The Day In Israel: Monday July 5th, 2010

With Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu scheduled to meet US President Barack Obama tomorrow, Jerusalem is making every effort to prevent embarrassments such as those that occurred during his previous visit to the White House.

Obama NetanyahuTwo of Netanyahu’s aides have recently returned from Cairo, and his office is making an effort to show good will by establishing a shortened “black list” of items that will not be allowed into Gaza as part of the easing of restrictions on the Strip.

The items list includes everything Israel has defined as “weapons” or “combat equipment”. It is set to be presented to the Foreign Ministry Monday just hours before Netanyahu’s trip.

In addition, Defense Minister Ehud Barak is scheduled to meet Monday afternoon with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and sources say he may present him with the list as well.

Israeli officials believe the main issue Netanyahu will discuss with Obama is the decision to move forward to direct talks with the Palestinians. After 15 months of publicized disagreement, many believe the US president will attempt to make peace with Netanyahu.

“The US is demanding of Israel the prevention of embarrassment, such as construction in east Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, once the direct talks begin,” Israeli diplomats said. “This is despite the fact that Obama knows Abu Mazen was dragged into these talks against his will.”

A Labor minister said the issue of West Bank construction was also sure to come up, if not during this meeting then certainly during the next. “It’s true the Palestinians haven’t done enough, but we can’t have the bulldozers coming in during the talks,” he said.

A Foreign Ministry source said Obama was eager to spur the direct talks, and that he expects Netanyahu to make moves in which a majority is guaranteed, such as in the government or the Knesset.

Obama is also expected to discuss with Netanyahu the easement of restrictions on Gaza as well as the coordination of talks between Israel and the Palestinians with Egypt and the EU. Their meeting will also deal with Iran and the new sanctions imposed by the US.

Here’s hoping that at least gets Netanyahu a dinner invitation.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

10:52PM: The IDF soldiers in the flash mob I posted earlier today (3:50PM update) could face disciplinary action.

10:32PM: Besides being utterly biased, terrorist-supporting CNN editor Octavia Nasr  “Causes breast cancer-autism” according to her Twitter bio.

octavia nasr twitter

That’s one heck of a resume.

Meanwhile, is it just me or doesn’t she look like the lovechild of a Kardashain and Miss Piggy?

10:04PM: Welcome to Gaza, the world’s only “open air concentration camp” with classic cars.

7:34PM: Nobel peace prize winner Robert Aumann explains the Arab-Israeli conflict in terms of game theory.

Reuben and Shimon are placed into a small room with a suitcase containing $100,000 of cash. The owner of the suitcase offers them the following: “I’ll give you all the money in the suitcase, but only on the condition that you negotiate and reach an amicable agreement on its division. That’s the only way I will give you the money. ”

Reuben, who is a rational person, appreciates the golden opportunity presented to him and turns to Shimon with the obvious suggestion: “Come, you take half the amount, I’ll take the other half, and each of us will go away with $50,000.” To his surprise, Shimon, with a serious look on his face and a determined voice says: “Listen, I do not know what your intentions are with the money, but I’m not leaving this room with less than $90,000. Take it or leave it. I’m fully prepared to go home with nothing.”

Reuben can not believe his ears. What happened to Shimon? he thinks to himself. Why should he get 90%, and I only 10%? He decides to try to talk to Shimon. “Come, be reasonable,” he pleads. “We’re both in this together, and we both want the money. Come let’s share the amount equally and we’ll both come out ahead.”

But the reasoned explanation of his friend does not seem to register on Shimon. He listens attentively to Reuben’s words, but then declares even more emphatically, “There is nothing to discuss. 90-10 or nothing, that’s my final offer!” Reuben’s face turns red with anger. He wants to smack Shimon across his face, but soon reconsiders. He realizes that Shimon is determined to leave with the majority of the money, and that the only way for him to leave the room with any money is to surrender to Shimon’s blackmail. He straightens his clothes, pulls out a wad of bills from the suitcase in the amount of $10,000, shakes hands with Shimon and leaves the room looking forlorn.

