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The Day In Israel: Mon May 18th, 2009

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With Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu set to meet with US President Barack Obama today, the former’s security adviser, Uzi “Costanza” Arad, has said he will focus on the issue of Iran and stress that “time is running out” for stopping their nuclear program.

Meanwhile, a close associate of Special Mideast Envoy George Mitchell has said that Obama will not rush to press Netanyahu in their upcoming meeting.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

10:25PM: It looks like major differences remain between Washington and Jerusalem after the meeting between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

U.S. President Barack Obama voiced support for creation of a Palestinian state in talks on Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who held back from endorsing the main cornerstone of Washington’s Mideast policy.

With Israeli leaders mostly skeptical of Obama’s efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, Netanyahu had planned to stress Israel’s growing concerns about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, Israeli officials said before the talks.

Obama, speaking along with Netanyahu to reporters in the Oval Office, said after the two-hour meeting that he saw no reason to set an artificial deadline for diplomacy with Iran, but the U.S. would like to see progress with Tehran by the end of the year.

He said he was not closing off a “range of steps” against Iran, including sanctions, if it continues its nuclear program, which Washington believes is aimed at producing an atomic weapon but Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.

Obama also reminded Israel of its commitment, under a 2003 U.S.-backed peace road map agreement to cease settlement activity in the West Bank.

“We talked about restarting serious negotiations on issues of Israel and the Palestinians,” Obama said, adding that it was in the interests of both sides “to achieve a two-state solution.”

Netanyahu, in his remarks, reiterated that he supported self-government for the Palestinians but made no mention of a state, a position underscoring a rare rift in U.S.-Israeli relations.

“We don’t want to govern the Palestinians. We want them to govern themselves,” Netanyahu said, echoing statements he has made in the past.

Obama sees engagement in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking – in contrast to the Bush administration’s largely hands-off approach – as crucial to repairing the U.S. image in the Muslim world and to convincing moderate Arab states to join a united front against Iran.

There have been signs Obama hopes to sway Netanyahu with the prospect of normalized ties between Israel and all Muslim countries, but such a comprehensive deal would require extraordinary diplomatic work by the United States.

8:08PM: Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has met with US President Barack Obama, with the meeting lasting 30 minutes longer than planned.

It is not yet clear whether this was a good thing or bad thing.

6:32PM: The BBC promoting the virtues of religious Zionism?

Well, not quite, but almost (hat tip: Vicious Babushka)

shaked-familyTwo non-Jewish teenage school dropouts quit their rebellious lives in Britain for a week-long obedience lesson with a firm religious-Zionist family for the BBC reality TV show World’s Strictest Parents.

Sixteen-year-old Gemma Lyons and 17-year-old Jack Travers, both from Hampshire in the UK, went to live with David and Tzippi Sha-ked and their five children last week in Nof Ayalon, a community near Modi’in.

The teens, who admit to smoking and drinking alcohol, come from troubled homes – Gemma living with her mother and 14-year-old sister and Jack with his mother, stepfather and four siblings.

The duo visited the Western Wall, a Holocaust survivor, endured basic army training, experienced kibbutz life, Shabbat and much more during their week-long adventure, which is to air in August on the British satellite channel BBC3.

The week wasn’t easy for either of the youngsters, Gemma and Jack told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. Both were quickly escorted to a mall to buy “appropriate” clothes for their new lifestyle.

Jack, who describes himself as a “goth,” on meeting his new family, appeared in his full-black garb, complete with heavy eye-liner, nail varnish and long unruly hair.

“It was a very strict dress code,” said Jack. “[When I] turned up on the first day with it on, they didn’t make a big thing out of it but said ‘we don’t dress this way’ and ‘we want to change how you dress’.”

Gemma, who explained that she is more accustomed to “prancing around” in her bikini in hot climates, found the dress code challenging, but the change had a profound effect on her.

“When they explained the reason behind it, I understood it more and wanted to give it a go,” she said. “When I go back to England, I’m going to dress a lot more modestly.

“I’ve learned so much … I think you need to respect yourself and if you cover up, you are respecting yourself, and when you get into a relationship, it’s something special between yourself and the boy.”

Gemma and Jack both listed the Western Wall as the highlight of their trip, even though Jack describes himself as an atheist.

