ISRAEL: Author fails to make it to Lebanon, but lawmakers are on their way to Libya
Poor Ala Hlehel. The Arab author from Israel never did make it to Beirut to take part in the literary festival and receive his award. After clearing the Israeli hurdle, he tripped over the Lebanese one and before bureaucracy there could figure out what to do with the would-be visitor and his Israeli passport, the festival came and went -- and Hlehel remained in-waiting in London with his disappointment, ash cloud and all.
Now, other Israeli citizens are headed for a surprise destination in the region.
An Arab delegation from Israel is going to Libya this weekend, the daily Maariv reported (in Hebrew) Wednesday. The group of 30 prominent public figures Israel's Arab citizens -- lawmakers, writers, journalists and others -- will meet with Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi. Boarding the plane to Amman on Saturday, legislator Ahmad Tibi called the visit "historic" and said their meeting with Kadafi was important.
Legislator Jamal Zahalkah told Israeli media that the first thing Kadafi did as chairman of the Arab summit was to invite them to Libya and that they welcome this.
"We want the gates of the Arab world to be open to us, regardless of such or other political agreements," Zahalkah said. Until now, "the Arab League ignored us," he said, adding that it was important for Arabs from Israel to maintain ties with the Arab countries in all areas of life, including culture, education and religion. He describes the detachment of Arab Israelis as living in a "double ghetto."
Kadafi's idea of 'Isratine,' a single Israeli-Palestinian state, was widely sniffed at. But lawmaker and delegation-member Taleb el Sana says that thanks to the Israeli government's policy on settlements, "the two state solution is no longer relevant" and that the only practical solution remaining is a single state for all.
News of the trip to Libya raised a few eyebrows among the legislators' Jewish colleagues. Parliament speaker Rubi Rivlin said that to the best of his knowledge, Israel and Libya were not in a state of war and that there was no reason the lawmakers shouldn't go so long as they are doing their job loyally. But Arieh Eldad said he hopes the delegation stays in Libya. "Under the patronage of the enlightened, progressive and egalitarian Kadafi, they can work to realize their political intent -- destroying Israel as a Jewish, democratic state," the lawmaker told the Maariv this week.
-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem