Tel Aviv — Hillary Clinton arrives in Israel today on her first visit since becoming secretary of state, at a time when many influential people in America and beyond are clamoring for the Obama administration to pressure Israel into making major concessions. Before she succumbs to those pressures, she might want to bear in mind the pain Israel suffered the last time it was forced to make such concessions — when Mrs. Clinton’s husband was president.
It is a pain that has many names and faces. One of them is Kinneret Chaya Boosany. At the very moment that Barack Obama was delivering his historic victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park in the early hours of November 5, a small miracle was happening over 6,000 miles away in Israel when Kinneret gave birth to her first child.
Six years earlier, Kinneret, then a 23-year-old part-time dancer and student of alternative medicine, was blown up as she worked as a waitress in a small coffee shop on Tel Aviv’s Allenby Street. (Like many young Israelis, she worked as a waitress to earn extra money. She was also exceptionally good-looking: Heads would turn wherever she went.)
Her injuries that night were so horrific that the doctors gave her only a 2 percent chance of survival. She remained in a coma for four months. When she awoke, she changed her name from Kinneret to Kinneret Chaya (meaning “Kinneret Lives” in Hebrew). In her own words, “Kinneret died that night in the flames, but Kinneret Chaya was born.”
She is just one of the thousands of Israelis — both Jews and Arabs — injured by Palestinian suicide bombers who were sent out on their deadly missions by either the Islamist Hamas movement or by the Fatah faction headed by “moderate” Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. The number of Israelis killed in buses and pizza parlors and shopping malls has been greatly reduced in recent years after the government built a security fence to make it harder for bombers to get through.
Today Kinneret has one fully operating lung, sees in only one eye, and hears in only one ear. Her skin still bears the scars of burns over 85 percent of her body. She spends many hours in a heavy pressure suit and face mask to prevent the scarring from getting worse, and she cannot go out in the day because the sun has become her enemy.
But Kinneret has struggled back to life, through countless operations and long sessions of physiotherapy, learning to accept her disfigured body and to smile in spite of her scarred face. And then in November, even though the doctors said she had only a very slim chance of a successful pregnancy, this beautiful former teenage ballerina, who got married at the start of last year, gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
This story is worth reflecting on as Hillary Clinton arrives here in Israel. Barely a day goes by without Jimmy Carter and assorted European politicians calling on Obama to coerce Israel into hastily withdrawing from more land no matter the security risks. The reigning Nobel Peace Prize laureate, for instance, former Finnish prime minister Martti Ahtisaari, went so far as to use the prize ceremony as a soapbox to urge Obama to make pressure on Israel the principal focus of his first year in office.
Like most Israelis, Kinneret Chaya — whom I saw again last week — desperately wants peace with the Palestinians. Indeed it is my experience of covering the region as a reporter for many years that no one wants the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to be peaceably resolved more than Israelis do.
But Israelis are also very aware of the dangers of naively handing over territory to terrorists, as was done during the presidency of Secretary of State Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, in the 1990s. The vote by Israelis in elections two weeks ago was not a vote against peace, as many Western commentators claim. It was a vote for realism and security.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s likely next prime minister, has been wrongly vilified as being against a two-state solution. In fact he is open to the creation of a Palestinian state, but only if it is one that will live in peace with Israel. And for this, Netanyahu argues, you can’t simply wave a magic wand at some fancy signing ceremony on the White House lawn and say “hey presto” — which is exactly what leftist politicians tried to do at the Oslo signing ceremony in 1993.