This case in Game Theory is called the “Blackmailer Paradox.” The paradox emerging from this case is that the rational Reuben is eventually forced to act clearly irrationally, in order to gain the maximum available to him. The logic behind this bizarre result is that Shimon broadcast total faith and confidence in his excessive demands, and he is able to convince Reuben to yield to his blackmail in order for him to receive the minimum benefit.

Arab – Israel Conflict

The political relationship between Israel and Arab countries is also conducted according to the principles of this paradox. The Arabs present rigid and unreasonable opening positions at every negotiation. They convey confidence and assurance in their demands, and make certain to make absolutely clear to Israel that they will never give up on any of these requirements.

Absent an alternative, Israel is forced to yield to blackmail due to the perception that it will leave the negotiating room with nothing if it is inflexible. The most prominent example of this is the negotiations with the Syrians that have been conducted already for a number of years under various auspices. The Syrians made certain to clarify in advance that they will never yield even an inch of the Golan Heights.

The Israeli side, which so desperately seek a peace agreement with Syria, accept Syria’s position, and today, in the public discourse in Israel, it is clear that the starting point for future negotiations with Syria must include a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights, despite the critical strategic importance of the Golan Heights to ensure clear boundaries that protect Israel.

How to Avoid Failure

According to Game Theory, the State of Israel must make some perceptual changes to improve its position in the negotiations with the Arabs, and to ultimately win the political struggle.

A. Willingness to renounce agreements: The present Israeli political approach is based on the assumption that an agreement with the Arabs must be reached at all costs, because the present situation, with the lack of an agreement, is simply intolerable. In the “Blackmailer Paradox,” Reuben’s behavior is based on the perception that he must leave the room with some amount of money even if it is the minimum. Reuben’s inability to accept the possibility that he may have to leave the room empty-handed, inevitably causes him to surrender to extortion and to leave the room in shame as a loser, but at least with some gain. Similarly, the State of Israel conducts its negotiations from a frame of mind that does not allow her to reject suggestions that do not conform to its interests.

B. Consideration of repeat games: Based on Game Theory, one should consider a one-time situation completely differently from a situation that repeats itself again and again, for in games that repeat over time, a strategic balance that is neutral paradoxically causes a cooperation between the opposing sides. Such cooperation occurs when the parties understand that the game repeats itself many times, therefore they must consider what will be the impact of their present moves on future games, when the fear of future loss serves as a balancing factor. Reuben related to the situation as if it were a one-time game, and acted accordingly. Had he announced to Shimon that he was not prepared to concede the part due him, even in light of a total loss, he would change the outcome of the game, for the future, although it is quite likely that he would leave the room empty-handed in the current negotiation. However, if both encounter a similar situation in the future, Shimon would recognize Reuben’s seriousness and have to reach a compromise with him. Likewise, Israel must act with patience and with long-term vision, even at the cost of not coming to any present agreement and continuing the state of belligerence, in order to improve its position in future negotiations.

C. Faith in your position: Another element that creates the “Blackmailer Paradox,” is the absolute certainty of one side in its positions, in this case the position of Shimon. Full certainty creates an internal justification of one’s convictions, and in the second round serves to convince his opponent that his positions were right. This results in the opponent’s desire to reach a compromise even by acting entirely irrationally and distancing him from his opening demands. Several years ago, I talked to a senior officer who claimed that Israel must withdraw from the Golan in any peace settlement because, from the Syrian point of view, the land is sacred and they will not give up on it. I explained to him, the Syrians convinced themselves that this is sacred ground, and it was this that succeeded to convince us as well. The deep conviction of the Syrians, causes us to surrender to the Syrian dictates. The present political situation will be resolved only if we convince ourselves of the justice of our views. Only total faith in our demands will be able to convince the Syrian opponent to consider our position.

Like all science, Game Theory does not presume to express an opinion on moral values, but rather seeks to analyze the strategic behaviors of rival parties in a common game. The State of Israel plays such a game with its enemies. Like every game, in the Arab-Israeli game there are particular interests that shape and frame the game and its rules. Unfortunately, Israel ignores the basic principles that arise in Game Theory. If the State of Israel succeeds in following these base principles, its political status and its security will improve significantly.

