A View From The Left
srael should unilaterally press on in its national interest
and not wait for a peace partner to somehow emerge in
Ramallah, says a 2001 University of Michigan graduate
living in Tel Aviv.
"Calling the Palestinians' bluff, and idly watching
Palestinian leaders weakened by competing interests, the
Israeli government sits by without much action," said Jordan
Nodel, 24, recently in metro Detroit to visit his parents.
"The danger of not doing anything," he said, "is that the
demographic and economic crisis will increasingly take their
toll on Israel."
Well, Israel is doing something.
It's building a security fence to keep out
West Bank suicide bombers. Sunday's double
bombing in Ashdod killed 10 and wounded
at least 16. It marked the first breach of the
Gaza Strip fence by Palestinian bombers
since the 41-month-long
But I agree: Israel can't
ROBERT A. afford to wait indefinitely for
civilized leadership to wrest
control of the Palestinian
Authority from terror-monger
Nodel sees merit in Israel pulling out of
Gaza and drawing a partition line that annexes
West Bank settlements with 60,000 Jews, but
still giving the Palestinians 95 percent. of the
territory. My concern about that would be ter-
rorist groups like Hamas outmusding the P.A.
in the resulting power struggle.
Nodel piqued my curiosity as he described
Project Reut, the nonprofit Israeli think tank
he works with. Its "vision" (reut in Hebrew) is
a multiple-scenario security doctrine for Israel.
In Ann Arbor, Nodel studied political science and interna-
tional relations. He moved to Israel last August to study
Hebrew, learn more about the Middle East and work with
Project Reut. He hopes to study international law at a U.S.
Nodel gained his political spurs as the speechwriter for
Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Daniel Ayalon, in 2002 and
2003. Nodel answered thoughtfully when asked why a left-
leaning activist chose to work for the right-leaning Sharon
"The need to represent Israel in a fair and accurate way, and
the knowledge I gained by being exposed to such high levels
of politics and diplomacy, strengthened my involvement in
Israel without ever compromising my beliefs," he said.
Politics aside, Nodel found the job rewarding, especially
when Sharon visited the White House last July.
"The ambassador phoned me while Sharon's plane was in
the air," Nodel recounted, "saying he had gotten a call from
the prime minister requesting a copy of Robert Frost's poem,
`The Mending Fence.
"Whether I want to support the construction of the fence
or not, I marveled at my responsibility for getting a copy of
the poem to the prime minister so he could quote from it in
his meeting with President Bush."
In 2003, Nodel worked for five months at the Institute of
Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzylia.
He researched Jewish and Arab demographic changes in the
region since 1915. His quest: the optimal partition line for a
future Palestinian state.
In October, Nodel joined with Project Reut director Gidi
Grinstein, Prime Minister Ehud Barak's emissary to the Camp
David and Taba peace talks. The project is part of the
Economic Cooperation Foundation.
"In better times," Nodel said, "the ECF was engaging in real
economic and social projects between Palestinians and Jews. It
is left doing more policy work with little cross-cultural interac-
Time will tell if Project Reut succeeds.
But I like Nodel's positive outlook.
He said: "Thee team is-relatively young, possessing an energy
that is refreshing to me since many Israelis have already
resigned themselves to accepting the dire situation where Israel
A free spirit, Nodel last year crossed from Jordan into post-
invasion Iraq for a day. He also visited a West Bank mosaic
factory owned by an Israeli who employs Palestinians from
Nablus to do creative tile work.
Another example of this free spirit is his poli-
With relatives in-Israel, Nodel grew up with
what he calls "a strong and dynamic connec-
tion to the country"
"For some time," he said, "only flowery
Sunday school legends about Israel filled my
That rosy vision began to wilt under the
glare of Israel's policies toward the Palestinian
people. Yet he lamented Israel's position in the
world — "not yet an equal nation among oth-
He said if he were Israeli, he'd be proud of
his nationality but critical of the government.
As an American Jew, he said, he must temper
his criticism with "underlying support of the
I respect Nodel's honesty.
But I hold a harder line of support for Israel's need to
defend itself whatever the means — border fences, offensive
strikes, check points — against an enemy intoxicated with
hatred toward anything and anyone associated with Zionism.
Still, I'm eager to see Project Reut's envisioned doctrine for
how Israel should handle "the Palestinian situation." The proj-
ect team will have to come to grips with what the Jerusalem-
based Palestinian Media Watch calls a standard practice of the
Palestinian elite: blaming Israel and the West for all the defect's
in Palestinian and Arab societies.
We view Israel a bit differently, but I echo Nodel's concern
about apathy among U.S. Jews. Too many end their support
at the doorstep of giving to Israel or an Israeli cause. They
don't have genuine interest in the everyday lives of Israelis.
Nodel's parents live in West Bloomfield. His father, Richard,
a national commissioner of the Anti-Defamation League, says:
'As proud as we are of our son's dedication, Marcia and I are
very often made to feel that we are being irresponsible parents
when we're asked what our son is doing and we say he's in
Israel. Other parents with children thinking about trips there
will relate to our dilemma.
Jordan Nodel showed the strength of his commitment by
choosing to study in Israel. Simplistic as it seems, the destiny
he sees for himself is admirable — even plausible.
"Whether or not I am living in Israel," he said, "my connec-
tion with the country will always be great. My career will be
guided by the wish to see the hopes fulfilled of all Jews and
Palestinians who want to live in peace." ❑
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