2006-03-17-Judy Lash Balint
Israeli freelance writer tells her
jewishsightseeing.com, March 17, 2006
By Gerry Greber
Balint spoke about two major issue confronting Israelis today. First, and foremost, is the upcoming election and its implications for the security of the country. The second was the changing view of the Negev as a place to live.
The political landscape has changed from six months
ago when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was healthy and Mahmoud Abbas was leading
the Palestinians, to the current situation of Hamas in charge of the
Palestinians and Sharon "no longer sitting in the driver’s seat."
In addition, there is the specter of Iran
“threatening the whole Middle East and, in fact, the whole western
Although polls indicate that Acting Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert is the favorite, “it is difficult to predict the outcome of an Israeli
election” according to Balint. The
people do not vote for any individual as their leader, but vote for a party.
Usually no one party will get enough votes and therefore, the leading
party has to call upon a coalition to rule in the Knesset.
However, she did state that “Olmert, the current Kadima
leader, is not very popular in Israel, nor is (former Prime Minister Binyamin)
Netanyahu. And Amir Peretz was head of
the Labor Party when there was a series of strikes which nearly brought the
country to its knees. Which is why
most people don’t like him. Plus
he has no foreign policy experience.”
Of concern to Israelis is the fact that Iran is
reported to be working on atomic weapons. Israel
is surrounded by 22 Muslim countries and the President of Iran is trying to rile
up the Muslim world against Israel and the United States.
And secondly, the election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories is
worrying. Balint stated that she “does
not believe” that the victory was due to the “corruption in Abbas government” as stated.
She said that Hamas’ slogan of “five years of resistance is stronger
than 10 years of negotiations” was the deciding factor.
The freelance writer and lecturer passed along an interesting observation: every time you see a Muslim leader on TV there is a picture of a mosque behind him. Have you ever seen a picture of Sharon, or any other Jewish leader, standing in front of the Western Wall or the Temple Mount? Silence ensued.
On the question of humanitarian aid by the United States to the Palestinians, Balint said that the feeling in Israel is that the aid does not go to the people, and never did. It went to the corrupt Arab leaders, and to purchase arms and therefore should not be forthcoming.
Balint lives in Jerusalem and the Palestinians living there voted overwhelmingly for Hamas. This has made the Jewish residents there, including her, “very uncomfortable," she said.
Turning to other issues, Balint reported that the JNF
is trying to encourage Israelis to move to underpopulated portions of the
Negev—and is having some success. More and more young people are moving into
temporary shelters in a village about 10 miles north of Beer Sheva awaiting
permanent homes in other areas of the desert.
The Negev represents 60 percent of Israel’s land mass but
only 8 percent of the population live there.
The prospective residents will be able to commute to jobs in Tel Aviv on
a newly built railroad line. .
Balint said Bedouin Arab communities living in the Negev
are the fastest growing population in the world. Many of the Bedouin are being
“persuaded” by the Islamic fundamentalists to come over to their point of
view, she said. In many cases, Bedouins who have served honorably in the
Israeli army, are shunned by their villagers when they return home, she said.
Judy Lash Balint is a Jerusalem based journalist, writer, and author of Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times. In 2003, Balint received the Mosaic Award for Excellence in feature writing about Israeli Peoplehood, Culture and Society, among others. Her work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines, and she is the Israeli correspondent for several Seattle area radio stations.