4:38PM: Honest Reporting deals with Octavia Nasr’s cheerleading for a dead terrorist.

4:34PM: CNN’s Octavia Nasr upon hearing of the death of Hizbullah terrorist Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah yesterday:

Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot..

In case you were wondering how it is that CNN seems so biased against Israel.

4:30PM: Almost one third of a sample of Israelis are hoping Germany wins the World Cup.

The German national soccer team is generally not considered one of the most popular in Israel, but it seems this year’s FIFA World Cup is leaving its mark. A poll conducted Sunday by Yedioth Ahronoth and the Dahaf Institute, headed by Mina Tzemach, showed that almost one-third of Israelis would like to see coach Joachim Löw’s team win the Cup.

The poll’s findings are based on answers by 500 respondents, comprising a representative sample of the adult population in Israel.

According to the findings, 31.1% of the male population in Israel (27.7% of the general sample) would like to see Holland take the cup home. Germany, surprisingly, comes in second place, with 30.5% of the male population (25.1% of the general sample) hoping to see striker Miroslav Klose and his teammates win the international championship.

As for me, I am not rooting for Germany (I’d rather see the Dutch win) and would prefer to see the German team routed.

3:50PM: IDF flash mob in Hebron!

12:55PM: Do you remember the weird pro-Israel music video of the century I blogged about back in May?

Looks like it has really taken off.

The music video appeared, without much fanfare or explanation, in April. Its three stars—La Tigresa del Oriente and La Pequeña Wendy, both from Peru, and Delfín Hasta El Fín, from Ecuador—all populist specimens of unironic camp, were already YouTube stars. Maybe that’s why “En Tus Tierras Bailaré,” an inexplicable, Spanish-language musical tribute to the beauties of Israel, with a title that translates to “In Your Lands I’ll Dance,” has effortlessly racked up nearly 4 million views and spawned countless tributes and parodies. But where did it come from? Why did three South Americans team up to sing about their love for Israel and their plans to dance in Jerusalem? And why does the video superimpose their dancing on shots of the Tel Aviv skyline and—of all things—Hamantaschen?

Some commenters saw a Zionist conspiracy (when they weren’t expressing disdain for the video’s “bad taste”). But could the Israeli government, or any sympathetic organization, have masterminded something so anarchic, brazenly neglecting to tout Israel’s holy sites and instead pitching the Azrieli Mall highway bridge? Another theory: Maybe the artists were spontaneously moved by their love for Israel on their way home from an evangelical church. Yet others speculated it was all a big prank staged by an Israeli backpacker trawling the Incan ruins of Peru, who thought it’d be funny to juxtapose their song with footage of the Tel Aviv pride parade.

In truth, credit (or blame, if you prefer) lies with a different set of rootless cosmopolitans: several creative-class Argentine Jews (and one quarter-Jew) living in Madrid, Buenos Aires, and New York, only one of whom has actually been to Israel, and none of whom even met the singers during the video’s production. Their intention, these impresarios say somewhat vaguely, was to fight preconceived notions that Israel is a sad and scary place.

“It’s not a song in favor of Israel,” said Gastón Cleiman, an advertising man in Buenos Aires who wrote the song’s lyrics and who, along with Sebastian Muller, dreamed up the idea. “It’s a song against prejudice.” Cleiman is freelancer; Muller works for an interactive firm in Madrid whose clients include Nike and Coca-Cola. Both men swear the project was their own initiative, with neither official money nor messaging. The music was written by Gaby Kerpel, another Argentine Jew, who also scored De La Guarda and Fuerza Bruta and is part of a Latin electronic collective known as Zizek and performs reinterpreted Colombian cumbia under the alter ego King Coyo, and the video was directed by Picky Talarico, better known for directing Latin mega-stars’ videos and high-profile commercials.

