Shalom In Tunisia For Israeli Minister"

New York Post
Uri Dan
November 18, 2005

TUNIS, Tunisia - Silvan Shalom, the Israeli foreign minister, was welcomed back in his homeland this week - and that's remarkable because his homeland is Tunisia, the former base of the PLO and a target of long-range Israeli commando raids.

Shalom, born 47 years ago in the Tunisian desert town of Gabes, was attending an international conference this week as a guest of the Tunisians, the first time a senior official has visited this country.

Tunisian officials called it a "historic visit" and their president, Zayen Bin Ali, joked about hosting Shalom. "Well, there are two Tunisian foreign ministers," he said. "Mine and Israel's."

How did this change come about? After all, Yasser Arafat and his gunmen fled to Tunis in 1982 after being besieged by Israeli forces in his Beirut hideout. And that was after Saudi Arabia helped pave the way by giving millions of dollars to Vasilia Bourghuiba, wife of Tunisian President Habib Boughuiba, to get them to accept Arafat as their country's guest.

Shalom says the recent change in Tunisia-Israeli relations is one of the benefits of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last summer.

The United States - which also helped find Arafat his temporary home in Tunisia 23 years ago - is now trying to convince other nations to change their stance with Israel.

"No doubt the [Gaza] disengagement added to the Israeli gains in strengthening relations, officially or unofficially, with Arab and Muslim countries," Shalom told The Post.

The change was underlined when he visited a beautiful section of Tunis, overlooking the Mediterranean.

Members of his security details recalled that Israelis had been there before - in 1988, when a commando team killed Arafat's No. 2 man, Abu Jihad, for masterminding the Palestinian intifada uprising.

After Israel began the peace process with the Oslo Accords more than a decade ago, Arafat left for the West Bank - and the Tunisians were happy to see him leave.

Who knows? Maybe the next such visit to take place will be the one where both the Israeli president and the Israeli defense minister return to their land of their birth...Iran.

No, I'm not holding my breath either.


11 Comments:

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Esther said...

That is a decent story, Rory. I'm not holding my breath either though on Iran every letting them in. Of course, maybe they will if Israel gives up Jerusalem -- and the rest of the land. My heart still breaks for everyone affected by the Gaza pullout.

On a personal note, so glad you did a post today! I'm so jetlagged.......

 
At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Felis said...

"I'm not holding my breath either though on Iran every letting them in."

Well, I am not either.
So far Islamic states demonstrated their :changing" attitude towards Israel only to "charm" th US and the EU.

 
At 2:55 PM, Blogger Rory said...

Esther, I agree with you and I also sympathize those people who were affected by the pullout, even though I wasn't necessarily in favor of certain aspects of the settlement policy to begin with. And, as far as Iran is concerned, there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that there'll be a rapprochement between that country and Israel as long as the current regime is in power. The next generation may be able to effect a change, but they'll probably need a lot of help from the outside.

I'm sorry to hear about your jet lag, but I'm glad I was able to help out.

 
At 3:04 PM, Blogger Rory said...

Felis,
It's true that most of those Islamic countries are just trying to curry favor with the U.S. and the European Union, but there's a difference between countries like Morocco, for instance, and most of the other Arab states. Morocco has a long history of treating their Jewish citizens a lot better than other Muslim countries. In fact, many Israelis of Moroccan origin maintain close ties to the government there and continue to have a very cordial relationship with the royal family. But, having said that, I should point out that Morocco is definitely the exception to the rule.

 
At 8:45 PM, Blogger muse said...

I don't care if they like us or not. Think of all the young and not so young males and females sexually abused, because they want to be liked.

 
At 11:19 PM, Blogger Rory said...

Muse,
To be honest with you, in my perfect world, the Israelis would tell everybody to go to hell...including America, at times. However, the reality is that the country can't exist in a vacuum, being treated as a pariah. When the Arab boycott was at its most virulent, and the West cowered in fear of having their oil supply cut off, Israel was forced into a pact with the devil, and its relationship with the apartheid regime in South Africa became the most problematic one of all. Of course, the fact that the Arabs were still selling oil to South Africa didn't seem to draw any condemnation, and that's an obscene double standard that, unfortunately, exists to this day. But, frankly, I regret the fact that Israel has to accept aid from the U.S., even though I know how much Israel provides in return, because it's been used as leverage to force Israel to make concessions that weren't necessarily in its best interest. So that's the reason why I think it's to Israel's advantage to be able to forge alliances with other countries, and not be solely dependent on America for support. Israel doesn't need the rest of the world to like it...only to respect its right to exist in freedom and security.

 
At 12:11 AM, Blogger beakerkin said...

What constitutes a Palestinian ? I have seen ID from Gaza and the West Bank cross my desk and saw the inhabitants called Egyptian and Jordanian.

I was born in Brooklyn so I must be a Canarsie Indian. The fact that I have no biological connection to the Canarsie is meaningless. I do not practise any aspects of Canarsie culture or are distinguisable from any other generic NYC resident.

Thus I have formed the NOB. All of you non Brooklynites are hereby deemed lowly fish stick eaters.

How far does this charade go ? I have seen pseudostinians born in Kuwait, Lebanon, Europe, the Philippines, South America and Central America. This is even more bizarre then the nation of Brooklyn.

Any of you non Brooklynites seen Mrs Paul or the Gortons Fisherman.
I think the Gortons fisherman was the mascot of the NY Islanders.

 
At 5:14 AM, Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Greece, Spain and Ireland belong to me through my Celtic bloodlines.

Denmark, Germany, Northern France, and Britain belong to me through my Saxon bloodlines.

Norway, Scotland, and Iceland belong to me through my Scandinavian bloodlines.

North America from Lake Erie down to the southwestern-most tip of the Appalachian Mountians belong to me through my Iroquioan-Cherokee bloodlines.

Don't make me ask for reparations.

::giggle::

 
At 3:01 AM, Blogger Rory said...

beaker and Mr. Beamish,
Right you both are. This whole "Palestinian" business has been a scam from the outset thanks to UNWRA and a lot of world leaders, some of whom were misguided, but others who were downright venal.

 
At 4:12 PM, Blogger patrickafir said...

I was happy for Shalom, although I was sad to hear that his childhood home had been destroyed.

Sadly, I'm not expecting the dysfunctional Arab/Islamic world to offer any genuine conciliatory gestures to Israel or Jews in the foreseeable future. The antisemitism is too entrenched at this point.

 
At 7:49 AM, Blogger Rory said...

Patrick,
Yeah, I was happy about the fact that he was able to return to Tunisia, and I'm sure he had to be gratified by the warm welcome. But, like you, I somehow don't anticipate there'll be a run on red carpets throughout the Muslim world, but I imagine that Israel will start to use more of its many government officials (or even other high profile Israelis from outside the political sphere), whose origins were in the Middle East and North Africa, as a bridge to some of the more moderate Arab countries.

 

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