“I’m not religious, but it was amazing,” enthused Jack.

“I’m really interested in the Wall,” said Gemma, who identifies as a Christian. “You can study it as much as you want, but when you go there, it’s totally different.”

Gemma said she was “so excited” when the show’s destination was revealed to her, but Jack recalled that he, on the other hand, “was dreading it.”

“If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when people try and [force] religion on you.”

However, Jack soon felt like part of the Sha-ked family and at the end of filming, found it hard to say good-bye.

Although the teens were staying with the Sha-keds, the whole community shared in the experience, said neighbor Chani Hadad.

“They thought they were choosing a family, but in fact they chose a whole community. The kids repeatedly expressed their amazement at how close this community is.

“Everyone got so close, there were so many tears,” Hadad said. “[From their perspective], they landed on a different planet, but they embraced the community and will take away a great deal of self-esteem because they both came with issues. They were both judging themselves on the lowest common denominator out there.”

Both participants resolved that they are going to return to school and that they will apply some of the lessons learned to their family life at home.

“On the first day I got into an argument about the rules and people were so calm about everything; no one shouted, everyone was polite and no one got aggressive at all,” Jack said.

“It makes the whole way of life much nicer. If there is one thing [I’ll take away] it’ll be that, because in my [family] home, there are loads of arguments,” Jack said, adding he has a “bad relationship” with his mother.

The Sha-ked family’s attitude to discipline also resonated with Gemma.

“When I go home, if I have a problem, I’m going to approach it in a mature manner … One day if I have kids, this is how I’m going to go about it.”

Tzippi Sha-ked told the Post that she was overcome by “the resolution.”

“It did not go smoothly at all,” said Sha-ked. “We were quite anxious, but we decided we would put our best foot forward and be completely accepting.

“The thing that was most amazing was seeing two non-Jews who knew nothing about Judaism other than negative stuff from the BBC and they got a newfound appreciation; it’s a pity that secular Israel doesn’t see what they saw.”

The program also impacted on the host community, reported Sha-ked, as they are more accustomed to the BBC’s negative portrayal of Israel.

“I think the BBC is really taking a positive role here in promoting some of our values,” she said.

Despite the heart-felt good-byes which took place Sunday, all parties plan to stay in touch and Jack is currently considering a stint on a kibbutz.

“They have become extensions of our family,” gushed Sha-ked. “They made so many friends, it’s unbelievable. They could have won a popularity contest!”

6:10PM: Quote of the day:

“The way was clear so I put down the pedal”

So sayeth a 95-year-old Israeli woman pulled over by police while doing 130 kilometres (85 miles) an hour in a 90 kilometre (60 mile) an hour zone.

Here’s the full story, replete with editorial comment at the end.

A 95-year-old Israeli woman in an apparent hurry to get places was pulled over by police while doing 130 kilometres (85 miles) an hour in a 90 kilometre (60 mile) an hour zone, reports said Monday.

“The way was clear so I put down the pedal,” the nonagenarian told officers who pulled her over.

Police confiscated the speedster’s driving licence for a month and she will have to appear in court for the offence.

Israelis are notoriously bad drivers, with many exhibiting a near complete disregard for speed limits and other traffic regulations.

Part of me is offended that the AFP reporter added in that last paragraph.

Another part of me is nodding in agreement.

5:50PM: Sad news, with reports that the remains of 18-year-old Dana Bennet, who went missing six years ago, were found several days ago.

The Nazareth Magistrate’s Court has imposed a gag order on all other details relating to the investigation.

My thoughts are with Dana’s family, who can at least get some closure now.

And the discovery will at least shut up palestinian terrorists who tried to use her disappearance to their advantage.

5:42PM: Here’s an interesting article on who the BBC’s Tim Franks calls “one of the greatest [soccer] refs ever to don black shorts.”

Israel’s Avraham Klein.

4:06PM: Lebanon is claiming that 2 Lebanese men suspected of spying for Israel have fled across the border to seek asylum.

1:42PM: Terrorist groups are reportedly trying to recruit Israelis as agents or arrange meetings to kidnap them, via social networking sites on the Internet.

12:30PM: It looks like we (Mum of Aussie Dave included) have attracted the attention of another of society’s dregs.

Here’s all you need to know about this folically challenged cretin.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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