It started with Muller and Cleiman, who were channeling their mutual obsession with the millions-strong YouTube sensations Wendy (who, at 8, recorded sugary-voiced videos about her thirst for breast milk and beer), La Tigresa (a surgically enhanced hairdresser from the Peruvian Amazon fond of leopard print and reborn as a singer at 65), and Delfín, an amiable but stone-faced Ecuadorean whose first rise to his feet in indignation had been for a disco-beat ode to 9/11.

“One sees them and is seduced,” Cleiman said, speaking in Spanish. “These are things upon which you cannot force reason, because then surely you will find defects. But the truth is, you cannot stop watching them.”

“I feel they are doing something new that relies on authenticity,” Muller, who studied film at Tel Aviv University, told me earnestly, in Hebrew. “They haven’t learned the rules of how to communicate with images. It’s a kind of dogma without consciousness.”

Muller conceded that some of the singers’ fan base was ironic or mocking. “For many people, the combination of authenticity, of pop-culture kitsch and the bizarre is an ugly aesthetic,” he said. “But once you break from your prejudice, you can get to a different approach. Once you break those barriers, you are free.” He likened the process of changing one’s perception of the video—in part because of its pure addictiveness—to changing one’s view of Israel.

That’s the argument he presented to the singers, too. “They also had preconceived notions about Israel,” Muller said. “So, we said, what do they think when people write negative things about them on the Internet?” All three signed on.

This time, parts of the Internet responded with enthusiastiasm, bringing the performers unimagined international fame and tributes. The breathlessly heralded “pasito de Delfín” dance in “En Tus Tierras Bailaré” has spawned homages by someone in an Iron Man costume in a park, by well-off children in a kiddie pool, and by at least one woman in drag.

***

Sitting in a Manhattan bar, Talarico, the video’s director, recalled how pleased he was when Muller forwarded him YouTube comments complaining that the video looked like the work of a beginner student, and a not very good one.

Talarico’s usual clients are the likes of Julio Iglesias, Nelly Furtado, and Juanes, but when Cleiman called and asked him to recommend a director for “En Tus Tierras Bailaré,” Talarico volunteered himself.

“I have this concept of art as being when you manage to do something without your mind interfering, without being led by preconceptions and prejudices,” he said. “For me, there’s always an opinion, there’s always self-consciousness. I think these people don’t have that. So, I think they’re true artists.”

Cleiman had written the lyrics to Kerpel’s music on a boat to Uruguay, trying to mimic the imperfect rhyming and simplicity of the singers’ previous work. “I’m trying to remember a phrase of Picasso’s—It took many years for me to learn how to paint like a child,” he said.

All of them had labored to make themselves invisible, befitting a video that Alma Guillermoprieto, writing on the New York Review of Books blog, saw as evidence of “the chaotic transformation of a culture that has always had an infinite and joyful capacity for self-invention. This is not outsider but insider art of the deepest sort, forged in a hot-hot crucible, and it is we who stand on the outside, peering wistfully at the screen.” For the Argentines involved, cultural insiders by profession but arguably outsiders as Jews and in a country that has always held itself apart from Latin America, the wistful peering was in awe, at footage shot in Peru and Ecuador by local directors given only the loosest instructions.

“After 200 music videos and 400 commercials, it was like an undoing,” said Talarico. “A deconstruction.”

He intentionally used footage of Israel that defied logic. “If we were doing a corporate video for Israel and we had a voice-over saying, ‘Visit Jerusalem,’ then fine, we use Jerusalem. But this was not like a video of a party where you can see the brand of whiskey.” It’s not clear to him whether the video changed the way anyone thinks about Israel, but it doesn’t really matter that much to him. “With Israel, there’s something in my blood”—he has a Jewish grandparent—“but if someone had approached me to do this video for Afghanistan or Argentina, I would have done it too.”

