Rep. Paulsen Goes to Israel: Day Two

This is a guest post by Representative Erik Paulsen (MN-03). He is in Israel this week withAIPAC and will be blogging regularly and exclusively for TC Jewfolk during his trip. Miss yesterday’s post? Read it here.
From the desk of Rep. Erik Paulsen (MN:03):

Israelis in a bomb shelter in the southern city of Ashkelon. 2008.

This morning began with our hearing the personal reflections from a woman who helps operate a kibbutz along the Gaza border. She is visibly shaken and had difficulty keeping herself composed as she described what it has been like the last three days at home. She hasn’t had much sleep in that time and on her drive to Jerusalem this morning saw two explosions from rockets launched from Gaza.
As she places her cell phone on the lectern she apologizes for having to monitor it during her speech in case in her 11 year-old calls while she’s speaking to us. I know right away she is worried about his safety while she’s away.
Because she lives only a half mile from the border, her family only gets a ten-second warning when the code red siren alarm goes off signaling a rocket launch. And there were 40 launches yesterday.
She lamented the time when not many years ago she interacted heavily with the Palestinian population in Gaza, when their kibbutz was interacting with them economically and they spent a lot of time on the Gaza beach. Those days are in the past for her now.
After breakfast we drove through east Jerusalem to see the separation barrier and learn more about how it has made living safer, as well as frustrating and menacing for those who now have to go through checkpoints.
Then two big meetings today with Israeli leaders: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. They both very much appreciate the U.S./Israeli relationship. This is the second time I’ve met Shimon Peres – last time was in 2007.
Peres characterized the Arab Spring as a clash of generations, because younger people are removing corrupt leaders and demanding accountability.
There was also a joke at dinner tonight: if you are going to design a political system, don’t adopt the Israeli political system because you don’t get to vote for a person, but only a party (there’s no word for “accountability” in Hebrew). And the Prime Minister has to survive a vote of no confidence every Monday by parliament. And so coalition politics are always at play among the parties.
While I haven’t even been here 48 hours, it feels longer – probably one reason they say when you are in Israel, time is calculated in dog years, so that’s why it feels like I’ve been here 14 days!
Erik Paulsen
Member of Congress
(Photo: Amir Farshad Ebrahimi)