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June 29, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 29, 2012 PAGE 17A Listening From page 1A Underscoring the new tone he brought to the govern- ment, M0faz said that such talks were at least as urgent as those" aimed at keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon--a sharp contrast with the emphasis that Netan- yahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, have placed on Iran in their dealings with the Obama administration. Mofaz met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then national security adviser Tom Donilon during his trip. Itwas at the June 21 meeting with Donilon that Mofaz was given an idea of how seriously his ideas were being taken. Minutes after the meeting started, Obamawalked in and took over. Mofaz, speaking to reporters later in the day, insisted he had no idea the president would participate in the conversation, Nonetheless, Mofaz was prepared for the eventuality, and during his talk made a bold prediction: Israeli and Palestin- ian leaderswould convene soon to restart the peace process. Obama was more than re- ceptive, Mofaz later suggested to Israeli :eporters. "The Americans under- stand the greatness of the hour of the opportunity that was created" by the national unity government, he said. Obama, he told reporters, told Mofaz that, "I accept your as- sessments of the Middle East." Mofaz said he believed that Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leaders would meet "within months." But pressed by reporters as to whether he knew contacts were under way toward setting up such a meeting, he acknowledged, "I don't know." Barak in an interview with The Washington Post con- firmed that Mofaz's entry into the government presented an opportunity to revive the talks, and that he and Netan- yahu were committed to "try and do it." The problem, Barak said, was still the Palestinian Authority and its unilateral efforts to achievestatehood recognition in the absence of talks. "It takes two to tango," Barak said. Still, Ephraim Sneh, a former Israeli deputy defense minister who has known Mofaz since their days as commandos, said he did not believe Netanyahu would listen to his new colleague. "I'm afraid [Netanyahu] won't because of the large number of registered hard- line, right-wing Likud mem- bers from the settlements," Sneh said. "In order to be reelected in the. primaries, he should be nice with them." Sneh nonetheless said that Mofaz was a strong addition to the government, even though they served in the past in opposing parties--Sneh in Labor and Mofaz in Likud. "He brings to the Cabinet three important things: ex- perience, ability and a serious attitude to the Israeli-Pales- tinian conflict," Sneh said. Mofaz's ascension to the military chief of staff posi- tion in 1998 was historic. The Iran native was the first military chief from among the hundreds of thousands of Jews who emigrated from Middle East lands after Israel's independence; they are often known as Mizrahi or Sephardi Jews. (Moshe Levy, the first Mizrahi chief of staff, who served from 1983 to 1987, was born in prestate Tel Aviv.) Mofaz is blunt but soft-spo- ken. He distinguishes himself from his political colleagues by patiently waiting for an interlocutor to finish speaking, and then directly answering the questionwithout segueing to his preferred issue. Shas From page 1A able political landscape, its existence on the dockets could bring it to the fore without warning. It's quite a contrast to the United States, where since the 1973 Roe v. Wade case legal- izing abortion, the topic has been a heated political and social issue. The lack of con- troversy in Israel stems mostly from the large gap between law and practical reality. The Israeli penal code states that termination of pregnancy is a crime that carries a prison sentence of up to five years. But the code also broadly addresses numerous circum- stances in which an abortion may be legally performed, including benefit to emotional and financial well-being. The procedure must be approved by a special com- mittee with at least two physicians and one licensed social worker; at least one of the three must be a woman. Yet approval is practically automatic if the pregnant woman is younger than 17 or older than 40; if the concep- tionwas a result of rape, incest or extramarital relations; if the pregnancy is likely to en- danger the mother's physical or mental well-being; or if the fetus has been diagnosedwith a possible birth defect. Women also do not need the consent of any male, including the father of the fetus, nor do minors need the consent of parents or guardians. Israeli medical coverage offers an ar- ray of free testing for genetic and congenital birth defects. Both Zeev and feminist or- ganizations such as the Israel Women's Network confirm that the committees approve 98 percent of requested abor- tions. Less than 10 percent of abortions in Israel are car- ried out after the 22nd week and some 20,000 legal abor- tions are performed in public hospitals every year in Israel, according to the Knesset re- search department. This does not include abortions per- formed because of concern for the mother's physical health, which especially if there is any medical emergency are often not even brought before the committee. It is unknown how many women avoid the commit tee--whether because they are between 17 and 40, or b~cause of personal prefer- ence-and turn to a private doctor. Having an abortion is not a criminal offense and, according to binding legal