Meanwhile, the video’s wild success has meant the artists now have mobility beyond the virtual. La Tigresa has already been brought to Buenos Aires by a party promoter, where patrons at a chic restaurant she ate in burst into “En Tus Tierras Bailaré,” where she was stopped in the street for photos and hailed as a gay icon. Kerpel wants to collaborate with Wendy Sulca. Agencies are calling Cleiman and Talarico, seeking to tap this confusing enthusiasm.

And Muller is seeking partners or donors for a worldwide tour that would span Latin America, Miami, New York, and end up in Israel. “That’s our dream and their dream,” he said. “They already know a lot about the country because we showed it to them. And they have a connection. But they want to be there physically.”

For the record, I think I was the first to blog about the video, so would like to think Israellycool contributed in a small way to its popularity.

12:42PM: The Turks are threatening to break off ties with Israel unless we meet certain demands.

Turkey’s foreign minister has warned that diplomatic ties with Israel will be cut in the wake of the recent flotilla crisis unless certain conditions are met, the Turkish press reported Monday.

“The Israelis have three options: They will either apologize or acknowledge an international-impartial inquiry and its conclusion. Otherwise, our diplomatic ties will be cut off,” Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters on Saturday during a visit to Kyrgyzstan.

Here’s hoping we tell Turkey to get stuffed.

8:38AM: Photo of the day:

Gilad Shalit cutout

A photo-cutout of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and Israeli flags are fixed on a car following a slomen march protest through a highway on the outskirts of the coastal town of Herzliya on July 4, 2010, the seventh day of a 200-kilometre (120-mile) of a march from Shalit?s family hometown of Mitzpe Hila near Israel's northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to mark four years since he was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, compare the sign to that seen in Mecca:

muslims only sign meccaWhere is the real apartheid?

5:55AM: Besides being US Independence Day, yesterday was also the day Operation Entebbe was carried out 34 years ago.

Here is some vivid “live” footage of the Entebbe hostages returning to Israel, which was released only a couple of years ago.

Translation of voice over:

July 4th 1976, 2 pm. heads os state and IDF are waiting. one more glimpse at the watch. these hidden footages bring us back Yitzhak Rabin as PM, and his security minister Peres with full hair…
in few minutes the fir More..st Hercules will land, bringing the Entebbe hostages back home.
historic moments frozen in the camera landscape.
this is a silence history- the voices were not recorded.
the wheels are touching down the runway, the door is open and the hostages,shocked and excited, are coming out one by one. some of them didnt even notice rabin and peres which came to congrats them… the two, which back then were rivals, the same as partners, decided about this operation togheter.
the passengers are first welcomed by the Lod airbase personal. a hug and a cry of releif.
one of the hostages is Michelle Bakus, the captain of the kidnnaped Airfrance plane, which insisted to stay with the israeli passengers at the Entebbe terminal (after the non-israerlis were released), guidence by his sense of responsebility to their fate.
he is about to be rebuked for this in France, but in Israel he will be highly estimated.
the fighters which were hurt during the operation are also taken down from the Hercules, and also 6 injured hostages.
the buses are taking the free hostages to their first meeting with the families.
they are silence, each one is with himself, here a cigarette, there half a smile. till someone is taking out a “sabra” liqueur and pass it to everyone else.
slowly realizing they are back home. in a moment they will hug their dear ones.
the special forces are also getting down from the plane. so is the truck which carried their breaking in equipment, and yes… this is the black mercedes- the double of Idi Amin’s vehicle, which will later be memorized in movies.
and the sights are exciting like 32 years havnt pass.
in the other side of the runway, far from the eye another Hercules is landing.
Rabin and Peres at first conversation with the Sayeret Matkal special forces.
Rabin thanks them for their courage and achivment, and the fighters are telling how Yoni Nethanyau died, where the hostages were held and how much terrorists were taken down.
and another picture for memory- the aircrews which participated in the operation.
what was Rabin thinking here while watching the landing planes? maybe about the difficult decision to semd this fighters so far away, maybe about the amazing success and the heavy price which was payed – the death of the Sayeret Matkal commander and 3 of the hostages.
32 years has passed and the taste of that sweet moment, a moment of bravery and unity is coming back, a history which its ok to embrace. “

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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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