norms, unless medical malpractice is involved, the physician performing the abortion will not be pros- ecuted. Private abortions cost $1,500 to $1,750. Finally, making it impos- si.ble to know how many of the procedures are performed in total is that they can be listed as "medical interventions," which can cover a broad category. With all that in mind, most Israeli feminists and others favoring the availability of the option have been hesitant to challenge the status quo. But Zeev's proposal may force their hand, acknowledges Tal Tamir, the director general of Women in their Bodies, a feminist health organization. The huge gap between the law's paradoxical contradic- tions and practical life, she explains, reflect an attempt by Israeli society to live with all its internal tensions. "On the one hand, some parts oflsraeli society are very liberal, while other parts are very conservative," Tamir told JTA. "By making abortion ille. gal, the patriarchy maimains its hold over women's bodies, but by making it available, it maintains a progressive, liberal facade." Indeed, there is a widely, liberal, even permissive at- titude toward sexual activity in much of the Israeli secular culture. Secular schools pro- vide coed sex education. The Israeli health plans don't offer free birth control, but some high schools provide condoms through vending machines, Further, the army provides at least one free abortion to every female soldier who re- quests one. While there is no civil marriage in Israel, civil law recognizes common-law marriage and cohabitation is commonly accepted. Tamir says the prohibition on abortions for women aged 17 to 40 is another example of Conflicting social pressures. "Israel is a very pro-natal society and carries a strong message that Jewish women should bear children, espe- cially after the Holocaust," she said. "We have the highest rate of IVF services--all paid for by the state--in theworld. So women who are the 'proper age to have children' aren't supposed to have abortions. But Israeli society also wants perfect children, so if there are defects, the abortion is considered OK." Furthermore, Tamir adds, the situation is discrimina- tory. "Women who have the money go to private clinics. Underprivileged women are forced to go to a committee and plead their case," she said. "And it really galls me that the state has the right to intervene in our bodies. But, she says, "In the cur- rent political constellation, in which religious parties carry disproportionate weight, the situation could always be worse for women." Unlike Tamir, Knesset member Zehava Galon of the Meretz party is determined to change the status quo. Last fall, she submitted a proposal to permit abortions for all women at any time, but the proposal failed to make it out of preliminary committees. She insists, however, that she will continue to bring it to the Knesset for debate. "The attempts by Zeev to interfere with women's choice is making this even more urgent," she told JTA. "It is simply not right that in a proper, democratic country a governmental committee can deny a woman.her basic right to decide what to do with her own body." As chief of staff, Mofaz man- aged the tough response to the secbnd intifada, ordering raids and home demolitions. When he retired, then-Prime Minis- ter Ariel Sharon made him de- fense minister in 2002. Three years later, when Sharon left the rightist Likud Party to establish the more centrist Kadima, he considered it critical to bring Mofaz with him to establish credibility with hawks and the Mizrahi community. Mofazjoined, and Netanya- hu more than once attempted to lure him back to the Likud. Leading Kadima's peace- skeptic right wing, Mofaz had uncomfortable, competitive relationships with Sharon's successors as party leader, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. (He convincingly defeated Livni in internal party elec- tions in March.) In 2009, however, having been defeated by Livni for the party leadership in the wake of Olmert's~ departure to face corruption charges, Mofaz came up with a peace plan that was far-reaching in two respects: It proposed an interim Palestinian state in place of incremental talks he said were dooming the peace process, and he did not count out the inclusion of Hamas on the Palestinian side. Mofaz, like other Israeli pretenders to the prime- ministership, insists, that all parties must accept the inter- national community's condi- tions for participation in the peace talks. They know fully well that Hamas rejects~he conditions, including recog- earn him a serious hearing in Washington. Like Netan- yahu and Barak, he insists that it is critical that Iran be kept from acquiring nuclear weapons. Unlike them, he holds out hope for intensified nizing Israel and renouncing sanctions (although not talks) terrorism. The difference was that Mofaz would not count out Hamas changing its pos- ture, while Netanyahu insists the movement is irredeemable and must be crushed. Mofaz holds to the same peace plan today, and it is his quiet optimism on this and other issues that has helped and insists that the United States and the West must take the lead should it come to a military strike. Whether Mofaz's posture becomes preeminent within Israel's government remains to be seen. For certain, how- ever, he is a man whose pres- ence is being taken seriously. . . Sudoku solution from page 7 421538796 6934.72815 785196432 219764358 836,259147 547813629 974621583 368 945271 152387964 FLORIDA EWISH NEWS Bill Publication Date: August ,3, 2012 Advertising Deadline: July 25, 2012